In this FINAL PART of the Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam series, we will explore the meaning of the PhalaShruti (benefits) of chanting of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

PhalaShruti 1

Bhishma Uvaca:
Iteedam Kirtaniyasya Keshavasya Mahatmanah |
NaamNaam Sahasram Divyaanaam Aseshena prakirtitam || (1)
Meaning: Bhishma says, ‘Thus, the thousand divine Namas of Bhagavan Keshava, the Supreme Being, Who is worthy of being praised, have been sung in their entirety’.

Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Iteedam iti anena Namasahasram Anyuna Anatiriktam iti Darshayati Divyanam Apraakritanaam naamnaam Sahasram Prakirtitam iti vadataa Prakarantarenapi Sankhyopapattir darshitaa – The term ‘iteedam’ clearly indicates that the thousand Namas are divine in nature and complete, neither short nor excess of thousand. Also the term ’Prakirtitam’ implies the the fulfilment of the thousand Namas at the end of the shloka.

Sri Sankara further says ‘Prakrame Kim Japan muchyate Jantuh’ iti Japa Shabda upaadaanaat Kirtayet iti anena api trividha Japo lakshyate; Uccha Upaamshu Maanasa Lakshanas trividhah Japah – Both Japa and Kirtana as a form of recitation is mentioned. The significance of this is that Sri Vishnu- Sahasranama can be performed in any of the three forms viz. chanting loudly, whisper to self or by mental contemplation’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that the word ‘kirtaniyasya’ has been chosen to indicate that Bhagavan richly deserves the praise, and by using this word, Bhishma is impressing upon Yudhishtra to begin the recitation of the Namas right awaynstant. The choice of Keshava in this verse is intentional and signifies the all encompassing trinity (Supreme Being).  ‘Ka’ means Brahma, ‘A’ means Vishnu and ‘Isa’ means Rudra; hence ‘Kesa’ denotes Trimurthi’s (the three embodiments) who are under His control.

The word ‘Divyanaam’ means ‘divine’ and applied to the Namas signifies that the Namas are worthy of being sung in this world as well as in Sri Vaikuntham. The word ‘Asheshena’ is used to denote that nothing that is significant or important has been left out by Bhishma in his communication to Yudhistra, and everything that needs to be known has been taught.

PhalaShruti 2

Ya Idam Shrunuyannityam Yashchapi Parikirtayet
Naashubham Praapnuyaat Kinchit Somutreha cha Maanavah ||2||

Sri Adi Sankara explains that nothing inauspicious or unwelcome will accrue to those in this world or the next, when one hears this daily or recites it. The word ‘Amutra’ meaning in the next world has a special significance pointed out by Sri Sankara ‘Paraloka Praaptasyaapi Yayaati Nahushaadivat Ashubhapraapti abhaavam Suchayitum Amutra ityuktam’ – Yayaati and Nahusha ended up suffering after reaching the higher world, because they committed sins even after reaching there. Such inauspicious instances will not happen to those who chant or listen to this divine Sahasranamam’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that he, who according to his qualification and ability, hears it or meditates on it in his mind, will encounter nothing inauspicious in this world, or hereafter. Note that the benefit is attained by chanting, as well as by listening.

PhalaShruti 3

Vedantago Bramhanas Syaat Kshatriyo Vijayee Bhavet                     |
Vaishyo Dhanasamruddhas Syaat Shudrah Sukham Avapnuyat ||3||

The basic meaning is ‘The Brahmins will get knowledge. The Kshatriyas will get victory. The Vaishyas will get abundant wealth. The Shudras will get peace and happiness chanting these Namas’.

Sri Adi Sankara gives a very elaborate commentary on the meaning of this Shloka. He explains ‘Vedantanam Upanishadam artham Bramha gacchati Avagacchati iti Vedantagah – The one who understands or grasps the meaning of Vedanta or Upanishads is Vedantagah’.

He explains further with reference to the question ‘Kim Japan Muchyate Jantuh Janmasamsaara bandhanaat?’ from the prelude to Vishnu Sahasranamam ‘What sort of meditation helps us to get liberated from the bondage of earthly existence?’ It clearly shows that liberation is not achieved by any sort of action but only by knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment. This is emphasised by the phrase ‘Vedantago Bramhanas Syaat’. Sri Sankara further states ‘Karmanaam tu Antah karana Shuddhidvaarena Mokshahetutvam – Action is an effective tool for liberation by purifying the mind but is not sufficient by itself’.

He quotes a number of Shlokas to further this concept:

  • Kashaayapaktih Karmaani Jnaanam tu Pramaa gatih
    Kashaaye karmabhih Pakve Tato jnaanam Pravartate
    Meaning: Action is able to bring the mind to a state of maturity but liberation is achieved only through Knowledge, after the ground is prepared by action.
  • Nityam jnanam Samasadya Naro bandhaat pramuchyate – People get liberated after achieving the eternal knowledge.
  • Dharmaat Sukham cha jnanam cha Jnanat Moksho Adhigamyate – Out of righteous conduct, wealth and knowledge emerge and out of knowledge one gets final liberation’.
  • In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 5 Verse 11) Krishna says ‘Yoginah Karma kurvanti Sangam tyakvaa Atmashuddhaye’ – Yogis resort to action without attachment for purifying their minds.
  • Bramha Puranam (129.7) says ‘Karmanaa badhyate Jantuh Vidyaya eva Vimuchyate Tasmaat karma na kurvanti Yatayah Paaradarshinah’ – Action leads to bondage, only knowledge to liberation, hence those who seek liberation refrain from desirous action.
  • Garuda Puranam (1.237.6) says ‘Tapasaa Kalmasham Hanti Vidyayaa Amritam Ashnute; Jnaanam Utpadyate Pumsaam Kshayaat Paapasya Karmanah; Yathaadarshatalaprakhye Pashyati Aatmaanam Aatmani’ – One burns away the sins by penance but gains immortality through Knowledge; As the sin goes away Knowledge is generated and starts seeing the Self through the mirror of the self.

Sri Sankara gives further references from the Vedas and Upanishads. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (4.4.22) says:
Tametam Vedaanuvachanena Bramhanaa vividishanti |
Yajnena daanena tapasa anashakena ||
Meaning: The Bramhins seek to know it through the study of the Vedas, sacrifices, charity and austerity consisting of dispassionate enjoyment of sense-objects.

Veda says the following:

  • By performing any homam including the Darvihomam, only the mind is cleansed ‘Yena Kena Yajetaapi vaa Darvihomena anupahatamana eva bhavati’.
  • Liberation is achieved only by Knowledge – ‘Jnaanat eva moksho bhavati’.
  • Only from Knowledge Liberation and freedom from ties are possible – ‘Jnaadeva tu kaivalyam Praapyate tena muchyate’.
  • One who knows the Bramhan attains the highest – ‘Bramhavidyapnoti Param’.
  • One who knows the Self is free from misery – ‘Tarati Shokam Aatmavit’.
  • If you know the Bramhan you become the Bramhan – ‘Bramha veda Bramhaiva Bhavati’.
  • To know the Bramhan you have to become the Bramhan – ‘Bramhaiva San Bramhaapyeti’.
  • Knowing him you conquer death and there is no other way for salvation – ‘Tameva Viditvaa atimrityum eti Naanyah Panthaa Vidyate Ayanaaya’.
  • One who knows the joy of the Bramhan fears nothing – ‘Anandam Bramhano vidvaan na bibheti kutashchana’.
  • If within the human birth, if one attains that knowledge it is great, otherwise it is a great loss – ‘Iha chet Avedeet atha satyam asti na chet ihaavedeen mahatee Vinashtih’.
  • Just as it is never possible to roll up the akasa (sky) as a piece of leather (like a Saree) so it is utterly impossible to put an end to miseries of the world without the knowledge of the Lord – ‘Yadaa charmavat Aakaasham Veshtayishyanti Maanavaah; Tadaa Devam Avijnaaya Duhkhasayaanto Bhavishyati’.
  • You cannot attain immortality by actions, by progeny or by wealth; You can only do it by renunciation of everything – ‘Na Karmanaa na prajayaa dhanena Tyaagaa Naike Amrutatvam Aanashuh’.
  • This state of perfection, which is attained by the real sanyasis, is situated far beyond this world, and is difficult to reach for the ordinary man – ‘Vedaanta Vijnaana Sunishchitaarthaah Sanyaasayogaat Yatayash Shuddhasatvaah; Te Bramhaloke Tu Paraantakaale Paraamrutaah Parimuchyanti Sarve’.

Those Sanyasis, who after realising the actual import of the Vedas, having given up their personal sense enjoyment to be in the service of the Lord, and being completely free from the influence of the material world, will attain liberation from the material world at the end of their lives’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar declares the benefits attained by people of the four varnas, when they chant the Sahasranamam even without necessarily seeking any specific benefit, or following any special discipline etc.

PhalaShruti 4

Dharmaarthi Praapnuyaat Dharmam Arthaarthi Chartham Aapnuyaat |
Kaamaan Avaapnuyaat Kaami Prajaarthi Chaapnuyaat Prajaah ||4||
Meaning: The one who desires righteousness (Dharma), will be blessed with that; the one who desires worldly riches will be blessed with wealth; the one who wishes for the pleasures of life, will be bestowed with all pleasures; the one who desires progeny will be blessed with children.

PhalaShruti 5

Bhaktimaan Yah sadotthaaya Shucih tad-gata-manasah    |
Sahasram Vasudevasya Naamnaam Etat prakeertayet     ||5||
Meaning: He (the reciter of the 1000 Namas of the Lord) who is suffering from any disease will be rid of it. He who is in bondage will be liberated. He who is affected by fear will overcome it, and he who is in difficulties will be free of it.

The devotee, pure of mind and persevering with fully focussed attentive meditation should recite these one thousand Namas of Lord Vasudeva’

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s words are – ‘Atha niyama visheshavat japa rupa sankirtane bhaktasya sarva samriddhim Aha’ – One who recites these as Japa or kirtana will attain all kinds of benefits.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains that the stated benefis accrue to those who have single-minded devotion to Vasudeva, meditates on Him constantly, is pure in thought, word and deed, and chants the thousand Namas of Vasudeva as laid down in this Shloka.

  • Bhaktimaan – A devotee. Specifically, it refers to the devotee of Vasudeva (Vasudevasya Naamnaam) with single-minded devotion.
  • Sada utthaaya – always getting up early in the morning.
  • Shucih – The purity referred to is both external and internal. The external purity involves taking a bath etc. The other aspects of purification involved here are the strict observance of nitya karmas as laid down in the Shastras for the devotee, the Varna Ashrama dharmas. Our Acharyas emphasise that any activity undertaken without observing the nitya karmas will end up as a wasted effort.
  • tad-gata-manasah – The mind of the devotee should be concentrated on Bhagavan Vasudeva.
  • Prakirtayet – kirtana specifically refers to chanting, recitation. The specific benefits that such a devotee will attain are specified in the next three Shlokas.

PhalaShruti 6

Yashah Praapnoti Vipulam yaati Praadhaanyameva cha            |
Acalaam Shriyam Aapnoti Shreyah Prapnotyanuttamam ||6||
Meaning: He (the reciter of the 1000 Namas of the Lord) becomes endowed with great reputation and becomes the foremost among his kith and kin. He acquires undiminishing wealth in this world, and he also gets unexcelled prosperity in the next (namely, salvation).

Sri Parasara Bhattar has given his interpretation for the above Shlokas in two short sentences:

  • anuttamam Shreyah meaning Mukti
  • anye abhyudaya visheshaah meaning Salvation as all the other fruits mentioned are fruits of success in this world

Thus, for instance, being rid of fear in this world can be understood as the full confidence that Bhagavan will definitely redeem us from the ocean of Samsara at the end of this birth.

PhalaShruti 7

Na Bhayam Kvachit Aapnoti Viryam Tejashcha Vindati  |
Bhavatyarogo Dyutimaan Balarupagunanvitah           ||7||

There is no fear for him (the reciter of the 1000 Namas of the Lord) from any quarters. He acquires valour and power. He is endowed with good health and always shines. He is bestowed endowed with strength, a healthy body, and noble qualities’.

PhalaShruti 8

Rogaarto Muchyate Rogaat Baddho Muchyeta Bandhanaat |
Bhayaan Muchyeta Bheetastu Muchyetaapanna Aapadah ||8||
Meaning: He, who recites these 1000 Namas of the Lord, who is suffering from any disease will get over it. He who is in bondage will be relieved of it. He who is affected by fear will become free from it, and he who is in difficulties will become rid of them.

  • Rogarto mucyate rogaat – the devotee will be rid of the greatest of diseases, namely attachment to the worldly and materialistic objects of this life, and, above all, the attachment to this body and to all the things associated with the body;
  • Bhayaan mucyeta bhItah – the devotee will be rid of the greatest of all fears – the fear of repeated births, the fear of Samsara;
  • Yashah praapnoti – the devotee will be known for his single-minded devotion to Vasudeva, as his greatest accomplishment;
  • Dyutimaan, tejashca vindati – the tejas of such a devotee will be self-revealing, as we can feel in the presence of our Acharyas.

PhalaShruti 9

Durgaanyatitaratyaashu Purushah Purushottamam     |
Stuvan Naamasahasrena Nityam Bhaktisamanvitah ||9||
Meaning: The one who, with devotion, praises the Supreme Being (Purushottaman) reciting His thousand Namas daily, surmounts all difficulties very easily.

PhalaShruti 10

Vasudevaashrayo Martyo Vasudeva parayanah                 |
Sarva papa vishuddha atma Yaati Bramha Sanaatanam ||10||
Meaning: Any one, who has taken refuge of Vasudeva with the thought that Vasudeva is the highest goal to be reached, becomes cleansed of all sins and his mind becomes pure. He finally attains the eternal abode of Brahma.

PhalaShruti 11

Na Vasudeva Bhaktaanaam Ashubham Vidyate Kvachit   |
Janma Mrityu Jaraa Vyaadhi Bhayam Naivo pajaayate ||11||
Meaning: The devotees of Vasudeva need not worry of any inauspicious occurrence anytime. They will not have any fear from transitions like birth, death, old age and disease.

PhalaShruti 12

Imam Stavam Adheeyaanah Shraddha bhakti Samanvitah |
Yujyeta atma Sukhah Shanti Shri Dhriti Smriti Kirtibhih   ||12||
Meaning: The one who recites this with faith and devotion will attain peace of mind, forbearance, wealth, courage, strong memory and great fame.

Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Shraddha AstikyaBuddhih; Bhaktir Bhajanam Taatparyam; Aatmanah Sukham Aatmasukham; Tena cha Kshaantyaadibhishcha Yujyate – Shraddha means faith in the Lord; Bhakti means dedication and devotion to the Lord; Atmasukham means comfort within oneself; from these qualities one gets forbearance etc. automatically.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments – niyamavato bhaktasya anushanginim abhyudaya siddhim Aha – For the devotee who recites the Namas in accordance with the scriptural injunctions, there is attainment of prosperity of all kinds that come as a matter of course.

He explains the term Shraddha as sa-gaurava tvara – Eagerness associated with respect. He also comments that bhakti is a result of highly meritorious acts – bhagavati bhaktih mahatah su-kritasya phalam. Thus a true devotee should chant the shlokas with sincere devotion and interest, and should accompany the chanting with other meritorious acts as a way of life. Sri Bhattar further adds that ‘Govinda bhaktyabhyadhikam Sreyashca anyat na vidyate’ – There is no act superior to unflinching devotion to Lord Govinda.

Sri V.V. Ramanujam has used the term anusandhanam (which means inquiry, investigation, scrutiny etc.), in the context of this Shloka. Thus, the difference between the two, is that the first discusses the benefits attained by the Bhakta who chants the Shloka, while the second is about the benefits attained by the Bhakta who delves deep into the meanings etc.

PhalaShruti 13

Na Krodho Na Cha Maatsaryam Na Lobho Naashubhaa Matih |
Bhavanti Kritapunyaanaam Bhaktaanaam Purushottame    ||13||
Meaning: In the case of the devotees of the great Lord, who have acquired lot of good deeds (in order to be devotees), their mind is completely free from anger, jealousy, greed and evil thoughts.

Sri Adi Sankara gives the comment ‘Na Krodho, Na Lobho, Naashubhaa Matih iti ChakaaraanubandhaRahitena Nakaarena Samastam Padatrayam Krodhodayo Na Bhavanti Maatsaryam cha na Bhavati iti Arthah – In this phrase there is no ‘cha’ attached to Krodhah, Lobhah and Ashubhaa Matih but ‘cha’ is only added to Maatsarya implying that not only anger, lust and evil thoughts are absent in the devotees, but also jealousy is absent’. Since other three generally coexist with jealousy, the absence of jealousy is purely incidental to the absence of the other three and hence the use of ‘cha’ or ‘also’ for jealousy.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that as a matter of natural course, these defects by themselves keep away from the devotees of Lord Vasudeva.

PhalaShruti 14

Dvauh sa Chandraarka Nakshatram Kham Disho BhurMahodadhih |
Vasudevasya Viryena Vidhrutaani Mahaatmanah                    ||14||
Meaning: The firmament with the Sky, the Sun, the  Moon and the stars embedded in it, all the directions, the Earth and the Ocean – all these are held together in place by the power of the great Bhagavan Sri Vasudeva.

Sri Parasara Bhattar says that there is nothing to doubt about the power and greatness of Bhagavan Sri MahaVishnu, as described in the current Shloka and the next few Shlokas.

PhalaShruti 15

SasuraasuraGandharvam Sa yakshoragaRaakshasam       |
Jagadvashe Vartatedam Krishnasya Sacharaacharam ||15||
Meaning: This entire world, with all its movable and immovable objects (including the Devas, the Asuras, the Gandharvas, the Yakshas, the Snakes and the Demons), is fully under the total control of Lord Krishna.

PhalaShruti 16

Indriyani Mano Buddhih Satvam Tejo Balam Dhritih                |
Vasudeva atmakaanyaahuh Kshetram Kshetrajna Eva Cha ||16||
Meaning: The scriptures declare that the sense-organs, mind, intellect, the quality of sattva, shine, strength, firmness, as well as the body and the Individual soul, all of them have Vasudeva as their Atma or Inner Soul.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that this state of all things being under the control of Vasudeva is explained as the body-soul relationship between all objects and Bhagavan. This relationship between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul as one of body-soul relationship is a key aspect of the Vishishta Advaita philosophy.

PhalaShruti 17

Sarvaagamaanaam Aachaarah Prathamam Parikalpate             |
AachaaraPrabhavo Dharmah Dharmasya Prabhurachyutah ||17||
Meaning: All the scriptures declare proper conduct as the first priority in one’s life. Dharma or righteousness springs from right conduct and Achyuta is the foremost upholder of Dharma.

