In this part, we will explore the meaning of the 104th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

BhurbhuvasSvasTarus T
aarah Savita Prapitamahah    |
Yajno Yajnapatir Yajva Yajnaango Yajnavaahanah ||104||

He is like a Tree extending across the three lokas of Bhu, Bhuvah and Svah. He ferries across the Ocean of Samsara.  He is Progenitor and the creator of the whole World. As the Creator of Bramha (who is the Universal grandfather), He is the great grandfather. He is Yajna personified and He is also the recipient of the offerings. He is the performer of all Yajnas in effect as the antaryami in the performer. He is the ultimate goal of the Yajnas and He is the carrier of the Yajnas to the final stage and grants appropriate results to the performers of Yajna.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.     Bhur-Bhuvassvas-Tarus
  2.     Taarah
  3.     Savita
  4.     Prapitamahah
  5.     Yajnah
  6.     Yajnapatih
  7.     Yajva
  8.     Yajnaangah
  9.     Yajnavaahanah

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

  1.    Bhur-Bhuvassvas-Taruh – He Who is the tree for the beings of the three worlds

Sri Adi Sankara offers three different explanations for this Nama: The first is ‘BhurBhuvasSvas Samaakhyaani treeni Vyahritirupaani Shukraani trayee saaraani Bahvrichaa Aahuh, taih Homadina Jagattrayam Tarati Plavate vaa iti Bhur-Bhuvasvas-Taruh – Bhuh, Bhuvah and Svah are the three sound entities which are the condensed essences of the three Vedas. Like a tree that extends over the three worlds, He helps people to cross over the them through these sound entities by performing Homa or offering sacrifices to the fire, hence He is called Bhur-Bhuvassvas-Taruh, the One who helps us to cross the three worlds by means of Bhuh, Bhuvah and Svah’.

The second interpretation is ‘Athavaa BhurBhuvasSvas Samaakhya lokatraya Samsara Vriksho BhurBhuvasSvasTaruh- Bhuh, Bhuvah and Svah are the names of the three worlds and He is the tree consisting of these and therefore He is called BhurBhuvasSvasTaruh – the tree of Bhuh, Bhuvah and Svah’.

The third interpretation is ‘BhurBhuvasSvaraakhyam Lokatrayam Vrikshavat Vyaapya Tishthati iti vaa BhurBhuvasSvasTaruh – He occupies the three worlds Bhuh, Bhuvah and Svah like a single huge tree and hence He is called BhurBhuvasSvasTaruh’.

The word ‘Bhu’ refers to this world; ‘Bhuvah’ refers to the middle world – the antariksha or Sky, ‘Svah’ refers to the heavenly world and ‘taru’ means ‘tree’. He is the protection for all the beings of all the three worlds, and because He bestows the fruits to the beings of all these worlds, He is called the tree for the beings of the three worlds.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as ‘Bhur-Bhuvassvar-upalakshitaih pakshi pathikairiva pranibhih upajivyamanac-chaaya patrala paarijatah Bhur-Bhuvassvas- Taruh’- He is like the Paarijata, the celestial tree, for all the beings in the three worlds beginning with the Earth, Sky and the Heaven, even as a tree is a welcome resort for the birds and the travelers due to its green foliage and cool shade.

Sri Bhattar gives the following support from the Vishnu Purana:
Samaashritaat brahma taroh anantaat |
Nissamshayah pakva phala prapatah ||VP 1.17.91)
Meaning: If a person resorts to the eternal Tree of Brahman, there is no doubt that the ripe fruit (of liberation from the bondage of Samsara and the attainment of Moksha) will certainly fall in his hands.

Sri V.V. Ramanujam refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram 2.8.5, where the Azhwar says:
ஒவாத்துயர்ப்பிறவி யுட்படமற்றெவ்வெவையும்,
மூவாத்தனிமுதலாய் மூவுலகும்காவலோன்,
மாவாகியாமையாய் மீனாகிமானிடமாம்,
தேவாதிதேவபெருமா னென்தீர்த்தனே |
Meaning: The Lord of the Devas single-handedly protects all the beings of the three worlds and redeems the sufferings. He is the Sole cause for all the beings, and after creating them, He takes responsibility for protecting them, and does not back down under any circumstance. He has taken various Avataars such as Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Hayagriva, Rama and Krishna to protect us.

