In this part we will explore the meaning of the 92nd Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Dhanurdharo Dhanurvedo Dando Damayitadamah    |
Aparajitas Sarvasaho Niyanta Niyamo Yamah       ||92||


He is the wielder of the Bow and is an expert in the science of archery. He is the source of punishment (Danda) of those who administer punishment. He metes out punishment and He is act of punishment to restore Dharma. He is Invincible, supports all beings and steadies the faith of devotees of other Devas. He assigns respective duties and organizes the work pattern for all. He ordains the fruits of worship to each individual according to the nature of their worship.  He is the One Who controls the likes of Yama and He is eternal.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1. Dhanurdarah
  2. Dhanurvedah
  3. Dandah
  4. Damayita
  5. Damah (A-Damah)
  6. Aparajitah
  7. Sarvasahah
  8. Niyantaa
  9. Niyamah (A-Niyamah)
  10. Yamah (A-Yamah)

Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:

  1.    Dhanurdarah – One Who wields the bow

RamaThe word ‘Dhanuh’ means a bow and ‘Dharah’ means ‘one who wields it’. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sriman Rama Nama Mahat Dhanur-Dharayama sa iti Dhanurdharah – He carried a great bow in His Rama Avataar (to protect the Rishis), hence He is called Dhanurdharah’, emphasising the words ‘the great bow’.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 31), the Lord says ‘Ramas Shastrabhritaam Aham – I am Rama among the carriers of weapons’. This shows the pre-eminence of Rama among all wielders of bow.

Sri Parasara Bhattar says that Bhagavan has this Nama because He carries His Bow named ‘Sarnga’ to remove obstacles from the path of His devotees who are striving to reach Him. The reason for Lord Rama carrying the bow with Him during His exile was precisely for this purpose as He removed obstacles to the penance performed by the Rishis in the forest. This is Kshatriya Dharma – ‘Etad-artham hi loke’smin kshatriyair-dharyate Dhanuh – It is for this reason that the bow is wielded by the Kshatriyas in this world.

‘Dharyate Kshatriyaih capo na Artha Sabdo bhaved-iti – The bow is always carried by the Kshatriyas so that there may not be the cry of distress anywhere’.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan nicely translates the Nama as ‘Sarngapani’ – One Who wields the ‘Sarnga’ Bow.

Sri NammAzhwar personifies all His weapons themselves as being filled with anger at the very sight of the enemy, and ready to remove the sorrow of the devotees – ‘Kaai Sina Azhi Sangu Vaal Thandu Endi em idar kadivaane (Thiruvai Mozhi 9.2.6). The Azhwar also refers to Emperumaan as ‘kuni Sarngan’ (Thiruvai Mozhi 8.8.1) – One Who holds the Sarnga bow that is bent as if with respect. There are others who have carried the bow, but none is equal to Rama in wielding the bow.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers to Rama’s skill in wielding the bow and arrow and says that Rama could even convert a blade of grass as an arrow pointing to the incident of Kakasura being chased all over the three worlds and making Him surrender at His Feet ultimately.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives an interesting reference for the Mundaka Upanishad (2.2.3), where the “bow” refers to the Pranava:
Dhanur-grhitva Upanishadam Maha Astram Saram hyupAsanishitam samdhayita |
Ayamya tad-bhava gatena cetasa lakshyam tadevAksharam somya  viddhi || 
Meaning: Having taken the bow (called Pranava) well known in the Upanishads, one should fix an arrow (the Atman) that has been sharpened by constant meditation to it. Drawing it with the mind fixed on the Brahman, O good looking one, know that the Immutable itself is the target.

The next mantra (M.U. 2.2.4) explicitly declares that ‘Pranavo Dhanuh, Saro hyAtma, Brahma tal-lakshyamucyate’ – The Pranava is the Bow, the Atman is the Arrow and the Brahman is its mark or target.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives reference to the Rig Vedic Mantra:
Aham Rudraya Dhanur-Atanomi Brahmadvishe hanta va u |
Aham janaya samadam krinomy-aham dvayavaA Prithivi Avivesha ||(Rg. 10.125.6)
Meaning: I bend the Bow for Rudra, so that his arrow may strike and slay the hater of devotion. I rouse and order battle for the people, and I have penetrated the Earth and Heaven.

The Story of Tataka

Sage Vishwamitra narrated the story of Tataka to Rama. There was once a yaksha, named Suketu, who had no children. Longing for children, he performed a yagna.

Tataka was a Yaksha princess-turned-demoness due to a curse by Sage Agastya. Suketu had desired a son, but Lord Brahma blessed him with a beautiful daughter endowed with the strength of 1,000 elephants. She was a beautiful princess and married Sunda, an Asura King. She had two sons Maricha and Subahu.

Sunda was killed by Agastya’a curse. Enraged, Tataka went with her son Mareecha to kill Agastya. The sage cursed Mareecha and said he would become a demon. He said Tataka would become ugly, and a cannibal. She would repulse people with her looks. From then on, Tataka became a ferocious demon and began to destroy the beautiful land that had once been prosperous.

rama-killing-tatakaAfter narrating the story of Tataka, Sage Vishwamitra asks Rama to kill her. The Shastras forbid the killing of women by a warrior. Rama was puzzled as to how could the Sage, who was well conversant with the Shastras, ask him to kill Tataka?

