In this part we will explore the meaning of the 94th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Vihayasagatir Jyotih Surucir Hutabhug Vibhuh |
Ravir Virocanah Suryah Savita Ravilocanah   ||94||


He is the means of attainment of Moksha and the guiding light leading to Sri Vaikuntham. He is the cause of all effulgence and He is the enjoyer of all offerings in sacrifices and He is Omnipresent.  He is present in the form of the Sun and He has multiple splendours. He generates brilliance and prosperity as He is the Creator of the World. He has Sun as His eye.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Vihaayasa-gatih
  2.    Jyotih
  3.    Suruchih
  4.    Hutabhuk-Vibhuh
  5.    Ravih
  6.    Virochanah
  7.    Suryah
  8.    Savitaa
  9.    Ravilochanah

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Namas in this Shloka to describe the journey of a Mukta Jiva through the various zones, known as the ‘Arciradi Marga’, ultimately reaching Brahman or Parama-padam. The description is very vivid in Sri NammAzhwar’s Pasurams which is at the end of this commentary.

The steps of ascent to Parama-padam are described differently in various Upanishads. In the Chandogya Upanishad there are seven steps described in the Mantras 4.15.5, 4.15.6, 5.10.1 and 5.10.2 as Arcis – Agni, Ahah – Day, Shukla Paksha – Waxing phase of the Moon, Uttrayana – Northerly move,  Samvatsara – Year, Aditya – Ravi, Chandra – Moon, Vidyut – Lightning.

The Chandogya Upanishad Mantras are:
tadya ittham viduh; ye ceme’ranye Shraddha tapa itupasate – te’rcisham abhisambhavanti, arcisho’hah, ahna Apuryamana paksham, Apuryamana pakshat yan shaduda’n’neti maasaanstaan  || (Chandogya Upanishad 5.10.1)
Meaning: Those who know the nature of the five fires – Pancha Agni thus, and those who practice in the forest meditating upon Brahman with faith, will unite with Agni. From Agni to the deity of the day and from there to the deity of the bright half of the month and thereon he comes upon the deity of the half year while the Sun moves towards the north.

Maasebhyah Samvatsaram Samvatsaraat Adityam, Adityaat Chandramasam, Chandramaso Vidyutam| Tat-Purusho Amaanavah| sa enaan Brahma Gamayati Esha Deva patho Brahma pathah etena Pratipadyamana imam manavam Avartam naavartante naavartante || (Chandogya Upanishad 5.10.2)
Meaning: From that half year he reaches the year – Samvatsara. From Samvatsara he comes to the Sun. From the Sun to the Moon, from the Moon to Vidyut, and from there that amaanava, Superhuman, takes him to Brahman. This is known as the path of the gods or the path to Brahman.  Those who go by this path never again return to this world of Samsara’.

The Kaushitaki Upanishad lists six steps (Kaushitaki Upanishad 1.21): Agni Loka, Vayu Loka, Varuna Loka, Aditya Loka, Indra Loka, and Prajapati Loka.

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (BU 8.2.15, 7.10.1) lists the following: Arcis, Ahah, Shukla Paksha, Uttarayana, Deva Loka, Aditya, and Vaidyuta.

Combining the various Upanishads, the Arciradi Marga comprises of the following twelve steps:
Arcis or Agni, Ahas or Day, Purva Paksha or Shukla Paksha, Uttarayana, Samvatsara or Year, Vayu, Aditya, Chandra, Vaidyuta,  Varuna, Indra and Prajapati. 

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

  1.    Vihaayasa-gatih – He Who is the means for attaining Parama-padam (Moksha)

The Nama has the following meanings:

  1. He Who is the means for attaining Moksha
  2. He Who travels in the form of the Sun
  3. He Who travels in space through His vehicle Garuda – the King of birds
  4. He Who is attained by ascetics through their penance

The word Vihaayasa has many meanings including a bird and the sky. Gatih means the path or travel. Gatih also means the abode. Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations based on different meanings for Vihaayasah and Gatih. The first interpretation is based on Vihaayasah to mean the sky and he says ‘Vihaayasam gatih Aashrayah asya iti Vihaayasagatih Vishnupadam – His abode is up in the sky or the Vaikuntha and hence He is called Vihaayasagatih’. His second interpretation is ‘Vihaayasam gatih Aashrayah asya iti Vihaayasagatih Aadityah vaa – He moves in the sky in His form as the Sun hence He is called Vihaayasagatih, the traveller in the sky (as the Sun)’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation – tatha nirudha bhakti parakotibhih Vihaayasam = parama vyoma padameva gamyate asmaat iti Vihaayasa-gatih – He is called Vihaayasa-gatih since it is through Him and because of Him that those devotees who have reached the highest stage of bhakti attain the Supreme abode i.e. Parama-padam.

