Adi Kesava Perumal

In this part we will explore the meaning of the 96th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Sanaat Sanatana-tamah Kapilah Kapir-Avyayah   |
Svasti-dah Svasti-krit Svasti Svasti-bhuk Svasti-dakshinah ||96|| 


He is Ancient, Most Ancient, and Radiant with a beautiful complexion with a Golden hue. He is the Enjoyer of undiminished Bliss and He bestows auspiciousness on His devotees.  The Doer of Good to His devotees and the One Who is auspiciousness Himself. He is the protector and promoter of auspiciousness of His devotees.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Sanaat
  2.    Sanatana-tamah
  3.    Kapilah
  4.    Kapir-Avyayah
  5.    Svasti-dah
  6.    Svasti-krit
  7.    Svasti
  8.    Svasti-bhuk
  9.    Svasti-dakshinah 

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

  1.     Sanaat – He is Ancient

Sanaat is an avyaya or an indeclinable word which means ancient or of long duration. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sanaat iti Nipaatash Chiraartha Vachanah. Kaalashcha Parasyaiva Vikalpanaa Kaapi – The word Sanaat denotes a long period of time and time is just a manifestation or symbol of Bhagavan and hence He is called Sanaat, of long duration’. In support of this Sri Sankara gives a quotation from the Vishnu Puranam (1.2.15) which says:
Parasya Bramhano Rupam Purushah Prathamam Dvija
Vyaktaavyakte Tathaivaanye Roope Kaalas tathaaparam ||
Meaning: The first form of Para Bramha is Purusha. Then comes the Vyakta or the manifest one and then the Avyakta or the Unmanifest one, finally comes His form called time. This shows that time is just a dimension of Bhagavan.  Just as He is without beginning and without end, Time is also without beginning and without end.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is:  tesham sambhajanaat Sanaat – Because He confers perfect enjoyment on all the muktas equally, He is called Sanaat.

Two distinct derivations have been used to interpret the Nama.  Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the root san-daane meaning ‘to give or to worship’, and gives the definition – sanoti – dadati svadarshanam  bhaktebhya iti Sanaat – He Who gives His darshanam to His devotees is  Sanaat.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha interprets the Nama as meaning ‘Sashvat, nitya’ – permanent, eternal.  The word ‘Sana’ is an indeclinable word, meaning ‘perpetually, forever’, and gives the definition – ‘Sana nitye’.  The word ‘Sanatana’ is derived from the word Sana.

Sri Vasishtha gives the description – Sanaat nityah avikaarah  ekarasah ityarthah – He Who is Eternal, Immutable, and always of the  same beautiful Form.  He gives references to the Shruti in support:

  • Sanaat yuva Namase havaamahe – Rig Veda 2.16.1 – He is Eternal while everything else decays
  • Sanaad eva sahase jaata ugrah – Rig Veda 4.20.6 – He is ancient and mighty
  • Ayo mahah Surah Sanaadanilah – Rig Veda 10.55.6 – A great Hero who is ancient and Who has no one above Him

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the interpretation – sanam tad- datttam rasa gandhaadi atti iti Sanaat – He Who gladly accepts the offerings from His devotees.

  1.     Sanatana-tamah – The Most Ancient

The word ‘Sanatana’ means ‘ancient’ and the suffix ‘tamah’ gives the sense of a superlative for any adjective. For instance ‘Sundara’ means beautiful and ‘Sundaratamah’ means most beautiful. In the same vein ‘Sanatanatama’ means most ancient. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Sarvakaaranatvaat Virinchyaadeenaam api Sanatananaam Atishayena Sanatanatvaat Sanatanatamah – He is the primary cause of everything and he is more ancient than the very ancient beings like Bramha, the Creator, hence He is called Sanatanatamah, the most ancient one’.

