In this part, we will explore the meaning of the 106th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Atmayonih Svayamjaato Vaikhaanah Samagayanah |
Devaki-Nandanah Srashta Kshitishah Papanashanah ||106||

He is His own source. He is not only the Material Cause for His birth but also an instrumental Cause for his birth. As Varaha He dug up the Earth from the depths. He uproot the sorrows of the world, and in particular the sorrow of repeated birth and death in this Samsara. He sings the hymns of Sama Veda. 
He is the son of Devaki and created the whole Cosmos. He is known as the King of the Earth as the son of Dasharatha. He destroys the Sins of those who adore Him, meditate on Him, and remember and sing hymns of praise on Him.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.     Atmayonih
  2.     Svayamjaatah
  3.     Vaikhaanah
  4.     Samagayanah
  5.     Devaki-Nandanah
  6.     Srashta
  7.     Kshitishah
  8.     Papanashanah

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

  1.     Atma-yonih – He is Svayambu or His own source

The term ‘Yonih’ means the ‘source or womb’ where something is born. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this name as ‘Atma eva yonih upadana karanam na anyat iti Atmayonih – He is His own source; there is no other material cause or source which created Him, hence He is called Atmayonih, one whose source is Himself or the self-generating one’.

Svetasvatara Upanishad (6.16) says ‘Sa Vishvakrit Vishvavit Atmayonih’ – He is the Creator of the Universe. He is the Knower of the Universe and He is the generating source of Himself.

Sri Parasara Bhattar generally highlights the two Gunas of Bhagavan that are of utmost significance and importance to the devotees – namely Bhagavan’s Sausheelyam (affability) and Saulabhyam (ease of access).  Sri Bhattar uses the root ‘yu’ meaning ‘to unite, to mix’, and interprets as – ‘Dughdeneva Sitavalayam Atmana bhoktaram mishrayati iti Atma-yonih’ – One Who mixes with others easily like milk with sugar, thus emphasising Bhagavan’s Sausheelyam (affability) in this Nama.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan echoes the same thoughts as Sri Bhattar in his interpretation – Atmanam svam yauti bhaktah sahavAsa bhoge iti Atma-yonih – He Who mixes with the devotees indistinguishably for the purpose of their enjoyment. He quotes the Ananda maya vidya from Ananda Valli of Taittiriya Upanishad (2.1.1):
Yo Veda nihitam guhayam parame vyoman | So’Snute sarvan kanman saha| Brahmana vipashciteti |
Meaning: He who knows Brahman hidden in the cavity of the heart, enjoys in the supreme abode all the auspicious qualities of Brahman along with the all-knowing Brahman.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (2.3.1):
ஊனில்வாழுயிரே நல்லைபோஉன்னைப்பெற்று,
வானுளார்பெருமான் மதுசூதனென்னம்மான்,
தானும்யானுமெல்லாம் தன்னுள்ளேகலந்தொழிந்தோம்,
தேனும்பாலும்நெய்யும் கன்னலுமமுதுமொத்தே
Meaning: O’ my mind! Even though you are present in this physical body of flesh and the like – all filthy, you have served me right in the direction of deliverance. I have enjoyed Sri Vaikuntham just like the ever free angels (Nitya Suris). Through your grace my Lord Madhusadana and I have mingled into one inseparably, as Milk with Milk, Honey with Honey, Ghee with Ghee, and Sugarcane juice with itself. 

It is worth noting that this is a level more intimate than the explanation of Sri Bhattar’s analogy of mixing of Milk and Sugar.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj also gives the interpretation that since Bhagavan has no cause other than Himself, He is called Atma-yonih – Svambhutvat Atma-yonih. He gives support from the Svetasvatara Upanishad – ‘Sa Vishva-krid Vishva-vid Atma-yonih’ – He is the Creator of the Universe. He is the Knower of the Universe and He is the generating source of Himself.

  1.     Svayam-jaatah – He is the Cause of His Own Birth

For any creation there are two types of causes – one is the material cause and the other is the instrumental cause. For example, when a pot is created, the material cause is the earth and the instrumental cause is the potter. Similarly when a gold ornament is made, the material cause is gold and the instrumental cause is the goldsmith. Similarly, taking Bhagavan as an entity, the material cause for that is Bhagavan Himself. The current Nama points out that Bhagavan is His own instrumental cause as well.