He gives reference from the Vishnu Purana (5.19.26) in support:
Bhunktvaa ca vipulaan bhogaan tam ante mat-prasadaadajam |
Mam Anusmaranam praapya divyam lokam avaapsyasi  ||
Meaning: Having enjoyed the worldly pleasures in abundance by My grace, you will remember Me at the last moment of life, and will attain the divine world of Parama-padam.

He also quotes Brahma Sutra 4.2.16 in support:
tadokah agra-jvalanam tat-prakashita-dvaro vidya-samarthyaat tac-cheshagaty anusmriti yogacca hardaanugrhitah Satadhikaya |
Meaning: Because of the efficacy of the bhakti yoga that has been practiced by the devotee and because of the constant meditation and following of the Sattvic path that leads to the Supreme Abode of the Lord, the devotee is able to see the opening through which to go while leaving the body. And when the soul leaves the body through the murdhanya (top of the head) nadi or the sushumna (vein or artery) nadi, it leads the Self to the Supreme Abode of the Lord.

Sri Vasishtha derives the Nama starting with ‘Vi’ as an upasarga (prefix), the root ‘ha gatau – to, to get, to attain’; or ‘ha – tyage – to abandon’, and adding the ‘asun’ as basis, and gati meaning ‘that which is attained’.  So combining the above, the first interpretation for Vihaayasa means one who travels in space. Vihaayasa can also refer to those who sacrifice, or those Sattvic people who perform tapas etc. Thus, Vihaayasa-gatih can mean ‘One Who travels in space’, or ‘One Who is attained by those who follow the Sattvic path’.

Sri Vasishtha gives an alternate interpretation and uses the meaning ‘tapasvin or an ascetic’ for the term Vihaayasa –‘He Who is attained by the ascetics through their penance – Vihaayasaih tapasvibhih, abhigamyate praapyata iti Vihaayasagatih Vishnuh.

He gives another interpretation for the Nama and refers to Bhagavan in His form of the Sun – Vihaayase antarikshe gatih gamanam yasya sa Vihaayasa-gatih – Suryah.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to the Divya Prabhandam, where the Azhwars refer to Bhagavan letting His devotee enjoy the pleasures of this world, and then takes them to His world in the end:

  • Ingu ozhindu bhogam nee eidip pinnum nam idaikke poduvaai (Sri Thirumangai Azhwar’s Periya Thirumozhi 5.8.5) – After enjoying the worldly pleasures, you are gracious enough to take us back to your abode.
  • Vaanera vazhi tanda vaattaatraan – (Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi 10.6.5) – He gave the path of liberation, and
  • mann ulagil valam mikka vaattaatraan vandu indru vinn ulagam taruvaanaai Viraigindraan (Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi 10.6.3- We have attained Narayana reciting His many names.  He has come to Earth today, in Tiruvattaru of great wealth, and hastens to give us Sri Vaikuntham at our wish.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri takes Vihaayasa as a reference to the sky, and observes that Bhagavan is called Vihaayasa-gatih because He has the sky as His path – unobstructed, unsupported, vast, limitless – in His the form as the Sun. Bhagavan manifests in the form of the Sun as a reflection of His immense love for His creation – Priya-krit, priti-vardhanah etc.

Swami ChinmayAnanda refers to the Nama of Bhagavan as Surya Narayana, in this context.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the dual meaning of ‘sky’ and ‘bird’ for the word Vihaayasa, and interprets the Nama as ‘One Who travels in space by means of the King of birds – Garuda, as His vaahana – vihaayase – vyomni vihaayah patina gatih yasya iti Vihaayasa-gatih.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha also gives the explanation in terms of Bhagavan’s Garuda vaahana – vihaayaso – Garudah, tena tena gatih yasya sa Vihaayasa-gatih.

  1.    Jyotih – The Light that leads to Sri Vaikuntham

The meaning of this Nama is ‘great light or illumination’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Svata eva dyotate iti Jyotih – One who shines spontaneously from within and hence He is called Jyotih, the self-illuminating great light’. In support he gives the following quotation from Maha Narayana Upanishad (13.1) which says ‘Narayana Paro Jyotih Atma Narayanah Parah – Narayana is the ultimate Light and is the ultimate Soul’.

