In this part, we will explore the meaning of the 101st Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Anaadir BhurBhuvo Lakshmih Suveero Ruchiraangadah |
Janano Janajanmaadih Bheemo Bheemaparaakramah   ||101||

He has no origin as He is Himself the cause of everything. He supports the Earth that bears the weight of every other being and He also symbolises its splendour and glory. He possesses great valour, and He has very beautiful and exquisite shoulder ornaments. He creates all beings, and is the root cause and the fundamental source of birth of all beings. He is the cause of fear and strikes terror in the hearts of the Asuras and other evil forces.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Anaadih
  2.    BhurBhuvah
  3.    Lakshmih
  4.    Suveerah
  5.    Ruchiraangadah
  6.    Jananah
  7.    Janajanmaadih
  8.    Bheemah
  9.    Bheemaparaakramah

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

  1.    Anaadih – He Who has no beginning

The word ‘Adi’ means the ‘beginning’ and ‘Anaadi’ is ‘One which has no beginning or origin’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Aadih Kaaranam asya na Vidyate iti Anaadih, Sarvakaaranatvaat – He has no origin or root cause as He is Himself the cause of everything else, hence He is called Anaadih, the one without an origin’.

Bhagavan is the cause of all causes and there is no underlying root cause for him. So He is rightly called Anaadih, the One Who has no beginning.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama as – taih anyaparaih na svamitvena Adiyate iti Anaadih – He Who is not realised by the likes of Brahma as the Supreme entity. Bhagavan resorted to His leelas to make Brahma realise his limitations and subdue his pride. Sri Bhattar gives examples of Bhagavan’s leelas such as the Vedas being stolen from Brahma by Madhu and Kaitabha, making Brahma realise that He has finite number of years by making him meet Sage Romasar etc.

Sri Srimushnam Andavan explains the Nama as “na dIyate iti Anaadih” – He Who does not give Himself to the non-devotees.

Bhagavan is bound by the affection of His devotees, so the likes of Gajendra attain Him easily.  Bhagavan is not realised as the Supreme Deity by the Devas as they rush to Him only when they are in trouble and need His help.  At other times, they long after other benefits, such as their positions, rather than devoting their efforts in attaining Him. Thus, Bhagavan is called Anaadih also because He is not realised as the Supreme Deity by many i.e He Who is not easily attained.

Sri RadhaKrishna Shastri explains that Bhagavan is Anaadih as He cannot be realised by those who are driven by pride and haughtiness.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the Nama from the root ‘da – daane’ meaning ‘to give’, and gives the interpretation ‘na Adiyate iti Anaadih’ – He Who is not easily attained.  He Who is not ‘given’ to us though our mind, indiryas etc. na AdIyate = grihyate samanaskaih jnanendriyaih karmendriyaishca iti Anaadih. The meaning is that He is not accessible to us through the means of intellect or actions i.e. the mind and the indiryas.

An alternative interpretation by Sri Vasishtha is – na AdIyate sveekriyate svodbhavaya kincit aparam nimitta kaaranam anena so Anaadih – He Who does not need any other cause for His being, is Anaadih – in other words, One Who existed before anything else existed.

  1.    Bhur-Bhuvah – He Who supports that which supports all

The word ‘Bhuh’ means ‘support or load bearer’ and ‘Bhuvah’ means ‘of the earth’. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Bhuh Aadhaarah Bhuvah Sarvabhuta ashrayatvena Prasiddhaayaa Bhumyaah Bhuvah api Bhuh iti BhurBhuvah – He supports the Earth that bears the weight of every other being, hence He is called BhurBhuvah or the supporter of the Earth’.

He provides the strength to the Earth to be the bearer of all objects on its surface, so He is rightly called as BhurBhuvah or the bearer of the Earth.  In Shloka 34, the Lord is called as Maheedharah which has a similar meaning –‘ One who supports the Earth’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as He supports and liberates those who follow the righteous path.  He gives examples of the lives of Akrura, Vidura and Udhavar as wise men who followed Dharma. 

Thiruvalluvar says ‘வையத்துள் வாழ்வாங்கு வாழ்பவன் வானுறையும் தெய்வத்துள் வைக்கப் படும்’ (Thirukkural 50) meaning ‘He who lives on Earth as he should live (righteously), will be placed among the Gods who dwell in heaven’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as: ‘bhavati iti Bhuh – svadAsya jnanena Atmalabhavan; tasya Bhuvah, svayameva Bhuh = padam iti Bhur-Bhuvah” – A person who has the correct knowledge that he is the servant of the Lord and that the Lord is the Master, is one who is Bhu – one who really lives. For that person, Bhagavan is an Abode or the Support – (Bhu), and so He is referred to as Bhur-Bhuvah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the Nama from the root ‘Bhu – sattaayaam’ meaning ‘to be, to live’. Sri Vasishtha’s explanation is ‘Prathamo Bhu Sabda Adhaara vaacakah prathamanto, dvitiyashca shashthyantah prithivi vaacakah’. Bhagavan Bhuvah Bhuh – The Support of all supports. The different interpretations can be viewed on the basis of this meaning.

