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Sri Rudram Vaishnava commentary -- Anuvakas 2 to 11

Anuvaka 2 – The 5 forms of sriman nArAyaNa and their functions

Namo Hiranya bahave senanyou disham ca patayou namo |

Meaning: Salutations to ParavAsudevan (Lord of srI vaikunta), with golden ornaments on his arms. Salutations to the commander of the army of nitya sUrIs present in all directions for everyone’s protection.

“vishvaksena” nAmam in sahasranAmA - One who has army in all directions for protection of his devotees. The sloka "yasya dvirada vaktrAdhyah.." also talks of an army of nitya sUrIs with Vishvaksena as their commander.

Namo vrukshebhyo harikeshebhyah pashunam patayou namo Namah |

Meaning: Salutations to the Protector of the jIvAs (paravAsudevan), who has a golden mane. Salutations to the same paravAsudevan who is the possessor (pati) of the jIvas who possess anger or attachments (paShunAm).

"vRksha" - this name appears in the sahasranAma and signifies he gives protection to his devotees like a shady tree from the heat of samsAra. The distiguishing quality of paravAsudeva is that he alone is the supreme protector.

"harikEsha" - This is a reference to the form of ParavAsudeva as Narasimha. The term "kEsha" means hair or mane. "Hari" refers to the golden color of the mane. According to the pramAnA in the sahasranAma:

- "nArasimha vapuH srImAn" - his form as Narasimha is beautiful.

- The chAndogya upanishad also says - ya eSho.antarAditye hiraNmayaH puruSho dR^ishyate hiraNyashmashrurhiraNyakesha ApraNasvAtsarva eva suvarNaH  || tasya yathA kapyAsaM puNDarIkamevamakShiNI tasyoditi nAma sa eSha sarvebhyaH pApmabhya udita.

The upanishad refers to his hair as "hiraNyakesha". Sri Ranga rAmAnuja muni identifies the form of bhagavAn as the indweller of the Sun as Sri Narasimha only because of the reference to his golden mane.

The nrisimha tApanIya upanishad and the vishNu sahasranAma identify the Lord of Vaikunta (ParavAsudeva) as possessing the form of Narasimha in particular. The reason is likely due to the fact that SankarshanOpAsaNa is the penultimate step to mukti and therefore, this form of Narasimha, which is verily that of Sankarshana, can be termed as the paramaM padaM itself. The Narasimha mUrthy is equal to paravAsudeva mUrthy in all respects.

"paShunAm patayE" - "paShu" refers to anger or attachments. Thus, the jIvas who are closely associated with anger or attachments are "paShus". The Lord is "pati" or the possessor of these jIvas, ie, they are his body and hence his property, and he is the inner controller who rules over them. The significance of saying this is to highlight the reason why he is the protector of these jIvAs as indicated by "vRksha" - it is because they are his body and his property, thus he has a natural affection for them despite their faults of being associated with anger or attachments.

saspincharaya tvishimate pathinam patayou namo |

Meaning: Salutations to The Lord who leads us through the shining ArchirAdi, beginning with the passage through the Sun (yellow/red), the Lord of all paths (archirAdi, dhUmAdhi and 3rd gathi).

YajnavAlkya describes the archirAdi gathi as yellow/red in the brihadAranyaka up. because of passage through the sun.

Namo babhlu shaya vivyadhinen nanam Patayou namo |

Meaning: Salutations to ParavAsudevan who rests on Adi Sesha who is the supporter of the worlds (babhrushAya), transfixing all the liberated jivAs and Salutations to the ParavAsudevan, the Lord of bliss (or) the jivAs in sri vaikunta.

sahasranAma says "RudrO bahushirA babhru" – babhru – he as adi sesha supports the worlds. Refer Bhagavatam. Adi Sesha is known as babhRu, the supporter of the worlds and does so with the power (aMsha) of Sankarshana in him.

"babhlu" becomes "babhRu". Synonyms due to grammar.

Vivyadhinen – he transfixes the jivAs with his kalyAna guNams. "sadA pashyanti sUraya:". BhagavAn is the center of attention in srI vaikuntA and the liberated jivAs enjoy him incessantly.

Annam – “ahaM annam”, says taittirya up. – the liberated jivAs are annam because bhagavAn accepts their services. Thus, the jivAs are like food for bhagavAn, who is the enjoyer.

Or, Annam – kalyAna gunaMs that sustain muktAs, nityAs and bhagavAn himself.

Namo harike shayopavitine pustanam patayou namo |

Meaning: Salutations to ParavAsudevan who is black-haired and ever-young (nitya yuva), wearing yajnOpavitham. Salutations to the Lord of the liberated jivAs who possess all perfections.