Sage Vishwamitra, understanding Rama’s predicament, reminded Rama of the duties of a King. A King’s duty is to uphold Dharma and eliminate those who pose a threat to Dharma. There was no room for mercy, just because the perpetrator of atrocities on innocent people happened to be a woman. Sage Viswamitra gave Rama examples of women who had thus been killed. He mentioned that Indra had killed Manthara, the daughter of Virochana, and Lord Narayana had killed Kavyamata (Usana), the wife of the Sage Bhrigu. When the need of the hour was to save the innocent, it was the duty of the king to kill those who were evil.

Raghava, the best of men bowed his head in obedience. He raised his bow and twanged it, making the distant areas echo with its fearful sound. Aroused and provoked Tataka rushed headlong at Rama in blind rage. She came growling and roaring and began to rain stones and boulders with her supernatural powers. Rama instantly checked the shower of stones and cut off her arms with a volley of sharp arrows. He then struck her with a deadly arrow like a thunderbolt and she fell down dead.

Jai Sri Ram!

  1.    Dhanurvedah – The Propounder of the Science of Archery

rama-dhanurvedaVeda is knowledge and Dhanurveda is the Science of Archery and the Knower of the Science of archery in its completeness is Lord Rama.  Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sa Eva Daasharathih Dhanurvedam Vetti iti Dhanurvedah – The son of Dasharatha, who alone is the Knower of the Science of Archery (Dhanur Veda) and hence He is known as DhanurVedah’. There were other eminent archers like Arjuna and Karna but Rama was way above the rest of them and so He alone is identified as the personification of the Science of Archery.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama as an example of His being the Propounder of all that is to be known and learnt. In this instance, He is the Propounder of the Science of Archery – Dhanur-Veda, hence He is known as Dhanurvedah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives examples of Lord Rama’s knowledge of the Science of Archery. He could direct the arrows as He wished, retrieve them as He wished, and even change the Nature through discharge of His arrows (e.g. His use of the arrow to warn Samudra Rajan for His initial lack of response to His request).

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the following interpretations:

  • dhanur vindati – labhata iti – He Who has the Dhanus;
  • dhanur-vedayati sva-rakshanartham sarvebhya iti Dhanur-Vedah – He Who bestows the Dhanus to all His creation as a form of self-defence is Dhanur- Vedah. Here Sri Vasishtha gives a generic meaning for the term Dhanus as a means for self- protection from the natural enemies etc. Thus, he refers to the horn of the cows, paws of the cat, claws of the tigers, lions etc. as their ‘Dhanus’ and the intellect as the Dhanus for human beings (Dhanushca martyasya su-buddhih).

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives support from the Yajur-Veda (16.13) (also found in Sri Rudram 1.11):
avatatya dhanustva sahasraksha Sateshudhe |
nishirya Salyanam mukha Sivo nah sumana bhava ||
Meaning: The Lord of a thousand eyes and hundreds of quivers, remove the arrows from their string, remove their sharpness and grace us with your benevolence.

Swami ChinmayAnanda relates the term ‘Dhanush’ to the Pranava mantra ‘Aum’ and gives the interpretation for the Nama as ‘One Who propounded the unfailing technique of meditation on the Pranavam for realisation of the Self’.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha explains the Nama as:
dhanumshi vidanti iti  Dhanur-vedah astrajnah bhrityaah |
te asya bhaktanam dasah santi iti  dhanur-vedah ||
Meaning: He Who has His devotees served by those who have the knowledge of the Science of weaponry.

  1.    Dandah – He is the source of punishment for the wicked

rama slaying ravanaThe root from which this Nama is derived is ‘dam – upashame’ meaning ‘to be tamed’. The means of punishment for the wicked is Dandah – ‘Dushtaan dandayati iti Dandah’.

‘Dandam’ is a term used for ‘wand or stick’. It refers to the staff that is carried by Acharyas, and is also a symbol of the position or power (like the Dandam or staff of a King). Thus, Dandah here refers to the means to administer punishment or taming the wicked.

Often the fear of punishment acts as a deterrent and prevents the crime. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Damanam Damayataam Dandah – Among those who administer justice He is the source of power of punishment’.  Sri Sankara quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 38) where Bhagavan says – ‘Dando Damayataam Asmi – I am the power of punishment to those who administer justice when the law is transgressed’.

Sri Bhattar comments that Bhagavan is Dandah because He administers the rules of Dharma through the rulers who have the responsibility to punish the wicked and bring protection and happiness to the people by following Dharma as laid down in the Vedas.