Sri Adi Sankara’s interpretation is ‘Nimitta karanam api sa eva iti darshayitum Svayamjaatah iti – To demonstrate that Bhagavan is His own instrumental Cause, He is called Svayamjaatah, One Who is the Cause of His own birth’.

Bramha Sutram (1.4.23) says ‘Prakritishcha Pratijnaa Drishtaanta Anuparodhaat – Bhagavan is not just the Instrumental cause but also the Material Cause’.  Sri Adi Sankara says ‘iti atra Sthaapitam ubhaya kaaranatvam Hareh – This declares the dual role played by Bhagavan in materialising Himself.

Svayam jayate ajanishta iti va Svayam-jaatah – He Who is Self-born, and not Created by anyone else is Svayam-jaatah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s explains that Bhagavan takes Avataars as and when necessary without waiting for those in difficulty to come and pray to Him – Prarthana nirapekshataya jaatah Svayam-jaatah. He takes the incarnation out of His concern for the protection of the good, the destruction of the evil, and the preservation of Dharma.  He emphasises that Bhagavan comes to aide of His devotees of His own accord.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 Verse 7 and 8, Bhagavan says:
Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata |
Abhyutthanam adharmasya tadatmanam srjamy aham ||4.7||
Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam
Dharma-samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge ||4.8||
Meaning:  Whenever and wherever there is a decline in righteousness, O’ descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of evil —at that time I descend Myself.  In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of righteousness, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.

He Himself takes birth out of His own will as His main concern is the protection of the Jivas who are His children.

It is His Nature to be concerned and to protect – ‘Kaakkum iyalvinan Kanna Perumaan’ says Sri NammAzhwar in Thiruvai Mozhi (2.2.9), and so He takes incarnations for this purpose as and when necessary, out of His own will.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan quotes the Thiruviruttam Pasuram (1) in support – ‘uyir alippaan ennindra yoniyumaaip pirandaai! imaiyor thalaiva – You Who took birth voluntarily in order to liberate us from the burden of Samsara.

This is nicely captured by Sri NammAzhwar in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (1.5.4):
தானோ ருருவே தனிவித்தாய்த் தன்னில் மூவர் முதலாய
வானோர் பலரும் முனிவரும் மற்றும் மற்றும் முற்றுமாய்
தானோர் பெருநீர் தன்னுள்ளே தோற்றி அதனுள் கண்வளரும்
வானோர் பெருமான் மாமாயன் வைகுந் தன்எம் பெருமானே.
Meaning: The Lord of the Celestials, Lord of Vaikuntha, and my own Lord, He Himself became the Cause of the three (Triumvarate). He caused the Celestials, and Sages and the living, and all else to be, then appeared in the deep ocean sleeping on a Serpent Couch.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains the Nama as ‘One Who appeared by Himself’, and gives the reference from Ananda Valli in Taittiriya Upanishad – ‘tad-Atmanam svayam akuruta’ – That Brahman created Itself by Itself.

Sri Suka explains that Bhagavan just appeared from Devaki’s womb just as the Moon appears in the Sky – ‘Devakyam Deva rupinyaam Vishnuh sarva guhashayah AviraasIt yatha praacyaam dishi induriva pushkalah (Srimad Bhagavatam 10.3.8). Lord Krishna chose to enter Devaki’s womb for some time, and then chose to come out at His will; the connection between Devaki and Krishna is just the same connection as between the east direction and the moon from which it appears.

  1.     Vaikhaanah – He Who uproots the sorrows

The root word is ‘khana’ meaning ‘to dig’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Visheshena Khananaat Vaikhaanah – Because of His extra-ordinary digging feat He is called Vaikhaanah, the great digger’. He goes on to say ‘Dharaneem visheshena khanitvaa paataalavaasinam Hiranyaaksham Varaham Rupam Aasthaaya Jaghaana iti Puraane prasiddham – It is well known in the Puranas that Bhagavan took the form of a great boar or Varaha and dug the Earth to reach the nether world in order to execute the powerful demon Hiranyaaksha’, henve He is known as Vaikhaanah, the expert digger.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the root word ‘khana’ with the meaning ‘to uproot’, and explains the Nama as One Who uproots the miseries of His devotees – janitva, bhava dukkha vikhananaat Vaikhaanah – Bhagavan incarnates at His will and proceeds to uproot the sorrows of the world, and in particular the sorrow of repeated birth and death in this Samsara.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives a similar interpretation – janitvaca sva-bhakta dukkha vikhananaat Vaikhaanah – Taking birth voluntarily, He destroys the sorrows of His devotees.

