In this Part we will explore the meaning of the Thirteenth Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Shloka 13
Rudro Bahushira Babhruh Vishvayonih Suchishravah     |
Amrutah SasvataSthanuh Vararoho Mahatapah            ||13||

Bhagavan brings tears of joy to his devotees. He is multi-headed with eyes, ears, hands and feet in all directions and HE supports the earth in his AdiSesha form. He is the root cause of the Universe and one who has divine ears that hear all things Pure. He is insatiable nectar to his devotees and is eternally firm. He is the Supreme Object of Attainment and He is endowed with great knowledge.


This Shloka contains the following 9 Namas:
115.   Rudrah
116.   Bahushirah
117.   Babhruh
118.   Vishvayonih
119.   Suchishravah
120.   Amrutah
121.   SasvataSthanuh
122.   Vararohah
123.   Mahatapah

Now let’s examine the meaning of this Shloka in detail:

115.        Rudrah

This Nama has three meanings:
a)            One who brings tears of joy to his devotees;
b)            One who confers the good on his devotees; and
c)            One who destroys misery.

1604624_1750713158401301_1631851258_nRodayati iti rudrah – Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this to mean that Bhagawan brings tears of joy to His devotees.  While Sri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Samhaara kale praajaah samharan rodayati – At the time of final destruction He makes people cry.’

The other way of interpreting this is “Rudam dadaati iti Rudrah– He confers good things” or “Ruh draavayati iti Rudrah – He eliminates devotees’ miseries.” Shiva Puraana says “RurDuhkham Duhkhahetum vaa Tad Draavayati yah Parabhuh, Rudra ityuchyate Tasmaat Shivah Paramakaaranam – He is called Rudrah because he liquidates all our sorrows and their causes.” Sri Adi Sankara further explains that ‘Rud’ means ‘good’ and ‘Ra’ means ‘one who confers’ and, hence Rudra means one who confers good.

It’s very interesting to note the Namas generally attributed to Shiva such as Rudra, Sthaanu, Eeshaana and even the Nama Shiva also appear in the Vishnu Sahasranamam. The converse is also true. In Sri Rudram we have a line saying ‘Om Namo Bhagavate Rudraaya Vishnave Mrityur me Paahi’ where Rudra is addressed as Vishnu. It goes to show the basic underlying unity of Hari and Haran.

116.        BahuShirah

Bahu-Shirah means the One who is multi-headed. In Purusha Suktam Bhagavan described as “Sahasra SIrshA purushah sahasrAkshah sahasra pAt meaning HE is the Purusha with thousand heads, thousand eyes and thousand feet…   In the Bhagavad GItA Chapter 11 Verse 11, Sanjaya says -SarvAScarya mayam devam anantam viSvatO mukham –

Sanjaya says that Arjuna witnessed the Viraat rUpa of Bhagawan which had countless faces looking in all directions.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 11 Verse 16, Arjuna says:

‘Aneka Bahoodara Vaktra Netram Pashyaami tvaam Sarvato nantaroopam
Na antam na madhyam na punasvatim Pashyami Vishveshwara Vishvarupa
Meaning:  I see your endless form everywhere with countless hands, heads, stomachs and eyes. I see you with no end, no middle and no beginning’.

1511502_716731801705171_1904257645_nSri Parasara Bhattar has interpreted the Nama as referring to the form of Bhagavan as Ananta, in which form He has many faces and over a thousand hoods.

Again in Chapter 13, we have “sarvatah paaNi paadam tat sarvato’kshi SirO mukham – The Pure svarupa has hands and legs everywhere, has eyes, heads, and mouths everywhere”.

117.        Babhruh

koormaSri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Bibharti lOkAn iti babhruh – The one who supports the world.’

He as AdiSesha supports the earth. He is also the supporter of the Earth as Adi Kurma, Adi Varaha, etc.

118.        Vishva-yonih 

ranganatha (1)The Nama Vishvayonih has two meanings:
a)            He is The Cause of this World; and
b)            He is the One who unites His devotees with Himself.

Yoni means ‘Cause’, since He is the cause of this world He is called Visvayoni.  In The 89th nama – Visvareta – we saw that He is the seed from which the world originated.   This Nama says that He is also the place where the seed develops into its full blossom.  Yoni means womb, and He is the seed, the womb, the Sustainer after the birth of the world, the one who impartially observes as the Kshetrajna or skilfully cultivates.

1465306_567212290029220_1089571525_nThe word Yoni is derived from the word yu which means – to unite (yu miSraNE). Thus Yoni can refer to Bhagavan’s act of uniting His devotees with Him.

When Hanuman came and confirmed that he had sighted Sita, Lord Rama was so happy that he gave him a tight hug!

Hanuman was ecstatic!

The Story of Thiruppaan Azhwar

Thiruppaan was found in a paddy field in Woraiyur by a couple from the ‘Paanar’ community. The childless pair cherished his arrival and brought him up with much love and care.  Paanars’ are a community of musicians and traditional song makers who are capable of moving their audiences to states of ecstasy and bliss.

ThiruppanThiruppaan is believed to be an avatar from Vishnu’s chest known as Srivatsam (legend has it that all azhwars are avatars of some part of Vishnu).

Being a divine child, his instincts were heavenly and he grew as a man uninterested in all the glamour of the world. Having a veena in his hand, he was always seen singing glories of Vishnu. He was soon famous in and around villages of Southern India.

Thiruppaan-AlvarHis skills as a bhakti (divine) musician and his abilities to express that invoked bhakti amongst his listeners, drew audiences from afar. He was soon to be known as “Paanar Perumal”.

The Paanar Community was considered as outcastes. One of the strictures on them was that they were not allowed to use the shores of Cauvery River, considered sacred and pure by the higher caste people of the region. Following this stricture, Paanar Perumal did not come near the Cauvery River, but mostly stood alongside its banks facing the Srirangam temple and sang in praises of Lord Ranganatha.

One day, a Sage by the name Loka Saranga came to the River Cauvery for drawing water for the temple. Paanar was in deep devotion and was unaware of his surroundings that he missed the voice of Loka Saranga asking him to move away. The sage threw a small stone in his direction to wake him, but the stone accidentally hit the forehead of Paanar and he started to bleed and he retired quietly.

Unaware of the injury caused to Panaar, the Sage returned to the temple. He was taken aback on seeing blood oozing out from the forehead of the idol of Lord Ranganatha. That very night, the Lord appeared in the dream of Loka Saranga and commanded him to bring Paanar to the temple on his shoulders the following morning.

Accordingly, Loka Saranga requested Paanar to come to the temple on his shoulders. But Paanar, referring to his lowly birth, declined to go along.

When he was told of Vishnu’s command, Paanar agreed. When they reached the sanctum, Paanar experienced the bliss of Lord Ranganatha and composed the AmalanAdhipiraan comprising of 10 Pasurams or verses describing the beauty of the Lord Ranganatha from the Lord’s Lotus feet to his divine head and ultimately laid his life at the feet of the deity.

The first Pasuram is describing Arangan’s feet:

NeeL madhil Arangathamman thirukkamalapaadham
vandhu en Kannin ullana okkinrathe.
Meaning: He is the Lord of Arangam surrounded by lofty walls. O, his auspicious Lotus feet have come to stay in my eyes.


He then proceeded to describe the whole body of the Lord and sang a total of ten Pasurams (or hymns) which described in detail the beauty of the Lord Ranganatha from his Lotus feet to his Divine head.

His final Pasuram read as:

Kondal vannanaik kovalanay venney Unda vayan en ullam kavarndhaanai
Andarkon aNi arangan en amudhinaik Kanda kangal marronrinaik kanave
Meaning: The dark-hued Lord is the One who came as a cowherd lad and stole butter. He is the Lord of Gods and of Arangam also. He has stolen my heart.  After seeing my Lord and experiencing ambrosial delight, my eyes will see nothing else.

And finally after completing the verses, Thiruppaan Azhwar fell down and laid his life at the Lord’s feet and attained liberation. He became a part of the Lord along with his mortal sheath.

His principal purport in them is: “Perumal is the principal supreme entity and our aims and aspirations should be to attain Him through total surrender to him signified by our placing all of ourselves at his lotus feet”.

Without the Lord’s will, no one can be united with Him.  He is Visvayoni because He unites His devotees with Himself.

119.        Suci-Shravah

This Nama has three meanings:
a)            One who listens to words which are pure;
b)            One whose names are worthy of being heard; and
c)            One who has beautiful and divine ears.

SruNoti iti Suci-SravAh – One who listens to words that are pure.  Sri Bhattar gives the following reference from the MahAbhArata  –

“SucIni SrAvaNIyAni SriNomi iha dhananjaya             |
na ca pApAni grihNAmi tato’ham vai SuciSravAh      ||   (MB Santi parva 344.61)

“O Dhananjaya!  I listen here to all that is pure and agreeable to hear.  I do not heed to what is sinful.  Therefore I am known as Suci-Shravaah”.

viduraIn this context, Sri Parasara Bhattar points out the incident where Krishna kept listening to the words of Vidura, which were full of dharma, and the night passed away for Krishna unnoticed –

“dharmyA ramyASca arthavatIh vicitrArtha padAksharAh
SriNvanto vividhA vAcah vidurasya mahAtmanah                |
akAmasyaiva krishNasya sA vyatIyAya SarvarI                   ||  (MB Udyoga 93.2)

b)  Sri Adi Sankara gives the following interpretation –  SucIni Sravamsi nAmAni SravaNI yaanyasyeti Suci-Sravaah – The One whose names and glories are very holy and purifying to hear; and

c)  The word Sravas also means ear.  Swami Chinmayananda interprets this Nama as meaning the One who has divine ears – He is the Hearer of all ears.

120.        Amrutah

Amrut means nectar and the Bhagvan is the the unsatiating nectar to His devotees. He is also Amrita or nectar to his devotees giving joy and sustenance to them.

It is said of Valmiki that – “Yah Piban satatam Rama Charitaamrita Saagaram Atriptas tam Munim Vande Praachetasam Akalmasham – Salutations to Sage Valmiki who is never satiated even after constantly drinking in the Amrita of Ramakatha’. The devotees never get satiated by doing service to Bhagavan, and He is limitlessly sweet to the devotees.

Another meaning for Amrutah is that He is immortal. na vidyate mritam maraNam asya iti amrutah – He has no decay or death. The sruti says He is non-decaying and Immortal – ajarah amarah – (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.25).

Swami Chinmayananda says that He is Amrutah because He can cure the disease of ignorance in His devotees.

121.        Sasvata-Sthanuh

This Nama has appeared earlier in two parts as Sasvata and Sthanu separately as the 57th and 28th Namas. Sthanuh was earlier interpreted as the One who is firm in blessing His devotees, and Sasvata was interpreted as the One who is Eternal because of His unceasing act of creation, sustenance and destruction. Sri Parasara Bhattar gives this Nama the meaning ‘Eternal and Steady’.  Unlike the nectar for which the Devas and Asuras churned the Ocean, He is Eternal because he cannot be taken away from those who enjoy Him.  Sri Adi Sankara gives the meaning that He is “Eternally Firm”.

Sri Radhakrishna Sastri gives the interpretation that He is Sasvata because He has no beginning or end, and Sthanu because He does not age or decay.

122.        Vararohah   

The Nama Vararohah has two meanings:
a)            One who is the ‘Supreme Object of Attainment’;
b)            One who is of ‘Excellent Ascent’.

Varam means Supreme and Arohanam means ascent. Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that He is the Supreme object of attainment and all other objects are inferior.   Sri Adi Sankara gives the meaning that He is of ‘Excellent Ascent’.Ananthasayanam

Sri Radhakrishna Sastri suggests that Bhagavan is Vararohah because He is reclining on AdiSesha, the high paryanka.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the first 122 Namas as describing the ‘Para’ form of Vasudeva,  which is not conditioned by any limiting adjuncts and is endowed with the six qualities of Gnana, Balaa, Aishvarya, Veerya, Shakti and Tejas.

This is the object of attainment of the released souls.  The transcendental nature (paratva) of Bhagavan has been spoken of mostly by the names ending with the above nama – Vararoha.

Sri Parasara Bhattar also interprets the contents of the first 122 Namas as the response from Bhishma to Yudhistra for the first two of the six questions he posed –

1)            kim ekam daivatam loke? Who is the Supreme God;
2)            kim vApi ekam parAyaNam? What is the highest goal in life?

Vasudeva can be taken as having been included in the ‘Para’ form.  The ‘Vyuha’ forms are in charge of the work of Creation, Sustenance, and Destruction; they propound the Sastras, explain their significance, and give the fruits in accordance with the rules laid down therein; they also teach the method of meditation and worship of Bhagavan.   The six qualities of the Para roopa are distributed amongst the four Vyuhas (Vasudeva, Samkarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha) and each has its own form and duties.  They are the means for the attainment of salvation.  The Samkarshana form is associated with knowledge and strength.   Starting with the next nAma, the Samkarshana form – the second in the Vyuhas – will be covered.

123.        Mahatapah  

Mahatapah means the One who is endowed with great knowledge. Tapas generally means penance and it also means Knowledge. Supreme penance leads to ultimate knowledge and hence the two are synonymous in essence.

In this context Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Mahat srijya vishayam tapo jnaanam asya iti Mahaatapaah – He has the Supreme knowledge of creation hence he is Mahatapah’.

This is also reflected in the Mundaka Upanishad which says ‘Yasya Jnaanamayam Tapah – Whose tapas is the nature of knowledge.

Rudro Bahushira Babhruh Vishvayonih Suchishravah     |
Amrutah SasvataSthanuh Vararoho Mahatapah            ||13||

visvam4Bhagavan brings tears of joy to his devotees, hence He is Rudrah. He is multi-headed with eyes, ears, hands and feet in all directions, so He is Bahushirah. He supports the earth in his AdiSesha form, hence He is Babhruh.

He is the root cause of the Universe, so He is Vishvayonih. He has divine ears that hear all things Pure, hence He is Suchishravah.

He is insatiating nectar to his devotees, hence Amrutah. He is eternal with no beginning or end and has no decay, so He is SasvataSthanuh.

HE is the Supreme Object of Attainment, so He is Vararohah. He is endowed with great knowledge and hence He is called Mahatapah.

A link to the audio visual commentary on the 13th Shloka on YouTube:

Here’s an audio commentary on the 13th Shloka:



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


In this Part we will explore the meaning of the Twelfth Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.


Vasur Vasurmanah Satyah Samaatma Sammitah Samah      |
Amoghah Pundarikaksho Vrishakarma Vrishakritih           ||12||

He lives in all beings and thinks of his devotees as a treasure. He is an embodiment of truth and has a pure mind that is free from all bias. He is accepted by all Rishis and Upanishads as ‘Sat’ or ‘Truth’. He treats everyone equally and his blessings never go futile.  He has beautiful eyes like the Lotus flower. All his actions are righteous and He is an embodiment of Dharma. He has assured that He will reincarnate millenium after millenium to uphold Dharma (Sambhavi Yuge Yuge).

This Shloka contains the following 10 Namas:

105.   Vasuh
106.   Vasumanah
107.   Satyah
108.   Samaatma
109.   Sammitah
110.   Samah
111.   Amoghah
112.   Pundarikakshah
113.   Vrishakarma
114.   Vrishaakritih

vishu with weapons

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

105.   Vasuh – He is the treasure that His devotees seek

The Nama ‘Vasuh’ occurs three times in the Vishnu Sahasranamam and needless to say has at least three different meanings.  Vasuh basically comes from the root word ‘vas’ meaning to live. The following meanings are indicated.

a)         One who dwells in the hearts of His devotees.
b)         One who dwells in the Milky-Ocean also known as Ksheera Sagara.
c)         One who is the treasure that His devotees seek.
d)         The best among the eight Vasus – Pavaka or Fire
e)         One who lives in the sky.

krishnanarayana‘Vasanti sarva bhootani atra iti vasuh’ – He is Vasuh because all beings live in Him. In the Bhagavat Gita Chapter 7 Verse 12, Bhagavan says  ‘Matta eveti taan viddhi na tvaham teshu te mayi – They live in me and I in them’

‘Teshu ayam vasati iti vasuh’ – He is Vasuh because He resides in all beings (or resides in the heart of his devotees).

Vasati iti Vasuh means One who dwells.  He dwells in the hearts of His devotees who show even a small amount of devotion.  “sa lokaanaam hitaarthaaya ksheerodhe vasati prabhuh” – The great Lord resides in the Milky Ocean or the Ksheera Sagara for doing good to His devotees in this world. “Esha Narayanah Srimaan kshIraarnava niketanah” – This Narayana is always with Lakshmi, and resides in the Milky Ocean.

The word ‘Vasu’ also means Wealth – Vasati Neetimataam Griha iti Vasu. In the Bhagavad GIta, Chapter 7 Verse 19, the Lord says:    Vasudevah Sarvam meaning Vasudeva is everything.  He is the ultimate wealth that learned men seek i.e. Moksha.

There are eight elemental gods (called “Ashta-vasu”, ‘Eight Vasus’) representing different aspects of nature and cosmic phenomenon. He is Vasuh because He is one of the eight Vasus .

AgniSri Adi Sankara gives the following reference from the Bhagavad GIta (Chapter 10 Verse 23) to support this interpretation – ‘Vasunam Pavakascasmi’ – I am the Pavaka among the Vasus meaning He is the God of Fire. And by burning He purifies everything.

Vasu also means One who as air, moves about and resides in the mid-region – Vasurantiksha Sat (Katho Upanishad 2.5.2).

106.        Vasumanah – He has a Pure Mind

In the words of Sri Adi Sankara Vasumanah is explained as ‘Prashastam Manah Yasya Sah Vasumanaah – One who has a pure or rich mind’. Bhagavan’s mind being unpolluted by baser feelings such as passion, hatred, anger and infatuation. He has a mind which has none of the sins of passions and pain, none of the storms of desires and jealousies, none of the quirks of likes and dislikes. His mind is totally pure and so he is ‘Vasumanah’.

This Nama can also be interpreted as someone whose mind considers his devotees as his treasure. In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7 verse 19 Lord Krishna says– Vasudevam Sarvam Iti Sa Mahatma Sudurlabhah – Knowing me to be the ultimate cause, such a great soul is very rare.

107.        Satyah – He is the Truth

The most commonly known meaning for this word is Truth.  In the Mahabharata, it says –
Satye pratisthitah krishnah satamasmin pratishthitam           |
sattaasatte ca Govindah tasmaat Satyah sataam matah         || (Udyoga Parva 69.12.13)

“Krishna is rooted in Satya and Satya is rooted in Krishna.  Existence and non-existence are grounded in Govinda.  So great men opine that Krishna is Truth itself”. Sri Adi Sankara gives the following from the Aitreya Aranyaka in support of this – Sat means ‘with a form’ and Tya means ‘without a form’, hence Satyah refers to someone who is both manifested (Vyakta) and unmanifested (avyakta).

There are a few other meanings:

  • One whose form is made up of Prana, matter and sun.  ‘saditi prANAsteetyaNam yamityasAvAdityah’ – Sat means Prana, Ti means Food, and Yam means the Sun.  He is satya because His form is made up of Prana, matter and sun.
  • ‘Satsu sadhutvaat Satyah’ – He is Satya because He is well-disposed towards the noble souls.
  • Taitriya Upanishad defines him as ‘Satya Jnanam Anantam Bramha – He is Truth, Knowledge and Endless’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda points out that in philosophy, Satya is that which is the same in all three periods (past, present, and future).  He is the only one who fits this definition, and so He is Satya.

108.        Samaatma – He has an even mind

Samaatma means ‘One who has an even mind’.  As explained by Sri Adi Sankara ‘Sama Aatmaa mano yasya raagadveshaadibhih adooshitah sah samaatmaa – One whose mind is evenly balanced and unpolluted by greed or aversion’.

The alternative interpretation is ‘Sarva Bhooteshu Sama Eva Atma’ – He treats everybody equal irrespective of who they are’. He does not distinguish one from another when it comes to His thoughts on His devotees. Since He is the soul in everything, He finds no distinction between them.  He is unattached to anything and sees everything and everyone as equal.

109.       Sammitah – He is the Ultimate Truth

According to Sri Adi Sankara this Nama can be explained as Sammita or Asammita. The former is interpreted as ‘Sarvairapi Arthajaataih Paricchinnah Sammitah– He has been (inadequately) measured in various different ways’. The latter is ‘Sarvaih aparicchinnah amitah Asammitah – He is unlimited or immeasurable’.

Sammitah has the following meanings as well:
a) One who has let Himself to be understood and controlled by His devotees.
b) He is the ultimate Truth that is accepted by the Rishis and revealed in the Upanishads.

Both the meanings are based on the word ‘Sammata’ which means ‘accepted’. The first interpretation is by Sri Parasara Bhattar, who points out that this Nama signifies that He willingly accepted the role of being ‘controlled’ by Kausalya, Yasoda, Dasaratha etc.  He chose the parents to whom He was going to be born, and then ‘played’ the role of a child willingly.

Swami ChinmayAnanda points out that ‘Sammitah’ can mean that He is the only one who is the accepted Truth or Sammata by the Rishis and the Upanishads.

110.        Samah  – One who is Impartial 

Samah means One who treats all His devotees equally.   Samah means the same person at all times, ‘Sarva kaaleshu Sarvavikaara rahitatvaat’.

In the Bhagavad GIta, chapter 9 verse 29, Krishna says ‘SamO’ham sarva bhuteshu’ meaning I am equally disposed towards all beings.

Sri Adi Sankara interprets the meaning as One who is the same at all times.  He also gives another interpretation – He is  (sa) with  (Maya) lakshmi always, and therefore He is Sama.  ‘Mayaa Lakshmya Saha Vartate iti Samah – Someone who lives with Lakshmi Devi’.

111.        Amoghah  – One who bestows grace on His devotees

Amoghah means One who always gives fruits to those who worship Him.

We have the following from the Ramayana:

“Amogham darshanam Rama na ca moghah tava stavah  |
amoghaaste bhavishyanti bhaktimantashca ye naraah      || (Ramayana Yuddha Kanda 120.31)

“O Rama! A sight of You is never futile.  The praise of You is also never futile.  Those who are endowed with devotion to You, will always be successful in their life”.

Sri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Poojitah Stutah Samsrutah Vaa Sarvaphalam Dadaati Na Vrithaa Karoti iti Amoghah – Whether worshipped or praised or just remembered with true devotion, He gives desired fruits, does not allow it to go futile hence He is called Amoghah’.

Amoghah can also mean ‘Satya Sankalpah – all his plans will successfully materialise’.

112.        Pundarikakshah – One whose eyes are like Lotus flower

rajiva netraPundarikam means lotus flower – ‘Pundarike iva akshini yasya sah’.  Pundarikakshah means One whose eyes are beautiful like the Lotus flower.

A second interpretation of this is One who pervades the hearts of everyone and observes everything – ‘PundarIkam hrtkamalam akshatIti va’.

The Narayana Suktam says ‘Yat Pundareekam Puramadhya samstham – He resides in the interior of the lotus that is Heart.’

SrI Parasara Bhattar gives the meaning to be ‘Vaikuntam’ for the word pundarika based on the following:

“puNdarIkam param dhAma nityam aksharam avyayam          |
tadbhavAn pundarIkAkshah ……..                                                        ||”  (MahaBharata Udyoga Parva – 69.6)

And interprets Pundarikakshah as One who is the eye for the residents of Sri Vaikuntam. “Pundarika is the transcendental world which is eternal, indestructible, and immutable.  You are like the eye to that world and so you are known as pundarIkaksha.”

The story of Sri Koorathazhwan

koora1Koorathazhwan was born as Kuresan in a small hamlet ‘Kooram’ near Kanchipuram, in the year of 1009 A.D, in an affluent family. Koorathazhwan was married at a young age to Andalamma, a devoted and pious lady. Both of them were deeply devoted to Lord Varadaraja Perumal in Kacheepuram and were famous for their unstinting philanthropy and kindness.

koora2Later on they moved to Srirangam where Kuresan approached Swami Ramanuja and became his disciple. Soon Koorathazhwan became one of the principal disciples of Swami Ramanuja and assisted him with compilation of Sri Bashyam.

koora9He travelled with Sri Ramanuja to Kashmir for the Bodhayana’s notes to complete Bhashya on Vyasa’s Brahmasutras. And when they were not allowed to take copies or notes, he memorised all of them and reproduced it!  Once he even corrected his Guru Sri Ramanuja in one of his interpretations, thus earning the love of Sri Ramanuja for his knowledge and courage.

At that time, the then Chola king was influenced by certain groups and he ordered Sri Ramanuja to be brought to his court. Coming to know this, Koorathazhwan immediately rushed to the mutt in Srirangam and requested Sri Ramanuja to move to a safer place. Upon the insistence of Koorathazhwan, Sri Ramanuja and several other disciples moved to Melkote. When the soldiers came to the mutt, Koorathazhwan was dressed up as Sri Ramanuja.  Mistaking him to be Sri Ramanuja they took him along with Sri Mahapurna to the royal court in Cholapuram.  At the court the King wanted them to sign a written declaration that read: “Siva was Supreme and no power existed above him”. But both of them refused and argued the supremacy of Lord Vishnu, citing from the Vedas, Upanishads and various other scriptures.

koora6The King got furious and ordered their eyes to be gorged out. On hearing the statement, Kuresan grabbed the quill from the King’s hands and said, “Let me save you the trouble, you tyrant, for I shall pluck out my eyes by my own hands! These eyes that have set its sight on a sinner such as you, have no further use for me!” Kuresan plunged the sharp writing quill into his own eyes, threw his eyes on the floor at the King’s feet!

koora5Kuresan’s spontaneously uttered these words:
“Yo nityamachutha padaambhuja yugmarugma
Vyaamohatas-tadi-taraani trnaaya mene
Asmath guror bhagavatosya daiyaiyaka sindoho
Ramanujasya charanow sharanam prapadye !”.

“The Holy Feet of My Master, Swami Ramanuja are my sole refuge! For He is an Ocean of Mercy! And for Him all else is worthless other than the supreme wealth that is the Feet of the Lord!”

While the King was shocked by the action of Koorathazhwan, he went ahead and ordered his soldiers to gorge out the eyes of Mahapurna as well. Later, both began to make their way back to Srirangam but Sri Mahapurna lost his life on the way. Later on, the blind Koorathazhwan moved to a town near Madurai.

The Chola King died and his son succeeded him. He was a wise king and he allowed freedom of faith and worship amongst all his subjects.   After living in exile for over a decade in Melkote, Swami Ramanuja returned to SriRangam.

Hearing the news of his Guru Ramanuja’s planned return to SriRangam, Koorathazhwan hastily returned to Srirangam and awaited his Guru’s arrival.  As Ramanuja reached Koorathazhwan’s house, he tottered forward and fell at Ramanuja’s feet and clasped them tightly to his eyeless scarred face.

Ramanuja was speechless and tears rolled down his cheeks. “My child, my child,” whispered Ramanuja to Kuresan, “What have you done! You have given your eye… the eye of faith… for the sake of Our faith in Lord Narayana!”.

When Koorathazhwan heard his Guru’s familiar voice after 12 long years, he was simply overwhelmed.  “My Master, if I had to lose my eyes it was but in atonement perhaps for some sin I may have committed! Perhaps I may have passed by some good Sri Vaishnavan and may have said to myself “How clumsily this man has applied his “Urdhvapundhram (Thirumann Kaappu)” on his forehead!  Hence, Sir, my punishment is rightly deserved!”

Ramanuja was moved by his devotion and said, “My beloved Kuresa! You and sin?!! Never!  Rather it is all my sins for which you have atoned all these years!”

Ramanuja then asked Koorathazhvan to pray to Kancheepuram’s Varadaraja Perumal for the restoration of his eyes.  Koorathazhwan said, “I have no desire to see anyone except my Guru and the Lord.  The Lord restored him with special sight thus fulfilling his desire.

One day while Koorathazhwan was at the temple Lord Ranganatha appeared and said to him, “Kuresa, you have pleased me! Ask me anything you want!”  Kuresan quickly replied,”O Ranga, you have bestowed me with every blessing and gift in my life! There is nothing that I lack!” Upon insistence of the Lord, Kuresan then asked that he be released from his mortal body and be merged with the Lord’s Feet. The Lord however demurred and said, “Ask me anything but that, Kuresa!”

Kuresa said he had nothing else to ask of God. So Ranga finally relented and said, “Let it be so then! What you have asked me, Kuresa, shall be a boon not only for you but also to everyone who had any sort of kinship with you!”