Srimad Srimushnam Andavan explains that Bhagavan is Bhumi (support) for those who have the dasya jnana, namely the knowledge and realization that they are always His dasas, as their Bhumi. In other words, He is the Support for those that are followers of Bhakti Yoga, Prapatti Yoga, etc.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as ‘Bhavanti asyam iti Bhuh – prithvi; tasya Bhuh – Adhaarah’ – He is the Support of the Earth, and so He is BhurBhuvah. He is also the Creator as well as the Sustainer of everything – Bhuvayor bhavayita = utpadako muladhaarah sa Bhur-Bhuvaucyate. Sri Vasishtha gives the alternate interpretation – svayam svasmin bhavati iti Bhur-Bhuvah – He Who exists in Himself is Bhur-Bhuvah. In other words, there is nothing else which is the cause for His existence, or for His Creation.

Sri Krishna datta Bharadvaj gives the interpretation – Bhuvah – prapancasya, Bhuh – udgamah (Creation, Sustenance etc.), Bhuvo Bhuh. He gives the alternate interpretation – Bhuva iti jnanam, tasya Bhuh = udbhava iti Bhuvo Bhuh – He Who is the source or Origin of knowledge. In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 15 Verse 15), Bhagavan says:
Sarvasya caham hridi sannivishto mattah smritir-jnanam apohanam ca |
Vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham ||
Meaning: I am seated in everyone’s heart and from Me come remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness. I am to be known by all the Vedas; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas. 

  1.    Lakshmih – The Wealth

The word ‘Lashmi’ has several meanings such as wealth, beauty and splendour. In this Nama, Sri Adi Sankara takes the meaning of Lakshmi as ‘splendour’.  He connects it with the previous Nama and says that Bhagavan is not only the carrier of the Earth but also the splendour of the Earth. He says ‘Na kevalam Asau Bhuh Bhuvah Lakshmih Shobha cha iti Bhuvo Lakshmih – He is not only the support for the Earth but He also symbolises its splendour and glory’.

Sri Adi Sankara gives an alternative explanation as ‘Athavaa Bhuh Bhurlokah Bhuvah Bhuvar lokah Bhumyantarikshayoh Shobha iti va BhurBhuvoLakshmih – Bhuh means the earth, Bhuvah means the firmament (Sky); He is the one who illuminates the Earth and the Sky, so He is called BhurBhuvo Lakshmih’.

Yet another interpretation is ‘Lakshmih AtmaVidya –Lakshmih means the knowledge about the Self, so Bhagavan symbolises the knowledge about the Self.  Sri Sankara quotes from the Vishnu Puraanam 1.9.118 in support of this, which says ‘AtmaVidya cha Devi tvam – Oh Devi, you are verily the knowledge about the Self’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that Bhagavan has this Nama to signify that He alone is all the Wealth to His devotees – tesham Lakshmih – sarva sampat ca. He gives examples from the Ramayana and the MahaBharata:
Parityakta maya Lanka mitraani ca dhanaani cha ||
Bhavad-gatam ca me raajyam jeevitam ca sukhani ca (Yuddha Kanda 19.5 & 19.6)
Meaning: Vibhishana says to Lord Rama: ‘Abandoning Lanka, friends and possessions, I place my Kingdom, life and happiness at your disposal’.

Krishna Ashrayaah Krishna balah Krishna naathaashca Pandavah |
Krishnah parayanam tesham jyotishami va candrama || (droNa. 183.24)
Meaning: For the Pandavas, Sri Krishna is the sole support. Krishna is their strength, and Krishna is their protector. Sri Krishna is their sole Lord, even as the Moon is to the stars.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Pasuram in support:
மேலாத் தேவர்களும் நிலத்தேவரும் மேவித்தொழும்,
மாலார் வந்தினநாள் அடியேன்மனத்தே மன்னினார்,
சேலேய் கண்ணியரும் பெருஞ்செல்வமும் நன்மக்களும்,
மேலாத் தாய்தந்தையும் அவரேயினி யாவாரே.
Meaning:  The Lord worshipped by celestials and monarchs has come this day and occupied my lowly heart.  Henceforth he is my Mother, my father, my Children, my wealth, my fish-eyed women and all else. He is ALL to me.

Sri Krishnan explains the Nama as ‘One Who has all the wealth for giving away to the devotees, One Who is endowed with limitless wealth; One Who has Lakshmi Herself as His Consort’. In addition, He is Himself the wealth for the devotees who seek Him and nothing else. Sri Krishnan gives references from Srimad Ramayanam:
Na deva lokakramanam na amaratvam aham vrine |
Aishvaryam va vilokanam Ramaye na tvaya vina || (Lakshmana)
Meaning: There is no Lordship, no eternal life, no great victory in this world, no wealth of any kind that I wish in this world; all I wish for is for You, My Lord Rama.

Sneho me paramo Rajan tvayi nityam pratishthitah |
Bhaktishca niyata veera bhavo nanyatra gacchati || (Hanuman)
Meaning: My mind does not seek anything except eternal and constant devotion to You; all I wish for eternal service-minded dedication to You.