Srimad Srimushnam Andavan refers us to the first Pasuram of Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruviruttam, where Azhwar points out that Bhagavan takes His births for the purpose of removal of our bondage to this Samsara:
பொய்ண்ணின்ற ஞானமும் பொல்லா வொழுக்கும் அழுக்குடம்பும்,
இந்நின்ற நீர்மை இனியா முறாமை, உயிரளிப்பான்
எந்நின்ற யோனியு மாய்ப்பிறந் தாயிமை யோர்தலைவா
மெய்நின்று கேட்டரு ளாய்,அடி யேன்செய்யும் விண்ணப்பமே.
Meaning: O’ Lord of the Devas! For the sake of protecting us, You took birth in several wombs. Please grant us that we may never again attain the lowly state of faulty knowledge, wicked actions and filth-ridden body and mind. Please bless us and heed my humble plea and save us.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives an interesting interpretation for the above puranic incident – Hiranya means Gold, and aksha means eye, and the term ‘Hiranyaksha’ symbolises our eye towards materialistic pleasures. Bhagavan had to dig and reach inside our ego to rid us of this desire for materialistic pleasures, and in this sense He is Vaikhaanah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the meaning ‘disturbance’ for the term ‘khana’. He interprets the term vikhaana as a reference to the muktas who are completely liberated, and then explains the term Vaikhaana as the Lord of Vikhaanas or the muktas – vikhaanah khanana rahitah muktah, tatsambandhi Vaikhaanah.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha takes the word ‘khana’ as meaning ‘to dig, to completely undo’, and interprets the Nama as – Visheshena Satrum avadarayati iti Vikhaanah, Vikhaana eva Vaikhaanah – He who cuts into pieces and destroys the enemy.

Using the meaning ‘dig’ for the root khana, Sri Vasishtha gives another interpretation, and attributes the existence of Oceans etc. as the work of the Lord. He has specially provided these as examples of His digging out these resources out of water, which no one else can do – ‘Tasya ca Vishishthah khano samudrasya nahidrik khananam kenacit tad-anyena kartum Sakyam’.

  1.     Sama-gayanah – He sings the hymns of Sama Veda

Sama refers to the hymns of the Sama Veda, which are normally sung rather than recited. Gayanah means one who sings. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Samaani Gayati iti Samagayanah – He sings the hymns of Sama Veda, hence He is called Samagaayanah, one who sings Sama Veda’.

Sama Veda is the most musical of the four Vedas and the recitation is generally performed like a musical melody. Bhagavan is an expert exponent of this art thus giving Him the name of Samagayanah.

The word ‘Sama’ also means ‘that which is appeasing’. Hence, Sama-gayanah means ‘One Who sings pleasant hyms to appease Him’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the above interpretation and explains the Nama as ‘One Who has the muktas or the Released Souls singing the Sama hymns in praise of Him once they have attained Him’ – sva-prapti madhu pAnena ‘haavu haavu haavu’ iti Samani gayamano muktah asya asti iti Sama-gayanah. He gives the quote from Taittiriya Upanishad – ‘etat Sama gayanaste’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj refers us to a passage in Srimad Bhagavatam (12.13.1) where the description is given about Bhagavan being worshipped through the Sama gana chanting:
Yam Brahma Varunendra-Rudra-Marutah stunvanti divyaih stavair
Vedaih sanga-pada-kramopanishadair gayanti yam Sama-gah
Dhyanavasthita-tad-gatena manasa pashyanti yam yogino
Yasyantam na viduḥ surasura-gaṇa devaya tasmai namah ||
Meaning:  Suta Gosvami said: Unto that personality whom Brahma, Varuṇa, Indra, Rudra and the Maruts praise by chanting transcendental hymns and reciting the Vedas with all their angas, pada-kramas and Upanishads, to whom the chanters of the Sama Veda always sing, whom the perfected yogis see within their minds after fixing themselves in trance and absorbing themselves within Him, and whose infinite nature is beyond realisation by the Devas and Asuras — unto that Supreme Being, Who is ever resplendent, I offer my humble obeisances.

