In this part, we will explore the meaning of the final Shlokas (including the Vanamali verse as the 108th Shloka) of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam. This will be followed by the Phala Shruti in the next few commentaries that will expound the benefits of reciting Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
Shankhabhrin Nandaki Chakri Shaarngadhanva Gadaadharah |
Rathaangapaanir Akshobhyah Sarva-praharana-ayudhah ||107||
|Sri Sarva-praharana-ayudha Om Nama Iti |
Vanamaali Gadi Shaarngi Shankhi Chakri ca Nandaki |
Srimaan Narayano Vishnur Vasudevo Abhirakshatu || 108|| Chant this Shloka 3 times
| Sri Vasudevo’bhirakshatu Om Nama Iti |
He adorns the five divine weapons, namely, the Conch, the Sword, the Discus, the Bow and the Mace ever ready to protect His devotees. He is wielder of Discus, Who is Unshakeable from His resolve and has Infinite weapons at His disposal and is ever ready to act to protect His devotees.
Protect us O’ Lord Narayana, Who wears the garland of forest flowers, Who has the Mace, Conch, Sword and the Discus, and Who is called Vishnu and Vasudeva.
Salutations to Sri Vasudeva, May you Protect us.
The above Shloka has the following Namas:
In this last Shloka, Bhagavan’s divine weapons are described. While Bhagavan has many weapons that decorate Him (for instance, the Shodasha-Ayudha Stotram by Swami Desikan describes 16 weapons in the hands of Lord Sudarshana), the Pancha Ayhudhas are the ones that receive special mention in this Shloka. The Pancha Ayudhas or the five weapons are also sung in the Pancha Ayudha Stotram.
The Ayudhas that Lord Vishnu holds in His divine body are described in the Vishnu Purana as representing the various tattvas that ultimately are involved in the creation of the Universe and its beings. These Tattvas are briefly described below:
- Shankham – Tamasa ahankaram, from which the Panca bhutas have appeared; (Prithivi, Water, Vayu, Tejas, Akaasham). e.g., Sabdam, one of the tan-matras which is the first stage before Akaasha appears, is the sound emanating from the Conch;
- Chakram – symbolizes the constant movement of manas – Vayu vegam mano vegam;
- Gadha – – Buddhi – unlike manas which is cancalam (wavering), buddhi is the stabilizing factor;
- Shaarnga – Sattvika – the five karma indriyas and the five jnana indriyas. Shaarnga is the controlling force for the Indriyas;
- Nandaki – the sword represents Brahma Vidya; the sheath for the Sword is the controlling force that cuts Avidya or ignorance.
Some of the Azhwars are believed to be the Avataars of the Divine weapons.
In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 11 Verse 46), Arjuna says:
Kiritinam Gadinam Chakra hastam icchami tvam drashtum aham tathiva |
Tenaiva rupena catur-bhujena sahasra baho bhava visvamurte ||
Meaning: I wish to see You as before, with crown and with mace and discus in hand. Assume again that four-armed shape, O Thou thousand-armed, of Universal Form!
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj refers to Srimad Bhagavatam (8.20.30) which describes the Panca Ayudhas:
Sarvaatmanidam bhuvanam nirikshya sarve’surah kashmalam Apuranga |
Sudarshanam Chakram asahya tejo dhanushca Shaarngam stanayitnughosham ||
Parjanya ghosho jalajah pancajanyah kaumodaki Vishnu gada tarasvini |
Vidyadhadro’sih Sata-candra yuktah tunottamau akshayasaayakau ca ||
Meaning: O’ King, when all the Asuras, the followers of Maha Bali, saw the Universal form of Lord Vishnu, who held everything within His body, when they saw in the Lord’s hand His disc, known as the Sudarshana Chakra, which generates intolerable heat, and when they heard the tumultuous sound of His bow, all of these caused lamentation within their hearts.
The Lord’s conchshell, named Pancajanya, which made sounds like that of a thundering cloud; the very forceful club named Kaumodaki; the sword named Nandaka (Vidyadhara), with a shield decorated with hundreds of moonlike spots; and also Akshayasayaka, the best of quivers — all of these appeared together to offer prayers to the Lord.
Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:
‘Shankha’ means a Conch which can generate a high pitched musical sound and ‘bhrit’ means one who bears it. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Panchajanyakhyam Bhutadyahankaaratmakam Shankham Bibhrat Shankhabhrit – He holds in His hand a conch called Panchajanyam, which is symbolic of the Tamasic Ahamkara or the human ego, and hence He is called Shankhabhrit, the bearer of the Conch’.
The Conch stands for the ego because blowing it generates a loud sound and announces the person’s presence as a symbol of His ego. Sri Krishna’s Conch is called ‘Panchajanyam’ which means the generator of the five basic elements or the Pancha Bhutas. The sound originating from Bhagavan’s Conch is the pranava mantra ‘AUM’, from which the whole creation of the Universe was initiated.
