In this part we will explore the meaning of the 97th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
Araudrah Kundali Chakri Vikrami UrjitaShaasanah |
Shabdaatigas Shabdasahah Shishiras Sharvarikarah ||97||
He has no desire, hatred, anxiety etc., and hence is devoid of anger. He is bedecked with beautiful fish-shaped ear-rings and weilds the powerful Sudarshana Chakra, has giant strides whose commands are inviolable and is strongly rooted in the Vedas. He is beyond words for description and is extolled in the Vedas. He rushes to render help to calls of distress and redeems them from the woes of this Samsara to His cool abode. He wields destructive weapons in His hands and is also the Creator of night to provide rest to all beings.
The above Shloka has the following Namas:
Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:
- Araudrah – He Who is not driven to anger easily
The word Raudram denotes any of three things viz. a violent action, passion or anger. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Karma Roudram, Raagashcha Raudrah, Kopashcha Raudrah, Yasya Raudratrayam Naasti Avaapta sarva Kamatvena Raagadveshaader Abhaavaat Sa Araudrah – Because Bhagaven has no unfulfilled desire, he is free from violence, passion or anger. Being devoid of all three types of Roudram, Bhagavan is called Araudrah’.
Desire leads to action to attain the desired object, and when it is not attained, it leads to anger; however, when the desired object is attained, more of the same or some other objects are desired, and so the cycle goes on endlessly. As Bhagavan has no desire, hatred, etc., He is called Araudrah.
Sri Parasara Bhattar notes that Bhagavan is – ‘parama aishvaryepi guna Sheetalimna Araudrah’ – He is gentle, agreeable, and cool by nature, who is not irate, even though He is Sarveshvaran, hence He is called Araudrah.
In the Dhyana Shloka Bhagavan is defined as ‘Shantakaram’ meaning His peaceful countenance that radiates kindness, compassion and warmth. Bhagavan has a calm and pleasant temperament at all times that is devoid of anger, passion or violence, hence He is aptly called ‘Araudrah’, the serene one.
We can recall the instance when Krishna was abused and insulted by Shishupala a 100 times. When Yudhishthira performed the Rajasuya Yajna, he had sent Bhima to obtain the submission of Shishupala, who accepted Yudhishthira’s supremacy without protest, and was invited to the final ceremony at Indraprastha. The Pandavas had decided that Krishna would be their guest of honour, but Shishupala objected to this and resorted to insulting Krishna as a cowherd and worthless of being honoured as a King. He committed 100 sins while Krishna kept His cool (and count) and pardoned Shishupala a 100 times (keeping his promise). Lord Krishna released His Sudarshana Chakra to kill Shishupala only after forgiving his 100 transgressions.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as ‘Parama Shanta Saumya Sundara Akaarah’.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan points out that even though Bhagavan is radiating extreme Tejas, it does not deflect His devotees even a bit.
Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives an essentially similar interpretation – rudati anena iti rudram = duhkham, taj-janakatvena tat-sambandhitvaat raudram = kama krodhadi duhkha sadhanam, tat asya nasti iti Araudrah – He is called Araudrah because He has no association with sorrow that arises out of desire, anger, greed etc.
Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan notes that Bhagavan is the exact opposite of raudram – Ananda purnatvat Araudrah prasanna murtih – He is the embodiment of Perfect Bliss.
- Kundali – He Who is bedecked with beautiful ear-rings
Kundala means ear rings and it also means a coiled serpent. Based on these meanings, Sri Adi Sankara gives three interpretations. The first is ‘Shesharupabhaak Kundali – He is in the form of a serpent called Shesha or Adishesha, hence He is called Kundali, the serpent’.
The second one is ‘Sahasraamshu Mandalopama Kundala dharanaat Vaa – He wears ear rings which are as shiny as the multi-rayed Sun, hence He is called Kundali, the wearer of ear rings’.
The third interpretation is ‘Sankhyayogatmake Kundale Makarakaare Asya Sta iti Kundali’ – He has fish-shaped ear pendants representing Sankhya and Yoga philosophies, hence He is called Kundali, the one who symbolises Yoga and Sankhya through his ear rings.
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama as ‘yathocita nitya divya bhushnah Kundali” – He Who is appropriately bedecked with celestial ornaments befitting His body and His status. Thus, Sri Bhattar takes the Kundala as one representation of all infinite auspicious ornaments. Literally, ‘One Who is adorned with beautiful ear-rings, the Kundalas, is Kundali.’ Since Bhagavan is adorned with Makara kundalam, or ear-rings that are shaped like fish, He is Kundali.
Sri RamanujAcharya, in his Sarangati Gadyam, describes Bhagavan as ‘niratishaya aujvalya kirita makuta cudaavatamsa Makara Kundala graiveyaka hara keyura kataka Srivatsa kaustubha mukta Damodara pitambara kannci guna nupur Adi aparimita divya bhushana!” – One Who is adorned with wonderful Crown embellished with lustrous stone in the central diadem, other head ornaments, fish shaped ear-rings, ornaments, necklaces, garlands, shoulder-bracelets, bracelets in the hands, Sri vatsa and kaustubha, pearl garlands, waist ornaments, lace clothes, gold waist band, leg ornaments and other precious and innumerable other jewels.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s description of His Makara Kundalam in Thiruvai Mozhi Pasurams:
- Makara nedum kuzhaik kadan Maayan (7.3.10) – This Mayan has beautiful, long ear pendants that are shaped in the form of fish;
- Ilagu vilagu Makara Kundalattan (8.8.1) – He Who has shining fish-shaped ear ornaments that are dangling back and forth beautifully while shining lustrously.