In the Svetasvara Upanishad (4.14), it says ‘Tameva Bhaantam anubhaati sarvam tasya bhaasaaa sarvam idam vibhaati – He alone shines and all other luminous bodies like the Sun and the stars simply reflect His light’.

Sri Bhattar interprets this Nama as the first step in the ascent of the Jivas to Parama-padam (His abode). This step is also called Arcih. Arcih refers to the first deity that escorts the mukta Jiva to the Supreme Abode. Sri Bhattar refers to the Chandogya Upanishad (5.10.1) and the Brahma Sutras for his interpretations:
te arcisham abhisambhavanti (Chandogya Upanishad 5.10.1)
Meaning: They unite with Agni; from Agni to the deity of the day, and from there to the bright half of the month.

Brahma Sutra 4.3.1 – ‘Arciradina tat-pratitheh – Along the path beginning with light, this is well-known’. Sri Ananta Rangacharya translates ‘Arcih’ as a reference to ‘Agni’.

The Muktas (Released souls) are led along the stages beginning with ‘Arci’ (light), and this is well-known from the Upanishads.

Ativaahikaah tal-li’ngaat | Brahma Sutra 4.3.4
Meaning: Arcih and the other deities are known as Ativaahika (Escorting Angels) because of the nature of their duty which is to lead the Muktas to the Supreme Abode. They are persons deputed to take the meditators to Brahman.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 8 Verses 24 to 27), where the path taken by the knowers of Brahman to reach Brahman is described.
Agnir jyotir ahah suklah san-masa Uttarayanam |
Tatra prayata gacchanti brahma brahma-vido janah ||
Meaning: Light in the form of fire, the day, the bright (waxing) fortnight, six months of the northern course of the Sun (Uttarayana) – the knowers of Brahman who take this path go to Brahman.

By contrast, those who reach Swarga (a temporary abode where the Jiva enjoys the benefits of his good karma and then is reborn in this world) take the dhumaadi Marga (B.G. 8.25) – smoke etc., and those who are headed for narakam (hell) take the Yamaya marga according to the Shastras.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives an interpretation similar to that of Sri Bhattar: ‘dyotate sushumnaya nirgatah tad-bhaktah arcih prapya yasmaat sa Jyotih’ – He Who is the guiding light for those devotees whose souls leave the body through the sushumna nadi, is Jyotih.

Swami ChinmayAnanda refers us to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 13 Verse 18) – ‘Jyotisam api taj jyotis – He is the source of all lights’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda also gives support from Mundaka Upanishad (2.2.10):
na tatra Suryo bhaati na ChandraTarakaṃ nema vidyuto bhaanti kuto’yamagniḥ | 
tameva bhaantamanubhaati sarvaṃ tasya bhaasaa sarvamidaṃ vibhaati ||
Meaning: The Sun shines not there, nor the Moon and the Stars. Nor do these lightning shine. How could this fire? All that shine after Him Who shines. All this is illumined by His radiance.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as – dyotate dipyati kantya iti Jyotih – He Who enlightens through His Kanti (radiance) is Jyotih.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha observes that the Sun and the Fire are both referred to as Jyoti in the Vedic terminology, and since Bhagavan is the One who illumines these, He is appropriately called Jyotih:
Agnir-jyotir-jyotir-agnih svaha|
Suryo jyotir-jyotih Suryah svaha || (Yajur. 3.9)

  1.    Surucih – He who is the cause of all effulgence

This Nama has the following meanings:

  1. One Who has the good desire and the Will to protect the world
  2. He Who is the cause of all the effulgence in everything
  3. He Who has intense attachment to His devotees

Ruchi means both ‘effulgence or shine’ and ‘wish or desire’. Accordingly, Sri Adi Sankara explains the Nama as:

  • ‘Shobhanaa Ruchih Deeptih asya iti Suruchih – One Whose effulgence is beautiful, auspicious and attractive’
  • ‘Shobhanaa Ruchih Icchaa asya iti Suruchih – One Whose Will is beautiful, auspicious and attractive’.

Sri Bhattar interprets the current Nama as a reference to Day time, which is the second step in the ascent of the mukta to Sri Vaikuntham. He derives the interpretation as follows: Suryodayaat rocate iti rucih, sa asya Sobhana iti Su-rucih – The rising of the Sun is pleasing because of its effulgence.  Since He is the cause of that beauty, He is called Su-rucih.

