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Shatarudriyam and Narasimha


(Kind contribution from our Sri Vaishnava bandhu, Shri Narayanan)

Swami Desikan mentions the pervasiveness of Narasimha BhagavAn in the vedA in the first slokA his kAmAshikAshtakam as SrutInAm utharam bhagam. This simham can be found the cave of the Upanishads.  This statement by the acharyan is not for the sake of anubhavam, but is a fact because:

1) Narasimha bhagavAn is the only bhagavAn to have his own Upanishad known famously as the Narasimha tApanIya Upanishad (note: other Upanishads like Gopala Tapani, RamOpanishad, etc are not recognised as entirely authentic unlike narasimha tApanIya, which has even been quoted by Shankaracharya and Madhvacharya).

2) The Satarudriyam and MahAmrityunjaya Mantra portion of the Yajur Veda glorifies Bhagavan Narasimha only.

3)  He is the being in the Sun described by the Chandogya Upanishad. Since this Being is described as possessing a moustache and lotus eyes, srI ranga rAmAnuja muni interprets the moustache as the whiskers of a lion, therefore confirming the parama purushan to be Yoga Narasimha!

4) The mahAnArAyaNopanishad describes Narasimha by the names of sadyOjAta, vAmadeva, sarva and ishana.

5)  The mantra rAja pada stOtram is dedicated to narasimha only by Ahirbudhnya.

Thus, it is established that Narasimha is the primary form of BhagavAn glorified by the vedas. His names in the veda include (and not limited to) – Narasimha, Manyu, Rudra, Soma, Nilalohita, PinAkI, Sarva, Umapati/Ambikapati, HiranyabAhu, Shankara, Shiva, Shambhu , Ishana, Tryambaka, Kapardin, Pashupati, Ugra and Bhima. 

One might wonder that most of these are the names of pArvati pati. Such a doubt need not be entertained. Because pArvati pati has a birth (eko ha vai nArAyaNa asIt, na brahma, nEshana). And he is mentioned to be constantly meditating in the third stage of bhakti yoga, presided by Sankarshana. Since Narasimha avatara is an amsam of Sankarshana and Narasimha perumAl has the balam and jnAna gunams seen in this vyUha mUrthy, it follows that Shiva is always meditating on Narasimha, as evidenced in the case of Ahirbudhnya. And hence, Shiva, being a parama bhakta, bears some of the names of Narasimha only and not vice versa. In the vedas, these names belong to bhagavAn only.
Another doubt may arise that the Satarudriyam and some portions mentioned here can be interpreted as describing srI rAman instead of srI narasimhan. While that is true, these two avatAras are related. In the vAlmiki rAmAyaNam, SrI rAghavan mentions that he can kill his enemies with his nails. Even Kambar saw fit to include Hiranya vadham in his rAmAyaNa divya kAvyam. That being the case, it is quite proper for the veda to invoke kalyAna gunams of srI rAman in relation to srI narasimha, as it does in Shri Rudram!

Some more notes on Rudram + Narasimha AvatAra in the Satarudriyam
There are some unique names in the various anuvakas of the satarudriyam that warrant our attention. I will simply list the names I remember here. Readers can look it up in the rudram.

1) UccairghoshAH - One whose roar causes fear to the enemies. We remember the Kauravas being frightened by the sound of his pAnchajanya, the asuras frightened by his roar during tripura samharam (when he appeared as a bull to aid Shiva), his HUM kAram which defeated Shiva as narrated by parashurAma, etc.

2) Sabapathi - The Lord of the Sabha Parva as it contains the incident of Bhishma declaring the greatness of Krishna, the SisupAla vadham, etc. Sabha can also refer to samsara, so he is the Lord of samsara.

2) nIlagrIva -  The black-throated narasimha. The narasimha tApanIya Upanishad calls narasimha as nIlalohita, ie, he has a red body with a cavernous throat, black on the inside. He is known as “kAntirava”. So, nIlagriva is also a name of nArAyaNa. That means, an alternative interpretation for the mantra, namO astu nIlagrivyAya sahasrAkshAya midhushE… in the first anuvAkam can mean “I salute the black throated narasimha, who is omniscient and a showerer of boons like a dark rain bearing cloud, as well as his devotees like prahlAda”.

But to interpret it as referring to vibhUtis is also correct. The veda can have more than one meaning.

3) SitikaNta - The white-necked, ie, one who speaks only sattvik speech. White color stands for sattva guna and it refers to bhagavAn who is known as sarvavAgIsvarEsvara in the sahasranAmA, ie, white neck refers to sAttvic words and vedic speech emanating from him. srI vedAnta desika states that the “hala-hala” neighing sound of hayagriva is the very veda itself.