Bhagavan’s weapons are enjoyed by His devotees as divine ornaments, while at the same time they are objects of terror for His enemies.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram 8.3.3:
ஆளும் ஆளார் ஆழியும் சங்கும் சுமப்பார்தாம்,
வாளும் வில்லுங் கொண்டுபின் செல்வார் மாற்றில்லை,
தாளும் தோளும் கைகளை யாரத் தொழக்காணேன்,
நாளும் நாளும் நாடுவன் அடியேன் ஞாலத்தே
Meaning: The Pasuram is one where Azhwar is in deep bhagavad anubhavam, to the point that he is worried and concerned that there is no to one to help His Lord carry these heavy weapons, and instead they only keep calling on Him to bestow on them worldly things, instead of realising that He is the only true object to wish for.
Sri Parasara Bhattar describes the last eight Namas as indicative of Bhagavan’s Supreme Overlordship – ‘parama aishvarya cihna divya Ayudhadvaat’. Sri Bhattar explains the special privileges of Shankha as Bhagavan nourishes the Shankha with Amrutam (Nectar) from His mouth and at other times the Shankha rests on His divine hand. He also elaborates that the Shankha does not kill the enemy but instils fear thereby allowing them a chance to reform. He also cites Bhagavan gently caressing Dhruva with His Shankha that resulted in instant jnana to Dhruva Maharaj.
Sri Andal devotes 10 Pasurams in her Nachiyar Thirumozhi in praise of Bhagavan’s divine Conch, and enviously describes how His conch is blessed to be always with Him. The conch is either resting in His hand, or is nourished with Nectar every time the Lord uses it. The Shankha enjoys the droplets of His Amrutam, and then returns back to His hand for rest.
In her Nachiyar Thirumozhi Pasuram 1.7.1 she describes the Shankha and wonders:
கருப்பூரம் நாறுமோ கமலப்பூ நாறுமோ
திருப்பவளச் செவ்வாய்தான் தித்தித்தி ருக்கும்மோ
மருப்பொசித்த மாதவன்றன் வாய்ச்சுவையும் நாற்றமும்
விருப்புற்றுக் கேட்கின்றேன் சொல்லாழி வெண்சங்கே
Meaning: Tell me, O White Conch, I am eager to know. Does the mouth of our killer-of-the-rutted-tusker Lord Madavan bear the aroma of camphor, or the fragrance of lotus? Are his auspicious lips sweet to taste?
In her Pasruam 1.7.8 in Nachiyar Thirumozhi, Sri Andal says to the Conch that the food you nourish is the nectar from the mouth of the beautiful Lord who measured the three worlds in His Vamana/Trivikrama Avataar. You rest on the hands of the Ocean-hued Lord. A bevy of beautiful dames rise in protest at your envious position and would give up everything to enjoy that nectar. What you do is not fair, O’ Conch!
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri notes that the name Pancajanyam itself signifies that the divine conch is the representation of the tattva called ahamkara that is the origin of the Pancabhutas. Of course, there is also an incident in which Bhagavan slays the asura by the name Pancajana, who was in the form of a conch, and this conch also became a decoration for Bhagavan, and is known as Panchajanyam.
Sri Shastri notes that the sound that emanates from His Pancjanyam has the effect of removing the internal enemy which is in the form of ignorance in the minds of the devotees, as well as mighty external enemies by instilling fear in them. Thus, in both senses, the conch is a weapon that He bears for the protection of the devotees and for the protection of the devotees from the enemies.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as ‘Shankham bibharti iti, Shankham pushnati iti va Shankha- bhrit – He Who holds the Conch, He Who supports the Conch, He Who nourishes the Conch, etc. Sri Vasishtha also refers to the hymns from the Rig-veda that are directed to the praise of the glory of the Shankha.
- Nandaki – He Who has Nandaka, the Sword
Nandaka is the name of the Sword carried by Sri MahaVishnu. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Vidyaamayo Nandakaakhyah Asirasya iti Nandaki – He carries a sword called Nandaka which symbolises all knowledge hence He is called Nandaki, the carrier of the sword Nandaka’.
The Sword is a symbol of wisdom since it cuts through Avidya or ignorance. Vishnu Puranam says
Bibharti yacchaasiratnam achyuto’tyanta nirmalam |
Vidyomayantu tad jnanam Avidyaa kosha samsthitam ||
Meaning: Hari carries a precious and pure sword which is the embodiment of wisdom which is embedded in its sheath called Avidya. Like wisdom bursting through the cover of ignorance his sword emerges from its scabbard.