Sri Thiruppaan Azhwar, in his Amalanadipiraan Pasuram (10) says:
கொண்டல் வண்ணனைக் கோவல னாய்வெண்ணெய்
உண்ட வாயன்என் னுள்ளம் கவர்ந்தானை
அண்டர் கோனணி யரங்கன்என் னமுதினைக்
கண்ட கண்கள்மற் றொன்றினைக் காணாவே.
Meaning: The dark-hued Lord is, the Lord who came as a cowherd-lad and stole buffer, He is the Lord of the Devas, and the Lord of Arangan too. He has stolen my heart. After seeing my Lord of ambrosial delight, my eyes seek to see nothing else.

Sri Thondaradipodi Azhwar in His famous Pasuram says:
பச்சைமா மலைபோல்மேனி பவளவாய் கமலச் செங்கண்
அச்சுதா அமர ரேறே ஆயர்தம் கொழுந்தே என்னும்
இச்சுவை தவிர யான்போய் இந்திர லோக மாளும்
அச்சுவை பெறினும் வேண்டேன் அரங்கமா நகரு ளானே.
Meaning: O’ The Lord with the hue of a huge green mountain, with coral lips and Lotus-red eyes, Achyuta! The Lord of the Devas, O Cowherd-Lord, denying the joy of praising you thus, if I were given to rule even Indra’s kingdom, – even if you gave it, I shall not want it. What greater pleasure can I ever get, when I have this nectar, of enjoying You right here and now, My Lord Ranganatha.

Sri RadhaKrishna Shastri comments that the Nama is of feminine gender, and denotes that Bhagavan is One Who is always associated with Goddess Lakshmi, and in fact She never leaves Him ever, and is always residing in His vaksha sthalam. When Bhagavan takes incarnations, She always accompanies Him; for instance, when He took incarnation as Rama, she took incarnation as Sita, and when He took incarnation as Krishna, She came as Rukmini. Thus, She is inseparable from Him, and it is this duality together that we should worship.

Sri NammAzhwar in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (6.10.10) expounds this inseparability of Lakshmi and Lord beautifully:
அகல கில்லேன் இறையும் என் றலர்மேல் மங் கை யுறைமார்பா,
நிகரில் புகழாய். உலகமூன் றுடையாய். என்னை ஆள்வானே,
நிகரில் அமரர் முனிக்கணங்கள் விரும்பும் திருவேங் கடத்தானே,
புகலொன் றில்லா அடியேனுன் அடிக்கீ ழமர்ந்து புகுந்தேனே.
Meaning: O Lord, you bear the Lotus-dame (Alarmel Mangai- MahaLakshmi) on your chest, declaring that She is forever Inseparable from You.  O’ My Master of matchless fame, bearing the three worlds, O Lord of Venkatam desired by the celestials and the great sages!  Falling at your feet, this refugeless self has found his refuge.

The Nama thus signifies that Bhagavan is ever associated with the qualities of beauty, fame, splendour, wealth, and in fact the fullness of all auspicious qualities, that are signified by Goddess Lakshmi.

The Story of Vamana Avataar – Inseparable with Lakshmi

This is not a full story on Vamana Avataar but only a part of it to emphasise the inseparability of the Lord and Goddess Lakshmi.

MahaBali was the great grandson of Hiranyakshipu and the grandson of Prahlada. He was taught the Vedhas by his grandfather Prahlada and after that by his teacher Shukracharya. The people were very happy and prosperous under his rule. King MahaBali was a generous man who engaged in severe austerities and penance and won the praise of the world.  Mahabali performed severe penance to Lord Brahma and obtained Brahma’s blessing to rule over the three worlds. However, MahaBali aided by his Guru was always righteous and was devoted to Lord Vishnu.

Shukracharya once called him, ‘Bali! You have now conquered the three worlds. However if you wish to always be the Lord of the three worlds, you have to perform 100 Ashwamedha Yagnas. It is befitting that a king like you should perform the Ashwamedha Yagna, then you will always be the King of the three worlds.’ So, the preparations went ahead for the 100 yagnas.

Meanwhile, Indra was lying dejected and sought his Mother Aditi’s counsel.  Aditi prayed to Lord Vishnu and performed penance to seek His grace. After some time Lord Vishnu appeared before her and granted her wish to restore Indra his kingdom.  Soon Aditi and Kashyap were the parents of a beautiful boy. They decided to perform the Upanayanam (the sacred thread ceremony) for the Lord.  Vamana’s sacred thread ceremony was performed amidst much pomp and all the Devas showered their gifts.

Bhuma Devi gifted an Angavastram for the Lord saying that He will realise the significance of this gift later. 

The young Vamana dressed as a Brahmin proceeds to Mahabali’s Yagna to seek alms as a Brahmachari (Bachelor).  He does a final check of His attire and accessories to make sure that He looked the part and there was nothing amiss that could give away His true Self when He met Mahabali.

He began to check His possessions – kamandalam, umbrella, sacred thread, thiruman etc. – He suddenly realised that Goddess Lakshmi was on His vaksha sthalam (chest) and that was a give away which will disqualify Him from seeking the charity as it would disclose that He was not a Brahmachari.  He pleads with Goddess Lakshmi to leave Him and wait for Him in Sri Vaikuntham while He accomplished His mission, as it was necessary that He was seen to be a Brahmachari.  The Goddess refuses to leave Him pointing out that He had made a promise and had said “Agalagillen”, and that He will always be with Her (Inseparable forever). 