Sri Adi Sankara comments ‘Sarvaagamaanaam Aaacharah-iti anena Avaantara vaakyena Sarva dharmanaam Acharavatah eva Adhikaarah iti Darshayati – By this categorical statement Vyasa makes it very clear that right conduct lies at the root of all Dharma. In other words right conduct is the crystallised outcome of Dharma. Right conduct is the foremost discipline to be observed as noted in all the scriptures.

PhalaShruti 18

Rishayah Pitaro Devaah Mahabhutani Dhaatavah              |
Jangamajangamam Chedam JaganNarayanodbhavam ||18||
Meaning: All the Sages, the departed ancestors, the Devas, the great elements, their effects, the moving and the non-moving objects that comprise the Universe, all have their origin in Narayana.

Sri Parasara Bhattar notes that anything and anyone that is under the influence and control of Dharma has Bhagavan as their origin: dharmanubandhinAmapi tad udbhavatvam Aha.

PhalaShruti 19

Yogo Jnanam Tatha Sankhyam Vidyahs Shilpaadi Karma Ca |
Vedas Shastraani Vijnaanam Etat Sarvam Janardanaat         ||19||
Meaning: The science of Yoga, Sankhya, all branches of knowledge, the arts such as sculpture, all Vedas, all scriptures and all sciences were all brought to light by the grace of Lord Janardana.

PhalaShruti 20

Eko Vishnur Mahadbhutam PrithagBhutaanyanekashah          |
Tri Lokaan Vyapya Bhutatma Bhungte Vishvabhugavyayah ||20||

Sri MahaVishnu is One and has an Immense form, yet he divides Himself and exists in all beings in many different ways. He pervades the three worlds and rules over all of them. He enjoys them and consumes them. He himself has no death or decay.

Sri Parasara Bhattar provides a word-by-word meanings and interpretation:

  • Ekah – svayam ekah san – Being the Supreme Deity above all else;
  • Vyapya – tesham niyama Seshitva Adibhih Atma bhavan – By pervading, by being the Inner Soul of, Controller of, and Master of all beings
  • Anekashah prithak bhutani – asa’nkhyeyataya rupa-prakara- parinamaprayojana bhedena prithak ca sthitani mahanti bhutani – The great Elements that are of countless forms, manners, mutations, and utility which are distinct and different from one another.
  • Trin lokaan ca – Baddha mukta nityan cetanan – And of the three worlds of souls, namely, the bound souls, Released souls, and Eternal angels.
  • Vishva-bhuk – Sarvatha paripalakah – And by being the Sole Protector of everything in all the Worlds.
  • Tathapi – Even so,
  • Avyayah – tad-doshaih aparamrshtah, punashca para vibhutya – being untouched by the faults of any of the souls of whose He is the antaryami.
  • Mahad-bhutam – ava’ng-manasa gocarashca bhavan – His greatness is beyond description, either through words or imagination of the mind, etc.
  • Bhunkte – Leela bhoga rasam anubhavati – And He enjoys the pleasure of Divine Sport and Divine Bliss.

PhalaShruti 21

Imam Stavam Bhagavato Vishnor Vyasena Kirtitam                     |
Pathedya Icchet Purushah Shreyah Praaptum Sukhaani Ca ||21||
Meaning: Any person, who wishes to obtain supreme bliss as well as the pleasures of the world, should read this hymn of Bhagavan Vishnu composed by the great Sage Vyasa.

Sri Adi Sankara comments ‘Imam stavam ityaadina Sahasra Shakhajnena Sarvajnena Bhagavata Krishnadvaipayanena Saakshat Narayanena Kritamiti Sarvaireva Arthibhih Saadaram Pathitavyam Sarvaphalasiddhaye iti Darshayati – By the verse beginning with ‘imam stavam’, Bhishma indicates that this hymn is composed by the revered Sage Krishna Dvaipayana (Vyasa), the knower of all things, the knower of the thousand branches of Veda, who is Narayana Himself, and hence this hymn is to be recited by all with faith, in order to achieve all their wants. This shows the greatness of Sahasranamam both in terms of the greatness of the composer and the greatness of the subject.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments thus: ‘This Shloka sings the praise of Lord Vishnu, One possessed of unlimited greatness. The one who praises him is none other than Sage Veda Vyasa, who has drunk this greatness in full, and who has no dearth of words to describe that greatness. This gem of a hymn has the greatness of the One who is praised as well as the one who is praising Him. This world which is filled with destitution, is eminently deserving to benefit from the chanting of this Hymn, which is capable of redeeming this world from its penury. Thus, everything is perfect about this hymn, the person who is sung, the person who sings, and the beneficiary who is qualified to benefit by singing His praise. Therefore, any person desirous of Supreme Bliss or material pleasures, whoever he may be, can resort to it’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar in giving his summary above are: ‘Stava ratnam’ to describe Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram, ‘maha daridriyam idam jagat’ to describe the deplorable state of this world which is straying from Dharma, ‘nirvishankah sevatam’ — the benefits will be attained without any doubt. The Shloka itself declares that both Shreyas (denoting Moksham), and the lesser pleasures (sukhani ca) are attained by the chanting of this Hymn.

PhalaShruti 22

Vishveshvaram Ajam Devam Jagatah Prabhum Avyayam      |
Bhajanti Ye Pushkaraaksham Na Te Yaanti Paraabhavam ||22||
Na Te Yaanti Paraabhavam Om Nama Iti ||
Meaning: Bhagavan with Lotus-eyes is the Unborn Supreme Deity, the Ruler of the Universe, as well as the Controller of the Universe. Those who sing His praise will never meet with setback or discomfiture of any kind.

Sri Adi Sankara comments ‘Vishveshvaram Ityaadinaa Vishveshvara Upaasanaat eva Stotaarah Te Dhanyaah Kritaarthaah Kritakrityaa iti Darshayati – This Shloka beginning with Vishveshvaram shows that only by worshiping the Lord of the Universe namely Lord Vishnu, one’s desires are fulfilled and he becomes one who has accomplished everything that is required in one’s life’. In support, he quotes the following two verses from the Garuda Puranam:
Pramaadaat Kurvataam Karma Prachyavetaadhvareshu yat |
Smaranaadeva Tadvishnoh Sampoornam Syaaditi Shrutih ||
Meaning: Any mistake made in rites and sacrifices by carelessness are made good just by meditating on Lord Vishnu.

Sri Sankara further says, ‘Adarena Yatha Stouti Dhanavantam Dhanecchayaa Tathaa chet vishvakartaaram Ko na muchyeta bandhanaat – Just like a man wanting money respectfully pays homage to a rich person, any one who worships Bhagavan will not fail to attain liberation or Moksha’.

Sage Vyasa concludes the Hymn with the oath repeated twice – ‘na te yanti parabhavam, na te yanti parabhavam’ – Never do they meet with any disrespect. Never do they meet with any disrespect.

Sri Parasara Bhattar concludes with the following:
Asmakam atra ca paratranca sarva duhkham
UnmIlya sampadam ashesha vidham vidhaya |
Sri Rangaraja mahishi sa ca Vaishnavanam
Sangaat sukham saha jayena sada kriyaastaam ||
Meaning: May Sri Rangaraja, along with His Consort Sri Ranganayaki, root out all the distress here and hereafter, confer wealth of all kinds on us, and always bless us with happiness, victory and the company of the devoted Sri Vaishnavas.

PhalaShruti 23

Arjuna Uvaca:
Padmapatra Vishalaksha Padmanabha Surottama   |
Bhaktanaam Anuraktanam Trata Bhava Janardana ||23||

Arjuna said ‘Lord Vishnu! Your eyes are large like the lotus leaf. You have a lotus situated in your navel. You are the greatest among the Devas. Please protect your ardent devotees who are deeply engaged in your worship’. While saying this, Arjuna is speaking not just for himself but for all the devotees of the Lord.

PhalaShruti 24

Sri Bhagavan Uvaca:
Yo mam namasahasrena Stotum Icchati Pandava |
Soham Ekena Shlokena Stuta Eva Na Samshayah ||24||
Stuta Eva Na Samshaya Om Nama Iti
Meaning: Bhagavan said ‘Arjuna, when someone has the desire to worship me by reciting my thousand Namas, I consider myself worshiped even when he recites the first Shloka, there is no doubt about this.

Sometimes it so happens that the devotee has the sincere wish to recite the Sahasranamam but he is unable to proceed beyond a few shlokas due to some practical constraints. Bhagavan assures the devotee that it is not the quantity but the intent that matters. Even with one shloka, he considers Himself fully worshipped if it is recited with faith and devotion. The phrase ‘Stuta Eva Na Samshayah’ is repeated at the end for greater emphasis.

PhalaShruti 25

Vyasa Uvaca:
Vaasanad Vasudevasya Vasitam Bhuvanatrayam |
Sarvabhuta Nivaasosi Vasudeva Namostu te ||25||
Shree Vaasudeva Namostuta Om Nama iti
Meaning: Sage Vyasa said ‘The three worlds have become habitable only because Bhagavan Vasudeva is present there. Salutations to Vasudeva, who is the abode for all beings’. The phrase ‘Sri Vasudeva Namostuta Om Nama Iti’ is repeated at the end for greater emphasis.

PhalaShruti 26

Parvati Uvaca:
Kenopayena Laghuna Vishnor Nama Sahasrakam                         |
Pathyate Panditair Nityam Shrotum Icchaamyaham Prabho ||26||
Meaning: Goddess Parvati asked Lord Shiva, ‘O’ Lord, is there any simple and quick method by which learned people are able to recite every day the thousand Namas of Lord Vishnu? If so, I want to hear about it.

It is said that Shiva is an ardent devotee of Vishnu and hence Parvati has chosen the right person to ask about the recitation of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

PhalaShruti 27

Ishvara Uvaca:
Sri Rama Rama Rameti Rame Raame Manorame |
Sahasranama Tat tulyam Rama Nama Varanane ||27||
Rama Nama Varanana Om Nama iti
Meaning: Lord Shiva replied, ‘O’ beautiful lady, I derive pleasure by always chanting the Rama Nama repeatedly and uttering the Rama Nama even once is equivalent to reciting all the thousand Namas’.

So the simple way to recite the thousand Namas of the Lord is to recite the Rama Nama.

There is another Shloka which says ‘Maanasam Vaachikam Paapam Karmanaa samupaarjitam Sri Rama Smaranena Eva Vyapohati Na Samshayah – Any sin which one might have committed either in thought, or in speech or by action is annulled by simply meditating on the Rama Nama’. The phrase ‘Rama Nama Varanana Om Nama iti’ is for further emphasis.

PhalaShruti 28

Bramha Uvaca:
Namostvanantaaya Sahasramurtaye
Sahasra PadakshiShirorubahave
Sahasranamne Purushaaya Shaashvate
Sahasrakoti Yugadhaarine Namah            ||28||
Sahasrakoti Yugadhaarine Nama Om Nama iti
Meaning: This is a prayer from Bramha to Lord Vishnu. Salutations to the endless and immortal One, who has thousands of forms, thousands of feet, thousands of eyes and thousands of arms. Salutations to Him who has thousands of Namas, who is the soul in all beings and who is permanent. Salutations to Him who keeps creating billions of Yugas or time cycles.’

The phrase ‘Sahasrakoti Yugadharine Nama Om’ is recited again for emphasis.

PhalaShruti 29

Sanjaya Uvaca:
Yatra Yogeshvarah Krishno Yatra Paartho Dhanurdharah     |
Tatra Shreer Vijayo Vishnuh Dhruvaa Neetir Matir Mama ||29||

This is a Shloka from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 18 Verse 78). This was the statement of Sanjaya to Dhridharashtra at the conclusion of the dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna. This means ‘Where there is Krishna, the Lord of Yogas, and where there is Arjuna, wielder of the bow, there is fortune, victory, prosperity and infallible morality, in my opinion’.

Sanjaya’s final statement in the Gita can be viewed from three standpoints.

  • Taken literally, we can see that Sanjaya wanted to very subtly inform Dhridharashtra that the Pandava army would be victorious, and that his sons, the Kauravas, would be vanquished. This was bound to happen because the world’s foremost warrior, Arjuna, and Shri Krishna, the Lord of all Yogas, were on the opposing side of the Kauravas.
  • From the standpoint of our duty, we can interpret this Shloka as follows. Regardless of how much time and effort we put into any action, we cannot be assured of success as it depends on a multitude of factors. But it boils down to two things – Own effort and God’s grace. If either aspect is missing, our actions will not be successful. Own effort alone cannot guarantee result, neither can waiting for God’s grace or prasada without any effort from the part of the individual.
  • From the absolute standpoint, liberation from bondage, realisation of our true self is not possible purely through self effort. We need to perform our duty selflessly, in a spirit of service to the Lord, without any other selfish object as our goal. Selfless devoted service to God, combined with Lord’s grace, will result in progress and success in the spiritual journey. Without God’s grace, it is not possible.

PhalaShruti 30 and 31

Sri Bhagavan Uvaca:
Ananyas Chintayanto Mam Ye Janaah Paryupasate                   |
Tesham Nityaabhiyuktanam Yogakshemam Vahamyaham ||30||

Paritranaya Sadhunaam Vinashaya cha Dushkritam |
Dharma Samsthaapanaarthaaya Sambhavami Yuge Yuge ||31||

Meaning: The first Shloka is from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 22). This means ‘For those who are constantly engaged in my worship with single minded focus, I carry the what they lack and preserve what they have’.

The implication is that if we devote ourselves wholeheartedly in the pursuit of the Lord, we need not spend any time incessantly worrying about our needs. As long as we perform our duties efficiently and in a spirit of service to the Lord, we will be taken care of. The Lord will not just carry our burden of needs, he will also carry all of our worries as well.

Our entire life comprises two major activities: acquisition and preservation. The early part of our life goes in acquisition of knowledge, wealth, family, position and title. This is denoted by the word ‘Yoga’. The later part of our life is devoted to preservation of what we have acquired. This is ‘kshema’ and the Lord takes care of both these needs if we surrender to Him completely.

The second Shloka is from the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 Verse 8. This means ‘In order to protect the virtuous and the destruction of evil, as well as to re-establish Dharma, I reincarnate myself millennium after millennium’.

This implies that God descends into the world in various forms again and again to establish Dharma. Whenever the evil takes the upper hand and the virtuous people suffer Bhagavan appears and restores Dharma by destroying the evil doers and protect the virtuous.

PhalaShruti 32

Aartaah Vishannah Shithilaashcha Bhitah
Ghoreshu Cha Vyadhishu Vartamanah
Sankeertya Narayana Shabda Matram
VimuktaDuhkhah Sukhino Bhavantu ||32||
Meaning: This is another summary of the benefits of reciting the Narayana Nama. This means ‘Anyone who is downtrodden, depressed, devastated, fearful or suffering from a dreaded disease will get relief and happiness just by reciting the Nama of Sriman Narayana’.

We should appreciate that there is no instant magic cure for diseases but reciting the Namas of Sriman Narayana grants one immediate peace of mind and composure.

Sri Adi Sankara concludes his commentary on Vishnu Sahasranama with the following verse of his own:
Sahasranama Sambandhi Vyaakhyaa Sarvamukhavaha
Shruti Smriti Nyaaya mula Rachita Hari-padayoh ||
Meaning: This commentary of Vishnu Sahasranamam which brings happiness to all, and which was written consistent with the Shruti, Smriti and Logic is offered at the Lotus feet of Hari’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s explains:
Evam svabhavata eva samasta-dvandva- pratidvandvi – sakala Kalyana Gunakaram,
Prapanna parijatam, pundarikaksham, lakshmi-patim,
Bhagavantam bhajamananam sa eva sarvasvam iti, tad-sampado vacam agocarah |
Kutah Samsarika- paribhava-prasangah iti paryaptayati – visveshvaram iti ||
Meaning: Bhagavan Narayana, the Consort of LakshmI and the Lotus-eyed Lord, is by nature opposed to all kinds of unwelcome things, and is full of all auspicious qualities. He is like the celestial Parijata tree for those who have taken refuge in Him. They consider that He alone is their wealth. Therefore the riches and well being of these people are beyond words. This being the case, there is no occasion for them to suffer dishonour or disgrace.”

I would like to conclude this commentary with Sri Thirumangai Azhwar’s Periya Thirumozhi Pasuram (1.1.9):
குலம்தரும் செல்வம் தந்திடும் அடியார் படுதுயராயினவெல்லம்,
நிலந்தரஞ்செய்யும் நீள்விசும்பருளும் அருளொடுபெருநிலமளிக்கும்,
வலந்தரும்மற்றுந்தந்திடும் பெற்ற தாயினு மாயினசெய்யும்,
நலந்தருஞ்சொல்லை நான் கண்டுகொண்டேன் நாராயணாவென்னும்நாமம்.
Meaning: It gives a good life of land, wealth and prosperity, good family. It rages to the ground all travails facing the devotees’. It grants liberation (Moksha) and benign grace. It gives a man strength, and all that there is, with love that exceeds that of a mother’s. It gives pure goodness, I know that Good bestowing Mantra – Narayana is that Nama that bestows all Grace!

The final Shloka as a dedication to the Lord, which is common to all Pujas and prayers:
कायेन वाचा मनसेन्द्रियैर्वा बुद्ध्यात्मना वा प्रकृतेः स्वभावात् ।
करोमि यद्यद् सकलं परस्मै नारायणायेति समर्पयामि ॥
Kaayena Vachaa Mana-Sendriyair Va Budhyaatmana Va Prakruteh Swabhaavaat |
Karomi Yadyad Sakalam Parasmai Narayana Yeti Samarpayaami ||
Meaning: Whatever I do with my body, speech, mind or with other senses of my body, or with my intellect and soul or with my innate natural tendencies, I offer (dedicate) everything to Lord Narayana.

Sarvam Sri Krishnarpanam Astu – Dedicated in all humility to Lord Sri Krishna _/\_



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



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:

  1.    Shankhabhrit
  2.    Nandaki
  3.    Chakri
  4.    Shaarngadhanva
  5.    Gadaadharah
  6.    Rathaangapaanih
  7.    Akshobhyah
  8.    Sarva-praharana-ayudhah

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:

  1. 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;
  2. Chakram – symbolizes the constant movement of manas – Vayu vegam mano vegam;
  3. Gadha – – Buddhi – unlike manas which is cancalam (wavering), buddhi is the stabilizing factor;
  4. Shaarnga – Sattvika – the five karma indriyas and the five jnana indriyas. Shaarnga is the controlling force for the Indriyas;
  5. 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:

  1.      Shankha-bhrit

 ‘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.

  1.       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’.

  1.       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’.

  1.       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.

  1.       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.

  1.        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.

  1.        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”.

  1.       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.




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


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.