The word ‘Nandakah’ means ‘May he be happy’ and Nandaki then refers to the One Who is inseparably associated with the sword who makes His devotees happy.
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama as a reference to the divine sword that the Lord possesses, to whom the Lord makes the prayer to give Him joy in His victories.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha on the other hand interprets the Nama as ‘One Who wishes happiness always for His devotees, and whom He can bless as ‘may he be happy always– Ashamsanarham priyam vastu nityam asya asti iti Nandaki. Thus, he does not even refer to the divine weapon in his interpretation.
Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the same interpretation as Sri Sankara with ‘Vijnaanatmako nandako asih asya asti iti Nandaki’ – The Sword that cuts ignorance and the Lord as the carrier of the Sword cuts ignorance and gives jnana and hence He is called Nandaki.
Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the following explanation: ‘The Lord’s Sword is called Nandaka. Therefore, this term indicates One Who holds and wields the nandaka sword. The word nanda-kam means ‘that which brings bliss’. The Shastras sing that this divine Sword in the sacred hands of Lord Hari represents the spiritual Knowledge (vidya- tattva) with which a seeker can destroy his ignorance of the Self in him’.
- Chakri – He Who has the Chakra, the Discus
This Nama has been described earlier in Shloka 97. Chakra refers to the Discus or the Wheel and Bhagavan who carries this Chakra, which is a powerful weapon to execute His enemies swiftly, is called Chakri. Bhagavan, in His Krishna Avataar, uses the Sudarshan Chakra to punish Shishupala.
The Vishnu Puranam says ‘Bala svarupam atyanta javenantarivaanilam Chakra svarupashcha mano dhatte Vishnuh kare sthitam’ – The Chakra is a powerful weapon that remains in his hand, representing the mind principle, which is very strong and moves faster than the wind.
Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Manas tatvaatmakam Sudarshanakhyam Chakram Asya asti iti; Samsaarachakram asya Aajnayaa Parivartate iti vaa Chakri’. There are two different explanations for this. The first is that ‘He possesses the Discus called Sudarshana representing the human mind, hence He is called Chakri’. The human mind moves quickly but very light and powerful. His Discus called Sudarshana has the same qualities and it is auspicious and awesome.
The second explanation is that the wheels of Samasara or the worldly existence revolves at His command hence He is called Chakri, the controller of the wheel of Samsara. Here Chakra means a ‘Kala Chakra’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar notes that the Chakra in His hands is smeared with the blood of the Asuras who are the sworn enemies of the Devas and His devotees. The Chakra also emanates flames shooting in all directions.
The Lord’s Chakra is called Sudarshana denoting its beauty and charm, yet it is fierce invoking fear. Something similar to Bhagavan’s Narasimha Avataar who was full of kindness and compassion to Prahlada but ferocious and fierce to Hiranyakashipu.
It is very interestint to note that according to Agama Shastras, In many temples, the Sudharshana Chakra has Yoga Narasimhar to His back. The Yoga Narasimhar bears Sudarshana Chakra in all His four hands. This joint vigraha of Sudharshana and Yoga Narasimhar is a feature in many temples. This has special significance and it is believed that devotees praying to Sudarshana and Yoga Narasimhar vigraha will have their difficulties dissipate and experience His blessings.
Sri V.V.Ramanujan gives several references from the Divya Prabandham:
- eppodum kai kazhala nemiyaan nam mel vinai kadivaan (Sri NammAzhwar in Periya Thiruvandhadhi Pasuram 87) – The Lord who permanently wields a discus will rid us of our Karmas.
- Azhiyum Sangum Sumappaar (Thiruvai Mozhi 8.3.3) – He Who carries the Discus and the Conch in His hands.
- Kurar Azhi ven Sangu Endik kodiyen paal vaaraay (Sri NammAzhwar in Thiruvai Mozhi 6.9.1) – Will you not come to this wicked self one day, with your conch and discus in hand?
- Naangu Tholan kuni Sarngan on Sangu Gadhai Vaal Azhiyaan (Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi 8.8.1) – He has four arms, with the beautiful weapons (Sarnga – the Bow, Sankha – the Conch, Gadha – the mace, Khadga – the Sword, and Chakra – the Discus).
- Padmanabhan kaiyil Azhi pol minni valam puri pol nindru adirndu – (Sri Andal’s Tiruppavai 4) – Lord Padmanabha, strike lightning like the resplendent discus on the mighty shoulder, roar with thunder with the great conch, come pouring down on us like arrows cast from the Saarnga bow, that we too may live and enjoy.