Sri Bhattar quotes the Sruti – arcisho-ahah – (Chandogya 5.10.1) – After Agni to the deity of the day.., where the path to Brahman is described.

The root from which the Nama is derived is ‘ruc – diptaavabhipritau’ meaning ‘to shine, to look beautiful or to be pleased with’. Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the derivation: sushthu rocata iti Su-rucih – He Who shines beautifully and well is ‘Su-rucih’. He explains the Nama to emphasise the point that Bhagavan is the cause of anything that is effulgent.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives an interpretation similar to that of Sri Bhattar and associates the Nama Su-rucih to the daytime – ‘Sobhano rucih  divasah yasmaat sa Su-rucih – He by Whose Grace we have a pleasant day time is Su-rucih’.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri uses the meaning ‘taste’ for the word ‘ruci’, and gives the explanation for the Nama as ‘One who has a good desire or taste to protect the world’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda uses the meanings ‘Glory or Desire’ for the term ‘ruci’, and gives the meanings as ‘He is of auspicious Glory or desire’, both referring to this world being an  expression of His Will or Desire.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as – Sobhana Su-rucih = abishva’ngah anuragah yasmin bhaktanam iti Su-rucih – He Who is intensely attached to His devotees, is Su-rucih.

  1.    Huta-bhug-Vibhuh – He is the enjoyer of all sacrifices and He is the Supreme Lord

Sri Adi Sankara interprets the above Nama by splitting them as ‘Hutabhuk’ and ‘Vibhuh’.

‘Hutam’ refers to the offerings made in sacrifices to various gods through the medium of fire and Bhuk refers to the one who enjoys or protects. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara offers two interpretations for this Nama. The first of which is ‘Samasta Devatoddeshena Pravritteshvapi Karmasu Hutam Bhungte iti Hutabhuk – He enjoys the sacrificial offerings made irrespective of which specific god it is offered to and hence He is called Hutabhuk’. He is the ultimate enjoyer of all offerings whether it is offered to Him directly or indirectly through other gods and He is the Supreme God who is Omnipresent.

Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 9 Verse 24 says, ‘aham hi sarva-yajnanam bhokta ca prabhur eva ca – I am the enjoyer of all sacrifices and the Ultimate Lord’.

The other interpretation is ‘Hutam Bhunakti iti Hutabhuk – He protects the sacrifices made by the devotees from interference of enemies, hence He is called Hutabhuk, the protector of sacrifices. As an example, He protected the sacrifice of Sage Vishvamitra by killing Tataka and Subahu.

Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations for ‘Vibhuh’. The first is ‘Sarvatra Vartamaanatvaat Vibhuh – He is present everywhere, hence He is called Vibhuh, the Omnipresent’. This is based on ‘Vividho Bhavati iti Vibhuh – He has multiple presence’.

The second interpretation is ‘Trayanam Lokanam Prabhutvaat Vibhuh – He is the Supreme Lord of the three worlds, hence He is called Vibhuh, the Overlord’. The word Prabhu refers to a Lord and Vibhu refers to the Super Lord. Bhagavan is the Lord of Lords and hence He is called Vibhuh, the Supreme Lord.

Sri Bhattar interprets the term ‘huta-bhuk’ to refer to the Moon – ‘Hutam Bhunjaanah – Somah, and for the term Vibhuh, he gives the meaning ‘One who grows and becomes full – purno bhavati’. So, the term Huta- bhug-Vibhuh is interpreted as a reference to the waxing phase of the Moon – one that has consumed (bhuk) the offerings (huta) made to it, and has become full (Vibhuh – purno bhavati). The Nirukti author summarises Sri Bhattar’s interpretation as follows:
Hutam sudha parinatam bhunjaanash-Chandramaas-tatha   |
Vibhuh purno bhavet yasmin sa vai syaat Huta-bhug-Vibhuh ||

This is the third step in the arciradi marga. A reference is made to the Chandogya Upanishad 5.10.1 in support – “arcishah ahah ahna Apuryamaana paksham – From Agni to the deity of the day and from there to the deity of the bright half of the month…”

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan’s interpretation for the current group of Namas is similar to that of Sri Bhattar. He interprets the Nama ‘Huta- bhug-Vibhuh as a reference to the waxing period of the Moon, the Shukla paksha and His explanation is: huta- bhuk = Chandrah, Vibhuh = purnah, yatra sa Huta-bhug-Vibhuh Shukla pakshah. It is because of Him that His devotees’ darkness (despair) is removed just like the Shukla paksha, hence He is called ‘Huta-bhug-Vibhuh’.