Sri Thirumangai Azhwar in his Pasuram from Thrunedum Thaandakam (21) says: Makaram Ser kuzhai iru padu ilangi Ada – With the shining fish-shaped ear pendants dangling from both ears.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives reference from Srimad Bhagavatam (12.11.12)
Bibharti Sankhyam Yogam ca devo makara Kundale |
maulim padam parameshthyam Sarvalokabhayankaram ||
Meaning: The Supreme Deity wears the Sankhya and Yoga as His two Makara Kundalas and the whole Brahma loka as His crown.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha indicates that the root words for the Nama are ‘kudi – dahe’ meaning ‘to burn’ and ‘kudi –rakshane’ meaning ‘to protect’. He gives the derivation, ‘Kundalam daho rakshanam va, sa asya asti iti Kundali’ – That which has the property or Guna of burning or destruction (dahah – dahanam), or protection (rakshanam) is Kundala.
Sri Vasishtha also suggests that this Nama refers to the Sun, Fire etc.; since Bhagavan is their Creator, He is Kundali. The explanation can also be given that since Bhagavan is the One who has the Guna of destruction as well as protection (and creation), He has the Guna of ‘Kundala’ – (destruction and protection), and so He is Kundali.
Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives the interpretation – Kundalam dahanam Satrunaam asmaat bhavati iti Kundali – He Who destroys His enemies, is Kundali.
In the Sandhya Vandanama, we pay obeisance to Lord Narayana:
ॐ ध्येयः सदा सवित्र मण्डल मध्यवर्ती नारायण सरसिजा सनसन्नि विष्टः
केयूरवान मकरकुण्डलवान किरीटी हारी हिरण्मय वपुर धृतशंख चक्रः ॥
Om dhyeya sada savitra mandala madhyavarti |
Narayana sarasija sanasanni vishtah |
Keyuravana makarakundalavana kiriti |
Hari hiranmaya vapura dhritashankha chakrah ||
Meaning: One should meditate on the form of Lord Narayana situated in the orb of the Sun. He is seated on a lotus, with golden bracelets, crown, with fish-shaped earrings; with radiant golden complexion, and holds the shankha and chakra in His hands.
- Chakri – One with the Discus in His arm
The word Chakra means a wheel. In this context, it refers to the Sudarshana Chakra weapon in the hand of Sri Vishnu, which is also called Chakraayudham. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Samasta loka Rakshaartham Manastattvaatmakam Sudrashanaakhyam Chakram Dhatte iti Chakri – For the sake of protecting the whole world He is carrying a weapon in the shape of a Discus called Sudarshana, which revolves like the mind, hence He is called Chakri, the bearer of the Sudarshana Chakra’. In support of this Sri Sankara quotes the following from Vishnu Puranam (1.22.71):
Chalasvarupam Atyanta Javenaantaritaanilam |
Chakrasvarupam cha Mano Dhatte Vishnuh Kare Sthitam ||
Meaning: Vishnu holds in His hand the Chakra which represents the mind that is unsteady, and which is swifter than the wind’.
The Sudarshana Chakra in His hand is always rotating and is ready to be discharged at anyone who causes obstacles to His devotees’, and so it is equated to being ‘unsteady’ in this intepretation. It is also said that the mind, like the Chakra, is always revolving with various thoughts.
An alternate interpretation given by Sri Sankara is that Bhagavan is the Wielder of the Samsara Chakra (or Kaal Chakra) for everyone, and so He is Chakri in this sense as well – samsara Chakram asya Ajnaya parivartata iti va.
Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as – ‘Taadrisha divya Ayudhah ChakrI’ – He Who has divine weapons. Sri Bhattar elaborates further on the grandeur of Bhagavan’s beauty with His divine weapons which resonates with His Rakshakattvam (Protection) – His nature of protecting His devotees:
Nitya Sudarsanah svabhrityasura pratibhata rakshah asura Shonita |
Kalmashita jvalancitam Chakram api tathiva iti Chakri ||
Meaning: Bhagavan is ever armed with the Sudarshana Chakra. The Chakra is smeared with the blood of the Asuras who are the sworn enemies of the Devas and His devotees. The Chakra also emanates flames shooting in all directions.
Sri NammAzhwar praises and enjoys the Bhagavan’s Guna as the Protector (Rakshakattvam) in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (2.2.9) – ‘Kaakkuum iyalvinan’ – One Whose nature is to protect those who seek His refuge.
Sri RamanujAcharya describing the divine Ayudha-s of Bhagavan in his Saranagati Gadyam:
Svarupa acintya Shakti Sankha Chakra Gadha’si Saarngadi asankhyeya Nitya niravadya niratishaya kalyana Divya Ayudha!
Meaning: You, My Lord, bear the various weapons whose powers are par- excellence, and worthy of You alone are the Conch, the Discus, the Mace, the Sword, the Bow, and such other innumerable auspicious divine weapons exceeding all others in power and force.