Bhagavan Sri Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 22) – ‘Vedanaam Sama Vedo’smi – Of the Vedas I am Sama Veda’.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments that the Brahma jnani sings the Sama ganam in the excitement of his realisation, and Bhagavan Sriv Krishna played the flute (His Venuganam) to the peaceful and all-quieting Sama ganam, and hence He is Sama-gayanah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the interpretation for the Nama and explains that those who sing the Sama Veda are called Sama-gah. Samaganaam ayanam = Ashrayah paramo lakshayah Samagayanah – He Who is the Object and the final goal of those who sing the Sama is Samagayanah.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha explains the Nama as:
Yajna vinashakaan raakshasaan syati hinasti
iti Sama giyante asmin iti gayanah
Samani stotra visheshah giyante asmin iti Sama-gayanah |
Meaning: Extolled by the special hymns of praises for His acts of killing the demons who ruin the performance of the sacrifice.

  1.     Devaki-nandanah – He chose to be born as the Son of Devaki

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Devakyaah Sutah Devakinandanah – He is the son of Devaki and hence He is called Devakinandanah’. He quotes from the Mahabharata Anushaasan Parva (158-31), which says:
Jyotimshi Shukraani cha yaani loke Trayo Loka Lokapalas trayee cha |
Trayognayash chaahutayashcha Pancha Sarve deva Devakiputra Eva ||
Meaning: All the luminaries of the world, the three worlds themselves, the protectors of the worlds by guarding the quarters, the three Vedas, the three sacred fires, the five oblations are all but the Son of Devaki (Sri Krishna). 

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation for the Nama is that through this Nama, Bhishma is clarifying to Yudhishtra that the Namas that have been revealed all along are not about some unknown Deity who is beyond reach, but it is none other than Devaki-Nandana who is seated just beside him, and who has taken the Avataar as the kinsman of Yudhishtra. Sri Bhattar refers us to a Shloka from the MahaBharata:
Sa esha prithudhirga Akshah sambandhI te Janardanah |
Esha bhutam bhavishyacca bhavacca bharatarshabha ||
Meaning: O’ Best of Bharatas! Janardanah, the broad and long-eyed Lord is your kinsman. He is all things in the past, the present and the future.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the reference from Srimad Bhagavatam, describing the incarnation of ParamAtma as the Son of Devaki:
Nishithe tama-udbhute jayamane Janardane
Devakyam deva-rupiṇyam Vishnuh sarva-guha-sayaḥ
Avirasid yatha pracyam dishindur iva pushkalaḥ
Meaning: Then the Supreme Being, Vishnu, who is situated in the core of everyone’s heart, appeared from the womb of Devaki, who was of the same Deva Rupam, in the dense darkness of night like the full moon rising on the eastern horizon complete in every respect.

  1.     Srashtaa – The Creator

The root word is ‘Srik’ meaning ‘to Create’. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Srashtaa Sarvalokasya – He created the whole Cosmos, hence He is called Srashtaa, the Creator’. Even though Bramha is the Creator, Bhagavan Created Brahma and assigned him this role by bestowing the powers of Creation, therefore Bhagavan is the effective Creator.

Srajati iti Srashta Vishnuh – He Who Creates. As has been explained in several places before, Brahma creates the things inside the Brahmanda, after Bhagavan creates the things outside Brahmanda, and the Brahmanda itself with Brahma inside the Brahmanda, and gives the power, the knowledge and the responsibility to Brahma for the rest of the Creation. It is because Bhagavan is the antaryami in Brahma that Brahma is able to proceed with this function at this point. Thus Bhagavan is the True Creator, as He is the Destroyer and the Protector of all beings.

Sri Parasara Bhattar emphasises through the interpretation for this Nama that Sri Bhishma tells Yudhishtra that DevakI-nandana, Sri Krishna, is none other than Para-Vasudeva who is responsible for Creation. One can see Bhagavan’s saulabhyam and saushilyam reflected through these series of Namas. Even though the reference to His function of Creation can be taken to illustrate His Parattvam, the fact that the same Para-Vasudeva has made Himself accessible to all the people in the audience (where Bhishma is instructing Yudhistra on the greatness of Bhagavan’s Namas reflecting His Kalyana Gunas) shows simultaneously His saulabhyam.