In this part, we will explore the meaning of the 105th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Yajnabhrit Yajnakrit Yajni Yajnabhuk Yajnasadhanah      |
Yajnaantakrit Yajnaguhyam Annam Annaada Eve Ca ||105|| 

He bears the full brunt of the responsibility of taking the Yajna to its successful completion. As the creator, He also created Yajna as a means for devotees to reach Him. He is the Master of all the Yajnas and it is for Him all the sacrifices are performed. It is He who consumes and enjoys the offerings made in the Yajnas. He is the One Who is sought through the Yajnas. He provides not only the inspiration to perform Yajnas but also the resources to perform the Yajnas. He is the One Who concludes the Yajnas fruitfully and He is the hidden underlying spirit of the noblest of Yajnas. He is eaten by all beings in His form as food and He is the Enjoyer of those who enjoy Him.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.     Yajnabhrit
  2.     Yajnakrit
  3.     Yajni
  4.     Yajnabhuk
  5.     Yajnasadhanah
  6.     Yajnaantakrit
  7.     Yajnaguhyam
  8.     Annam
  9.     Annaada Eve Ca

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

  1.     Yajna-bhrit – He Who brings about the completion of the sacrifice

The root word is ‘bhri’ meaning ‘to hold or support’. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Yajnam bibharti pati iti va Yajnabhrit – He bears the full brunt of the responsibility for taking the Yajna to its successful completion, hence He is called Yajnabhrit’. When the success of a Yajna is threatened, Bhagavan lends a supporting hand and ensures its completion.

Sri Parasara Bhattar notes that even if there are deficiencies in the actual performance of a Yajna, the final offering of Purna Ahuti results in the rectification of all these deficiencies and the successful completion of the Yajna- ‘Vikalpam api Yajnam svasmarana Purnahutibhyaam pushnati iti Yajna-bhrit’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the following support from the Shruti:
Pramaadaat kurvataam karma pracyavatyadhvareshu yat |
Smaranadeva tad-Vishnoh sampurnam syad-iti Srutih ||
Meaning: If there is a mistake in the performance of sacrifices due to negligence or oversight, the sacrifice will become imperfect. If the person thinks of Vishnu for the removal of these deficiencies, they are removed and the sacrifice becomes perfect. This is what the Shruti declares.

He Who supports the sacrifice and brings it to successful completion is called Yajna-bhrit – ‘Yajnam bibharti pushnati, dhaarayati iti Yajna-bhrit’.

The Yajamana must seek forgiveness for any deficiencies in the Yajna and offer the Purnahuti to Bhagavan who takes on the burden to perfect it. The final Ahuti that is offered, with divine thoughts at the Lotus feet of Lord Krishna, asking for His forgiveness for all the known and unknown, intended and unintended deficiencies in the performance of the Yajna to ensure that the Yajna becomes complete (Purnam). The faults inherent in the performer of the Yajna, the faults in the procedures, the faults used in the materials used in the offering, (deficiencies in mantra, tantra, vidhi, viparyasa etc.), are all forgiven by Bhagavan when the final Ahuti is made medidating on His Divine Feet.

Among the mantras that are meditated upon at the time of Purnahuti are:
PraayashcittAnyaseshani tapah karmany Atmakani vai |
yani tesham asheshaanaam Sri Krishnanu smaranam param ||
Upacarapadeshena kritan aharar maya|
Apacaran iman sarvan kshamasva Purushottama ||
Purnahutim uttamaam juhoti; karmam vai Purnahutih |
Avirgirbhih yatatona Unam tena uktim vidhema||

Swami Chinmayananda points out, Yajna here is not just confined to the sacrificial offerings made to the Gods, it also covers all acts performed as selfless service to the public at large. Bhagavan supports all such acts and ensures their successful conclusion. He continues his earlier interpretation of the term Yajna, and gives his interpretation for the current Nama as: One Who helps us conclude successfully all our good, dedicated, selfless acts of service to others.

  1.      Yajna-krit – He Who created the Sacrifice

The word ‘Krit’ means ‘to do or to create’. It can also take the form ‘Krintati’ when it means ‘to destroy’. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations. The first of his interpretation is ‘Jagat Aadou Yajnam Karoti Yajnakrit – At the time of creating the world, He also created the process of Yajna, hence He is called Yajnakrit, the Creator of Yajna’. Yajnakrit can also be interpreted as the performer of Yajna. In fact, the very creation of the world is an act of Yajna by Bhagavan.

Sri Sankara gives an alternate interpretation for the term krit to mean ‘One Who destroys’ – krintati: jagadadau Yajnam karoti, tadante Yajnam krintati iti va Yajna-krit – He Who created the sacrifices at the beginning, or He Who destroyed them at the end of the Universe.

Sri Parasara Bhattar give the interpretation that Lord Vishnu has this Nama because He created Yajna as a means for the well-being of the Universe.  Sri Bhattar’s interpretation is ‘Jagad- hitaaya Yajnamadi srijati iti Yajnakrit – He first created the sacrifice for the well-being of the Universe.

The following Slokas in the Bhagavad Gita explain in detail, in the words of Lord Krishna:

Saha-Yajnah praja srishtva purovaca prajapatih |

Anena prasavishyadhvam esha vostvishta kama-dhuk ||(BG 3.10)

Meaning: In the beginning, the Lord of all beings, creating man along with the sacrifices and said: By this shall you prosper; this shall bestow upon you all desirable things.
Devan bhavayat Anena te deva bhavayantu vah |
Parasparam bhavayantah Sreyah param avapsyatha ||(BG 3.11)
Meaning: By this (Yajna), please the gods, and the gods will support you. Thus nourishing one another, may you obtain the highest good.

Ishtaan bhogan hi vo deve daasyante Yajna bhavitah |(BG 3.12) – The gods, pleased by the sacrifice, will bestow on you the enjoyments you desire.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri elaborates on the connection and inter-dependence between the devas and the manushyas as follows: The Devas depend on the manushyas for their havir-bhagam through the Yajnas, and the people depend on the Devas for their sustenance through rain etc. Thus, Bhagavan has set up the Yajna as the bridge between the Devas and the people, therefore, He is called Yajna-krit.

The term Yajna-krit has also been interpreted as One Who is the performer of Yajnas. Swami ChinmayAnanda interprets this Nama as: One Who performs Yajna. He notes that the Lord issued forth Creation as an act of Yajna, a pure and selfless act of service to the Jivas.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj interprets as ‘Yajnan makhan svayamapi karoti avataara vigrahe iti Yajna-krit – He Who performs Yajnas Himself during His incarnations.

  1.     Yajni – He is the Master of Yajnas

He is Yajna personified and He is also its most important component. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara gives the interpretation as Yajnanam Tatsamaradhanatmanam Sheshee iti Yajni – He makes the Yajnas, which are performed as worship to Him, complete and meaningful, hence He is called Yajni, the core of Yajna’. As the scriptures proclaim ‘Yajno vai Vishnuh – Vishnu is the essence of Yajna and Yajni is the essence of Yajna. The two are one and the same. Yajna is just a manifestation of Bhagavan and therefore He is named Yajni, the Lord and recipient of every Yajna.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s intereprtation is like that of Sankara, where he says ‘Sarva Yajnanam Sheshi Yajni – He Who is the Lord or Master of all the Yajnas. All Yajnas are performed to propitiate Him as He is the ultimate Bhokta.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 24) in support:
Aham hi Sarva Yajnanam bhokta ca prabhureva ca |
Na tu mam abhijananti tattvenatash-cyavanti te ||
Meaning: For, I am the only Enjoyer and the only Lord of all sacrifices. They do not recognise Me in My true nature, and hence they fall”.

Sri Ramanujan also refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi – ‘Seigaip payan unbenum yaane ennum…. (Thiruvai Mozhi 5.6.4) – Fruits of acts anyone does are but Mine’.

Sri Thondaradipodi Azhwar in his Thirumozhi Parsuram 25 laments thus:
குரங்குகள் மலையை தூக்கக் குளித்துத்தாம் புரண்டிட் டோடி
தரங்கநீ ரடைக்க லுற்ற சலமிலா அணிலம் போலேன்
மரங்கள்போல் வலிய நெஞ்சம் வஞ்சனேன் நெஞ்சு தன்னால்
அரங்கனார்க் காட்செய் யாதே அளியத்தே னயர்க்கின் றேனே.
Meaning: Azhwar tells the Lord that he has not performed the Karmas ordained for his Varna, he has not followed the Jnana Yoga or the Bhakti Yoga, he has not spent any time singing the name of the Lord, he has not done anything even remotely similar to the offering of a flower like Gajendra, he has not even offered the relatively small service like the squirrels or the monkeys to Lord Rama, but the only thing he knows is to cry for the help from the Lord. The Lord accepts this as sufficient Yajna, and takes Azhwar to His Feet.

This example is an excellent illustration of why Bhagavan is called the Lord of all Yajnas. Bhagavan takes the offering of a flower by Gajendra, the offering of a few specks of sand by the squirrels, the service offered by the monkeys, or the sheer cry for help from Him, as a sufficient offering to Him, to bless His devotee.

Of course, one should remember that it is just sheer modesty of Azhwar to declare that he has no devotion of any kind, as he had devoted his life in the service of Lord Narayana.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha notes that the word Yajni is derived from the word Yajna by the addition of the ‘ini’ as suffix – Yajnah asya asti iti Yajni – He for Whom the sacrifices are performed.

  1.     Yajna-bhuk – The Enjoyer or the Protector of the sacrifice.

The root word for this Nama is ’bhuj’ which means ‘to enjoy’. The root word used is ‘bhuj – palanam abhyavaharayoh’ means ‘to protect, to eat, to consume, to enjoy’. Thus, both the meanings (He as the Enjoyer, and He as the Protector) are given.

Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations. The first is Yajnam bhungte iti Yajnabhuk – He consumes and enjoys the offerings made in the Yajna, hence He is called Yajnabhuk, the enjoyer of the Yajna’.  The second interpretation is ‘Yajnam bhunkte bhunakti iti va Yajnabhuk – He protects the Yajnas, hence He is called Yajnabhuk, the protector of the Yajnas’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this Nama as He is One who protects the Yajna and ensures its completion.  He cites the example of Bhagavan once protecting the Yajna being performed by Brahma.

The Story of Lord Narayana protecting Brahma’s Yajna

Once Lord Brahma was preparing for Aswamedha Yajna to be performed in Kancheepuram. As one has to perform Yajna together with one’s consort, Brahma asked for Sage Vasistha to bring Goddess Saraswati.  Brahma commenced chanting the mantras and prepared for the Agnihotra and started offering havis (homam materials).

Meanwhile Goddess Saraswati refused to join as she was still angry with Brahma from a previous episode. Brahma decides to carry on with the Yajna by asking Savitri to join and continues with his Yajna.  As Saraswati learns of this, she is filled with further rage and she takes the form of the Vegavati river near Kancheepuram and surges towards the Yaagashaala to disrupt the Yajna.

Just then, Lord Narayana lies down on the Adhiseshan blocking the flow of the river towards the Yaagashala.  The Yajna was completed without further disruption.

This place in Kancheepuram is called Thiruvekka and one can obtain the divine blessings of Lord Narayana on Adiseshan in this divine temple.

Om Namo Narayanaaya _/\_

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 24), Bhagavan says ‘Aham hi Sarva Yajnanam bhoktaa ca prabhureva ca – I am the enjoyer and the Lord of all Yajnas’. In His Avataars, He plays an active role in the protection of Yajnas. For example, as Rama, He gave protection to the sacrifice performed by Vishwamitra.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the following interpretation:
Ijyante diyante samarpyante svajanaih iti Yajnah, arthat nana-vidha rucirah padarthah |
tan bhunkte ashnati iti Yajna-bhuk ||
Meaning: He Who accepts and enjoys the different kinds of offerings that are offered with devotion by the devotees is Yajna-bhuk. He gives support from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 26), where Bhagavan says:
Patram pushpam phalam toyam yome Bhaktya prayacchati |
Tadaham bhaktyupahrtam asnami prayatatmanah ||
Meaning: Whosoever, offers Me a leaf, a flower, a fuit or water with devotion, I accept and eat the offering of devotions by the pure-hearted.

For all the Yajnas performed, Bhagavan is the means, the end, the One Who is worshipped, the One Who is the Object of worship, and is also the One Who ensures the successful completion of the Yajna by protecting it from all obstacles. This is the significance of the interpretation that ‘He is the Protector of Yajnas’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda makes another important point – ‘All that is offered into the sacred Fire during a Yajna, though with an invocation to any of the deities, in tender devotion and with joy, goes to Him alone, The One receiver of all that is offered’.

  1.     Yajnasadhanah – He Who is attained through Yajnas as Sadhana

The term ‘Sadhanam’ means ‘an instrument or a tool to make something’. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as Sadhanam tat Praptau iti Yajnasadhanah – He is a major instrument in the performance of a Yajna, hence He is called Yajnasadhanah, the instrument of Yajna’. He provides not only the inspiration to perform Yajnas but also the resources to perform the Yajnas. Without his goodwill and support it is impossible to perform Yajnas.

This Nama can also be interpreted as an instrument or a means to attain Him. Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation – te asya jnana-dvara asiddhyupaya iti Yajnasadhanah – The sacrifices are a means for the attainment of fruits only because of our knowledge about Him.

The emphasis is made that it is the knowledge about Bhagavan, about the relationship between us and Bhagavan – the Seshaseshi bhavam or the servant-Master relationship, and above all, the love with which the offerings are made to Him are essential for the attainment of the fruits. It is not so much the substance of what is offered that is important, but the dedication and devotion behind it that is important, as has been emphasized it repeatedly in the scriptures.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan’s interpretation is along similar lines – jnana danena Yajna upakaritvat Yajnasadhanah – Because He gives the knowhow for the performance of the Yajna, and thus assisting in the conduct of the Yajna, Bhagavan is called Yajnasadhanah.

Yajna can be described as any means adopted to attain Him – ‘Praapti upaayah Yajnam’ and does not necessarily need to be a Yajna with Agnihotram.  It includes all efforts employed to reach him like Smaranam, Sravanam, Kirtanam, Archanam etc. Bhagavan accepts these as ways to attain Him, so He is called Yajnasadhanah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as – ‘Yajnah sadhyate anena, Yajnam sadhayati va Yajnasadhanah’ – He through whom the Yajna gets accomplished, or He Who fulfils the Yajna, is Yajnasadhanah.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj notes that He is called Yajnasadhanah because He enables the devotees to perform the Yajna, and He is also Yajnasadhanah because He is attained through the Yajnas – ‘Yajnah puja Aradhanam va, tam bhaktanam sadhayati iti Yajna-sadhanah, tatha Yajnah puja sadhanam praptaye yasya iti Yajna-sadhanah’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as: ‘One Who fulfils all yajnas. It is by His Grace alone that all noble endeavours undertaken in an honest and sincere manner gain spectacular success’. The term Yajna is used in a broad context to mean any effort undertaken for public good in a selfless way.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha explains the Nama as ‘Yajnasya sadhanam sruk sruvadikam mantradikam va yasmat iti Yajnasadhanah’ – He is called Yajnasadhanah since it is He who is the cause for the means such as the ladle, the mantras, agni, ghee etc. used during the Yajna. The terms sruk and sruva refer to two different types of ladles used in the Yajna (sruva refers to the smaller ladle, and sruk refers to the larger ladle). Lord Krishna declares in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4 Verse 24) that He is the means for all the aspects associated with a Yajna:
Brahmarpanam brahma havih brahmagnau brahmana hutam |
Brahmaiva tena gantavyam brahma karma samadhina || (Bhagavad Gita 4.24)
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 works.

Bhagavad Ramanuja explains the term ‘Brahmarpanam’ as a reference to the means for offering in a Yajna, such as a ladle – ‘arpyate anena iti arpanam srugadi, tad brahma karyatvat brahma, brahma yasya havishah arpanam tad-brahmarpanam’ – That by which an offering is given, such as a ladle, is an arpana. It is called Brahman because it is an effect of Brahman, Brahman being the material cause of the Universe. Brahmarpanam is the oblation, of which the instrument is Brahman.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives another interpretation – ‘Yajna Sabdah Subha-vaci, tam sadhayati iti Yajnasadhanah’ – The term Yajna refers to auspiciousness, and since Bhagavan gives auspicious results, He is called Yajnasadhanah.

  1.     Yajnaanta-krit – He Who produces the fruit of the sacrifices

The word ‘Anta’ means the finish or the successful conclusion.  Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara offers two interpretations, the first of which is ‘Yajnasya Antam Phalapraaptim Kurvan Yajnaantakrit – He brings about the conclusion of the Yajna by bestowing the desired fruit or the object of the Yajna, hence He is called Yajnaantakrit, the one concludes the Yajna fruitfully.’

The second interpretation is ‘Vaishnava Rik Shamsanena Purnahutya Purnam Kritva Yajna samaaptim karoti iti va Yajnaantakrit – He brings about the successful conclusion of the Yajna with the chanting of the vaishnavee Rik or the Purnahuti mantra as the final oblation, hence He is called Yajnaantakrit, one who formally brings the Yajna to a close’.

Yajnasya antam samaaptim phalam va karoti iti Yajnanta-krit – He Who brings about the successful conclusion of the Yajna, or He Who gives the fruits of the Yajna.

It should be remembered that Yajna is a Karma, and its goal is to attain the true knowledge of Bhagavan, when it is performed without material goals in mind. Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that Bhagavan is called Yajnanta-krit since He makes the attainment of true knowledge about Him as the end and the goal of all sacrifices – Yajna paryavasanam sva-tattva jnanam karoti iti Yajnanta-krit.  Sri Bhattar quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4, Verse 33) in support of this concept:
Shreyaan dravya mayat Yajnat jnana Yajnah parantapa |
Sarvam karma akhilam partha jnane parisamapyate ||
Meaning: Of the two sacrifices, the sacrifice of knowledge is superior to the component of material sacrifices. O’ Arjuna, all actions in their entirety culminate in knowledge.

He Who realises that great Brahman attains the Moksha Anandam; there is no other path to attain moksha – ‘tamevam vidvan amrita iha bhavati, naanyah pantha ayanaya vidyate’ –In other words, it is the knowledge about Him that ultimately leads to Moksha and as Bhagavan gives this knowledge, He is called Yajnanta-krit.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri quotes the following Shloka in support:
Yasya smritya ca namoktya tapo ya Su-kriyadishu |
Nyunam sampurnataam yati satyo vande tam acyutam ||
Meaning: Our prostrations to Achyuta Who brings to fruition any good act, by the very thought of Him or the mention of His Nama.