The Cause has to be prior to the effect. He is the Cause of all beings and therefore He is the most ancient One.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that even though He is ancient, He is always new, and is always refreshing, as though He is new and not seen before.  In the case of Bhagavan, He is `Pura api navah  Puranah’  – Ancient and Ageless but new.  Sri Bhattar uses the term `tana’ in the Nama to refer to rupam or form (tanu – Sariram).  He remarks as ‘Sadaa- tanatve’pi tadaa-tanatvavat nitya nutana bhogyah – Even though, He has a body (Sada tanatvam), He looks like One who is just new (tadaa-tanattvam – One who has just been endowed with a new body), and is enjoyed as though He is new, and hence He is Sana-tana- tamah.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan’s interpretation supports that of Sri Parasara Bhattar –
Sanatananaam muktanaam ayam atishayena sanatana-tamah |
Sanatanve’pi teshan tada-tanatvavat pratiya itayarthah ||
Meaning: He is the most ancient, eternal and forever refreshing.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (2.5.4), which captures the thought of Bhagavan being forever for our delight, no matter how many Yugas pass:
எப்பொருளும்தானாய் மரகதக்குன்றமொக்கும்,
அப்பொழுதைத்தாமரைப்பூக் கண்பாதம்கைகமலம்,
எப்பொழுதும்நாள்திங்க ளாண்டூழியூழிதொறும்,
அப்பொழுதைக்கப்பொழு தென்னாராவமுதமே.
Meaning:   The Lord represents everthying, his frame is like a huge dark gem.  His eyes, feet and hands are like freshly opened lotus flowers.  Every moment, every day, every month, every year, every age, and age after age, my insatiable ambrosia flows like fresh juice.

Sri Vedanta Desikan explains this as, ‘It is because of the experience I have is refreshingly new every moment, even after I have enjoyed it for days, years, and ages I don’t get sated.  The infinite variety, makes every moment a fresh bliss; it is an experience that is new always.  It is not because of me discovering something new every moment or because of my growing intellect.  The Lord has given me flawless intellect at the very outset.  The experience of the Lord’s company is on an entirely different plane.  He Who is the inner soul of all, having all things as His aspects, looks like a greenish cool hill of beauty, with eyes, feet, hands, all like lotus flowers that have freshly blossomed at this very moment.  He is nectar that is sweeter and sweeter every moment, insatiable and unceasingly enjoyable’.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha says that the addition of suffix (‘tana’) to the word ‘Sana’, creates the meaning of a sense of `belonging to’.  Thus, the term ‘Sana-tana’ has the meaning `belonging to ancient times’.   With the addition of the `tama’ suffix, the meaning for `Sanatana-tama’ becomes ‘The Most ancient’.  He was present before anything else was present, and He is present when everything else is destroyed during the Pralaya or Dissolution, so He is Sanatana-tamah.

Sri Vasishtha gives support from the Shruti:
Sanatanam-enam-Ahur-utadyah syat-punar-navah    |
aho-raatre prajaayete anyo anyasya rupayoh   || (Atharvana Veda 10.8.23)
Meaning: Even though He is ancient, He appears new every moment, even as the day and night reappear fresh repeatedly, one assuming the form of the other. 

  1.     Kapilah – He Who is of beautiful complexion

The word Kapilah refers to an orangish brown colour somewhat like an attractive shade of golden hue. Using this meaning, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Badavaa analasya Kapilo varnah iti tadrupee Kapilah – Badavaa, the fire at the heart of the ocean is tawny or orange brown in colour. Bhagavan is beautiful and having the same form and hue as this fire hence He is called Kapilah, the fire-like orange brown one’.  Badavaa is the name of the subterranean fire under the ocean which keeps the ocean in control and prevents it from overflowing. It has a bright orange brown colour called Kapila. Since Bhagavan has the same glow, He is also called Kapilah.

Sri Adi Sankara and Sri Parasara Bhattar had given the same interpretation for this Nama in Shloka 57 and referred to Bhagavan’s incarnation as Kapila, who propounded the Sankhya system of philosophy.  Both Sri Sankara and Sri Bhattar interpret the current instance of the Nama using its generic meaning i.e. ‘One Who has a beautiful complexion’.