- Tadavarait Thol Chakrapani – (PeriAzhwar Thirumozhi 5.4.4) – The Lord with mountain like shoulders bearing the Chakra in His hand.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha takes a more generic meaning for the term Chakra as something going round and round or happening again and again in circles, and gives the interpretation that Bhagavan has the Nama ChakrI because He has established this world with events that happen again and again in circles – such as the appearance of the Sun, the Moon, the Planets, etc.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives several additional references:
- Sudarshanam Chakram asahya tejah (Srimad Bhagavatam 8.20.30) – The Sudarshana Chakra with its intense brilliance.
- Sankha Chakra dharo Harih (Srimad Ramayanam 1.45.22) – Lord Vishnu who bears the Conch and the Chakra.
- Namaste Chakra hasthaaya (VishNu Puranam 5.30.22) – Obeisance to Lord with the Chakra in His hand.
Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as ‘One Who carries the Sudarshana Chakra’. Sudarshana means ‘that which gives the auspicious vision and the Shastras characterise the Divine Discus as a representation of the human mind”.
Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan explains the Nama as ‘tejas-tattvam Sudarshana Chakram asya asti iti Chakri – He Who bears the Sudarshana Chakra that represents the tattva of Tejas’.
- Shaarnga-dhanva – He Who has the Bow named Shaarnga
The word Shaarnga can be derived from the root ‘Srr – himsayam’ meaning ‘to tear to pieces, to hurt, to kill’ and the word dhanush is derived from the root ‘dhan – Sabde’ meaning ‘to sound’.The root word is ‘Dhanus’ meaning ‘a bow’ and Bhagavan carries a bow called ‘Shaarnga’.
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Indriyaadi Ahamkaratmakam Shaarngam nama dhanuh asya asti iti Sharngadhanva – He carries a bow in His hands named Shaarnga representing the sense organs and the ego or Ahamkaara and hence He is called Shaarngadhanva’. The bow itself represents the ego and the arrows are the sense organs. So the weapon as a whole represents the ego and the supporting sense organs. Just like the bow is powerless without the arrows so also the ego is powerless without the sense organs supporting it.
Sri Parasara Bhattar describes the greatness of the Shaanga bow as one that is capable of destroying not only the evil forces, but even the names and status of the enemies, by a mere twang (the sound caused by the vibration of the chord of the bow) echoing in a powerful and fiery manner. Added to this is the power of the sharp arrows shooting out of the bow.
Sri Bhattar further explains that the Shaarnga dhanus destroys its enemies in two ways: First by the sound that emanates when its chord is plucked, and then from the shower of arrows issuing from it – ‘jyagosha Sara-varsha naashita’. The sound emanating from the string of the bow rejuvenates the Ashritas and shatters the will of the enemies.
Bhagavan’s bow is called Kodhandam in His Rama Avataar. The Bow is Sri Rama’s primary weapon and in Srimad Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna (B.G. 10.31) says ‘Of the wielders of weapons, I am Rama’. Bhagavan gives His darshan as Shaarngapani in Kumbakonam’s ‘Sarangapani Temple’ (Shaarngapani has over time become ‘Sarangapani’). Sri Rama has charming and beautiful vigrahas, wielding the Bow, in Vaduvur, and in Madhurantakam (where he is called as ‘Eri kaatha Ramar’ – one who protected the banks of the Lake from breaking despite incessant rains).
Sri Andal glorifies the Shaarnga dhanus, in her Thiruppavai Pasuram (4) – Azhi pol minni, valam puri pol nindru adirndu taazhade Shaarngam udaitta Sara mazhai pol vaazh ulaginil peididaai… – an appeal to the Rain-god to shower rain like the shower of arrows that are released from Shaarnga, the divine bow in the Lord’s hands. Note that instead of comparing the shower of arrows to the rain, Andal compares the rain to the shower of arrows, meaning that the rain can only try to match the shower of arrows shooting out from the Shaarnga bow.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj refers to the great sound of the bow as described in Srimad Bhagavatam – ‘dhanushca Shaarngam stanayitnughosham’ (8.20.30) – The Shaarnga bow that makes the sound that is like thunder.
Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as ‘One Who aims His unerring Bow called Shaarnga’. He continues: ‘This bow of Narayana is glorified in our texts as representing the Ego, as the apex of all the sense organs, Ahankara-tattva’.
Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan explains the Nama as – Kriya tattvam Shaarngam dhanuh asya iti Shaarnga-dhanva – He Who bears the bow by name Shaarnga that represents the kriya tattvam.
- Gadaa-dharah – He Who bears the Mace
‘Gadaa’ means ‘a mace’ and ‘Dharah’ means ‘a bearer or carrier’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this name as ‘Buddhi tatvaatmikaam Kaumodakim nama Gadaam vahan Gadaadharah – He carries a mace called Kaumodaki which is symbolic of human intellect and hence He is called Gadaadharah or the mace-carrier’.