Sri Vasishtha explains that ‘hutam’ refers to the offerings in the fire during homa/yagna etc., accompanied by the associated mantras: hutamiti agnau prakshiptam sa-mantram. He refers us to the seven tongues of fire that were described earlier, under the Nama Sapta-jihvah: sapta te agne samidhah sapta jihvah (Yajur. 17.79).  He further adds that it is this ‘Huta-bhuk’ Guna of Bhagavan that is reflected in us, and this is responsible for our ability to consume the offerings in the form of food to nourish our body. Associated with the Prana vayu that we inhale and the fire that is in our body, this food or offering gets ‘consumed’.

Sri Vasishtha explains Vibhu’ as: ‘Vi’ is a prefix, meaning vividha; the root ‘bhu – sattaayaam’ meaning ‘to be or to exist’. Hence, vividho bhavati iti Vibhuh – That which manifests itself in different ways or He Who is present everywhere, or He Who is the Lord of all the worlds.

Swami ChinmayAnanda translates the Nama ‘Vibhuh’ as ‘All-Pervading – Lord Narayana’. The Self, is unconditioned by time or space, for He is Eternal, the Omnipresent.  He is All-pervading as He is unlimited by any conditioning.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha gives the interpretation – Vishishta bhavanti asmaat iti Vibhuh – Since beings become distinguished and distinct because of Him, the Lord is called Vibhuh.

  1.    Ravih – The Sun in his Uttarayana (Northerly move) 

Ravih refers to the Sun and this Nama signifies Bhagavan in His manifestation as the Sun. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Rasaan Aadatte iti Ravih Adityatma – The Sun has the name Ravih because he absorbs all the rasas or fluids from all objects. Bhagavan has the essence of the Sun, hence He is called Ravih’. Sri Sankara gives the following reference from the Vishnu Dharmottara (1.30.16) in support of this – ‘Rasanancha Tathadanaat Raviriti Abhideeyate – The Sun is called Ravi because He extracts and absorbs all the basic essences from all the objects’.

Sri Bhattar uses the root ‘Ru – Shabde’ meaning ‘to sound’, and interprets the Nama as ‘Ruyate – prashasyati iti Ravih – One Who is praised.  Sri Bhattar interprets the Nama as ‘One Who is praised as the Uttarayana – the period in which the Sun begins his movement towards the north.  Uttarayana is the fourth step in the Arciradi Marga.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives an interpretation similar to that of Sri Bhattar. He derives the Nama from the root ‘Ru – Gatireshanayoh’ meaning ‘to go’, and gives the explanation for the Nama as – Ravate gacchati Uttarayanena yasmaat sa Ravih; yad-anukampaya Uttarayena yaati iti Arthah – He by Whose Grace the Sun is able to traverse the Uttarayana Marga, is Ravih.

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastry refers to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 21), where the Lord says:
Adityaanaam aham Vishnuh jyotishaam Ravir-amshumaan – ‘Of Adityas I am Vishnu, of luminous bodies I am the radiant Sun’.

Sri Vasishtha derives the Nama from the root ‘Ru – Shabde’ meaning ‘to cry or to yell or to sound as bees’. Sri Vasishtha indicates that the affix ‘i’ adds the sense of ‘one who does’ or ‘one who causes others to do’ – kartari karane va. So, in his interpretation, the term Ravih means ‘One who causes sound’, or ‘One who enables others to make sound’, and indicates that it is because of Him that all the beings are able to create sound, and so He is called Ravih.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as – Ruyate stuyate bhakta janaih iti Ravih – He Who is praised by His devotees is Ravih.

  1.    Virocanah – He is of many splendours and who illuminates the World 

The word ‘Vi’ stands for Vividham meaning various or multiple, and Rochanah stands for ‘Rochate’ meaning exhibiting splendour or pleasing aspect. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Vividham Rochate iti Virochanah – He has multiple splendours or gives pleasure to all in a variety of ways hence He is called Virochanah’.

He has many aspects of splendour such as the Sun, Moon, Stars etc. All the beautiful objects of the Universe are His manifestation and we derive immense pleasure from the.  He is truly Virochanah, the one with multiple splendours.

