The nIlarudra sukta is a part of the atharvaNa veda paippalada saMhitA (14.3). This sukta contains many mantras from the Satarudriyam and the Rudra Suktam of Yajur and Rg Veda, which the reader will identify. But it also contains several new mantras and thus is very interesting.
As always, the sruti seeks to praise srI Lakshmi narasimha only by the name of “Rudra”.
OM paśyaṃ tvāvarohantaṃ divitaḥ pṛthivīma ava .
apaśyama asyantaṃ rudraṃ nīlagrīvaṃ śikhaṇḍinaṃ .. 1
Meaning: OM (the praNava denoting the sesha-seshi sambandham). I beheld you descending (tvAvarohantaM) from srI vaikuNtha (divitaH) to this samsAra mandalam (prithvi). I saw the striker (of hiranyakasipu; asyantaM) OR as he hurled (out of the pillar), the destroyer of samsArA (rudra), the black necked, he who is at the crest of Lordship (sikhandi).
This describes the experience of prahlAdAzhwan who saw the terrific form of narasimha bursting out of the pillar to destroy hiranyakasipu.
“asyantam” can mean that he is the striker of hiranyakasipu or that he hurled out of the pillar.
“Sikhandi” is a name occurring in the sahasranAmA and Bhattar interprets it as he who is at the crest of Lordship.
Narasimha is black necked (nIlagrIvA) and reddish in color (vilOhitA). Thus, he is known as nIlalOhitA. The pramAnam is as follows,
“rtam satyam parabrahman Krishna pingalam
uRdvarEtam virUpAksham shankaram nIlalOhitam” (~ narasimha tApanIya Upanishad).
diva ugro .avārukṣaḥ pratyaṣṭhā bhūmyāma adhi .
janāsaḥ paśyatemaṃ nīlagrīvaṃ vilohitaṃ .. 2
Meaning: From srI vaikunta (diva), the One who performs lofty actions and lifts the jivAs as well (ugra), descended (avArukSaH), the self-dependent (pratyasthA), the master of samsAra manDalam (bhUmyAma adhi). The samsArIs (janAsaH) see him, distinctly black-necked and deeply reddish in color (ie, of an extraordinary form).
pratyasthA – pratisTithaH is a name in the sahasranAmA. Bhattar interprets as he who is self-dependent, ie, he is supported and established in his own greatness without external support.
eṣa aitya avīrahā rudro jalāṣa bheṣajī .
vi te kṣepama anīnaśada vātīkāro vya etu te .. 3
Meaning: He comes (eSaitya), destroying ignorance (avIrahA), the One who makes us weep by enjoying his kalyAna guNams, the form of medicines for the waters of avarice and greed (that constitute samsAra sAgaram) OR the waters of the rakshasas (jalasA bheSajI). He has removed the fear of that which is not good ie, he has done good (vi tE kSepama anInasada), and he also (ie, in addition to removing obstacles) obtains the unobtainable (ie, mOksha prApti) for us (vAtikArovya etu tE).
avIrAha – “vIrA” means strength and in the texts, strength is a metaphor for knowledge. So, “avIra” is ignorance. He is “avIraha”, the slayer of ignorance.
jalasA bhEsajI – he is of the form of medicines for waters. The term “waters” has the meanings of either greed and avarice or the waters of rakshaSas like hiranyakasipu as per the pramAnams quoted by Bhattar in sahasranAma bhAshya under the names “mantra” and “bhAskarOdyuti” respectively.
In Brahma purANa, BhagavAn says -
thr*shNA toya samAkIrNAt ghorAt samsAra sAgarAt |
apArAt pAramApnoti yo mAm smarati nityaSah ||
Meaning: "He who thinks of me always, will certainly cross this vast and frightful sea of samsAra which is filled with the waters of greed and avarice".
In srImad rAmAyaNa, it is said:
Sara jAlAmSumAnSUrah kape! RAma-divAkarah |
Satru-rakshomayam toyam uapSosham nayishyati ||
(sundara kANdam 37-18)
"O Monkey (HanumAn)! The sun-like rAma, who is valiant and who has heaps of ray-like arrows, will certainly dry up the water of the inimical rAkshasa-s."