Vishnu Puranam says ‘Pradhaanam Buddhirapyaaste gadaa rupena Madhave – Intellect abides in Madhava in the form of His mace’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar describes the ‘Kaumodaki’ as the ‘queen of maces, that gives Him pleasure and that emits flames all around like the fire at the final dissolution of the Universe’. Bhagavan in His Varaha Avataar used Kaumodaki to overpower Hiranyakshan and retrieved the Earth from the depths of the Ocean.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha compares the sound that emanates from the Kaumodaki to the sound that one hears from thunders.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains the Nama as ‘Kumudah is One Who rejoices in the company of Bhumi Devi. Kumodakah is One Who makes the Earth happy. KaumodakI is that which belongs to Him – Kumodakasya idam.
Sri Krishna datta Bharadvaj gives reference to Srimad Bhagavatam – KaumodakI Vishnu gada tarasvinI (8.20.31) – Kaumodaki, Vishnu’s Gada, has enormous strength.
- Rathaanga-panih – He Who is armed with the wheel in His hand
Ratha is a chariot, Anga is a part and Pani is palm. Taken together Rathaangapani gives the meaning of someone who holds the part of chariot or the wheel in his hand. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Rathaangam chakram asya paanau Sthitam iti Rathaangapanih – The part of a chariot, the wheel, is held by him in his palms hence He is called Rathaangapani, the holder of the wheel in His palms’.
The emphasis in this Nama is on Paani or the palm showing His readiness to protect His devotees. So He is not only a Chakri but a Chakrapanih.
Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that in Nama 995, Bhagavan being the Possessor of the Ayudham or weapon was described, whereas in the current Nama His readiness for action (having the Chakra ready in His hand for release) is described, and thus there is no repetition
In periya Thiruvandhaadhi (87), Sri NammAzhwar desribes this readiness as ‘Eppozhudum kai kazhala nemiyaan’ – He Who has the discus that is always in His hand.
Another interpretation given for the Nama is a reference to the incident where Bhagavan jumped from the chariot and rushed towards Bhishma during the MahaBharata war with the wheel of the chariot in His hand, just to make the promise made to His devotee Bhishma come true, even when it involved His breaking His own promise not to take to weapons during the war.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers us to Bhishma’s own description of this incident:
Sva-nigamam apahaaya mat-pratijnaam
Rtam adhikartum avapluto rathasthah |
Dhrita ratha caranah abhyayaat calatguh
Haririva hantum ibham gatottariyah || (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.9.37)
Meaning: Giving up His promise not to take arms in the battle, and just to fulfill my promise that I will make Him take arms, He who had ascended the chariot jumped down and rushed towards me with the haste that made the earth shake, like a lion that was rushing to kill an elephant. He even dropped His outer garment on the way.
Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan also gives the interpretation in terms of Bhagavan bearing the wheel of the chariot in order to fulfill the vow of His devotee (He had assured Bhishma that He will break His vow just like Bhishma was forced to break his vow to Duryodhana by blessing Draupadi) – Bhakta pratijna pratipalakataam atisiaghyatvaat punaraha rathaangapanir iti Bhishmam prati pradarshitam etat.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the following derivation – The word ‘Ratha’ is derived from the root ‘Ramu – kreedaayaam’ meaning ‘to play or to sport’ and by adding ‘Ratha’ and ‘anga’ he explains it as ‘Rathah angati yena tad Rathaangam – That which makes the chariot go is Rathaangam or wheel’. Hence, He is known as the holder of the wheel which is again a reference to the Bhishma incident.
- Akshobhyah – He Who is Unshakable
We covered this Nama earlier in Shloka 86. This Nama is derived from the root ‘kshubh kshobh’ which means ‘to be agitated or disturbed’. So Akshobhyah means someone who cannot be shaken or disturbed. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Ata eva Ashakya kshobhanah iti Akshobhyah – Because of the reason that He is not shaken or agitate, He is called Akshobhyah, the Unshakeable One’.
In other words, He is unassailable being endowed with all these formidable weapons like the Discus, the Conch, the Mace the Sword and the Bow.
Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interprets this Nama as ‘Prapanna abhaya dana daaradhyaat Svamahimnapi Akshobhyah – He Who cannot be shaken from the firm vow that He has taken to protect those who have surrendered to Him; this vow of His cannot be shaken even by His own Great Self”.
One is reminded of the words of Bhagavan found in Saranagati Gadyam of Bhagavad Ramanuja:
Anrtam nokta purvam me na ca vakshye kadacana –
Ramo dvir-nabhibhashate ||
Meaning: I have never uttered an untruth before, and will never utter one ever. Rama never talks with two tongues.