In his Thiruvai Mozhi, Sri NammAzhwar emphasises that even though Bhagavan is responsible for all three functions – creation, protection and destruction, protection is His primary concern – Kaakkumiyalvinan Kanna PerumAn (Thiruvai Mozhi 2.2.9).

In Kishkinda Kandam, Tara counsels Vali (based on her son Angad’s account of Rama) and describes Rama as a tree of refuge and protection for all:
निवास वृक्षः साधूनाम् आपन्नानाम् परा गतिः | ४-१५-१९
आर्तानाम् संश्रयः चैव यशसः च एक भाजनम् |
Meaning: He is said to be the habitable tree for the noble and the virtuous, the ultimate course for the despondent, a hospice for the agonised, and for grace – Rama is the only abode. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as:
Bhuh iti bhu lokah, buvah iti antariksham, svah iti dyu-lokah, ete trayo
Lokah trayah skandha iva yamashritya tishthanti, sa etesham Adharo mulabhutah
Parameshvarah tarur-ivasthito Bhur-Bhuvassvas-Taruh |
Meaning: He Who serves as the tree under which all the beings of this world, the sky and the heaven seek refuge, is Bhur-Bhuvassvas-Taruh. 

  1.    Taarah – Saviour

Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations for this Nama. The basic root is ‘Tru’ which means ‘to cross or to bridge across’. The first interpretation is ‘Samsaara Saagaram Taarayan Taarah – He enables people to cross over the Ocean of Samsara, hence He is called Taarah’.

His second interpretation is ‘Pranavo vaa Taarah– He is the same as Pranava Mantra since the chanting of Omkara helps people to cross the Ocean of Samsara’.  This is why the Rama Nama is also called the ‘Taaraka mantra’ which enables people to attain Moksha or liberated state from the bondage of Samasara.

The root from which the Nama is derived is ‘tru – plavanasantaranayoh’ meaning ‘to cross over, to swim’. He who helps the Jivas that are deeply immersed in the Ocean of Samsara, to cross this Ocean.

Sri Bhattar gives the interpretation as ‘Saviour’ – Sarva Samsara bhayaat taarayati iti Taarah – One Who protects us from the Ocean of Samsara.  He gives a quote from the atharva Siras in support:
Garbha janma jara marana Samsara Sagaramaha bhayat taarayati iti tasmat Taarah|
Meaning: He helps all to overcome the great fears of Samsara and assists them to cross over the Samsara Sagara comprising conception, birth, old age, and death, therefore He is called Taarah.

Sri V.V.Ramanujam gives reference to Thirumangai Azhwar’s Periya Thirumozhi Pasuram (11.8.10), where he praises the Guna of Bhagavan as Taarah:
நந்தா நரகத் தழுந்தா வகை,நாளும் எந்தாய்
தொண்டரா னவர்க்கின் னருள்செய்வாய்,
சந்தோகா தலைவனே தாமரைக் கண்ணா,
அந்தோ அடியேற் கருளாயுன் னருளே.
Meaning: My Lord! Sweet grace of devotees! O’ Master of the Chandogya (Upanishad) , Lotus-eyed Krishna! Pray show me a way to escape the eternal damnation of Hell. 

Because Samsara is compared to an Ocean, and Bhagavan helps cross this, He is traditionally compared to a ferry. Sri Krishnan refers us to Sri Andal’s reference to Him as the ferry to cross all miseries – ‘Naalumtunbak kadal pukku vaikuntan endru Or toni peraadu uzhalginren (Nachiyaar Thirumozhi 5.4).

Sri Krishnan refers us to Thiru navai (literally meaning ‘The Blessed Ship’), where Lord Mukundan gives Moksham to the devotees who worship Him. Drawing an example he explains that all that a measly worm has to do to cross from one peak to another peak in its lifetime, is to climb on a lion that jumps from the first peak to the second peak, and in the process, the worm has achieved an otherwise impossible feat. Similarly, all that the Jiva has to do is to surrender to Lord Narasimha and He will make sure that the Jiva crosses the insurmountable obstacle of crossing the Ocean of Samsara. He is like a boat that carries one from one shore to the other shore. All that the individual has to do is to get into the boat, and leave the navigation to the boatman.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as ‘One Who helps us cross over; the Eternal Boat-man, to whom, if the devotee can surrender in unswerving faith and true devotion, He will surely row them across the Ocean of Samsara; That One is Taarah. Through exclusive, devoted meditation, alert with understanding, the individuality in each of us wakes up to the higher plane, and there, in that Beattitude to experience the Self – the Eternal Brahman – Sri Hari’.