Swami ChinmayAnanda’s explanation for the Nama is: ‘One Who performs the last, concluding act in all Yajnas’. He notes that when total surrender of all vehicles and their actions is accomplished (in the form of Purnahuti offering), the transcendental experience of the Self, Narayana alone, comes to manifest in all His divine Splendour.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj notes that the Nama signifies that Bhagavan blesses the conclusion of the Yajna by His very auspicious appearance, out of His Sheer Mercy –
Yajnanam anto Ramaniyo bhagavad- Avirbhavavela |
Tamapi kripaya karoti it Yajnanta-krit |

He gives support from Srimad Bhagavatam (4.19.3):
Yatra Yajna-patih saakshaat Bhagavan harir Ishvarah |
Anvabhuyata sarvatma sarva-loka-guruh prabhuh ||
Meaning: The Supreme Deity, Lord Vishnu, has everything and everyone as His body, and He is the Lord and Master of all, Who was offered worship. The subsequent Slokas, e.g. 4.19.6 describe Bhagavan’s actual appearance at the Yajna, accompanied by the Siddhas, Kapila, Narada, Dattatreya, etc.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha notes that the Nama signifies that Bhagavan brings about the successful conclusion of the Yajna by removing all the obstacles, and also gives the fruits of the Yajna to the karta – vighnAn vihritya yo Yajnam samapayati, sampaditasya tasya Yajnasya yo antam = phalam ca dadati sa Yajnanta-krit abhidIyate.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan chooses the meaning that Bhagavan decides the final fruit of the Yajna – Yajnasya antam phala nishcayam karoti iti Yajnanta-krit.

In an alternative interpretation, Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha uses the root ‘kr – himsayam’ meaning ‘to hurt or to kill’, and explains the Nama as ‘One Who destroys or kills the likes of Subahu and Marici, who tried to put a premature end to the yajna performed by Sage Vishwamitra – Yajnasya anto naasho yebhyah te Yajnantaah Subahu Maricadayah, taan krinoti iti va Yajnanta-krit.

  1.     Yajna-guhyam – He Who is the secret of the sacrifice

The wordGuhyam’ means something ‘hidden or a secret’. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this to mean ‘Yajnanam Guhyam Jnana Yajnah, Phala abhisandhirahito va Yajnah; Tadabhedopacharat Bramha Yajnaguhyam – A Yajna performed for spreading Knowledge is the rarest or secret Yajna and so is the Yajna performed without any expectation of reward; Bramhan or Bhagavan is identified with these Yajnas and so He is called Yajnaguhyam, the hidden underlying spirit of the noblest of Yajnas’.

Only enlightened people can perform such Yajnas whose inner significance is Bhagavan himself. Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that Bhagavan is the ‘secret’ behind the sacrifice, because not everyone understands that He is the ultimate object of the sacrifice, even though Bhagavan is not in need of any offering, He still feels satisfied as if He has been long expecting the offerings, and enjoys them.

Only those who are wise and knowledgeable about the decrees, the means and the fruits of the sacrifices, realise this secret about Him. Sri Parasara Bhattar quotes the following from the MahaBharata in support:
Sarve vedah sarva vedyah sa sastrah Sarve Yajnah sarva ijyashca Krishnah |
Viduh Krishnam Brahmanas-tattvato ye tesham rajan Sarva-Yajnah samaaptah ||
Meaning: All the Vedas and the Shastras, all the sacrifices, and all worship – all are Sri Krishna. Those who know Krishna correctly this way, may be considered to have completed all the sacrifices successfully.

Jyotigmshi Sukrani ca yani loke Trayo lokah loka-paalas-trayi ca |
Trayognayashca Ahutayashca panca Sarve deva devakiputra eva ||
Meaning: All the shining luminaries in the Universe, the three worlds, the three guardians of the world, the three fires, and the five offerings in those holy fires, and all the gods, are all Sri Krishna, the Son of devaki.

Srimad Srimushnam Andavan explains that even though the offering in each Yajna may be for any of the other deities, the real Deity Who ultimately receives all the offerings is Bhagavan and no one else. Bhagavan is the antaryami of all these other deities, and while He feels satisfied with the offering, He also ensures that these other deities are satisfied, and thus it is no one other than Bhagavan Who is the ultimate object of all Yajnas. Not everyone who performs Yajnas understand this, and thus Bhagavan is the secret behind the Yajnas in this sense as well, so He is Yajna-guhyam.

Bhagavan can give to the performer of the Yajna, the benefit even up to moksham while accepting the relatively meager offering with great delight; in other words, there is no limit to the grace He can bestow on the performer of the Yajna in return for the relatively trivial offering. This is a great secret that is not easily understood as He keeps the means of Yajna as a great secret that is understood only by a few who know the Yajna Shastra, and so He is Yajna-guhyam.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri notes that there are two aspects to any sacrifice – the material aspects, and the thoughts behind the performance of the karma.  Lord Krishna declares that the thought behind the actions is more important than the act itself. When the thought itself is dedicated to Bhagavan without the aim of receiving some benefit for the performer of the Yajna; that is the best form of Yajna. This is the Yajnaguhyam, the secret behind the performance of Yajnas in their ultimate true sense.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as ‘The most profound truth to be realised in all Yajnas’. He elaborates thus – ‘The Self is the noblest truth to be sought through ‘offering’ all the dravya (objects) into the ‘consciousness’ (fire) in the ‘body’ (kunda). This kind of subjective Yajna is called in the Bhagavad Gita as Knowledge sacrifice (Jnana-Yajna). This is also called in the Vedas as Brahma Yajna.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan reinforces the true spirit behind the performance of sacrifices – It is for Bhagavan’s pleasure alone, and not for any material benefits for the performer, that the Yajna is to be undertaken, and so He is the secret behind the Yajnas – tena yajnena tasyaiva mukhya uddeshyatvat Yajna-guhyam.

  1.     Annam – He is the Object of Enjoyment

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama in two ways, the first is ‘Adyate Bhootaih Annam – He is eaten by all beings in His form as food, hence He is called Annam, the one who manifests Himself as food to sustain life’. Sri Sankara’s second interpretation is ‘Atti cha Bhutaan iti Annam- He eats all beings when the time comes (Pralaya), hence He is called Annam, the consumer of all beings at the appropriate time’. Bhagavan is thus the prime mover in the Universal food cycle that rules our lives.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as ‘Bhoktrasaktibhih bhujyate iti annam’– He Who is enjoyed, or is the Object of enjoyment by those who have been blessed by Him with the power to enjoy Him. In fact, for the true devotee, everything except Bhagavan is not of interest, and He is everything for them.

The root from which the Nama is derived is ‘ad – bhakshane’ meaning ‘to eat’. atti bhakshati iti annam – He who consumes or enjoys is ‘Annam’. Alternatively, adyah iti Annam – That which is consumed or eaten, is Annam.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives another derivation using the root ‘ana – pranane’ meaning ‘to breathe or to live’.  He Who makes the beings live, or He because of Whom the beings exist – ‘aniti iti annam, yadva anyate = pranyate yena tad annam’. This can refer to the vital air that is necessary for the beings to survive and live. Sri Vasishtha also points out that the word ‘Annam’ is used in the Shruti to refer to any offering in a Yajna – that which can be offered as havis, including ghritam (ghee) etc.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refer us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (6.7.1):
உண்ணுஞ் சோறு பருகுநீர் தின்னும்வெற் றிலையுமெல்லாம்
கண்ணன், எம்பெருமான் னென்றென் றேகண்கள் நீர்மல்கி,
மண்ணினுள் அவன்சீர் வளம்மிக் கவனூர் வினவி,
திண்ண மென்னிள மான்புகு மூர்திருக் கோளூரே.
Meaning: To His devotee, everything is Krishna. Food – eaten to satisfy the appetite, water – drunk to quench the thirst, and betel leaves – consumed after the food, are all Krishna in their case. Saying His nama, speaking of His qualities, and thinking of Him, His devotee will feel the hunger and the thirst and all other needs satisfied. They will not eat any other food since Krishna-consciousness is enough food for them. Reciting His nama and enquiring everyone on the way ‘Am I on the right path to Thirukkolur? How far is it? The devotee will proceed without any other need for sustenance. The very thought of His place serves as nourishment for the devotee.

Sri Ramanujan also refers us the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 7 Verse 19) in support where Krishna says:
Bahunaam janmanaam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate |
Vasudevas sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah ||
Meaning: After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.

The well-known Shruti mantra from Taittriya Upanishad says:
Aham annam aham annam aham annam |
Aham annaado’ham annaado’ham annaadah |
Meaning: Bhagavan is Annam because He allows Himself to be enjoyed by those who are qualified and endowed with the knowledge to enjoy Him. He in turn enjoys those who thus enjoy Him, and so He is also called Annaadah – Enjoyer (next Nama).

Sri NammAzhwar refers to both the aspects of Bhagavan being Annam and Annaadah. In the ten Pasurams of Thiruvai Mozhi 5-10, Azhwar repeatedly refers to both these aspects. The entire Divya Prabandham is a treatise where the Azhwars relish Bhagavan as Annam. In Periya Thiruvandadi Pasuram 34, the Azhwar says:
பாலாழி நீகிடக்கும் பண்பை,யாம் கேட்டேயும்
காலாழும் நெஞ்சழியும் கண்சுழலும்,-நீலாழிச்
சோதியாய்! ஆதியாய்! தொல்வினையெம் பால்கடியும்,
நீதியாய்! நிற்சார்ந்து நின்று.
Meaning: Oh Lord! You have the brilliance of the dark Ocean, and You are the First Cause of all the Worlds. It is Your nature to remove the blemishes in the likes of me. When I think of You and the beauty of Your reclining posture in the Milky Ocean, the experience is so profound that my legs are not able to support me any more, my mind is not able to comprehend Your beauty, and my eyes experience the same profoundness.

Sri Kulasekhara Azhwar in his Perumal Thirumozhi (2.3) says:
ஏறடர்த்ததும் ஏனமாய்நிலம் கீண்டதும்முன்னி ராமனாய்
மாறடர்த்ததும் மண்ணளந்ததும் சொல்லிப்பாடிவண் பொன்னிப்பே
ராறுபோல்வரும் கண்ணநீர்கொண்ட ரங்கன்கோயில் திருமுற்றம்
சேறுசெய்தொண்டர் சேவடிச்செழுஞ் சேறெஞ்சென்னிக் கணிவனே
Meaning: When I sing Your glory – Your great feat of destroying the seven mighty bulls, Your lifting of the whole Earth in Your Varaha Avataar, Your measuring of the Earth in Trivikrama Avataar, Your causing destruction of the evil Ravana in your Rama Avataar, tears of joy well into my eyes and overflow like a river……and the slush created by the devotees coming makes the perfect Tilak for me.

Sri Thondaradipodi Azhwar, in this famour Pasuram from his Thirumaalai 2 says:
பச்சைமா மலைபோல்மேனி பவளவாய் கமலச் செங்கண்
அச்சுதா அமர ரேறே ஆயர்தம் கொழுந்தே என்னும்
இச்சுவை தவிர யான்போய் இந்திர லோக மாளும்
அச்சுவை பெறினும் வேண்டேன் அரங்கமா நகரு ளானே.
Meaning: O’ Lord of Arangama-nagar (Ranganatha), with the hue of a huge green mountain! Lord of coral lips, lotus-red eyes, Achyuta! Lord of Eternals, O Cowherd-Lord”, — denying the joy of praising you thus, if I were given to rule Indra’s kingdom, – even if you gave it, – I shall not want it. The Azhwar shuns even the Indra Loka for the pleasure of enjoying the Lord who is like a nectar.

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

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the alternate interpretation that He is called Annam – One Who eats – ‘Atti bhutaani iti Annam’ – He Who consumes everything at the time of pralaya. He includes all the sense-objects that satisfy the needs of the sense-organs under scope of Annam represented by Him, and explains this as ‘One Who has Himself become the sense- objects which are the ‘food’ consumed by the sense-organs’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the root ‘Aana – pranane’ meaning ‘to breathe or to live’, and gives the explanation – ‘anyante upjivyante Bhaktah yena svadarshana-dana dvara iti Annah’ – Bhagavan sustains the Bhaktas by giving them His darshan, and so He is the Sustainer – Annam.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan extends the topic of Yajna that has been the subject of the previous Namas to the current one as well, and explains the Nama as indicating that at the successful conclusion of the Yajna by the devotee, when the devotee reaches the ultimate objectives of Sri Vaikuntham. Bhagavan presents Himself to the devotee in the forms of the most enjoyable objects in Sri Vaikuntham through His sankalpa Shakti, and so He becomes the ultimate Annam for the devotee – ‘Yajna labhye parama vyomni yad-divya-rasa- gandhAdikamadanIyam bhogyam’.

  1.     Annaadah Eve Ca – The Enjoyer of those who enjoy Him

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Annam atti iti Annaadah – He devours food, hence He is called Annaadah, the consumer of food’. At the time of dissolution of the Universe all objects are taken out of existence or consumed by Bhagavan and in that sense, He is the great consumer of food or Annaadah.

The participle Eva is used in the sense of ‘after all’ per Sri Sankara. He says ‘Sarvam Jagat Annadirupena Bhoktru Bhogyaatmakam eva iti Darshayitum Evakaarah – The whole world plays the dual role of being both food and consumer of food (victim and predator!) and Bhagavan after all demonstrates the same role of being Annam and Annaadah’.

Per Sri Sankara the use of Ca implies that every name here applies to a single underlying Super entity. He says ‘Ca shadbah Sarvanam naam Ekasmin Parasmin Pumsi Samucchitya Vrittim Darshayitum – Ca is used to emphasise that all Namas given in the Sahasranamam point to a single root Bramhan or Supersoul’.

The word ‘Annam’ can be derived from the roots ‘ad – bhakshane, or ‘ana – pranane’, as indicated in the previous Nama, and one of the meanings is food. In the current context, the meaning is that Bhagavan is the Enjoyer of those who enjoy Him. The previous Nama indicated that He is the One who is enjoyed by His devotees as Annam, and in the current Nama He in turn enjoys the devotees who enjoy Him – Annam atti iti Annaadah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this Nama as – ‘Taanshca tatha bhunkte iti Annaadah – He is Annaadah since He also enjoys them in the same way as they enjoy Him’. He proceeds to explain the significance of the next two words – eva and ca, which are not Namas of Bhagavan per se. He explains that the significance of the word eva is that there is no one else like Him – ko anya Idrishah? iti eva-kaarah. The significance of the word ca is that all that has been described thus far are present perfectly in this one Deity, namely Lord Vishnu – ‘ca’ Sabdah sarvamuktam ekatra asmin samuccinoti |

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan echoes the same interpretation for the words eva and ca – ‘na hyetadrik anyosti iti bodhayitum eva-kaarah |

nikhila bhhogya samuccaya ca-kaarah ||

This mutual love of the devotees to Bhagavan (He being Annam), and for Bhagavan to His devotees (He being Annaadah), is beautifully described by Sri NammAzhwar in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (9.6.10), almost like a mutual competition of who enjoys whom most:
வாரிக் கொண்டு உன்னைவிழுங்குவன் காணிலென்று
ஆர்வற்றவென்னையொழிய என்னில்முன்னம்
பாரித்து தானென்னை முற்றப்பருகினான்
காரொக்கும் காட்கரையப்பன்கடியனே.
Meaning:  The Azhwar says that he had been just waiting to see Bhagavan, and as soon as He would see Him, his plan was to just swallow Him completely with nothing left for anybody else. But even before that could happen, Bhagavan planned more skillfully, and displayed His extreme sausheelyam to Azhwar. This made Azhwar melt down completely, and Bhagavan just drank him totally in this ‘dravya’ form. Azhwar exclaims that this Thirukkaatkarai Appan is an extremely hard nut to crack, and One with whom no one can compete in this kind of game, or in anything else for that matter. Azhwar wanted to make Him Annam, but Bhagavan instead became the Annaadah in this case.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments that everything in this world can be classified in two categories: food, and the eater of food. Sri Bhishma indicates to Dharmaputra that Vasudeva who is seated in front of them is the One that has been described all along through all the Namas starting with Vishvam, all the way up to the current Nama. In the next Shloka, he states explicitly that Lord Vishnu who has been praised in all the previous Shlokas, is none other devaki-nandana Krishna Who is seated in front of them.

The concluding section of Bhrigu Valli in the Taittriya Upanishad summarises that Bhagavan pervades food as well as the eater of food, and so He is both, the form of Annam and Annaadah – aham annam annamadantamadmi.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as – Annam – svajanopahrtam modakani atti iti Annaadah – Bhagavan is called Annaadah because He gladly accepts the offerings from His devotees.

In Summary

Yajnabhrit Yajnakrit Yajni Yajnabhuk Yajnasadhanah     |
Yajnaantakrit Yajnaguhyam Annam Annaada Eve Ca ||105||

He bears the full brunt of the responsibility of taking the Yajna to its successful completion, hence He is called Yajnabhrit. At the time of creating the world He also created the process of Yajna, hence He is called Yajnakrit, the Creator of Yajna. He is the Lord or Master of all the Yajnas, hence He is called Yajni. All the sacrifices are performed for Him and He consumes the offerings with enjoyment, hence He is called Yajnabhuk, the enjoyer of the Yajna.  He provides not only the inspiration to perform Yajnas but also the resources to perform the Yajnas, so He is called Yajnasadhanah.

He concludes the Yajna fruitfully, hence He is Yajnaantakrit. Bhagavan is identified with these Yajnas and so He is called Yajnaguhyam, the hidden underlying spirit of the noblest of Yajnas. He is eaten by all beings in His form as food, hence He is called Annam, the one who manifests Himself as food to sustain life. He enjoys those who enjoy Him and He is the Supersoul, hence He is Annaadah Eve Ca.



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



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.


In this part, we will explore the meaning of the 103rd Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Pramaanam Praananilayah Praanabhrit Praanajivanah |
Tattvam Tattvavid Ekatma Janma-Mrityu-Jaraatigah ||103|| 

He is the authentic source for everything and sets the standards for righteous action. He is the ultimate abode for all beings. He sustains all sentient and non-sentient beings and is the Life Giver as well as the in-dweller. He is the source, essence and the truth as well as knower of the truth. He is the one and only Superior Soul (Purusha).  He is beyond birth, death and old age.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Pramaanam
  2.    Praananilayah
  3.    Praanabhrit
  4.    Praanajivanah
  5.    Tattvam
  6.    Tattvavit
  7.    Ekatma
  8.    Janma-Mrityu-Jaraatigah

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

  1.    Pramaanam – He is the Authentic Souce for Everything

The root word is ‘Maana’ meaning ‘to measure’ and ‘Pra’ is a prefix meaning ‘special or unique’. Combining the two, Pramaanam means a reference or authority or a standard or a benchmark from which others are derived. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Pramitih Samvit Svayampramaa Pramaanam – He is a self-evident and self-sufficient authority for everything, hence He is called Pramaanam’.