Sri NammAzhwar describes the intensity with which Bhagavan punishes the wicked, in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (6.10.4):
ஆவா வென்னா துலகத்தை அலைக்கும் அசுரர் வாணாள்மேல்,
தீவாய் வாளி மழைபொழிந்த சிலையா திருமா மகள்கேள்வா,
தேவா! சுரர்கள் முனிக் கணங்கள் விரும்பும் திருவேங் கடத்தானே!
பூவார் கழல்கள் அருவினையேன் பொருந்து மாறு புணராயே.
Meaning: He showers His deadly piercing fiery rain shower of arrows from the Sarnga Bow on the life source of the wicked Asuras, who by their very nature torture people mercilessly. O’ Lord of Venkatam adored by the Devas, the Angels and the Rishis! Pray show this lowly self the way to Your Lotus feet.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri interprets the Nama as a reference to the weapon of Yama in His role of Sankarshana. Bhagavan is verily that power of Yama in the form of His weapon, the Danda – the ultimate of weapons in punishments.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha gives the explanation – Daityaan dandayati iti Dandah – He Who punishes the Asuras. He gives an alternate interpretation using the ‘A-Dandah – anya kartrika Sikshana rahitah A-Dandah’ – He Whom no one else controls.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the explanation that Bhagavan is called Dandah because He is the source of restraint (danda = damana = niyamana = restraint) for all beings so that they act according to His rules.

  1.    Damayita – The One Who Subdues the enemies of His devotees

narasimhaThe word ‘Damanam’ means control and Damayita is who controls or subdues. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Vaivasvata Narendraadiroopena Prajaa Damayati iti Damayita – He disciplines or subdues His subjects in the form of Yama, the god of death or in the form of the rulers of Kingdoms, hence He is called Damayita, the controller’.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 29) Bhagavan says – ‘Yamas Samyamatam aham – I am Yama among controllers’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation as – Svayam ca Ravanadin tacchilyena Damayita – He Who destroys the likes of Ravana as a force of habit. The nirukti author gives the description as ‘tacchilyat Ravanadinam harta – Damayita svayam’ – It is because of this habit of His to mete out punishment to the wicked that He takes incarnations such as Rama and Krishna.

Sri Bhattar stresses the Guna Bhagavan as one who subdues the suffering of His devotees.  Emperumaan is always acting in the interests of His devotees – either as One who subdues their sufferings or one who subdues their enemies.

  • He dispels the sufferings of His devotees in this Samsara through the Ganges-like streams of His lustre – Kanti – mandakinibhih bhava taapam damayati iti damanah – or Kanti; or
  • as One who subdues the enemies of His devotees.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (7.5.2):
நாட்டில் பிறந்தவர் நாரணற் காளன்றி யாவரோ,
நாட்டில் பிறந்து படாதன பட்டு மனிசர்க்கா,
நாட்டை நலியும் அரக்கரை நாடித் தடிந்திட்டு,
நாட்டை யளித்துய்யச் செய்து நடந்தமை கேட்டுமே?
Meaning: Bhagavan takes birth among us, goes through innumerable sufferings in His incarnations for our sake (as evidenced by the incarnation of Rama with Sita Piratti), and then goes after and seeks the wicked, and destroys them.  He gave the Kingdom to Vibheeshana, and liberation to His devotees. Knowing all this, would mortals be devotees of anyone else? 

Sri Satya Sandha ThIrtha explains the Nama along similar lines – Daityaan damayati iti Damayita – He Who subdues the wicked Asuras.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha also echoes a similar thought – Bhagavan has this Nama signifying that He subdues those who violate the rules of Dharma as established by Him – Jagati Jagadisha kritaya jagad-vyavasthaya bhanjakam upashamya sva-vashe sthapayati.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the interpretation that He dispels the sorrowful or miserable state of His devotees (by retrieving them from the bondage of Samsara) – damayati upashamayati dainyam sva-jananam iti Damayita.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as – ‘One Who punishes the wicked, destroys the sinners and thus regulates and cultivates life in the Universe, making it a garden for the spiritual beauties to blossom.

  1.    Damah (A-damah) – He is the act of punishment or One who cannot be tamed

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Damah Damyeshu Dandakaryam Phalam Tat cha sa Eva iti Damah – Damah is the good effect created by the act of punishment to restore Dharma and this is also an aspect of Bhagavan, hence He is called Damah’. This shows even the punishment meted out by Bhagavan is an act of kindness and carries a permanent after-effect in the recipient’s makeup.

The root from which the Nama is derived is ‘dam – upasame’ means ‘to be tamed’. Sri Parasara Bhattar looks at the Nama as A-Damah and explains the Nama as ‘He Who cannot be tamed or subdued’. 

DamodaraThe Lord can only be tamed with devotion. Many instances of the Lord submitting to the wishes of his devotees are narrated in the Puranas. For e.g. The Lord submitting Himself to be to be tied to a mortar by Yashodha,  Sri Thirumazhisai Azhwar asking Bhujanaga sayana Perumal of Thiruvekka temple to leave Kanchipuram when the King banished Kanikannan (Azhwar’s disciple from his Kingdom) etc.

Sri Bhattar quotes the MahaBharata (Udyoga Parva 67.8) in support:
bhasma kuryat jagatsarvam manasaiva Janardanah         |
na tu kritsnam jagac-chaktam ki’ncit kartum Janardane ||
Meaning: By His mere Will, Janardanah can turn the entire Universe into ashes. But all the Universe combined together can do no harm to Him.

The Nirukti author summarises Sri Bhattar’s interpretation thus: kashcit damayita na asti yasya asau A-Damah Smritah – He is meditated upon as A-Damah because there is no one who can subdue Him in any way.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as ‘Damayati iti damo damanah parabhavita; na damo yasya kashcit sah Adamah’ – He dispels sufferings by punishing those who deviate from Dharma. And He cannot be subdued by anyone.