The Lord thinks for a moment and then the gift from BhumaDevi came to His mind. He uses the Angavastram to hide her from the sights of Mahabali and others.

This incident emphasises the Inseparability of the Lord and Goddess Lakshmi.

Mahabali felt a surge of love towards the boy. He got up from the throne and offered it to the boy and bowed before him. He said, ‘I am honoured that you have come to my hundredth Ashwamedha Yagna. I now feel it will be a success’. Mahabali said looking at the boy lovingly.

Vamana asked King MahaBali three paces of land. Mahabali consented, against the warning of his Guru, Shukracharya.  Vamana then revealed his identity and enlarged Himself to gigantic proportions to stride over the three worlds taking His Trivikrama Avataar. He covered heaven to earth with the first step and earth to the netherworld with the second. King Mahabali, unable to fulfill his promise, offered his head for the third step. Vamana then placed his foot and gave the King immortality for his humility.

For the humility shown by MahaBali in keeping his promise and also giving due recognition for his ancestor Prahlada, the Lord conceded sovereignty of Patala, the netherworld to MahaBali.

Just before King Mahabali was sent to Patala Loka, he was given the permission by Vamana to visit his people once a year.  The Onam festival is celebrated to welcome MahaBali back to his lost Kingdom. During this festival, beautiful floral decorations are made in every house and boat races are held throughout Kerala. A twenty-one-course feast is an important highlight of the Onam festival known as the ‘Onam Sadhya’.

Mahabali symbolises Ahankar or Ego, the three feet symbolises the three planes of existence (Jagrat, Swapna and Sushupthi i.e. Awake, Dream and Deep Sleep State) or (Sthula, Sukshma and Karana Sharira i.e. Gross, Subtle and Causal body) and the final step is on his head which elevates him from all the three states to grant him Jeevan-Mukti.

Om Namo Narayanaaya _/\_

Swami ChinmayAnanda captures the idea that Bhagavan is the Sole source of all that is good and beautiful in this Universe through the following words: ‘If Self were not, then all would have been inert, unborn, dead. As the One Life everywhere, as Pure Existence, all the glories of this dynamic Universe are in Him and from Him alone’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj derives his interpretation starting from the root word ‘Laksha – darshana’nkanayoh’ meaning ‘to notice, to define, to regard’; or alternatively, the root ‘Laksh – Alocane’ meaning ‘to perceive, to observe’. His interpretations are:

  • Lakshayati = darshayati niratishaya vatsalyam iti Lakshmih – He Who shows Vatsalyam (affection) to His devotee that is beyond description
  • Lakshayati ankam Aropayati Bhakta putran iti Lakshmih, JaganMata – JaganMata, MahaLakshmi, Who ensures that Her children, who are devoted to the Divyadampati, are safe on His lap. Since Bhagavan and Lakshmi Piratti are inseparable in all respects, the Nama Lakshmih, which normally refers to the Mother, is also a reference to Him simultaneously.

Using the meaning Laksh–Alocane, the alternate interpretation is ‘Lakshayati Alocayati sva-jananam vipatsarita uddharasya upayan iti Lakshmih – He shows the devotees the means to overcome the obstacles of Samsara, which is full of impediments.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha uses the same root ‘Laksh – Darshanankayoh’ and gives the interpretationas Lakshayati punyakrito, lakshayate punyakritbhih iti va Lakshmih – Bhagavan is called Lakshmih since He regards those who are endowed with good virtues as His treasure, or because He is regarded as the Supreme Lord by the virtuous’.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as – Lakshayati darshayati iti Lakshmih – He Who makes those who are endowed with LakshmI – wealth, beauty, etc., shine distinguishably. In fact, He, in the form of Lakshmi Who is present everywhere and pervades everything, and makes all things known.

Sri Vasishtha gives the example of the Sun, which is visible from a vast distance away, because He has endowed the Sun with the Shobha or splendour.

  1.    Suveerah – He Who possesses Great Valour

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Shobhana Vividha Eeraa Gatayo yasya sah Suveerah – He has various auspicious movements hence He is called Suveerah, the one who performs auspicious movements or travels’. In His various incarnations He undertakes various journeys for the protection of good people thus earning Him the Nama Suveerah’.

Sri Adi Sankara gives another interpretation for the Nama as ‘Shobhanam vividham Eerte iti vaa Suveerah – He leaves auspicious vibrations in the minds of His devotees and hence He is called Suveerah, the One who creates auspicious vibes’.

Some interpretations have been given based on the meaning of Valour for ‘Veera’.  Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the meaning ‘valorous’ for the term ‘Veera’, and explains the Nama as ‘One Who is valorous in defending His devotees from their downfall, and retrieving those who have had a downfall – tesham vinipata pratikarah.

Srimad SrimushNam Andavan explains the Nama as “Sobhanah veerah yah sah Suveerah’ – He Who is a highly desirable Veera is Suveerah.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (3.2.3), where the Azhwar praises the valour of Lord Krishna:
கொல்லா மாக்கோல் கொலைசெய்து பாரதப்போர்,
எல்லாச் சேனையும் இருநிலத் தவித்தவெந்தாய்,
பொல்லா ஆக்கையின் புணர்வினை அறுக்கலறா,
சொல்லாய்யா னுன்னைச் சார்வதோர் சூழ்ச்சியே.
Meaning: O’ Lord who steered the chariot in the battlefield.  Striking death to the wicked in the Bharata War!  Pray tell me how I may join your feet, cutting asunder my bodily connections.