When Swami Ramanuja heard of this incident he was startled! Usually, it is the guru who intercedes with God for his disciple’s salvation and hence he was a bit disturbed. Ramanuja was remonstrative but Kuresan spoke in soft tones, “My Master! my most revered! My sole purpose was to preserve the order of precedence in “Parama-Padam”…. in God’s Kingdom.”

“Sir, in the Pasuram “mudiyudai” it is said that our elders in heaven who preceded us, come out of the gates of “Parama-Padam” to welcome their younger ones when it is the latter’s turn to arrive there…. and then usher the young ones into God’s Presence.

Sir, but I consider this to be an improper order! It is the younger ones who should always go first and prepare in Heaven to receive and welcome their elders. That is the order of precedence I wish to preserve!

When Ramanuja heard Kuresan’s stirring words his whole body shook with tremors of emotion. His spirit melted.  He said, “My most beloved Kuresa, you forget the rule that in Heaven all such differences and distinction between an elder and a young, between the wise and the ignorant, between a saint and a sinner simply don’t exist! And yet you wish to perpetuate the same relationship that exists now. Kuresa, Is there anybody to match you in this world?!”

Swami Ramanuja could not contain his tears and embraced Kuresa. Thus Kuresa achieved salvation not only for himself but also for his Guru and others.

The Lord always showers his grace on his devotees with his merciful eyes, His Divya Kataksham.

113.       Vrishakarma – All His actions are according to Dharma

Vrisha means Dharma or Virtue – Abhilashitam Varshateeti Vrishah. Bhagavan is called Vrishakarma because all his actions are according to Dharma.

In Sri Adi Sankara’s words ‘Dharmalakshanam Karmaa Asya Asti Iti – All his actions are in line with Dharma.’

The Kurma Avatar

kurma3Once Sage Durvasa had given a garland to Indra, the King of Gods. Indra placed the garland around his elephant, but the animal trampled it, and the sage felt insulted. He cursed the Devas to lose their immortality, strength, and divine powers. After losing their kingdom, they approached Lord Vishnu seeking his help.

Lord Vishnu suggested that the Devas pour medicinal herbs into the ocean of milk, and use Mount Mandara as a churning stick to get the elixir of immortality. However, the gods could not uproot the mountain. Thus, Vishnu advised them to make a pact with their enemies, the Asuras, so that both parties can share the nectar. This caused much apprehension among the Devas—however, Vishnu simply smiled reassuring them.

The Devas and Asuras eventually made their pact and together they uprooted Mt. Mandara and used it as a churning stick, wrapping the Serpent Vasuki around it as the churning rope.

Kurma Avatar1Vishnu instructed the Devas to take the head end of the snake while the Asuras were asked to take the tail end. The Asuras insisted that they should control the head end. However, this was a reverse psychology played by Vishnu, for when the churning began, the Asuras were promptly weakened by the poisonous breath that emanated from the mouth of the Serpent.

Finally, Mount Mandara churned, but the force was so great the mountain began to sink into the ocean of milk.

Taking the form of the turtle Kurma, Vishnu bore the mountain on his back as they churned the waters. As the churning progressed, Halahala or the poison appeared first.

kurma12Lord Shiva drank the Halahala, or the poison that churned up from the Samudra Manthan, to eliminate its destructive capacity. Shocked by his act, Goddess Parvati held his neck and hence managed to stop the poison from spreading beyond his neck. However, the poison was so potent that it changed the colour of his neck to blue, earning him the name Neelkanth.

From the churning of the ocean, the following fourteen things emerged:

kurma21) Halahala, the poison.
kurma-lakshmi2) Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune appeared from the Ocean and hence known as Alai magal, daughter of the ocean. Lord Vishnu met his wife, the beloved Lakshmi who has become one of the most widely worshipped goddesses
3) Varuni, the wine goddess
4) Soma, the sacrificial elixir
5) Apsaras, the celestial nymphs
6) Uccaihshravas, the divine horse
7) Kaustubha, the celestial jewel
8) Parijata, the celestial tree
9) Surabhi, the wish fulfilling Cow
10) Airavata, the Royal Elephant
11) Panchajanya, the Conch

12) Saranga, the Bow
13) Dhanvantri, the physician of the Gods and
14) Finally, the Ambrosia or Nectar

mohiniThe Asuras immediately took the nectar, and quarrelled among themselves. Vishnu then manifested himself as the beautiful Mohini and tricked the Asuras to retrieve the potion, which he then distributed to the Devas.

By the time the Asuras realised the trick it was too late— the Devas had regained their powers, and were then able to defeat their foes.

Thus the Lord restores Dharma through his righteous actions.

114.        Vrishakritih – One who manifests to uphold Dharma

The word ‘Vrisha’ means Dharma and Akriti means form. Hence, His form itself is Dharma or He is an embodiment of Dharma.  lakshmanLord Rama is considered as the model of Dharma.  In the Ramayana’s Yuddha Kanda, Lakshmana was engaged in a battle with Indrajit, the son of Ravana. All his arrows make no impression on his enemy. At last, Lakshmana aims an arrow at Indrajit with the Shloka-‘Dharmatma Satyasandhascha Ramo Daasharathir yadi, Paureshat Pratidvandvam Sharainam Jahi ravanim – Oh arrow! If it is true that Rama is a figure of Dharma and truth, kill Indrajit’. On the invocation of this oath, Indrajit could not escape and the arrow beheaded him, thus establishing that Rama was synonymous with Dharma.

dasavatharamBhagavan says that He does his actions according to Dharma and He has nothing to gain or lose by any action –  Naanavaaptam avaaptavyam varta eva ca karmani – Bhagavad Gita Chapter 3 Verse 22.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 Verse 8, the Bhagavan also says –

‘dharma samsthApanArthAya sambhavAmi yuge yuge’ meaning I will incarnate for the sake of preserving Dharma, millennium after millennium.

And true to his promise, He has taken nine avatars to restore Dharma.


Vasur Vasurmanah Satyah Samaatma Sammitah Samah      |
Amoghah Pundarikaksho Vrishakarma Vrishakritih           ||12||


He dwells in all beings and hence He is Vasuh. He has a pure mind and so He is Vasumanah. He is Satyah as He is an embodiment of truth. He is free from all bias and a Samaatma with a pure mind. He is Sammitah as He is accepted by all Rishis and Upanishads as the ‘Ultimate Truth’. He is equally disposed to all beings and so He is Samah.

He is Amoghah as His blessings never go futile.  He is Pundarikashah with His Lotus like eyes. He is Vrishakarma as all his actions are righteous and in accordance with Dharma. He is Vrishakritih as has assured that he will reincarnate millennium after millennium to uphold Dharma.

Here’s a brief audio commentary on the 12th Shloka:

And an audio visual commentary Shloka on YouTube:



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


In this Part, we will explore the meaning of the Eleventh Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.  
Shloka 11

Ajah Sarvesvarah Siddhah Siddih Sarvadir Achyutah     |
Vrishakapir Ameyatma Sarvayogavinisrutah                  ||11||

The Lord is eternal and existed even prior to Creation.  He is Supreme and well accomplished, who bestows the ultimate fruits of action (Moksha) on His devotees. He is the Ultimate Cause of all beings and the source of all things.  He never slips or lets his devotees down.  He is ever ready to swing into action to restore Dharma by taking many Avatars.  He is immeasurable and his Leelas are incomprehensible.  He can be attained through Yoga and unswerving devotion (Bhakti) is one of the easiest ways to attain Him. 

This Shloka contains the following 9 Namas:
96.    Ajah
97.    Sarveshvarah
98.    Siddhah
99.    Siddhih
100.  Sarvaadih
101.  Achyutah
102.  Vrishakapih
103.  Ameyaatma
104.  Sarvayogavinisrutah


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

96.    Ajah – One who has no birth

This Nama appears 3 times in Vishnu Sahasranamam. The word Ajah has several meanings.  The more common meanings can be summarised as below:

  1. One who is Unborn or never born;
  2. One who is The Remover of all obstacles;
  3. One who moves in the hearts of His devotees;
  4. One who removes the ignorance from the hearts of His devotees; and
  5. One who is the root of all sound (akshara “a”)

The first meaning is explained by Sri Adi Sankara by saying ‘Na Jaayate iti Ajah – Since he is not born (He is without a beginning) He is Ajah. Rig Veda says ‘Na Jaato Na Janishyate – Was never born, will never be born’.

In the Mahabharata Santi Parva, the following verse says:

“na hi jaato na jaayeyam na janishye kadaachana |
kshetrajnah sarvabhootaanaam tasmaat aham ajah smrtah ||

visvam4I was not born, nor am I being born, nor will I be born in the future. I am the soul in all beings; hence I am called the Unborn.”

Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that even though Bhagavan might have taken several Avatars, they are not to be equated with normal births.

The root ‘aj’ signifies movement or throwing away. Sri Bhattar uses this meaning and interprets the Nama as “The Remover of all obstacles”; He ensures that His devotees accomplish their objective of reaching Him.

Sri Adi Sankara uses the same meaning for aja (movement, motion) and comes up with a different explanation – ajati gacchati kshipati iti vaa ajah – He who moves into the heart of His devotees.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri uses the meaning “movement” and interprets the Nama as remover of ignorance in us, or One who goes to the bhaktas to enable them to reach Him, or One who unleashes His weapons on anyone who disturbs or causes hardship to His devotees.

The Story of Prahlada

Sri-Narada-Muni-instructs-the-Bhagavatam-to-Prahlada-Maharaja-who-is-in-the-womb-of-His-motherPrahlada was a great devotee of Lord Narayana. According to mythology, Sage Narada taught Narayana Mantras to Prahlada when he was in his mother’s womb. From then on he was a great devotee of the Lord.

prahlada (1)Prahlada was born to Hiranyakashipu, an evil Asura king who performed severe penance on Lord Brahma who was pleased and granted him a boon.  Hiranyakashipu wanted immortality which the Lord declined and asked him to seek anything else other than that.  So, Hiranyakashipu asked:

O my lord, O best of the givers of benediction, if you will kindly grant me the benediction I desire, please let me not meet death from any of the living entities created by you.

Grant me that I not die within any indoors or outdoors, during the day or at night, neither on the ground nor in the sky. Grant me that, my death not be brought about by any weapon, nor by any human being or animal.

Since no one can kill you in the battlefield, you have no competitor. Therefore, grant me the benediction that I too may have no rival. Give me sole lordship over all the living entities and presiding deities, and give me all the glories obtained by that position. Furthermore, give me all the mystic powers attained by long austerities and the practice of yoga, for these cannot be lost at any time.

Brahma said, Tathāstu (So be it) and vanished. Hiraṇyakaśipu was happy thinking that he had won over death. He soon grew arrogant and wanted everyone to worship him. 

Prahalad was sent to a Gurukul. His teachers were Chanda and Amarka who were the sons of Shukracharya the preceptor of the Asuras. They taught them to worship Hiranyakasipu as God and imparted all teachings on demonic qualities which were opposed to Lord Narayana. Prahalad did not imbibe any of these qualities. His heart and mind were filled with Lord Narayana. Hiranyakasipu was eager to know what his son had learnt. Prahalad began to sing the glories of Lord Narayana. Hiranyakasipu was astonished and could not imagine how his son could worship his arch enemy Vishnu. He sent the boy back with warnings to the teachers to find out who was influencing him at school. The helpless teachers questioned him closely as they feared the King’s wrath. They tried several methods to change his mind and took him back to the King. prahladathrownBut yet again Prahalad could only speak about Lord Vishnu. Despite several warnings from his father Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada continued to worship Narayana instead of him. Hiranyakashipu was enrage with Prahlada’s contempt for him that he decided to throw him off the mountain but he survived.  Later he tried to poison him, but Prahlada  survived yet again.

prahlada1Then he let wild elephants to trample the boy but Prahlada survived due to divine grace.  He then put him in a room full of venomous snakes, and Prahlada was unscathed.

Finally, Hiranyakashipu decided to seek the help of his sister Holika who was blessed that she would be unaffected by fire.

story-of-holika-dahan-prahlad-hiranyakashipuHiranyakashipu decides to put Prahlada on the lap of Holika (his sister) and commanded her to sit on a pyre.

PrahladaPrahlada prays to Lord Narayana to keep him safe.  The unthinkable thing happened. While Holika burned to death, Prahlada remains unscathed.  (This event is celebrated as the festival of Holi in North India).

Exasperated, Hiranyakashipu challenges Prahlada to show him his Lord. 

Out-of-love-for-His-pure-devotee-Prahlada-Maharaja-Lord-Nrsimhadeva-bursts-through-the-pillar-signalling-the-end-of-demoniac-HiranyakasipuLord Narayana emerges out of a pillar as the half-man, half-lion Narasimha Avatar, who kills the King at the entrance to his palace at dusk, using his claws by placing him on his lap.  Thus, Lord Narayana met all the conditions of Brahma’s boon to Hiranyakashipu:

1. narasimha-avatarHe came as half-man, half- animal and hence neither a man or animal;
2. It was during dusk time so neither day nor night;
3. He kills him at the entrance to his Palace, so it was neither inside nor outside;
4. He uses his claws, so no weapons were used;
5. He was not a creation of Brahma; and
6. Finally, he kept him on his lap , so he was neither on land nor in the sky!

The story of Prahlada demonstrates that God will come to save his devotees who have reposed unflinching faith in Him.

The final meaning comes from the explanation ‘Akaara vachyatayaa jaatah Ajah – One who is realizable through the sound of Akaara or the letter ‘Aa’.

Everything originates in Pranava or the syllable AUM which begins with Akaaraa. So it is appropriate to say that awareness of Him starts with the akshara ‘A’ and hence he is Ajah.  

In the Bhagavad Gita 10.33 Lord Krishna says ‘Aksharanaam Akaarosmi – I am Akaara among all letters’.

 97.       Sarveshvarah – He is the Supreme Lord

Sarveshvarah has two meanings:
a)            One who reaches all who seek Him;
b)            One who is the Isvara for all Isvaras

Sri Adi Sankara gives a simple definition ‘Sarveshaam Eeshvaranaam Eeshvarah – He is the Supreme Lord of all Lords’.

He rules over all other Lords who have control over their own specific areas. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.22 says ‘Esha Sarveshvarah – He alone is the Supreme Lord’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar takes the view that ‘ash + varat = Eeshvarah’ with the meaning “having the power of granting success soon.”  In this interpretation He is Sarveshvarah because He quickly reaches all those who have taken refuge in Him in order to give them comfort instantly.

98.    Siddhah – The Accomplished

Siddhah is a person of perfect accomplishment. ‘Siddhyati iti Siddhah – One who accomplishes is a Siddhah’.

Sri Adi Sankara gives the interpretation ‘Nithya Nishpanna roopatvaat Siddhah – Ever the perfectly accomplished one’. It is also possible to give the meaning ‘He is present everywhere at all times’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this as ‘Svaroopenaiva bhaktaanaam siddhatvat siddhah uchyate – He is available to His devotees in His true form.’

99.    Siddhih – One who bestows Ultimate Bliss 

If Siddhah refers to the accomplisher Siddhih refers to the accomplishment. Thus Bhagavan stands for both, the actor and the action, the doer as well as the deed.  According to Sri Adi Sankara, Bhagavan is called Siddhih because of –

  • His expert knowledge of everything or
  • His supremacy in everything or
  • His being the ultimate fruit of every pursuit i.e. Moksha.

In other words all other accomplishments can only give lesser benefits such as the worldly joys and the pleasures of heaven, but moksha, the ultimate bliss can only be obtained by earnestly seeking Him.

 100.   Sarvaadih – He is the Ultimate Cause of All Causes

Sarva means everything and Aadi means the beginning. He is the root cause of everything. He is the Ultimate Cause of all Causes. He is the beginning of all beginnings.

“SarveshAm purushArtAnAm Adih sarvAdih or sarva bhUtAnAm AdikAraNatvAt sarvAdih.”   One who is the very beginning of all;  One, who was in existence earlier than anything else.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 10 Verse 8, Lord Krishna says “Aham Sarvasya Prabhavah Mattas Sarvam Pravartate – I am the source of all things; all things proceed from me.”

 101.   Achyutah – One who never Slips

 Achyutah can be interpreted in 3 ways:

  1. He does not slip from his established post. Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Svaroopa saamarthyaat na chyuto na chyavate na chyavishyate iti Achyutah – He has never slipped, He does not slip and He will not slip from his true post.’
  2. He does not allow his devotees to slip i.e., He never lets them down in their hour of need.  He is ever present in the heart of His devotees.
  3. One who undergoes no modifications such as birth, growth, decay, disease, etc.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains that He does not slip at all from His position of Lordship ever, unlike Brahma or Indra who are subject to loss of position from time to time, hence He is called Achyuta.

“yasmaat na cyuta purvo’ham acyutastena karmanaa” – MahaBharata Santi Parva 12.330.16.

Sri Bhattar’s interpretation of the above Shruti leads to the second meaning which is: “I have never abandoned (my Bhaktas), because of this act of mine, I am known as Achyuta.”   His words are “tebyah prapannebhyah na apagatah Achyutah – He is never away from those who have sought refuge in Him.”

krishnanarayanana cyaavayati iti Achyutah – One who does not let His devotees slip – Arjuna calls Krishna as Achyuta, who has taken upon Himself to be his charioteer and He will never let him slip.

Sri Radhakrishna Sastri points out that Bhagavan is Achyuta because he does not slip from stage to stage in the sequence of events such as birth, living, growth, change in appearance, decay, and finally disappearance from the body.

Narayana Upanishad says “Patim Vishvasyaatmesvaram Shaasvatam Shivam Achyutam – He is the Lord of the Universe, Lord of the Beings, Eternal, Auspicious and free from slippage or change.”

It may be noted that this Nama occurs three times in the Vishnu Sahasranamam.

102.   Vrishakapih – The protector of Dharma

varahaThe word Vrisha means Dharma, and the word kapi refers to boar (paa means to protect and ka means water, and so kapi refers to Varaha Avatar where He protected the Earth from the depths of the Ocean).

Mahabharatam says ‘Kapir Varahas shreshttascha Dharmascha Vrisha Uchyate; Tasmaat Vrishaakapim Praaha Kaashyapo Mam Prajapatih  – Kapih denotes the Varaha Avatar and Dharma is called Vrisha; therefore Kashyapa Prajaapati called me Vrishaakapih’.

Putting these together Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Vrisharoopatvaat Kapiroopatvaaccha Vrishaakapih – He is called Vrishaakapih because He is both Dharma and Varaha Avatar’.

The Story of Varaha Avatar 

22 Bhagavatha - Narasimha and Prahladavaraha7Hiranyaksha, the son of Kashyapa and Diti and the brother of Hiranyakashipu, had obtained boons from Brahma through penance that he will not be killed by a Deva,  human or an Asura.

He soon becomes arrogant and takes the Earth, who is Goddess Bhudevi personified and hides her in the primordial waters. Brahma seeks the help of Lord Vishnu who then assumes the form of a Varaha, a giant wild boar.

Varaha 4Varaha takes the size of the space between the earth and the sky with huge tusks and goes down to the primordial ocean to retrieve the Earth.

varaha8In the Ocean, Varaha encounters Hiranyaksha, who obstructs his path and challenges him for a duel.

Ignoring the demon’s threats, Varaha lifts the earth on his tusks.

Varaha 2Hiranyaksha charges towards the boar in rage with a mace.

The two fiercely fight with maces.

Varaha6Finally, Varaha slays the demon after a thousand-year duel.

Nithyakalyana-Perumal-in-ThiruvidanthaiVaraha rises from the ocean with the earth in his tusks and places her gently in her original position, as the Gods and sages sing in praise of Varaha.

Swami ChinmayAnanda points out that the name derives from the fact that He protected the Earth from the Ocean of Adharma in His Varaha Avatar.

 103.   Ameyaatma – He is Immeasurable

Ameya is linked to the root word ‘Maa’ which means ‘to measure’.  Maanadanda for example is a measuring rod which is famously used by Kalidasa in Kumarasambhavam ‘Himaalayo naama Nagaadhiraajah Sthitah Prithavyaa iva Maanadandah –Mount Himalaya stands majestically as if it is a measuring rod for the whole earth’.

Based on this root Meya mean measurable and Ameya means immeasurable.  Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Iyaan iti Maatum Paricchettum na Shakyate iti Ameyaatmaa – One whose self cannot be measured as to what it is and how much it is.

One is reminded of a name in the mystic Lalita Trishati ‘eedrik iti avinirdeshya – You cannot assign a physical measure to her nature’.

Ameya means unaccountable or incomprehensible. Swami ChinmayAnanda indicates that the Virat Purusha form of the Lord is suggested here.  His self or nature is such that it cannot be measured by any particular standard and determined.

104.   Sarvayogavinisrutah – He is attainable by many means

This can be interpreted in two ways:

  1. He is free from all attachment.
  2. He is achievable through all forms of Yoga.

The first meaning is explained by Sri Adi Sankara using the words ‘Sarvasambandha Vinirgatah Sarvayogavinisrutah – He is completely free from all forms of attachment; He is totally abstract and free from any material bondage’. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says ‘Asangohyaham Purushah – He is a detached Entity’.

The second meaning is explained as ‘NaanaaShastroktaad Yogaad Upagatatvaat Sarvayogavinisrutah – One can realise Him through the various Yogic practices described in the Shastras.’

The word Yoga can mean Union or also can be interpreted as a ‘means to attain’ something. Depending on which one of these is chosen, we get a different interpretation. Vinisrutah means gone forth or out, or escaped.

Using the first meaning for Yoga, we get the interpretation that He is free from any and all forms of bondage, and so He is Sarva Yoga Vinisruta.

meera ThyagarajaUsing the second meaning, Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that He is attainable easily by all means. His interpretation is – Yogaih – upaayaih; vi – visheshena – veda parama guhyairiva; nissritah – praaptum yogyah, sugraha iti va.

Hence the Lord can be attained in many ways.

Srimad Bhagvatam elaborates nine forms of Bhakti which, if cultivated and practiced regularly will no doubt lead us closer to the lord.  The nine forms of Bhakti are:
Shravanam, Kirtanam, Vishnoh Smaranam, Paada-sevanam, Archanam, Vandanam, Daasyam, Sakhyam, Atma-nivedanam (Srimad Bhagvatam 7.5.23).  One of the easiest ways of attaining the Lord is through unflinching devotion or Bhakti.


Ajah Sarvesvarah Siddhah Siddih Sarvadir Achyutah     |
Vrishakapir Ameyatma Sarvayogavinisrutah                  ||11||


The Lord is eternal and has always existed even prior to the Creation, hence He is called Ajah.  He is the Supreme Lord and hence known as Sarveshvarah. He is well accomplished, hence Siddhah. He is Siddhih as He bestows the ultimate fruit of actions on his devotees i.e. Moksha.

He is the Cause of all beings and the source of all things, so He is Sarvadhih.  He never slips or lets his devotees down and is ever ready to swing into action to restore Dharma by taking many Avatars, hence He is Achyutah.  

He is Vrishakapih as He upholds Dharma and rescued the Earth from the depths of Ocean as Varaha. He is Ameyatma as He is immeasurable and his Leelas are incomprehensible.

He can be attained through Yoga and unswerving devotion or Bhakti is one of the easiest ways to attain Him and so he is Sarvayogavinistrutah.

Here’s a brief audio commentary on the 11th Shloka  –

And an audio visual commentary is available YouTube –



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


In this Part, we will explore the meaning of the Tenth Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

 Shloka 10

Sureshas Sharanam Sharma Vishvaretah prajaabhavah    |
Ahas Samvatsaro Vyaalah Pratyayas Sarvadarshanah       ||10||

The Lord is the Supreme Commander who has utmost compassion for those who surrender Unto Him and He guarantees their eternal bliss.  He is the root Cause for the Universe and is the Creator of all beings. He protects his devotees and He is time itself.  He is also difficult to grasp by demons and He is the One on whom the devotees can rely with total confidence. He is All seeing, Omnipresent, Omniscient and ever ready to shower his grace on his devotees. Hari Om!

This Shloka contains the following 10 Namas:
86.  Sureshah
87.  Sharanam
88.  Sharma
89.  Vishvaretah
90.  Prajaabhavah
91.  Ahah
92.  Samvatsarah
93.  Vyaalah
94.  Pratyayah
95.  Sarvadarshanah


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

86.     Sureshah – The Lord of the Devas

 Sri Adi Shankara gives two interpretations for this name.

  1. ‘Suraanaam Devaanaam Eeshah Sureshah’ – The Lord of all the Devaas.
  2. ‘Shobhanadaatroonaam eeshah Sureshah’ – the chief among those who fulfil the desires of their followers.

And He is su rA Isah – Best among those who can bestow blessings.    Sriman Narayana, is the One who can fulfil the ultimate desire of the devotees – that is ‘Moksha’.

87.     Sharanam – One who grants refuge

Sharanam means One who grants refuge or safe haven to those in distress. He protects anyone seeking refuge irrespective of their status or merit. Bhagavan is the ‘Ultimate Refuge’ to those who are in misery.

As Adi Sankara says ‘Aartaanaam Aartiharanaat Sharanam – He is called Sharanam because He puts an end to the miseries of those who resort to him’.

He grants the wishes of those who surrender unto him, like Gajendra, Prahalada or Darupadi.

vibheeshanaWhen Vibheeshana approached Rama seeking his refuge:

Sri Rama in Yuddha Kandam 18.33 said:
Sakrud eva Prapannaya Tavaasmeeti ca yaacate
Abhayam sarva bhootebhyo dadaamy etad vratam ma ma

Meaning: He who seeks refuge in me once, telling me that I am yours, I shall give him assurance of safety against all beings. This is my solemn pledge.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12 Verse 8, Bhagavan says
Mayy eva mana Aadhatsva, Mayi buddhim nivesaya
nivasishyasi mayy eva, ata Urdhvam na samshayah;
Meaning: Fix your mind on Me; Engage your intellect upon me;  Thereafter, you will live in Me without a doubt. 

Hence those who surrender to the Lord gets to live in Him.

Sharanam also means a home and on this basis Swami ChinmayAnanda points out that He is not only the Home for those who have realized Him, but in Pralaya He is the home for all beings.

He is  also the final Goal or ‘Paramagati’ and the ultimate refuge to achieve Moksham or liberation.

88.     Sharma – He is the Ultimate Bliss

Bhagavan is the embodiment of pure and unadulterated joy or total bliss, Sharma essentially means this state of supreme joy. Both Parasara Bhattar and Sri Adi Sankara give the same meaning.  ‘Paramaananda Roopatvaat Sharma – He is called Sharma because he personifies the state of highest bliss’.

 89.     Vishvaretah – He is the seed of the Universe

Vishva means Universe,  Retas means seed. He is the seed Cause for the Universe and also the Universal Cause.

The word basis can be interpreted as ‘Vishvam Kaaryam asya asti iti’ or ‘Vishvasya Karanatvaat’.  He is the Cause and the Universe is the result. If the Universe can be compared to a tree, He is the seed for that tree!

Needless to say Creation does not diminish the prowess of Bhagavan in any way because as the Upanishads say ‘Poornasya Poornam Aadaaya Poornameva Avashishyate- He remains perfect even after creating the perfect Universe’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar notes that the purpose of His creation (or the Purushartha) is for His service and His service alone.

90.     Prajaabhavah – The One from whom all beings originated

 As Adi Sankara says ‘Sarvaah Prajaah Yatsakaashaad Udbhavanti sa Prajaabhavah – The One from all beings have originated’.

The previous Nama embraces all objects but here Prajaa only refers to living objects and in particular the higher forms of life with consciousness developed within.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri points out that while normal evolution starts with primitive forms and evolves to higher forms, Bhagavan decided to create the higher forms such as Brahma first, and then the forms that are not as accomplished, such as all the humans, animals, birds etc., later.

91.       Ahah – He is Luminous

There are three meanings to this Nama:

  1. One who never forsakes anyone.
  2. One who is like the Day that awakens people from ignorance.
  3. One who does not let His devotees perish.

The first interpretation is based on “na hinah asya asti iti ahah -There is no one who is abandoned by Him.

The second interpretation is based on the traditional meaning of the word aha – day.  From that comes Pratyaham meaning every day and Aharnisham meaning day and night. So Sri Adi Shankara says ‘Prakaasha roopatvaat Ahah – He is called Ahah because he is bright as the day’. His brightness is not just physical but also the brilliance of intellect and knowledge.