He is “kshema-kRt” as per the sahasranAmA, which again according to Bhattar means that he does good by removing the obstacles of his devotees.
namaste bhava bhāmāya namaste bhava manyave .
namaste astu bāhubhyāma uto ta iṣave namaḥ .. 4
Meaning: Salutations to him who came into being, ie, manifested out of wrath (bhava bhAmAya). Salutations to One who exists as sacrifice, ie, he is the upAyam (bhava manyavE). Salutations to your sturdy arms and also to your arrow or arrow like nails (which destroy our obstacles to knowledge).
yāma iṣuṃ giriśanta haste bibharśya astave .
śivāma giriśritāma kṛṇu mā himsīḥ puruṣāna mama .. 5
Meaning: O Girishanta (Creator of GirishA/pArvai pati Rudradeva), O GiriSritAma (Lord, who is propounded in the VedAntA), shoot that auspicious arrow you hold in your hand (to destroy the obstacles to my knowledge of Brahman). Do not cause injury to my sons (who are required for upAsaNa).
giristAma – keeper or dweller of the vedAntA (designated as giri). Its synonymous with “giritrA” in the Rudram.
śivena vacasā tvā giriśāchā vadāmasi .
yathā nasa sarvama ija jagada ayakṣmaṃ sumano asata .. 6
Meaning: GirishA (One who is worthy of veneration)! We strive to attain (Accha) you by auspicious words (shivEna vachasA), in such a manner that the moving beings (humans and animals) of this whole jagath will become (by your grace) free from disease (of samsArA) and attain comfort of mind, ie, right knowledge (sumanA).
yā ta iṣuśa śivatamā śivaṃ babhūva te dhanuḥ .
śivā śaravyā yā tava tayā no mṛlda jīvase .. 7
Meaning: Your arrow become auspicious (by your grace). Your bow has become auspicious (by your grace). The quiver that bears your arrows has become auspicious (by your grace). Let your bow, arrow and quiver, by assuming a graceful demeanor (ie, destroying the obstacles to Brahman) make us live (ie, understand our true nature).
yā te rudra śivā tanūra aghorāpāpakāśinī .
tayā nasa tanvā śantamayā giriśantābhi cākaśaḥ .. 8
Meaning: O Rudra (the destroyer of the disease of samsAra), the creator of Girisha (pArvati pati rudradeva), shine out to us with the body of Yours that is most agreeable on account of causing happiness (shantamayA), and which is auspicious (shivam), which is not terrible (aghorA) and which is of the nature of burning all sins (apApakAsini).
This of course, refers to hiding the terrifying vishvarUpA and assuming his usual aprAkrta divya mangala vigraham as shanka-chakra-gaDAdhara.
namo .astu nīlaśikhaṇḍāya sahasrākṣāya vājine .
atho ye asya satvānasa tebhyo .ahama akaraṃ namaḥ .. 9
Meaning: Salutations to Narasimha, who is black crested (on the neck), the omniscient, the swift (to save his devotees). I also offer my salutations to his adiyArs.
namāṃsi ta āyudhāyānātatāya dhṛṣṇave .
ubhābhyāma akaraṃ namo bāhubhyāṃ tava dhanvane .. 10
Meaning: Salutations to those weapons that are not intended to kill us (ie, they have become ornaments). My salutations go to your sturdy arms that hold the bow.
pramun~ca dhanvanaḥ parya ubhayora ārtnyora jyāṃ .
yāśa ca te hasta iṣavaḥ parā tā bhagavo vapaḥ .. 11
Meaning: BhagavAn! Please untie the bowstring from both ends of your bow. Also, lay down your arrow (ie, do not use your nigraha sakti against us).
avatatya dhanusa tvaṃ sahasrākṣa śateṣudhe .
niśīrya śalyānāṃ mukhā śivo naśa śaṃbhura ā cara .. 12
Meaning: You who are omniscient (sahasrAksha) and of many bows signifying varied actions, ie, ignorant to the faults of your devotees (satEsudhE) ), must loosen the bowstring and blunt the tips of your arrows (ie, do not show nigraham), thus becoming peaceful (ie, confer auspiciousness and shower anugraham) to us.
asau yasa tāmro aruṇa uta babhrura vilohitaḥ .
ye ceme abhito rudrā dikṣu śritāsa sahasraśo .avaiṣāṃ helda īmahe .. 13
Meaning: That (worshippable parama purushan) is seen as deep red (as para vAsudevan). He is reddish brown or rose tinged red (as vyUham). He is also golden colored as the supporter of the earth (vibhava avatarams) and is deeply red (as archa avatAram). He is situated around this jagath in all directions as infinite number of RudrAs (as antarAtma/antaryAmin). We offer our salutations to these forms in such a way that it does not intend disrespect or cause anger (ie, not considering these forms as prAkrtam and equating him to lesser devas).