Sri Bhattar enjoys the Nama in terms of Bhagavan’s beautiful bluish complexion, with Maha Lakshmi represented by sparkling streaks of lightning – madhyastha nIla toyada vidyul- lekhojjvala varnah Kapilah – He is of radiant form in the self- luminous Sri Vaikuntham, very much like a blue cloud in the midst of sparkling streaks of lightning.

Sri RadhaKrishna Shastri describes Kapila as referring to a colour that is golden with a black tinge.

The roots from which the Nama are derived from: kam – kantau –  kantir-iccha – to desire, or, kabr – varne – to colour.  Through the application of grammar, the ma of `kam’ or  br of `kabr’ is changed to pa, and the affix ‘ilac’ is added, leading  to Kapilah – ‘One who is tawny (reddish) in colour’.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the meaning of ‘Sun’ for ‘kapi’ and ‘tawny in color’ for ‘pingala varnah’. Sri Vasishtha gives the interpretation – kapim = Suryam lati –  Adatte, sarvasya jagatah pravartanaya iti Kapi-lah – He Who brings the Sun for the sustenance of everything in this world is Kapi-lah.

Srimad RamanujAcharya’s renowned interpretation of the Chandogya Upanishad Verse (1.6.7) uses the meaning of Kapi as Sun – ‘tasya yatha kapyasam pundarikam evam akshini’- ‘The eyes of that Supreme Person are as lovely as the Lotuses blossomed by the rays of the Sun’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the meaning `monkey’ for the term ‘Kapi’, and gives the interpretation – Kapin Sugriva Hanumat  Adin lati sevayaam iti Kapi-lah – He Who got SugrIva, Hanuman etc., serving Him.

  1.     Kapir-Avyayah – He Who enjoys the never-diminishing Bliss

Some interpreters treat this as two Namas: Kapih and Avyayah or Apyayah.  Kapih can be viewed as consisting of Kam meaning water and Piban meaning a drinker. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Kam jalam rashmibhih piban Kapih Suryah – He drinks water using His rays, namely the Sun, hence He is called Kapih, the Sun’.

The other interpretation is ‘Kapir Varaaho vaa’ – Kapih also means the boar and this refers to Bhagavan’s incarnation as Varaha, the great Boar. Sri Sankara refers to the MahaBharata (Shanti Parva) ‘Kapir Varaho va Kapir Varahah Shreshthashcha Dharmashcha Vrisha Uchyate’ – The words Kapih, Varaaha, Shreshthah, Dharmah and Vrishah can all refer to the same entity’. So this Nama also refers to Bhagavan’s incarnation as the Varaha.

Taking the second part of this Nama as Apyayah, Sri Sankara interprets this as ‘Pralaye asmin Apiyanti Jaganti iti Apyayah’ – At the time of deluge all beings get absorbed in Him and so He is called Apyayah, the final resting place.

Some commentators have used ‘Avyayah’ for this Nama. This can be interpreted as ‘the unchanging one’ or as ‘one who never moves away from his devotees’.

In Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this Nama is Kapir-Avyayah and Avyayah means ‘undiminished’.  The word ‘kam’ is used with the meaning ‘sukham’ and the word Kapih is explained as ‘Kam pibati, pati va Kapih’ – He Who experiences Bliss, or He Who protects the Bliss of His experience for others.  He derives the word Kapih as:  kam +pa = ka-pih and explains the Nama as –

  • svayamapi tad-anubhava sukha nirvrtim pati pibati va Kapir- Avyayah – He protects (pati) the pleasure of enjoyment of His Bliss  for the muktas, Undiminished (Avayaya); or
  • He experiences (pibati) the pleasure of the enjoyment of His Bliss by the muktas without decrease (avyaya), and so He is called Kapir-Avyayah.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj treats ‘Kapir-Avyayah’ as one Nama, but interprets it as a combination of two Gunas – Kapih and Avyayah.  He explains ‘Kapih’ as – kaam -jalamapi pibati sva-janaih sa-prema upahritam iti Kapih – He Who accepts an offering from His devotee, even it be only water, as long as it is offered with love and devotion.  He explains ‘Avyayah’ as ‘Sadaiva avyayo = nir-vikara iti Avyayah’ – He Who is Eternal and unchanging, is Avyayah.  He Who is both Kapih and Avyayah is Kapir-Avayayah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives several alternate root words from which the word ‘Kapih’ can be derived:

  • kai – Sabde – to sound;
  • kr –  vikshepe – to pour out, to scatter; or
  • kan – deepti Kanti  gatishu -to shine.