Sri V.V.Ramanujan gives several references from the Divya Prabandham:
- eppodum kai kazhala nemiyaan nam mel vinai kadivaan (Sri NammAzhwar in Periya Thiruvandhadhi Pasuram 87) – The Lord who permanently wields a discus will rid us of our Karmas.
- Azhiyum Sangum Sumappaar (Thiruvai Mozhi 8.3.3) – He Who carries the Discus and the Conch in His hands.
- Kurar Azhi ven Sangu Endik kodiyen paal vaaraay (Sri NammAzhwar in Thiruvai Mozhi 6.9.1) – Will you not come to this wicked self one day, with your conch and discus in hand?
- Naangu Tholan kuni Sarngan on Sangu Gadhai Vaal Azhiyaan (Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi 8.8.1) – He has four arms, with the beautiful weapons (Sarnga – the Bow, Sankha – the Conch, Gadha – the mace, Khadga – the Sword, and Chakra – the Discus).
- Padmanabhan kaiyil Azhi pol minni valam puri pol nindru adirndu – (Sri Andal’s Tiruppavai 4) – Lord Padmanabha, strike lightning like the resplendent discus on the mighty shoulder, roar with thunder with the great conch, come pouring down on us like arrows cast from the Saarnga bow, that we too may live and enjoy.
- Tadavarait Thol Chakrapani – (PeriAzhwar Thirumozhi 5.4.4) – The Lord with mountain like shoulders bearing the Chakra in His hand.
Sri Krishna datta Bharadvaj gives several additional references:
- Sudarshanam Chakram asahya tejah (Srimad Bhagavatam 8.20.30) – The Sudarshana Discus with its intense brilliance.
- Sankha Chakra dharo Harih (Srimad Ramayanam 1.45.22) – Lord Vishnu who bears the Conch and the Discus.
- Namaste Chakra hasthaaya (VishNu Puranam 5.30.22) – Obeisance to Lord with the Discus in His hand.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments that Bhagavan used the Sudarshana Chakra to liberate Gajendra, and several times during His Krishna Avataar e.g. while holding the Govardhana Giri, Shishupala vadham etc.
Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan uses this meaning and gives the following interpretation for the Nama: Chakram aparimitam sainyam asya asti iti ChakrI – He Who has a limitless army at His disposal is Chakri.
- Vikrami – One with Giant Strides and Great Prowess
The word Vikrama denotes two things – a) the stride of a person and b) the prowess of a person. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this name as ‘Vikramah PaadaVikshepah, Shouryah Vaa; Dvayam cha Ashesha Purushebhyo Vilakshanam asya iti Vikrami – Vikrama can denote a foot print of a person; it can also denote the prowess of a person; In both these aspects Bhagavan stands above all others, hence He is called Vikrami, the one with unique foot print or the one with unparalleled prowess’.
The enormity of His stride was demonstrated in the Vamana/Trivikrama Avataar where He could measure the whole earth with a single step. His prowess is proven in all His Avataars, hence He is called Vikrami.
Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that Bhagavan is called Vikrami because it is His nature to dispel any possibility of anything going against His desire or will – Iccha pratihantra prasakti paripanthi svabhavam (asya iti) Vikrami. Sri Bhattar further explains – GambhIryAnukula vilaasah Vikrami – He whose actions are fascinating and befitting His heroic nature.
Srimad Srimushnam Andavan explains that Bhagavan has the ‘Vishesha kramam’ that He will eliminate any obstruction to His Will, and so He is called Vikrami.
Sri Velukkudi Krishnan refers us to Lord Rama’s declaration to Sugriva, that He will eliminate any foe with the tip of His finger, if only He so wishes:
Pishacan danavaan yakshaan prithivyam caiva Rakshasaan |
Angulya matrena taan hanyaam icchan hariganeshvara ||
Meaning: O’ King of Vanaras! If only I so desire, I can eliminate any of the beings, be it a Pishaca (devilish being), Asura, Yaksha, or Rakshasa, with the tip of My finger.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan notes that Sri NammAzhwar in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasurams 5.10 speaks of Bhagavan’s Vikramam. Some examples are given below:
pirandavaarum valarndavaarum periya Bharatam kai Seidu,
aivarkkut tirangaL kaatti ittuc ceidu pona maayangaLum.. (5.10.1)
Meaning: How You were born, You endured suffering, the miracles You wrought, how You grew up and were mischievous, how you killed Your foes sportively, how You contrived to conduct a battle showing Your deftness in support of Pandavas, the many episodes that You enacted that is beyond one’s understanding.
Vaduvai vaartaiyul Eru paaindadum Maaya Maavinai vai pilandadum (Thiruvai Mozhi 5.10.2) – To win Nappinnai in marriage, You jumped on the seven bulls and slew them. As a boy, You slew BakAsura by splitting open his mouth.