Sri Sankara quotes from the Aitareya Upanishad (3.5.3) which says ‘Prajnaanam Bramha – Bramhan is pure wisdom’. Pure wisdom is its own authority. There is no higher knowledge which comes into play to support pure wisdom or Prajnaanam. In other words, pure wisdom is self-evident, self-sufficient and self-supporting. Bhagavan is precisely that. In Vishnu Puraanam (1.2.6), it says ‘Jnaanasvarupam Atyantanirmalam Paramaarthatah Tameva Arthasvarupena Bhraanti darshanatah Sthitam – Bhagavan is Pure Knowledge, Pure without blemishes, the Ultimate Meaning and He is also concrete in the material plane to support physical and material knowledge’. He is therefore called Pramaanam, the ultimate reference point and the ultimate answer for every question.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explained in the earlier occurrence that Bhagavan is the authority for determining what is good and what is bad for the people, thereby setting the standards for righteous action. For the current instance, Sri Bhattar explains that Bhagavan reveals the secrets and mystic truths of the Vedas without a shadow of doubt or error – ‘Evam nissamshaya viparyaya Veda rahasya param Artha pratyayakatvaat Pramaanam’.

Bhagavan is the true Pramaanam – the authentic proof. He is not only the goal to be achieved – prameyam, but He is also the means to achieve the goal – pramaanam.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha indicates the root for the Nama as ‘maang – maane’ meaning ‘to measure, to limit, to compare with, to form, to show, etc.’ The term ‘Pramaanam’ is used as ‘proof, valid knowledge, authentic source, authority, etc’. – prakrishtam maanam Pramaanam – Superior knowledge or a Valid authority.

Sri Vasishtha gives the interpretation that Bhagavan has this Nama signifying that prior to Creation itself, He decided on the nature of the Universe, including the extent, the nature of the Gunas that dominate our conduct, the different kinds of beings, etc. – yaavat-pramaanakam, yaadrig-Gunam, yaadrig-Akritimacca jagan-nirmitsati, tat Pramaanam taan gunan tanca Akritim jagad-Arambhaat purvameva tan nirmati parimitayata eva tat-Pramaanam abhidiyate.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives several instances from the Shruti to support his interpretation:

  • anadvaan Indrah sa pashubhyo vicashte tra’nchako vimimite adhvanah (Atharva Veda 4.11.2) – He knows everything, and has measured the three worlds and examined all beings
  • nava Praanan navabhih sam mimite dirghayutvaya Satasharadaya | (Atharva Veda 5.28.1) – He creates nine types of beings with 3 different gunas and chakras for a life of 100 years.
  • etavan asya mahima ato jyayag’mshca Purushah | (Purusha Suktam 3) – All that is seen here is His greatness. And beyond all this is the great Purusha.
  • dhamani Veda Bhuvanani Vishwa |(Yajur Veda 32.10) – He knows all the worlds, Vedas and everything about the Universe
  • sa Bhumim sarvato vritva atyatishthad-dasha’ngulam|(Rig Veda 10.90.1) – On every side pervading earth He fills space in ten directions.

Prajapate na twadetanyanyo vishwa jataniparita babhuva |
Yat kamaste juhumastanno astu vayam syama patayo rayinam || Rig Veda 10.121.10
Meaning: Lord of all creatures, there is no other entity besides You who can maintain command over and surpass all these created animate and inanimate objects, i.e. You are Paramount. Aspirant of whatsoever we offer our worship to You, please grant them. We may by Your grace be possessors of all kinds of wealth and high possessions. 

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives another etymological derivation – prakrshena mimite Sabdayati, Avishkaroti jnanam BrahmAdibhya iti Pramaanam – He Who clearly reveals or makes known, the true nature of Brahman etc. Sri Bharadvaj gives an alternative explaination for the Nama as – prakrshena maanyate BrahmAdibhih iti Pramaanam – He Who is worshipped by the likes of Brahma.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha interprets the Nama as – ‘prakrishtam maanam Vedadi Pramaanam yasmin iti Pramaanam – He Who has given the Vedas and scriptures the highest authority, is Pramaanam. An alternate interpretation given by him is – ‘Prakrishtam maanam Shareeraadi parimaanam Tri-vikramaadi rupena yasya iti Va Pramaanam – He Who took unusual dimensions for His form in His Tri-vikrama Avataar’.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan explains the Nama as ‘One Who always speaks the truth – Satya bhaashitvaat Pramaanam’. He gives this in support: ‘Pramaanam nitya-maryada Satya vaadi pramaatrishu’.

  1.    Praana-nilayah – He Who is the Abode for all beings

Sri Adi Sankara uses the term Praana to collectively represent the five types of Vayus that help the body function: Praana that sustains life in the form of the inhaled breath, apana that denotes the exhaled breath that expels impurities outside of the system, vyana that sustains the movements of the systems in the body, udana that supports the movements of the karmendriyas etc., and samana that aids the expelling of the waste from the body.

Praana refers to the five vital airs resident in any being to sustain life. Praana also means the sense organs of the body. Praana is also the name for Jivas or the living beings. Nilaya means the abode or the destination. Based on these Sri Sankara comes up with four different interpretations for this Nama.

The first one is ‘Praanaa indriyaani yatra jeeve Nileeyante tatparatantratvaat Praananilayah – Praanaah are the sense organs and they merge into Him and are dependent on Him and therefore He is called Praananilayah, the prime mover of the sense organs’.

The second interpretation is ‘Dehasya dhaarakaah Praanapanadayoh Vaa Tasmin Nileeyante iti Praananilayah – There are 5 vital airs that sustain life such as Praana and Apaana but they all get their get their sustenance and support from Bhagavan who is ultimately their storehouse hence He is called Praananilayah, the storehouse of the vital airs’.

The third interpretation is ‘Praaneeti iti Praano Jeevah Pare Pumsi Nileeyate iti vaa Praananilayah – Praanah refers to living beings and since they reside in Bhagavan, He is called Praananilayah, the abode of living beings’.

The fourth interpretation is ‘Praanaan Jeevaamscha Samharan iti vaa Praananilayah – At the time of dissolution all beings get reabsorbed in Him, hence He is called Praananilayah, the final resting place of all at the time of deluge’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar defines Praana as ‘Praananti iti Praanah, anye’pi Jivah –Those that live, namely the Jivas and nilayam means abode. Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the analogy of the birds going to their nest at the end of the day for rest. Similarly, the Jivas have Him as their abode.

Sri NammAzhwar in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (10.9.9) says – ‘Vaikuntham puguvadu mannavarvidiye’ meaning ‘Vaikuntham is our final Abode’.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan uses the same analogy, and explains the Nama in terms of Bhagavan’s Avataar as Krishna – ‘He in Whom the Gopis sought support as a result of the intense love of devotion to Him, just as the birds seek shelter in their nest – Praananti tat- snehamritena sambandhavateti Praanah tat-preyasIjanaah te nileeyante asmin Sakunta iva nilde iti Praananilayah’.

Since Bhagavan is the Support of all, and since they all merge into Him ultimately, He is called Praana-nilayah. The term ‘nilina’ means ‘merging with or merging into’. Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha interprets this Namain this context – ‘Praana nileeyante yasmin sa Praana-nilayah – He in Whom all the Jivas merge.

Sri Vasishtha also comments that Bhagavan has this Nama because He makes provision for the living of all living beings in whichever form it is appropriate for them. For example, He provides the means for the sustenance and survival of the trees, the beings in the water and in the land, the humans, etc. – in other words, He makes provisions for different Jivas to live or have an abode – sa sarveshaam shtaavara ja’ngamanam ca yatha yogay Saadhana pradaanena vaasayita’tah sa Praana-nilayah ucyate.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as: ‘He in Whom all Praanas stand established. He Who is the very substratum – vital foundation – for all ‘activities’ manifested in a living organism’.

  1.    Praana-bhrit – He sustains All the Beings

Praana is life and bhrit means supporter or sustainer. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Poshayan Annarupena Praanan Praanabhrit – He sustains life in the form of food, hence He is called Praanabhrit, the sustainer of life’.

Taittriya Upanishad Mantra says ‘Aham annam Aham annam Aham annam – God is food and food is God’.

Another version of this name is ‘Praanadhrit’ with approximately the same meaning ‘the nourisher of life’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is ‘taan maatr-vat dhaarayati ca iti Praana-Dhrit – He Who nourishes the living beings like a mother’.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar, who praises Bhagavan as ‘Our mother, Our father, Our soul’ in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (2.6.10):
போகின்றகாலங்கள்போயகாலங் கள்போகுகாலங்கள், தாய்தந்தையுயி
ராகின்றாய் உன்னைநானடைந்தேன்விடுவேனோ,
பாகின்றதொல்புகழ்மூவுலகுக்கும் நாதனே. பரமா, தண்வேங்கட
மேகின்றாய்தண்டுழாய் விரைநாறுகண்ணியனே.
Meaning: My Lord of eternal glory, Great Lord of the three worlds!  My Lord of fragrant Tulasi garland, king of the cool Venkatam hill through past, present and future, my father my mother, my life!  Now that I have found you, will I ever let you go?

Praana means life, and the word Dhrit is derived from the root ‘dhr – dharane’ meaning ‘to hold, to support, or to bear’. Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the interpretation – Sarvatra vyaaptah sarveshaam praaninam Praanan bibharti poshayati, dharayati va sah Praana-Bhrit – He Who pervades everything, and nourishes and supports everything is PraanaBhrit’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as: ‘He Who rules over all Praanas – Sri Hari is the One Who causes everyone to eat, digest, feel energized, act, achieve the fruits thereof, grow old and die. In all these activities, the great One, Commanding, Factor, Divine, Sri Narayana, the Self, presides in silent detachment, and by His presence He initiates and maintains all these activities in all living creatures upon the Earth’s surface’.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha gives the following interpretation – Praanan indriyaani bibharti iti Praana-Bhrit – He Who nourishes and supports the indriyas and life is Praanabhrit.

  1.    Praana-Jivanah – He Who nourishes the Beings

Prana refers to living beings and Jivanah means the Life Giver. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Praanino Jivayan Praanakhyaih Pavanaih Praanajivanah – He makes people live by providing vital airs like Praana and Apana, hence he is called Praanajeevanah, the one who infuses life into beings’.

In support, he quotes from Katha Upanishad (2.2.5) which says:
Na praanena naapaanena martyo jivati kashcana |
Itareṇa tu jivanti, yasminn etav upashritau ||
Meaning: Life is not enabled by the vital airs Praana or Apaana but is enabled by Bhagavan who supplies these vital airs to sustain life, hence He is the real Praanajeevanah, the Life Giver.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as: ‘taan anna paaniyAdivat Jivayati iti PraanaJivanah’ – He Who supports life even as food and drink do.

Srimad Srimushnam Andavan comments that even the food and the water etc., have their power to sustain life only because He has given them this power.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to a Pasuram from Sri NammAzhwar, where Azhwar declares in Thiruvai Mozhi (6.7.1) that for devotees like him, Bhagavan is verily the food that is eaten, the drink that is consumed, etc. In other words, they will not live with out Him:
உண்ணுஞ் சோறு பருகுநீர் தின்னும்வெற் றிலையுமெல்லாம்
கண்ணன், எம்பெருமான் னென்றென் றேகண்கள் நீர்மல்கி,
மண்ணினுள் அவன்சீர் வளம்மிக் கவனூர் வினவி,
திண்ண மென்னிள மான்புகு மூர்திருக் கோளூரே.
Meaning: Emperumaan Kannan is the food that we consume, the water that we drink, and the betel leaves that we chew after food’. He is the tarakam (sustenance), poshakam (nurturing), and bhogyam (enjoyment) for His devotee.

Sri Krishnan comments that Bhagavan offers Himself as the food for the true devotees, and they cannot live without Him, and so He is their life or Jivanam, hence He is Praana-Jivanah.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives an interpretation that has the same spirit:
‘Praanan Jivan bhajana parayanan jivayati sva-darshana daanenaiti PraanaJivanah – He Who rejuvenates His devotees who sing His praise, by revealing Himself to them’.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri notes that life is not the vital air, or the body, or the mind, by itself. It is a mysterious amalgam of all of these that causes life, and this is made possible by Bhagavan alone, and nothing else. So, He is the true Support of Life, or the Giver of Life to every living being.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha’s interpretation is: Praanena mukhya praanena Jivayati janaan iti Praana Jivanah – He Who sustains Life through the vital airs.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan explains the Nama as: ‘Praanah te Jiva Namasya iti Praana-Jivanah’ – He Who has His devotees as His Praana or Life. Bhagavan treats those who are dear to Him as His own Atma, as demonstrated in His affection to His devotees.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives several supporting mantras from the Shruti:
yo asya sarva janmana Ishe sarvasya ceshtatah |
atandro brahmana dhirah praano ma nu tishtatu ||(Atharva.11.4.24)
Meaning: I pray to Praana, alert and resolute, Who is the Lord of all and who is responsible for the activities of all in this Universe of various beings that move and work.

Praanaya namo yasya sarva idam vashe | (Atharva. 11.4.1) – Homage to Praana under whose control everything in this Universe exists.

Praanam Ahur maatarishvaanam vaato ha Praana ucyate |
Praane ha Bhutam bhavyam ca praane sarvam pratishtitam ||(Atharva. 11.4.15)
Meaning: Praana is bestowed on maatarishvan, also known as the wind (Vaayu – air). On this Praana depend the past, the future and everything in the present.

There are different dimensions to supporting the life forms, starting from giving a body to the Jivas, giving them the vital airs for survival, the food to eat, the water to drink, the mind to think, the indriyas to act with, etc., all functioning in a coordinated and highly regulated way, till death parts the body and the soul. Between the Namas Praana-dah, Praana-Dhrit or Praana-Bhrit, and Praana-Jivanah, it is evident that all these function because of Him, and thus He is the sole Creator, Protector, and the Destroyer.

  1.    Tattvam – He Who is the Essence

The word ‘Tattvam’ means ‘the ultimate principle’ from which everything else can be derived. Sri Adi Sankara interprets it as ‘Tattvam Tathyam Amritam Satyam Paramaarthatah Satattvam iti ete Ekaarthavaachinah Pramaarthasato Bramhano vaachakaah Shabdaah – The words Tattva, Amrita (immortality), Satyam(Truth), Paramaartha (the Ultimate meaning), and Satattva (Pure existence) are synonyms, and mean the Supreme Brahman and hence He is called Tattvam’. Tattvam means the ultimate unique core substance of the Universe, which is Bhagavan, and hence He is known as Tattvam.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the term ‘Tattvam’ as ‘Saraamsha’ – and this is translated as ‘essence’, or ‘the principle of the Universe’ by the translators.  Sri Bhattar explains the Nama through an example: ‘dadhi dugdhayoriva dadhisaarah cit acitoh vyaapti prayojanAbhyaam saraamshah Tattvam’ – Like butter which is the essence of milk and curd, Bhagavan, by His pervasiveness and usefulness in the sentient and non-sentient things, is the essence of all things. Butter gives texture, taste, the energy content, etc., to milk and curd. Similarly, Bhagavan is the essence of all things, by being the cause of their existence, the source of their sustenance etc.

Sri Bhattar gives the following support for his interpretation:
Param Artham Asheshasya jagatah prabhavapyayam |
Saranyam Saranam gacchan Govindam naavasidati ||
Meaning: Govinda is the true entity and He is the cause of creation, destruction, as well as protection. If a person seeks refuge in Him, he will never be in grief.

ekato va jagat kritsnam ekato vajanardanah |
saarato jagatah kritsnaat atirikto Janaardanah ||
Meaning: Place the entire Universe in one pan of a balance, and Bhagavan Janaardana in another, and you will find that Janaardana is superior to the whole Universe because of His intrinsic greatness.

Sri Andal refers to Him as ‘Tattuvan’ in Naacchiyaar Thirumozhi 5.6:
எத்திசை யுமம ரர்பணிந் தேத்தும் இருடீகே சன்வலி செய்ய
முத்தன்ன வெண்முறு வற்செய்ய வாயும் முலயு மழகழிந் தேன்நான்
கொத்தலர் காவில் மணித்தடம் கண்படை கொள்ளு மிளங்குயி லேஎன்
தத்துவ னைவரக் கூகிற்றி யாகில் தலையல்லால் கைம்மாறி லேனே
Meaning: Andal is asking the bird to go and tell the Lord – the Tattuvan, of her condition – By the pain inflicted on me by Hrishikesa, the Lord of the celestials, I have lost my pearly smile, my red lips and my beautiful breasts. O Young Koel nestling in a cozy nook amid bunches of flowers, if you call my honourable Lord, I will bow my head in gratitude.

Another Pasuram in which Sri NammAzhwar describes Bhagavan being the essence of everything that exists, is in Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram 6.9.7:
உலகில் திரியும் கரும கதியாய் உலகமாய்,
உலகுக்கேகேயோ ருயிரு மானாய்! புறவண்டத்து,
அலகில் பெலிந்த திசைபத் தாய அருவேயோ!
அலகில் பொலிந்த அறிவி லேனுக் கருளாயே.
Meaning:  You are the karmic souls roaming the Earth, You are the soul of the world itself.  You are the formless ten spheres and the spirit beyond, Pray grace this tiny self of infinite ignorance.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the word ‘Tat’ from the root ‘tanu – vistare’ meaning ‘to extend, to spread, to go’. Tanyata iti tat, sthavara jangamAtmakam jagat, tasya saara Bhutam vastu tat-tvam ityarthah – This Universe is denoted by the term ‘tat’, which consists of movable and immovable things spread all over; the essence of all this is tat-tvam.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the following from the Atharva Veda in support:
Yo vidyat sutram yasminnotahpraja imah |
Sutram sutrasya yo vidyat sa vidyat Brahmanam mahat || (Atharva. 10.8.37)
Meaning: One who knows the drawn-out string whereon all these creatures are strung, one who knows the thread’s thread, knows the Great Brahman.

That without the support or existence of which a given thing cannot function, can be considered to be its Tattvam, its essence or support. Thus, for a machinery, the oil or lubricant is something without which it cannot function for a prolonged time, and so it can be considered one of its Tattvas. Everything in this universe that functions will not exist without Him, and so He is the Tattva behind all that exist.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives the reference from Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (8.1.7):
இறந்ததும் நீயே எதிர்ந்ததும் நீயே நிகழ்வதோ நீயின்னே யானால்,
சிறந்தநின் தன்மை யதுவிது வுதுவென் றறிவொன்றும் சங்கிப்பன் வினையேன்,
கறந்தபால் நெய்யே! நெய்யின் சுவையே. கடலினுள் அமுதமே, அமுதில்
பிறந்தவின் சுவையே! சுவையது பயனே! பின்னைதோள் மணந்தபே ராயா!
Meaning: O’ my Lord, who took Nappinnai’s slender soft arms in embrace,  O’ Lord sweet as fresh milk and freshly churned butter!  O’ Lord sweet as the ocean’s ambrosia!  O’ Past, present and Future!  no, the taste of the nectar; no, no, You are the pleasure that one derives from enjoying the nectar!