Based on the above, he gives the following interpretations:

  • Because Bhagavan enjoys (‘drinks’) the praise that is in form of Shabda, He is called Ka-pih stavah Shabda rupah tam pibati iti  Kapih;
  • kam – jalam, pati = pibati; He that ‘drinks’ water, referring to Surya.  Since Bhagavan is the antaryami for Surya, He has this Nama

Sri Vasishtha gives the interpretation – apiyanti iti Apyayah – leeyante asmin bhutani pralaya kale, atah Apyayah iti ucyate – He in whom all beings merge at the time of Pralaya, is Apyayah.  We have
‘tena devan apiyanti’ in Taittiriya Upanishad – BrahmAnanda Mimamsa – ‘Through these, they reach the Devas’.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan interprets the Nama Kapih as:  tad- seva rupam kam pibati iti Ka-pih – He Who accepts water etc., when offered as a devotional offering by His devotees.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 26), the Lord says:
patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati  |
tad-aham bhaktyupahritam ashnati prayatAtmanah      ||
Meaning: Whosoever offers to Me with true devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, I accept it.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the interpretation for Avyayah as ‘na vyeti tesham  samajat iti Avyayah’ – He Who never moves away from His devotees, and  Who is always with His devotees.

  1.     Svasti-dah – The Giver of Auspiciousness

Svasti means auspiciousness and Dah means the giver or the bestower so Svastidah refers to someone who bestows auspiciousness to His devotees.

The word Svasti occurs in many popular Mantras like ‘Svasti Praajaabhyah Paripaalayantaam’ and ‘Svasti Na Indro Vriddhashravaah Svasti nah Pushaa Vishvavedaah Svasti Nas Taarkshyo Arishtanamemih’. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Bhaktaanaam Svasti Mangalam Dadaati iti Svastidah’ – He is called Svastidah because He confers auspicious results to His devotees.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as ‘evam mahan-mangalam dadati iti Svasti-dah’ – In this way He gives supreme auspiciousness to all.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan explains that the Supreme Auspiciousness i.e. Brahma Jnana that leads to the ultimate bliss of Sri Vaikuntham, which He alone can give.  He refers us to the following Azhwar Pasurams:

  • uyar vinaiye tarum one  Sudark katrai (Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi 1.7.4) – The Beam of Light that gives the Supreme knowledge that leads to the moksha;
  • pirama guru Agi vandu, podil kamala an- nenjam pugundu, en SennittiDaril pada ilaccinai vaittar (PeriAzhvwar  Thirumozhi 2.8) – Bhagavan came as the guru Who performed Brahmopadesam to me, entered the seat of true knowledge in me – my mind, and set His Feet there, and this removed all the flaws, deficiencies and ignorance in my mind.

The word Svasti is formed from the root ‘as – bhuvi’ meaning ‘to be’, with the addition of ‘su’ as prefix, savaseh, that denotes blessing.   Sri Vasishtha explains the word as ‘su + asti’ = svasti.  svastim dadati  iti svasti-dah – kalyana-dah – The Bestower of auspiciousness.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the root ‘asa – gati dIptyadaneshu’ meaning to go, to shine, to accept, and gives the derivation – Sobhana astih = gatih arthat jnanam gamanam praptih, Svastih, taam dadati bhaktebhya iti Svasti-dah – He Who bestows the path for the attainment of true knowledge to the devotees.