Peyyum pum kuzhal pey mulai unda pIllait tetramum perndu Or Shadirac ceyya paadham ondraai Seida nin Siruc cevagamum (Thiruvai Mozhi 5.10.3) – You beautifully got rid of Putana who tried to trick You by decorating herself like a well-meaning mother, by sucking the life out of her poisoned breast; Your one red foot achieved a small feat by destroying the SakatAsura who took the form of a wheel in a toy cart, by a mere kick at the wheel.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri PeriAzhwar’s Pasuram from Thirumozhi (5.4.6):
உன்னுடைய விக்கிரமம் ஒன்றொழி யாமல்எல்லாம்
என்னுடைய நெஞ்சகம்பால் சுவர்வழி எழுதிக்கொண்டேன்
மன்னடங்க மழுவலங்கைக் கொண்ட இராமநம்பீ
என்னிடைவந்து எம்பெருமான் இனியெங்குப் போகின்றதே.
Meaning: My Lord! Your valiant deeds are firmly etched in my mind like an inscription on a wall, without leaving out anything. O’ Lord (Parashu) Rama who wielded the axe to subdue insolent kings! My Master! Having come unto me, now where can you go?
Srimad Srimushnam Andavan Sri RangaRamanuja MahaDesikan explains the Nama as a reference to the ‘vikrama gati’ – the walk that is consistent with His Valour and Heroism. He refers us to Sri Andal’s Tiruppavai (23), who describes His majestic stride or Vikrama resembling that of a Lion that is just coming out of its cave and surveying its surroundings with its authoritative majesty:
மாரி மலைமுழைஞ்சில் மன்னிக் கிடந்துஉறங்கும்
சீரிய சிங்கம் அறிவுற்றுத் தீவிழித்து வேரி
மயிர்பொங்க எப்பாடும் பேர்ந்துஉதறி
மூரி நிமிர்ந்து முழங்கிப் புறப்பட்டுப்
போருமா போலேநீ பூவைப்பூ வண்ணாஉன்
கோயில்நின்று இங்ஙனே போந்தருளிக் கோப்புடைய
சீரிய சிங்கா சனத்துஇருந்து யாம்வந்த காரியம்
ஆராய்ந்து அருளேலோர் எம்பாவாய்
Meaning: O’ Dark-Kaya-hued Lord! Pray come out of sleeping chamber and grace us, like a fierce Lion that lay sleeping, hidden in the cavernous mountain-den, waking now with fiery eyes, raising its mane and shaking all over, then yawning, stretching its back, and stepping out. Ascend your majestic Lion-throne and inquire of us the purpose of our visit, Grace us.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the root word ‘kram – paadha vikshepe’ meaning ‘to walk or stride’. ‘Vishishtah krama iti Vikramah; sa asya asti iti Vikrami’ or, ‘Vishtam kramanam asya asti iti Vikrami – He Who has the distinguishing stride is Vikrami. Sri Vasishtha gives reference from the Rig Veda which describes the Tri-vikrama Avataar:
Idam Vishnur vi cakrame tredha nidadhe padam |
sa-mudhaamasya pagm sure || 1.22.17
Trini paadha vi cakrame vishnurghopa adabhyah
Ato dharmani dhaarayan || 1.22.18
Meaning: Vishnu took three giant strides and covered all this world and the whole was gathered in his footstep’s dust. Vishnu, the protector whom none can deceive, made three steps, and established His high decrees.
Yasyorushu trishu Vikramaneshu adhikshiyanti bhuvanani Vishva (Rig. 1.154.2)
He within whose three wide-extended paces all living creatures have their habitation – referring to His Trivikrama Avataar.
In his Saranagati gadyam, Sri RamanujAcharya lists a series of Bhagavan’s Kalyana Gunas, including Sauryam – Vikramam, which are all used by Him for the benefit of His devotees.
‘Svaabhhavika anavatikatishaya jnana bala aishvarya veerya Shakti tejas sausheelya vaatsalya maardava Arjava sauharda saamya karunya madhurya gambhirya audarya caturya sthairya dhairya saurya parakrama satya kama satya sankalpa krititva kritajnatadi asankhyeya Kalyana Guna ganaugha Maharnava!’
Meaning: ‘You are the Ocean unto which flow rivers of limitless excellent virtues, all natural to You, and useful for the protection of the devotees. These include: All knowledge, mighty Rulership of the worlds, Untiring virility, Sovereignty, Kind disposition, Affectionate tenderness, Gentleness, Truthfulness in speech, thought and action, Friendliness, Feeling of equality, Mercifulness, Sweetness, Nobility, Generosity, Quickeness to respond to the miseries of the devotees, Firmness in resolve to protect the devotees, Undaunted courage to bring succour to them, Courage to fight for the devotees, Ability to fight the enemies within their own camp, Having Your Will ever fulfilled, Having Your commands ever irresistible, Your deeds fully executed, Always remembering with gratitude even a little worship done to You.’
Bhagavan bestows His blessings on His devotees without their asking, without even thinking that He is bestowing these blessings on the devotee, and without putting any limits or questioning His actions in this respect. He is like an ocean in this respect – the ocean is very deep, immeasurable, and contains treasures. So also, Bhagavan’s desire to bestow His blessings on His devotees is immeasurable and unrestrained, hence He is Vikrama.
Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha gives another interpretation for ‘krama’ and equates it to ‘taaratamya’ or ‘stepwise differences’. The prefix ‘Vi’- gives a negative sense, and so Vi-kramah is ‘One Who does not have differences (between His various incarnations)’ – kramah taaratamyam asya asti iti krami; na krami Vi-kramI sva avataareshu taaratamya rahita iti Vikrami.