Swami ChinmayAnanda captures this sense in his explanation: ‘That which is ultimately gained by the worldly punishments – the final experience of Beatitude in the Self’. One should be able to realize through this interpretation that what happens to us – good or bad -is all for our benefit, bestowed by Bhagavan.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri notes that the term ‘Dama’ also refers to the means that are used to control the unruly; the net result of this control is the control of the senses etc., which is also referred as to Dama.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the meaning for the Nama as ‘Damayati iti Damah – He Who controls’. He gives the interpretation in terms of Bhagavan being the Controller of everything such that they follow the prescribed path as their natural behavior. In other words, He is the Controller of all the planets such that they follow their set courses; He is the Controller of our indriyas such that the eye only sees and does not hear, the ear only hears but not smell, etc. Bhagavan is present everywhere and pervades everything, and has full control of everything – He is Damah, the Controller. This composition of Sri Vasishtha captures his interpretation:
damo hi sarvatra virajamanah, kriyaasu sarvam sa niyamya yu’ngte             |
grahaas-tameva damamatra Vishnum Namanti sarve paridhau bhramantah||

Sri Satyasandha Thirtha takes the Nama as ‘Ada-mah’, and gives the interpretation that He is the Bestower of wealth on all – samyak dadati iti Adah, tesham ma – sampat yasmat iti Ada- mah.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives a similar interpretation for the Nama as ‘Da+Mah’ – kalpa taru sakha iva bhaktanam sarvabhIshytam dadati iti Da-mah – He Who confers all the things desired, to the devotees, like the branches of the heavenly wish-giving tree, Kalpa vriksha.

  1.    Apraijtah – He is Invincible

krishna's armyAparajitah means ‘One who cannot be defeated’.  Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Shatrubhih na Parajitah iti Aparajitah – He is undefeated by any of the enemies and hence He is called Aparajitah’. This Nama had appeared earlier in Shloka 59 for which Sri Sankara had given the interpretation that Bhagavan is not defeated by internal enemies such as anger, greed, desire etc.

Among the different aspects of Bhagavan’s invincibility, there are two that are noteworthy:

  • He cannot be defeated by anyone or anything at anytime, anywhere, under any circumstance; and
  • Anyone who has His support is also equally invincible, for e.g. Pandavas against the stronger army of Kauravas.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the first interpretation as follows: Kvacit, kadhacit, kutashcit a-pratihatah A-parajitah – He cannot be obstructed by anyone, anywhere, anytime or by any means.

Sri Bhattar gives reference from Srimad Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 18 Verse 78):
Yatra yogeshvarah Krishno yatra paartho dhanur-dharah |
tatra Srir-vijayo bhutir-dhruva nitir-matir-mama ||
Meaning: Sanjaya saysWherever there is Krishna, the master of Yogas, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my conclusion’.

Sri Bhattar quotes several examples from the MahaBharata in support of his second interpretation where the Devas themselves have described over and over again that those who are supported by Bhagavan cannot be vanquished by anyone.
ekam hanishyasi ripum garjantam tam mahaamridhe |
na tu tam praarthayasyekam rakshyate sa mahatmana ||

yam Ahur-veda-vidusho varaham a-jitam harim |
Narayanam a-cintyam ca tena kRshNena rakshyate || (bhA. udyo.129.40)
Meaning: Indra tells Karna: ‘In the great fight, I give you the power to kill one thundering warrior, but this cannot be the one you wish to kill (i.e. Arjuna), as he is protected by the Great Lord Krishna. Krishna is none other than the Invincible Hari, Who had assumed the form of the Varaha, and Who is the Incomprehensible Narayana, as declared by the Vedic scholars’.

The same message is given to Jayadratha by Rudra:
A-jayyanshcapi a-vadhyanshca varayishyasi taan yudhi |
Rte arjunam maha-bahum devairapi durasadam |
yam Ahuh amitam devam Sa’nkha-cakra-gada-dharam |
pradhanah so’stra-vidusham tena Krishnena rakshyate ||
Meaning: In the fight you can ward off the attacks of all invincible and indestructible warriors except the long-armed Arjuna who is unassailable even by Devas, since he is protected by Krishna who is the Unknowable Deity Who bears the conch, discus and mace as His arms.

Bhishma, Drona, etc., declare that they could have annihilated the Pandavas without a trace if only Lord Krishna had not been their Protector, and that just as certainly as truth rests with a Brahmin, humility is certain in the pious, and wealth is sure in the skilful, so also is victory certain for Narayana:
dhruvam vai brahmane satyam dhruva sadhushu sannatih |
Srir-dhruva capi daksheshu dhruvo Narayane jayah ||

yasya mantri ca gopta ca suhrc-caiva Janardanah  |
Harih trailokya nathah san kim nu tasya na nirjitam ||
Meaning: What is there in this world that cannot be conquered by that person who has Bhagavan Hari as His mentor, protector, and friend?

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj describes the Nama as ‘na parajitah kadapi kenapi iti A-parajitah – He Who cannot be conquered by anyone and through any means is A-parajitah.