Bhagavan uses the stick that He used for directing the horses pulling the chariot, and though this stick itself could not kill, He still used it so skillfully that Arjuna was able to finish the task that He wanted to get fulfilled, and reduced the Bhu-bhaaram or the load on the earth by destroying the fighters on both sides.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as Sobhana, sarala, vividha ca Irah gatih yasya sa Suveerah – He Who has beautiful, elegant, gait that is displayed in His various Avataars. Even though Sri Vasishtha does not refer to the different gatis of Bhagavan such as the Gaja gati, Simha gati, Vyaghra gati, Sarpa gati etc., one is immediately reminded of these beautiful gaits that one can witness and enjoy during the temple processions of Emperuman from temple chambers to the outside streets and back. Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha also gives the example of Bhagavan manifesting Himself in various movements such as Dakshinayana, Uttarayana, etc.

Sri Velukkudi Krishnan distinguishes between three types of Veeras: Veera, Sura, Parakrama. Veera is one who does not get disturbed by the might of the opposition; Sura is one who gets inside the army of the opposition and destroys the opposition without a trace; Parakrama is the quality wherein there is no harm or injury to the fighter in the process of fighting. Sri Krishnan comments that through this Nama, Bhagavan’s Veera, Shaurya and Parakrama are all described.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as – Shobano veerahparakrami iti Suveerah.

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastry elaborates that the different movements referred to here are His occupying the hearts of the Yogis, His presence as the orb of the Sun, in the Milky Ocean, etc.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as: ‘One Who moves through various ways which are all divinely glorious; Or, One Who exhibits in all His incarnations the inimitable splendour of valour in His actions and achievements’.

Sri RadhaKrishna Shastri explains that Bhagavan has this Nama signifying that He is accessible to us through different means (e.g., Bhakti, Prapatti).

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan interprets the Nama as He, in His Krishna incarnation, was associated with many Veeras alongside Him, hence He is Suveerah – tatah samagateshu sakhishu Suveerah Sobhanah Sridamasubhadradayah svatulya veera yasya sa Suveerah.

  1.    Ruchiraangadah – He Who bestows His lovely form for His devotees to enjoy

The word ‘Ruchira’ means ‘attractive or tasteful’ and ‘Angadah’ means a shoulder ornament. Combining these, Sri Adi Sankara interprets the Nama as ‘Ruchire Kalyaane Angade Asya iti Ruchiraangadah – He has very beautiful and exquisite shoulder ornaments, hence He is called Ruchiraangadah’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as ‘ruciram = ati-manoharam, anubhava bhogyam angam dadati iti Ruchiraangadah – He Who bestows His lovely form to His devotees which is fit to be enjoyed’. Sri Bhattar quotes from the jitante stotram in support:
na te rupam na cakaro nayudhani na caspadam |
tathapi purushAkaro bhaktanam prakashase ||
Meaning: Neither Your divya Atma svarupam, nor Your divya mangaLa vigraham, nor for that matter Your divya ayudhams, or Your own Sri Vaikuntham, are for Your benefit (they are all for Your devotees’ benefit, and thus You are not independent, but You are the possession of Your devotees). Even so, You shine as the Supreme Being.

Bhagavan has a Divya mangala vigraham (Thirumeni) that is absolutely delectable to His devotees. Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi, where the Azhwar describes Bhagavan’s Thirumeni in more than one Pasuram:
செவ்வாயுந்தி வெண்பல் சுடர்க்குழை, தன்னோடு
எவ்வாய்ச் சுடரும் தம்மில்முன் வளாய்க்கொள்ள,
செவ்வாய் முறுவலோ டெனதுள்ளத் திருந்த,
அவ்வா யன்றியான் அறியேன்மற் றருளே. ||8.7.7||
Meaning: He stands before me with lotus navel, coral lips and pearl-white teeth, wearing radiant ear- rings, He is of exceeding effulgence, Oh, with a smile I could embrace! I am truly enhanted. He stays in my heart, I do not know a greater grace.

கண்கள் சிவந்து பெரியவாய் வாயும் சிவந்து கனிந்து,உள்ளே
வெண்பல் இலகு சுடரிலகு விலகு மகர குண்டலத்தன்,
கொண்டல் வண்ணன் சுடர்முடியன் நான்கு தோளன் குனி சார்ங்கன்,
ஒண்சங் கதைவா ளாழியான் ஒருவன் அடியே னுள்ளானே. ||8.8.1||
Meaning: He stands within me with large red eyes and sweet coral lips, pearly white teeth and radiant dangling earnings shaped like Makara-fish.  Dark as the rain-cloud, he wears a radiant crown, has four arms, and holds a beautiful bow, conch, discus, sword and mace.

In these four lines, Azhwar beautifully captures the beauty of His Form, but also the fact that this lovely form is there only for devotees like the Azhwars to enjoy.