In Srimad Ramayana (Aranya Kanda 4.10.17b, 4.10.18 and 4.10.19a), Sri Rama says to Sita:
संश्रुत्य न च शक्ष्यामि जीवमानः प्रतिश्रवम् |
मुनीनाम् अन्यथा कर्तुम् सत्यम् इष्टम् हि मे सदा |
अपि अहम् जीवितम् जह्याम् त्वाम् वा सीते स लक्ष्मणाम् ||
न तु प्रतिज्ञाम् संश्रुत्य ब्राह्मणेभ्यो विशेषतः |
Meaning: Having promised to the Sages it is incapable of me to do otherwise while I am alive, truth is dearer to me, isn’t it. I may forfeit my life, forgo Lakshmana, or even forsake you but not a promise that too made especially to Brahmins and having promised thus, I can never go back.
In Srimad Ramayana (Yuddha Kanda 18.33), Sri Rama says:
Sakrdeva prapannaya tavasmi ca yacate |
Abhayam sarva bhutebhyo dadamy etad vratam mama ||
Meaning: He who seeks refuge in me just once, telling me that ‘I am yours’, I shall give him the assurance of safety against all types of beings. This is my solemn pledge.
In Srimad Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 18 Verse 66), Bhagavan Sri Krishna says:
Sarva dharman parityajya mAm ekam Saranam vraja |
Aham tvam Sarva papebhyo moksha isyami ma sucah ||
Meaning: Abandon all forms of righteous actions and just surrender unto Me exclusively. I will release you from all sinful reactions. Do not despair.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the word kshobhyah, giving the sense of ‘Sakyarthe arharte va – One who is capable of or one who is fit to be’. Thus, Khshobhyah means ‘one who can be agitated, perturbed or shaken’, and Akshobhyah means ‘One who cannot be shaken’ – na kshobhayitum = sancalayitum Sakyah Akshobhyah.
Lord Rama reinforces His commitment to protect anyone who approaches Him with sincerity, during Vibhishana Saranagati:
Mitra bhavena sampraptam na tyajeyam kathancana |
Dosho yadyapi tasya syat sataam etat agarhitam ||(Yuddha Kanda 18.3)
Meaning: By any means, I will not forsake anyone who arrives with a friendly disposition, even if that person has any faults. His acceptance is irreproachable in the eyes of good men.
Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives essentially the same interpretation – tyakta Shastro’pi kshobhayitum gharshitum ashakyatvaat Akshobhyah.
Swami ChinmayAnanda through the following words, One Who cannot be exasperated by anyone, by any act or acts, however blasphemous they may be; One Whose peace and calm cannot be stormed out by any happening in his outer world; Ever-peaceful. The term suggests Infinite patience, love and kindness towards man and his frailties”.
- Sarva-Praharana-Ayudhah – He Who has Infinite weapons at His disposal
Sarva-Praharana-Ayudhah refers to someone who is endowed with weapons of every description, both conventional and unconventional. The five conventional weapons that were described earlier are by no means confined to those five weapons. He commands an infinite range of weapons. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara explains this Nama as ‘Kevalam Etaavanti Aayudhani asya iti na niyamyate, api tu Sarvaani eva Praharanani aayudhani asya iti SarvaPraharanaAyudhaah – He is not restricted to using only the above mentioned weapons; He uses weapons of every description, hence He is called Sarvapraharanaayudhah, the user of every possible weapon’.
Sri Adi Sankara further expounds this Nama as ‘Ayudhatvena Aprasiddhaanyapi Karajaadeeni Asya Aayudhaani bhavanti iti – For instance, when He took the incarnation as Narasimha, He used His claws as effective weapon in overpowering the demon Hiranyakashipu’. He further says ‘Ante SarvaPraharanaAyudha iti vachanam Satyasankalpatvena Sarveshvaratvam darshayitum – This Nama is chosen as the last Nama to emphasise Bhagavan’s determination to establish Dharma and His overlordship’. Mandukya Upanishad says ‘Esha Sarveshvarah – He is the Overlord’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar explains that the Nama signifies that Bhagavan possesses countless Ayudhas that are very powerful in removing all the obstacles encountered by the prapannas (those who have unconditionally surrendered to Him), are befitting His greatness, possess the great power to destroy the enemies of His devotees, serve as both ornaments and armaments to Him, and which have taken a vow as it were, to protect His devotees always, in all places, and through all means. Just as He has infinite Shakti, He has infinite Ayudhas.
Sri Bhattar explains that ‘Deergha satra yaaga’ can be enjoyed as referring to Bhagavan’s long and never-ending yaaga of His undertaking to protect all His Creation. All of Bhagavan’s actions, including His carrying of weapons, are solely for the protection of His devotees.
Praharanam means ‘striking, attacking, hurting’ etc. Sarvani praharanaani Ayudhani yasya iti Sarva-Praharana-Ayudah – He Who has all kinds of destructive weapons to punish the evil.