The Dharma Chakram writer notes that we should we should dedicate ourselves to His service in everything we do. The Rama Nama is called ‘taraka mantra’, because it protects those who meditate on this taraka Nama. Just as Hanuman was able to cross the Ocean by chanting Lord Rama’s Nama, we will be able to cross the Ocean of Samsara by meditating on His Nama. He quotes the common saying in tamizh – ‘Raman irukkum idattil kaman illai; kaman irukkum idatitil Ramanillai’ – Where there is Rama, there is no desire for material things; where is desire for material things, there is no dedication to Rama. The more intensely we resort to the taraka mantra, the faster we will be relieved from the bondage of Samsara.

Lord Rama and Guha

This is a short exchange between Rama and Guhan to highlight the Guna of Bhagavan as One Who helps His devotees to cross the Samsara Sagara.

After staying a night in Guhan’s village, Rama, Lakshmana and Sita got ready to cross the Ganges and came to Guha who had a boat ready and waiting. Then the Kevat (Oarsman) asked permission to wash Rama’s feet and said I don’t want my boat turning into a woman as this is the only means of livelihood. So let me clean your feet before getting into the boat. And Lord Rama smilingly obliged.

Rama asks Guhan as to how to pay for the services, to which Guhan jovillay replies that we are both oarsmen.  I help people cross the River Ganga while you help people to cross the Samsara Sagara!

Jai Shri Ram!

  1.    Savita – He Who produces or Creates

The root ‘Su’ means to ‘create or generate’, so Savita is one who produces. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Sarvasya Lokasya Janakah iti Savita – He is the creator of the whole World, hence He is called Savita’.

We came across this Nama in Shloka 94 as ‘Ravir Virochanas Suryo Savita Ravilochanah’. The meaning given was the deliverer of all Worlds.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains that Bhagavan is the Creator of everything – Sarvesham saakshaat janayita Savita.

Bhagavan first creates the 24 tattvas (prakriti, mahan, ahankara, the five tanmatras or subtle elements (shabda, sparsha, rupa, rasa, and gandha – sound, touch, sight, taste, smell), the panca bhutas (ether, air, agni or light, water, and earth), the five karmendriyas (hand, leg, tongue, and the organs of reproduction and excretion), the five jnanendriyas (ear, eye, mouth, nose, and skin), and manas. After this, He creates the first being, the Catur-mukha Brahma, and endows him with the knowledge for proceeding further with the Creation. He becomes the antaryami of Brahma, and guides him in the creation after this point. All the advarakasrishti is performed by Bhagavan through the medium of Catur- mukha Brahma. If it were not for the knowledge and power given by Bhagavan to Brahma, the subsequent stages of sa-dvaraka srishti would not have happened. So the true Creator is Bhagavan – saakshaat janayita.

Sri NammAzhwar, in many of his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasurams, repeatedly reminds us that Bhagavan is the true Creator, Protector and Destroyer. One among these is Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram 1.5.3, where Azhwar refers to Bhagavan’s action of creating Brahma and delegating further responsibilities to Him for subsequent creation: ni yonigalaip padai endru nirai Naanmuganai Padaittavan.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha indicates the root for the Nama as ‘Su – prani garbhavimocane’ meaning ‘to produce, to bring forth’ – Sute sarvam jagat iti Savita; sarvasya utpadaka ityarthah – He Who creates everything in the Universe is Savita.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan uses the Patham Sa-pita, and interprets the word as two Namas – ‘Sa and Pita’ and gives the interpretation as ‘The Father of All’, or the Creator of all – ‘tesham janakatvaat Pita’. 

  1.    Prapitamahah – The Great-grandfather

The term ‘Pita’ means father, Pitamahah means grandfather and Prapitamahah means great grandfather. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Pitamahasya Bramhanah api Pita iti Prapitamahah – He is the Creator or father of Bramha who is the Universal grandfather. Being the father of all early Prajapatis from whom the further population descended, He is called the great grandfather or Prapitamahah’.