Sri Vasishtha gives an alternate explanation – Atma dharanaya – arthaat jivanaya jivana upayogini sadhanani dadati sa, Svasti-dah – He Who gives the necessities for the Jivas to sustain themselves.

  1.     Svasti-krit – The Doer of Good to His devotees

Svasti means auspiciousness as explained in the previous Nama and Krit is one who does or acts. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Tadeva karoti iti Svastikrit – He always acts in a way which is auspicious for His devotees, hence He is called Svasti-krit, one who acts auspiciously’.

Whatever He does is always directed to enrich the auspiciousness for His devotees.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains that after giving the Brahma Jnana (Svasti- dah), He then makes Himself available to the muktas to enjoy Him and His qualities (Svasti-krit).

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastri adds another interpretation and explains as He Who makes His devotees do good things is Svasti-krit.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives an alternate  interpretation using the root ‘krit – chedane’ meaning ‘to cut’, and explains the Nama as One Who robs an individual of all bliss when that  individual follows a path that is not according to Dharma.

  1.     Svasti – He Who is Auspiciousness

Svasti is auspiciousness and here Bhagavan is identified as a symbol and personification of the same. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Mangala svarupam Atmeeyam Paramananda lakshnam Svasti’ – He is the embodiment of auspiciousness being the essence of Supreme joy, hence He is called Svasti. Auspiciousness and joy are one and the same. He is Aananda Svarupi or whose nature is pure joy, hence He is a symbol of auspiciousness also and so appropriately termed Svasti.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as – svayameva mahan-mangalam –  Svasti – He Who is Himself the incarnation of auspiciousness.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives several supports on this.

  • en amudinaik kanda kangal matrondrai Kaanaave – (Sri Thiruppaan Azhwar’s AmalanAdipiraan) – My eyes that have seen my Sweet Nectar, will never stray away from Him and see anything else again;
  • yatra na anyat pashyati, na anyat vijaanaati, na anyat Shrunoti,  tad bhuma – Sanat Kumara – That which is auspicious or Bliss is that from which the eyes can’t turn away, the mind does not move away, and  the ears can’t divert.  This object of Supreme Bliss is all-absorbing, and the best that there can ever be.
  • Icchuvai thavira yaan poi Indralokam aalum, acchuvai perinum venden Arangamangar ullane – Sri Thondadipodi Azhwar’s Thirumalai Pasuram) – After enjoying your blissful form, even if I were given to rule Indra’s kingdom, even if you were to give it, I shall not want it.

Sri RadhaKrishna Shastri reminds us that Bhagavan is ‘pavitranam  pavitram’ – The Purest of the pure, mangalanam ca mangalam’ -The  Most Auspicious among the auspicious, and ‘mangalam param’ – The  Supreme Bliss.

Swami ChinmayAnanda comments that He is of the Nature of Sat-Cit-Ananda, and thus there is no cause for inauspiciousness in Him.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha interprets the Nama as – su atyantam asti iti sakala desha kaleshu vartata iti Svasti – He Who always exists in the past, present and the future, is Svasti.

  1.     Svasti-bhuk – The Protector of Auspiciousness

Sri Adi Sankara uses the word ‘bhuj’ as ‘to enjoy’, and interprets the Nama as –
tadeva bhunkta iti Svasti-bhuk |
Bhaktanam mangalam  Svasti bhunakti iti va Svasti-bhuk ||
Meaning: The Enjoyer of Bliss, or He Who enables His devotees to enjoy His auspiciousness.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the meaning `to protect’, for the root ‘bhuj’, and gives the interpretation – sarvam etat svasti bhunakti – palayati iti Svasti-bhuk’ – The Lord protects everything auspicious, and protects His devotees.  The pleasure of experiencing the Lord in the mind, the extreme satisfaction that the devotees get on that account, and the services that the devotees are induced to perform thereby, are all preserved and protected by the Lord.