The distinct contrast between Sri Sankara and Sri Bhattar is that Sri Sankara concludes the final Nama by emphasising Lord’s Sarveshvaratvam i.e. OverLordship over all, whereas Sri Parasara Bhattar concludes that the Nama by emphasising Bhagavan’s Saulabhyam and Sausheelyam (affability and affection) and signifies Bhagavan’s ever-readiness to go for the protection of His devotees with all His weapons.
While Sri Sankara mentions Bhagavan’s use of His claws (Narasimha Avataar) as Ayudham, Sri Radhakrishna Shastri goes one step further and refers to Sri Rama using dharba grass as a weapon to attack Kakasura, the sucking of the milk from Putana etc. The point to enjoy is that He uses anything as a weapon to destroy the wicked and He will use anything to protect His devotee as well – He is Satyasankalpan; by His mere Will, He can accomplish anything He wishes.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri Andal’s Thiruppavai (25): ‘kanjan vayitril nerppenna nindra nedumale – He struck fear deep down the guts of Kamsan by His very thought’. Sri Ramanujan further explains that Bhagavan can destroy all His enemies through His mere Will.
A question arises then, if Bhagavan is all powerful, why is it that He carries all these weapons? One possible explanation is that He carries them so that they will induce terror in the hearts of the enemies of His devotees, and at least in some cases, they will desist from harming His devotees, without His having to punish them.
For instance, Lord Rama Himself tells Sugreeva (Yuddha Kanda 18.23):
Pisacan daanavaan yakshaan prithivyam caiva Raakshasan |
Angulyagrena taan hanyaam icchan Hariganeshvara ||
Meaning: O’ King of the army of monkeys! It is quite possible for Me to destroy all the ghosts, the Asuras, the Yakshas, and all these Rakshasas with the tip of My finger, if I so desire.
Another aspect of His many divya Ayudhas is that they are nityasUri- s who worry about His protection out of their love and attachment to Him, even though He does not need any protection Himself. But it is their love of Him that makes them be always on the lookout for His protection, and so they all reside in His tirumEni, always watching out for any unforeseen enemies. Recall periyAzhwar singing pallANDu for Him, for His divine weapons, etc., all because of his concern for the welfare of emperumAn, driven by His deep love to Him.
With this Nama, we conclude the write-up on the 1000 Namas of Lord Vishnu. There are some versions that include the Nama ‘Sarva-Praharana-Ayudha Om Nama iti‘ followed by the Vanamali Shloka.
Sarvapraharanaayudha Om Nama iti:
As per Sri Adi Sankara, ‘Dvir vachanam Samaaptim dyotayati – the second use of the same name shows the conclusion of the 1000 names’. ‘Omkaarashcha Mangalaarthah’. Also the use of ‘OM’ denotes the auspiciousness of the 1000 names. In support, he quotes from BrihanNaradeeya Puraanam (1.51.10) which says ‘Omkarashchatha shabdashcha Dvavetau Bramhanah Pura; Kantham bhitvaa Viniryaatau Tasmaan Mangalika Ubhau – The words ‘OM’ as well as ‘ATHA’ which came out of the throat of Bramha are auspicious for that very reason’.
The use of ‘Namah’ at the end is a reiteration of the importance of bowing to Bhagavan at all times. Sri Adi Sankara puts it as ‘Ante Namah ityuktvaa Paricharanam Kritavaan- At the end it offers obeisance by using the word Namah’. Isavasya Upanishad (18) says ‘Bhuyishthaam te Nama uktim Vidhema – We offer Thee many words of salutation with the word Namah’.
Sri Sankara emphasises the importance of salutation at the end of any act. He says ‘Praag iti upalakshanam Antepi Namaskaarasya Shishtaih Aacharanaat – All devotees offer their salutation to Bhagavan at the end of an act’. The fruit of the act of salutation is exemplified in the following verses from Mahabharatam:
‘Ekopi Krishnasya Kritah Praanaamo Dashaashvamedhaavabhritena Tulyah |
Dashaashvamedhee Punareti Janma KrishnaPranaamee na Punarbhavaaya ||
Meaning: Even one salutation, offered with sincerity to Sri Krishna, is equivalent to ten Ashvamedha Yagnas. He who has performed the Ashvamedha Yagna can still take another birth, but he who salutes Krishna is never born again.
Atasee Pushpa sankaasham Peetavaasasam Achyutam |
Ye Namasyanti Govindam Na teshaam Vidyate Bhayam ||
Meaning: There is no fear for those who bow before Govinda, whose colour resembles that of the atasI flower, who is clad in yellow pitaambaram, and who never lets His devotees fall.