Sri Bhattar explains the Nama as ‘Dvaabhyaam ayana-gatibhyaam samvatsaro rathena virocayati iti Virocanah’ – He represents the year (Time) who illumins the bright Sun when the Sun rides his chariot through the two ayanas or the two periods of six months each (the Uttarayana and the Dakshinayana – the Northerly and the Southerly journey). This is the fifth step in the Arciradi Marga.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan continues with a similar interpretation to that of Sri Bhattar – virocayati samvatsarena gacchantam svopasam abhiprautam dipra’nca karoti it Virocanah – He Who makes the Sun shine as He travels through the Samvatsara or through the year.

The root from which the Nama is derived is ‘ruc – deeptaavabhipritau’ meaning ‘to shine or to look beautiful or to be pleased with’. Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha interprets this Nama as ‘virocate tacchilo Virocanah’ – He Who has the habit of, or for whom it is part of His nature, to shine and to look beautiful. He Who is naturally shining, and Who illuminates this Universe, is Virocanah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains this Nama as the Lord providing various types of rays to assist the growth of plants etc.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains this in the context of His shining in special ways in the minds of His devotees – Visheshena rocate bhaktebhya iti Virocanah.  He quotes the Yajur Vedic Mantra – namo rucaya Braahmaye (Yajur. 31.20).

Swami ChinmayAnanda notes: ‘Whatever form the devotee chooses to contemplate upon Him, the Lord manifests in that very Form for the sake and joy of the devotee’. This is also what the Lord says in the Bhagavad Gita (BG 7.21).

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha gives an alternate Nama as Vi-locanah – One Who gave special sight (Divya Chakshu) to Arjuna, Sanjaya etc. – divyam locanam Parthasya yasmaat sa Vi-locanah. He supports his interpretation with a reference to the Bhagavad Gita (Shloka 11.8) – divyam dadami te Chakshuh.

  1.    Suryah – He Who generates Brilliance and Wealth

Sri Adi Sankara interprets Suryah as ‘Soote Shriyam iti Suryah Agnir Vaa – Suryah’ denotes one who generates or creates wealth or brilliance referring to either the Sun or the fire’.  So this Nama means the Sun or the Fire which describes Lord Vishnu very appropriately as He is the creator of all the wealth and brilliance in the world.

Sri Bhattar interprets the root ‘Sr’ with the meaning ‘to move’, and associates the term with ‘Vayu’, since the wind moves because of Him – Vayuh sada sarati yasmaat iti Suryah. Sri Bhattar maps Surya to the sixth step in the Arciradi Marga.  Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan also gives the same interpretation – Vayum sarati svopasakam nitva iti Suryah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains the Nama as a reference to One Who streaks through the skies like a snake (Sarati). This can closely relate to the interpretation of the Nama as a reference to the wind. Vayu is placed next to Samvatsara in the Arciradi Marga based on the Kaushitaki Upanishad (1.3) – ‘Sa Vayu lokam – He (the Jiva) goes to the Vayu loka’.

Sri Vasishtha derives the Nama from the root ‘Sr – gatau’ meaning ‘to go’ or ‘Su – prerane’ meaning ‘to excite or to impel’.  Based on this, the meaning is ‘That which moves’, or ‘That which impels all beings to action – sarati gacchati iti Suryah, or suvati karmani prerayati lokaan iti Suryah’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda notes that this term etymologically means that ‘One Source from which all things have been borne out or out of which they have been delivered’. The Lord as the First Cause is the Womb of the Universe. The term is commonly used to refer to the Sun, because on the surface of the world it is the Sun that nurtures and nourishes all living creatures.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha gives another interpretation – Suri gamyatvaat Suryah – He because of Whom we get enlightenment is Suryah.  Somewhat related to this interpretation, Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives the following explanation – Suribhih jnanibhih praapyate iti Suryah – He Who is attained by the enlightened Sages.

  1.    Savita – He Who brings forth everything in the Universe

Savita is the short form of the word Prasavita meaning the Creator. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Sarvasya Jagatah Prasavitaa Savitaa – He is the Creator of the whole world and hence He is called Savita’. He gives reference from the Vishnu Dharmottara (1.30.15) which says ‘Prajaanaam tu Prasavanaat Savitaa iti nigadyate – He is called Savita because He creates all the world and its people’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation – Surya dvara vrishti sasyaadikam sute iti Savita – Bhagavan produces, through the Sun as the medium, rain and the crops, and so He is called Savita or Aditya. This is the seventh step in the Arciradi Marga.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives references to the Shruti – ‘Devo Varunah  prajapatih Savita (Chandogya Upanishad 1.12.5) – ‘He who shines brilliantly, He who brings rain, He who is the Protector of people, the Lord Savita’; savanaat Savita – (Maitrayani 5.7).