The nirukti author summarises the above thoughts through the following:
Paalanaat mangalasya iva Svasti-bhuk ca iti gamyate’ – He is sung by the Nama ‘Svasti-bhuk’ because He protects all that is auspicious.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan has similar interpretation – svasti – kalyanam bhunakti – palayati samrtrunaam  iti svasti-bhuk – He protects and supports all that is auspicious.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 22), the Lord says:
Ananyas cintayanto mam ye janah paryupasate |
tesam nityabhiyuktanam yoga-ksemam vahamy aham ||
Meaning: But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form-to them I provide what they lack and preserve what they already have.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha interprets the Nama as – svasti sukham bhojayati it svasti-bhuk – One Who feeds (bestows) sukham or happiness on His devotees, is svasti-bhuk.

The Story of Krishna protecting Arjuna from the destruction of the Chariot

After the MahaBharata war was over and Lord Krishna realized that the mission of that chariot was accomplished, and hence he took the chariot to a deserted place and asked the Arjuna to get off the chariot. Arjuna was reluctant and asked Krishna, as the Sarathy, to leave the Chariot first. Upon Krishna’s insistence Arjuna descended from the chariot.  Then Lord Krishna asked Hanuman also to leave the chariot along with his flag and Hanuman followed suit.

The moment Lord Hanuman left the chariot, Krishna too got off and the chariot exploded with the deafening sound detonation as if a big weapon had collided with it. The chariot was blazing as if incandescent had burst into flames and it was reduced to ashes and completely razed in no time.

Arjuna, recovering from the shock of what he witnessed, asked Lord Krishna the reason behind the explosion of the chariot. Lord Krishna explained that the weapons that were used by Maharathi Sage Dronacharya and Maharathi Karna on him and his chariot were so powerful that there was and there could be no escape from them for Arjun and his chariot. They were intended to create the havoc and could not be subdued. They are extremely efficacious and what Arjun had just now witnessed was the result of those celestial weapons launched by Dronacharya and Karna on him.

Bewildered Arjuna asked the Lord as to why did it take so much time to explode and did not do what they were intended to at the time of the war? Clearing his doubts, Krishna told Arjuna that it was His (Krishna’s) presence of on his chariot that barred those weapons from creating the desired effect. Krishna had made those weapons powerless for the time being and hence the reason for those weapons not causing any harm to Arjuna or his chariot. It was also the presence of Lord Hanuman on the chariot flag that prevented those weapons from taking effect.

Lord Krishna further explained that the celestial weapons used by Karna and Dronacharya were given by the Devas and thus they had had to deliver the effect. By making them null would be an insult to the Devas who had bestowed those powers on Karna or Dronacharya. Hence, to make them take the desired effect it was necessary for them to consume the chariot which they had just done.

Arjuna realised that it was Lord Krishna who was protecting him at all time and it is because of Him that he had emerged victorious.

The Lord protects His devotees at all times. Jai Sri Krishna _/_

  1.     Svasti-dakshinah – He Who gives auspicious things as Dakshina to His devotees 

Sri Adi Sankara gives the following in support of this Nama:
Smaranadevam devasya siddhyanti sarva siddhayah   ||
smrite sakala kalyana bhaajanam yatra jaayate   |
purushas-tam-ajam nityam vrajami Sharanam Harim   ||
smaranaadeva Krishnasya paapa sanghaata panjaram   |
Shatadha bhedam Ayati girir vajrahato yatha   ||
I always take refuge in Hari, the Supreme Person, the Unborn, and Eternal, Who, by just being remembered, becomes the source of all auspiciousness.   By the mere remembrance of Krishna, the body of accumulated sins are destroyed just as a mountain gets destroyed (broken into many pieces) by Indra’s thunderbolt.

Sri Sankara gives three interpretations. The first is Svastirupena Dakshate vardhate iti Svasti-dakshinah – He makes His devotees grow through His auspiciousness, hence He is called Svastidakshinah’.

The second interpretation is ‘Svasti daatum samartha iti vaa Svasti-dakshinah – He is competent or skillful in giving bliss to His devotees, hence He is called Svasti-dakshinah’.