Sri Krishnan gives the instance of Gajendra moksham, and notes that for a devotee such as Gajendra, Bhagavan gave His divine Thirumeni (by embracing him). He also refers us to Thiruvai Mozhi 1.9, all the ten Pasurams of which describe how Bhagavan gives the enjoyment of Himself to Sri NammAzhwar in gradual steps, instead of giving this experience all at once, just so that the Azhwar is not overwhelmed by this divine experience.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan explains the Nama as ‘ruciram angam tebhyo dadati iti tad vidheyastaan Alingatavaan iti Arthah – He gives His divine embrace to those devotees who are deserving.

Sri Rama blessed Hanuman with His divine embrace, declaring that this was the best gift that He could ever give to anyone.  Similary, Lord Rama embraced Guhan and said ‘Guhanodum ivar aanom’ – With Guhan we have become five (as He takes him as brother).

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastry gives a different interpretation, based on the same meaning for the words constituting the Nama – He Who bestows beautiful or auspicious bodies on His devotees.

Sri RadhaKrishna Shastri gives the example of Bhagavan giving a beautiful form to a hunch-backed woman in Kamsa’s palace by removing the disfigurement that she had in her form.

Sri Krishna datta Bharadvaj gives his explanation as ‘Ruciranidarshaneeyatamani bahu-Bhushanani catvari angadani yasya iti Ruchiraanngadah – He Who is adorned with exquisite ornaments on His shoulders is a delight to look at and enjoy.

Sri Satyadevo Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as ‘Sundara gati yuktam Shareeram, sundaram gamanam va yo dadati sa Ruchirangadah – One Who has given a body equipped with the means for all creatures to move around’.

  1.    Jananah – The Creator

The root word is ‘Jan’ meaning ‘to be born’. Sri Adi Sankara interprets the meaning as ‘Jantoon Janayan Jananah – He creates all beings, hence He is called Jananah’.

Starting from this Nama onwards till Nama 992, Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets them in the context of the purpose for which Bhagavan undertakes all His actions which is for the benefit of Jivas -‘aatha sarva bhagavad vyaparanam prayojanam. We will see that everything that Bhagavan undertakes is for the sole benefit of the Jivas, without exception.

First, we start with His act of Creation. Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is – tadanubhava kshama karana yuktan anyanapi janayati iti Jananah – He creates us and other beings also, gifted with the indiryas etc., for enjoying Him. Sri Krishnan quotes the following in support:
Vicitra deha sampattih Aishvaraya niveditum |
Purvameva krita Brahman hasta padadi samyuta ||
Meaning: Brahman creates us fully endowed with the means of Karma such as hands, legs, etc., just so we can dedicate these in the service of the Lord.

Out of His compassion, Bhagavan gives the Jivas a body, with all the Indriyas, and a form that is based on their karmas, so that they can better themselves in that birth and move towards Him. He also gives us the free will to use our capabilities to either move towards Him, or misuse all our faculties and divert them to other causes. If we misuse the opportunity, of course, we are reborn to have another chance again, according to our accumulated karmas.

Sri NammAzhwar repeatedly reminds us that it is Bhagavan who is the true Creator, who creates the mahat, the Pancha Maha Bhutas, the Brahmanda etc., and then creates Brahma inside this Brahmanda, and gives him the knowledge to continue the process of creation inside the Brahmanda, and gives Him the power to do this by being his antaryami. So it is Bhagavan who is the true Creator.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as ‘Janayati iti Jananah, sarvasya jagato Jananah, svayam ajopi – One Who creates everything else, but Who Himself is not born’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as, ‘Lord Sri Narayana is the great Father of all living beings, as all the Universe comes from Him alone. He alone was before all creation; from Him alone everything has arisen; in Him everything exists, is nurtured and nourished by His Glory. Thus, as the very progenitor of the Universe, Sriman Narayana, the Self, is the only Jagad-Ishvara (Lord of the Universe)’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 11 Verse 43):
pitasi lokasya caracarasya tvam asya pujyas ca gurur gariyan |
na tvat-samo ‘sty abhyadhikah kuto ‘nyo loka-traye ‘py apratima-prabhava ||
Meaning: You are the Father of this world, of all that moves and that does not move. You are its teacher and the One most worthy of reverence. There is none equal to You. How could there be another greater than You within the three worlds. You are immeasurable.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha’s explanation is: janam nayati iti Jananah – He Who leads all beings is Jana-nah.

Sri Krishna datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as – janayati mudam svajananam hridayeshu iti Jananah – He Who generates delight in the hearts of His devotees is Jananah.

  1.    Jana-janmaadih – He Who is the root cause of all beings

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Janasya janimato Janma Udbhavah Tasyaadirmoola Karanam iti Janajanmaadih – He is the root cause of birth of all beings, hence He is called Janajanmaadih, the fundamental source of everybody’s birth’. The immediate cause of birth may be the egg or seed or the mother’s womb but Bhagavan is the prime force which actually makes all this happen and therefore He is called Janajanmaadih, the prime cause of all births.