According to Puranas the entire human population descended from a few people directly created by Bramha. So Bramha can be considered as the grandfather of all. Bhagavan, being the creator of Bramha, is the great grandfather or the Prapitamahah for all people.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains that the four-faced Brahma is called Pitamaha or grand-father because He created the prajapatis, the first beings, who then created all the other prajaas – all the other beings.

Brahma is the father of all our forefathers who are dead and gone from time immemorial. Since Bhagavan is the Father of this Catur- mukha Brahma, He is called ‘pitamahasya pita or Prapitamahah’.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha explains the Nama as: ‘Loka pitrunaam marIcyadinam pita Pitamahah catur-mukhah, tasya pitritvaat ‘pra- pitamahah’, which conveys the same idea as conveyed above.

Sri NammAzhwar refers to Bhagavan as the Creator in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (1.5.3):
மாயோ னிகளாய் நடைகற்ற வானோர் பலரும் முனிவரும்,
நீயோ னிகளைப் படை என்று நிறைநான் முகனைப் படைத்தவன்
சேயோ னெல்லா அறிவுக்கும், திசைக ளெல்லாம் திருவடியால்
தாயோன் எல்லா வெவ்வுயிர்க்கும் தாயோன் தானோ ருருவனே.
Meaning: You created the Sages and the Celestials, even the four-faced Brahma, and gave him the power to carry on with the Creation. Lord who stepped over all creation and measured the Universe, you are compassionate to all, like a mother to all beings!

  1.    Yajnah – He Who is the Sacrifice

The word ‘Yaj’ means ‘to sacrifice or offer oblation’. Yajna is the performance of a ritual sacrifice or offering one’s possessions to others. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Yajnaatmana Yajnah – He is Yajna personified and hence He is called Yajnah’.  Sri Sankara explains as:
Sarva yajna svarupatvat yajnah |
Sarvesham devanam tushtikarako yajna akarena pravarta iti va |
Meaning: All sacrifices are His form, or because He exists as sacrifice in order to please all the gods’.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 3 Verse 9), Bhagavan says:
Yajnarthat karmano ‘nyatra loko ‘yam karma-bandhanah |
Tad-artham karma kaunteya muktasangah samacara ||
Meaning: Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed, otherwise work binds one to this material world. Therefore, O’ son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain unattached and free from bondage.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 16) Bhagavan says:
Aham kratur aham yajnah svadhaaham ahamaushadham |
Mantro’hamahameva Aajyam aham agnih aham hutam ||
Meaning:  But it is I who am the ritual, I the sacrifice, the offering to the ancestors, the healing herb, the transcendental chant. I am the butter and the fire and the offering. Hence, He is rightly called as Yajnah.

In Chapter 4 Verse 24 of the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavan says:
Brahmarpanam Brahmahavih brahmagnau Brahmana hutam |
Brahmaivatena gantavyam brahma karma samadhina ||
Meaning: Brahman is the instrument to offer with; Brahman is the oblation; By Brahman is the oblation offered into the fire of Brahman; Brahman alone is to be reached by him who meditates on Him in His work.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that Bhagavan is the object of all yajnas, the bestower of benefits of the yajnas, the aids for the performance of the yajna, etc., and so He is called Yajnah – ‘yajna, tat sadhana, tat-phala vadhitvena pratipaditah | ato Yajnah |’.

Sri Bhattar gives the following from Vishnu Purana in support, where the ijya or sacrifice is described as the basis for all the sustenance of all the three worlds:
Tatashca ijya Ahutir-dvara poshitastehavir-bhujah |
Vrishteh karanatam yanti bhutanam sthitaye punah || VP 2.8.101
Meaning: The Devas, who are the receivers of the oblations, being nourished by the offerings in the fire, cause the rains to fall for the support of the created beings.

The Nama is derived from the root yaj – deva puja sa’ngati karanayajana daneshu – to sacrifice, to make an oblation to, to give, to associate with. Several interpretations are possible:  yajanam yajnah; ya ijyate sayajnah; yajanti yatra iti yajnah; ijyate anena iti yajnah sadhanam – He Who is worshipped, the means or objects used in the offerings, are all called Yajnah.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 24) Bhagavan says:
Aham hi sarva yajnanam bhokta caprabhureva ca |
Na tu maamabijaananti tattvena atash-cyavanti te ||
Meaning: I am the only enjoyer and the only Lord of all sacrifices. They do not recognize Me in My true nature, and hence they fall.