In the Ayurveda caraka samhita, the invincibility of Bhagavan is declared as:
yatha’ham nahi janami Vasudeve parajayam |
matushca paanigrahanam samudrasya ca Shoshanam |
etena satya-vakyena sicyatam agado hyayam ||
Meaning: On the veracity of the following statements, may this medicine be pounded and be effective – ‘There is no defeat for Vasudeva; I have not witnessed the marriage of my mother; the ocean will never become completely dry. These are all absolute true statements’.

In Vaitarana, the following Shloka is invoked for the efficacy of the poison- removing mantra:
Ratnakara iva akshobhyo himavaniva ca acalah |
jataveda iva adhrishyo Narayana iva Ajayah ||
Meaning: Let this poison-removing mantra be effective just as the ocean is imperturbable, Himavan is unshakable, the fire is unapproachable, and Narayana is unconquerable.

In Srimad Ramayana, there are several instances, for e.g.:

  • A-jayyah Shashvato Dhruvah (Yuddha Kandam 111.15) – He is Inivincible, eternal and constant;
  • A-jitah khadga-dhrik Vishnuh Krishnashchaiva Mahabalah (Yuddha Kandam 117.14) – The Invincible who is the wielder of the Sword named ‘Nandaki’, the all pervader, the bestower of happiness and endowed with great might;
  • Tvam apratima karmanaam aprati dvandvam aahave (Bala Kandam 76.18) – Parashurama comments during his encounter with Lord Rama ‘You are unequalled in your achievements and there is no one to counter you in conflicts.

Sri V.V.Ramanujan gives reference from the Divya Prabandham and quotes Sri NammAzhvar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (2.7.11):
பற்பநாபனுயர்வறவுயரும் பெருந்திறலோன்,
எற்பரனென்னையாக்கிக் ¦ காண்டெனக்கே தன்னைத்தந்த
கற்பகம், என்னமுதம் கார்முகில்போலும்வேங்கடநல்
வெற்பன், விசும்போர்பிரா னெந்தை தாமோதரனே.
Meaning: Padmanabha is the mighty one, higher than the highest.  He has the skill to subdue and overcome His enemies. He is my Kalpa tree, he made me His and Himself mine.  He is my ambrosia, dark as the rain cloud, and He is in Thiru Venkatam.  My Lord Damodara is the Lord of high celestials too.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives another reference from the Divya Prabandham – ‘Andru aivarai velvitta mayap por terp paganar (Thiruvai Mozhi 4.6.1) – He, who, in the form of the Charioteer, ensured victory of the Pandavas.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha explains the Nama as ‘a-parah + a-jitah’ – He Who has none superior to Him, and He Who can never been conquered – na vidyate para = uttamo yasmat iti A-parah;  A-parashca asau A-jitashca  iti Aparajitah.

One of the interpretations of Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha is based on looking at the Nama as a-pah + rajitah: na vidyaye pah = palako yasya sa a-pah; sa casau rajitashca iti A-pa-rajitah – He Who has no protector above Him, and He Who is resplendent. He is also Unconquerable in another context i.e., One who is not single-mindedly devoted to Him will not be able to attain Him.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives another dimension to the invincibility of Bhagavan, by referring to the Ishavasya Upanishad – ‘nainad-deva Apnuvan’ – The Devas could not overcome It – the overwhelming powers of desires and passions can never vanquish the Self – the Divine Narayana. He gives yet another dimension and explains that the Supreme Self is Aparajitah since the Self alone remains when everything else is destroyed.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha also derives the interpretation for the Nama starting with the word ‘Para’ meaning ‘Supreme’. He interprets that for one to be defeated, there needs to be someone or something other than that entity. But since there is nothing else that exists other than the Supreme Self, there is no possibility of defeat for this One Truth – ‘para eva kashcin-nasti; na dvitiyo na tritiyah iti atharva vacant, tasmat parajitvasya asambhavaat bhagavatah Aparajita iti namna samkirtanam upapadyate. This is based on the Advaita philosophy (Non-existence of anything except of Brahman in Sat (Truth).

Sri Vasishtha gives another explanation as – ‘parair-na para-jiyate, parabhibhuyate va sa A-parajito Vishnuh – Lord Vishnu cannot be conquered or humiliated in any way by anyone.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha looks at the power of invincibility of Bhagavan over time as compared to all other entities, whose powers are perishable over time –
parajiyate kalatah iti parajitah – nashvarah vibhutayah;
na vidyante nashvaraha vibhutayah yasya sah A-parajitah

  1.    Sarvasahah – He Who supports all Forms

Maha Vishnu 1Sri Adi Sankara offers three different interpretations for this Nama. The first is ‘Sarva Karmasu Samarthah iti Sarvasahah– He is skilled (expert) in all activities, hence He is called Sarvasahah’. Here Sahah is used in the context of ‘being capable of’.

The second meaning is ‘Sarvaan Shatroon Sahate iti vaa Sarvasahah – He overcomes or conquers all His enemies and hence He is called Sarvasahah’. Here Sahah is used in the sense of ‘defeats or overcomes’.

The third meaning is ‘Prithivyadi rupena va Sarvasahah – He Who supports all such as the earth. Here Sahah is used as ‘to bear or support or put up with’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama specifically in the context of Bhagavan’s support to the other gods. Because of His support to the other Devas, they continue to be worshipped by people who have not achieved the full realization that Narayana is the Supreme Deity to be worshipped. As the Provider of this support, He is called Sarvasahah – ‘svasasanena sarvam devatantaramapi mandadhikaarinaam Aradhyataya sahate – bibharti iti Sarvasahah.