Lokatrayaadhipatim Apratima Prabhaavam
Eeshat Pranamya Shirasaa PrabhaVishnum Eesham
Aashu Prashaantim Upayaati narasya Paapam’
Meaning: The evil acts committed by a man in his innumerable previous births, over a thousand kalpas and pralayas, are immediately destroyed by bowing down the head before the Supreme Lord Vishnu of unparalleled excellence, and the Master of the three worlds.
Sri Parasara Bhattar has beautifully connected the sequence of the 1000 Namas. He has identified a structure in the composition that refers to the Gunas of the Lord in the five manifestations in which He has revealed Himself to us, as described in the Pancaratra Agamas. These manifestations are: para, vyuha, vibhava, arca, and antaryami.
The Final Shloka:
Vanamaali Gadee Shaarngee Shankhee Chakri cha Nandaki |
Srimaan Narayano Vishnuh Vasudevo Abhirakshatu ||108|| (To be chanted 3 times)
| Sri Vasudevo’bhirakshatu Om Nama Iti |
While Sri Sankara, Sri Bhattar and others have not commented on this Shloka, traditionally this is an essential part of the Sahasranamam recitation. Let’s look at the meaning of these Namas:
- Vanamaali means the One who adorns the garland of forest flowers. This garland is also called Vaijayanti. We have seen this Nama earlier in Shloka 60 ‘Bhagavan Bhagahaanandi VaNamaali Halaayudhah’.
- Gadee means the bearer of the mace and the mace is called Kaumodaki representing intellect.
- Shaarngi means the one who is carrying a bow called Shaarngam (quite often referred to as Saranga in South India and there is a temple in Kumbakonam called Sarangapani which actually represents Sri Vishnu holding His Shaarnga bow and hence called Sarangapani). The bow stands for the Rajasic qualities.
- Shankhi means the bearer of the Conch. Sri Krishna carries a Conch called Panchajanyam. The blowing of the Conch can instil fear. The Conch represents Tamasic qualities.
- Chakri means the bearer of the Discus or the wheel as a weapon. Bhagavan’s Chakra is called Sudrashana and it stands for the qualities of the mind because the mind is constantly revolving around various thoughts just like a wheel.
- Nandaki means the bearer of the sword named Nandaka which is one of His five weapons. Nandaka stands for knowledge or Vidya. The sword of learning cuts through one’s ignorance just like the sword in a battle cuts the enemy.
- Srimaan means One who possesses ‘Sri’. The term ‘Sri’ has many meanings such as beauty, wealth and also denotes Goddess Lakshmi. Bhagavan has all of these and hence, very rightly called Srimaan.
- Narayanah – ‘Nara’ means Atman and ‘Ayanam’ means journey or abode. Narayana is therefore someone residing in all beings. This Nama is the basis the powerful Ashtaakshari Mantra ‘Om Namo Narayanaaya’.
- Vishnuh means someone who pervades the entire Cosmos.
- Vasudevah means the Divinity who covers the whole Universe by Maya. It also means son of Vasudeva and the one who is both Vasu and Deva.
- Abhirakshatu seeks to invoke His blessings to protect the devotees. This is a fitting finale to the SahasraNamam and this concludes with a request to the Lord for the welfare and protection of those who recite it.
Protect us O’ Lord Narayana, Who wears the garland of forest flowers, Who has the Mace, Conch, the Discus and the Sword, and Who is called Vishnu and Vasudeva.
Shankhabhrin Nandaki Chakri Shaarngadhanva Gadaadharah |
Rathaangapaanir Akshobhyah Sarva-praharana-ayudhah ||107||
||Sri Sarva-praharana-ayudha Om Nama Iti ||
Vanamaali Gadi Saarngi Shankhi Chakri ca Nandaki |
Srimaan Narayano Vishnur Vasudevo Abhirakshatu ||108|| [Chant this Shloka 3 times]
| Sri Vasudevo’bhirakshatu Om Nama Iti |
He adorns the divine Conch Pancajanya and hence called as Shankhabhrit. He has the divine Sword called Nandaka and so He is called Nandaki. He holds the Sudharsana Chakra and hence called Chakri. He bears the divine Shaarnga Bow and hence called Shaarngadhanva. He holds the divine Kaumodaki Mace and hence knows as Gadaadharah.
Bhagavan holds the five divine weapons, namely, the Conch, the Sword, the Discus, the Bow and the Mace ever ready to protect His devotees.
He is wielder of Wheel and hence called Rathaangapanih. He is Unshakeable from His resolve, so He is Akshobhyah. He has Infinite weapons at His disposal and is ever ready to act to protect His devotees, so He is called Sarva-prahana-ayudhah.
Protect us O’ Lord Narayana Who wears the garland of forest flowers, Who has the Mace, the Conch, the Discus and the Sword, and also called Vishnu and Vasudeva.
Salutations to Sri Vasudeva, May you Protect us.
OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA
HARI OM TAT SAT
This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.