4) sUtAya ca, dUtAyaca - One who was a charioteer (for Arjuna) and one who was a messenger (for Pandavas). Both acts describe his quality of sousIlyam, ie, descending to lower levels for his devotees.
There are many such names which warrant closer attention and very unique ones. Besides that, here is a description of srI narasimha avatAra from the 8th anuvAkam.

While the entirety of Satarudriyam is glorifying srI narasimha as per the tApanIya Upanishad, it is pertinent to note that AnuvAkam 8 contains some mantras that directly allude to this avatAra, as opposed to other anuvAkas, that describe srI rAghavan’s kalyAna gunams, or the vishwarUpa. It would be good to look at these mantras in the context of Manyu Sukta.

These mantras are as follows:

Namas somAya ca rudrAya ca
Meaning: Salutations to the One who is sweet like nectar for bhaktas’ enjoyment (Soma) and to the One who makes others shed tears of joy on experiencing his kalyAna gunas (Rudra). 

He is thus, Soma and Rudra to bhaktas like PrahlAda as per Bhattar’s sahasranAma bhAshya for these nAmas.

Namas tAmrAya ca ArunAya ca
Meaning: One who exhibits the qualities of paravAsudevan (tAmra) and the vyUha sankarshana (aruna).

Please refer my previous write-up of Shri Rudram for the explanation of the interpretation of tAmra and aruna.

Namas sangAya ca paShupatayE ca
Meaning: Salutation to the One who gives happiness (to PrahlAda) and to the Lord of Animals (Pashupati).

Bhagavan is a simham. And a simham is known as MrgEndra, the King of Animals. In this form, he gave ananda to prahlAda. Hence, it is appropriate to call him paShupati. Nrusimha tApanIya also states paShupati to be a name of narasimha. The mahAnArAyaNopanishad refers to BhagavAn as the Lord of Bipeds and Quadrupeds as well.

Some commentators interpret paShu as jIva and bhagavan as Lord of jivAs. While this is correct, this is not right for the context. The term paShupati occurs elsewhere in the Rudram where this interpretation can fit in. Here, “Lord of Animals” seems to fit the context.

Namah ugrAya ca bhImAya ca
Meaning: Salutations to the One whose lofty actions destroy enemies and make me grow (Ugra) and to the One who is terrible to the adharmIs (like hiranyakasipu).

This meaning of Ugra is from Mantra rAja pada stotram “ugram veeryam…”. The meaning of BhIma is from Bhattar’s vyAkhyAnam on Vishnu sahasranAma.

NamO agrEvadhAya ca dUrEvadhAya ca
Meaning: One who kills his enemies in front (Agrevadha) and One who removes their strength while staying at a distance (dUrEvadhA).

He destroyed Hiranyakasipu in direct combat. Prior to that, he, without even appearing, ensured that all of Hiranyakasipu’s attempts to murder prahlAda was in vain.

NamO hantrE ca hanIyasE ca
Meaning: One who dispenses punishments to those with ahamkAram (hantrE) and One who punishes the bhagavad/bhagavata aparAdhIs (hanIyasE).

Hiranyakasipu was guilty of both of these. 

NamO vrkshEbyo harikEshEbhyO
Meaning: Salutations to the One in the form of trees with green leaves.

The leaves refer to karma. The tree is samsArA. So, he is the One who keeps the jivAs in samsArA. Or, the tree is the vedas and the leaves are the karmas prescribed by the vedas. He is thus, the Lord of the Vedas. The nrusimha tApanIya describes him as “IshAnas sarvavidyAnAm”.

namO tArAyacha
Meaning: Salutations to He who helped jivAs like prahlAda cross the ocean of samsArA and bestowed the boon of moksha.

Namas shambhavE ca mayOpavE ca
Meaning: One who causes happiness by the beauty of his appearance as half-man, half- lion (shambhu) and One who causes happiness by the beauty of his appearance in sri vaikuntam (mayOpavE).

“nArasimha vapuh srImAn” – he is very beautiful. The meaning for Shambhu is as per Bhattar bhAshyam on sahasranAma.

Namas shankarAyaca mayaskarAya ca
Meaning: Salutations to He who destroys our difficulties (Shankara) and he who provides pleasure of moksha (mayaskarA).

One of the meanings of Shankara is the destroyer of troubles. Having done so, he provides moksha.

Namas sivAya ca sivatarAya ca
Meaning: Salutations to the One who confers auspiciousness (Shiva) and to the One who is the greatest among those that confer auspiciousness (ShivatarA)

Thus, we have seen how the Satarudriyam eulogises Narasimha. The manyu sUktam describes the means to attain him and the benefits he confers. “Shiva” is interpreted as per bhagavad guna darpanam.

Note that this portion can even be interpreted in favour of srI rAma. As I mentioned, the two avatArAs are connected.