“sumangalaH” used to describe archAvatAra in the Rudram has been replaced by “viLohitaH” here. The term “sumangalaH” implies the specially auspicious nature of archa avatAram due to pUrnatvam and being the best of the 5 forms. The term viLohitaH meaning deep red is synonymous with tAmrA (deep red) used for paravAsudevan and hence, also implies that the archAvatArams have the same pUrnatvam as paravAsudEvan, thus giving the same meaning.
adarśaṃ tvāvarohantaṃ nīlagrīvaṃ vilohitaṃ .
uta tvā gopā adṛśanna uta tvodahāryaḥ .
uto tvā viśvā bhūtāni tasmai dṛṣṭāya te namaḥ .. 14
Meaning: That (Parabrahman sriman nArAyaNa) descends (as Vishnu), is (the antaryAmin of) blue necked one (Shiva) and is (the antaryAmin of) the reddish colored one (Brahma). Even the cowherds and women who carry water can see him. He is also thus seen by all beings. Salutations to you who are seen (ie, salutations to your sousIlyam by which you appear among us).
vijyaṃ dhanuśa śikhaṇḍino viśalyo bāṇavāna uta .
aneśanna asyeṣavaśa śivo asya niṣaṅgathiḥ .. 15
Meaning: May the bow of the One who is at the crest or peak of Lordship (Sikhandin) be without his bowstring. May his quiver be without arrows. May his arrows be unable to pierce us. May his scabbard be reduced in power.
pari te dhanvano hetira asmāna vṛṇaktu viśvataḥ .
atho ya iṣudhisa tavāre asmina ni dhehi taṃ .. 16
Meaning: May your arrows discharged from your bow spare us everywhere. Please keep your quiver far away from us
yā te hetira mīḍhuSṭama haste babhūva te dhanuḥ .
tayā tvaṃ viśvato asmāna ayakṣmayā pari bhuja .. 17
Meaning: BhagavAn who fulfils the desires of his devotees! You protect your devotees with your weapons, which have become the non-harmful bow in your hand (for your devotees), everywhere and at all times.
(The following mantras are found in the nIlarudrOpanishat, which is deemed authentic and part of the sukta itself).
yaH svajAnAM nIlagrIvo yaH svajAnAM harir uta |
kalmASha-puchCham oShadhe jambhayAsy arundhati |
Meaning: He who is well-known in the sAstras, is black-necked (ie, with a fearsome roar) for (ie, to save) his devotees and He who is well-known in the SastrAs, is the destroyer of pApa karmas, the obstacles to knowledge of Brahman (Hari) for his devotees. One who is devoid of obstructions (ie, he has no equal as he is “ekamEva advitIyam” and stronger than the strongest), the medicine to destroy the impurities (of the jivA) to their extremity, ie, in totality.
Arundhati means One who is devoid of obstructions.
babhrush cha babhru-karNash cha nIlAgalasAlA shivaH pashya |
tauvilike .avelayAvA ayam ailaba ailayIt ||
Meaning: Bestow your kataksham, the conferror of auspiciousness to his devotees and the supporter of the worlds, with golden earrings (emphasising his beauty) and an auspicious black neck (emphasising the terror of his roars and yet being suddha sattvam). This (form is) like an animal, roaring, untimely (in manifestation/appearance, ie, at an odd hour that is neither night or day), full of enjoyable kalyAna guNams (ie, subhAshrayam).
nIlagalAsAlA is interpreted by the advaitin nArAyaNa as “nIlagalasIla sivaH”. His neck is black and terrible roars emanated from him. But this form and speech were highly auspicious for his devotees and also made of suddha sattvam.
sharveNa nIlashikhaNDena bhavena marutAM pitrA |
virUpAkSheNa babhrUNAM vAcaM vadiShyato hataH ||
Meaning: By Sharva, ie, the One who removes the ills of the jivAs who constitute his own body (thus saving prahlAda), By nIlashikandi, ie, the black crested at the neck (thus, scaring hiranyakasipu by his roars), By the One who manifested from the pillar (Bhava), By the Cause (of happiness) of the muktAs and nityAs (marutAm pitrA), by the One who has two eyes with different functions (VirupAksa, ie, One eye which is cool and graceful for his devotees like PrahlAda and another eye which is hot and fierce for punishing the asurAs like Hiranyakasipu), By the supporter of the worlds (babhRu; and hence the rescuer of devas from asurAs)– the one (hiranyakasipu) who raised his voice (against prahlAda), is struck down.