Srimad Srimushnam Andavan refers us to the following from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 41) in support of His being the Tattvam behind everything:
Yad-yad vibhutimat sattvam Srimad-Urjitameva va |
Tat-tad-evavagaccha tvam mama tejo’msha sambhavah ||
Meaning: Whatever being is possessed of power, or splendor, or energy, know that as coming from a fragment of My power.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives another view of the term ‘Tattvam’ – that which leads to existence, and that which does not cease to exist when the being that came into existence disappears, is the true origin or source – the Tattva. The other sources that disappear over time, are not the true Cause. He comments that ‘tat’ is the word-form of Brahman that is the true cause of everything. tat-tvam is the nature of this ‘tat’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj refers us to the Narayana Upanishad – Tattvam Narayanah parah – Narayana is the Supreme Reality.

  1.    Tattva-vit – The Knower of Truth

‘Tattvam’ means the ultimate underlying principle of everything and Vit is one who knows. With this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this name as ‘Tattvam Svaroopam Yathaavat Vetti iti Tattvavit – He knows the real underlying nature of everything which is himself hence he is called Tattvavit, the knower of the fundamental truth’. He himself is the fundamental truth and he himself is the knower of it. Bhagavan alone knows the functions of creation, preservation, destruction, giving the benefits to the Jivas according to their karmas, taking the Jiva to Him ultimately at the appropriate time, etc., and no one else does. 

Tattvam tatsvarupam vetti iti Tattva-vit – ‘He Who knows the true nature of Himself’. Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as ‘Atmanah Tattvam vetti iti Tattva- vit’ – ‘One Who knows the truth about Himself’, or One Who knows the truth about the Tattva. The truth that Bhagavan is the Supreme Deity and the Lord of all, is something that is not easily understood even by the likes of Brahma, Rudra and Indra, as repeatedly pointed out by Sri NammAzhwar:

  • Surar arivu aru nilai (Thiruvai Mozhi 1.1.8) – He is of such nature that even the Devas cannot understand His Tattvam.
  • Unarndu unarndu unarilum uyar nilai unarvadu aridu uyigaal! (Thiruvai Mozhi 1.3.6) – It is just not easy, even with intense contemplation, to understand the true nature of the Supreme Deity.

Sri Bhattar refers to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 15), in which Arjuna declares (after witnessing the Vishwarupam) that Bhagavan knows Himself by His Own Self:
Svayameva Atman Atmanam vetthatvam Purushottama |
Bhuta bhavana Bhutesha devadeva jagatpate ||
Meaning: O’ Supreme Person, O’ Creator of beings, O Lord of all beings, O God of all Devas, O’ Ruler of the Universe, You alone know Yourself by Your own potencies.

Sri Bhattar also refers to the Sruti vakyam – ‘tvameva tvam vettha’ – You alone are aware of Yourself’.

It is not just the ordinary mortals like us who can’t fully comprehend Him through our intellect, but even the Shastras return back declaring that He is beyond description. The Taittiriya Upanishad declares: Yato vaco nivatante, aprapaya manasa saha (Anandavalli) – Words, alongwith the mind, turn back without being able to fully comprehend the Bliss of Brahman, which is Infinite. The Devas are unable to fully know Him, as we have seen through Sri NammAzhwar’s Pasurams above.

Srimad Srimushnam Andavan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s words: ‘tanakkum tan tanmai ariya ariyanai’ – He whose greatness is such that even He does not know it fully.

Alavandar declares in his stotra ratnam: ‘yasyaste mahimanam Atmana iva tat- vallbho’piprabhuh’ – Neither Bhagavan’s greatness nor Piratti’s greatness can be known either by Him or by Her, because there is no limit to it, and so even they cannot measure something that has no limit. The point is that of all those who can know Him, He knows Himself the most.

  1.    Ekatma – The One and Only Superior Soul

Eka means one and Atma means Soul. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Ekashcha Asau Atma cha Ekatma – He is the One and the only true Soul and hence He is called Ekatma’.

In support, He quotes from Aitareya Upanishad (1.1) which says ‘Atma Vaa Idameka Evaagra Aaseet – He was the only Soul existing at the beginning of all Creation’.

He also quotes from Linga Puranam ‘Yachhaapnoti Yadaadatte Yacchaatti Vishayaaniha; Yachhaasya Santato Bhaavah Tasmaat Aatmeti Geeyate – That which pervades, that which receives, that which enjoys the objects, and that which exists always, is called the Atman’. This shows the uniqueness of the Prime Soul, which is Bhagavan thus known as Ekatma.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains that Bhagavan is the One and only Supreme Soul who controls all the other souls, and so He is Ekatma – sarvasya cit acit vargasya ayam ekaeva Seshi bhokta abhimanau ca iti Ekatma – He is Ekatma because He is the Sole Master, Enjoyer, and Well-wisher of all sentient and non-sentient objects.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Pasuram, where Bhagavan is called ‘Or uyireyu!’ – which is ‘translated’ by Sri V. N. Vedanta Desikan as ‘Ekatma’.
ஆருயி ரேயோ! அகலிடம் முழுதும் படைத்திடந் துண்டுமிழ்ந் தளந்த,
பேருயி ரேயோ. பெரியநீர் படைத்தங் குறைந்தது கடைந்தடைத் துடைத்த,
சீரிய ரேயோ.மனிசர்க்குத் தேவர் போலத்தே வர்க்கும்தே வாவோ,
ஓருயி ரேயோ. உலகங்கட் கெல்லாம் உன்னைநான் எங்குவந் துறுகோ?
Meaning: The vast Universe was created, once dug out from deep waters (Varaha Avataar), swallowed (Pralaya), spat out (Creation after Pralaya), scaled with feet (Trivikrama Avataar), all by You, out of grace. You made the seas, churned them (Kurma Avataar, Mohini Avataar), bridged the ocean (Rama Avataar), and broke a part of it later. You are my dear life. You are the Lord of all the Devas, and You are far above the Devas just as the Devas are far above the humans. You’re are the Supreme Soul above all the other souls, the Creator, Protector and Destroyer of the Universe. How am I to reach You? Pray tell me.

Nityo nityanam cetanash- cetananam eko bahunam yo vidadati kaman – He Who is the Most Eternal above all the eternals, the Supreme above all the cetanas, the One Who constitutes the many, and the One Who bestows all the wishes of all the other beings.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as: ‘evanca sa Vishnureva sarvasya sthavara jangama rupasya vishvasya EkaAtma sarvatra vyaptatvat Ekatma’ – Lord Vishnu, who pervades everything in this Universe of sentient and non-sentient objects, is called Ekatma.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha explains the Nama as ‘Eka Atma mukhya swamI = He is the Supreme Deity.

  1.    Janma-mrityu-jaraatigah – He Who is beyond birth, death and old age

‘Janma’ means ‘Birth’, ‘Mrityu’ means ‘Death’ and Jaraa means ‘Old Age’. The word ‘Atigah’ stands for Ateetya Gacchati, One who rises above or transcends. Taking all of this together, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Jaayate, Asti, Vardhate, Viparinamate, Apaksheeyate, Nashyati iti ShadbhavaVikaaraan Ateetya Gacchati iti JanmaMrityuJaraatigah – There are six stages and since He transcends these six kinds of changes, namely conception, birth, growth, maturity, decay and death, He is called JanmaMrityuJaraatigah, the one who transcends birth, death and infirmity’.

Katha Upanishad (1.2.18) says ‘Na jaayate Mriyate Vaa Vipashchit iti – the One who is pure knowledge does not take birth, nor subject to death’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as One Who is beyond birth, death, decay etc. His interpretation is – tathapi tad-ubhaya vidharmAtma – He Who, while being the Inner Soul or antaryami of all the sentient and non-sentient objects, is not affected by their attributes (such as rajas, tamas, punya, paapa etc.). The ordinary souls accumulate the effects of the Punyas and Paapas that they accrue while they are embodied. Unlike these souls, Bhagavan is not touched by any of these effects of Punyas and Paapas even though He is the antaryami of all these objects. In addition, when He assumes a body out of His own free will, He is not born like the rest of us, and is not subject to aging, death etc. like the rest of us.

It is important to understand the difference between the body and the soul to appreciate the meaning of this Nama. Ordinary souls (Jivas) also are beyond birth, death and decay. But they get a body based on their previous karmas, to enable them to enjoy the effects of these karmas. This body is subject to birth, death and decay. The Jivas go through repeated births and deaths, with the associated new bodies, until they exhaust all their karmas, and ultimately realize the ParamAtman and are relieved of this cycle of birth and death. Bhagavan is not subject to this cycle, since He is not touched by the effects of karma ever. Lord Krishna declares in the the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4 Verse 14):
na mam karmani limpanti na mekarma phale spriha |
iti mam yo’bhijanati karmabhir na sa badhyate ||
Meaning: There is no work that affects Me; nor do I aspire for the fruits of action. One who understands this truth about Me also does not become entangled in the fruitive reactions of work.

Even though He has all the sentient and non-sentient beings as His body according to the VishishtAdvaita philosophy, Sri Parasara Bhattar explains that Bhagavan is still not touched by the karmas (namely, sins, good deeds, the resulting birth, death etc,), of these sentient and non-sentient beings, but instead, it is the souls of these beings that get the effects of these karmas. The bodies of all the sentient and non-sentient beings are part of His body in the sense that they are all subservient to Him and are fully under His control.

So are the souls of all these beings – they are His body, and are subservient to Him. He is the antaryami of these souls, and is a witness and the energizer of these souls; however, He is not touched by their karmas, and so He is never born, and so there is no question of aging, death etc. There is no such thing as karma for Him, since all His actions are all selfless, and are devoted to the benefit of all the beings that exist. None of His actions are for His benefit.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha refers us to Atharva Veda that conveys the sense of this Nama:
akamo dhiro amrutah svayambhu rasen trupte na kutashpa nonah |
tameva vidvan na vibhaya mrutyor-atman dhirmajar yuvanana ||
Meaning: Desireless, firm, immortal, self-existent, contented with the essence, lacking nothing, free from fear of death is He who knows that Soul courageous, youthful and undecaying’.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives the following from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (4.4.25) in support: sa va esha mahaanaja Atmajaro’maro Amṛto’bhayo Brahma;
abhayaṃ vai brahma;
abhayaṃ hi vai brahma bhavati ya evaṃ veda ||
Meaning: That infinite birthless undecaying, indestructible immortal, and fearless self (ParamAtman) is the Supreme Brahman. The Supreme Brahman is devoid of fear. He who knows that Supreme Brahman becomes the fearless Brahman.

The Story of Two Birds from the Mundaka Upanishad (3.3.1)

Two birds living together, each the friend of the other, perch upon the same tree. Of these two, one eats the sweet fruit of the tree, but the other simply looks on without eating.

The two birds are the Jivatma and ParamAtma, both existing in an individual compared to a tree. They exist together as the reflection and the original. They both manifest themselves in different ways in every individual. From the characteristics of the Jivatma it is possible to infer the nature of ParamAtma, and from the nature of ParamAtma it is possible to determine the potentialities of the Jivatma. Both the Jivatma and ParamAtma have a common substratum which is Brahman and which is the reality of both. The body is compared to a tree because it can be cut down like a tree. This tree is also called the Kshetra or the field of manifestation and action of the Kshetrajna or the knower of the field. The body is the field of action and experience and it is the fruit of actions done already.

That which distinguishes the Jivatma from ParamAtma is the mind. In fact, the mind itself constitutes the Jiva. It is the Jiva that is affected by Avidya, Kama and Karma. Because of the conjunction of consciousness with these limiting factors, it has to experience the results of its actions; but ParamAtma, who is not limited to any adjunct, has no actions whatsoever to perform, and so, no need to experience of the results of actions. The fruits enjoyed by the Jivatma are of the nature of pleasure and pain, i.e., they are all relative experiences born of non-discrimination. The experience of ParamAtma is eternal and is of the nature of purity, knowledge and freedom. Relative experience is the effect of the presence of Rajas, but the character of ParamAtma is Sattva and, hence, there is no phenomenal experience for Him. He is in fact the director of both the agent of actions and the results of actions. ParamAtma’s activity consists in His mere existence. The value of His existence is greater than that of the activity of the whole Universe. It is His existence that actuates the whole Universe of manifestation.

In Summary

Pramaanam Praananilayah Praanabhrit Praanajivanah |
Tattvam Tattvavid Ekatma Janma-Mrityu-Jaraatigah ||103||

He is the authentic source for everything and sets the standards for righteous action, hence He is called Pramaanam. He is the ultimate abode for all beings, hence He is known as Praananilayah. He sustains all sentient and non-sentient beings, hence He is Praanabhrit.  He is the Life Giver as well as the in-dweller, so He is Praanajivanah.

He is the source, essence and the truth, hence He is called Tattvam. He is the knower of the Truth and so He is Tattvavid.  He is the one and only Superior Soul (Purusha), hence He is Ekatma.  He is beyond birth, death and old age, so He is Janma-Mrityu-Jarratigah.



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


In this part, we will explore the meaning of the 102nd Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Aadhaaranilayo Dhata Pushpahaasah Prajaagarah                 |
Urdhvagah Satpathacharah Praanadah Pranavah Panah ||102||

He supports the five basic elements and He is the Creator. He blooms Himself into a Universe like a flower and is ever alert and awake to His devotees’ needs.  He is above all and He follows the path of Dharma, leading by example in His Avataars.  He is the Life-Giver and is the Primordial Mantra – ‘AUM’. He delivers the fruits of actions in accordance with one’s Karmas and He is bound by His devotees’ love, and is ready to be subservient to them.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Aadhaaranilayah
  2.    Dhata (or Adhata)
  3.    Pushpahaasah
  4.    Prajaagarah
  5.    Urdhvagah
  6.    Satpathacharah
  7.    Praanadah
  8.    Pranavah
  9.    Panah

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

  1.    Adhaara-nilayah – The Abode of those who support the world through their righteous actions

The word Aadhaara means support and Nilaya means vesting or staying.  Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Prithivyaadeenam Pancha bhutaanaam Aadhaaranam Aadhaaratvaat Aadhaaranilayah – He supports the five basic elements or the Pancha Bhutas such as the Earth, Air, Water, Fire and Ether, that support all others, hence He is called Aadhaaranilayah, the basic support or the support for all that supports the Universe’. 

Sri Parasara Bhattar specifically gives the example of the likes of Prahlada, Vibhishana, the Pandavas, etc., whose righteous conduct in life is an example for us, and thus serve as the support for the world to follow. Bhagavan is the abode for such pious men, and so He is called Adhaara-nilayah – Dharmikataya jagad-Adhaarah Prahlada-Vibhishana-Pandavadayah, tesham nilayah Ahdaara-nilayah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar quotes a Shloka from Vishnu Smriti in support:
Varnashrama Acara-parah santahshaastraika tatparaah |
tvam dhare! dhaarayishyanti teshu tvad bhaaram Ahitam ||
Meaning: O’ Mother Earth! Those who strictly adhere to the rules of conduct stipulated for different varnas and stages of life, and also scrupulously follow the dictates of the Shastras, enjoy your support.

The ones who follow righteous actions also keep this earth keeps going; these are the ones who are supported by Bhagavan in their Dharmic conduct – Adhaara-nilayah.

Sri NammAzhwar in his Periya Thiruvandadhi Pasuram (75), gives a very interesting perspective where he says:
புவியும் இருவிசும்பும் நினகத்த, நீயென்
செவியின் வழிபுகுந்தென் னுள்ளாய்,- அவிவின்றி
யான்பெரியன் நீபெரியை என்பதனை யாரறிவார்,
ஊன்பருகு நேமியாய்! உள்ளு.
Meaning: It is true that You support everything including all the worlds, the skies, etc. But now You reside inside me by entering inside me through my ears, and thus I am supporting You inside me. Now You tell me whether You are supporting me or I am supporting You – whether You are the bigger One or I am the bigger one. You tell me, Emperumaan with the Chakra that drinks the blood of Your enemies.

The above Pasuram of Azhwar gives an alternative interpretation that Bhagavan resides in the hearts and minds of those who follow Dharmic path (Adhaara), and so He has the Nama Adhaara-nilayah.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 7 Verse 18) Bhagavan says:
Udarah sarva evaite jnani tva atmaiva me matam
Asthitah sa hi yuktatma mam evanuttamam gatim ||
Meaning: All these devotees are indeed generous, but he who is situated in knowledge of Me, I consider him to be My own very self; for he is devoted to Me attains highest end.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as – Jagad Adhaaranaam api dhaaraka iti Adhaara-nilayah – He is the support of all those that are considered to be supporting the world e.g. Sun, Earth etc. This means that He supports all that exists including the Devas such as Brahma, Rudra, Indra etc. and all the Planets and their Moons, the Pancha Maha bhutas, etc. He is also present in every living being as their antaryami, supporting them in every act of theirs.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives numerous examples from the Shruti in support:
Yatah Surya udetyastam yatraca gacchati |
Tadeva manye’ham jyeshTham tadu nAtyeti ki’ncana || (atharva. 10.8.16)
Meaning: I am that Supreme because of which the Sun rises, sets, and rests. Nothing surpasses the Will of this Supreme.

Na te Vishno jayamano na jato deva mahimnah paramantamapa |
Udastabhna naakamrshvam brihantam daadhartha praacim kakubham Prithivyaah || (Rg. 7.99.2)
Meaning: None who is born or being born has reached the utmost limit of Your grandeur, Lord Vishnu. The vast high vault of heaven and the fixed earth’s eastern pinnacle has your support and you hold it securely.

Yasyorushu trishuvikramaneshu adhikshiyanti bhuvanani Vishva (Rig Veda. 1.154.2)
Meaning: He within whose three wide-extended paces all living creatures have their habitation.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri interprets the Nama as ‘One Who is resident -nilayah, in the pancha bhutas. Even though the five elements, by themselves, perform different functions within our body (e.g., agni converts the food that we consume into forms such as blood; water carries this into the different parts of the body; earth supports all the beings of this world; etc.), Bhagavan, by being present in these elements, ensures that there is mutual coordination such that all beings function as a unit, in a healthy way.

Sri Shastri gives references from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 15 Verses 13 and 14) to illustrate this:
Gam avisya ca bhutani dharayamy aham ojasa |
Pusnami causadhih sarvah somo bhutva rasatmakah ||
Meaning: I enter into each planet, and by My energy they stay in orbit. I become the Moon and thereby supply the juice of life to all plant life.

Aham Vaishvanaro bhutva praaninaamdeham Ashritah |
Praanapana samayuktah pacamyannam catur-vidham  ||
Meaning: I am the fire of digestion in every living body, and I am the air of life, incoming and outgoing breath. I digest the four kinds of food – chewed (like rice, bread etc.), sucked (like mango fruit etc.), licked (like honey), and drunk (like water).