Swami ChinmayAnanda comments: ‘Even the Creator (Brahma) can perform his job only by drawing his abilities and capacities from the Infinite Self, Sriman Narayana’. Brahma is able to create only because Bhagavan is the antaryami of Brahma.

  1.     Kshtishah – The Lord of the Earth

The word ‘kshiti’ means ‘the Earth’ and ‘Ishah’ means ‘the Lord or King’. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Kshiteh Bhumeh Ishah Dasharatha Atmajah – He is the King of the Earth as the son of Dasharatha, hence He is called Kshitishah, the King of the Earth’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar notes that Bhagavan is the Lord of all the worlds, not just the Earth, as revealed in the following reference:
Yo anantarupo akhila Vishvarupo garbhepi lokan vapusha bibharti ||
Meaning: He is of Infinite forms and is in the form of the entire Cosmos. He bears by His body all the worlds in His womb.

However, in this Nama, Bhagavan is particularly singled out as the Lord of the Earth. Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that there is generally more suffering in the Earth than in the other worlds such as the Deva Lokas etc., and so Bhagavan takes incarnations more often here, to help relieve the sufferings of the beings on Earth. So He is particularly addressed as the Lord of the Earth – KshitIshah – sarva Ishatve’pi Arti-bhuyishthatvaat bhuyishtham bhumeh Ishah iti Kshitishah.

Sri NammAzhwar in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (3.3.4) says:
ஈசன் வானவர்க் கென்பனென் றால்,அது
தேச மோதிரு வேங்கடத் தானுக்கு?,
நீச னென் நிறை வொன்றுமி லேன்,என்கண்
பாசம் வைத்த பரஞ்சுடர்ச் சோதிக்கே.
Meaning: We can declare that Thiru Venkadattaan is the Lord of Nitya Suris etc. But this in no way adds to His glory. His true glory is in His mingling with the lowliest of the lowly people like me, being accessible to all the downtrodden etc. Thus, it is His saulabhyam that adds to His glory, and not the Lordship over the Nitya Suris. He has shown a doting love to me, endearing me that way.

It is this love of Bhagavan towards the suffering and downtrodden beings of the Earth that makes them dear to Him, and so He is called the Lord of the Earth in this Nama. Bhagavan is “Isan” for all the other worlds, but His “paasam” or love is for the Earth.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan also interprets the Nama as “Lord of the Earth”, the Lordship being reflected in His being concerned with the removal of the suffering of the beings of the world and their protection – kshiter-bhAram apanIyataam paalayana Kshitishah.

Swami ChinmayAnanda interprets the Nama as ‘Bhagavan as the Consort of Mother Earth’ – Kshitih referring to Mother Earth or bhumi Piratti.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha’s interpretation is: Kshiyanti = nivasanti, gacchanti va nasham bhutani yasyam sa Kshitih = bhuh, tasya Ishah Kshitishah – That in which all beings ultimately mingle after their life here, is Kshitih or Earth. The Lord of kshitih is Kshitishah.

  1.     Papa-naashanah – The Destroyer of Sins

This Nama means the destroyer of one’s sins. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Keertitah Poojitah Dhyaatah Smritah Paparashim Naashayan Papanaashanah – He Who destroys the Sins of those who adore Him, meditate on Him, and remember and sing hymns of praise on Him’. He quotes from VriddhaShaatatapa which says-
Pakshopavaasat Yat Papam Purushasya Pranashyati
Pranayama shatenaiva Tat papam nashyate Nrinaam
Pranayama sahasrena Yat papam nashyate Nrinaam
Kshanamatrena tatpapam Harer Dhyanat Pranashyati ||
Meaning: Whatever Sins are removed by fasting for a fortnight, they are destroyed by performing a hundred Pranayamams. Whatever Sins are destroyed by a thousand Pranayamams, they are removed in a fraction of a second by meditating on Hari.