Swami Desikan describes the Avatara rahasyam of Emperumaan in his Saranagati deepika (Slokam 17), emphasising that in all of Bhagavan’s incarnations, He has all the qualities that are unique to Him as the Supreme Deity in full perfection, and they are in no way diminished just by His assuming the form of a human or a boar.
Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives yet another interpretation and explains ‘krama’ as ‘occupation’ or ‘function’, and gives the meaning ‘He Who has a distinguishing occupation or function is Vikrami’ – Vishishtah kramah vyaapaarah Vikramah. As the Lord of all, Bhagavan constantly looks after His creation, which is His unique concern.
- Urjita-Shaasanah – His commands are inviolable and strongly rooted in the Vedas
The word Urjita means strongly implemented or enforced firmly. Shaasana means orders or commands. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Shruti Smriti Lakshanam Urjitam Shaasanam asya iti UrjitaShaasanah – His commands are inviolable that are strongly rooted in the Vedas and the other scriptures, hence He is called UrjitaShaasanah, one whose writ is strongly enforced through the Vedas and scriptures’.
In support of his interpretation, Sri Sankara gives the following quotation ‘ShrutiSmritee Mamaivaajne Yaste Ullanghya Vartate – Aajnaacchedee mama dveshee Madbhakopi na Vaishnavah – The Shruti (Vedas) and Smriti (other scriptures) are my commands. He who overrides them is a violator of law and My enemy. Such a person, though he may profess to be my devotee, is not a true follower of Vishnu’. In other words Bhagavan’s orders are enshrined in the Vedas and other scriptures and are to be obeyed unquestioningly, leading Him to be called ‘UrjitaShaasanah’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is – ‘Virinci purandaradi alanghyajnah Urjita-Shaasanah – He Whose commands cannot be disobeyed even by Brahma, Indra, and others.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the term Urjita from the root ‘Urj – bala prananayoh’ meaning ‘to strengthen or to live’ and gives the meaning ‘Balavat’ or ‘endowed with Strength’ to the word ‘Urjita’. He derives the word Shaasanah from the root ‘Shaas – anushishtau’ meaning ‘to teach, to inform, to govern, to correct, to advise etc.’ He thus derives the meaning for ‘Urjita-Shaasanah’ as ‘One Who governs with forceful effectiveness’. ‘Balavat anushaasanam = Ajnanuvartanam yasya sa UrjitaShaasanah Vishnuh anatikramaniya niyamah’ – He Whose order cannot be transgressed or violated.
Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives an essentially similar explanation – vidhi rudradi alajnya Ajnatvaat Urjita-Shaasanah – His commands are inviolable.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvaasiriyam Pasuram (3) where the Azhwar refers to Emperumaan as ‘Anai mei pera nadaya daivam’ – The Lord Whose commands are fulfilled without obstruction.
Sri Thirumazhisai Azhwar, in his Naanmugan Thiruvandadi Pasuram (38) says:
அகைப்பு இல் மனிசரை ஆறு சமயம்
புகைத்தான், பொரு கடல் நீர் வண்ணன்,உகைக்கு மேல்,
எத் தேவர் வாலாட்டும், எவ்வாறு செய்கையும்,
அப்போது ஒழியும் – அழைப்பு.
Meaning: Not a single one among all the deities can as much as lift a finger against Bhagavan’s Will.
The Taittiriya Upanishad, Brahmananda Valli (2.8) declares:
Bhishaasmaad vaataḥ pavate bhishodeti Suryah
Bhishaasmaad agnis candrash ca mṛtyur dhavati pancamaḥ ||
Meaning: The wind blows out of fear of Him. For fear of Him rises the Sun. Out of fear of Him do Agni and Indra function. Out of fear of Him, does death, the fifth one, run.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives support from BrihadAranyaka Upanishad (3.8.9) (and also in Taittriya Upanishad and Gargi Upanishad):
Etasya va aksharasya prashaasane Gargi Surya candramasau vidhritau tishthatah |
Etasya va aksharasya prashaasane Gargi dyavaprthivyau vidhrite Tishthatah |
Meaning: Yajnavalkya said: O’Gargi under the mighty rule of this immutable Brahman, the Sun and the Moon are held in their positions. Under the mighty rule of this Brahman, heaven and earth in their positions…”
In the Srimad Bhagavatam (5.1.12), it says:
na tasya kascit tapasa vidyaya va na yoga–viryena manishaya va
naivartha-dharmaih paratah svato va kritam vihantum tanu-bhrid vibhuyat ||
Meaning: One cannot avoid the order of the Supreme, not by the strength of severe austerities, an exalted Vedic education, or the power of mystic yoga, physical prowess or intellectual activities. Nor can one use his power of religion, his material opulence or any other means, either by himself or with the help of others, to defy the orders of the Supreme Lord. That is not possible for any living being, from Brahma down to the ant.
Swami ChinmayAnanda asserts the inviolability of Bhagavan’s Laws – It permits no exceptions, accepts no excuses, admits no circumstantial conditions.