The third interpretation is derived by a-ha, where ha means destroy; One who does not destroy is a-ha; rather one who protects his devotees.

The Story of Vipranarayanar (Thondaradipodi Azhwar)

This is a Story of Sri Thondaradipodi Azhwar, who was born to a Vedic Brahmin by the name, Vedavisarathar in Thirumandangudi. He was a manifestation of Vanamala (Divine Garland of Lord Maha vishnu) and he was named “Vipranarayanar”.

thondarHe became highly devoted to Sriman Narayana and he took a vow to remain a bachelor throughout his life so that he could devote his time and energy to perform rituals to the Lord. Like PeriyAzhwar, Vipranarayanar too was interested only in garland rituals (poomalai kainkaryam). He migrated to Srirangam and he cultivated a beautiful garden (nandhavanam). He stayed there within the garden in a small hermitage.

He melted with tremendous amount of Bhakti which reflects in the following Pasuram:

பச்சைமா மலைபோல்மேனி பவளவாய் கமலச் செங்கண்
அச்சுதா அமர ரேறே ஆயர்தம் கொழுந்தே என்னும்
இச்சுவை தவிர யான்போய் இந்திர லோக மாளும்
அச்சுவை பெறினும் வேண்டேன் அரங்கமா நகரு ளானே.      [873]
He describes the beauty (Saundaryam) of the Lord and enjoyed His Thirumeni which is like a huge mountain; His Red Coral lips and mouth (PavaLacchevvaai); with eyes as Red as the Lotus flower; He addresses the Lord: “O’Achutha! There is no enjoyment which is equal to admiring your beauty. Even if you give me the post of Indra and ask me to enjoy that position, I still DO NOT NEED them; I just want to serve at your feet!”

The Lord decided to play his ‘Leela’ with Vipranarayanar. One day, two sisters were coming back after performing a dance performance in front of Chozha King and were attracted by the beauty of Thondaradipodi Azhwar’s Nandhavanam. When they saw him meditating on the Lord, they were captivated by his Tejas and charm. He ignored their beauty but the beautiful younger sister, by the name Devadevi got more offended and in fact, challenged her sister that she would make the Azhwar her slave. In spite of her sister’s warning and caution not to endanger herself,  Devadevi was adamant and decided to embark on it. Disguised and dressed as a Sanyasini, she requested him to accept her service to him at his place. Unaware of the plot, he agreed, however, he did not let her stay inside his hermitage. He maintained a distance from her and was as usual performing his rituals unaffected by her presence.

One day, when it rained heavily she got drenched and was shivering. Vipranarayanar could not refuse her shelter and allowed her into his hermitage. Devadevi slowly aroused his sensual desires and Vipranarayanar fell for her beauty. She virtually made him a slave and he neglected his Seva for the Lord (kainkaryam) and his singing. His thoughts were only about Devadevi and he became so engrossed in his desire for her that he could not bear even a moment of separation from her.

When she achieved what she wished, she went back to her place in Uttamarkoil (near SriRangam). Her mother did not allow Vipranarayanar to see her unless he brought some money, true to their profession. He felt isolated and was heavily lamenting the separation from Devadevi and did not know what to do.

muthangiIn the meanwhile, Lord Tiruvarangan felt it was enough play with His Bhakta (Devotee) and hence, He appeared as a servant of Vipranarayanar calling Himself “Azhagiya Manavala Dasan” and went to Devadevi’s house. He handed over the Big Golden vessel (Thanga vattil) saying that Vipranarayanar asked him to give this to her. Devadevi’s mother went in search of Vipranarayanar and let him meet her daughter.

Next day, the archakars discovered one of the “vattils” missing in the Lord’s Sannidhi and immediately informed the King. The maid of Devadevi informed about the Golden Vattil in Devadevi’s house and the news reached the King. The King after hearing the information ordered the arrest of Vipranarayanar.  Vipranaryanar pleaded innocence and said he was not aware of any Golden Vattil nor did he have any servant working for him, since he himself was so poor. But the King ignored his pleas and ordered him to be locked in prison.  So, he landed up in a dark cell!

Vipranarayanar pondered over the entire saga and then he realised everything – his mistakes, his follies, his misdeeds of not performing his rituals to the Lord and begged for Lord’s forgiveness.  The Lord appeared in the King’s dream and narrated the whole incident and said that Vipranarayanar, His dearest Bhakta, was innocent.

srirangam ranga gopuram (1)The King released Vipranarayanar immediately and prostrated at his feet and begged for his pardon. Vipranarayanar was greatly moved by the Lord’s Kaarunya bhaava and sang Pasurams full of Bhakti. Having gone through a traumatic experience with Devadevi, he never looked back; and since then, he became a staunch Bhakta and called himself the dust at the feet of Bhaktas (Thondaradipodi Azhwar).

He composed two poems namely, Thirumalai (a garland for the Lord) and Thiruppalliyezhucchi (waking up the Lord). His Pasurams are marvellous compositions and one is certain to get moved by the Bhakti and longing for Lord Ranganatha. He did not sing at any other sthalam except SriRangam.

Let’s look at one of his Great Pasurams and be blessed by Him.

ஊரிலேன் காணி யில்லை உறவுமற் றொருவ ரில்லை
பாரில்நின் பாத மூலம் பற்றிலேன் பரம மூர்த்தி
காரொளி வண்ண னேஎன் கண்ணனே கதறு கின்றேன்
ஆருளர்க் களைக ணம்மா அரங்கமா நகரு ளானே.    [900]

“OorilEn kANiyillai; uRavu maRRu oruvar illai;
pAril nin pAtha moolam paRRilEn parama moorthee;
kAroLi vaNNanE (en) kaNNanE! kadharuginREn;
AruLar kaLaikaN ammA! arngamA nagaruLAnE!”
Meaning: I have no place; no properties; no relatives; none other than you; I know only your Lotus feet; O Lord of Blue hued sky colour! You are my only refuge. Can you not hear my cries? Is there anyone else to save me except you?”

92.      Samvatsarah – He is Time

 There are two meanings for this Nama:

1.      He who lives for the upliftment of His devotees.

This meaning is derived from the root vas – to live.  Samuddharanaaya samvasati iti samvatsarah.

2.      That Bhagavan is Time itself.

Samvatsara means a year or a unit of time. Rightly ‘Kaalaatmanaa Sthito Vishnuh Samvatsra ityuktah – Bhagavan Vishnu who epitomises Time is spoken of as Time itself.’

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 11 Verse 32 Krishna says ‘Kaalosmi Lokakshaya Krit Pravriddhah – I am verily Time itself which can bring growth as well as decay to the World’.

93.     Vyaalah – One who cannot be easily Grasped

Vyaala is a name commonly used to denote a snake, a tiger or an elephant. What is common to these 3 is their elusiveness. The snake is elusive because of its slipperiness, the tiger because of its ferocity and the elephant because of its size.

Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Vyaalavat graheetum Ashakyatvaat Vyaalah – Bhagavan is Vyaala because He is slippery like a serpent to grasp, or beyond grasp like a huge elephant. Or He is impossible to be controlled by the demons, like a ferocious tiger.

Shri Parasara Bhattar gives an interpretation based on the root ‘LA’ – to take or accept.

So Vyaalah is one who accepts the devotees irrespective of their qualification. The devotee may be an Asura by birth like Prahlada or a low caste woman like Sabari or the Princely Vibheeshana or even an animal like Gajendra, He accepts them all equally.

94.     Pratyayah – One who can be relied upon

 Pratyayah according to Sri Adi Sankara is one who symbolises Prateeti or Prajnaanam meaning Universal Consciousness.  According to Upanishad ‘Prajnaanam Bramha – Consciousness is Bramhan’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the meaning as ‘One who can be relied upon’. He analyses this as ‘Prateeyate asmin iti pratyayah – One in whom we can place confidence.’

Here’s an interesting episode from the Ramayana.

After befriending Lord Rama, Sugreeva seeks His help to vanquish the mighty Vaali. However, he is overcome by doubt regarding Rama’s prowess to defeat Vali.

Sugreeva begins to extol Vaali’s valour and narrates the episode of Vaali’s fight with the mighty buffalo demon Dundubhi. As Vaali vanquished Dundubhi and hurled it, blood drops fell on Sage Maatanga.  He cursed Vaali due to which Vaali is forbidden to enter the Rishyamukha mountain, which has now become a safe haven for us, narrated Sugriva.  Sugriva also tells about Vaali’s prowess in piercing massive trees.

Rama in order to quell his doubt and fear decides to demonstrate his prowess to Sugreeva. He sportively flipped the skeletons of Dundubhi by flicking it with his big toe without lifting his feet to a 10 yojana distance which is about 80 kms.

Sugreeva, however, remains unconvinced and says to Rama. That when Vaali hurled it, He was tired, and this buffalo was full of flesh and blood.

Rama smiled at Sugreeva and uses a single arrow to pierce 7 Sala trees.  Sugreeva is impressed with Rama’s Valour and brilliance, convinced of his prowess, bows to him.

95.       Sarvadarshanah – He is Omnipresent

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sarvaani darshanaatmakaani aksheeni yasya sah – He has eyes that see everything’. Sankara gives the following reference from the Sruti – “Vishvatash cakshur vishvaaksham –  One who has eyes on all sides – One who has a Universal eye”. (TaittirIya Aranyaka 10.1, 11).

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets Sarvadarshanah to mean ‘He shows everything’ or projects himself in a multitude of forms and dimensions to his devotees.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the following reference from the Bhagavad GIta(Chapter 13 Verse 14)  – Sarvato’kshi shiro mukham’ – One who has eyes and heads everywhere.

The Lord is Omnipresent, all seeing and ever ready to shower his grace on his devotees.


Sureshas Sharanam Sharma Vishvaretah prajaabhavah    |
Ahas Samvatsaro Vyaalah Pratyayas Sarvadarshanah       ||10||

AnanthasayanamThe Lord is the Supreme Commander of all Devas and hence He is Sureshah.  He is Sharanam as He has utmost compassion for those who surrender Unto Him.  He guarantees eternal bliss and is Sharma.  He is the root cause for the Universe, so He is Vishvaretah and since He is the Creator of all beings, He is Prajabhavah.  

He is luminous and radiant as Ahah. He is Samvatsara, time itself.  He is Vyaalah as He is difficult to grasp by demons and He is Pratyayah, upon whom one can rely with total confidence. He is All seeing, Omnipresent, Omniscient and ever ready to shower his grace on his devotees and hence Sarvadarshanah.

Here’s a brief audio commentary on the 10th Shloka  –

And the commentary available also on YouTube!–



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


In this Part we will explore the meaning of the Ninth Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Shloka 9

Ishvaro Vikrami Dhanvi Medhavi Vikramah Kramah   |
Anuttamo Duradharsah Kritajnah Kritir Atmavan     ||9||

The Lord is the controller of the Universe who makes things happen at His Will.  He has giant strides and is ever so courageous, He is Rama amongst wielders of the ‘bow’. He is a ‘Medhavi’ or fountainhead of knowledge on all subjects and has a gigantic memory. He travels around the world on his Garuda Vaahana, the King of birds and He is the force behind all movement. He is unparalleled and unexcelled, and is invincible, yet He is grateful to his ardent devotees showering his kindness and compassion.  He dwells in all of us and is Omnipresent. 

This Shloka contains the following 10 Namas:
75.       Ishvarah
76.       Vikrami
77.       Dhanvi
78.       Medhavi
79.       Vikramah
80.       Kramah
81.       Anuttamah
82.       Duradharsah
83.       Kritajnah
84.       Kritih
85.       Atmavan


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

75.       Ishvarah – He is Omnipotent

This Nama first appeared in 4th shloka. “Sambhavo bhaavano bhartaa prabhavah prabhur Ishvarah….” as the 36th naama.  

The current occurrence is interpreted by Sri Adi Sankara as ‘Sarva Shaktimattayaa Ishvarah – He is Ishvara because he is all powerful. In this verse Ishvarah is explained as – the one who has unlimited powers with enormous self-control and gets whatever HE ‘Wills‘.

In the earlier part of the Vedas a lot of emphasis was placed on the Karmas or the rituals. The Mimamsakas (philosophers) went to the extent of saying that Karma is everything. However Vedantins like Sri Adi Sankara argued and established that Ishvara has overriding powers over Karma. Without the will or Sankalpa of Ishvara, Karma is just an empty ritual. In this Nama,  Bhagavan is shown to be the real source of power and not Karma.

76.       Vikrami – He is Courageous

Vikrami has two meanings:

  1. He who is ever a courageous One, is Vikrami.  Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that the name signifies His Nature and dispels all possibilities of anything going against His Will or desire.
  2. Vikrami also refers to Bhagavan’s Vamana Avataar.  Vikrami is one who has the “Special” footsteps referring to his transformation from the dwarf Vamana to the gigantic Trivikrama resulting in his giant strides.

Vikrama means valour or bravery.  Vikrami is a person of great courage and valour. Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Vikramah Shouryam Tadyogaat Vikrami – He is called Vikrami because of his great valour’.

The Story of Vamana Avataar

The Puranas describes that Vishnu descended as a Vamana (Dwarf Brahmin) to restore the authority of Indra over the heavens, as it had been taken over by Mahabali, a benevolent Asura King. MahaBali was the great grandson of Hiranyakshipu and the grandson of Prahlada.

vamanaKing MahaBali was a generous man who engaged in severe austerities and penance and won the praise of the world. This praise, from his courtiers and others, led him to think of himself as the greatest person in the world. He believed that he can help anyone and can donate whatever they ask. Even though he became benevolent, he became pompous of his activities and forgot that the Almighty is above him. Dharma says that one should do his duty without any pride and helping others is the duty of a righteous King. Mahabali was a devoted worshiper of the Lord. The Story amply demonstrates that the Almighty, the ParaBrahmam is neutral and unbiased; He only tries to balance nature. He showers his divine light to all, irrespective of what they do.

Vamana, in the guise of a dwarf Brahmin carrying a wooden umbrella, went to King MahaBali’s Yagna to request three paces of land. Mahabali consented, against the warning of his Guru, Shukracharya. Shukracharya, annoyed with the pride of the King, shrinks himself with his powers and sits in the spout of the Kamandalu, from which water has to be poured to seal the promise to the deity in disguise. Lord Vishnu, in disguise as the dwarf Brahmin, understands immediately, and picks up a straw from the ground and directs it up the spout, poking out the left eye of Shukracharaya. Since then, the guru of the Asuras has been known to be half blind.

TrivikramaVamana then revealed his identity and enlarged Himself to gigantic proportions to stride over the three worlds. He covered heaven to earth with the first step and earth to the netherworld with the second. King Mahabali, unable to fulfill his promise, offered his head for the third step. Vamana then placed his foot and gave the King immortality for his humility.

For the humility shown by MahaBali in keeping his promise and giving due recognition for his ancestor Prahlada, the Lord conceded sovereignty of Patala, the netherworld to MahaBali. The giant form of Vamana is known as Trivikrama.

Just before King Mahabali was sent to Patala Loka, he was given permission by Vamana to visit his people once a year.

photoThe Onam festival is celebrated to welcome MahaBali back to his lost Kingdom. During this festival, beautiful floral decorations are made in every house and boat races are held throughout Kerala. A twenty-one-course feast is an important highlight of the Onam festival known as the ‘Onam Sadhya’.

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

77.       Dhanvi – The wielder of the bow

Basically this means the wielder of the bow. ‘Dhanurasya asti iti Dhanvee – He is called Dhanvee because he wields the bow expertly. His bow is the great ‘Saarnga’ because of which the Lord is also called ‘Sarangapani’.

lord-rama-1-rHis achievements as an archer were at their glorious best in his Rama Avatar. As a small boy He protects the sacrifice of Sage Vishvamitra from the demons earning encomiums such as:

‘mai vannat tharakki poril mazhai vannattu annale unkai vannam angu kanden kaal vannam ingu kanden.’

Later in in the forest Janasthana he is able to destroy fourteen thousand demons using only his Kodanda unassisted by even Lakshmana. Finally of course he vanquishes the mighty Ravana using the power of his bow.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavan says  ‘Ramas shastra bhritaam aham – I am Rama among the wielders of the bow’ (Chapter 10 Verse 31). In Rama Avataar, His bow is known as ‘Kodanda’ and hence Rama is also known as ‘Kodandapani’.

Thyagaraja extols Rama by saying ‘oka baanamu, oka shabdamu, oka patni – He is a person of one arrow, one word and one wife’.

The Lord has Five weapons

conch_mainShankha or the Conch known as the ‘Panchajanyam’


Chakra or the Discus known as ‘Sudharsanam’


Dhanush or the Bow known as ‘Sarngam’

GaumodhakimGhadha or the Mace known as ‘Gaumodakim’

nandakiKhadgam or the Sword known as ‘Nandakam’

vishu with weaponsThus the Lord is described in the 108th Shloka as “Vanamali Gadhi Sharngee Shangi Chakree cha Nandaki”…..signifying the ‘Panchayudam’ of His Five weapons.

The Panchayudam Stotram, glorifies the Lord and is a salutation and surrender to His divine weapons.

shivaIt is interesting to note that Sri Rudram abounds in glorious tributes to the power of Shiva’s bow in lines such as: 
‘Namaste Astu Dhanvane Baahubhyaam Utate Namah
Yaa Ta Ishus Shivatamaa Shivam Babhoova te Dhanuh ‘

Salutations to your Ire, Rudra and also salutations to your arrow. Salutations to your bow and also to your both arms. Bless us with happiness our Lord, With that arrow of thine, which is holy, With that bow of thine, which is begetter of good, With that quiver of thine, which is sweet.’

78.       Medhavi – One with great intelligence

hayagreevaMedhavi is a person who combines great memory with great intelligence.

Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Medhaa bahugrantha dhaarana saamarthyam, sa yasya asti sa medhavi – Medha is the ability to grasp several ideas on different subjects at the same time; One who has this ability is naturally a Medhavi’.

When a Bramhachari performs Samitha Dhanam (twig offering to Fire or Yagna), the first blessing he prays to receive from Agni Bhagavan is ‘Medhavi Bhooyaasam – Let me be endowed with good memory and intelligence’. There are of course other things like ‘Tejasvee, Varchasvee, Bramhavarchasvee, Aayushmaan and Annadah’ but for a student, being a ‘Medhavi’ comes first in the list of priorities!

 79.       Vikramah – One with Giant Strides

 This name can be interpreted in 4 different ways.

  1. A person of great Valour as in the earlier Nama Vikrami (76th naama).
  2. A person of Giant Strides (Trivikrama Avataram).
  3. A person who helps you to cross the Ocean of Samsaara.
  4. vishnu_on_garudaA person who uses the bird Garuda as his carrier. In Sri Adi Sankara’s words this is explained as ‘Vina Garudena Pakshinaa Kramaat – He moves around on the bird Garuda’. ‘Vi’ refers to the King of birds, Garuda; and ‘Krama’ refers to His Sanchara or flight on the Garuda around the World.

 80.       Kramah – He maintains order in the Universe

 This Nama has 3 possible meanings.

a) One who is the basis for the order in the Universe

b) One who controls and bestows the power of movement

c) One who is highly prosperous.

Krama means order so He brings order to the chaotic Universe. Krama also means movement hence the meaning applies to Motion.

According to Panini Sutra 1.3.38, which reads “vrtti-sarga-taayaneshu kramah”, krama also can indicate continuity, energy, or good progress or development. Sri Bhattar uses the last of these, and gives the meaning “One who has great prosperity”.

81.       Anuttamah – He is the Ultimate with no one Superior to Him

Anuttamah is somebody who has no superior or higher entity above himself, i.e., He is the highest or the Supreme entity.

Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Avidyamaanah uttamah Yasmaat sah Anuttamah – One whose Superiorsare non-existent’.

Narayana Upanishad says ‘Yasmaat param Naaparam asti kinchit – There is no other force above Him. He is Supreme’.  

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 11, Verse 43 says:
na tvat-samo ‘sty abhyadhikah kuto ‘nyo
loka-traye ‘py apratima-prabhava 
Meaning: ‘No one is equal to You in the three Worlds, how can there be anything superior to You. You are Immeasurable!’

82.       Duradharsah – He is Invincible

Adharsha means being overcome or being vanquished. So Duraadharshah essentially means that the Lord is Invincible.  ‘daityaa dhibhih dharsha yitum na sakyata iti duradharshah’ – One who cannot be overcome by the demons and others.

He can only be overcome by total surrender and Bhakti. This aspect is explained in the next Nama.

83.       Kritajnah – He is grateful to His devotees

Kritajnah is a person of great gratitude or one who appreciates even the smallest act of devotion and responds greatly to it.

In Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 9 Verse 26, Bhagavan says:
‘Patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktyaa prayacchati
Tadaham Bhaktyupahritam Ashnaami Prayataatmanah’
Meaning: Even if someone makes a humble offer of a leaf, a flower, a fruit or even water I take it with pleasure provided it was rendered with Bhakti. In Srimad Bhagavatam, Kuchela gives Krishna a handful of poached rice and gets a Kingdom in return.

draupadiHe is ever so grateful to his devotees. He came rushing to the aid of Draupadi when she cried for help uttering “Govinda”. He lifted the Govardhana Giri to save the people and animals of Vrindavan from Indra’s fury. 

Sri Parasara Bhattar refers to Chapter 9 Verse 30 of the Bhagavad Gita to emphasise his kindness:

“api cet suduraacaaro bhajate maamanaya bhaak          |
saadhureva sa mantavyah samyag vyavasito hi sah  ||”

Valmiki-RamayanIf even the most sinful man worships Me with undivided devotion, with worship as the only purpose, such a person must be considered highly righteous.

Bhagavan in Chapter 18 Verse 66 of the Bhagavad Gita again shows his kaarunya bhaava by reiterating with his Charama Shloka.

“sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaḿ śaraṇaḿ vraja
ahaḿ tvāḿ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ”

Setting aside all meritorious deeds (Dharma), just surrender completely to My will (with firm faith and loving contemplation). I shall liberate you from all sins and grant you Moksha.  Do not fear.

Bhagavan is so grateful that the mere worship of Him with sincerity is sufficient for Him to forgive all other sins committed by the worshiper. By surrendering to Him and worshiping him one can attain liberation or Moksha from this Samsara.

Kritajnah also means someone who keeps a tab on every act of every person. In the words of Sri Adi Sankara ‘Praaninaam Punyaapunyaatmakam karma kritam Jaanaati iti Kritajnah – He is called Kritajnah because He keeps an exact account of the good and bad deeds of all beings’.

84.       Kritih – He is the force behind all actions

He is responsible for the actions of all. He is the Cause of Causes.

As ManikkaVaasagar says, ‘Nanre seyvaai pizhai seyvaai Naano adarku Naayagame? – Whether I act rightly or wrongly it is all your motivation, I am but a puppet in your hands!’

We may think we are the Kartaa or the Doer but it is all His Kriti, triggering the inner force of action. The light bulb which glows is the Karta but the glow is actually the Kriti of the electricity which is flowing through the bulb. In Tamil there is a saying – ‘Avan Inri Oru Anuvum Asayadhu’ – Without his grace not even an atom can move!

 85.       Atmavaan – He is established in His own Greatness

He is the real Owner and Controller of the Souls of those who act virtuously, hence He is Atmavaan.  Our sincerity of devotion, trust, and surrender unto Him will become the sole cause of our salvation.   He is the kritajna pleased by our immensely small effort of sincere devotion, and He will cause our souls which He owns, and divert it towards actions that He Wills and then use that as the reason for conferring His blessings on us.

He is completely independent and does not need help from anyone. Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Sva Mahima Pratishthitatvaat Aatmavaan – He is Aatmavaan because he is firmly established in his own greatness’.

In Chandogya Upanishad it is said- ‘Sa Bhagavan Kasmin Pratishthitah iti sve Mahimni’ – Where is that God rooted?  In his own Glory!


Ishvaro Vikrami Dhanvi Medhavi Vikramah Kramah   |
Anuttamo Duradharsah Kritajnah Kritir Atmavan     ||9||

TrivikramaThe Lord is ‘Ishvara’, as He is the controller of the Universe who makes things happen as He Wills. He is Courageous and hence called Vikrami. HE is Rama amongst the wielders of the ‘bow’ and hence He is Dhanvi. He is a ‘Medhavi‘, fountainhead of knowledge on ALL subjects with a gigantic memory. HE travels around the world on Garuda, the king of birds and HE is the force behind all movement, so he is known as Vikramah. He maintains order in the Universe, so He is Kramah.

HE is unparalleled and unexcelled, so Anuttamah. He is invincible and hence He is called Duradharsah.  He is grateful to his ardent devotees and always showers his kindness and compassion, hence He is Kritajnah.  He is the force behind all actions and hence he is Kritih. He dwells in all of us and is omnipresent, so He is Atmavan.

Here’s a brief audio commentary on the 9th Shloka  –

And a new feature now, commentary available also on YouTube! –



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


In this Part we will explore the meaning of the Eighth Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.


Ishanah Praanadah Praano Jyeshttas Shreshttah Prajaapatih   |
Hiranyagarbho Bhoogarbho Maadhavo Madhusoodanah           ||8||

The Lord is  the Controller of all beings and things; He is a life giver and taker, one who purifies and brightens. He is the ‘life’ in lives and he is the oldest and the best. He created Brahma, the creator of the golden egg and He nurtures the Earth like a mother cares for a child in her womb.  He is the consort of Lakshmi and can be attained through Mauna, Dhyaana and Yoga.  He is Madhusoodanah the destroyer of the Asura Madhu. Madhu also means ‘Honey’ in the Vedas which means our Karma-phala or fruits of action.  By meditating on the Lord we can get rid of the Vaasanas (desires) and hence the Lord is known as Madhusoodhanah – “The Destroyer of Vaasanas”.

This Shloka contains the following 10 Namas:
65.       Ishaanah

66.       Praanadah
67.       Praanah
68.       Jyeshttah
69.       Shreshttah
70.       Prajaapatih
71.       Hiranyagarbhah
72.       Bhoogarbhah
73.       Maadhavah
74.       Madhusoodanah


Let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:

65.       Ishaanah  – He is the Supreme Controller

‘Ishaanah’ means ‘the controller’ or ‘the ordainer’.  Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Sarva bhoota niyantrutvaat Ishaanah – He controls all beings and non-beings, hence he is called the Controller’.  By this Nama, Bhagavan is clearly distinguished from the bound souls, released souls, and ever-free souls.  This Nama signifies that it is His innate nature to keep all things under control under all circumstances. The Nama is derived from the root ‘Is’ – to command, to control, to rule, to possess. Ishaanam is also mentioned in the Venkatesa Prapatthi’s first verse (“Ishaanam Jagatosya Venkatapate…”).

It is interesting to note that Ishaanah is more commonly associated with Lord Shiva in particular to one of His 5 faces (along with Vaamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha and Sadyojaata). There is also a famous Vedic hymn Viz. – ‘Eeshaanas sarva vidyaanaam Eeshvaras Sarva bhootaanaam bramhaadhipatir bramhanodhipatir Bramhaa Shivo me Astu Sadaa Shivom’.

66.       Praanadah – One who bestows the vital energy i.e. Prana

‘Praanam dadaati iti Praanadah – Giver or infuser of Life’.  Being the source of all life in the Universe, Bhagavan is called Pranadah. This Nama further exemplifies Bhagavan as the Controller of the Universe as indicated in the previous Nama.

Sri Parasara Bhattar indicates that the life-giving function attributed in this Nama is the act of Bhagavan to give strength to the nitya-suris or Ever-free Angels to always visualise Him, enjoy Him, and do service to Him.

Sri Adi Sankara points out that in addition to the above interpretation, the same Nama can be interpreted to mean that Bhagavan is also the taker of Prana,  ‘Praana- praanaan dyati iti’ – One who takes away the Praana or vital airs at the time of death, or Praanaan deepayati iti – One who purifies and brightens the vital airs.

67.       Praanah – The Supreme Being

Praana is the living force or the vital air characterising a living organism. Bhagavan is verily the embodiment of that vital energy and hence is called ‘Praanah’.  Because He sustains the Prani, He is Praanah.  The Nama can also be understood as referring to Bhagavan being the cause of the Prana or life-impulse in the air that sustains Life. In the Keno Upanishad, the Supreme is defined as ‘Pranasya Praanah’ – ‘The Praana of Praana itself’ or ‘He is the Life of Lives’. Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Praaniti iti Praanah – one who enlivens life’.