Sri Anantakrishna Shastry gives an interesting alternate that has the same meaning – ‘Sa pita – He is The Father of All’.

Sri Vasishtha derives the Nama from the root ‘Su – prani garbha vimocane’ meaning ‘to bring forth or to produce’. Sri Vasishtha gives the explanation – Surya dvara vrishti Sasyadikam utpaadya jagat janayati iti Savita – He Who creates grains etc. through rain by means of the Sun and generates and sustains life, is Savita.

  1.    Ravi-locanah – He has Sun as His eye

Ravi means the Sun and lochana means eye.  Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Ravih lochanam chakshuh asya asti iti Ravilochanah – He has the Sun as His eye, hence He is called Ravilochanah’. In support he quotes from Mundaka Upanishad (2.1.4) ‘Agnir Murdha Chakshushee Chandra Suryau – He Who has fire for the crown of His head, and has the Moon and the Sun as His eyes’.

In the Dhyana Shloka 2, it says ‘Bhuh Paadau yasya Naabhih Viyadasura nilash Chandra Suryau ca Netre’ where the Sun and the Moon are described as His eyes.

In the Purusha Suktam, Shloka 13 says ‘Chakshos Suryo Ajaayata – The Sun was born out of His eye’ denoting the close association between the Sun and His eye.

Ravina – tat prakashena, locayati – darshayati iti Ravi-locanah – That which reveals everything to us through its lustre.

Sri Bhattar explains this Nama as the eighth, ninth and tenth steps of Arciradi Marga – the Moon, Indra (lightning), and Varuna. All these thrive by means of the Sun’s rays, and so they are covered together in this Nama by Sri Bhattar in his interpretation – Ravi rashmi Sankraantyadi mukhena Chandra-Vidyud- Varunaan locayati iti Ravi-locanah. The Chandogya Upanishad Mantra – ‘Adityaat Chandramasam, Chandramaso vidyutam’, and the Kaushitaki Upanishad Mantra – ‘sa Varuna lokam (1.3), are quoted in support of this interpretation.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj interprets the Nama as ‘One from Whose eyes arose Surya’ – Ravih Bhaskarah locanaad-yasya iti Ravi-locanah.  He refers to Purusha Suktam (Shloka 13) – Chakshoh Suryo Ajaayata (Rig Veda 10.90.13).

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha derives his interpretation based on the root ru – Sabde – to sound, and gives the meaning ‘praise’ for the word ‘Ravih’. His interpretation for ‘locanah’ is ‘One Who is pleased’. His interpretation for the Nama is: Ravih stutih; locaniyatvaat locanam priyam; Ravih stutih, locanam – priyam yasya sah Ravi-locanaH – He Who is fond of praise, is Ravi-locanah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives multiple explanations:  Ravina locayati sarvasm iti Ravi-locanah – He Who enlightens everything through the Sun; He Whose eyes are the Sun, and through which we see – locyate anena iti locanah, ravih locanam = cakshuh yasya sa Ravi-locanah.

Sri NammAzhwar’s description of the ascent of the Jiva to the Parama-padam

It is a delightful experience to delve into Sri NammAzhwar’s description of the ascent of the Jiva to Sri Vaikuntham in his Pasurams in Thiruvai Mozhi (10.9.1 to 10.9.10). It brings forth Bhagavan’s deep love for His devotee who is arriving, and this is expressed beautifully by Azhwar in his delightful devotional outpouring.

The Vaidyuta comes first, and announces with joy the arrival of the Mukta to the rest of the Ativaahikas with his thunder – ‘Suzh vishumbani mugil turiyam muzhakkina…’ (10.9.1) – Clouds in the sky played horns like heralds, waves in the ocean clapped and danced.  The seven continents stood with gifts, to see the devotee of eternally-praised Narayana homeward-bound. 

‘Purana pork-kudam… neer ani kadalgal nindru Arttana’ (10.9.2) – On seeing Narayana’s devotee, the rain cloud joyously filled gold-pots in the sky, the oceans stood and cheered in joy.  The mountains made festoons for him, and all the words bowed in worship.

‘Thozhudunar ulagargal dhoopanal malarmazhai pozhivinar…’ (10.9.3) – They call came to offer their obeisance to the arriving Mukta, including the usually meditating and silent sages. As they saw the devotees of the Lord who measured the Earth, they rained flowers, lit incense and offered worship.  The Sages stood on either side and said, ‘This way to Vaikuntha’.