- Shabdaatigah – He Who is beyond words
‘Shabda’ means words and ‘Atigah’ means going beyond. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Shabdapravritti hetunaam Jaatyaadeenaam Asambhavaat Shabdena Vaktum Ashakyatvaat Shabdaatigah’ – He does not belong to a species which can be described in words and so He rises above the scope of words or language hence He is called Shabdaatigah, the one who transcends language. In support of this Sri Sankara cites from Taittriya Upanishad (2.4) ‘Yato Vaacho Nivartante Apraapya manasaa sah’ – Words are powerless to describe Him; The mind also cannot grasp Him.
The second is from Vishnu Puranam (1.17.22) ‘Na Shabdagocharam yasya Yogidhyeyam Parampadsam – His Supreme abode is beyond the reach of speech, and is the subject of contemplation by the yogis’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that His Glory is such that even the thousand tongued AdiSesha, or the Vedas with all their innumerable branches, or even Goddess Sarasvati herself, will be unable to describe them through words – ananta jihvena anantena, ananta Saakhaih Amnayaih saakshaat Sarasvatya ca durudaraha mahima Shabdaatigah.
He epitomises Ananta Kalyana Gunas possessing infinite auspicious qualities. We note the thousand Gunas that are extolled by Sri Bhishma in the Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam Stotram, are just a small collection of examples of His Kalyana Gunas.
The Azhwars’ sing this aspect of Bhagavan over and over again. Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives the following examples from Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi:
பொன்முடியம் போரேற்றை யெம்மானைநால்தடந்தோள்,
என்முடிவுகாணாதே யென்னுள் கலந்தானை,
சொல்முடிவுகாணேன்நான் சொல்லுவதென்சொல்லீரே. (2.5.8)
Meaning: His Power, beauty, quality, splendor, feats, etc., are endless. The Thulasi garland around His neck is proof of His Overlordship. How can I describe in words what I have enjoyed? If any of you think you can describe His greatness, try it.
தூநீர் முகில்போல் தோன்றும்நின் சுடர்க்கொள் வடிவும் கனிவாயும்,
தேநீர்க் கமலக் கண்களும் வந்தென் சிந்தை நிறைந்தவா,
மாநீர் வெள்ளீ மலைதன்மேல் வண்கார் நீல முகில்போல,
தூநீர்க் கடலுள் துயில்வானே! எந்தாய்! சொல்ல மாட்டேனே! (8.5.4)
Meaning: You have filled my mind with Your captivating, honey-exuding, moist and kind Lotus eyes. I recall with glee Your reclining in the middle of the Milky Ocean. Oh My Lord! Is it not enough that I have the mental experience; as I will not be able to put it all in words here.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as ‘Shabdam atigacchati = vaacam atikramya vartate iti Shabdaatigah’ – He is beyond description by words, hence He is called Shabdaatigah.
Swami ChinmayAnanda explains that the Vedas only ‘point to the Truth’, but cannot explain, or even define the Truth. The Infinite and Eternal Truth is beyond even the Vedas, beyond all that can be gained even through the highest faculties of the finite equipment (mind and intellect).
- Shabdasahah – He Who responds to cry of distress instantly
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sarve Vedaah taatparyena tameva vadanti iti Shabdasahah – All the Vedas proclaim Him with a single focus, hence He is called Shabdasahah’. The word ‘Shabda’ here is used in the context of the voice of the Vedas and Sahah is used in to mean focus or target.
Sri Sankara gives a reference from the Katha Upanishad (1.2.15) to support this which says ‘Sarve Vedaah yat padam aamananti – All Vedas emphatically declare His position’. He also quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 15 Verse 15) ‘Vedaishcha sarvairaham eva Vedyah – I am the subject matter of all the Vedas’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar relates the Nama to the cry of help from Gajendra; since Bhagavan bears the responsibility of protecting even animals which may incoherently cry for help, He is called Shabda-sahah – aspashta Shabdaanaam tirashcaamapi Arta-Shabdam ati-bhaaramiva sahate iti Shabda- sahah.
Arta refers to one who is in distress or pain. ‘Bharatvena sahati iti sahah’ – He treats the cry for help from Arta just like carrying a major responsibility or a load on his shoulders. When Bhagavan heard the cry of Gajendra for help as ‘Adhimulame’, it immediately evoked a sense of urgency on His part to help the wounded animal, and He left Sri Vaikuntham in a great hurry to help Gajendra. It is said that Bhagavan carried Garuda as Garuda could not match His spped. Bhagavan witnessed the elephant with a flower in its trunk, and He pondered over its devotion, and this was enough for Him to liberate the elephant.
‘Shabdam’ can refer to both good and abusive words. Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains this in the contect of ‘abusive words’, and explains that the Nama signifies that Bhagavan puts up with even abusive words from His enemies, because He is full of patience – kshama vibhusha sakalasya loke, sarvam kshamavan sahate kshamayam. Bhagavan’s kshama or patience is really extolled through this Nama ‘Shabda-sahah’. Lord Rama is described as ‘Kshamaya prithivi samah’ – In patience, Lord Rama is like the Mother Earth.
Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha gives the example of Bhagavan putting up with the insults of Sage Bhrigu – Bhrigvaadi bhakta krita tarjana rupa Shabdam sahata iti Shabda-sahah.
Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as ‘One Who allows Himself to be invoked by the Vedic declarations’.
- Shishirah – He Who rushes to render help
Generally the word ‘Shishirah’ applies to winter or the cold season of the year. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Tapatraya abhitaptaanaam Vishraama Sthaanatvaat Shishirah – He provides a cool shelter to His devotees who are scorched by the three kinds of afflictions, hence He is called Shishirah, the cool one’. The three kinds of afflictions referred here are 1) Adhyatmic, relating to own body, 2) Adhibhautik, relating to other beings, and 3) Adhidaivik, supernatural or random causes. Bhagavan protects His devotees’ from all these types of torments, hence He is Shishirah.
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama in the context of Bhagavan rushing to help Gajendra – ‘Arta Shabda Shravanantaram ati- tvaraya gatah Shishirah’. Sri Bhattar quotes the following passage in support, to indicate the speed with which He arrived at the scene: ‘Shrutva chakra gadhadharah, sannidhyam kalpayamasa tasmin Sarasi’ – Immediately upon hearing the distress call of Gajendra, the Lord, armed with His Discus and Mace, flew (on the back of Garuda) and stood on the bank of the pond. It is said that Bhagavan left abruptly without informing Piratti, and, when He found that Garuda was not fast enough, He carried Garuda in His hand, and appeared at the scene in an instant.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Thirumangai Azhwar’s Periya Thirumozhi Pasuram (2.3.9) in support: ‘Anaiyin tuyaram tIrap pul Urndu Sendru Azhi tottaan’ – He Who came on Garuda and relieved the misery of the suffering elephant Gajendra by releasing the Sudarshana Chakra on the crocodile’.
Sri Thirumanga Azhwar in his Siriya Thirumadal Pasuram (31) says – ‘Narayana! O’ Mani vanna! Naganaiyai! Vaaraai en idarai nikkaai – ena vegundu theeradha Sheetrattaal Sendru irandu kuraaga Era adanai idar kadindaan- When Gajendra screamed for help as ‘Adhimulame, O Narayana! Mani vanna! Ananta Sayana! Please remove my misery, Bhagavan hurried to the scene, and in an instant split the crocodile into two, and relieved Gajendra from his agony”.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the root ‘Sasha – pluta gatau’ meaning ‘to leap, to jump’. The word ‘Shishirah’ means to go in leaps, Shashati = Seeghram utplutya gacchati iti Shishirah.
Sri Vasishtha uses both the above meanings for ‘Shishira’, namely ‘one who leaps’, and ‘the cool season’, and gives the interpretation that Bhagavan’s Nama ‘Shishirah’ signifies that He is One who supports all the beings by His methodical changing of seasons etc.
Sri Krishna datta Bharadvaj also gives an interpretation similar to that of Sri Parasara Bhattar – Sashati-drutam gacchati svajananam avanaaya iti Shishirah – He Who rushes to the protection of His devotees is Shishirah.
Swami ChinmayAnanda notes that this Nama indicating that Bhagavan is the cool resting place for those tortured by the heat of this Samsara.
Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan explains the Nama as – drishta matrah teshAm santApam nivartayati iti ShishiraH – By His very darshan, all the sorrows of the devotees are washed away, as signified by the Nama Shishirah.
The Story of the Four Kumaras
Lord Brahma created the ‘Four Kumaras’ also known as the ‘Chatursana’. As the Four Kumaras were born from the mind of Brahma they are referred to as his Manasaputras. Their names: Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanat Kumara. Due to the boon from Brahma and the strength of their tapas, the Four Kumaras looked like 5 year olds.
Once Sanat Kumara rishis out of intense love and devotion for Lord Vishnu rushed hurriedly towards Vaikunta to have his Darshan. Jaya and Vijaya, the gate keepers of the Vaikunta stopped the Kumaras at the gate, thinking them to be children. They told the Kumaras that Sri Vishnu is resting and that they cannot see them now.
The Rishis cursed them thus: In a place like Vaikunta where there is not even an iota of discrimination you have tried to create a differentiation by assuming authority of your ranks and that too when we were intensely longing for the Lord’s Darshan. So we curse you to be born on earth where there is ample discrimination for beings.
When Vishnu came out hearing the commotion, he learnt about Jaya and Vijaya’s misdemeanour and punished them further by saying that they would take birth as demons, not once but thrice, on earth. He sought pardon on behalf of them from the Sages (such is His humility) while the latter turn modest and reply, ‘Mercy oh Lord! We have longed for your Darshan and we are gratified but we feel disheartened that you seek pardon from us’.
The great Lord Vishnu replies with these strong words: “What Jaya and Vijaya have done is dreadful. It is not at all inappropriate for me to seek pardon from you who are my devotees, though being the Lord myself, for it is my primordial duty to safeguard and sustain the whole creation.
I bear this Abhaya Mudra only to protect the ones who long for me and seek me with intense love. If a situation arises that I would fail to fulfill this duty, I, who is the Lord of this entire Creation, solemnly swear keeping all the deities as witness that I would slash this boon giving hand of mine into two pieces.
Such is Lord’s commitment to His devotees’.