In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (3.7.15), it says:
Yah sarveshu bhuteshu tishthan sarvebhyo bhutebhyo’ntaro yam sarvani bhutani na viduh
Yasya sarvani bhutani shariram yah sarvani bhutaanyantaro yamayati |
Yesha ta Atmantaryamyamrutah – ityadhi-bhutam athadhyaatmam    ||
Meaning: He who inhabits all beings but is within them, whom no being knows, whose body is all beings, and who controls all beings from within, is the Internal Ruler, your own immortal self. This much with reference to the beings. Now with reference to the body.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha gives an explanation based on the dhaara or the downpour of rain caused by Indra in Gokulam:
A-samantaat dhaara = devendra-krita vrishti dhaara yesham ta Adhaara Gopalah |
Tesham Govardhana dhaaranena nilaya Ashraya iti Adhaara-nilayah ||
Meaning: He Who protected the Gopalas or cowherds from the intense downpour of rain caused by Devendra, through the Govardhana dhaaranam.

  1.    Dhaata – He is the Creator

Sri Adi Sankara deals with two different versions of this Nama – Dhaata and Adhaata. First taking it as Dhaata, the root is Dhet meaning ‘to drink’. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets it as ‘Samhaarasamaye Sarvaah Prajaah Dhayati Pibati iti Dhaata; Dhet Paane iti Dhaatuh – At the time of the Final Deluge He drinks (dissolves) all beings, hence He is called Dhaata’.

Now taking the name as Adhaataa, Sri Adi Sankara gives the interpretation ‘Sva-atmanaa Dhritasya asya Anyo dhaataa Naasti iti – He is well established and has no other support other than Himself, hence He is called Adhaata, one who is self-reliant’.

We covered this Nama earlier in Shloka 5 where Sri Parasara Bhattar interpreted the Nama based on the root ‘dha’ meaning ‘to put, place, lay, put in, lay on or upon’, and gave the meaning as ‘The Creator’.

Sri Bhattar gives the interpretation for this instance as ‘Svayam ca Dharma Acharyakena Dhaata – He is called Dhaata because He practices Dharma rigorously, and is thus the best Preceptor of Dharma.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives reference support from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 3 Verse 22), where Bhagavan says:
Na me parthasti kartavyam trisu lokesu kincana
Nanavaptam avaptavyam varta eva ca karmani ||
Meaning: O’ Partha! There is nothing in all the three worlds which ought to be done, nor is there anything that has not been acquired, and ought to be acquired. Yet I am engaged in work.

Sri AnnangarAcharya explains the Nama as – He Who supports the World through His teachings (in the form of Vedas, Upanishads, GIta etc.), and through His own code of conduct (during His Avataars). As Maryada Purushottam Rama, He was an outstanding example of the adherence to Dharma in all its facets and intricacies.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the root for the Nama as ‘dha – dhaarana poshanoyoh daane ca’ meaning ‘to put, to grant, to produce, to bear’.  Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the interpretation that Bhagavan bears the Earth in the form of Ananta – ‘Anantadi rupena Vishvam bibharti iti Dhaata’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the interpretation – ‘dadhaati poshayati svajanaan iti Dhaata – He Who protects and supports His devotees’.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha gives the interpretation – Dhaata = dhaarana poshanakarta – He Who creates and nourishes everything.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan explains the Nama as – utpatti vinaasha virahaadanaadi nidhanah kaaranatve virinci Adibhyo vishesham Aha Dhaata iti – He Who creates all beings, protects them, and destroys them at the appropriate time.

  1.    Pushpa-haasah – He blooms like a Flower

Pushpa is a flower and Haasa refers to the blooming and so Pushpahaasah is one who blossoms like a flower. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this name as ‘Mukulaatmanaa Sthitaanaam Pushpaanaam haasavat Prapancharupena Vikaasah asya iti Pushpahaasah – Like buds bloom into beautiful flowers, Bhagavan blooms Himself into a beautiful Universe, hence He is called Pushpahaasah, one who blooms like a flower’.

Haasa also means a smile and Pushpahaasah can also be interpreted to mean one who smiles like a pretty flower. The Nama signifies the tenderness and pleasing nature of Bhagavan towards His devotees.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as – ‘evam nishpaadita sva anubhava saktinaam saayamiva pushpasya haaso bhogyataullaasah asya iti Pushpa- haasah’ – In the case of those who are blessed with the ability to enjoy Him, He manifests His enjoyable nature gently like a flower that blossoms. So He is called Pushpa-haasah.

Sri RadhaKrishna Shastri’s anubhavam is that Bhagavan makes His devotees blossom with delight at His thought, and He also blossoms in their heart and gives fragrance to their thought, and so He is called Pushpa-haasah.

Bhagavan’s Thirumeni is soft to touch, just like a flower. Just as the flowers blossom as the Sun rises , Bhagavan is delighted when He sees His devotees. His devotees enjoy Him like a beautiful tender flower.

Sri Thirumangai Azhwar in his Periya Thirumozhi (8.1.5), where the Azhwar enjoys Bhagavan’s Thirumeni as Pushpa-haasam:
அடித்தலமும் தாமரையே அங்கையும் பங்கயமே என்கின் றாளால்,
முடித்தலமும் பொற்பூணு மென்நெஞ்சத் துள்ளகலா என்கின் றாளால்,
வடித்தடங்கண் மலரவளோ வரையாகத் துள்ளிருப்பாள் என்கின் றாளால்,
கடிக்கமலம் கள்ளுகுக்கும் கண்ணபுரத் தம்மானைக் கண்டாள் கொல்லோ.
Meaning: His Feet are soft like Lotus flowers. His Hands, with which He picks us up when we surrender at His Feet, are equally soft like Lotus flowers. Then He embraces us with affection, and the divine beauty of His thiru-mudi and His divine ornaments that we get to enjoy at that time, is something that will never leave our thoughts ever. We pray for the blessings of the One with broad eyes (Sri devi) Who is seated on the lotus flower in His broad vaksha sthalam (His chest), so that we are united with Him for ever. This Emperumaan is waiting for us in the Divya kshetram by name Thiruk-kannapuram, which is itself the place full of fragrant Lotus flowers dripping sweet honey.

Sri NammAzhwar in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (3.1.2) says that Bhagavan is enchanting and is no comparison to anything that we know:
கட்டுரைக்கில் தாமரைநின் கண்பாதம் கையொவ்வா,
கட்டுரைத்த நன் பொன்னுள் திருமேனி ஒளி ஒவ்வாது,
ஒட்டுரைத்திவ் வுலகுன்னைப் புகழ்வெல்லாம் பெரும்பாலும்,
பட்டுரையாய்ப் புற்கென்றே காட்டுமால் பரஞ்சோதீ.
Meaning: The Lotus flower is no match for your eyes, hands and feet. Burnished gold is no match for your radiant face.  All the praise of all the worlds heaped on you do very little to compliment your Grace.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives a similar interpretation – ‘Pushpamiva mriduh svajana manohari haaso yasya sa Pushpa-haasah – He Who has a sweet and enchanting smile that delights the hearts of His devotees’.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as ‘yo sadaa prasanna-mukah Soka- rahistashca bhavati, tasmin nishpaape Soka-moha-rahite svayam Bhagavan viraajate sa Vishnuh Pushpa-haasah – He Who is always of a very pleasing disposition, who is beyond any sorrow, untainted by any defects, devoid of any desire or want. He points out that, just as it is the Dharma (nature) of the flower to blossom beautifully, so also it is the nature of Bhagavan to have a sweet and smiling countenance.

  1.    Pra-jaagarah – He Who is awake day and night, for the protection of the devotees.

The root ‘Jagr’ means to ‘be awake’. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets as ‘Nitya prabuddha svarupaat Prakarshena Jaagarti iti Prajaagarah – He is naturally ever alert and awake and hence He is called Prajaagarah’. He is ever awake and alert to His devotees’ needs and rushes to their support whenever needed. Even while appearing to sleep on the milky ocean He is internally awake and ready to support the devotees, hence He is appropriately called Prajaagarah, the innately awake person.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as ‘Raatrim divam Prajaagarti iti Pra-jaagarah – He Who is awake day and night, to protect His devotees, like a farmer intent on protecting his crops. He gives a mantra from the Katha Upanishad (2.2.8) – ya eshu supteshu jaagarti kaamamkaamam Purusho Nirmimaanah – This purusha (the Supreme), who builds desire after desire, keeps awake while others (the individual souls) are asleep, is certainly called pure and Immortal. That is the effulgent and that is Brahman.

Sri Krishnan explains this as Bhagavan keeping wide awake while we are all fast asleep, bestowing all our desires and requests that are infinite and neverending. He is always in His Yoga-nidra, fully alert and awake.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha indicates the root for the Nama as ‘jaagr – nidraakshaye’ meaning ‘to be awake’ and ‘pra’ is prefix. He explains the Nama as ‘Prakarshena jaagarti iti Pra-jaagarah – He Who is awake in a special and unique way. The uniqueness is that He is always awake, and always thinking of ways to help the Jivas attain Him.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives yet another interpretation as ‘He Who liberates the accomplished devotees from sleep – prakashena bhaktan jagarayati nidra rahitaan muktaan karoti iti Pra-jaagarah’.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha looks at the Nama as praja + aga + ra. In this interpretation, praja = He Who creates; aga = He Who resides in the hills of Venkatachala, ra = ramati = He Who enjoys the company of devotees by being in Venkatachala – ‘prakarshena janayati lokaan iti Prajaa; ageshu Venkatadi parvateshu ramata iti aga-rah, prajashca asau agarashcaiti Prajaagarah.

This Guna is also reflected in the world through the Panca bhutas for which He is the antaryami, and He ensures that they are all functioning in the interest of the Jivas constantly – Fire, Water, Earth, Air and Space never sleep.  So also, the Sun never sleeps, the Atma never sleeps, and the Praana never sleeps.

  1.    Urdhva-gah – He Who is above all

The word ‘Urdhva’ means ‘above or on top’. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Sarveshaam upari tishthan Urdhvagah – He towers over all, hence is called Urdhvagah’.  Bhagavan is superior to every one in every way and is present everywhere; He knows everything and is ever-lasting. He stands above all in all respects thus He is called Urdhvagah, the one who stands far above.

The term Urdhva means ‘above’. Urdhva-gah means ‘One Who rises high’. Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as a continuation of His explanation of the previous Nama – He Who sleeplessly protects His creation. He devotes Himself to this task of rakshNam even without sleep, because He aims high in whatever He does, and so He is ‘Urdhva-gah’. Sri Bhattar’s words are ‘svabhaavatungah – He Who, by nature, rises high in everything’.  Sri Bhattar extols the Kalyana Guna and narrates that the compassion and affection of Bhagavan is unparalleed. He explains with a story of the Sumukha snake that surrendered Unto the Lord and He ensured the snake’s safety by reconciling its hostility with Garuda.

The Story of Garuda and Sumukha, the snake prince

Garuda always carries a snake in his talons. This story is about why Garuda began carrying this snake wherever he went.

Once upon a time there was a man by the name Matali who was the charioteer for Indra. He had a daughter by the name Gunakesi who was of marriageable age.  Sage Narada introduced Matali, ‘Aaryaka! Meet my friend – Matali.’ The Naga’s eyes grew with astonishment, ‘Matali? The charioteer of Lord Indra?’ Aaryaka welcomed the two of them and after they finished lunch, Aaryaka called his grandson, Sumukha.  A good looking, noble young man walked into the room. As Matali saw the man, he felt that he had found the perfect match for his daughter.

With great joy he spoke for the first time to Aaryaka and Sumukha, ‘I have come here to ask something to the two of you. I have a daughter an extremely talented and beautiful daughter– Guna Kesi! I was wondering whether Sumukha would agree to marry my daughter?’ He asked looking at the two of them.

Matali saw both of them in despair and was stumped. Why would the two of them look so unhappily at each other? He asked, “Why? Is there a problem?’  Aaryaka gave a dry laugh, ‘Problem? You have just offered the most perfect woman to be the wife of my grandson. And I am not in a position to accept it. Yes, you could say I have a problem.’ He continued, ‘The reason Sumukha’s father Chirakha is not here and the reason why Sumukha cannot marry you is Garuda.’

Matali was flabbergasted, ‘Garuda?’ He asked Aaryaka incredulously. Matali sat back and listened as Aaryaka continued, ‘Garuda stole the pot of Amrut from the Devas to give it to the Nagas in return for freedom for himself and his mother Vinata.’ Matali nodded. Garuda came like a storm and blew away all the Devas with his onslaught. Not even a single Deva could stand up against Garuda. Even Indra’s Vajra was useless before Garuda. Matali remembered wryly. 

After handing over the Amrita to the Nagas, both Garuda and Vinata had become free. The only way Indra could make sure the Nagas could not get the Amrita was to make a deal with Garuda. The Nagas had gone to take a bath before taking the Amrut and Indra used the opportune moment and stole the amrita at that time. Aaryaka continued, ‘After that incident, Garuda became a sworn enemies of Nagas. Garuda came here and wreaked havoc on all of us. Nothing we did seemed to work against him. We promised to send him a Naga a month and in return, Garuda was not to attack us indiscriminately. Last month, my son Chirakha, Sumukha’s father was sent to Garuda. This month, Sumukha has to be sent.’ Aaryaka trembled as he looked at his grandson, who was trying his best to look brave.

Matali looked at the two of them. Now more than ever, he was confident that Sumukha was the right choice for his daughter. He smiled as he saw Aaryaka and Sumukha, “There is nothing you can do. But there is something I can.’ As Matali entered Indra’s court at Amravathi, he felt that it was destined that the marriage between Sumukha and Guna Kesi was to take place as he saw sitting in Indra’s court was the beautiful Lord Vishnu. Bowing first to Lord Vishnu, who smiled at him enigmatically, Matali bowed to Lord Indra with Sumukha trailing behind him.

Matali then looked at Indra, ‘My Lord! I have a favour to ask from you. As you know I was searching a good match for my daughter Guna Kesi, I have finally found the perfect match for her. I think Sumukha here is the most perfect man for her.’  Indra vigorously nodded his head. He was feeling very happy for his friend and charioteer. But before he could talk Matali interrupted him, ‘Your Majesty! However I have a problem in the form of Garuda.’

Indra blinked. Garuda? Indra suddenly felt very nervous. He cleared his throat and looked at the Lord Vishnu for support and spoke, ‘Go ahead Matali!’  Matali narrated his predicament to Indra and sought Amrut be given to Sumukha to save his life. Indra looked at Matali deflated. If he handed over the amrita to Sumukha, Garuda could take offence to it.  He turned desperately to Lord Vishnu, ‘Narayana! Please tell me what to do.’

Lord Vishnu smiled, ‘You are the King of the Devas and I cannot make your choices for you. You will have to decide whether or not to give Amrut to Sumukha.’ Indra nodded to himself and thought for some time and finally looked at Sumukha and said, ‘I will give you the Amrut, Sumukha. And I will face the consequences.’ Lord Vishnu smiled at him but did not say anything.  Sumukha and Matali looked visibly relieved.

As Indra came forward and was about to hand over the Amrut to Sumukha, the court door suddenly flew open and Indra had the fright of his life when he saw a ferocious looking Garuda staring angrily at him. Garuda thundered (oblivious of Lord Vishnu’s presence), ‘What are you doing? Have you forgotten the last time we met in battle Indra? I carry the Lord Vishnu himself! Do you know how powerful I am?’ Garuda ranted on and on.

Indra took a deep breath and said calmly, ‘Garuda, you can eat all the other Nagas. He is the only one I have stopped you from eating.’  But Garuda was past hearing all that, ‘Indra! Do you know how strong I am? My feather can carry the weight of the whole world and I carry Lord Vishnu on my back…”

Garuda!’ came a soft voice. Garuda stopped talking immediately, the power of the voice was such. Lord Vishnu spoke, ‘Garuda! I think you need to demonstrate to Indra, exactly how strong you are. Probably that way, Indra would be convinced of your strength and decide not to give Amrut to Sumukha.’ Indra was puzzled even as Garuda went forward towards Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu held out his hands. ‘I think you should carry me and show them.’

Lord Vishnu placed his hands on Garuda’s shoulder. He suddenly felt like the weight of the entire Universe was placed on his shoulder. Garuda broke out in sweat. Lord Vishnu’s hand was on his shoulder and it suddenly felt that he was being pushed down. The weight was becoming unbearable. Garuda grunted and tried but Garuda’s back was burning with pain.

Lord Vishnu looked at Garuda and said, ‘Garuda! You are strong and powerful, no doubt but you have become proud and arrogant! Let that not get into your head. You carry my weight because I let you carry my weight. It is me who carries all of you.’

Lord Vishnu said, ‘Indra was being reasonable. He has the right to give Amrut to who he thinks fit. He is not depriving you of your natural food. Nor is he insulting you. He is just fulfilling the wish of his friend.’

Garuda fell to his knees his eyes streaming from tears and realised the truth in Lord Vishnu’s words. He bowed to Lord Vishnu, ‘My Lord! I behaved arrogantly. Please forgive me.’ Lord Vishnu smiled and blessed Garuda.

Garuda then turned to Indra and sought his forgiveness. Indra had watched the entire spectacle with awe. He nodded his head reverently at Lord Vishnu and smiled at Garuda. Garuda then apologised to Sumukha and exited the court. Sumukha got his Amrut and married Guna Kesi.

Lord Vishnu told Garuda to make friends with the Nagas in the Netherworld. He also told him to carry a Naga in his talons at all times to prove that he is friends with the snakes of the netherworld.  Thus Sumukha’s life was saved.

Om Namo Narayanaaya!

Sri NammAzhwar in his very first Pasuram in Thiruvai Mozhi (1.1.1) describes Him as:
உயர்வற வுயர்நலம் முடையவன் யவனவன்
மயர்வற மதிநலம் அருளினன் யவனவன்
அயர்வறும் அமரர்கள் அதிபதி யவனவன்
துயரறு சுடரடி தொழுதெழென் மனனே
Meaning: Arise, O heart, worship the feet of the One, who is higher than the highest good with all the Kalyana Gunas, who is the Lord of the ever-wakeful celestials, who dispels all doubt and grants pure knowledge.  He Who possesses auspicious qualities that cannot at all be excelled.

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastry gives an alternate interpretation that the Nama signifies that Lord Vishnu is the One Who takes us to Sri Vaikuntham.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha interprets the Nama as ‘Sarvesham Urdhva sthiti Saalitvaat, sarvatah Sreshthatvaat va Urdhva-gah – He who is above everyone in all aspects’.