The same concept is shared by Sri NammAzhwar in Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (5.2.8):
இறுக்கு மிறையிறுத்துண்ண எவ்வுல குக்கும்தன் மூர்த்தி,
நிறுத்தினான் தெய்வங்க ளாக அத்தெய்வ நாயகன் றானே
மறுத்திரு மார்வன் அவன்றன் பூதங்கள் கீதங்கள் பாடி,
வெறுப்பின்றி ஞாலத்து மிக்கார் மேவித் தொழுதுய்ம்மி னீரே.
Meaning: He is the Lord of Devas who has assigned different roles for them.  It is He who accepts the offering you make to your Gods (Sarva Deva Namaskaram Keshavam prati gacchati).  The spirits of the mole-chested Lord have filled the Earth singing songs. So shed hatred, cultivate love; offer worship and liberate yourselves.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the meaning “support”, and interprets the Nama as – Bhagavan supports and protects everything including the sky, the earth, the movables and the immovables. He gives an alternate interpretation and says that as the sea does not lose its nature even though all kinds of water blend with it over time, so also is Bhagavan untouched by all the things that He has to endure. It is the reflection of this Guna of Bhagavan of Sarvasahatvam that is reflected in the ability of the Jiva to endure all that is happening when it is occupying one body, and then moves to another body at the end of this life.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the interpretation – sarvesham sva-jana aparadhanam sahah iti Sarvasahah – He is Sarvasahah because He puts up with all the aparadhas of His devotees.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the example of Lord Krishna putting up with all the insults from the likes of Rukmi (brother of Rukmini), Duryodhana, Shishupala etc. – sarvani rukmyavajna vadamsi sahata iti Sarvasahah.

  1.    Niyanta – He Who directs

mahavishnuSri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sarvaan sveshu sveshu Krityeshu Vyavasthaapayati iti Niyanta – He sets up various entities in their respective duties and organises the work pattern for all these entities, hence He is called Niyanta or the Organiser’.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4 Verse 13) Bhagavan says:
catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah |
tasya kartaram api mam viddhy akartaram avyayam ||
Meaning: According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.

Sri Bhattar extends the idea from the previous Nama (Sarvasahah) relating to the worship of the anya Devatas. Those who worship other devatas or gods will be bestowed with their desires as Bhagavan supports all the other Devatas. No matter which God the devotees repose their faith and devotions, Bhagavan supports them in the pursuit of their choice. It is this Guna of Bhagavan that Sri Bhattar brings out through the Nama Niyanta – tatra tat tat rucIn prarocayan niyacchati iti Niyanta – He directs and guides these individuals after letting them make the choice according to their tastes and quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 7 Verse 21), where the Bhagavan says:
yo yo yam yam tanum bhaktah sraddhayarcitum icchati |
tasya tasyacalam sraddham tam eva vidadhamy aham ||
Meaning: Whichever particular God a devotee desires to worship with faith and devotion, I sustain that faith firmly in him.

This same idea is given by Sri V.V. Ramanujan who gives reference from Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (1.1.5):
அவரவர் தமதம தறிவறி வகைவகை
அவரவ ரிறையவ ரெனவடி யடைவர்கள்
அவரவ ரிறையவர் குறைவில ரிறையவர்
அவரவ விதிவழி யடையநின் றனரே.
Meaning: Each and every individual chooses, in accordance with his nature and attainments, limited by his intellect, to worship a particular deity of his/her choice in the hope of securing desired results. These deities are, without doubt, capable of granting the lesser boons (i.e. other than moksha) to their devotees according to their merits, because the Lord is the inner soul, controller, and source of their power.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the meaning from the root word ‘yama – uparame’ meaning ‘to lift up, to show, to offer’ and ‘Ni’ is an upasarga (prefix) that denotes, among other things, command, order, etc.  Niyanta is One Who controls, directs, governs, restrains, etc.  He points out that everything functions according to the course laid out by Him as He is the Niyanta of all – including the Sun, all the planets and even the heart inside all of us – niyacchati = nibhadhnati sarvam vyavasthita vartmana gamanaya iti Niyanta Vishnuh.

Swami ChinmayAnanda uses the A-niyanta for this Nama, and gives the interpretation a – One Who has none above Him to control Him’. He is the One Who has appointed all controllers of the phenomenal forces such as the Sun, the Moon, the Air, the Water etc.

  1.    Niyamah – He Who controls

Maha Vishnu 4 - Copy (2)Niyamah means a set path or a set role and based on this Sri Adi Sankara says ‘sveshu sveshu adhikareshu  praja  niyamati  iti  Niyamah – He is the Director of all beings in their respective functions (covered in Shloka 17). 

Sri Adi Sankara’s gives another explanation using ‘A-niyamah’ as ‘Na Niyamah Niyatih tasya vidyate iti Aniyamah – He has no predefined or set path of action, hence He is called Aniyamah’.  He goes on further to say ‘Sarva Niyantuh Niyantratarabhavaat – He sets everybody’s role but there is none to set His pattern of action hence He is Aniyamah, the One who has no one to direct and control Him.