68.       Jyeshttah – The Eldest of all

Literally this Nama means ‘older than the oldest’. Vriddha means an old person. Brahma is called Vrddha-Tara since he is older than all the other beings as he Created all others as a result of this function being entrusted to Him by Bhagavan.  Bhagavan is Vrddha-tama because He Created Brahma, and thus is older than Brahma. 

Swami ChinmayAnanda points out that Jyeshttah is a superlative term for the word ‘Vrddha’ (Vrddha – aged;  Jyayan – more aged; Jyeshttah – most aged) and means the oldest.

In Adi Sankara’s words Bhagavan is ‘Vriddhatamo Jyeshttah’ – Older than the oldest.

69.       Shreshttah – One who is Glorious

This Nama means that He is the greatest or the most glorious one. Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Prashasyatamah Shreshttah – greater than the greatest’. He also elucidates further by calling Him the power behind all powers and the Cause of all Causes.

Shreshttah is the superlative of Shreyah (glorious). It is to be noted that the sequence of the three Namas above, Praana, Jyeshtta and Shreshttah is the same sequence that occurs in the Chandogya Upanishad – Praano vaava Jyeshttascha Shreshttascha.

The Story of Bhrigu

Many great sages gathered at the bank of river Saraswati to participate in the Maha Yagna organised at that time.  Maharishi Bhrigu was also present there.  All the great Saints and Sages could not decide that out of the Trinity Lord Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva who is pre-eminent and to whom should they offer Pradhanta (Master) of that Yagna. With the consent of all the great Saints present there, it was decided that Maharishi Bhrigu will conduct a test and decide who was pre-eminent amongst the Trinity.

bhrigu-brahmaUpon being entrusted with the task Maharishi Bhrigu decided to test Lord Brahma first. He went on to see Lord Brahma in Brahmaloka. On reaching Brahmaloka Maharishi intentionally displayed utter disrespect to Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma got angry and wanted to punish the Maharishi but Saraswati, wife of Lord Brahma saved the Maharishi from his anger. Maharishi Bhrigu cursed Lord Brahma that no one will worship Brahma in Kaliyug out of his anger. To this day, there are very few temples devoted to Lord Brahma (the notable exception being the Temple at Pushkar).

bhrigu-sivaMaharishi Bhrigu then decided to visit Lord Shiva at Mount Kailash. However, upon reaching Mount Kailash, Nandi stopped him from entering the abode as at that time, Shiva and Parvati were sporting fun.

Bhrigu felt slighted and cursed Lord Shiva to be only worshipped in Linga form. (We however have a statue form of Lord Shiva in Kashi (Maha Mrityunjaya Temple) said to be 400+ years ago.

Bhrigu-vishnuThen in order to test Lord Vishnu, Maharishi reached Vaikunta. He entered Vaikunta without Lord Vishnu’s permission and saw that the Lord was resting at that time. Maharishi asked him to wake up, but Lord was in deep sleep. On seeing no reaction from Lord, Maharishi kicked Lord Vishnu on his chest (that strike by Maharishi Bhrigu left a foot print on Lord’s chest and that footprint is known as “Shri Vatsa”).

lord Vishnu with Bhrigu rishi and mahalaxmiLord Vishnu got up after the strike and realised what had happened. On realizing that Maharishi had kicked him with his foot, Lord asked him, “Maharishi, are you hurt in your foot? My chest is strong but your foot is not so strong”.

Vishnu apologised, seated the Maharshi on a throne and pressed the feet and removed the extra eye of the Sage in one of his soles (Sage Bhrigu was proud of that eye).

Immediately the spiritual eye of Bhrigu opened and he realised his mistake and also praised Vishnu for His ‘Satvik’ qualities and declared to the assembly of the sages that Vishnu is greatest or ‘Shreshttah’.

70.       Prajaapatih – The Leader of all Beings

Prajaa is a subject and here it refers to all beings. Pati means a Leader. Bhagavan is called Parajaapatih because He is the natural and undisputed Leader of all beings. In the words of Sri Adi Sankara ‘Ishvaratvena sarvaasaam prajaanaam patih Prajaapatih – He is the Leader of all beings with his divinity’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives a slightly different perspective by giving the meaning that He is the leader of those who have a glorious birth – the nitya-sooris, who are far superior to the baddha and mukhta, or the bound and freed souls.

71.       HiranyaGarbhah – One who is the Atman of Everyone including Brahma

hiranyagarbhaAccording to Sri Adi Sankara, Hiranyagarbha refers to Bramha as the Creator and dweller in the Golden Egg generating the Universe.  Since Bramha is only a component of Lord Vishnu Hiranyagarbhah is a name of Bhagavan also. Rigveda says ‘Hiranyagarbhah samavartataagre – Hiranyagarbhah was there at the beginning of creation’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives a different interpretation. He interprets Hiranya as fitting or lovely. The word garbha means womb. Sri Bhattar interprets it as the Abode or Living Place. Thus the meaning – ‘One who is in a fitting or Lovely Abode’, viz. The Parama Padam.  Or, He is the garbha, or originator, of hiranyaa or gold, a term used to refer to all that is the Object of fulfillment and joy.

72.       Bhoogarbhah – The Creator of the World

Bhoo means the Earth. Garbha means the womb. Bhoogarbhah means one who has the Earth in his womb, that is to say one who has generated the Earth. Alternatively it could mean that he lovingly nurtures and nourishes the Earth like the mother sustains the baby in her womb.

73.       Maadhavah – The Consort of Lakshmi

Maadhavah is one of the more popular names for Bhagavan Vishnu and occurs 3 times in the Vishnu Sahasranamam. It has a number of meanings as summarised below:

kurma-lakshmia) Mayah Dhavah Madhavah – One who is the Lord or consort of ‘Ma’ (Lakshmi). The notion here is that Bhagavan and Sri are eternally and constantly associated with each other, and are Inseparable. Her power is invincible and awe-inspiring and She is considered equal to Vishnu. She is the Supreme Being who lives in the hearts of all beings of the Universe and She is endowed with divine forms.  In Sri Lakshmi Sahasranamam, She is called the Supreme Prakriti who possesses the six qualities (Shad Gunas)- Gnana, Bala, Aishvarya, Veerya, Shakti and Tejas.  She is one with Him, and yet remains distinct like the moon-light of the cool-rayed moon.  She is endowed with all glory and is eternal.  Her Dharma is the same as that of Bhagavan.

b)  One who is attained through the Madhu Vidya, by practicing Mauna, Dhyaana, and Yoga. The reference to this comes from the MahaBharata –
madhuvidyaavabodhatvaat dhavatvaadvaa shriyo’nisham        |
maunaad-dhyaanaacca yogaacca viddhi bhaarata maadhavam  ||                       (Udyog a parva 68.4)
Meaning: Here, ‘Ma’ stands for Mauna, ‘dha’ stands for Dhyaana, and ‘va’ stands for Yoga.  He is experienced by the seeker who has stilled his mind through mauna, dhyaana, and yoga practices.  Or, it can be said that He is Madhava because He is endowed with mauna, dhyaana, and yoga – He silently observes the physical, mental, and intellectual activities of all beings, and is ever the non-interfering Observer.

c)  He is The Lord of knowledge.  In this interpretation, ‘Ma’ stands for knowledge, and ‘Dhava’ is Lord. The support for this interpretation is from Harivamsa –
“maa vidyaa ca hareh proktaa tasyaa Isho yato bhavaan  |
tasmaad maadhava naamaasi dhavah svaamIti shabditah||         (Harivamsa 3.88.49)
Meaning: “O Hari!  You are the Lord  Dhava of ‘Ma’ (knowledge); hence you are named Madhava, the Master of ‘Ma’”.

d)  Madhukule jatatvat Madhavah – One who is born in the race of Madhu, a Yadava.

e)  Madhavah yasya sa Madhavah – One for whom there is no other Lord. This interpretation is included as one of the explanations for this Nama by Thirukkallam Sri Nrsimha Raghavachariar in his Bhashyam on Bhagavad Gita.

f)  One who is the Silent Observer – this was discussed under b) above.

The first 2 meanings are given by Sri Adi Sankara and the rest by the other commentators.

74.       Madhusoodanah – The slayer of the demon Madhu

He is called Madhusoodanah because He killed a demon called Madhu. ‘Madhu naamaanam asuram sooditavaan iti Madhusoodanah’.

In the MahaBharata we have the following –
‘Vishnu karnodbhavam chaapi madhu naama mahaasuram |
tasya taavadvadhaadeva deva daanava maanavaah madhusoodana ityaahur-rshayashcha janaardanam ||’ (Mahabharata 2.63.13)
Meaning: “Because Sri MahaVishnu destroyed the MahaAsura by the name ‘Madhu’, He is called Madhusoodana by the Sages,  Devas, Asuras and Men”.

Madhu also means Karma-phala or fruits of action (Madhu = Honey). Actions leave impressions and these Vaasanaas (Desires or habits) are destroyed by meditating on the Lord and so the Lord is known as Madhusoodhanah – “The Destroyer of Vaasanas”.


Ishaanah Praanadah Praano Jyeshttas Shreshttah Prajaapatih    |
Hiranyagarbho Bhoogarbho Maadhavo Madhusoodanah              ||8||


The Lord is Ishanah, the Controller of all beings and things.  He is Praanadah, a life giver and taker, one who purifies and brightens. He is the ‘life’ in lives i.e. Praanah and He is the oldest and the best and hence He is Jyeshttah. He is glorious and the greatest and hence He is called Shreshttah. He is Prajapati as He is the undisputed Leader for all beings.

He Created Brahma, the creator of the golden egg, hence He is  HiranyaGarbhah and He nurtures the earth like a mother cares for a child in her womb, hence he is called Bhoogarbhah. He is the consort of Lakshmi and He can be attained through Mauna, Dhyaana and Yoga, so He is known as Madhavah.  

He is  the destroyer of the Asura Madhu, hence called Madhusoodanah. Madhu also means ‘Honey’ which means our Karma-Phala Dhata or giver of fruits of action.  By meditating on the Lord we can get rid of the Vaasanas and hence the Lord is known as Madhusoodanah – “The Destroyer of Vaasanaas”.

Here’s a brief audio commentary on the 8th Shloka  –



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


In this Part we will explore the meaning of the Seventh Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Shloka 7

Agraahyash Shaasvatah Krishno Lohitaakshaf Pratardanah   |
Prabhootas Trikakubdhaama Pavitram Mangalam Param ||7||

The Lord is beyond the grasp of others and cannot be reached by the normal senses.  He is eternal and is in a permanent state of bliss for whom Creation is a Sport. His eyes are Red like the Lotus flower.  He is the annihilator of the Universe and subsumes the world within Him at the time of Deluge or Pralaya.  He is affluent and well-endowed with Greatness.  He is the one who is the protector in all three States of Consciousness, the one who is Pure and Supremely auspicious. 

This Shloka contains the following 9 Namas: 
56.   Agraahyah
57.   Shaasvatah
58.   Krishnah
59.   Lohitaakshah
60.   Pratardanah
61.   Prabhootah
62.   Trikakubdhaama
63.   Pavitram
64.   Mangalam Param


Let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:

56.       Agraahyah – One who cannot be easily grasped

 Agraahyah means ‘He who cannot be grasped’ by the organs of action as Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Karmendriyaihi na grihyate iti Agraahyah. Taitriya Upanishad says ‘Yato Vaacho nivartante apraapya manasaa sah – He cannot be described through speech, and cannot be conceived by the mind’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives us another interpretation. He points out that the Lord is not the ‘object’ of perception ever by any one, but He is the ‘subject’ who perceives. Thus He is ever the Subject but never the object of perception.  He is imperceptible and incomprehensible. He refers us to the Kena Upanishad’s passage ‘Yat chakshushaa na pashyati yena chakshoomsi pashyanti tadeva brahma tvam viddhi’ – Understand that Brahman is That which cannot be seen by the eyes, but because of which the eyes are perceiving other things.

57.       Shaasvatah – He is Everlasting

Shaasvatah means someone who is perennial and everlasting. In the words of Sri Adi Sankara ‘Shashvat sarveshu kaaleshu bhavati iti Shaashvatah – He exists at all times’.

Maha Naarayana Upanishad (MNU 13 verse 3) says

‘Patim Vishvasyaatmesvaram Shaashvatam Shivam Achyutam
Narayanam Mahagyeyam Vishvaatmanam Parayanam’
Meaning: He is the protector of the Universe and the Ruler of the individual souls; He who is permanent and supremely auspicious and unchanging.  He is the in-dwelling spirit who is supremely worthy of being known, who is the embodiment of the Universe and who is the Supreme goal.

Dhyana Shlokam of Rudram says ‘Nityam cha Shaashvatam Shuddham Dhruvam Aksharam Avyayam’

Swami ChinmayAnanda points out that for something to be permanent, it has to be changeless over Time, and Bhagavan is the controller of time, and is not controlled or affected by time, and so He is eternal and permanent.

58.       Krishnah – One who is always in a State of Bliss

1604624_1750713158401301_1631851258_nThis Nama has two meanings:

One who is always in a state of Bliss (with His sport of Creation etc.)

According to Sri Adi Sankara, ‘Krish’ stands for existence or Sat and ‘Na’ stands for bliss or Ananda. So Krishna denotes a Sachidaananda Svaroopi or someone permanently in a state of Bliss.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets ‘Krishi’ as a receptacle or container or ground (Bhu or Bhumi i.e. land) and ‘Na’ stands for bliss.  So Krishna means receptacle of joy because of His constant engagement in the Sport of Creation.

Nammazhvar describes Lord’s action of creation as a sport in Thiruvai Mozhi 3.10.7

துன்பமும்இன்பமும்ஆகியசெய்வினை ஆய், உலகங்களும்ஆய்
இன்பம்இல்வெம்நரகுஆகிஇனியநல் வான்சுவர்க்கங்களும்ஆய்,
மன்பல்உயிர்களும்ஆகிபலபல மாயமயக்குக்களால்
ஏதும்  அல்லல்இலனே.

Thunbamum inbamumaagiya seyvinaiy Ay ulagangkaLum Ay
Inbam il vem naragu Agi iniya nal vAn suvarkkangkaLum Ay
man pala uyirgaLum Agi pala pala mAya mayakkugaLAl
inburum ivviLaiyAttu udaiyAnaip petRu *
Edhum allal ilanE
Meaning: Through his many tricks of Maya He created the world of pleasure and pain, heaven and hell and the countless souls.  All this is His Cosmic Leela or sport, so I end my despair and praise Him.

The second meaning of Krishna is:

IMG_0018One who has a dark-blue complexion.

The word ‘Krishna’ literally means dark colour. We have seen in the Dhyana shlokas the Lord is described as ‘Megha Shyaamam or Megha Varnam or Ambuda Shyaamam – dark blue like the rain-bearing cloud’. Andal in her Thiruppavai in her first Pasuram describes the Lord as ‘Kaar Meni Sengan Kadhir Madhiyam pol Mugathaan’ – One who is with a dark cloud-like complexion, Lotus red eyed and lustrous face shining like the Sun and calm like the Moon.

The Nama ‘Krishna’ can also be interpreted as ‘Akarshana’ or someone with magnetic attraction!

59.       Lohitaakshah – One whose eyes are Red

rajiva netraLohita means Red and Aksha means eye and so Lohitakshah means somebody whose eyes are Red as in Lotus flower. As Sri Adi Shankara puts it ‘Lohite Akshinee yasya iti Lohitaakshah – One whose eyes are Red’.

Taitriya Aranyam says ‘Samaa Vrishabho Lohitaakshah – He is Supreme and has Red eyes.’

Sri Parasara Bhattar attributes two meanings, one where his eyes are red as a result of extreme joy and another as a result of His anger towards evil-doers.

Earlier in Shloka 5 we have already seen the name ‘Pushkaraakshah’ with similar meaning.

60.       Pratardanah – One who destroys the World at the time of Cosmic Dissolution

Basically this term means ‘The Destroyer’. This Nama is derived from the root word ‘tardih’ – to cause destruction. Pra-tarda means total destruction.

Sri Bhattar gives the following from Katha Upanishad – ‘yasya brahma cha kshatram cha ubhe bhavatah odanah’ – He who has for His food the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas (i.e., all beings of the Universe) at the time of the great Deluge (Pralaya).

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri points out that given the interpretation for this Nama, the redness of the eye in the previous Nama can be appropriately construed as arising as a result of His anger at the time of dissolution. 

61.       Prabhootah – One who is endowed with Greatness

One who is affluent, ever-full, and well-endowed with wisdom, greatness, and other qualities.

Literally this means ‘born full or perfect’ or a ‘Super-Being’. Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Gnanaa Aishvaryaadibhih Gunaihi Sampannah Prabhootah – One enriched with divine attributes such as Wisdom and Godliness’. He is well endowed with Gnana, Aishvarya, Bala, Veerya, Shakti and Tejas i.e,  the Shat-Gunas,  all intact even at the time of dissolution of the Universe.

62.       Trikakubdhaama – He is the supporter of the three States of Consciousness

There are three words in this name – tri, kakub or kakut, and dhaama, Viz.  

  • tri means three;  
  • kakub means the direction or  kakut means the hump (such as the hump on the back of a bull, camel, or a peak or mountain) or horn of an animal; or kakub and kakut also are interchangeably used for either meaning and 
  • dhaama means abode or residence, and also a ray of light or brilliance.

Several interpretations arise depending on which of the meanings one picks.

Sri Adi Sankara gives the interpretation that He is the base or support for the three regions of the entire space, the upper, the lower, and the middle, and therefore He is tri-kakub-dhaama.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the Vedantic interpretation that He is the base or support for the three states of consciousness, viz., the jaagrat, svapna, and sushupti (the awaker, the dreamer and the sleeper) and this is why He is called tri-kakub-dhaama.

Sri Bhattar gives the interpretation that tri-kakub-dhaama means One who has His abode as the Parama-Pada, which is thrice as large as this Universe. Sri Bhattar also gives an alternative possibility of taking Trikakut and Dhaama as 2 different words.

varahaTri-kakut refers to the incarnation of Bhagavaan as the Varaaha, the Boar with three horns. This interpretation for tri-kakut is supported by the following Shloka from Moksha Dharma in the MahaaBhaarata –
‘tathaiva aasam tri-kakudo varaaham roopam aasthitah |
trikakut tena vikhyaatah Shareerasya pramaapanaat || (moksha dharma 343-63)’
Meaning: “Then I assumed the form of a Boar with three horns. So I became known as ‘tri-kakut’. In that form I killed the raakshasa (Hiranyaaksha).”

Dhaama will be a separate Nama meaning the effulgent one. But this interpretation is offered only as a possibility.

63.       Pavitram – He is Pure

Pavitram means Absolute Purity. He is both Pure and makes His devotees Pure. The purity referred to here is the inner purity of the mind which He has and which He gives to those who meditate on Him. That is why the famous saying goes ‘Govindeti sadaa Snaanam, Govindeti Sadaa Japam – The mere mention of Govinda purifies like a bath. The mere thought of Govinda is like a sustained meditation’.

Both Sri Radhaakrshna Shastri and Swami ChinmayAnanda offer a second and more uncommon interpretation – One who gives protection (traayate) from the thunderbolt of Indra (pavi). Swami ChinmayAnanda points out that in Vedanta, Indra refers to the mind (Indriyanam raja Indrah – the mind), and the thunderbolt of mind can destroy all the accomplishments of a Sadhaka, and only uninterrupted meditation of Sri Vishnu can give the protection against such distractions, and thus Vishnu is Pavi-tra.

The Story of Parikshit – Lord Krishna demonstrates His Purity

On the last night of the war, after Duryodhana’s defeat, a very disturbed and restless Ashwatthama was sitting sleepless under a large tree. An Owl ambushing a group of Crows caught his attention. This gave him an idea of attacking the Pandavas’ camp at night. He gathered the other surviving Kaurava warriors—Kritavarma and Kripacharya and attacked the Pandava camp. He strangled Dhrishtadyumna to death in his sleep, beating and thrashing the semi-conscious warrior. He moved on and killed Shikhandi, Uttamaujas and many other prominent warriors of the Pandava army. Those who tried to flee from Ashwatthama’s wrath were hacked down by Kripacharyya and Kritavarma at the camp’s entrance. He killed Draupadi’s five sons, the Upapandavas, while they were sleeping, believing them to be the five Pandava brothers.  Ashwatthama, realising his mistake, went to Sage Veda Vyasa’s ashram in order to seek salvation (prayaschittam) for his crime.

The Pandavas and Krishna returned to their camp the next morning and were incensed to learn about the cowardly act of Ashwatthama. The Pandavas went after him to Sage Vyasa’s ashram. Upon seeing the approaching Pandavas seething in anger, Ashwatthama (who learnt that he had killed the upapandavas and not the Pandavas) realised that he was trapped now. As a last resort, he used his sacred knowledge of the Vedas to devise a Bramha Astra from a blade of grass and invoked it against the Pandavas and Krishna, although he was strictly forbidden to do so by his father Dronacharya for any purpose whatsoever. On seeing the Brahma Astra approaching the Pandavas, Krishna asked Arjuna to invoke the same. Arjuna invokes Bramha Astra, which he received from Dronacharya towards Ashwatthama.

On seeing the two powerful Astras heading for a head on cataclysmic (catastrophic) collision that would result in the annihilation of the entire Earth, Sage Vyasa used his Yogic powers to stop the divine weapons from colliding with each other. He asked both these warriors to withdraw their respective weapons. Arjuna was able to withdraw his Brahma Astra, while Ashwatthama could not do so as Dronocharya did not teach his son how to withdraw it. Ahswathama was given the option of deviating his weapon towards one single isolated object in a place that was not inhabited by any form of life, so that the Brahma Astra does not harm anyone on Earth. But Ashwatthama, out of spite, directed the weapon towards the womb of Uttara (wife of Abhimanyu) who was carrying Abhimanyu’s son (Parikshit) in an attempt to end the lineage of the Pandavas.

Krishna_give_life_to_dead_child_of_UttaraAbhimanyu’s son was still born and Uttara pleads to Krishna to save the child.  Shri Krishna says to Uttara –

‘O Uttara, I never utter an untruth. My words will prove true. I shall revive this child in the presence of all creatures. Never before have I uttered an untruth even in jest. Never have I turned back from battle. (By the merit of those acts) let this child revive! As righteousness is dear to me, (by the merit of that disposition of mine) let Abhimanyu’s son, who is born dead, revive! Never hath a misunderstanding arisen between me and my friend Vijaya (Arjuna). Let this dead child revive by that truth! As truth and righteousness are always established in me, let this dead child of Abhimanyu revive (by the merit of these)! As Kansa and Kesi have been righteously slain by me, let this child revive today by that truth!’

‘After these words were uttered by Vasudeva, that child, O’ foremost one of Bharata’s race, became animate and began gradually to move, O’ monarch.’ [Mahabharata]

Thus by reviving Parikshit, Krishna demonstrates his purity.

64.       Mangalam Param – He is Supremely Auspicious

These are two words but to be counted as a single Nama ‘Ekam naama savisheshanam – Single name with a built-in adjective’. Param means superlative or of the highest order. Mangalam means auspiciousness.

Sri Adi Sankara quotes the following from Vishnu Puraana –
‘ashubhaani niraachashte tanoti Shubhasantatim |
smrti-maatrena yat pumsaam brahma tanmangalam viduh ||’
Meaning: Brahman is known as beneficence because He wards off all evils and brings on a series of benefits to men on being merely remembered by them.

Param just emphasises that He is the Supreme in bestowing good results. Periazhvar has composed the ‘Thiru Pallandu’ extolling the Lord for his eternal existence.


Agraahyash Shaasvatah Krishno Lohitaakshaf Pratardanah   |
Prabhootas Trikakubdhaama Pavitram Mangalam Param ||7||


The Lord is beyond the grasp of others, hence He is Agraahyah.  He is eternal and hence Shaasvatah. He is in a permanent state of bliss for whom Creation is a Sport, he is called Krishna. He is Lotus red eyed and hence known as Lohitaakshah.  He is the annihilator of the Universe at the time of Pralaya and hence is Pratardanah.

He is affluent and well endowed with greatness and so He is called Prabhootah.  He supports the three States of Consciousness and hence known as Trikakubdhaama. He is Pure and hence Pavitram and He is Supremely Auspicious, hence He is Mangalam Param.



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


In this Part we will explore the meaning of the Sixth Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.


Aprameyo Hrisheekeshah Padmanaabho Amaraprabhuh             |
Vishvakarmaa Manustvashtaa Sthavishtha Sthaviro Dhruvah ||6||

The Lord is immeasurable and undefinable; he is the controller of all Indriyas, and he sustains the Universe, and HE is the Lord of all the Devas.  He has chiseled and Created the world, all caused just by His thinking alone; He is changeless and remains whole through time and space; and is ageless who is not impacted by the Kaal Chakra.  

This Shloka contains the following 10 Namas:
46.   Aprameyah
47.   Hrisheekeshah
48.   Padmanaabhah
49.   Amaraprabhuh
50.   Vishvakarmaa
51.   Manuh
52.  Tvashtaa
53.   Sthavishthah
54.   Sthavirah
55.   Dhruvah 


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

46.   Aprameyah – One who is Immeasurable

Aprameyah means one who cannot be defined, explained or measured. In the physical world normally everything is defined by one of the following means by:

  • direct perception through the senses namely by seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling or touching. This is called ‘Pratyaksha’.
  • inference from an associated object. For example smoke is always associated with fire. So the presence of smoke leads one to conclude there must be fire in the vicinity. This is called ‘Anumaana’.
  • example or analogy. An unknown object is defined by citing examples using known objects. This is called ‘Upamana’.
  • written or verbal description from an authoritative source. This is called ‘Shabda Pramaanam’.

Now defining the Bhagavan by direct perception (Pratyaksha) is not possible because he is beyond the reach of our sense organs. As Katha Upanishad puts it ‘Ashabdam Asparsham Aroopam Avyayam tathaa Arasam Nityam Agandhavat cha yat – That which is without sound, without touch, without form, without decay, without taste, without smell, without beginning and without end’. Such an entity is clearly beyond the comprehension of our sense organs.

He cannot be explained by inference (Anumaaana) because he is devoid of the associated objects leading to inference. He is unique and without connections.


He cannot be explained by citing examples or analogies (Upamana) because there is nothing to compare Him with. He is Infinite and everything else is finite and so comparison with anything else is ruled out.

He cannot be explained or defined by written or spoken texts because language is only finite and cannot adequately express what Infinite is. Even those who are Muktaas or liberated souls can only experience Him but cannot explain Him. In Tamil there is a saying ‘Kandavar Vindilar, Vindavar Kandilar –  those who have realised God cannot describe Him, those who describe Him have not realised Him!’

Thirumangai Azhwar said “நான் மறைகள் தேடி என்றும் காணமாட்டா செல்வன்  – Naan maraigal thedi endrum kaanamaatta Selvan”.  Meaning: Having read the four vedas, the Lord’s limitless wealth is indescribable.

Poigai Azhwar said:
“திருமால் உடைய நாபிலேயே தாமரை பூவில் இருந்த போதிலும், ப்ரஹ்மாஅந்த திருமாலை அறியமாட்டார். அவர் எல்லாவற்றிற்கும் அப்பார்பட்டவர்  –
Thirumal udaiya nabhi ileye thamarai poovil irundha podhilum, Brahma andha Thirumalai ariya mattaar. Avar ella vatrirkum appar pattavar”.
Meaning: Even Brahma who is seated on the lotus emanating from Lord’s navel will not know everything about the Lord.

47.   Hrisheekeshah – The Master of the Senses

 This Nama can be interpreted in 2 ways.

a)      Hrisheeka means sense organs and Eesha means Lord, so Hrisheekesha means the Lord of the sense organs or the Power by which the sense organs function in the way they do.  The five gnanedriyas (Eyes – Seeing, Ears – Hearing, Nose – Smell, Mouth – Speech and Skin – Touch) and five Karmendriyas (Hands, Legs, Tongue, Excretion and Reproductive organs) are under the Lord’s control.

b)      Hrisheekeshah can be split as Hrishee + Keshah. In this interpretation Hrishee means something that gives happiness and Kesha means rays. In other words Bhagavan is radiating rays of happiness in the form of Sun and the Moon.

48.   Padmanaabhah – He who is the source of the Universe

Padma means Lotus and Naabhi means navel so Padmanaabha is someone who has a Lotus in his navel. As Sri Adi Sankara puts it, it’s not an ordinary Lotus, but ‘Sarvajagat Kaaranam Padmam – the underlying Cause for all Creation being the seat of Brahma the Creator’.  The Lotus denotes the Kaal Chakra or Cycle of the Yugas.