Sri Bhattar also refers us to the Srutivakya – Yajno vai Vishnuh – Yajna is Vishnu Himself. Sri Bhattar explains that Bhagavan serves the function of the yajna for those who do not have the means to perform proper yajnas, but who just do His Nama japa instead– svaradhana dharma samriddhi riktanam tad-arthinam svyameva Yajnah– To those devotees who wish to attain Him, and therefore want to perform AradhanA (worship) of the Lord, but have no physical and material wherewithal, the Lord Himself stands as the japa Yajna, i.e., He is pleased with the japa which itself is a Yajna.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan’s interpretation is along similar lines – ‘aki’ncananam tat-tad-Aradhana upakaranatvat Yajnah’ – Since He serves as the means for those who are otherwise not in a position to worship Him, He is called Yajnah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as ‘evamca yajyate sangamyatediyate ca yasma iti nanartho yajna Sabdah’ – He Who is worshipped, to Whom all the benefits of all karmas are dedicated, etc., is known as Yajnah. Sri Vasishtha further explains that all our actions are ultimately performed for our Atma-priti, and since Bhagavan is the antaryami of our Atma, they are ultimately performed for His pleasure.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains the Nama as ‘One who associates the karmas of the Jivas with their effects’.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha explains the Nama as One who is worshipped in sacrifices – ‘yajne ijyah stutyah pujyah iti yajna-ijyah’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda defines the term yajna as ‘work undertaken with a pure spirit of total dedication in complete cooperation with others, and for the wellbeing of all creatures and for the welfare of the world’. He then comments that whenever there is such a cooperative endeavor with total selflessness, there is Sriman Narayana in action through His creatures, and this is why He is called Yajnah.

  1.    Yajna-patih – The Lord of Yajna

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Yajnanam Pata Svami va Yajnapatih – He is the Lord of the Yajna or the recipient of the offerings made in the act of Yajna, hence He is called Yajnapatih, the Lord of the Yajna’.

In the Bhagavad Gita (9.24) Bhagavan says ‘Aham hi Sarvayajnanam Bhoktaa cha Prabhureva cha – I am the enjoyer of all sacrifices and the Lord of all sacrifices’. This justifies this Nama Yajnapatih, the Lord of all sacrifices.

Sri Bhattar explains the Nama as ‘sva-yajna-phala-pradah yajna-patih’ – He Who gives the fruit of sacrifices done to please Him.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha indicates the root ‘pa – rakshane’ meaning ‘to protect or to rule’, for the derivation of the word patih. The term ‘pati’ also means ‘Lord, Master’.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as ‘svayam yajna rUpo yajanIyoyajna sadhanam ca Bhagavan yajnam patityato yajna-patih’ – Bhagavan is Himself in the form of sacrifice, He is the One Who is worshipped through Yajnas, and He is the means for the performance of the Yajna, and so He is the Protector of the Yajnas, and so He is called Yajna-patih.

Swami ChinmayAnanda continues with his broader definition of yajna as given in the previous Nama, and explains the current Nama as indicating that Bhagavan is the Enjoyer in all self-dedicated, co-operative endeavours, and so He is called yajna-patih. He emphasizes this point by quoting the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 3 Verse 9):
Yajnarthaat karmano’nyatra lok’ yam karma-bandhanah|
Tad-arthamkarma kaunteya muktasa’ngah samacara ||
Meaning: The world is bound by action other than performed for ‘the sake of sacrifice’; do thou, therefore, O son of kunti, perform action for the sake of Yajna alone, free from all attachments.