sharva nIlashikhaNDa vIra karmaNi-karmaNi |
imAm asya prAshaM jahi yenedaM vivadAmahe ||
Meaning: One who removes the ills of jivAs who constitute his body (Sharva)! One who is distinctly black crested at the neck (nIlashikaNDa)! One who has performed action after action (ie, tirelessly and with enthusiasm) that destroys the source of suffering for the devotees by discharging his weapons, thus being a source of terror to his enemies, the asurAs (vIra karmaNi-karmaNi)! Strike down the doubts that plague us who is our enemy (by giving us the vedas that provide true knowledge of our nature ).
vIraH nama occurs in the vishNu sahasranama. So does sharvA (sarvam sharvas shivas sthAnu). These names were discussed in the Satarudriyam, 5-6th anuvAkam.
namo bhavAya namaH sharvAya namaH kumArAya saMbhave |
namo nIlashikhaNDAya namaH sabhAprapAdine ||
Meaning: Salutations to him from whom all effects emerge (bhavA; and hence, he cares for them). Salutations to him who removes the ills of those who are his body, ie, the jivAs who are the aforementioned effects (Sharva). Salutations to the One born for the sake of the child, ie, prahlAda (kumArAya sambhavE). Salutations to the One who is black crested at the neck (nIlashikhaNDAya; ie, he has terrifying roars for the sake of hiranyakasipu). Salutations to the One who goes (ie, takes avatArA) to the assembly, ie, samsArA, which is like an assembly of several gross forms with different types of troubles.
In some paTas, “kumArAya saMbhavE” is replaced by “kumArAya satravE”. In such a case, the meaning would be – Salutations to he who is nitya-yuva, ever young (kumarA) and Salutations to the foe (Satru) of our enemies. Or, salutations to he who came as an enemy to hiranyakasipu (satravE) for the sake of prahlAda (kumArAya).
yasya harI ashvatarau gardabhAv abhitaHsarau |
tasmai nIlashikhaNDAya namaH sabhAprapAdine ||
Meaning: To him, who has the two beautiful and great nitya sUrIs uttering glorious cries (jaya gHoSha) always at his side, to that One who is black crested at the neck (ie, he came to defeat the asurA hiranyakasipu), Salutations to he who goes to (ie, takes avatArA) the assembly (samsArA).
Ashva – “shva” refers to tomorrows, “ashva” refers to those who have no tomorrows, the nitya sUrIs, tara – greatest among the nitya sUrIs. This refers to either Adi Sesha and Garuda, who become his canopy and carrier respectively on the up-down side, or sudarshana and pAnchajanya, his weapons on the right-left side respectively. It could be any of these two pairs, as they are always with him.
Gardabhav – “garda” refers to cries. “bhA” refers to splendour. The ChAndogya Upanishad uses the term “bhArUpa” to describe the splendorous form of bhagavAn.
Abhitasara – running on either sides. They are with him at all times to perform services to him and also help him in his activities to save his devotees.
tvaM devAnAm asi rudra shreShThas tavas tavasAm ugrabAho |
hR^iNIyasA manasA modamAna A babhUvitha rudrasya sUnoH ||
Meaning: You are the destroyer of the disease of samsArA, the most praiseworthy of all the Gods who are born such as Brahma, etc., who are stronger than the strongest, with huge/mighty arms. You, who make us weep on experiencing your kalyAna guNams are born of wrath, of your own will, to delight us.
This mantra finds a similar counterpart in the Rudra Suktam of Rg Veda.
yaH samAno yo .asamAno .amitro no jighAMsati |
rudraH sharavyayA tAn amitrAn no vi vidhyatu |
Meaning: He who is well-known in the sAstras is a friend (to all), who has no equal, is the enemy (of the obstacles to knowledge of Brahman), wishing to destroy (such obstacles) for us. The destroyer of the disease of samsArA, possessing arrows (ie, arrow like nails), to strike our enemies (ie, the tApatrayam).
Here concludes this beautiful suktam in praise of srI Lakshmi narasimha, who is celebrated as “IshAnas sarvavidyAnAm” in the veda and by Thirumangai Mannan as “tElliya singam”.