Jaya and Vijaya were born in their first birth as enemies of Lord Vishnu, taking the form of Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu in the Satya Yuga. Lord Vishnu assumed the Avatar of Varaha, a boar, slaying Hiranyaksha who was obstructing Him. Hiranyakashipu was slain by the Lord in His Narasimha Avataar, where he rushed to protect His devotee Prahlada.
In the Treta Yuga – Jaya and Vijaya were born as Ravana and Kumbhakarna, and were killed by Lord Rama and Lakshmana.
At the end of the Dwapara Yuga – Jaya and Vijaya were born as Shishupala and Dantavakra (an ally of Jarasandha) and Lord Krishna appreared Himself along with Balarama and killed them.
Therefore, the two attendants of the Lord in Vaikunta, because of their acts, agreed to become the Lord’s enemies, and when killed, they attained salvation, having served their curse.
- Sharvari-karah – He Who had the destructive weapons in His hands
The word ‘Sharvari’ means night and Sharvarikarah means someone who creates the night. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Samsarinaam Atma Sharvariva Sharvari; Jnaninam punah samsarah Sharvari; taam ubhayeshaam karoti iti Sharvarikarah – For ordinary people, the matters of the soul remain hidden in darkness, like the night; And for the enlightened, mundane and wordly matters remain in darkness, like the night; Since Bhagavan causes both these states (night like), He is called Sharvarikarah, the Creator of night’.
Sri Sankara quotes from the Srimad Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 2 Verse 69) which says:
Yaa Nishaa Sarvabhootaanaam Tasyaam jaagarti Samyamee;
Yasyaam Jaagrati bhootaani Saa nishaa pashyato Muneh ||
Meaning: What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled; and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective Sage’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar indicates the derivation of the word ‘Sharvari’ from the root ‘Shr- himsayam’ meaning to ‘to tear to pieces, to hurt, to kill’, and the application of the affix shvarac to the root SR (SR + shvarac = Sharvari). Sri Bhattar interprets the word ‘karah’ as ‘One with the weapons in His hands’ (kara = hand). Some use the meaning ‘He Who does’ for the word ‘karah’, based on the root – ‘kr – karane’ meaning ‘to do’.
Sri Bhattar continues with his interpretation in the context of Gajendra Moksham – himsa para vidaarini panca Ayudhi kare asya iti Sharvari-karah – He Who had five destructive weapons in His hands, when He came to help Gajendra. Bhagavan’s five weapons are ‘Sankha, Chakra, Gadha (the mace), Saarnga (the bow), and Nandaka (the sword) in His hands, ready to destroy the enemies who cause harm to His devotees’.
One of the meanings for the word SharvarI is ‘night’ – Shrnayam loka Chakashumshi iti Sharvari – That which shuts out the vision of the beings. To those bound in this Samsara, the knowledge of the Atman is dark as night, and to those who are illumined, Samsara is undesirable and dark as night.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments that the daytime reflects Rajo Guna or activity, and the night time reflects Tamo Guna or inactivity. In this night time, the feeling of “I”, “mine” etc., are not dominant in our lives. This alternating of day and night is a great help from nature for our lives in this world. The ‘night’ allows us to rest, and forget all the worldly worries. The jnani enjoys the calm of the night even while he is awake. But the ajnani or the ignorant is given the chance to rest by Bhagavan blessing him with the ‘night’ time to rest. So Bhagavan is ‘Sharvari-karah’ by giving the time to rest – the night time for all of us.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj also gives a similar interpretation – Sharvari nisha loka-vishrama dayini | tasyah karah sampaadakah iti Sharvari-karah – He Who gives the night as a time of rest for all the beings.
Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha uses the meaning ‘rays’ for the term ‘karah’, and the meaning ‘night’ for the word ‘Sharvari’ – Sarvayam = raatrau, karah = kirana yasya Chandrargata rupena iti Sharvari-karah – He Who takes the form of the cool rays of the Moon in the night.
Sri Raghunatha Thirtha uses the meaning ‘doer’ for the word ‘karah’, but gives yet another anubhavam: Sharvari = himsa, taam karoti iti Sharvari-karah – He Who destroys His enemies.
Araudrah Kundali Chakri Vikrami UrjitaShaasanah |
Shabdaatigas Shabdasahah Shishiras Sharvarikarah ||97||
Bhagavan has no desire, hatred, etc., and hence devoid of anger, so He is called Araudrah. He is bedecked with beautiful fish-shaped ear-rings and hence He is Kundali. He weilds the powerful Sudarshana Chakra for the sake of protecting the whole world, hence He is called Chakri, the bearer of the Sudarshana Chakra. He has giant strides and unparalleled prowess, hence He is Vikrami. His commands are inviolable that are strongly rooted in the Vedas and the other scriptures, hence He is called UrjitaShaasanah.
He is beyond words for description as Words are powerless to describe Him and the mind also cannot grasp Him, so He is called Shabdaatigah. He is extolled in the Vedas and rushes to render help to calls of distress and redeems them from the woes of this Samsara, hence He is Shabdasahah. He provides a cool shelter to His devotees who are scorched by the three kinds of afflictions, hence He is called Shishirah, the cool one. He wields destructive weapons in His hands and is also the Creator of night to provide rest for all beings, hence He is Sharvarikarah.
OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA
HARI OM TAT SAT
This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.