There are 7 nether worlds and seven upper regions including the Earth.  The Bhagavata Puranas calls the seven lower regions bila-svargas (“subterranean heavens”) and these are – Atalam, Vitalam, Nitalam, Rasatalam, Mahatalam, Sutalam and Patalam.

The 7 upper regions including the Earth are: Bhulokam (Earth), Bhuvarlokam, Suvarlokam, Magarlokam, Janalokam, Tapalokam and Satyalokam.   This is also part of the Pranayam Mantra when we recite – Om Bhuh, Om Bhuvaha, Ogum Suvaha, Om Mahaha, Om Janaha, Om Tapaha, Ogum Satyam….Om Tat Savitur Varenyam……

These 14 worlds make up the Cosmos and also referred as Brahmaanda or Anda. It’s referred as Hiranygarbha (in Rig Veda 10.121) meaning the Golden Foetus. The Upanishads elaborate that the Hiranyagarbha floated around in emptiness for a while, and then exploded, something that the Big Bang theory also explains as the beginning of the Cosmos. According to the Vedas and Upanishads, there are several millions of such Andas and the Lord sustains them all.

Sri Radhakrishna Sastri gives a beautiful and simple explanation to enable the appreciation of this Nama. In our normal life, the baby is connected to the mother before birth and at the time of birth  through the umbilical cord through which it gets nourishment from the mother. Similarly, the cord from the Lord’s navel is nothing but the Universe in its primordial form which looks like a Lotus that has not bloomed. This is prior to its full bloom through Time and He is the nourisher of his Creation i.e. Brahma.

The Story about BrahmaHatya Dosham

A related story here is that of how Shiva’s curse as a result of his act of plucking one of Brahma’s five heads was relieved by Lord Narayana.

 Lord Shiva acquired BrahmaHatya Dosham by plucking one of the five heads of Brahma.  Brahma’s curse for that act resulted in the skull getting stuck to his hand and Shiva was forced to seek alms with that skull in hand.  He cursed such that he can get rid of his sin only if the Kabaalam is completely filled-up with food.  Shiva went around the world on a pilgrimage to find salvation from the curse by begging for food with Brahma’s skull as the begging bowl. Every time someone filled the vessel with food, it vanished immediately, to Shiva’s horror.

Finally, Shiva reached Goddess Lakshmi and appealed to her.  She filled the vessel with food ending Shiva’s hunger. However, to Shiva’s dismay, Brahma’s skull still lay fixed on his hand. Shiva did penance and offered His worship to Sriman Narayana. Vishnu answered Shiva’s prayer for salvation and asked him to bathe at Kandiyur Pushkarini. Shiva took a dip in the Pushkarini and with the Lord Kamalanathan’s blessing, the kapalam detached itself from his hand. As a result, the Bhagavan, at this temple, is known as Hara Saapa Vimochana Perumal and the Pushkarini is recognized as Kapaala Thirtham.  Hara is another name for Shiva.


Mangalasasanam: Thirumangai Azhwar has sung about this in one of his Pasurams (Divya Prabhandam 2050) in Thirukkuruntaandagam (19).
பிண்டியார்மண்டையேந்தி பிறர்மனைதிரிதந்துண்ணும்


Thirukkuruntaandagam 19Kandiyur
Pindiyaar mandai enthip pirarmanai thirithan thunnum,

undiyaan saapam theerththa oruvanoor, ulaka meththum
kandiyur arangam meyyam kacciper mallai enru
mandinaar, kuyal allaal matraiyaark kuyya laame
Meaning: This is the place (Kandiyur) renowned for having rid Lord Shiva of his curse which was incurred as a result of his having plucked one of Brahma’s heads. Lord Shiva went around (with the skull of Brahma which stuck to his hand) begging for his food. His hunger got quenched finally and his curse was lifted at Kandiyur. The Lord of Kandiyur is the one who dwells in Srirangam, Thirumeyyam, Kanchipuram, Thiruppernagar, and Thirukkadalmallai.

The Kandiyur temple is known as Hara Saapa Vimochana Perumal  Temple and is no 7 of the 108 Divya Desams.

Temple Details: Kandiyur is located at 7 km from Thanjavur on the Thanjavur—Thiruvaiyaaru route on the banks of the river Kudamurutti (a tributary of the Kaveri river). The presiding deity at this shrine is called Harasaapa Vimochana PerumaL (one who relieved the curse of Haran) in a standing posture facing the easterly direction. The goddess goes by the name Kamalavalli. The festival idol has the name Kamalanathan. The crown structure over the sanctum is called Kamalakruti Vimanam. The temple pond goes by the names – Kapala Moksha Theertham, Bhali Theertham, and Padma Theertham.

49.   Amaraprabhuh – The Master of Devas

Amara means the Devas or the demigods such as Agni (Fire), Varuna (Water) and Vayu (Wind). Prabhu means the Lord. Amaraprabhu therefore means the Lord of the Devas. The Lord is Amaraprabhu because He created the different Devas and entrusted them with functional identities such as wind, fire, water etc. He made them immortal because of their functions and directs them in their functions.

50.   Vishvakarmaa – He Whose Power of Creation is Unique

Sri Adi Sankara gives 4 meanings for Vishvakarmaa:

a)      The Creator of the Universe.
b)      One whose act is the Universe.

c)      Somebody who possesses wonderful powers of Creation.
d)      The power behind the celestial architect of the same name.

Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that this Nama signifies that the entire affairs of the Universe are His alone both before and after the Creation of Brahma. In other words, He is the Director and Controller of the Universe.

51.   Manuh – He Who Thinks

Manuh means the great thinker.  ‘Mananaat Manuh – He is called Manuh because of his Mananam, the great faculty of thinking’. Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad says ‘Naanyoto asti Mantaa – There is no thinker but Him’.

To mentally visualise an act prior to the act itself is mananam. Bhagavan has to just think in order to achieve what He wills. The Creation of the Cosmos was only a minute part of His Will. Sri Bhattar uses the word sankalpa lava maatraat – by the tiniest fraction of His will, to explain this.

Sri Adi Sankara gives 2 other meanings for Manuh, Viz.:

1. The Name of a Mantra.

2. The first human on the earth from whom all others descended.

52.   Tvashtaa – He Who Shrinks at the time of Deluge (or Pralaya)

This Nama is derived from the root word ‘tvaksh – to pare, to reduce, to chisel’. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama to indicate that Bhagavan pares down all beings and makes them shrink at the time of Cosmic dissolution or Pralaya.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses this meaning to interpret this Nama to mean that Bhagavan has “chiseled” so many diverse forms, Devas, man, birds, plants, insects, etc., and thus He is Tvashtaa. He gives the Taittriya Aaranyaka (3-11) in support of his interpretation – ‘tvashtaaram roopaani vikurvantam vipaschitam – the One who moulds multifarious forms and diverse objects’.

 53.   Sthavishthah – 

This Nama is derived from the two words sthoola and ishtha – One who willed Himself to be huge when needed (as in Trivikrama Avatar).

Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that this huge size is the manifestation of Bhagavan as the Brahmaandaa (the egg-shaped Universe) with the fourteen worlds, which are the places of residences for all the beings that He has Created.

 54.   Sthavirah – He is Ancient or Eternal

Sthavirah means most ancient or older than the oldest.  It means that Bhagavan while causing the Universe to exist for millions of years is Himself timeless, ageless and changeless. Sri Adi Sankara takes Sthaviro Dhruvaha as a composite word – ‘Savisheshanam ekam naamam – a single Nama with a built in adjective’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar takes them as two separate Namas, one denoting fixed in time and the other denoting fixed in space.

The composite meaning is the same for both the commentators.

 55.   Dhruvah – He is Stable or Eternal

Dhruvah means fixed, stable and unmoving. Even after creating so many lives, things and objects, Bhagavan remains whole, stable and unchanged. While the clay may become pot and change its form, Bhagavan remains the same even after using his energy for all his Creations.  There is not even a slightest depreciation in his form.

In Summary

Aprameyo Hrisheekeshah Padmanaabho Amaraprabhuh             |
Vishvakarmaa Manustvashtaa Sthavishtha Sthaviro Dhruvah ||6||

Lord Vishnu and Goddess LaxmiBhagavan is Immeasurable, undefinable and cannot be realised by the five senses, hence He is Apremeyah. He is Hrisheekeshah as He is the Master of all Senses. 

He is the underlying Cause for all Creation being the seat of Brahma the Creator.  He is Padmanaabhah as Padma (Universe) emanates from his Naabhi (navel) sustained by something like an umbilical cord.

HE is the Lord of all the Devas and hence Amaraprabhuh.  He has chiseled and Created the world like Vishvakarmaa does with his tools. He is Manah as He caused the Creation by His thinking alone;  He is called Tvashtaa as He shrinks the World during Pralaya and subsumes it within Him.

He is Sthavistha as He assumes gigantic forms at His Will (like the huge Boar in Varaha Avatar or Trivikrama in Vamana Avatar).  He is Sthavirah as He is older than the oldest. He is changeless and remains whole through time and space. He is ageless who is not impacted by the Kaal Chakra and eternal; hence He is called Dhruvah.  .  



The Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authoried with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.


In this Part we will explore the meaning of the fifth Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Shloka 5
Svayambhoos Shambhu Raadityah Pushkaraaksho Mahaasvanah   |
Anaadinidhano Dhaata Vidhaata Dhaaturuttammah                             ||5||

Bhagavan is Svyambhooh, i.e. the one who exists by Himself. He has no dependence on others and He bestows happiness and joy on his devotees.  He is the energy and source of all radiance and lustre in the Sun. His eyes are like the Lotus flower whose splendour is described in the Vedas.  He has no birth, decay or death, and He supports this Universe. He generates the fruits of actions, sustains the whole Universe and is its Supreme controller.

This Shloka contains the following 9 Namas:

37.   Svayambhooh
38.   Shambhuh
39.   Aadityah
40.   Pushkaraakshah
41.   Mahaasvanah
42.   Anaadinidhanah
43.   Dhaata
44.   Vidhaata
45.   Dhaaturuttamah


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

 37.  Svayambhooh – One who manifests on his Own

vishnuhSvayambhooh means somebody, who is self-born. ‘Svayam eva bhavati iti Svayambhooh – One who manifests on His own without any external cause’. Manu Smriti (MS 1, 7) says ‘Sa Eva Svayam Udvabhau – Only He was born on His own’.

It is interesting to note that the word Svayambhoo is also used to denote the naturally occurring icons of Lord Shiva (Lingam) and naturally formed icons of Lord Vishnu (Saligram, Salagramam or Shaligram).

The Salagramams are those which are naturally found in the Sacred River Kali-Gandaki near Mukthi Kshetra (also known as Mukthinath and Damodhar Kunda) in the North West of Nepal. The Gandaki River is also referred to as Narayani, Shaligrami, Hiranvathi and Hiranyavathi.

The Story of Salagramam and Tulsi Vivah

According to Shiva Puranas, there are two stories that recount the tale of Tulasi and Salagram and both are somewhat inter-related.  The first story relates to a demon called Jalandhar, the son of the Ocean and the second to Shankhachuda son of demon king Dambha.

Slaying of Jalandhar

Brahma had granted boons to Jalandhar that resulted in enormous powers being bestowed on him.  Jalandhar married Vrinda, daughter of Kalanemi and had a boon that his powers will remain undiminished as long as his wife Vrinda is chaste. This made King Jalandhar arrogant and he declared war on other Kings, demi gods and started tormenting all of them. Lord Shiva was unable to vanquish Jalandhar due to Vrinda’s chastity and hence requested Lord MahaVishnu to remove the most powerful shield protecting the Asura, Vrinda’s chastity.

jalandharMahaVishnu obliged Lord Shiva by manifesting to Vrinda as her husband and lived with her for a period of time unbeknown to her. Lord Shiva destroyed Jalandhar as he lost his powers when Vrinda lost her chastity.  When Vrinda found out about this deceit, she cursed Lord Mahavishnu that his wife would be deceitfully abducted and he too would wander in her search.  After cursing Lord Vishnu, Vrinda embraced death by entering into the fire. Lord Vishnu was very saddened by her death and was remorseful. With the grace from Goddesses, seeds were sprayed on the pyre resulting in the manifestation of Amla (Gooseberry), Tulsi (Basil) and Malti (Jasmine) plants. Tulsi and Malti attained Vishnuloka by virtue of their penance and Lord’s grace.

The Killing of Shankhachuda

The second story relates to Shankhachuda, Tulsi and Salagramam.

badrikashramaKing Dharmadvaja and Madhavi were blessed with a daughter Tulsi.  Tulsi was so devoted to Lord Narayana that she performed rigorous penance in Badrikashrama with the aim of seeking Him as her husband. Tulsi was a Gopika in Goloka in her previous life and during one of the dances with Krishna, she fainted in ecstasy. Radha was furious at this blatant display of her longing for Krishna and cursed her. Sudama who was a witness went in aid of her to defend but he too was cursed by Radha. As a result, Sudama was born as Shankhachuda to the demon king Dambha.

When Shankhachuda went to Pushkar (Ajmer) and did a penance to please Brahma. Lord Brahma blessed him and said that he would remain invincible. He also instructed Shankhachuda to go to ‘Badrikashram’ where he would find his wife Tulsi- the daughter of Dharmadhwaja.

Shankhachuda went to Badrikasharam and married Tulsi as per the instructions of Lord Brahma. He then returned back to his capital accompanied by his wife Tulsi.  Because of a boon from Brahma, Shankhachuda could only be defeated if his wife was unfaithful to him. Believing he was invincible, Shankhachuda became arrogant and began tormenting people. They prayed to Vishnu for help, and Vishnu sent Shiva to kill Shankhachuda. Meanwhile Vishnu assumed the form of Shankhachuda and seduced Tulsi, to make her unfaithful and therefore nullify the effect of the boon. This would allow Shiva to kill the demon. When Tulsi discovered the deceit, she began to curse the impostor to become a stone. Lord Vishnu turned into the Salagramam stone as a result of that curse.


He pacified Tulsi, and reminded her that she was, in fact Lakshmi who was in penance as Tulsi, and could now return to Vaikuntam with Him since her curse was over. To mark the event, Lakshmi’s hair became the Tulsi plant, which remained on Earth and was worshipped thereafter as her image, and her body was transformed into a river named Gandaki.


And so Tulsi is considered sacred and for Vaishnavas in particular, no ceremony is performed without it, and worship of Vishnu is incomplete without the Tulsi leaves. We can observe Lord Vishnu is adorned with Tulsi garlands in all Vishnu temples.

‘Tulsi’ and its other name Brinda or Vrinda, are names invoked in prayer and signify the embodiment of purity.

Tulsi Vivah


Tulsi Vivah festival is the wedding of Tulsi plant to Salagramam (i.e. form of Lord Vishnu). Tulsi Vivah is an important ritual performed in Kartik (Karthigai) month in traditional Hindu calendar.

Since the Tulsi and the Salagrama Shila are so closely associated, every year in the month of Kartik, the Vaishnavas marry a Tulsi plant to a Salagrama stone with great fanfare.

Tulsi Vivah starts on the first Ekadashi (Devprabhodni) after Diwali and lasts till Pournami or Full Moon Day (15th day).

Characteristics of Salagramas

The marks made by the shell of the ammonite give a Salagram its characteristic appearance, with the pattern often resembling and representing the ‘Sudarshan Chakra’ or the discus with a sharp-toothed edge which rests on the index finger of Lord Vishnu.  According to contemporary geologists, the Salagrama-silas are fossils of a prehistoric insect. This insect is mentioned in the Bhavisya Purana –  “The millions of Vajrakita worms that live at that place will adorn those stones with the signs of my cakra by carving them with their sharp teeth.” However, the Vajrakita is the secondary cause, whereas Visnu himself is the principal cause of his manifestation as Salagrama-sila.


Salagram stones come in different colors such as red, blue, yellow, green and black. Of these, the yellow, blue and black varieties are considered more sacred. The yellow and golden-colored Salagramams are considered most auspicious and are believed to bestow great wealth and prosperity on its worshipers.

Salagramams of different shapes are often associated with the different Avatars of Lord Vishnu such as: Matsaya avtar, Kurma avtar, Narasimha avtar and so on. In the epic MahaBharata, Lord Krishna while giving a discourse to Yudhistra refers to the qualities of Salagramams.

It is believed that wherever Salagram is kept Lord Vishnu lives there along with Goddess Lakshmi. The umbrella shape Salagram has the power to give kingdom and the one having elliptical shape gives lots of wealth and one can obtain the benefits equivalent of mastering all the Vedas by worshiping Salagramam.

38.  Shambhuh – One who bestows happiness on His devotees

 ‘Sham’ means joy or happiness and ‘Bhuh’ is the one who creates. Shambhu therefore means the one who creates happiness in the minds of his devotees. ‘Sham bhaktaanaam bhaavayati iti Shambhuh. One who delights the devotees’. Indeed as the famous song goes –

Adharam madhuram vadanam madhuram
nayanam madhuram hasitam madhuram
hṛdayam madhuram gamanam madhuram
madhuraadhi-pater akhilam madhuram

“His lips are delightful, His face is delightful, His eyes are delightful, His smile is delightful, His heart is delightful, His walk is delightful – Every little aspect of His is delightful”.

Shambhuh is also a popular name for Lord Shiva as Rudram puts it “Namashshambhave cha mayo bhavecha Namah shankaraya cha mayaskaraya cha. Namah Shivaya cha”.

 39.  Aadityah – One who is the Golden hue in Sun’s orb

visnu2This Nama can be interpreted in 3 ways.

a)   The Purusha in the Sun – MahaVishnu is the central energy of the Sun. Adi Sankara explains this as “‘Aaditya Mandalaantasthah Hiranmayah Purushah – the golden person present at the centre of the Sun’s orb”;

b)   One of the twelve Aadityas. Aditi the wife of Sage Kashyapa had 12 sons called Aadityaas. They are Vivasvaan, Aryamaa, Pooṣha, Tvaṣhṭaa, Savitaa, Bhaga, Dhaataa, Vidhaataa, Varuṇa, Mitra, Śhakra, and Urukrama. Out of these the last named Urukrama is the Avataar of Vishnu.

In Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 10 Verse 21, Bhagavan says “Aadityaanaam aham Vishnuh” – I am the Vishnu (Urukrama) among the Aadityaas.

c)   One who sustains and nourishes everything like the Sun. This explanation is given by Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda.

40.  Pushkaraakshah – One who has beautiful eyes like the Lotus flower

rajiva netraPushkara means a lotus and Aksha is eye. So this means one whose eyes are beautiful like the lotus flower. We have seen this idea already in the Dhyana Shlokas for example “Punyopetam Pundareekaayataaksham”.

NammAzhwar while describing Lord’s eyes says
“தாமரை மலர்கள் போல இருக்கும் பெருமாளின் இரண்டு கண்களும் நம் உயிரை குடிக்க வந்த இரண்டு யமன்களோ?”
“Thamarai Malargal Pola Irukkum PerumaLin Irandu KanngaL Nam Uyirai Kudikka Vandha Irandu Yamangalo?”
Meaning:  Are the Lord’s beautiful eyes, resembling the Lotus Flowers, there to suck the life out of us? Such is the beauty of Lord’s Kamala Nayanam that one does not aspire for anything more after looking and immersing oneself in its gaze!

 41.  Mahaasvanah – One from whom comes the great Sound

This Nama can be interpreted in 2 ways.

a)      A person of deep and reverberating voice. “Mahaanoorjitah svanah naadah – He has a deep voice”;

b)      Embodiment of the Vedas. Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad says “Asya Mahato Bhootasya Nishvasitam etad rigvedo yajurvedah – The Vedas are the breaths emanating from the Bhagavan”; The Vedas describe Lord’s effulgence and splendour;  The Gayatri Mantra also invokes the Supreme Lord Vishnu, who is the principal source of energy for the Sun.

42.  Anaadinidhanah – One who is Eternal

Aadi is the beginning and Nidhana is the end. So this Nama means someone who has neither a beginning nor an end. He is Anaadi and He is Ananta. He is Eternal and beyond Time.  At the end of the MahaBharata Yudham, Bhishma says to Yudhishtra,  in the preamble to Vishnu Sahasranamam,  ‘AnaadiNidhanam Vishnum SarvaLokaMahesvaram’ describing Lord Vishnu as One without a beginning or an end and as Supreme.

43.  Dhaata – One who Created the Universe

Dhaataa has several meanings as below:

a)   One Who Created the Universe (dhaa – to produce, or dhaa – to lay upon).

b)   He Who supports and sustains (dhaa – dhaaran poshanayoyscha).

c)  He Who has no support other than Himself.  Here the basic name is taken as Adhaata rather than Dhaata.

As He is the Creator who needs no assistance from anyone, He is Dhaata.

44.  Vidhaata – He is the Supreme Controller

VIdhaata means Supreme controller. He lays down the laws of the Universe. He is the One who sets the rules and dispenses the fruits of one’s action. He is the ruler of everyone’s destiny.

45.  Dhaaturuttamah – The Ultimate support of every thing

a)   One who is far superior to Brahma (dhaatr)

b)   The best of all basic constituents

The first interpretation is self-explanatory and it is just an extension of the previous two Namas Dhaataa and Vidhataa. The other explanation is given based on the word dhaatu, which means – fundamental element or basic constituent. He is the ultimate constituent of all, and so He is dhaaturuttamah.

Sri Adi Sankara treats this as 2 different Namas – Dhaatuh and Uttamah. Dhaatuh means the fundamental building block of the Universe. Uttamah means the highest power of the Universe.


Svayambhoos Shambhu Raadityah Pushkaraaksho Mahaasvanah   |
Anaadinidhano Dhaata Vidhaata Dhaaturuttammah                            ||5||

mahavishnuBhagavan is Svyambhooh as He exists by himself. He bestows happiness and joy on his devotees and hence He is Shambhuh.  He is the energy behind the Sun and the source of all radiance and lustre. He is Aadityah, the golden hue in Sun’s orb. 

His eyes are like the Lotus flower whose splendour is described in the Vedas, so He is Pushkarakshah. He has a deep voice and from whom comes the great sound, hence He is Mahaasvanah.

He has no birth, decay or death and He is Anadinidhanah i.e. eternal. He who supports this Universe, generates the fruits of actions and is the phala-Dhaata.  

He is the Supreme Controller of the Universe and hence He is Vidhaata.  He is the Ultimate support for everything and hence He is Dhaturuttamah.



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


In this Part we will explore the meaning of the fourth Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Shloka 4
Sarvah Sharvash Shiva Sthaanur Bhootaadir Nidhiravyayah      |

Sambhavo Bhaavano Bhartaa Prabhavah Prabhureeshvarah ||4||

He is the Ultimate cause for the Universe, its sustenance, destruction and He manifests again and again for re-establishing Dharma. He is pure, untainted one who is forever compassionate to his devotees, He who supports the Universe and is most powerful, who can do whatever He wills without the help of anything or anyone. 

This Shloka contains the following 12 Namas:

25.    Sarvah
26.    Sharvah
27.    Shivah
28.    Sthaanuh
29.    Bhootaadih
30.    Nidhih avyayah
31.    Sambhavah
32.    Bhaavanah
33.    Bhartaa
34.    Prabhavah
35.    Prabhuh
36.    Eeshvarah

Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi

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

25.       Sarvah – He is Omniscient

Sarvah means all or every. He is omnipresent and is the cause for everything.  Just like a string that holds together the gems and pearls in a necklace, Vishnu holds all the Jivatmas much like the string in a necklace.

Interestingly, the strings theory in quantum physics attempts to provide a complete, unified, and consistent description of the fundamental structure of our Universe. According to string theory, the entire world is made of strings.

In the MahaBharata we have “Asatascha sataschaiva sarvasya prabhavaapyayaat Sarvasya sarvadaa jnaanaat sarvamenam prachakshate – He is the origin and end of everything whether real or unreal. He knows all things at all times. Hence He is known as Sarvah”.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 10 Verse 8, Bhagavan says:
aham sarvasya prabhavo  mattah sarvam pravartate

iti matva bhajante mam budha bhava-samanvitah
Meaning: I am the source of all Creations and everything emanates from me. The wise who know this perfectly, engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.

26.       Sharvah – He is the Destroyer

visvam4One who destroys all beings, at the appropriate time.  Sri Adi Sankara says “Shrunaati samhaaarasamaye samharati samhaarayati sakalaah prajaah iti – When the time for destruction comes He withdraws all beings unto Himself”.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 9, Verse 7, Bhagavan says:
“Sarva bhootaani Kounteya Prakritim Yaanti maamikaam,

Kalpakshaye punastaani Kalpaadau Visrijaamyaham”
Meaning: All beings, Arjuna, go to my prakrti at the Final Dissolution of the cycle of creation. Again, at the beginning of the (next) cycle, I create them.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s commentary says that the Lord is called sharvah because He removes the evils generated by the body (sva shareera bhootaanaam ashubhamapi shrinaati iti sharvah). This means that Bhagavan is called Sharvah because He destroys all the sins of His devotees.

27.       Shivah – One who is Pure

This name can be interpreted in 2 ways.

  •  He is Pure and free from the 3 Gunas of Rajas, Tamas and Sattva. Sri Adi Sankara says “Nistraigunyatayaa shuddhatvaat Shivah – He is called Shiva because He is Pure and totally devoid of the three Gunas (qualities of natural disposition which are Sattva, Rajas and Tamas)”
  •  He is the One who bestows auspiciousness to all.  In the MahaBharata we have a verse that says “One who bestows all that is desired by His devotees is called Shivah”.

In the context of this name, Narayana Upanishad says:

  •  “Shaasvatam Shivam Achyutam” – The Eternal, The Auspicious, and the One Who never lets His devotees fall.
  • “Sa brahma sa shivah sendrah so’ksharah paramah svaraat” – He is Brahma, He is Shiva, He is Indra, He is Eternal, He is Supreme, He is the Lord of all.

28.       Sthaanuh – One who is steady and changeless

This means One who is firm and unwavering. The name derives from the root word stha-tishthati, indicating firmness or steadiness. Interestingly this is another name generally ascribed to Lord Shiva.

It also means that Lord bestows unlimited benefits on his devotees.  The story of Lord visiting the three Azhwars at Thirukovilur is an interesting one that illustrates his compassion and his desire to mingle with his devotees.

The Story of the three Azhwars in Thirukovilur

sri-trivikramaswamy-temple-thirukovilurThe first three of the Azhwars – Poigai Azhwar, Bhoothath azhwar and Pey Azhwar (referred to as Mudhal Azhwars) – came to Thirukovilur on a rainy night. Poigai Azhwar of Kanchipuram, who reached first, sought refuge at the ashram of Mrugandu Rishi who agreed to allow him in on the condition that there was place for just one person to sleep and that he was welcome to sleep there for the night.

Bhoothathazhwar, from Thiru Kadal Malai (Mahabalipuram), followed shortly. He was welcomed with the message that there was place for one to sleep and two to sit and brought him inside. Pey Azhwar, from Thiru Mayilai (Mylapore), who was the last to reach the ashram, was told that there was place for one to sleep, two to sit and three to stand. So, the three of them stood there through the night sharing their experiences.

A little later, the Mudhal Azhwars felt the presence of a fourth person and with space only for three to stand, they felt uncomfortable. Through their special vision, they realised that it was Ulagalantha Perumal of Thirukovilur who shared the space with them.

Sri Peyazhwar, was able to see clearly the fourth person due to the lightning as well as the lamps lighted by the other two Azhwars. The fourth person was squeezing them tight.  First and foremost, Azhwar’s eyes alighted on the glorious form of Sri Mahalakshmi adorning the broad chest of the intruder-“Thiru Kanden” is how an excited Peyazhwar sang out describing his moment of happiness,  exulting in the wonderful spectacle that greeted his eye.

Having realized, from the presence of the Divine Consort, that it was none other than the Paramatma Sriman Narayana who had entered the passage and was squeezing the trio, Azhwar’s sight fell next on the glorious golden Thirumeni of the Paramapurusha -“Ponmeni Kanden”. The brilliant and blazing complexion of the stranger imprinted itself upon Azhwar’s eyes, prompting him to comment ecstatically on the same-“Tigazhum arukkan ani niramum kanden”. The Lord’s Divine Discus and the Cosmic Conch adorning His upper hands presented a spectacular sight to the thirsty eyes of Azhwar-“Serukkilarum Ponnaazhi kanden, puri Shankham kai kanden”,  after the Darshan of Ulagalandha Perumal, on one dark stormy night in Aippasi (Tamil month) at Mrugandu Rishi’s Ashram in Thirukovilur.