The third interpretation is a further enhancement of the second one -‘Athavaa Dakshinashabda Aashukaarini Vartate Sheeghram Svasti  Daatum ayam eva Samartha iti Yasya Smaranaadeva Sidhyanti Sarvasiddhayah – Here taking the word Dakshina to mean one who is capable of achieving things very fast Svasti-dakshanah is taken to mean one who is capable of giving auspicious results instantly even as the devotee thinks of Bhagavan’. In this context, Svastidakshinah means one who gives instant results at the mere thought of him.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the term ‘Dakshina’ in the sense of a ‘fee’ or a ‘gift’ that is offered to the officiating priests in religious ceremonies etc.  He interprets the Nama as ‘One Who offers ‘Svasti’ or auspiciousness as ‘Dakshina’ to His devotees.  Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that, Bhagavan is performing an eternal, never-ending sacrifice, called deergha satram, in which the ‘officiating priests’ are the nityas and the muktas (the eternal souls and the liberated souls).   The purpose of this yaaga of Bhagavan is to offer Himself to be enjoyed by His devotees.  Bhagavan gives Himself to His devotees, the nityas and the muktas, as an offering in this ‘sacrifice’.  In addition, He gives them auspicious things such as a celestial body that is made of Shuddha Sattva, material that never decays or ages, and other powers such as Shakti, Jnanam, etc.   So Bhagavan is like the Master of Sacrifice who offers dakshina or fee to the priests who are officiating in it, He is Svasti-dakshinah.   Sri Bhattar wrote thus – ‘anyAdapi sva-paricarana anugunam divya- Sharira Sakti Adi Svasti Svatma dana deergha satre Ritvigbhyo deya  dakshina asya iti Svasti-dakshinah‘.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives an interpretation that is along similar lines:
sva-nityam dhamadikam kalyana rupatvaat svasti iti ucyate  |
sa Dakshina sva-bhaktisatra Ritvigbhyo deyam asya iti  Svasti-dakshinah.
Meaning: In this interpretation, Sri Vaikuntham and other aspects of Sri Vaikumtham are referred to as ‘Svasti’ because of their eternal and auspicious nature.  Bhagavan offers these to the officiating Ritviks in His bhakti yajna as dakshina or fees, and so He is called Svasti-dakshinah.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives a similar interpretation – Svastibhih Ashirbhih dakshayati vardhayati svajanan iti Svasti- dakshinah’ – He bestows auspiciousness and blessings on His devotees, hence He is called Svasti-dakshinah.

Swami ChinmayAnanda nicely captures the spirit of the above:  ‘The Nama indicates that Sri Narayana will quickly and efficiently reach His sincere seekers to give them the experience of auspiciousness which is the Lord’s very nature’.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as – svastim dakshate vardhayati iti  Svasti-dakshinah – varada-hasto mangala hasta iti – He Who grows  auspiciousness by bestowing the desired boons and other auspicious  things to His devotees, as signified by His Varada-hasta or mangala  hasta, is Svasti-dakshinah.

In Summary
Sanaat Sanatana-tamah Kapilah Kapir-Avyayah   |
Svasti-dah Svasti-krit Svasti Svasti-bhuk Svasti-dakshinah ||96||

He is Ancient and hence He is called Sanaat. He is Most Ancient, who created the Creator Brahma, so He is Sanatana-tamah.  He is Radiant with a beautiful complexion and a Golden hue, hence called Kapilah.  He is the Enjoyer of undiminished Bliss and One Who protects the Bliss of His experience for His devotees’, hence He is Kapir-Avyayah.

He bestows auspiciousness on His devotees, so He is Svasti-dah.  He is the Doer of Good to His devotees and hence He is Svasti-krit. He is Svasti, Who is auspiciousness Himself. He is the protector of auspiciousness and hence Svasti-bhuk. He is the provider and promoter of auspiciousness for His devotees’ and hence He is Svasti-dakshinah.



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


  1. Thanks again Sridhar for this wonderful extract in the form of meaning explained in a manner that is easy to understand and remember! The story is always a bonus that I eagerly await. A Big Thanks!

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