This shows that devotion to Bhagavan is much more powerful in purifying oneself than drastic act of fasting or doing breath control exercises like Pranayamams, hence He is rightly called Papanaashanah, the destroyer of one’s Sins.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama by reminding us of the great value of meditating on Bhagavan’s leelas. By meditating on the nectar-like stories of His childhood pranks, by reminding ourselves of His Rasa Leelas, the quelling of the Asuras, etc., the Sins in our minds are removed. In fact, this is one of the ways that Bhagavan annihilates the internal flaws in the minds of Sri Vaishnavas – those who meditate on Him with single-minded devotion. Sri Parasara Bhattar’s words are:
Atha dadhi-navanitastainya Rasa kridadi kathAmrutena paresham Papanaashanah |
Avataare’pi Vaishnavanam bahyabhyantara Satru-naashanah |
Meaning: Even during His Avataars, He annihilates the enemies, both internal and external, of Srivaishnavas (the devotees of Vishnu who is inseparably associated with Sri or MahaLakshmi). He annihilates the internal enemies when they meditate on His Kalyana Gunas, and He annihilates the external enemies through the divine weapons that He carries for their protection (which is the substance of the next and last Shloka).

Papam naashayati iti Papa-naashanah – It is very interesting to look at the derivation of the word Papa – it is derived from the root ‘Pa – rakshane’ meaning ‘to protect’. The addition of the affix ‘pah’ leads to the word ‘Papah’ – that from which one should protect oneself is Papa, or Sin. Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the derivation for the word Papa as ‘Pati asmaat Atmanam iti Papah – That from which one should protect oneself is Papah or Sin.

Srimad Srimushnam Andavan explains that ordinary thieves only steal material objects, but Bhagavan steals the feelings of stealth itself from the minds of the devotees (also known as “Chit Chor”) – the Stealer of the thought of stealth itself – ‘cauryasya cauryam jagati prasiddham’.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (3.6.2):
மூவ ராகிய மூர்த்தி யைமுதல் மூவர்க் குமுதல் வன்றன்னை,
சாவ முள்ளன நீக்கு வ ¡னைத் தடங்க டல்கிடந் தான்தன்னைத்,
தேவ தேவனைத் தென்னி லங்கை எரியெ ழச்செற்ற வில்லியை,
பாவ நாசனைப் பங்க யத்தடங் கண்ண னைப்பர வுமினோ.
Meaning: I beseech all of you people to devote yourselves to the Lotus-eyed Lord who is the Chief among the tri-murtis, the antaryami of Rudra and Brahma, as their Creator. He is the One Who removes the curses of Rudra, Brahma and other Devas whenever they get into trouble. He is the One Who is reclining in the Milky Ocean, and the same One wielding His Mighty Bow Who tortured the evil-minded Ravana and burnt Lanka to rescue SIta Piratti. He is the Lotus-eyed Lord Who removes all our Sins by the mere contemplation on Him.

Similar thoughts are expressed by Sri PeriyAzhwar in His Thirumozhi Pasuram (5.4.3):
எம்மனாஎன் குலதெய்வமே என்னுடைய நாயகனே
நின்னுளேனாய்ப் பெற்றநன்மை இவ்வுலகினில் ஆர்பெறுவார்
நம்மன்போலே வீழ்த்தமுக்கும் நாட்டிலுள்ள பாவமெல்லாம்
சும்மெனாதே கைவிட்டோடித் தூறுகள் பாய்ந்தனவே.
Meaning: My Lord! How can I ever describe the great benefit that I have received because of Your Grace? All the sins that normally push me down mercilessly to the ground like demons and ghosts, have left me quietly like prisoners that escape without making any noise and hide in the bushes.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 Verse 9, Bhagavan Sri Krishna says:
Janma karma ca me divyam evam yo vetti tattvatah
Tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti so ‘rjuna
Meaning: One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives an explanation for how the thought of Bhagavan’s leelas is able to wash away one’s sins. These thoughts of Bhagavan’s leelas have the effect of keeping Him always on our thoughts, and this is what causes one’s mind to be purified. This is what Bhishma tells Yudhishtra at the beginning of the Stotra:
Tasya loka pradhanasya Jagannathasya bhupate |
Vishnor-Nama sahasram me Shrunu Papa bhayapaham ||
Meaning: O’ King, hear from me the thousand names of Vishnu, the Lord of the Universe, the highest in the worlds; these Namas remove all sins and fear.

The next Shloka clarifies that the Namas are but representations of Bhagavana’s Gunas – yani nami gaunani vikhyatani mahatmanah, and thus meditation on the names of Vishnu, or the Gunas of Vishnu, leads to the removal of sins in the mind of one who meditates on Vishnu.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives support from the last verse of Srimad Bhagavatam (12.13.23):
Nama sankeertanam yasya sarva papa pranaashanam |
Pranamo dukkhha Samanah tam Namami Harim Param ||
Meaning: I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Lord Sri Hari, Whose Nama Sankeertanam (Group chanting) leads to the eradication of all sins, and by worshipping Whom relieves all suffering.