Delighted at seeing the Lord, Poigai Azhwar sang 100 verses (Mudhal Thiruvandhadhi) beginning with ‘Vaiyam Thagazhiyay Vaarkadaley’ referring to the Universe as the lamp and the ocean as the oil. Bhoothathazhwar followed it with 100 verses beginning with ‘Anbey Thagaliye’ (Second Thiruvandhadhi) while Pey Azhwar showered another 100 verses (Third Thiruvandhadhi) of praise.

It was here at Thirukovilur that the very first verses of the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham were composed and hence this place is credited as being the temple of the origin of the sacred 4,000 verses.

29.       Bhootaadih – He is the source of all Causes

 Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation “bhootaihi sprhaNeeyatanatayaa aadeeyate – One who is eagerly sought after by all beings.”

Sri Adi Sankara gives the interpretation “bhootaanaam Aadi-kaaranatvaat bhootaadih – Bhagavan is called bhootaadih because He is the first cause of all beings.”

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives another plausible interpretation– “Bhootaanaam Aadih – The very cause for the five great elements – the pancha bhootaas – Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth.”

30.       Nidhih avyayah – He is changeless and eternal

This is taken as a single name. Nidhi means a treasure and avyayah means imperishable or everlasting. He is a permanent and inexhaustible treasure for his devotees. Physical treasures are limited and will get exhausted in course of time. Bhagavan is an everlasting treasure.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 8, Verse 20 Bhagavan says:

paras tasmat tu bhavo ‘nyo  ‘vyakto ‘vyaktat sanatanah
yah sa sarvesu bhutesu nasyatsu na vinasyati
Meaning: Yet there is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is. The Divine Substance does not perish even when all beings perish”

31.       Sambhavah – He who manifests at His Will

He is one who manifests Himself at any place and at any time and in any form.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4, Verse 8 Bhagavan says:

Paritraanaaya saadhoonaam Vinaashaaya cha dushkritaam
Dharma Samsthaapanaarthaaya Sambhavaami yuge yuge
Meaning: For the protection of the virtuous, for the destruction of evil-doers and to re-establish Dharma, I take birth millennium after millennium.  All his Avatars are evidence of his regular manifestation to restore Dharma and destruction of evil.

32.       Bhaavanah – One who gives fruits of actions

He is the One who gives the fruits of actions to all beings. Adi Sankara explains this as “Sarveshaam bhoktruunaam phalaani bhaavayatiti Bhaavanah – He bestows the fruits of actions for all the doers”.

We can perform the action but the Phaladaata is Bhagavan, only He can deliver the fruit of the action. As Ramana Maharshi’s Upadesha Saaram says:

“Kartu raajnayaa kaaryate phalam Karma Kim param Karma tajjadam- Mere action alone does not guarantee success, the fruit is verily caused by the order of the Bhagavan”

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is “Yo janitvaa janaan ujjeevayati sah bhaavanah – One who, after having manifested Himself (sambhavah – see above), brings back all to life.”

33.       Bhartaa – One who Sustains the Universe

Basically it means the one Who is the sustainer of the Universe.

Adi Sankara gives the following explanation – “Prapanchasya adhishtaanatvena bharanaat bhartaa – Bhagavan is bhartaa (Sustainer) because He sustains the Universe as its Lord.

Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that He nourishes His devotees by giving Himself up to His devotees because that is His Nature – yasmaat pushnaati aatma-daanaat.

34.       Prabhavah – One who’s Avatars are acts of greatness

This Nama can be interpreted in two ways. As per Sri Adi Sankara:

  • “Prakarshena Mahabhootaani asmaajjaayante iti Prabhavah – All the great beings of the world are born out of Him.”
  • “Prakrishto bhavo janmaasya iti – His births are acts of greatness.”

35.      Prabhuh – He is adept in all rites

 The most powerful demonstrating in all His actions.

Sri Adi Sankara comments – “sarvaasu kriyaasu saamarthya atisayavaan prabhuh – One who is the most powerful, manifesting it in all His actions.”

Sri Parasara Bhattar says He is Prabhuh – most powerful – because he can bestow fruits such as the enjoyment of the pleasures associated with those of Brahma and even Moksha.

 36.       Eeshvarah – He is Supreme

 Bhagavan is also called Eeshvarah as He is the:

  •  One who has the Supreme power of control over all beings;
  •  One who has the ability to do anything without the help of any other beings or things.

The first meaning is derived from the word Aishvarya – nirupaadhikam aishvaryam asya iti Eeshvarah – He is Eeshvara because He has unlimited might or power.

The second meaning derives from Ishte iti Eeshvarah – One who can do whatever He wills without the help of anything or anyone.

In Summary:

Sarvah Sharvash Shiva Sthaanur Bhootaadir Nidhiravyayah      |
Sambhavo Bhaavano Bhartaa Prabhavah Prabhureeshvarah ||4||

AnanthasayanamHe is Sarvah as He is the Ultimate cause for the Universe.  He is Sharvah and subsumes everything within Him at the time of Deluge. He is Pure and untainted, hence Shivah; and Sthanuh as He is changeless.  He is the source of all Causes, so He is Bhootadhir; and he is eternal as Nidhiravyayah

He manifests again and again for re-establishing Dharma, hence Sambhavah.  He gives the fruits of action as phaladaata and hence he is Bhaavanah. He supports the Universe, so He is Bhartaa. His Avatars are acts of greatness and are Prabhavah. He is most powerful, one who can do whatever He wills without the help of anything or anyone and hence He is Prabhuh.  He is Supreme Eeshvarah.



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


In this Part we will explore the meaning of the third Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Shloka 3

Yogo YogavidaamNeta PradhaanaPurusheshvarah                |
NaarasimhaVapuh Shreemaan Keshavah Purushottamah ||3||

The Lord can be attained by Yoga and He is the Master of all those established in Yoga.  He is the Pradhana Purusha who controls of the Universe.  He takes multiple forms at his will and as Narasimhavapuh, He destroyed Hiranyakashipu to protect his ardent devotee Prahlada. He is so beautiful together with Goddess Lakshmi residing on his chest.  He is Keshava, the controller of the Trinity and He is the greatest among all Purushaas on whom  we should meditate at all times to attain liberation.

This Shloka contains the following 7 Namas:

18.   Yogah
19.   YogavidaamNeta
20.   PradhaanaPurusheshvarah
21.   NaarasimhaVapuh
22.   Shreemaan
23.   Keshavah
24.   Purushottamah


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

soul_body18.  Yogah – One who is attainable through Yoga

The word Yoga in Sanskrit has several meanings such as:  means, meditation, union, fitness, remedy, etc.

The realisation of oneness of the individual and the supreme Spirit, by keeping under control the senses of cognition together with the mind, is called Yoga.

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama to convey the ‘union’ or ‘one-ness’. Bhagavan is called Yogah as He is attained by controlling the sense organs and the mind. Through this process we realise the one-ness of the Paramatma and the Kshetragna i.e. Jivatma.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this as a ‘means to an end or simply a process’. According to him, this Nama means that meditating on Bhagavan is the sole means for attaining Mukti or salvation.

Swami ChinmayAnanda uses the meaning ‘meditation’ for the term yoga, and gives the interpretation for ‘Yogah’ as “One Who is realised by withdrawing the sense-organs from their objects of preoccupation and quietening the mind”.

19.  YogavidaamNeta – He is the master of those established in Yoga

Yogavit is one who enquires into, acquires or realises Yoga and Neta is a leader. Bhagavan is called ‘YogavidaamNetaa’ because he leads and nurtures the Yoga practitioners towards their goal of realisation.

In Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 9 Verse 22, Lord Krishna says:

ananyaashchintayanto maam ye janaahaa paryupaasate
teshaam nityaabhiyuktaanaam yogakshemam vahaamyaham

With single-pointed meditation, those who are constantly engaged in my worship, I carry the burden of acquisition and preservation of their needs.

20.  PradhaanaPurusheshvarah – He is the master of Prakriti and Purusha

Pradhaana is primordial Nature i.e. Prakriti or the world around us as perceived by our sense organs. It is also called Maya or the apparent reality. Purusha is Kshetragna or the Jivatma.

Eeshvarah is the Lord and Master and PradhaanaPurusheshvarah means the One who is the Lord and Master of both Prakriti and Purusha i.e. Lord Maha Vishnu.

21.  NaarasimhaVapuh – One in whom the body of a man and Lion are combined

Vapu means body and Naarasimha means a combination of a man and a lion; so NaarasimhaVapuh is somebody who has a body combining a man and a lion. This refers to the Narasimha Avatar of Bhagavan.


Narasimha Avatar is the Half-Man Half-Lion, 4th Incarnation of Lord Vishnu from Satya Yuga. The Asura (demon) Hiranyakashipu performed intense penance and austerities and was able to please Lord Brahma. When Brahma appeared before him he asked for immortality. But Brahma said he could not grant him the boon of immortality. So Hiranyakashipu asked for a series of boons all of which were with an intent to avoid death and assure him immortality. Accordingly, Hiranyakashipu was blessed with the following boons, That –

He will not die in any type of indoor or outdoor.
He will not die during day or night;
He will not die on earth or sky;
He will not be killed by any weapon; and
He will not be killed by a human being or animal

After being blessed with these boons, Hiranyakashipu defeated the demigods and rulers on Earth and announced that he was the Supreme God and declared that all prayers should be directed towards him and not to Vishnu.

The entire Kingdom followed his commands except his young son, Prahlada.  The little boy Prahlada worshiped Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu tried all means to make the boy worship Him. But all his efforts failed. Then the demon King tried to kill his son several times but each time the little boy was rescued by Vishnu.

Frustrated and incensed with his son’s worship of Vishnu, Hiranyakashipu demanded him to show him Lord Vishnu who is supposed to be omnipresent. In a fit of anger pointing to a pillar, Hiranyakashipu asked whether Vishnu is present in it. As soon as the young Prahlada affirmed, Hiranyakashipu took out his sword and struck the pillar.

In a flash, Lord Vishnu appeared (as Narasimha), breaking through the pillar,  in the form of a half Man- half Lion before Hiranyakashipu.  Hiranyakashipu froze at the sight and the Lord dragged Hiranyakashipu to the threshold of the palace and as the twilight period was approaching He put him on His lap and killed him with His claws. Thus, the Lord ensured that when He killed Hiranyakashipu:

  • He was neither inside nor outside the palace;
  • it was was neither day nor night, it was in the twilight hour;
  • Hiranyakashipu was neither on earth nor in the sky, as He kept him on his lap;
  • He did not use any weapons as He killed him using his paws; and
  • finally, He took the form of Naarasimhavapuh i.e. half man-half lion, neither a human nor an animal.

Thus, the Lord vanquished Hiranyakashipu and protected his ardent devotee Prahlada while ensuring that all the boons granted to Hiranyakashipu were honoured.

22.  Shreemaan – One on whose chest Goddess Lakshmi resides

Lord Vishnu and Goddess LaxmiShree is Goddess Lakshmi and she eternally abides on Bhagavan’s chest. Shree also means beauty and Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets Shreemaan as “most beautiful and charming personality”.

23.  Keshavah – One who controls the Trinity

Keshavah has multiple meanings, such as:

  1.  “Abhiroopaah keshaah yasya sah  – One Who has got captivating hair”
  2. One who killed a demon called Keshee. This appears in Vishnu Puranam (5.16.23). Narada says to Krishna, Because you have slain the impious Keshee, you will be known in the world by the name ‘Keshava’.
  3. One who controls the Trimurthi’s. This is explained by Sri Adi Sankara as: “Kascha Ascha Eeshascha Trimoortayah Keshaah, Yadvashena vartante sa Keshavah”.

‘Ka’ means Brahma, ‘a’ means Vishnu and ‘isa’ means Rudra; hence ‘Kesa’ denotes Trimurthi’s (the three embodiments) who are under His control i.e. ‘vasa’.

So Keshava is one who controls the 3 functional Entities namely the Creator, the Protector and the Destroyer.

24.  Purushottamah – The greatest among all Purushas

This is interpreted as ‘Purushaanaam Uttamah’ or ‘Purusheshu Uttamah’ or ‘Purushebhyo Uttamah’. Depending on the form that is used we can interpret this as either ‘Supreme among Purushaas (Jeevaas)’ or as ‘Superior to the Purushaas’.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 15 Verse 18, Bhagavan says:

‘Yasmaat ksharam ateetoham aksharaadapi chottamah
Atosmi loke vede cha prathitah Purushottamah ‘

I am superior to Matter and superior to the Individual Soul; and hence I am called Purushottama in the world and in the Vedas.


Yogo YogavidaamNeta PradhaanaPurusheshvarah                |
NaarasimhaVapuh Shreemaan Keshavah Purushottamah ||3||

visvam4The Lord can be attained by Yoga and He is the Master of all those established in Yoga, hence He is called YogavidaamNeta.  He is the Pradhana Purushaeshvara who controls the Universe.  He takes multiple forms at his Will and as Naarasimhavapuh, He destroyed Hiranyakashipu to protect his ardent devotee Prahlada.

He is so beautiful together with Goddess Lakshmi residing on his chest, hence He is Shreemaan.  He is Keshava, the controller of the Trinity and He is the greatest among all Purushaas i.e. Purushottamah on whom  we should meditate at all times to attain liberation. 



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


In this Part we will explore the meaning of the 2nd Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Shloka 2
Pootatma Paramatma cha MuktaanaamParamaaGatihi   |

Avyayah Purushas Saakshee Kshetragno Akshara Eva Cha      ||2||

The Lord is pure and is untainted by the actions of the body (Jivatma) in which he resides; He is the Ultimate Consciousness Who is the Knower, Seer, Sustainer, Enjoyer and those immersed in his thoughts attain Paramagati or Moksha, and enjoy the eternal bliss that is limitless.

This Shloka contains the following 8 Namas:
10.  Pootatma
11.  Paramatma (Cha)
12.  MuktaanaamParamaaGatihi
13.  Avyayah
14.  Purushah
15.  Saakshee
16.  Kshetragnah
17.  Aksharah(Eva cha)


Now let’s examine the meaning of the above 8 Namas in detail:

10.  Pootaatma – One who is Pure

Pootatma is the pure or untainted Atman or Soul. ‘Poota Atma yasya sah Pootatma – The One who’s Atman is absolutely Pure’. The JivAtmas have the Vaasanas (desire or impressions from the past) or the associations coming from the fruits of actions from the past that the Jivas are involved in because of the doer-ship associated with their bodies.

Even though Bhagavan is also associated with the same bodies since we are all extensions of His body, He is Pure Atman because He is not affected by the fruits of action associated with the bodies. He is, therefore, in essence free of Gunas and Vaasanas.

lotus-leaves-and-rainJust like the water droplets on a Lotus leaf never gets attached to the leaf,  Bhagavan too remains untainted despite being associated with the actions of the bodies in which He is present.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4, Verse 14 Krishna says:

na  karmāi limpantina me karmaphale sphā
iti  yo ‘bhijānāti 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.

In Chapter 9, Verse 9 Krishna says:

na ca māṃ tāni karmāṇi nibadhnanti dhananjaya
udāsīnavadāsīnam asaktaṃ teṣu karmasu

Meaning: O’Dhananjaya (Arjuna), these Universal activities never bind Me. I am situated neutrally and unattached to all these activities.

Svetashvatara Upanishad (6.11) says He is ‘Kevalo Nirgunashcha – He is Pure and Unsullied by Gunas’.

11.  Paramatma – He who is Supreme

Paramatma means the Supreme or the Ultimate Soul for which there is none superior. This word can be interpreted as ‘Paramah chaasau Atma cha Paramatma’ or ‘Paro Ma Asya sa Aatmaa Paramatma’.

In Bhagavad Gita Chapter 13, Verse 23, we have the perfect description of Paramatma:
Upadrashtaanumantaa cha Bhartaa Bhoktaa Maheshvarah

Paramaatmeti Chaapyuktah Dehesmin Purushah Parah
Meaning: Within the body, Supreme to the individual consciousness, an in-dwelling observer, sanctioner, preserver, enjoyer and indeed the ultimate controller as well is described as the Ultimate Consciousness. He being a witness, is ‘Updrashta’ and of uniform wisdom is ‘Unmantha’ and being responsible for maintaining all is  ‘Bhoktha’, and being the creator is ‘Maheshvarah’.

The Pure Soul even while dwelling in this body is really transcendental, the Witness, the Guide, the Sustainer, the Experiencer, the Supreme Self and the Super soul.’

The ‘Cha’ after Paramatma is the conjunction that seamlessly joins the concepts of Pootatma and Paramatma.

12.  MuktanamParamaGatihi – He is the Ultimate goal of all Liberated Souls

This Nama means that One who is the ultimate goal for all Muktas or Released or Liberated Souls.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7 Verse 19, Bhagavan says:
Bahoonaam Janmanaamante Gnanavan Maam Prapadyate

Vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabah
Meaning: At the end of many births, the one who has gained the knowledge that ‘Vasudeva is everything’, reaches me. Such a wise person is very rare.

In Chapter 8, verse 16 of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says:
Maam Upetya tu Kaunteya Punarjanma na Vidyate meaning Anyone who resorts to me will be released from the cycle of repeated births and deaths.

Meaning: Param means Ultimate and Gati means destination or goal; hence Paramagati is the goal after attaining which you will not desire anything else. Normally, the nature of any goal is such that once you attain that goal, then you will want to set the next higher goal. This is not the case with ParamaGati as this is the ultimate goal and the final target.

13.  Avyayah – One who is Immortal

 The basic meaning is one who has no ‘Vyaya’, that is one who does not experience any kind of change or decay or deterioration. Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad (4.4.25) says of Bhagavan ‘Ajaro Amaro Avyayayah – For Him there is no old age or decay or any change’.

In Gita Chapter 7 Verse 25 Lord Krishna says ‘Moodhoyam Naabhijaanaati Loko Maam ajam avyayam meaning – The ignorant person does not realise Me as unborn and unchanging’.

Narayana Suktam says of Bhagavaan ‘Anantam avyayam Kavim – the immortal and indestructible Seer’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this Nama differently as ‘He does not send anyone back to Samsaara those who resort to Him (the repetitive cycle of birth and death).’

14.  Purushah – One who resides in all beings

 This Nama can be interpreted in many different ways.

  • Puru sanoti iti purushah – Gives plentifully to His devotees. Puru means in ample measure and sanoti means bestows.
  • Puram shareeram, tasmin shete iti purushah – Our body is considered an abode and He resides there. This concept is described in the Mahabharatam as ‘Navadvaaram puram punyam etairbhaavais samanvitam Vyaapya shete mahaatmaa yas tasmaat purusha uchyate – This body is a fort (Puram) with nine entrances and He rests there so He is called Purusha’
  • Pura Aaseet iti Purushah – He was there before anything existed. Taitriya Samhita (1.23) says ‘Poorvameva aham iha aasam iti tat purushasya purushatvam – I have been here since time immemorial hence I am called Purushah’.
  • Purayati iti Purushah – One who completes and gives fulfilment to existence everywhere.

Swami ChinmayAnanda suggests that these different ways of interpreting the meanings of this Nama is a way to understand more and more about the true nature of the Lord.

15.  Saakshee – One who witnesses everything

He perceives everything directly without the need for any medium or intermediaries. Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Saakshaat avyavadhaanena svaroopabodhena eekshate pashyati sarvam iti Saakshee – The All-Knower, the Omniscient Bhagavan sees everything directly by His own awareness without any instrument for seeing (such as the sense organs)’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this Nama as indicating that the Lord witnesses the muktas or the liberated souls enjoying the Bliss that He confers on them, and is thus happy Himself.

16.  Kshetragnah – The knower of the field

Kshetra means a field or territory but in the context of Vedanta it refers to the human body. In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 13, Verse 2 Lord Krishna says:
Idam shareeram Kounteya kshetram ityabhidheeyate
Etadyo vetti tam prahuh ksetrajna iti
Meaning: O’Kounteya (Arjuna), the material body is known as the field of activity. Those who know this describe this as knowers’ of the field of activity.

So Kshetragnah is one who understands the Kshetra namely ‘Kshetram jaanaati iti Kshetragnah’. In other words Kshetragnah is the Purusha who resides in the Kshetra and knows everything about it. Krishna specifically says ‘Kshetram chaapi maam viddhi – Know myself as the Knower of the Field’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation of this Nama is ‘One who knows, and can lead the muktas to the exact place where the muktas will get their sought-after Supreme Bliss.’ So kshetra in his viewpoint is the exact location of Supreme Bliss.

17.  Aksharah (Eva cha) – He who is without destruction

Sri Adi Sankara’s interpretation is: “sa eva na ksharati iti aksharah – He alone exists without dying”.  The purport of this is that it signifies the Paramatman as against Kshetragnah which denotes the JivAtman. Also according to him ‘Eva Cha’ are significant conjunctions connecting Kshetragnah and Aksharah. The ‘Eva’ denotes that the two are identical in principle. The ‘Cha’ denotes that there are however some apparent differences between Kshetragnah (the Jeevaatmaa) and Aksharah (the Paramatma).

Aksarah also means to enjoy.  He gives unlimited bliss to those who are immersed in his thoughts and such a joy is limitless. 


Pootatma Paramatma cha MuktanamParamaGatihi   |
Avyayah Purushas Saakshee Kshetragno Akshara Eva Cha      ||2||

AnanthasayanamThe Lord is pure and is untainted by the actions of the body (Jivatma) in which he resides, so He is Pootatma.

He is the Ultimate Consciousness who is the Knower, Seer, Sustainer, Enjoyer and the Paramatma. Those immersed in his thoughts attain Paramagati or Moksha, so He is MuktanamParamagatihi. He is immortal, indestructible and has no decay, hence He is Avyayah.

Our body is considered an abode and He resides there and hence He is Purushah. Bhagavan is Omniscient and sees everything as a Sakshee. He is Kshetragnah as He leads his devotees to Supreme bliss. He is without destruction and eternal, so He is Aksharah



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


In this part we will explore the meaning of the first Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

 Shloka 1

Vishvam Vishnur Vashatkaaro BhootaBhavyaBhavatPrabhuh             |
Bhootakrit Bhootabhrit Bhaavo Bhootatma Bhootabhavanah ||1||

Bhagavan is the Creator of the Universe and pervades everything and everywhere. He controls the Universe and He is the master of the Past, Present and the Future. He is the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer of all beings.  He exists in full splendour and is the essence of all beings and nurtures all beings.

This Shloka contains the following 9 Namas:

  1. Vishvam
  2. Vishnuh
  3. Vashatkaarah
  4. BhootaBhavyaBhavatPrabhuh
  5. Bhootakrit
  6. Bhootabhrit
  7. Bhaavah
  8. Bhootatma
  9. Bhootabhavanah


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

1.  Vishvam – The Universe

Vishvam basically means the Universe and the totality of Creation. It comes from the root word ‘Vish’  which means ‘to enter’ or ‘to penetrate’. The Universe is called Vishvam because it is all pervading. There is nothing around us that is not part of the Universe. Lord Vishnu being the underlying Cause of the Vishvam, He is Himself termed as Vishvam.


In the words of Sri Adi Sankara ‘Vishvasya Jagatah Kaaranatvena Vishvamityuchyate Bramha – Being the Cause of the Universe, the Supreme Being is also referred to as the Universe’.

Vishvam also means everywhere. Purushasuktam says of the Lord ‘Sa Bhoomim Vishvato Vritvaa Atyatishttaddashaangulam – He permeates the world everywhere and is beyond physical measurement’.

In Narayana Suktam we have:
‘SahasraSheersham Devam Vishvaaksham VishvaSambhuvam

Vishvam Narayanam Devam Aksharam Paramam Padam’
Meaning: I salute Supreme Lord Narayana, who has innumerable heads, who has eyes everywhere, who blesses the whole Universe, who embodies the Universe, and who is immortal.

Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that it is quite fitting that the very first Nama of Vishnu suggests His immense glory, the fullness to the brim of His essential nature, form, attributes, etc., which are all natural, unexcelled, auspicious and superior.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama “Vishvam” by referring to the Vishvaroopam or Viraat Purusha. He refers to Sri Vishnu Puranam – ‘sa eva sarva bhootatma vishva roopo yato avayayaah’ – He is the Soul of all that exists, and everything is His body.

Sri Satyadevo Vashishta interprets this Nama to indicate that everything in this Universe came from Him, and also everything in this Universe goes back into Him. So in both senses, He is ‘Vishvam’.

Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 9 verse 4 says:

mayā tatam idaḿ sarvaḿ jagad avyakta-mūrtinā
mat-sthāni sarva-bhūtāni na cāhaḿ teṣv avasthitaḥ

Meaning: By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire Universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.

The Phalashruti mentions “Vishveshvaram Ajam Devam Jagatah Prabhumavyayam – He is the Lord of the Universe but He is Himself without an origin or an end”.

2.   Vishnu – He pervades everything

Vishnu like Vishvam also comes from the root word ‘Vish’ meaning ‘to enter’ or ‘to penetrate’. Vishnu penetrates everywhere and occupies all space. He is ‘Sarva Vyapi’ and ‘Sarva Antaryami’. As Narayanasuktam puts it ‘Yaccha Kinchit Jagat Sarvam Drishyate Shrooyatepi Vaa AntarBahischa Tatsarvam Vyaapya NarayanaSthitah – Whatever part of the Universe is seen or heard, the Lord is permeating it both from inside and from outside’. He has no limitation of space, time or substance.
Swami ChinmayAnanda quotes from the Isavasya Upanishad:

‘Ishavasyam idam sarvam yat ki’nca jagatyaam jagat’

Everything that exists in the Universe is nothing but of the nature of the Lord, and without Him nothing exists. He pervades everything, unlimited by space, time, or substance.

The Phalashruti in Vishnu Sahasranamam mentions:
“Eko Vishnur mahadbhootam Prithakbhootaani Anekashah”
Meaning: The single Almighty all-embracing Vishnu manifests Himself into an infinite number of individual objects”.

3.  Vashatkaarah – He who controls the Universe

Bhagavan is Himself the Vashatkaara mantra, where Vashat is a sacred sound (similar to Pranava mantra AUM or Svaahaa etc.) used on sacrificial offerings. It is also used in the anganyaasa and karanyaaasa practice before chanting the sacred texts. Vashatkaara is thus a mantra, and Bhagavaan is the mantra embodiment.

mahavishnuAccording to Sri Parasara Bhattar, Vashatkaarah is derived from the root ‘Vash’ to control. So Vashatkaarah is someone who controls the Universe as He wills.

Taitriya Samhita identifies Lord Vishnu with Yagna by saying ‘Yagno Vai Vishnuh’ – Yagna is synonymous with Lord Vishnu.

The special quality of Yagna is stressed by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 3 Verse 9 by saying:

yajnarthat karmano ‘nyatra loko ‘yam karma-bandhanah
tad-artham karma kaunteya mukta-sangah samacara

“Except when work is performed as a sacrifice, all other actions create bondage in this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain free from bondage.”

Vashatkarah also denotes Bhagavan’s six attributes i.e. Gnana (Knowledge),  Bala (Strength), Aishvarya (Wealth), Virya (Valour), Shakti (Poise) and Tejas (Radiance).

time4.   BhootaBhavyaBhavatPrabhuh – The One who is the Master of Past, Present and Future

Bhoota means the past. Bhavya means the future and Bhavat means the present. Prabhuh is the master. Lord Vishnu is the master of past, present and the future.

The import here is that Bhagavan is beyond the physical laws as we know them, and as such, he is above the laws and constraints of time, can be inferred from this Nama. In order for Him to be the Lord of all things past, present and the future, He existed before anything existed, exists now, and will exist forever into the future.  Thus the well-known and well established physical laws that apply to all living things do not apply to Him. He is without a beginning and without an end.

5.   Bhootakrit – The Creator and Destroyer

This Nama means that He is the Creator of all beings.  Sri Adi Sankara says Lord Vishnu assumes the form of BrahmaDeva with Rajo Guna and creates all beings of the Universe. The Nama also means the destroyer of all beings.  Sankara further says that Lord Vishnu assumes the form of Rudra with Tamo Guna and destroys all beings at the appropriate time.