Sri Parasar Bhattar explains this Nama as – He ordains (prescribes, specifies) the fruits of worship to each individual according to the nature of their worship of the anya devatas of their choice – tat-phalam ca – jati, Ayuh, bhogadikam niyamyate asmin iti Niyamah.

Following on the reference to the Bhagavad Gita (7.21) in the previous Nama, Sri Bhattar takes the next Verse from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 7 Verse 22) where Bhagavan says:
sa taya Shraddhaya yuktah tasya Aradhanam ihate |
labhate ca tatah kaman mayaiva vihitan hi tan    ||
Meaning: Endowed with that faith, he worships that form (of other Devatas) and thence gets the objects of his desire, granted in reality by Me alone.

It is to be noted that:

  • Bhagavan lets the individual choose the deity to be worshiped by him based on his limitations and knowledge;
  • Bhagavan then supports the individual in this endeavour;
  • Bhagavan bestows the benefits of this worship by empowering the Devata that the individual worships to bestow the desired powers, depending on the merits of the individual.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference from Divya Prabhandam by quoting Sri NammAzhwar’s Pasuram from Thiruvasiriyam (4), where Azhwar notes that Bhagavan is the One Who created the likes of Brahma, Siva etc., along with their limited powers:
ஊழிதோறூழி ஓவாது வாழியே, என்று யான்தொழ இசையுங் கொல்?,
யாவகை யுலகமும் யாவரு மில்லா, மேல்வரும் பெரும்பாழ்க் காலத்து,
இரும்பொருட் கெல்லா மரும்பெறல் தனிவித்து,
ஒருதான் ஆகித் தெய்வ நான்முகக் கொழுமுளை ஈன்று,
முக்கண் ஈசனொடு தேவுபல நுதலிமூ வுலகம் விளைத்த உந்தி,
மாயக் கடவுள் மாமுத லடியே.
Meaning: In the great deluge when all the worlds and all the gods disappeared, the Lord became the precious seed for all that existed, then sprouted a stalk and created the four-faced Brahma, then the three-eyed Siva and the various gods.  Will we experience the joy of relentlessly praising the marvel Lord, the Lord with Lotus on his navel that made all the worlds, through Yuga after Yuga?

Sri V.V. Ramanujan emphasizes the role of Bhagavan as the Ashrita-rakshaka – One Who protects those Who seek refuge in Him, as the Guna that is portrayed in this Nama.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers us to the Paatanjali’s Yoga Sutra for the definition of the term Niyama – ‘Soca santosha tapah svadhyaya Isvara pranidhanani Niyamah (Sutra 2.32) – Purity of the body, mental contentedness, austerity, reciting the Vedas, and persevering devotion to the Lord are called religious observances – Niyama’.

Niyama means restraint or check, and Niyamah means ‘One Who restrains’. Using alternate root words, Sri Vasishtha gives the following meanings:

  • ‘yam – uparame’ meaning ‘to check’ – all things and beings are restrained or bound by Him by residing in Him, and move only because of Him;
  • ‘yama – pariveshtane’ meaning ‘to surround’ – ‘niyaman Saktya sakalam vishvam vyapnoti tasmat sa Niyamah’ – One Who pervades and surrounds everything.

The Nirukti author captures the significance of the interpretation as – niymayate jagat yena niyamah sa udiritah – He is called Niyamah because the whole Universe is controlled by Him.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha in his tattva saara gives the explanation – Sva- vishaya jnanani bhaktebhyo niyamayati – prayacchati iti Niyamah – He is called Niyamah because He bestows sacred knowledge about Himself to devotees in full measure.

870.   Yamah – The Controller of all the Devas

vishnu1Sri Adi Sankara interprets two versions of this Nama namely Yamah and Ayamah. Using Yamah, Sri Sankara interprets as ‘Athavaa Yamaniyamau Yogaange Tadgamyatvaat Sa eva Niyamah Yamah – Bhagavan is attainable through two yogic paths – Yama and Niyama – and hence He is identified with the two Namas ‘Niyamah and Yamah’.

Using ‘Ayamah he interprets as ‘Naasya vidyate Yamah Mrityuh iti Ayamah – He has no Yamah or Agent of death as He is immortal hence He is called Ayamah, the Deathless one’.

The sequence ‘Niyamo Yamah’ occurs in Shloka 17 as well. Sri Bhattar interprets the whole set of Namas as a reflection of Bhagavan’s Gunas which are Infinite, and hence he is able to provide different interpretations for the different instances of the same or related Namas and provide ever greater delight of His Gunas in the process. Sri Bhattar chooses to describe for the four Namas as below:

  • One Who controls even the likes of Mahabali,
  • One Who corrects all as the antaryami
  • One Who ordains and bestows the fruits of worship of different gods, and
  • One Who controls and directs all the devas.

For this Nama, Sri Bhattar’s interpretation is: tat-tat phala niyamakan yamadin api yacchati iti yamah – He is called Yamah because He is the One Who controls the likes of Yama who are the bestowers of the respective fruits. He quotes Yama’s words from Vishnu Purana in support: prabhavati samyamane mamapi Vishnuh (Vishnu 3.7.13) – Vishnu controls me also.