‘Edhiredhiri imaiyavariruppidam vaguthanar, kadhiravar avaravar kainirai kaatinaar…’ (10.9.4) – All the way the celestials made resting points, The Moon and the Sun lighted the path, thundering drums rolled like the ocean, in honour of the devotee of the nectar like Lord Madhava adorning Tulasi garland.

‘Madhavan thamarendru vaasalil vaanavar, Podhumin emadhu idam pudhuguga vendralum…’ (10.9.5)- The Devas are setting up delightfully decorated huts for the temporary stay of the Mukta Jiva to take rest on the way. Varuna, Indra, and Prajapati are eagerly waiting at the entrance to their regions to welcome and receive the Mukta, with a request to the Mukta to bless them by passing through their regions.  

‘Velviyul maduthalum viraigamazh narumpugai kaalangal valampuri kalanthangum isaithanar…’ (10.9.6) – Incense, fire oblations, bugles and conches rent the air, and the Devas with their eyes sparkling offer heavenly gifts.

‘Madandhaiyar vaazhthalum Maruttarum Vasukkalum thodarthengum thottiram sollinar…’ (10.9.7)

The Maruts and Vasus joined in worship as the celestial Apsaras cheered in joy, to see the mukta jiva progressing towards the reclining Kesava, the radiant-crowned Gopala, Lord of Kundandai, – on his journey homeward bound.

‘Kudiyadi yaarivar Govindan thanakkendru mudiyudai vaanavar muraimurai edhir kola…’ (10.9.7) – The Devas lined up in rows to see the Mukta Jiva to greet and said,  “Here comes Govinda’s bonded serf!”, then climbed the high walls of the festooned Gopuram, to catch a glimpse of the devotee, cast in Madhava’s image, as the Mukta Jiva entered Sri Vaikuntham.

‘Vaikuntham pugudhalum vaasalil vaanavar Vaikunthan thamaremar emadhidam pugugendru…’ (10.9.8) – As the devotee entered the portals of Sri Vaikuntham, the bards were filled with joy.  The Devas bowed and offered their riches upon entering Vaikuntham as a place in Vaikuntham is every devotee’s birthright.

‘Vidhivagai pugundhanar endru nal vedhiyar padhiyinil paanginil paadhangal kazhuvinar…’ (10.9.9) – The Nitya Suris, considering themselves blessed to meet the devotee, chanted the Vedas and washed the devotee’s feet, while moon-faced celestials greeted the Mukta Jiva with Purna kumbham, divine lamps and Srichrunam (red Tilaks) and welcomed the devotee.

Vandhavar edhirikolla maamani mandapatthu andha mil perinbathaadiyaadu irndhuamai…’(10.9.10)
வந்தவர் எதிரிகொள்ள மாமணி மண்டபத்து
அந்தமில் பேரின்பத் தடியரோ டிருந்தமை
கொந்தலர் பொழில்குரு கூர்ச்சட கோபஞ்சொல்
சந்தங்கள் ஆயிரத் திவைவல்லார் முனிவரே
Meaning:  Finally the devotee stood face to face with the Lord and His consort, who were seated in the beautifully decked hall, the Jiva entered eternal bliss.  Those who master this decad out of the thousand Pasurams of Kurugur Sadakopan (Sri NammAzwar also known as Sadakopan) they will be blessed with the Lord’s divine grace and become like the great Sages, forever immersed in His thoughts.

In Summary

Vihayasagatir Jyotih Surucir Hutabhug Vibhuh |
Ravir Virocanah Suryah Savita Ravilocanah   ||94||

He is called Vihaayasa-gatih since it is through Him and because of Him that those devotees who have reached the highest stage of bhakti attain the Supreme abode i.e. Parama-padam. As He shines spontaneously from within, He is called Jyotih, the self-illuminating great light. He is known as Suruchih as His effulgence is beautiful, auspicious and attractive. He is the ultimate enjoyer of all offerings whether it is offered to Him directly or indirectly through other gods and He is the Supreme God who is Omnipresent, hence He is called Hutabhug-Vibhuh.

The Sun is one His manifestation and is called Ravih Who extracts and absorbs all the basic essences from all the objects. He Who has multiple splendours and is naturally shining, and illuminates this Universe, so He is Virocanah. He is the One who generates and creates wealth and brilliance, so He is called Suryah.  He is the Creator of the whole world and hence He is called Savita. He has the Sun as His eye, hence He is called Ravilochanah.



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


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