6.   Bhootabhrit – The Sustainer of the Universe

This Nama means that He is the supporter, the bearer, the nourisher and the protector of all beings.  Sri Adi Sankara says that Lord Vishnu assumes the Sattva Guna to perform the maintenance role for all beings.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains that the support He provides is like that of hub for a wheel and its spokes. If this central support does not exist, the rest of the spokes and the wheel will collapse. Thus, one can think of this support as the vital cause for the existence of all the things that He creates.

7.   Bhaavah – He who exists in full splendour

Sri Adi Sankara gives two meanings for this Nama Viz. :

1.  He who exists with all the splendour in the form of the Universe. (‘Prapancha roopena bhavati’)

2.  He who exists always, independent of anything or anyone. (‘Kevalam bhavati’)

8.   Bhootatmaa – The essence of all beings

soul_bodyHe is the Atma or the Soul that is embedded in every being.  All things are His body, and He is the soul of all things. The Soul enters the bodies, and directly controls and directs all their activities.

Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad says ‘Esha ta Atmantaryamyamritah- He is the nectar in the deepest recess of the Atman.

 9.   Bhootabhavanah – He who nurtures all beings

One who nourishes and nurtures all beings that He created. Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Bhootaani Bhaavayati, Janayati, Vardhayati Vaa – He creates all beings and nurtures them.’ So the mere Creation is not enough; it should be followed up by nourishing them and making them grow.


Vishvam Vishnur Vashatkaaro BhootaBhavyaBhavatPrabhuh             |
Bhootakrit Bhootabhrit Bhaavo Bhootatmaa Bhootabhavanah ||1||

cropped-1660344_494069167383139_792966992_n.jpgBhagavan is the Creator of the Universe and both the Cause and the effect; hence He is Vishvam.  He pervades everything and everywhere; He is Sarva vyapi and Sarva antaryami and hence He is Vishnuh.

He controls the Universe, so He is known as Vashatkaaro. He is the Master of the Past, Present and Future, hence He is BhootaBhavyaBhavatPrabhuh.

He is the Creator and Destroyer of all beings, so He is Bhootakrit.  As Bhootabrit He is the sustainer of the Universe.  He exists in full splendour with his many Bhaavas.

He is the essence of all beings and is present within all beings, hence He is Bhootatma.  As He nurtures all beings like a mother nurtures her child, He is Bhootabhavanah

Thus, the very first Shloka demonstrates Bhagavan’s complete and total command over space, time and all the beings in the Universe.



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


In this part,  we will explore the meaning Dhyana Shlokas 6 and 7.  This section will conclude the review of the Dhyana Shlokas and we will progress to the main Sahasranamam from the next section.

Dhyana Shlokas 6 and 7

Chaayaayaam Paarijaatasya HemaSimhaasanopari
Aaseenam AmbudaShyaamam Aayataaksham Alamkritam

Chandraananam ChaturBaahum ShrivatsaankitaVakshasam
RukminiSatyabhamabhyaam Sahitam Krishnam Aashraye

These two Shlokas share a common theme i.e. ‘Krishnam Aashraye’ meaning “I take refuge in Lord Krishna”.


The rest of the Shloka describes Lord Krishna’s multi-faceted splendour!  Let’s take a look at the meaning of these words:

Chaayaayaam Paarijaatasya – In the shade of the Parijaata tree

Parijata tree has a special significance.  It is a compact tree bearing beautiful fragrant flowers, with snow-white petals and a red stalk. This flower blooms only at night and drops off from the tree before sunrise.

Coral Jasmine or Parijatak pari3

Belonging to the family Oleaceae Jasmine, the scientific name of the plant is Nyctanthes arbor trislis, with only a single species to the genus. Nux in Greek is light, anothos is flower, arbor is tree and tritis is sorrow. Together, the words mean `night flowering tree of sorrow’.

The flowers have their medicinal values, Its dried flower is a good lung tonic and Broncho-dilator. It is also used in the cough diseases. Extract of the leaves has good antimicrobial activity.

Let’s look at some of the interesting myths associated with the tree and why it is called the flowering tree of sorrow!

According to the Puranic stories, Princess Parijataka was in love with the Sun, but her love was not reciprocated. Due to the unrequited love, she committed suicide and the Parijata tree sprouted from her ashes.  Since she is unable to bear the sight of her love during the day, she blooms only at night, and sheds the flowers as tears, before the sun rises.

The myth goes on to say, that the tree sheds its tears on the touch of the first rays of the Sun! The fragrant flowers spread their fragrance in the entire area, during the day, as a sign of undying love for her lover, the Sun. They are the only flowers which can be picked up from the ground and offered to God as good as freshly plucked from the tree!

Another myth about Parijata tree has an interesting episode and according to this, the Parijata tree was in Indraloka (the abode of Lord Indra) which was one of the gifts received from the churning of the Milky Ocean to obtain Nectar and thus was a celestial tree, not available on Earth.

narada-lord-vishnu-indian-mythologySage Narada, brought some flowers from Indraloka and gave them to Lord Krishna, and waited to see Krishna’s actions as to which of his two consorts would he give the flowers. Krishna gave it to Rukmini and she immediately took a great liking for the flowers. On seeing this, Narada went to Satyabhama and promptly told her about the incident.

Needless to say, Satyabhama was overcome with jealousy and was seething with anger because of her possessiveness. Sage Narada gave her an idea and suggested that she should insist on Krishna to get the tree from Indralok and plant it at her home as a lasting solution.

satyabhama (1)So, when Krishna came, Satyabhama was sulking and showed her anger and resentment.  Krishna was perplexed, Satyabhama was accusing him of not loving her citing the flower incident and insisted that he get her the tree from Indralok or she will do a tapasya.  Krishna relented and agreed to get the tree for Satyabhama to please her but was equally concerned about her desire to assert her superiority over the other consort.

True to his nature, Sage Narada meanwhile went and warned Indra that some earthlings were out to steal the celestial plant from his Indraloka! When Krishna and Satyabhama were about to leave after taking a branch of the celestial Parijata tree, they were accosted by Indra and a battle took place, leading to Indra losing the battle.

krishna fights indraBut Indra would not let it go so easily, and cursed that the plant would never bear fruits, though it might bear flowers. Thus, the Parijata tree does not bear any fruit.

Krishna planted the tree in such a manner that when the tree took height it developed a bend and thus all the flowers fell into Rukmini’s backyard. Though the tree was in Satyabhama’s house, the flowers would fall in Rukmini’s house!

Well, Satyabhama wanted the tree and she got it and Rukmini wanted the flowers and she got it too!  

The Story does not end here as it extends to Tulabharam as Satyabhama’s pride and haughtiness had increased so much that Lord decided that it had to be checked.  So he plans another Leela:

The Story of Tulabharam

Satyabhama prided herself about the love Krishna had for her and her grasp over his heart. On one contrived occasion, Sage Narada arrived in Dwarka and in the course of conversation hinted to Satyabhama that the love that Krishna exhibits towards her is not all that real and in fact it is Rukmini (the first consort of Krishna) who has real control over his heart.  Just like she had the tree but the flowers were enjoyed by Rukmini.

Sage Narada, known for his way with words, tricked her into accepting a Vrata (ritual) where she had to give Krishna away in charity to Narada and reclaim him by giving the weight of Krishna in wealth. He told her that by performing the Vrata, Krishna’s love to her will increase many folds.  And if she succeeds in performing this Tulabharam, he would forever be indebted to her. With Satyabhama’s ego duly raised, she told Narada that she can mobilize so much wealth that it is a child’s play for her to outweigh Krishna. Narada warned her that if she is not able to do this, Krishna will become his slave, to be done with as he pleases.

Satyabhama gave Krishna away in charity (Daana) despite other wives’ pleadings. Krishna, always the mischievous cowherd, meekly submitted to this drama. After donating Krishna to Narada, Satyabhama arranged for a big scale to be put up and sends with pride for her huge treasure of gold and jewellery.  All that she had was soon placed on the scale, but the scale didn’t tilt.

Narada started taunting her and threatened her that if she can’t put enough gold or diamonds, he will be forced to auction Krishna as a slave to someone else. Satyabhama, in her frantic panic, swallowed her pride and pleaded all the other wives to give their jewels. They agreed out of love for Krishna but alas, it was of no use.

Krishna remained a mute witness to all this drama and rubbed salt into the open wounds of Satyabhama’s ego that he has now to become a slave to some cowherd and will have to suffer the separation from his dear wife. Narada suggested to Satyabhama that Rukmini may be able to get her out of the predicament.

tulabharamShe finally swallowed her pride and appealed to the devout Rukmini. Rukmini prayed to her Lord and put a single leaf of the sacred Tulsi (Thulasi or Tulasi) on the weighing scale (tula). Lo and behold, the scales tilted and came into balance at once and even after removing all the jewels, the scales remained even with the Tulsi leaf on the other side.

The story of the Tulsi leaf placed by Rukmini was worth more in weight tula3than that of Satyabhama’s wealth is repeated to illustrate the significance of Tulsi and how a humble offering with true devotion, commitment and love for God is greater than any material wealth and or precious offering to God.

HemaSimhaasanopari – On a throne made of pure gold

Aaseenam – He is seated majestically

AmbudaShyaamam – Ambuda literally means water-giver namely a cloud. So AmbudaShyaamam means someone having the dark blue colour of rain-bearing cloud. We have already seen phrases like ‘MeghaVarnam’ and ‘MeghaShyaamam’ in other Shlokas.  AmbudaShyaamam is another poetic equivalent of the same aura.

Aayataaksham – Aayata means long and wide. Aksha means eye. So Aayataaksha is someone having beautiful eyes which are long and wide. We have already seen phrases like ‘KamalaNayanam’ and ‘Pundareekaayataaksham’ conveying similar impressions.

Alamkritam – means someone who is carrying various adornments or Alankaaraas. We have seen that Lord Vishnu is AlankaaraPriya, someone who loves ornaments and decorations of every type, Silk Attire, jewellery, garlands, perfumes and body marks – all these are part of Alamkaaram. Lord Vishnu enjoys all of these and therefore He is Alamkrita.

Chandraananam – He has a Moon-like face. While comparing His face to the Moon the reference is not only to the beauty of the Moon but also to the cool rays emanating from the Moon. When the devotee looks at His face, the devotees agitation disappears, a calm appears in their face and they regain their composure.

ChaturBaahum – He has four hands. We have already seen before ‘Namaami Vishnum Shirasaa Chaturbhujam’ in the previous DhyanaShlokam. In the main Sahasranamam, we will also see the line ‘ChaturMoortis ChaturBaahus ChaturVyoohas ChaturGatihi’.

ShrivatsaankitaVakshasam – His chest is carrying the beautiful mark called ‘Shrivatsa’. We have already seen in detail the origin of the Shrivatsa mark on the chest of Lord Vishnu (Sage Bhrigu Story).

RukminiSatyabhamabhyaam Sahitam – He is accompanied by His two consorts Rukmini and Satyabhama.

Even though Krishna had other consorts these two were the principal queens. There are interesting stories on Krishna’s marriages to Rukmini and Satyabhama.

The Story of Rukmini’s marriage with Lord Krishna

Bheeshmaka, the King of Vidarbha had two children, Prince Rukmi and Princess Rukmini. Rukmi wanted his younger sister to marry Shishupala, the crown prince of Chedi.

Rukmini had heard stories of Krishna’s valour from her childhood and she had her heart set on marrying him. When she heard that Rukmi had chosen Shishupala for her, she resolved that she would only marry Krishna or die. She sent for her trusted aid Sunanda, a wise old Brahman. She wrote a note to Krishna telling Him that He was the only husband for her and asked if He would come and take her away. She had mentioned in that note that if He wouldn’t have her, she would give up her life. She had written that on the day of the wedding, she would go to the temple of the Goddess Parvati (their family deity) and if He would, then that was the right time for Him to take her away. She sent Sunanda with the note to Dwaraka (Krishna’s new fortress home).

Krishna had heard a lot about Rukmini’s beauty too and longed to have her. On receiving the message from her, He resolved to carry her with Him.  Krishna went to Vidarbha to get his brother Balarama, and embarked on his journey followed by His army.

rukmini2On the wedding day, when Rukmini was leaving the temple, she looked in the crowds for Krishna. She did not see Him. As she was about to step on to her chariot and leave, she felt someone hold her from behind. It was Krishna.  He lifted her into His chariot and sped away followed by Balarama with the army.

Rukmi managed to go through Balarama’s army and caught up with Krishna and Rukmini. He swore that he would not return to his city without his sister. There was a furious battle between Krishna and Rukmi. But Rukmi was soon overcome but his life was spared by Krishna at Rukmini’s request.

Krishna returned to Dwaraka with Rukmini and made her His consort.

Story of Satyabhama’s marriage with Lord Krishna

King Satrajit was the owner of the Syamantaka jewel. Satrajit, secured the jewel from Surya and therefore never wanted to part with it. Even when Krishna, wanted to borrow it he refused to give it to him.  After some time, Prasena, the brother of Satrajit went out hunting wearing the jewel but was killed by a Lion. Jambavan, the bear, killed the lion and gave the jewel to his son to play with. When Prasena did not return, Satrajit accused Krishna of killing Prasena for the sake of the jewel.

Krishna, in order to prove his innocence, set out in search of the jewel and found it in Jambavan’s cave, with a child. Jambavan attacked Krishna thinking him to be a trespasser who had come to take away the Syamantaka jewel. Both of them fought non-stop for 28 days.  At last Jambavan’s whole body was horribly wounded from the thrashing of Krishna’s fists. Jambavan finally recognised Him and surrendered. As a remostration Jambavan gave Krishna the jewel and humbly offered his daughter Jambavati’s hand in marriage.

satyabhamaKrishna then returned the jewel to Satrajit, who repented for his allegation. He offered Krishna the jewel and also his daughter Satyabhama in marriage.

Krishna accepted Satyabhama’s hand but turned down the offer of the jewel.

In Summary, both the Dhyana Shlokas, convey the following:

 I take refuge in Lord Krishna –


  • Who is seated on a golden throne in the shade of the Parijaataa tree
  • Who is dark blue like a rain bearing cloud
  • Who has long and wide beautiful eyes
  • Who is covered with adornments of every kind
  • Whose face is beautiful and cool like the moon
  • Who has four arms
  • Whose chest carries the ShriVatsa mark and
  • Who is accompanied by His queens Rukmini and Satyabhama



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


In this Part we will explore the meaning of the Fifth Dhyana Shloka.

SashankhaChakram SakireetaKundalam
SapeetaVastram Saraseeruhekshanam

Namaami Vishnum Shirasaa Chaturbhujam

 The essence of this Dhyana Shloka is ‘Vishnum Namaami’ – ‘I salute Lord Vishnu’.

sriman narayanashirasa namaami

How do I salute Him? Shirasaa Namaami – I salute him with my head bowed. The head is the most important of all the body parts.  It contains four of the five sense organs namely eyes, ears, nose and the mouth. Even the fifth sense organ that is skin is also present in the head. The head also contains two of the important Kundalini energy centres namely the Aajna chakra and the Sahasrara chakra.  So, by saluting Lord Vishnu with the head, the devotee effectively surrenders his whole self to Him.

The rest of the words in the Shloka extol the Lords attributes and HIS divine splendour.

SashankhaChakram – Carrying a conch (Shankha) in one hand and a discus (chakra) in the other.

sanku1 conch_main

His Shankha is called ’Paanchajanya’, the vibrant, sonorous sound of which inspires valour, courage, gusto and inner spirit. Though not directly a weapon, the Shankha is used in battle to create a sound which strikes terror in the heart of the enemy.  It acts as a psychological weapon by instilling fear in the enemies mind and heart. Also in a wider perspective, when the conch is blown with controlled breath, the primordial sound of “Om” (Pranavam) emanates from it. This eternal sound is the origin of all Vedas and the Universe itself.

s chakra and narasimhan sudarshan2

The Chakra is called ‘Sudarshana Chakra’. The word Sudarshana is derived from two Sanskrit words – Su (सु) meaning “divine” and Darshana (दर्शन) meaning “vision”. Hence, the word Sudarshana collectively means “vision of which is auspicious”. The Sudarshana Chakra was made by the architect of gods, Vishvakarma. Lord Sudarshana is generally worshiped during Homas to ward off negative powers or vibrations. The word chakra is derived from the word Chruhu (चृ:)  meaning  movement  and  kruhu(कृ:)  meaning to do.  Hence, Chakra collectively means the one which is mobile.  Among all the Vedic weapons, Sudarshana Chakra is the only mobile weapon as it’s always spinning.

It’s a unique weapon in the armoury of Lord Vishnu, a super weapon with 108 serrated edges, much like the modern heat seeking cruise missile except that Sudharsana Chakra safely returns back to Him. The Chakra is constantly spinning and returns to his index finger after the target is vanquished. The use of the Sudarshana Chakra is occasionally mentioned in the Rigveda, Yajurveda and Puranas, as an ultimate weapon of law, order and preservation to eliminate the enemy. In the South, the Sudarshana Chakra is also known as Chakkrath Azhwar.

GIRIThere are a few illustrations where the Chakra has been used by the Lord.  It’s described in the Srimad Bhagavatam that when Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhana Giri (Hill) to save the residents from torrential rains caused by the wrath of Indra, HE held the discus under the base of the hill for support, thus humbled Indra’s thunderbolt. Lord Krishna also used the Chakra to slay Shishupala. In the Mahabharata, it was used to create an artificial sunset so that Jayadratha could be annihilated.

vishnu-sudarshan-chakra-durvasa-ambarishBut the best example of Lord using Sudharshana Chakra to save his ardent devotee is when He used it against Sage Durvasa, who was known for his impatience and anger. When Sage Durvasa needlessly cursed one of Lord’s beloved devotees King Ambarish, the Lord released His Sudharsana Charkra (discus) onto the Sage and it chased him to the end of the world.

Finally, the exasperated Sage approached Lord Vishnu to seek his forgiveness and the Lord promptly asked Him to seek the King’s forgiveness. When the Sage complied with that, the Lord withdrew His discus.

In the Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 3 Chapter 28 the following Verse gives a beautiful description of Sankha and Chakra by Sage Kapila to Devahooti:

Bahoomscha mandaragireh parivartanena
Nimikta baahu valayaan adhiloka paalaan
Sanchintayet dasha shataaram asahya tejah
Shankham cha tat kara saroruha raja hamsam

Meaning: His discus is endowed with one thousand sharp cutting edges and it emanates a dazzling brilliance and scorching heat.  His Shankha is compared to a white royal swan situated in the lotus of his hand.

SakireetaKundalam – Carrying a beautiful crown on his head and wearing resplendent rings dangling from his ears.

SapeetaVastram – Wearing a beautiful yellow silk attire. This is the same as PeetaKowsheyaVaasam which we saw in Dhyana Shloka 4. He is constantly referred to as the Peetaambaradhaari. He is fond of adorning Himself in the finest possible attires made from the highest quality fabric. In Srimad Bhagavatam, Sage Kapila says ‘lasat-pankaja-kinjalka-peeta-kowsheya-vaasasam’ His silk Peetaambaram is shiny yellow like the filaments of a Lotus.  While Lord Shiva is known as an ‘Abhisheka Priyar’, Lord Vishnu is known as an ‘Alangara Priyar’.

rajiva netraSaraseeruhekshanam – Saraseeruha is a Lotus because it grows in Saras which is a pond or a pool of water.  Eekshana means the eye and the Lord’s eyes are beautiful like the Lotus flower.  We have seen similar admiration of the Lord in earlier Shlokas with descriptions like ‘KamalaNayanam’ and ‘Pundareekaayataaksham’. Poets love to expand on this theme. Maharaja Swathi Thirunal’s composition of the melodious song ‘Paripaalaya SaraseeruhaLochana Bhavabhaya kaanana bhanjana’ in Pantuvaraali expounds on this beautifully.

SahaaraVakshasthalaShobhiKoustubhamSahaara means with a garland or a necklace, Vakshasthala is chest, Shobhi means shining and Kousthubham is the magnificent gem. He is wearing a garland which adds to the splendour of the glittering Koustubham gem.

The garland worn by Lord Vishnu is known as Vanamala or VaijayantiMala composed of fresh flowers from the forest. The Haara referred here could also be the necklace made of precious jewels.  In some versions of the Sahasranamam, this word has been replaced by SahaaraVakshasthalaKoustubhaShriyam. In this version the presence of Goddess Lakshmi Devi on His chest is emphasised.

Chaturbhujam – Chatur is four and Bhujam is hand, describing Lord Vishnu’s four hands.  These images are also depicted in the following verses we use in our daily Sandhyaa Vandanam which incidentally includes complete surrender to the Lord i.e. Saranagati.

“Keyooravaan Makarakundalavaan Kireeti Haaree
HiranmayaVapuh DhritaShankhaChakrah
Shankha Chakra GadaaPaane Dvarakaa Nilayaachyutaa
GovindaPundareekaaksha Raksha Maam Charanaagatam”

This was also the prayer recited by Draupadi to call on Lord Krishna when she faced her moment of distress.

 To Sum up:

I pay obeisance to my Lord Vishnu with my head bowed, to the One:

sriman narayana

– Who is carrying a conch (Paanchajanya Sankha) in one hand and a discus (Sudharsana Chakra) in the other.

– Who is wearing a lustrous crown and beautiful ear rings

– Who is adorned in yellow silk vastram (attire)

– Who has beautiful Lotus-like eyes

– Who is wearing a necklace on his chest bedecked with the shiny Kaustubha gem and

– Who has four hands.



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


In this part, we will explore the meaning of Dhyana Shloka 4.

Meghashyaamam PeetaKowsheyaVaasam
ShreeVatsaankam Koustubhotbhaasitaangam

Punyopetam Pundareekaayataaksham
Vishnum Vande Sarvalokaikanaatham

As in the previous Dhyana Shloka, the basic nucleus in this one is also ‘Vishnum Vande’ meaning ‘I salute Lord Vishnu’. In continuation of the previous Shloka, Veda Vyasa resorts to one more Shloka to help create a vivid image of Bhagavan Vishnu in our mind. 

Meghashyaamam – In the previous Shloka, He was described as ‘Megha Varnam’ denoting his complexion to be like that of a rain cloud. In this Shloka this aspect is again emphasised wherein He is described as Meghashyamam meaning that He is deep dark blue in colour that is close to a tint of black.  Interestingly, there is a song in a Hindi movie where Lord is said to ask Yashoda as to why Radha is fair in colour and why is He dark? Yashoda responds to Him in that song that since He was born on a dark night, He has a dark complexion!
Here is a link to a bhajan which is similar to that song:


PeetaKowsheyaVaasam – Peeta means yellow and Kowsha is the cocoon of a silk worm, so Kowsheya means silk while Vaasam means attire. He is adorned in Yellow Silk attire (Vastram).

Shreeman 2ShreeVatsaankam – Ankam is a mark. He carries a prominent mark called ShreeVatsam on the right side of His chest denoting the presence of Goddess Lakshmi. Hence He is also known as SriVatsan or Srivatsavasa the bearer of SriVatsam. There are many different interpretations about the origin of this mark.

  1. A lock of hair on the right side of His chest.
  2. The seat of Lakshmi on His chest.
  3. 3. The mark as a result of Maharishi Bhrigu’s kick.

The Story of Maharishi Bhrigu.

Many great sages gathered at the bank of river Saraswati to participate in Maha Yagna organised at that time. They could not decide that out of the Trinity, Lord Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva who is pre-eminent and to whom should they offer Pradhanta (Master) of that Yagna. With the consent of all the great saints present there, it was decided that Maharishi Bhrigu, a sage with  an extra eye in the sole of his foot, will be tasked to conduct a test and conclude who was the pre-eminent amongst them.

MahBhrigu and Brahmaarishi Bhrigu decided to test Lord Brahma first. As Maharishi reached Brahmaloka, he was dismayed at Brahma for not taking notice of him. Angered by this insult, Maharishi Bhrigu cursed Lord Brahma that no one will worship Brahma in Kaliyug. To this day, there are very few temples devoted to Lord Brahma (with the notable exception being the Brahma Temple at Pushkar in Rajasthan).

bhrigu and shivaMaharishi Bhrigu then decided to visit Lord Shiva at Mount Kailash. Nandi stopped him from entering inside, as Shiva and Parvati were in private chambers.  Bhrigu doesn’t pay heed to Nandi and forcibly enters Lord Shiva’s private chambers. Lord Shiva, who was in unison with his consort Goddess Parvati, on seeing Bhrigu was enraged. He said to Bhrigu “you are a learned man, who knows the Vedas. By great penance you have acquired great powers, yet you have behaved impertinently. It is shame on your part.”  Lord Shiva, angrily, aimed his Trishul towards Bhrigu.

However, Maharishi Bhrigu in turn told Lord Shiva: “Shiva, without trying to understand my reason for being here, you are aiming your Trishul at me. I curse you that you will be worshipped in the temples only in the shape of ‘Linga’ and not in your real form.” Thus cursing Lord Shiva, Bhrigu leaves to Vaikuntam. [There are, however, a few famous temples where Lord Shiva is worshipped in his full form notable amongst them is the one in Rishikesh.]

Finally Bhrigu Maharshi reached Vaikuntam, where Lord Vishnu resides. Lord Vishnu also did not notice him; the sage was exasperated and kicked the Lord on His chest, the place where Mahalakshmi resides. Vishnu, in an attempt to allay the sage, got hold of the legs of Brighu Maharshi and started to press them gently and pretended as if he is soothing  and comforting  the sage. 

bhrigu and narayanaa brigu4

During this act, Lord Vishnu cleverly squashed the extra eye that was present in the sole of Bhrigu’s foot. The extra eye is considered as a symbolism of sage’s egotism and his special powers. The sage then comprehended his dire mistake and apologized to Lord Vishnu.

Bhrigu was pleased and declared him Supreme amongst the Tridev.

However, Sri Mahalakshmi who witnessed the scene was angered by the apologetic action of Lord Vishnu, and in a fit of anger left Vaikuntha. Vishnu reached Bhoolokam in search of Mahalakshmi and took abode in an ant-hill under a tamarind tree, beside a pushkarini on the Venkatadri Hill (now known as Tirupati). The story of Lord Venkateswara begins here, which we will cover later.

Koustubhotbhaasitaangam – Kaustubham is a gem,  Udbhaasita means adorned with and  Anga is a part of the body which in this is instance denotes the chest. His chest is adorned with the brilliant Kaustubha gem. Kaustubham was fifth of the thirteen treasures that emerged from the churning of the Milky Ocean by the Devas and the Asuras for obtaining nectar. Ever since it has adorned the Lord’s chest and forms part of His iconography. It represents the brilliance of the Sun and is symbolic of pure consciousness devoid of subjective qualities.

Punyopetam – Punya refers to the blessed persons. Upetam means surrounded by. He is surrounded by persons who are blessed or who have earned Punya by doing righteous deeds. The idea is that only persons with accumulated Punya or good deeds of several births can reach Him.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7 , Verse 28, Lord Krishna says:
‘Yeshaam tvantagatam paapam Janaanaam Punya-karmanaam
Te dvandva-moha-nirmuktaa bhajante maam dridha-vrataah’
 But those persons performing virtuous actions (in thoughts, words and deeds) have their sins completely eradicated because of this; they being free from delusions of duality, consciously and with determination engage in devotional service, reach unto Me.

In Soundaryalahari Sankara says “Pranantum stotum vaa katham akritapunyah prabhavati?’ meaning ‘How can a man without Punya be able to prostrate before you or sing your prayers?’

In another Shloka he says ‘Bhajanti tvaam dhanyaah katichana chidaananda lahareem’ meaning ‘only a few blessed ones can really immerse themselves in your divine bliss’.

Pundareekaayataaksham – It is an expansion of the term ‘Kamalanayanam’ which we saw in the last Shloka. Pundareeka means Lotus, Aayata means long and wide and Aksha means the eye. Pundareekaayataaksham means – Eyes are long and wide as beautiful as the Lotus flower.