  1.    Yajva – He Who performs the sacrifice

The term ‘Yajva’ refers to the performer of the Yajna. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Yajamaanatmana tishthan Yajva – As He is the performer of all Yajnas in effect, hence He is called Yajva, the performer of the Yajna’. Bhagavan manifests Himself in anybody who is performing a Yajna, so in actuality He is the intrinsic performer using the performer as His instrument or medium. He supports this interpretation with the Bhagavad Gita verse (9.24) – ‘Aham hi Sarva yajnanam bhokta ca prabhureva ca – I am the only enjoyer and the only Lord of all the sacrifices’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as signifying Bhagavan Himself performing the sacrifice on behalf of those who are unable to perform their rites.  He gives the support from the MahaBharata in Lord Krishna’s own words:
Tesham tu pavanaya aham nityameva Yudhisthira! |
Ubhesandhye anutishthami hi askannam tad-vratam mama ||
Meaning: O’ Yudhishthira! For the purification of those who are unable to observe the daily rites, I am Myself doing the Yajna at both dawn and dusk every day. I never fail in carrying out this vow of Mine.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the word Yajva as One who has sacrificed. However, he notes that in the case of Bhagavan there are no limitations of time, and so the meaning should apply to the past, present, and future – in other words – ‘Vishva nirmnaa rupena tad- artha sadhana sampadana rupena ca yajnenaishtavan yajate, yakshyati iti va sa Yajva Vishnuh’ – One Who has sacrificed, One Who is sacrificing, and One Who will continue to sacrifice for the purpose of creating the Universe, and creating all the supporting materials for the existence and enjoyment of all the creatures, is Lord Vishnu.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan interprets the Nama as – ashaktam aki’ncanam Avishya tat-tad-Aradhanam nivartayan svyameva Yajva. The term Yajva has the same meaning as the word Yajamana meaning ‘One who performs the sacrifice’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda reminds us of the definition of Yajna as given in the earlier Nama and notes that the current Nama stresses that Bhagavan is the ‘One who performs the Yajna according to the strict prescriptions laid down in the Vedas – the One Who maintains in all His divine actions the true Yajna spirit’ – in other words, He undertakes all His actions for the benefit of the creatures of this world.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the word ‘yaja – dane’ meaning ‘to give’, and interprets the Nama as – yajate dattevaraan bhaktebhya iti Yajva – He Who bestows His blessings on His devotees is Yajva.

  1.    Yajnaangah – He Who is attained through Yajna

Basically this Nama means components of a Yajna or a sacrificial ceremony. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this to mean ‘Yajnah angani asya iti Varahamurtih Yajnaangah – In his incarnation as Varaha Murthy or the great Boar His body parts represented the various components of a Yajna, hence He is called Yajnaangah, the integral parts of a Yajna’.

In support he supports the following description from Hari Vamsa (3.31 – 3.41) which says:
Vedapado Yupadamshtrah Kratuhastashchiteemukhah
Agnijihvo Darbharomaa Bramhasheersho Mahatapah
Ahoraatrekshano divyo Vedaangashruti Bhushanah
Aajyanaasas Sruvatundah Saamaghoshasvano Mahaan
Dharmasatyamayah Shreemaan Kramavikramasatkriyah
Praayashchittanakho Ghorah PashujaanurMahabhujah ||
Meaning: His feet are the four Vedas; His tusk is the sacrificial pillar; His hands are the Vedic rituals; His face is knowledge; His tongue is fire for the sacrifice; His hair is sacred grass for the Yajna; His head is Bramhan; His eyes are day and night (Sun and Moon); His ornamants are the various components of the Vedas; His nose is the sacrificial ghee; His trunk is the sacrificial ladle; His voice is the sound of the hymns from Sama Veda; His body consists of truth and righteousness; His movements depict valour and fulfilment of desire; His arms are the sacrificial animals and so on’.

Thus every part of Varaha incarnation represents a certain component of the Yajna, hence he is called Yajnaangah, the component of Yajna. 

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains that Yajno vai Vishnuh – Yajna is Vishnu Himself and every part of Him is Yajna. The yajnas such as Bhagavad Aradhana is performed by the devotees are a means in the form of an offering to Him, and He is the One Who is the angi or the final goal – ‘Samarthan anushthitamapi yajnantaram asya Seshabhutam iti Yajnaangah.

Srimad Srimushnam Andavan explains the Nama as – yajnam angam asya iti yajnangah – He Who is attained by the yajnas.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha discusses the Nama in terms of the two parts of the Nama Yajna and Angah. Yajna as sacrifice has been discussed before and the term ‘anga’ is derived from the root ‘ang’ meaning ‘to go’. Anga also means a part or accessory.  He Who has the sacrifices of others as an accessory to what He is doing. The sacrifices performed by those who are all subservient to Him, and the Yajna is a means or an accessory to attain Him.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the meaning parts for the term anga, and comments that this Nama of Bhagavan signifies that He is One Who is endowed with the divya angas from His Lotus Feet to His divine Head that are worthy of worship – ‘Yajnani pujaniyani angaani caranadi mastakantani yasya iti Yajnangah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers us to a similar description of the Varaha rupa from Srimad Bhagavatam 3.13.34-39, where the divine form of Bhagavan as Varaha is compared to the different aspects of a Yajna (e.g., His body is itself Veda; the hairs of His body are like darbhas; His eyes are havis or ghee; etc.).