  1.    Sat-pathaachaarah – One Who leads His devotees in the right path.

The word ‘patha’ means ‘path’ and ‘Sat’ means ‘righteous’. The word ‘Achaara’ is derived from the root ‘Chara – gatau’ means ‘to walk, conduct or behavior’.  Based on these, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Sataam karmaani Satpathaah taan Aacharati eshah iti Satpathaachaarah – He conducts Himself in a righteous manner and hence He is called Satpathaachaarah. He leads by example and in all His incarnations He conducted himself strictly in the path of Dharma as laid out by righteous people and as prescribed by the scriptures.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama as ‘One Who leads His devotees in the right path – sat-pathe = svabhavika daasya maarge, Acharanam = tesham pravartanam asya iti Sat-pathaachaarah – He Who guides the devotee in the right path of kainkaryam (service) to Him, which is the true nature of the devotee. It is in the interest of the Jivas to recognise and follow the relationship of Seshaseshibhava (the Master-servant relationship between the Supreme Being and the Jiva), Bhagavan facilitates this, and leads the devotee in this path. Sri Bhattar refers to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 33) where Lord Krishna says the following to Arjuna:

Kim punar brahmanah punya bhakta rajarsayas tatha  |
Anityam asukham lokam imam prapya bhajasva mam ||
Meaning: How much greater then are the Brahmanas, the righteous, the devotees and saintly kings who in this temporary miserable world (in order to get over it) engage in loving service unto Me.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha gives an interpretation as ‘sat-pathe = san-maarge Acharayati yogyaan iti Sat- pathaachaarah – He follows the path laid out by the righteous men and leads by example.

Sri RadhaKrishna Shastri refers to the Bhagavad Gita (3.22), where Bhagavan tells Arjuna that He follows the path followed by the great ones, in His incarnations to set an example for others to follow.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha interprets the Nama as ‘Sat-pathe Achaaro yasya sa SatpathAchaarah – He Whose conduct or behavior is along the righteous path, is Sat-pathachaarah.

  1.    Praana-dah – The Life-Giver

Praana means life and dah is a giver. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this name as ‘Mritaat Parikshit Prabhriteen Jeevayan Praanadah – He revived people like Parikshit from their death, hence He is called Praanadah, the Life-giver’.

He revived the unborn son residing in the womb of Uttara after the foetus was killed by Asvatthaama’s Brahma Astra and thus ensured the continuation of the Pandava race. When His Guru Sandipani’s son died, Krishna went to the abode of Yama to bring him back to life. These incidents establish His Nama as Praanadah, the Life-Giver.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives another example of His giving ‘life’ to the devotees – He confers redemption on those souls that have been poisoned by the indulgence in material pleasures – Atam ujjeevanam dadati iti Praana-dah – He gives a new life to these souls.

The Nirukti author describes this through the following words:
Kaantadi vishaya Asaktya nashta Atmabhyah kripa vashaat |
Sad-Atma ujjeevanam yo’sau dadati Praana-dah tu atyam ||
Meaning: Bhagavan is called Praana-dah because He instills life in the Jivas whose souls are getting lost because they have been poisoned by the sensuous pleasures.

In essence, it is because of Him that Beings breathe, and it is because of Him that they cease breathing. Here is the beautiful composition of Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha summarising the various interpretations that are possible for the Nama Praana-dah:
Praanan dadati, kimu va dyati,dati kim va praanan vishodhayati, daapayati iti kim va |
Sarvatra sarva vidhina sa hi Vishnur-eko yah Praanado’sti kathitah Srutibhih puranah ||
Meaning: He is the Giver of Praana, the Taker of Praana, the Purifier of Paana, Enlightener of Praana, and is present everywhere and in everything in the form of Praana. The Supreme Deity, Lord Vishnu, is sung thus as Praana-daH in the Shrutis.

Other references to the Shruti that are provided by Sri Vasishtha are:

  • Praana-da apana-da vyana-davarco-da varivo-dah |
    Anyaans-te asmaat-tapantu hetayah pavako asmabhyam shivo bhava || (Yajur. 17.15)
    Meaning: The Life-Giver, keep us safe and provide us the space, and May your weapon (flames) torment other than us; being the purifier, may you be auspicious to us.
  • Yah Praana-dah Praanadavaan babhuva yasmai lokah dhritavantah ksharanti| (Atharva. 4.35.5)
    He is the Life Giver and He protects with a firm resolve and makes everthing function.

Another line of interpretation given by Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha is based on the root ‘pra – purane’ meaning ‘to fill’. In this interpretation, he gives the derivation – Praanah purnah, purnasya dataa Praana-dah – He Who gives fullness to everything.  He is One Who bestows fullness – Praana-dah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives another dimension to the Nama – in His Rama incarnation, He declares that He will even give His life in order to protect those who have surrendered to Him:
Apyaham Jivitam jahyaam tvam vaasite sa-Lakshmanam |
Na tu pratijnaam samSrutya brAhmaNebhyo viSeshataH || Srimad Ramayana 4.10.19
Meaning: Adressing Sita Piratti, Lord Rama says: ‘I won’t mind sacrificing My own life, or even those of You and Lakshmana; but I will not swerve from the word I give, especially to the Brahmanas’.

Sri T. S. Raghavendran explains the Nama as:

  • Praanan indiryani dadati iti Praana-dah – He who gives indriyas to all and makes them function
  • Praanan indiryani dyati khandayati iti Praana-dah – He Who removes the attachment to indriyas for the Sattvic souls
  • Prakrshena anam sukha virruddha duhkham dyati khandayati iti Praana-dah – He Who removes the grief that is opposed to happiness (Nah sukham, tad-viruddhatvat anah Sokhah, prakrshena tama dyati = khandayati iti Praana-dah).
  1. Pranavah – He reveals Himself through the Pranava Mantra – ‘AUM’

Pranavah refers to the primordial sound of ‘A-U-M’ or the Omkara which preceded all Creation. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Pranavo nama Paramatmano Vaachaka Aumkaarah; Tadabhedopachaarena ayam Pranavah – Pranava sound is nothing but the pronouncement of the Bhagavan and a revelation of Himself to the Universe.  Because of this inseparable identity with Omkara Bhagavan is called Pranavah, the one who is Omkara Himself’.

All Vedic mantras start with the Pranava mantra.  In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 7 Verse 8), Bhagavan  says ‘Pranavas Sarva Vedeshu – I am the Pranava as expounded in all Vedas’.  In another verse of the Bhagavad Gita (10.25), Bhagavan says ‘Giraam asmi Ekam aksharam – I am the ‘AUM’ among all sounds’.  So Bhagavan is fully described by the sound of ‘AUM’ and is therefore called as Pranavah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation for the Nama is ‘Pranavena Idrisha sambandham udbhodhya, maam Namaskuru iti sva-caran aravindayoh tan Pranamayati’ – By means of the sacred ‘Pranava’ mantra, Bhagavan reveals to His devotees the true relationship between Him and them, and makes them understand the need for surrendering unto Him.

Sri Bhattar also gives support from the atharva Siras: ‘Praanan sarvan paramatmani Pranamayati, etasmat Pranavah – The mantra is called Pranava mantra, because it makes all souls to obey, and pay respects to, the Paramatma’.

Pranava refers to the mantra represented by the three letters – A, U, and M – ‘Aum’ or ‘OM’. This syllable, which is considered a mantra that is the essence of all Vedas, is considered as a manifestation of Bhagavan Himself in sound form. Sri Bhattar explains that the letter ‘A’ represents Lord Narayana, the letter ‘U’ represents Goddess Lakshmi and the letter ‘Ma’ refers to the Jivatma.  Hence the Pranava ‘AUM’ represents the union of the Jivatma with Sriman Narayana and Lakshmi Piratti.

Sri RadhaKrishna Shastri quotes the yoga sutra – tasya vacakaH Pranavah (1.27) – ‘The Pranava mantra is a manifestation in words of Paramatma’.  This mantra reveals Him to us, when we understand the meaning of the mantra. 

Bhagavan summarises His instructions to Arjuna in the last Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita and says in this verse (18.65):
Man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaaji maam Namas-kuru |
Maameva eshyasi satyam te pratijaane priyo’si me || (18.65)
Meaning: Focus your mind on Me; Be My devotee; Be My worshipper; Prostrate before Me. You shall come to Me alone. I promise you, truly, for you are dear to Me”.

It is insightful to read Sri RamanujAcharya’s explanation to this verse, so that we truly understand the nature of this obeisance that Bhagavan instructs us to offer to Him.  He says ‘mad-bhaktah bhava’ – atyartham mama priyah atyarthamatpriyatvena ca niratishaya priyaam Smriti santatim kurushva ityarthah’ – Focus your mind on Me; Be My devotee. Be one to whom I am incomparably dear. Since I am the object of superabundant love, meditate on Me, i.e., practice the succession of memory of unsurpassed love of Me’.

Sri RamanujAcharya stress the word ‘Priyam’ by saying it three times and thereby emphasising the basis of the relationship between Him and us. It is because of His intense love and compassion to us that we should bow to Him, and surrender unto Him, and He assures us that He will redeem us as a result.

mad-yaaji bhava – ‘tatraapi mad-bhakta iti anushajyate, yajanam pujanam atyartha priya mad-Aradhano bhava, Aradhanam hi paripurna Sesha vrittih’.
Meaning: Be My worshipper (yaaji). Here also, the expression ‘Be My devotee’ is applicable. Yajna is worship. Worship Me as One exceedingly dear to you. Worship (Aradhana) is complete subservience to the Lord.

Again the emphasis is on ‘atyartha priyam’. This is the basis of the Aradhana that Bhagavan is advising us to practice. The complete subservience is based on our utmost love to Him, and not based on any other factor such as fear etc.

Maam Namas-kuru – namo Namanam mayi atimaatra-prahvI bhaavam atyarthapriyam kuru ityarthah’
Meaning: Prostrate before Me. The meaning is ‘Bow down humbly before Me with great love.

Once again, Sri Ramanuja emphasises utmost love as the basis – ‘atyartha priyam kuru’ – perform this act with great love.

For those who thus surrender to Him, Bhagavan says: ‘maam eva eshyasi, satyam te pratijaane’ – I make this solemn promise to you. You shall attain Me as a result’. These are not mere empty words, because Bhagavan continues: ‘priyo’si me’ – ‘You are dear to Me’. Thus, Bhagavan is not just advising us to worship Him with love as the basis, but He is bound to us by the same love, even more intensely than we can ever command. Bhagavan has already declared in (BG 7.17) that ‘He in whom there is great love for Me, I hold him also as exceedingly dear to Me. I Myself will enable him to attain Me’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as ‘prakarshena nuyate – stuyate sadbhih iti Pranavah – He Who is praised uniquely by the devoted’.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha gives the interpretation for the Nama as – Prakarshena nayati iti Pranavah – Lord Vishnu is called Pranavah because He regulates or puts the world in an orderly form in a splendid way.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the interpretation as ‘nitya nutanatvaat Pranavah (prakeshena nutanatvaat Pranavah (pra + nava= Pranava)’ – He is to be praised by the living with Pranava.

Sri Raghavendran has included some additional interpretation and support: Pranamanti iha yam vedah tasmat Pranavah ucyate – sanatkumara – Vishnu is called Pranavah because all Vedas bow down to Him.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha indicates the derivation of the Nama from the root word ‘Nu – stutau’ meaning ‘to praise, to commend’ and explains as ‘Pranauti iti Pranavah, Pranamayati iti va – He Who is praised or worshipped is ‘Pranavah’.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives support from Katha Upanishad (1.2.15 to 1.2.17):
Sarve Veda yat-padam Amananti tapamsi sarvani ca yad vadanti |
Yad-icchanto brahmacaryam caranti tat-te padam sa’ngraheNa bravimi yom iti etat || 1.2.15||
Meaning: The goal which all the Vedas uniformly extol, which all acts of tapas speak of, and wishing for which men lead the life of a Brahmacharin, that goal I tell you briefly—It is this—‘AUM’.

Etaddhyevaksharam Brahma etadd hyevaksharam param | 
Etaddhyevaksharam jnatva yo yadicchati tasya tat || 1.2.16 ||
Meaning: This word (AUM) is, indeed, Brahman, this word is, indeed, the highest; whosoever knows this word obtains, indeed, whatever he wishes for.

Etad-Alambanam Sreshtham etad-Alambanam param |
Etad-Alambanam jnatvaa bloke mahiyate || 1.2.17||
Meaning: This letter is indeed Brahman. This very letter is the Supreme. Meditating upon this letter one gets whatever one wants. This is the best support. This is the highest support. He who knows this is glorified in the world of Brahman.

Sri Vasishtha gives several other references to the Shruti, where the significance of the Pranava mantra is revealed to us:

  • vishve devasa iha maadayanta AUM pratishtha | (yajur. 3.13)
  • AUM krato smara | klive smara | kritam smara | (yajur. 40.15)
  • AUM kham brahma | (yajur. 40.17)
  • Rco akshare parame vyoman asmin deva adhi vishve nisheduh | (Rg. 1.164.9)

The significance of the Pranava mantra is the meditation on the mantra with its meaning in mind, which, at a high level, reveals to us the permanent and eternal relationship between us and the Paramatma, Lord Narayana.

  1.    Panah – He Who trades His role as Master with His devotees, and is subservient to them

The root meaning of Pana is a transaction or activity. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Panatir Vyavahararthah tam Kurvan Panah – Pana means a transaction and therefore Panah is one who transacts actively’. He quotes the ine from Taittriya Aranyaka Upanishad (1.2.7) ‘Sarvaani Rupaani Vichintya Dheero Namani Kritvabhivadan Yadaaste – He, the brilliant one, contemplates various forms and creates them giving them different names’. Each creation is a transaction for Bhagavan and hence He is called Panah, the one who repeatedly transacts.

Sri Adi Sankara also gives another interpretation taking the meaning of trader for Panah. His second interpretation is ‘Punyaani sarvani Karmani Panam Sangrihya Adhikaaribhyah tatphalam prayacchati iti vaa lakshanayaa Panah – He takes into account the actions carried out by various people and gives fruits according to the merits of their deeds and hence He is called Panah, the trader. Basically this is a trading activity and Bhagavan who performs this is the great trader or Panah, as the name indicates.

Sri Parasara Bhattar draws from the SeshaseshI bhavam, or the Lord-servant relationship that exists between Him and us. While this is the natural relationship between Bhagavan and us, sometimes He chooses to reverse this relationship, and behaves as if He is the servant of the devotee. This is the ‘transaction’, namely the reversal of the role, that Sri Bhattar enjoys through this Nama – ‘evam tesham svamya-daasya vyatiharena vyavaharati iti Panah – He behaves as though there is a transaction whereby there has been an interchange of the role of the Master-servant relationship between Him and us. He acts as if they are the masters and He is their servant.  There are several instances where the Bhagavan becomes subservient to His devotees – e.g. for Thirumazhisai Azhwar, for Namdev, for Sakkubhai, for Yashoda etc.

Sri RamanujAcharya explain this as ‘ayam maya vina Atma dhaarana asambhaavanaya maam eva anuttamam praapyam Asthitah, atah tena vina mama api Atmadhaaranam na sambhavati, tato mama api Atma hi sah’ – This Jnani, who is solely devoted to Him, considers Him to be the highest, and finds it impossible to support himself without Me; so also, I find it impossible to be without him. Thus, verily, He is My self”.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha indicates the root for the Nama as ‘Pana – vyavahare’ meaning ‘to bargain, to bet or stake at play’, or ‘pana – stutau’ meaning ‘to praise’.  Vyavaharati, vyavahaarayati va vishvam, sah Panah – He Who transacts the activites of the world, or He because of whom the people of the world transact their activites, is Panah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives examples from the Shruti where this ‘transaction’ aspect is captured:
Yo agnishoma havisha saparyaat daivadrica manasa yo ghritena |
Tasya vratam rakshatam paatamamhaso vishe janaaya mahi Sarmayacchatam || (Rg. 1.93.8)
Meaning: Whosoever honours Agni and Soma with devout heart, through oil and poured oblation, for him, they (Agni, Soma etc.) in turn protect his sacrifice, preserve him from distress, and grant to the sacrificer great felicity.

Agnih purvebhih Rishbhih Idyo nutanairuta |
Sa devaam eha vakshati || (Rg. 1.1.2)
Meaning: Worthy is Agni to be praised by the living as by ancient seers; He shall bring the Gods.

Agne naya supatha raaye | (Rg. 1.189.1)
Meaning: Agni, God who knows every sacred duty, by goodly paths lead us to riches.

Sri Vasishtha has interpreted the Nama in the spirit of Agni carrying the offerings that are made to the Devas, and the Devas in return, bestow riches on the people.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna in Chapter 3 verse 11 and 12 says:
Devan bhavayatanena te deva bhavayantu vah |
Parasparam bhAvayantaH SreyaH param avApsyatha || 3.11||
Meaning: The Devas, being pleased by sacrifices, will also please you; thus nourishing one another, there will reign general prosperity for all.

Ishtaan bhogaan hi vo deva daasyante yajna bhavitaah |
Tair-dattaan apradaayaibhyo yo bhungte stena eva sah ||B.G.3.12||
Meaning: The Devas, pleased by the sacrifice, will bestow on you the enjoyments you desire. He who enjoys the bounty of the Devas without giving them anything in return, is but a thief.

Sri RadhaKrishna Shastri comments that as a merchant gives merchandise that is commensurate with the amount that is paid to him, Bhagavan measures out the fruits commensurate with the karma; thus, the price for happiness is following the path of Dharma.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains this Guna of Bhagavan in terms of the functioning of everything in the Universe: ‘Panah – The Supreme Manager of the Universe. By giving the exact reward for all actions, Lord both orders and justly manages all activities of each individual and directly supervises the interactions between individuals and things constituting this scientifically precise Universe’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the meaning ‘to praise’, and explains the Nama as ‘Panyate stuyate sattva Gunavadbhih iti Panah – He Who is worshipped by those who are endowed with a predominance of the sattva Guna’. This is also the interpretation provided by Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha – Panyate janaih stuyate iti Panah.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives yet another dimension to His ‘transactions’ – Panayati devaan vyahaareshu pravartayati iti Panah – He is called Panah because He assigns the respective duties to be performed by the different the Gods, and controls them in these functions.

In Summary

Aadhaaranilayo Dhata Pushpahaasah Prajaagarah                 |
Urdhvagah Satpathacharah Praanadah Pranavah Panah ||102||

He supports the five basic elements or the Pancha Bhutas such as the Earth, Air, Water, Fire and Ether that support all others, hence He is called Aadhaaranilayah. He is well established and and has no other support other than Himself, hence He is called Adhaata, one who is self-reliant’. Bhagavan blooms Himself into a beautiful Universe, hence He is called Pushpahaasah, one who blooms like a flower. He is innately alert and awake to His devotees’ needs, hence He is called Prajaagarah.

Bhagavan is superior to every one in every way and is present everywhere; He knows everything and is ever-lasting; He stands above all in all respects, thus He is called Urdhvagah. He conducts Himself in a righteous manner, leading by example through His Avataars, and hence He is called Satpathaachaarah. He is the Life-Giver and hence He is called Prana-dah. He represents the Pranava Mantra – AUM and hence He is Pranavah. He gives fruits according to the merits of the deeds and hence He is called Panah.  He is also called Panah, as He trades His role as Master with His devotees and becomes subservient to them.



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