There is an interesting episode in the life story of Sri Ramanuja.  Acharya Ramanuja was a student of Yadavaprakasa. One day, Yadavaprakasa, while teaching the passage from Chandogya Upanishad came up with an interpretation of the Upanishad that was unacceptable to Ramanuja.

ramanujaThe text in Chandogya Upanishad which states: “tasya yatha kapyaasam pundarikam evam akshini.”   While explaining the line, Yadavaprakasa said the eyes were red like the posterior of a kapi (monkey). The explanation caused great anguish to Ramanuja as he was distressed on how could the Supreme One’s eyes be compared to the posterior of a monkey? Ramanuja pointed out to his teacher that there were three other acceptable explanations for the line. The Sun is also referred to by the word ‘kapi’. In the context of the Upanishad, the reference to the word kapi cannot mean a monkey, but it has to mean the Sun, declared Ramanuja. So in this instance, it should not to be interpreted as a monkey.  Instead it should be interpreted as the Sun which causes the Lotus to bloom. There is yet another meaning for the word ‘kapi’ as stem of a Lotus. As long as a Lotus flower is not snipped from its stem, it retains its freshness. So the line from the Upanishad could also mean that the Supreme One’s eyes have the freshness of Lotus flowers sitting on their stem. Another way of interpreting the statement from the Upanishad could be that His eyes are like Lotus flowers in a pond. 

In his Vedartha Sangraha, Ramanuja integrates all three interpretations and presents them beautifully. Yadavaprakasa was himself a great scholar, and yet why did such interpretations not occur to him? The answer probably was because Ramanuja had studied Andal’s Thiruppavai thoroughly.

There is a verse in the Tiruppavai (Pasuram 22),

“Sengann Siru Sirudhe Emmel Vizhiyaavoandal6
Thingal Adhithanum Ezhundarrpol
Am Kann irandum kondu Engal mel nookudiyel
Engal Saabam Izhindhelorembavay”

You should grace us with your divine glances,  with your eyes that resemble a Lotus bud now, and as the Sun rises, like the Lotus bud slowly unfolds into full bloom, so shall you in a similar way open your eyes slowly and bless us all thereby relieving us of all our sins and thus grant us eternal bliss.  Ramanuja was, perhaps, inspired by this pasuram from Thiruppavai.

Vande Vishnum – I Salute Lord Vishnu.

Sarvalokaikanatham – As we have already seen in the last Shloka, Sarva means all; Loka means world; Eka means only and Natha means leader or head. He is the one and the only Head of all worlds meaning the Lord of the Universe.

To sum up, this is the full vivid picture.

I salute the Supreme Lord Vishnu:

  • Who has the deep dark blue complexion of the rain clouds;
  • Who is adorned in an attractive yellow silk attire;
  • Who is adorned with the splendid Shri Vatsa mark on his chest;
  • Who is radiating the brilliance of the Kaustubha gem on his body;
  • Who is constantly attended upon by blessed people;
  • Whose eyes are long and wide and beautiful like the Lotus flower and
  • Who is the undisputed Lord of the Universe.



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


In Part 3, we covered the methods of practicing Vishnu Sahasranamam as ‘Japa’ and ‘Archana’.  In this part, we will learn the method of practising it as ‘Parayanam’ or recitation of the whole Stotram.

The word ‘Parayanam’ consists of the two words ‘Para’ and ‘Ayanam’.  Para means limit or end and Ayanam means journey, So the term Sahasranama Parayanam means navigating to the end of the 1000 names in the Stotram. Generally, Vishnu Sahasranama Parayanam is recited in a single session, in contrast to the Parayanam of extensive works like ‘Srimad Bhagavatham’ or ‘Ramayanam’ which can be spread over several sessions over several days.

It is important that Vishnu Sahasranamam Parayanam is chanted with the correct pronunciation and rhythm. If you wish to begin with Parayanam as a means of practicing it for the first time, it would be advisable to seek the guidance of a person who is already adept in its practice.  Alternatively, listening to the audio recording of renowned vocalists such as M S Subbulakshmi is a good way to learn the proper pronunciation and rhythm.

MSSMadurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi- A Legendary Artist_aid823_1

There are three types of Parayanam that are in practice:

  1. Nitya Parayanam
  2. Kamya Parayanam
  3. Samooha Parayanam

We will consider each of them below.

1.     Nitya Parayanam

In this procedure Vishnu Sahasranamam is recited as a daily routine just like taking shower or eating or other activities. There is no expectation of any reward attached with this daily recitation. The purpose of the recitation is mainly for Chitta Shuddhi or for purification of mind. In this process, the ever restless mind is quietened.  With the mind kept calm and devoid of agitations, it is easier to pursue the path of spiritual enlightenment.

There are no limitations of time, attire, place etc. for Nitya Parayanam. One can do it at any time of the day and in any attire. It can be recited while walking on the road or shopping or using public transport. In this ipod, mp3 and iphone generation, it has become all the more easier to practice this even while at one’s work desk.


In short, it is called ‘Yatha Sowkaryam’ or ‘do it at your convenience’. Done regularly as a duty it increases will power and self-esteem. It instils a sense of purpose and discipline in one’s daily life.

2.     Kaamya Parayanam

Kaamya means ‘with a specific wish or desire’. This method of Parayanam refers to a specific pattern of recitation performed to achieve a certain objective or desire. The objective or desire may be for more money, progeny, a job, a promotion, cure for a disease, prosperity and so on. Unlike Nitya Parayanam, Kaamya Parayanam has got a number of procedural restrictions. It has to be performed at a specific time either in the morning after shower or in the evening. It has to be performed for a specific number of days say 48, 24 or 12 days. Each day’s recitation should be done like a Pooja or a prayer with the picture or idol of Vishnu decorated with flowers and completed with Neivedyam (offering) and Aarathi (with camphor).

poojaroom SatyaPuja1

Ideally this should be performed by the person who has the wish or desire that needs to be fulfilled.  However, where this is not possible either due to ill-health or for any other reason, such a person can seek the help of an accomplished Parayanam practitioner to perform on his/her behalf.  It is important that the person performing the Parayanam is treated with respect and suitably honoured. For more details on Kamya Parayanam please refer to the book ‘Sakala Karyasiddhi tarum Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram written by K Sreenivasacharyar published by LIFCO publications.

3.   Samooha Parayanam

Samooha Parayanam as the term connotes is a community chanting. This involves a group of families assembling at a common place and reciting the Sahasranamam together. In most places this is conducted either once a week or once a fortnight or even once a month depending on the Group. It is increasingly common practice for Vishnu Sahasranamam to be chanted in Satsangs or Groups as Samooha Parayanam which is usually conducted during the weekends.  This is the next best alternative for those who are unable to do the Nitya Parayanam.

sv-vedapatsala-students Yajur-Veda-Parayanam

iyer-parayanamInI parayanam

Participation in Samooha Parayanam is a good way to get initiated into the Parayanam of Vishnu Sahsranamam and this can also be a good training ground.

Adi Sankara in verse 9 of his Bhaja Govindam song extols the importance of Satsang.

Satsangatve Nissangatvam;   Nissangatve Nirmohatvam;
Nirmohatve Nischalatatvam; Nischalatatve Jeevanmukti
The company of the good weans one away from false attachments; 

When attachment is lost, delusion ends;
When delusion ends, the mind becomes unwavering and steady; and
An unwavering and steady mind is merited for Jeevan Mukti (liberation even in this life).

Vishnu Sahasranamam Groups provide a good opportunity for social and cultural interactions thereby serving spiritual and cultural needs.

Why Dhyana Shlokas?

 The purpose of Dhyana Shloka is to visualise a clear image of the Lord in our mind’s eye before we begin worshipping Him with his one thousand Namas. It is pertinent to ask whether we are justified in ascribing a particular form and shape to the Absolute Brahman and putting Him under the limitations of physical coordinates.

In Purusha Suktam this duality is mentioned and resolved:
“Ajaayamaano bahudhaa vijaayate” meaning “Though the Brahman is unborn (and therefore shapeless and formless), He manifests himself in various external forms”.

Arjuna has asked this question on our behalf to Lord Krishna, in the first shloka of Chapter 12 in the Bhagavad Gita.

Arjuna asks: Who is a better devotee, the one who worships the abstract impersonal formless abstract God (Nirguna), or the one who worships God as a manifested personal idealised idol (Saguna)?

Krishna replies: That both forms of worship are equally acceptable to Him and both devotees ultimately reach Him. However, the worship of the abstract and formless God is very difficult for most people to follow. People can associate with finite bodies and cannot easily comprehend the infinite Brahman. They need a defined image and a specific form to concentrate and focus their meditation through objectification.

Krishna says:

“Mayyeva Mana Adhatsva Mayi Buddhim Niveshaya, Nivasishyasi Mayyeva Atha Oordhvam Na Samshayah”

“Just fix your mind upon Me and engage all your intellect in Me. Thus you will reside in Me always, without a doubt”.

Dhyana Shlokas

The Dhyana Shlokas helps the seeker to achieve this state of unison with the God. The mind and the intellect of the reciter are taken out of the material plane and fixed in the form of the Lord.  Once the mind is free from agitations and becomes calm it is free to receive the spiritual vibrations from chanting of the Vishnu Sahasranamam.

There are seven beautiful Dhyana Shlokas for Vishnu Sahasranamam. They paint a vivid picture of the splendour and grandeur of Lord Vishnu in all its Glory.

The first one describes Him gloriously seated on the shores of the Milky Ocean. The second describes Him in his Cosmic Form or the VishwaRoopam. The third, fourth and fifth Dhyana Shlokas describe the various aspects of His divine personality. The sixth and seventh ones are specific to His incarnation as Krishna.

VS Intro (Dhyana)

In the next few sections we will examine each of the Dhyana Shlokas in greater detail to understand their meaning. The benefit of this approach is that knowing the meaning will help us to visualise the form and help us to concentrate better to achieve the mental calm that is required to fully absorb the spiritual vibrations from the recitation of the Vishnu Sahasranamam.



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


In this part, we will cover the various techniques that can be adopted to invoke Lord Vishnu by chanting Vishnu Sahasranamam.  There are three basic techniques and these are:

  1.  Japa or repetitive meditation of a selected Nama or Mantra.
  2.  Archana or worship with each Nama in order.
  3.  Parayana or recitation of the whole book in the form of continuous chanting.


Now, let’s learn about these three techniques

  1. Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam as Japa

Mantra in Sanskrit means a word or a verbal string, the constant repetition of which in the mind gives power and peace. It stands for ‘Mananaat traayate iti Mantrah’ or that which protects by repetition in the mind. There are 3 forms of Japa:

  • In the Maanaseeka form, the sound is internal. There is no lip movement and nothing audible;
  • In the Upamshu form, the lip moves but the sound is inaudible; and
  • In the Vaikhari form, the lip and the tongue move and the sound is clearly audible.

The best among the three forms of Japa is the ‘Manaseeka’ form which is also called ajapajapam. Initially, when the concentration of the mind is not strong enough, it is recommended to begin with the Vaikhari form, then gradually transitioning to the Upamshu form and finally progressing to the Manaseeka form.

While there are no limits or prescribed number of Japas, it is usually chanted for 108 times. It is also chanted 1008 times on some occasions.

As mentioned earlier, each Nama in Vishnu Sahasranamam can be considered as a Mantra and used for Japa. However, there are a few Namas that are particularly conducive for Japa. Apart from being part of the Vishnu Sahasranamam, they are powerful Mantras in their own right.  A few of the most important Mantras are described below.

  • Om Namo Narayanaaya!

This is also called Ashtakshari because it contains eight syllables. Sage Narada always meditated on this name. Prahlada got his enlightenment from this Mantra and Sri Ramanujacharya famously revealed the meaning of the Ashtakshari and Charma Shlokam.

sriman narayanacropped-1660344_494069167383139_792966992_n.jpg

Vedic Hymns say:

“Narayana paro jyotiratma Narayanah parah
Narayana param brahma tattwam Narayanah parah
Narayana paro dhyaataa dhyaanam Narayanah parah”

The Lord Narayana is the Supreme Light; Narayana is the Supreme Reality; Narayana is the Supreme Absolute;  Narayana is the Supreme Self; Narayana is the Supreme Meditator; Narayana is the Supreme Meditation.

  • Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya!

This is another powerful Mantra for meditation and is known as Dvadashakshari because it contains 12 syllables.

The phalashruti of Vishnu Shasranamam says:

“Vasanad Vasudevasya vasitham bhuvana trayam,
Sarva bhutha nivasosi vasudeva namosthuthe.” And also

“Dyaus sachandrarka nakshatram Kham diso bhur mahodadhihi.
Vasudevasya veeryena vidhrithani mahatmanah”

This means the whole Universe exists because of the presence of Vasudeva. Also the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth and the ocean are held in place by the power of Vasudeva.


In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7 Verse 19, Bhagavan says:
“Bahoonam janmanaamante gnanavan mam prapadyate
Vasudevas sarvamiti samahatma sudurlabhah”
Meaning: A
fter many births and deaths, one perfected in wisdom, Knowing Me as the ultimate cause of all causes, surrenders unto Me; Such a great soul is very rare.

  • Om Namah Shivaya!

This is the Panchakshari Mantra of 5 syllables. Some may be surprised that the Mantra of Lord Shiva is found in Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam. In fact, Shloka 4 of  Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam goes as follows:

“Sarvas sharvash shivas sthanur bhutadir nidhi ravyayah
Sambhavo bhavano bharta prabhavah prabhu reeshvarah”

shiva shiva1
Thus Shiva is the 27th name enshrined in Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam. Shiva means purity. Shiva means auspiciousness. Sri Adi Sankara, in his commentary, points out the abheda (or no difference) in the identity of Vishnu and Shiva. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that the Panchakshari Mantra, which is the embodiment of Lord Shiva, is also contained within Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

  • Om Namo Ramaya

This is the Mantra revealed by Narada to Valmiki which marked Valmiki’s transformation from a sinner to a saint. To make it simple we are allowed to chant the short form of ‘Hare Rama’ or even just ‘Rama’. This Nama is contained in Shloka 43 as the 394th Nama of Vishnu as under:

“Ramo viramo virato margo neyo nayo nayah
veerash shaktimatam shreshtho dharmo dharma viduttamah”

Sri Adi Sankara defines the word Rama as ‘Nithyananda lakshane asmin yoginah ramante iti Ramah’, or that which gives delight to Yogis with its perfect eternal beauty.

988533_10151654761618605_1188834770_n rama2

Rama is also interpreted as a combination of Ashtakshari and Panchakshari, the letter Ra coming from Om Namo Narayanaya and the letter Ma coming from Om Namah Shivaya thus compounding the benefits of both these Mantras.

2.  Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam as Archana

This method is generally adopted in a formal Pooja like say SatyaNarayana Pooja or Janmashtami Pooja.

To begin with, the idol or picture of Sriman MahaVishnu is set up and decorated with sandal paste, kumkum, ornaments and flowers. Then the preliminary poojas such as asana pooja, ghanta pooja, Ganesh pooja, kalasha pooja, shankha pooja, atma pooja, peetha pooja and Guru pooja are performed. Then Lord Vishnu is invoked with divinity by doing the process of Prana pratishta. After which Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Archana is performed.

For this each Nama is separately chanted with the prefix of OM,  a suffix of Namaha and a flower is offered to the deity after reciting each Nama.

For example the first line of Vishnu Sahasranamam is:
“Vishvam vishnur vashatkaro bhootabhavyabhavatprabhuhu”. This is the verse form, but to perform as an Archana this is split into individual Namas which will be recited as:

• Om Vishvaya Namaha
• Om Vishnave Namaha
• Om Vashatkaraya Namaha
• Om Bhoota-bhavya-bhavat-prabhave Namaha

 1656049_688484604529891_875113600_n tirupathi-balaji 

After each Namaha, a flower is offered with reverence at the feet of the deity. This is repeated for each of the 1000 Namas and this procedure is called Sahasranama Archana. Finally, Neivedhyam is offered.

3. Vishnu Sahasranamam as Parayanam

This will be described in the next part.



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


In the first Part, we read about the revelation of Vishnu Sahasranamam by Bhishmacharya to Yudhishtra. Before we go further, here’s an interesting anecdote on the commentary of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam by Sri Adi Sankara.


Sri Adi Sankara wanted to write a commentary on Lalita Sahasranamam and asked one of his disciples to bring palm-leaf manuscripts of Lalita Sahasranamam. The disciple went into the room where it was kept and returned with the manuscript.

When Sankara opened it, he found that it was Vishnu Sahasranamam. He asked the disciple to go back and get Lalita Sahasranamam. When the disciple returned, Sankara found that it was Vishnu Sahasranamam again. Sankara once again advised the disciple to bring Lalita Sahasranamam.  When the disciple returned for the third time and it turned out to be Vishnu Sahasranamam again!

A little annoyed, Sankara asked the disciple “Don’t you understand, I asked you to bring Lalita Sahasranamam.”

cropped-1660344_494069167383139_792966992_n1.jpgThe disciple replied “Revered Sir, I brought Lalita Sahasranamam every time but I was intercepted by a beautiful little girl on the way who snatched it from me and gave this instead each time”. Sankara was intrigued and looked around for the girl but there was no trace of her. He realised that Goddess Lalita wanted him to write commentary on the Sahasranamam of her brother Vishnu first and so, he embarked on the divine task. After completing the commentary on Vishnu Sahasranamam he wrote many other Bhashyams such as Brahma Sutra and other original compositions like SoundaryaLahari but he was never able to return to Lalita Sahasranamam.

There are several commentaries on Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.  Two other famous commentaries are by Sri Parasara Bhattar and Raghavendra Swamigal.  Swami ChinmayAnanda and several other Gurus have also written their interpretations on Vishnu Sahasranamam.

This commentary is about the significance of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam. The key aspect of this commentary is that it brings together the rich assortment of views of Sri Adi Sankara, Sri Parasara Bhattar and other Gurus.  This is supplemented by:

  • texts from other scriptures like the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Various Upanishads and Divya Prabandham;
  • stories illustrating the Bhakti of Saints and Lord’s Leelas;
  • short stories of DashAvatar and other manifestations of Bhagavan;
  • images to illustrate in various sections; and
  • personal interpretations

to create a divine and vivid experience that is intended to give the reader a clear understanding of the Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Let’s recap the sum and substance of Bhishma’s discourse by answering Yudhishtira’s queries, which are:

  1. The Lord Vishnu is the Supreme Deity.
  2. He should be worshiped and meditated upon to get rid of worldly bondage and secure eternal bliss.
  3. Vishnu Sahasranamam is the best way of conducting worship and meditation on Lord Vishnu.

Every single Nama of Vishnu Sahasranamam is a Mantra. The constant reflection and meditation of a Mantra can lead us to liberation from worldly bondage (Samsaara) and lead us to eternal bliss.

Bhagawan Vishnu says:
“Yo maam naama sahasrena stotum ichchati pandava
Soham ekena shlokena stuta eva na samshayaha”

“If someone wants to worship me by reciting the Sahasranamam but is able to utter only one Shloka (out of the hundred and seven) I still consider that worship equivalent to the chanting of the full Sahasranamam.”

Going one step further, it is said that repeating even a single Nama is enough to give the full effect of Sahasranamam.

Parvati asks Lord Shiva:
“Kenopayane laghuna Vishnor nama sahasrakam
Pathyate panditair nityam shrotum ichchami aham prabho”

“What is the easy way adopted by the learned to recite the Vishnu Sahasranamam daily?”

Lord Shiva replies:

“Sri Rama Rama Rameti Rame Rame Manorame
Sahasranama Tattulyam Rama Nama Varaanane”

It is said that recitation of the above Shloka three times, gives the benefit of reciting the whole Sahasranamam. “If one recites the single Rama Nama repeatedly that itself is equivalent to reciting all the one thousand Namas!”

In fact it could be any one of the thousand Namas; it could be Vishwam, it could be Vishnu, it could be Vashatkara or any other Nama. Each one is a different form of the same powerful Mantra. Rama is just an example being the shortest and easiest to pronounce.

On the other hand the total number of Namas is not limited to just the one thousand contained in the Vishnu Sahasranamam. Bhishma says:

“Yaani namani gounani vikhyatani mahatmanah
Rishibhif parigeetani tani vakshyami bhootaye”

Bhishma makes it clear that he is expounding  just a compilation of His qualities as elaborated by various Sages.

In the Hindu scriptures all mantras have three principal elements. They are:

1. Devata or the presiding Deity
2. Rishi (or Sage) to whom it was first revealed
3. Chandas or the verse form

For Vishnu Sahasranamam, the presiding Deity is Sri MahaVishnu,  the Rishi is Veda Vyasa, the composer of MahaBharata and the verse form is Anushtup, which was first used by Sage Valmiki in his Ramayanam.

This three-some matrix is described in the preamble to the Sahasranamam as follows:

“Rishirnamnam sahasrasya vedavyaso mahamunihi
Chchando-nushtup tatha devo bhagavan devakee-sutaha”

The Greatness of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam:

There are many Sahasranamams in existence like Saraswati Sahasranamam, Lakshmi Sahasranamam, Vamana Sahasranamam, Narasimha Sahasranamam etc. But if we just mention Sahasranamam, it always refers to Vishnu Sahasranamam. It is the earliest work of its kind, the most revered and the most commented upon.

In Kaliyuga, the best way to achieve liberation and eternal bliss is through reciting Bhagavan’s Nama; And Vishnu Sahasranamam is the best source book for this.

Lord Vishnu says to Sage Narada, “Naham vasami vaikunthe yoginam hridaye na cha, mad-bhakta yatra gayanti tatra tishthami narada”, i.e., “I dwell neither in Vaikuntha nor in the hearts of the Yogins, but I dwell where my devotees sing my name, O Narada.” What better way of singing His Nama than by reciting Vishnu Sahasranamam!

1511502_716731801705171_1904257645_nMahaBharata is the essence of Vedas. Bhagavad Gita and Vishnu Sahasranamam are the essence of MahaBharata. Bhagavad Gita is spoken by the Lord himself whereas Vishnu Sahasranamam is spoken by the Guru about the Lord. When Bhishma was expounding Vishnu Sahasranamam to Yudhishtira, Krishna himself was present smilingly accepting the praise of the devotees as it were.

Kurma Puranam says:

“Bharatam sarva shastreshu bharate geetika vara
Vishnos sahasranamapi gneyam pathyam cha taddvayam”

Meaning MahaBharata is superior to all Dharmashastras; within that Bhagavad Gita and Vishnu Sahasranamam stand out and these two have to be learnt and recited constantly.

Vishnu Sahasranamam is full of deeper meanings and about this aspect it is said:

“trayarthas sarva vedeshu dasharthas sarva bharate
vishnos sahasranamapi nirantara shatarthakam”

sriman narayanaAccording to this, all Vedas have three levels of meanings. MahaBharata, also known as the fifth Veda, has ten different levels of meanings.  But Vishnu Sahasranamam has hundred different meanings for each Nama! Apart from the meaning there is also the positive vibration from the chanting of each Nama. So even if the recitation is done without knowing the meaning it is still beneficial but if it is done with full understanding of the import of the meanings, it is sheer bliss.

It is said (as narrated by Shri Velukkudi Krishnan) that the Sage Vyasa first authored Brahma Sutra as a compendium encapsulating the complete substance of all the Vedas. But he was not satisfied because he thought it was too complicated to be understood easily except for the most erudite of scholars.

He therefore composed the MahaBharata containing the essential teachings of the Vedas in a story form in order to reach it to the understanding of the common man. But again there was a problem. It was too large, a mammoth work with more than hundred thousand verses. It would be impossible to read it fully on a regular basis.

So he composed two shorter versions namely the Bhagavad Gita and Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam, each of which contains the essence of all the scriptures. The former is a dialogue between the Lord and his disciple while the latter is a dialogue about the Lord by a Guru and a disciple in the presence of the Lord.

Between these two works of Veda Vyasa, the Bhagavad Gita is long for daily recitation with 700 verses. Therefore, Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam with only 107 shlokas is definitely the best practical mantra which can be adopted by all as a daily spiritual practice to achieve perfect happiness, mental peace and even material prosperity.

In the coming parts we will look at the various aspects of the structure of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam, the techniques of worship and a Nama by Nama analysis of its deeper imports to gain a vivid understanding.



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


Vishnu Sahasranamam is a compilation of a thousand names of Lord Vishnu composed by Sri Veda Vyasa. It occurs within the body of the great epic MahaBharata. It was first revealed by Bhishmacharya to Yudhishtra (the eldest of the five Pandava brothers), on Bhishma Ekadasi day, under the following circumstances:


Bhishmacharya was lying mortally wounded on the battle field of Kurukshetra but he was still not ready to die as he was waiting for a more propitious time (Uttarayanam) to leave his body. Bhishma had been given a boon by his father King Santanu by which he could choose his moment of death. At that time, Krishna feels that with the passing away of Bhishma, the enormous wisdom that Bhishma gained from his long virtuous life of righteousness and devotion may be lost to the world. So he asked the new King Yudhishtra, to seek advice and guidance on various aspects of Dharma from Bhishma before he breathed his last.  Accordingly, Yudhishtra approached Bhishma and sought his words of wisdom on governance of the Kingdom and about leading a righteous life.

1511502_716731801705171_1904257645_nEven after listening patiently to a lot of guidance from Bhishma, Yudhishtra felt that he had not gained sufficient understanding to his key questions on how to achieve perfect happiness and salvation.  He wanted to learn from Bhishma the path to Moksha or liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Therefore he posed six specific questions relating to Bhishma on how to attain ultimate happiness. These questions are contained in two shlokas starting with “kim ekam daivatam loke” in the Poorvabhaga or the introductory part of the Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram.

The questions are:

  1. Who is the number One or Supreme Deity? (“kim ekam daivatam loke”)
  2. What is the highest goal of life? (“kim vaapyekam paraayanam”)
  3. Which Deity’s auspicious qualities should human beings pray to? (“stuvantah kam”)
  4. By worshiping which Deity will human beings attain prosperity in this world as well as bliss in the next? (“kamarchantah praapnuyur maanavaash shubham?”)
  5. Which code of conduct (Dharma) is the highest code of conduct in your opinion? (“ko dharmas sarva dharmaanaam bhavantah paramo matah”)
  6. By repeating which Mantra or Japa, can a living being be liberated from the bondage of the cycle of birth, life and death? (“kim japam muchyate jantur janma samsaara bandhanaat”)

Bhishma answers these questions, from his death bed of arrows, with clarity and elaborately not just for the sake of Yudhishtra but as a revelation to the whole of humanity, present and future. It is interesting to note that Bhishma’s answers were not arranged in the chronological order of Yudhishtra’s questions but were in a logical order embedding all the answers.

However, please find below the answers in the order of the questions posed by Yudhishtra:

  1. He who is the very sanctity that sanctifies all sacred things; He who is the most auspicious; He who is the god of gods; He who is the eternal father of all creatures is the one god – the LORD VISHNU. (“Pavitraanaam pavitram yo mangalaanaam cha mangalam Daivatam devataanaam cha Bhootaanaam yo avyayah pitaa.”)
  2. He who is the great effulgence; He who is the great penance ; He who is the Supreme All-Pervading Truth; He indeed is the Highest Goal to attain- the Lord VISHNU. (“Paramam yo mahat-tejah Paramam yo mahat-tapah, Paramam yo mahat-brahma Paramam yah paraayanam.”)
  3. The Supreme Purusha (person), who is the god of gods, who is ever up and forever working for the welfare of all, who is the Lord of the world and who is imperishable – the Lord VISHNU. He is the one to be meditated upon by chanting his thousand Namas. (“Jagat-prabhum deva-devam Anantam purushottamam Stuvan naama-sahasrena Purushah satatotthitah.”)
  4. By worshiping with devotion and chanting the one thousand Namas of the Purusha (the Lord Vishnu), a human being can reach true emancipation from the worldly ties. (“Tameva cha archayan nityam Bhaktyaa purusham avyayam Stuvan naama-sahasrena Purushah satatotthitah.”)
  5. Worshiping, meditating on and prostrating before the Lord Vishnu is the code of conduct superior to every other way of life. (“Dhyayan stuvan namasyamscha yajamanas tameva cha esha me sarvadharmaanaam bhavatah paramo matah”)
  6. By worshiping Lord Vishnu, Human beings get liberated from the miseries of worldly life.  He has no beginning or end and He is the great Lord and Controller of the whole Universe (“Anaadinidhanam Vishnum sarvalokamaheshvaram Lokaadhyaksham stuvannityam sarva duhkhaatigo bhavet”)

It may be noted that some of the points in Bhishma’s reply are reiterated over and over again for added emphasis.

Three points emerge from the above conversation:

  1. That Lord Vishnu is the Supreme All Pervading Truth.
  2. By reciting Vishnu Sahasranamam and meditating on the Lord with devotion one can get free from the worldly bondage and secure eternal happiness i.e. Moksha.
  3. Vishnu Sahasranamam is the best way of worshiping and meditating on Lord Vishnu.



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