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha notes that broadly, the term Yajna can refer to all materials associated with a sacrifice:  ijyate yah, ijyate yena, ijyate yasmai, ijyate yatra va iti Yajaniyah, yajana sadhanam haviradi, yajan sampradam uddesho, yajan sthaladikam ca sarvam yajna Shabdena grihitama bhavati.

He for whom the sacrifice is done, he by whom the sacrifice is done, that for which it is performed, the place where the sacrifice is performed, in other words, the Lord who is worshipped through the sacrifice, the place of worship, the havis (ghee) etc. that are used in the sacrifice, etc. can all be indicated by the term Yajna.

The term Yajnaangah then means ‘One Who makes it possible to attain all the above that are needed for the sacrifice, or One Who receives the offerings through the sacrifice’ – Svayam yajanoyo yajna rupah san yajna rupani haviradini yajna sthalam gatva prapnoti iti Yajnangah. He is the One Who is attained through Yajna – yajne anganam = gatih yasya, sa yajnangah, or yajnaih = yajana karmabhih angah = praptih yasya sa yajnangah.

Alternatively, Sri Vasishtha notes that the term ‘anga’ can be taken to mean part, and since Bhagavan is the antaryami for all the aspects that are needed in a sacrifice, including Brahma, the hota, the adhvaryu, the havis, etc., hence He is also known as Yajnangah.

  1.    Yajna-vaahanah – He Who helps others complete their sacrifices

The root word is ‘Vaha’ means ‘to carry’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Phalahetubhutaan Yajnaan Vaahayati iti Yajnavaahanah – He carries the Yajnas to the final stage by granting the appropriate results to the performers’.

The Karma or the act of Yajna by itself cannot give any result. It is Bhagavan who takes the responsibility for awarding the proper fruits to the performer. He thus carries the Yajna to the stage of fruition, hence He is rightly called Yajnavaahanah, the carrier of Yajna to its final stages of fruition.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama as ‘Tesham Bhakti Shraddha adhikara danena yajnam vahayati iti Yajna-vaahanah – He Who ensures the successful completion of a Yajna undertaken by the karta, by investing the karta with the necessary power, faith and means to perform the Yajna. Thus, Bhagavan is the One Who bestows the benefits to those who are able to perform the yajna themselves (yajna-patih), He is the One who performs the yajna for those who are unable to perform it themselves (Yajva), He is the One Who is to be attained by the yajnas that are performed (Yajnaangah), and He is the One Who gives the ability (Shakti), the interest (Shraddha) and the authority (adhikara) to undertake the Yajnas. And finally, He is the one who carries it to its ultimate fruitive benefit.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the meaning vehicle for the term Vahana, and interprets the Nama as yajnam = pujaniyam Vahanam = vainateyo yasya iti Yajna-vaahanah – He Who has for His Vaahana or vehicle, Garuda who is worthy of worship.

In Summary
BhurbhuvasSvasTarus Taarah Savita Prapitamahah    |
Yajno Yajnapatir Yajva Yajnaango Yajnavaahanah   ||104||
He is like a tree that extends all the three worlds and helps people to cross over them through these sound entities by performing Homa or offering sacrifices to the fire, hence He is called Bhur-Bhuvassvas-Taruh. He enables people to cross over the Ocean of Samsara, hence He is called Taarah. He is the creator of the whole World, hence He is called Savita. As the Creator of Bramha, who is the Universal grandfather, He is great grandfather or Prapitamahah.

He is personification of Yajna, hence He is called Yajnah. He is the Lord of the Yajna or the recipient of the offerings made in the act of Yajna, hence He is called Yajnapatih. As He is the performer of all Yajnas in effect (as the antryami), He is called Yajva. In his incarnation as Varaha Murthy or the great Boar His body parts represented the various components of a Yajna, hence He is called Yajnaangah, the integral parts of a Yajna. He is also the goal of the Yajnas. He carries the Yajnas to the final stage by granting the appropriate results to the performers, hence He is known as Yajnavaahanah.



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

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