The Nama can be understood by looking at its component words: jana-janma-AdiH. Most interpreters explain the Nama as ‘He Who is the Cause of all living beings’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives this interpretation as well, but in addition to that says that Bhagavan is also the ‘prayojanam’, or the ultimate goal for the living beings that are blessed at birth with a body – tesham jananam janmana Adih = nimittam (root cause), prayojanam (benefit or fruit of the birth) iti Jana-janmaadih. Sri Bhattar’s emphasis is on ‘prayojanam’, or ‘purpose’ of this birth. He gives several references that declare the prime purpose of this birth is to attain Him through expending our karmas.

Adya me saphalam janma (Vishnu dharma 5.17.3) – This day my birth has become fruitful, and my night has given place to an auspicious dawn, because I am going to see Lord Krishna – words of Akrura on the prospect of having the Darshan of Lord Krishna.

Janmanya viphala saika ya GovindaAshraya kriya – The only act that is not fruitless in this life is that which has something to do with Govinda.

Sujanma dehamatyantam tadevashesha jantushu |
Yadeva pulakotbhasi Vishnu Namani keertite ||
Meaning: Amongst all beings, the body of that person is of good birth which shines with hair standing on their ends out of joy when the Vishnu Nama is pronounced.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as ‘Jananam janmana Adih’ – One Who is the cause of all living things. He looks at the Nama as: jayante iti janah; janma jananam; AdiH dadateh’ – He Who gives, He Who is the root cause or Mula karanam.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj’s interpretation is along the same lines as well – jananam praninam janmanah Adih iti Jana-janmadih.

  1.    Bhimah – He Who invokes fear in those who do not follow Dharma

The root word is ‘Bhi’ meaning ‘fear’. Based on this. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Bhayahetutvaat Bhimah – He is the cause of fear, hence He is called Bheemah’. He quotes from the Katha Upanishad (2.3.2):
Yadidaṃ kim ca jagat sarvaṃ praṇa ejati nihsrtam |
Mahadbhayaṃ vajramudyataṃ ya etadviduramttaste bhavanti ||
Meaning: Whatever there in this whole manifested Universe (is the product of and) vibrates within Prana. The Supreme Being is a great terror like a raised thunder bolt. Those who know Him become immortal.

Bhagavan is called Bheemah because He is the Supreme Controller of all. In the case of His devotees, the extent of His control is related to the extent of their devotion.  He lets Himself be controlled by the devotees who are dedicated to Him. But in the case of those who do not whole heartedly devote themselves to Him, they still obey Him because of the fear of the consequences of not obeying Him.

In the Katha Upanishad (2.3.3), it says:
BhayadasyAgnistapati bhayattapati Suryaḥ |
BhayadIndrashca Vayusca mrtyurdhavati pancamaḥ ||
Meaning: From fear of Him the Fire burns; from fear of Him shines the Sun; from fear of Him Indra and Vayu, and Death, the fifth, hasten to perform their allotted functions.

Sri Parasara Bhattar stresses another aspect of His being frightful – by His punishing the Jivas who refuse to follow the proper and prescribed path of Dharma during their lifetime. He pushes them into another janma, even though this is done for the ultimate benefit of the Jiva, so that the Jiva can correct itself and have another opportunity in the next birth. Sri Bhattar notes that Bhagavan chooses this treatment only when a being does not wish to resort to the Grace that He naturally shows – Maha anugraha vimukhanam Bheemah. He gives support for this interpretation from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 16 Verse 19):
Tan aham dvisatah kruran samsaresu naradhaman |
Ksipamy ajasram asubhan asurisv eva yonisu ||
Meaning: Those who are envious and harmful, who are the lowest among men, are cast by Me repeatedly in the Samsara, the ocean of material existence, and into various demoniac species of life.

Bhiyam bhakta bhayam minati hinasti iti Bheemah – Bhagavan is called Bheemah because He destroys the fear of His devotees and saves them. Sri Bhattar is describing the prayojanam or reason for Bhagavan’s actions. He becomes Bheemah or the cause of fear to the non-devotees etc., and He metes out punishment to them for their adharmic deeds, to maintain order, and to protect His devotees. His acts help the non-conforming Jivas so that they can correct themselves and attain Him over time.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj quotes Srimad Bhagavatam (6.9.21) in support:
VayvambarAgni-ap-kshitayas-triloka Brahmadayo ye vayamudvijantah |
Harama yasmai balim antako’sau bibheti yasmad-aranam tatonaH ||
Meaning: The five great elements, the three world that are constituted from these, and all of us fear that great destroyer – the Time that will destroy us. However, the Time himself fears the great Supreme Brahman. Let that Supreme Being protect us.

Sri Krishnan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (9.10.7):
மெய்யனாகும் விரும்பித்தொழுவார்க்கெல்லாம்
பொய்யனாகும் புறமேதொழுவார்க்கெல்லாம்
செய்யில்வாளையுகளும் திருக்கண்ணபுரத்
தையன் ஆகத்தணைப்பார்கட்கணியனே.
Meaning: To those who are truly devoted to Him, and who worship Him without any other benefit in mind than Himself – those who do not bargain with Him for benefit, He is easy to realise. To those who worship Him with some benefit in mind, He bestows this benefit, and then moves away from them; He is not accessible to them and is not attainable by them.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives the following support for the Nama – ‘Bhishanam abhishanam (Nrsimhottara. 6.1) – He Who is frightful and at the same time not frightful. It is well-known that in His Narasimha Avataar, Bhagavan was simultaneously a cause of intense terror to Hiranyakashipu, and a source of a great delight for Prahalada.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha explains the Nama as ‘bhrita mah pramanani tena vyasadi rupena iti Bheemah – In His incarnation as Veda Vyasa, He established the authorities in the form of scriptures, and so He is called Bheemah.