Sri Satydevo Vasishtha has composed a Shloka in which He conveys that the Namas Niyanta, Niyamah, Yamah, A-niyamah, and A-yamah, all refer to Lord Vishnu:
Vishnur Niyanta Niyamo Yamo’sau Vishnur Niyanta A-niyamo A-yamo sah|
Prakashate vishvam idam samastam yamair Niyamaishca krita vyavastham||

Sri T.S. Raghavendran refers us to Ishavasya Upanishad mantra 16, where there is reference to Bhagavan as Yamah – the Controller and antaryami of all:
Pushannekarshe Yama Surya Prajapatya vyuha rashmin samuha |
tejo yatte rupaṃ kalysṇatamaṃ tatte pashyaami yo’saavasau Puruṣaḥ so’hamasmi ||
Meaning: O, Nourisher, O lonely Courser of the heavens, O Regulator, O Sun, thou offspring of Prajapati, Remove Thy rays, gather up thy effulgence, So that I may see that which is Thy most auspicious effulgence. The Person that is in Thee, I am That.

He also gives reference to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 11 Verse 39), where Arjuna after being blessed to see the Lord’s divine form (Vishwarupam) says He is the antaryami of all including Vayu, Yama, Agni, Varuna, Moon, Brahma etc.
Vayur Yamo ‘gnir Varunah Sasankah prajapatis tvam prapitamahas ca |
namo namas te ‘stu sahasra-krtvah punas ca bhuyo ‘pi namo namas te ||
Meaning: You are the Controller and antaryami of Vayu, Yama, Agni, Varuna, the Moon, and Brahma; You are the Grandfather and Great Grandfather of all.

yamaIn the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 29) Lord Krishna declares that He is Yama among subduers:
‘Yamah samyatamy aham’ – Among dispensers of Law, I am Yama, the Lord of Death.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (4.10.8), where the Azhwar gives an example to show that Bhagavan controls all the others, including Siva:
புக்கு அடி மையினால் தன்னைக் கண்ட மார்க்கண்டேயன் அவனை
நக்கபிரானுமன் றுய்யக்கொண்டது நாராயணனருளே
கொக்கலர் தடந்தாழை வேலித் திருக்குருகூரதனுள்
மிக்க ஆதிப்பிரான் நிற்க மற்றைத் தெய்வம் விளம்புதிரே
Meaning: It is true that Siva granted eternal life to Markandeya when the latter surrendered to Him.  But note that Siva could bestow this because of the Grace of Lord Narayana.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers to the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali for the definition of ‘Yama’ – ‘Ahimsa Satya asteya brahmacarya parigraha Yamah’ (Sutra 2.30) – Not hurting others, veracity, not stealing, continence, and not coveting, are part of “Forbearance” – Yama. Sri Shastri gives the additional interpretation that Bhagavan is called Yamah because He controls the life of all beings, and He is  Yama in this role – Controller of the lifetime of all beings.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha uses the Nama A-yamah with the root ‘yam – uparame’ meaning ‘to check’, and interprets as ‘One Who has no one to command Him at any time under any circumstance, or One Who has no one similar to Him in any respect – na vidyate yamah = niyamakah, sadrsho va yasya sah Yamah. He gives alternate interpretation as: ayam = Subhavaha vidhim, mati = janati iti A-yamah – He is Aya-mah because He knows and prescribes the mandates that bestow virtues (ma- mane – to measure).

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha refers to Bhagavan being the ‘Yama’ or One Who terminates all life at the time of pralaya by keeping them within Himself – yacchati =  upasamharati sarvam sargante iti Yamah.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the meaning ‘to eat’ for the root Yama and gives the interpretation – yamayati bhojayati svadubhih annaih bhaktan iti Yamah – He feeds His devotees with delectable food (e.g., with delightful thoughts about Himself).

In Summary

Dhanurdharo Dhanurvedo Dando Damayitadamah    |
Aparajitas Sarvasaho Niyantaa Niyamo Yamah       ||92||

lord-rama-poster-with-glitter-ql13_lHe carried a great bow in His Rama Avataar (to protect the Rishis), hence He is called Dhanurdharah. He is the Propounder of the Science of Archery – Dhanur-Veda and so He is known as Dhanurvedah. He sets the rules of Dharma and is the source of punishment for those who administer Dharma, hence He is Dandah.  He disciplines or subdues His subjects in the form of Yama, the god of death or in the form of rulers of Kingdoms, hence He is called Damayita, the controller.  He is Damah as his acts of punishment are to bring them to the path of Dharma. He is A-damah as He cannot be tamed or subdued. 

He is undefeated by any of the enemies and hence He is called Aparajitah. He steadies the faith of devotees who worship other Gods and supports all the other Gods to bestow grace, hence He is called Sarvasahah.  He assigns respective duties and organises the work pattern for all, hence He is called Niyanta or the Organiser. He ordains the fruits of worship to each individual according to the nature of their worship, so He is Niyamah. He sets everybody’s role but there is none to set His pattern of action, hence He is A-niyamah, the One who has no one to direct and control Him. He is the One Who controls the likes of Yama who bestow respective fruits, hence He is Yamah. He is eternal and deathless, so He is A-Yamah.



This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.

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