Swami ChinmayAnanda summarizes the purport of the Nama in the following words:
‘Meditating upon Whom all Vaasanas (sins) are liquidated. When an individual, surrendering in love to Him, acts and fulfills his duties, all his existing vaasanas are destroyed, and no new ones are created. This is the very root in the theory of Karma Yoga in the Vedas. Through meditation upon the Self, all sins are dissolved and totally removed’.

In one of his alternate interpretations, Sri Satya sandha Thirtha looks at the Nama as Papanah + ashnati – Papam nayati iti Papanah daityah, taan ashnati iti Papanaashanah. The Asuras are called Papanah because they lead in committing Sins, and Bhagavan ‘eats away’ or destroys these asuras, and so He is called Papanaashanah.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan also includes the above thought in one of his alternative interpretations – Pavitraih caritaih Srotranam nikhila karmya rupam papam vivartayan, asuranamapi nihataan Atma vidyaam nivartya muktim tebhyo yacchat Papanaashanah – He is called Papanaashanah because He removes the sins of those who hear the stories of His leelas; He is calo called Papanaashanah because He destroys the Asuras, and in the process, even for them He removes their sins by redeeming the knowledge about the Self and gives them Moksha.

The Story of Ahalya

Ahalya (meaning one with impeccable beauty) was created by Brahma as the most beautiful woman. Indra becomes enamoured by Ahalya, the most beautiful of all women, married to a much older Sage Gautama.  Once, when Gautama was away, Indra comes to the ashram disguised as Gautama and seduces Ahalya. She sees through his disguise, but consents to his advances. She rationalises the encounter as when King of Gods expresses such a desire, it cannot be refused and she let him have it. She tells Indra, after making love to him, that she was gratified in complying with his wish and asks him to leave before Sage Gautama’s return.

As Indra leaves the Ashram Sage Gautama returns, much earlier than his regular schedule. Ahalya acted surprised to see the twin Gautama but the Sage with his spiritual powers knew what had occurred and cursed both Indra and Ahalya. Indra lost his manhood and Ahalya was turned to into a stone, destined to stay that way for a thousand years until she was released from her curse by the touch of Rama’s foot.

As Rama and Lakshmana together with their Guru Sage Vishvamitra were passing by Sage Gautama’s desolate ashram on their way to King Janaka’s court in Mithila, Sage Vishvamitra recounts the tale of Ahalya’s curse and instructs Rama to save Ahalya.

On hearing Vishvamitra’s words Rama entered the hermitage along with Lakshmana and keeping Vishvamitra afore.  Although Ahalya was cursed, Vishvamitra nevertheless describes her as goddess-like and illustrious, repeatedly calling her mahabhaga, a Sanskrit compound (maha and bhaga) translated as ‘most illustrious and highly distinguished’.

Following Sage Vishvamitra’s advise, Rama enters the ashram to see Ahalya, who, up till then, was a stone.  As Rama’s foot touches her Ahalya turned into her former self. Rama considers Ahalya pure and unblemished and pays obeisance to her.

Lord Rama redeemed Ahalya of her sins and hence He is Papanaashanah!

Jai Shri Ram!

In Summary

Atmayonih Svayamjaato Vaikhaanah Samagayanah |
Devaki-Nandanah Srashta Kshitishah Papanaashanah ||106||

He is His own source and hence He is called Atmayonih. Bhagavan is not only His Material Cause for His birth but is also His own instrumental Cause and hence, He is called Svayamjaatah. Bhagavan incarnates at His will and proceeds to uproot the sorrows of the world, and in particular the sorrow of repeated birth and death in this Samsara, hence He is known as Vaikhaanah. He sings the hymns of Sama Veda, hence He is called Samagaayanah.

He is the son of Devaki and hence He is called Devakinandanah. He created the whole Cosmos, hence He is called Srashta, the Creator. He is the King of the Earth as the son of Dasharatha, hence He is called Kshitishah. He destroys the Sins of those who adore Him, meditate on Him, and remember and sing hymns of praise on Him, hence He is called Papanaashanah.



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



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