  1.    Bheema-paraakramah – He Who has terrific powers

Sri Adi Sankara’s words ‘Asuraadeenaam Bhayahetuh Paraakramah asya Avataareshu iti Bheemaparaakramah – He strikes terror in the heart of the enemy as His prowess is Limitless. As evident from His various Avataars, He struck terror in the hearts of the Asuras, hence He is called Bheemaparaakramah’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains that Bhagavan has terrific powers that strike terror in the hearts of the likes of Hiranyaksha, Hinranyakashipu, Ravana, Kamsa etc. This keeps the evil souls under restraint and acts as a protection for devotees. It is also of benefit to the evil souls themselves, because it keeps them under control.

Sri Bhattar explains the Nama as ‘anyeshvapi jagad-ahitaniratreshu Hiranyadishu Bheema-paraakramah – In the case of others such as Hiranya who are bent upon causing harm to the world, He becomes One of terrific valour, and controls them’.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference from Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (9.2.10), who describes this Guna of Bhagavan as:
கொடுவினைப்படைகள்வல்லையாய் அமரக்கிடர்கெட அசுரர்கட்கிடர்செய்
கடுவினைநஞ்சேயென்னுடையமுதே கலிவயல்திருப்ஙபளிங்குடியார்
வடிவிணையில்லாமலர்மகள் மற்றை நிலமகள் பிடிக்கும் மெல்லடியை
கொடுவினையேணும்பிடிக்கந்யொருநாள் கூவுதல் வருதல்செய்யாயே.
Meaning: O’ Lord of Tiruppulingudi, my ambrosia who destroys terrible Asuras!  Lord wielding many fierce weapons destroyed the woes of Devas.  The peerless Lotus-dame Lakshmi and BhumaDevi serve at your Lotus feet.  That I too may press your feet, come to me or call me unto yourself!

Sri Krishnan notes that the previous Nama – Bheema, dealt with Jivas who were not following the path of Dharma or their code of conduct, whereas the current Nama deals with those who go one step further and are bent upon doing harm to the world.

Sri RadhaKrishna Shastri notes that even the fact that Bhagavan induces fear in the hearts of His enemies, turns out to be for their good in another sense as well – by constantly worrying about Bhagavan’s paraakramam, they keep Him in their minds always, and this ends up purifying them over time. He gives Slokam 7.1.30 from Srimad Bhagavatam in support:
Kamad dveshad bhayat snehad yatha bhaktyeshvare manah
Avesya tad-agham hitva bahavas tad-gatim gatah
Meaning: Many, many persons have attained liberation simply by thinking of Krishna with great attention and giving up sinful activities. This great attention may be due to lusty desires, inimical feelings, fear, affection or devotional service. One receives Krishna’s mercy simply by concentrating one’s mind upon Him.

All the Slokas of the referenced chapter in Srimad Bhagavatam explains how Bhagavan uses His paraakrama for the elimination of the evil and the preservation of the good.  These Shlokas declare that Bhagavan’s punishment to the Asuras is purely for the removal of their sins and enable them to ultimately attain Him.

In an exchange between Dharmaputra and Sage Narada, the former asks the later how is it that some extreme haters of Sriman Narayana end up attaining Him at the end of their life. In response to this, Sage Narada responds: ‘People end up thinking constantly about Bhagavan either through intense attachment (as in the case of gopis), or through intense enmity (as in the case of Shishupala), or through extreme fear (as in the case of Kamsa), or through being related to Him in one of His incarnations (as in the case of the people of Vrishni vamsa), or through pure devotion (as in the case of the likes of myself)’.
Gopyah kamat bhayat kamsah dveshat caidyAdayo nripah |
sambandhat vrishnayah snehat yuyam bhaktya vayam vibho ||

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha explains the Nama as – Bheemasya, draupadi-pate Rudrasya va paraakramo yasmad sa Bheema-paraakramah – He Who is the source of paraakrama of the likes of Bheema, Rudra etc.

In Summary

Anaadir BhurBhuvo Lakshmih Suveero Ruchiraangadah  |
Janano Janajanmaadih Bheemo Bheemaparaakramah |101||

He has no origin as He is Himself the cause of everything, hence He is called Anaaadih. He supports the Earth that bears the weight of every other being, so He is known as BhurBhuvah. He not only supports the Earth but also symbolises its splendour and glory, hence He is Lakshmih. He possesses great valour, so He is called Suveerah. He has very beautiful and exquisite shoulder ornaments, and hence He is knows as Ruchiraangadah.

He creates all beings, hence He is Jananah. As He is the root cause and the fundamental source of birth of all beings, He is called Janajanmaadhih. He is the cause of fear and hence He is Bheemah. He strikes terror in the hearts of the Asuras and other evil forces, so He is called Bheemaparaakramah.



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


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