Refer srI vaikunta gadyam of swami yatirAjar which has a similar description.

Namo bhavasya hetyai jagatam patayou namo |

Meaning: Salutations to the destroyer of worlds/ignorance (Sankarshana). Salutations to the creator Pradyumna (jagat pati – Lord of the Universe, who creates it).

Sutram 182 of Tattva Trayam – Swami Mamunigal on the vyUhAs – acharyan says the vyUhAs have different functions.

Namo Rudrayata ta vine kshetranam patayou namo namah |

Meaning: Salutations to Aniruddha the destroyer of the disease samsArA (Rudra) who protects with extended bow, ie, protects the jagath continually (Aniruddha) and the Lord of KshetrAs (Archa avatArA)

Refer Bhattar bhAshyam for “vishvaksena” in sahasranama – reference to aniruddha as the continual and ever vigilant protector. Kshetras refer to the form in temples (arca avatArA)

Suta yahantyaya vananam patayou namo |

Meaning: Salutations to He who is the charioteer (the antaryAmin) of the jivAtmA (ahantyA) and the Lord of forests (the vedas).

Ahantya refers to pure self. Swami Vedanta Desikan often compares the vedas to a forest.

The body is like a chariot with the antaryAmin being the charioteer and the jivA being the passenger.

Namo rohitaya stha patayou vrikshanam patayou namah |

Meaning: Salutations to He who is red like the inside of a lotus, present everywhere, the Lord of trees, ie, the greatest of protectors.

Rohita – name occurs in sahasranAmA (rohitO mArgO).

SahasranAmA also contains varunO vArunO vRkshah – he provides protection like a shady tree and is firm, being the resort for the wise. He protects by virtue of his beauty in all the forms described above, present everywhere.

"Trees" thus refer to various protectors. "vRkshAnam pataye" means he is the protector of these protectors, or the greatest of them all.

Namo mantrine vanijaya kakshanam patayou namah |

Meaning: Salutations to the Lord of all mantras (vyApaka and avyApaka), Propounder of the Vedas with their parts (vedAngAs).

MantAram trayate = that which protects by its meaning, and he is the meaning of all mantrAs as supreme upAyam and upEyam.

vAni = vAk = veda, jAya = bringing forth.

kaXaa = parts of vedas = vedAngAs.

By propounding sAstra, he protects.

Namo bhuvantayou varivaskrutayau shadhinam patayou namo |

Meaning: Salutations to the one who nourishes/supports the earth (by his avatArAs) as he bestows wealth (of kaimkaryam) and  Salutations to the One who is the greatest of all medicines (ie, he is the supreme medicine for samsARa).

This describes the vibhava avatArA. So far, all other forms were described.

Not stopping with propounding sAstra, he does the above to protect – takes avataras, gives the opportunity to experience and serve him (wealth) and hence is the best medicine of samsara.

SambhavO bhAvanO in sahasranAmA = he takes avatArAs (sambhavO) and regenerates the worlds by removing their evils (bhAvanO).

He also reveals the purpose of propounding sAstra and the meaning of mantras by showing it in practice through his avatArAs.

He is "Aushadam" as this name occurs in sahasranama. Nammazhwar also says maruthuvanAi ninRa mAmanivanna!

Nama ucchair ghoshaya krandayate pattinam patayou namo |

Meaning: (Purpose of his avataras ) Salutations to Him whose roar scares the asurAs (who hinder enjoyment of sriman nArAyaNa), he who destroys the enemies (pApa karmas) without assistance and Salutations to He who is the Lord of those who move (towards him in devotion), ie, the bhakti yOgIs and prapannAs.

Patti = to move, refers to his devotees.

The last two mantras talked of sAdhu paritrAnam and this mantra talked about vinAshAya ca duskrtAm – two angas of protection as per Gita.

His pAnchajanya scared the Kauravas, his hUnkArA defeated Shiva in the rAmAyaNa and kArtikEya in bAnAsura yuddham (harivamSha), his roar scared the tripurAsuras - plenty of pramAnAs for "uccair ghoShAya".

Namah krutsnavitaya dhanvate satvanam patayou namah |

Meaning: (Vibhava contd.) Salutations to One who is Omniscient (and thus knows the sufferings of his devotees), runs (to save his devotees), and Salutations to One who thus is the protector (patayou) of his devotees – all 4 classes mentioned in the Gita.

The previous mantra said he protected those jnAnIs who sought him alone (patti) and move towards him always in devotion. This mantra says he protects ALL devotees - even the others like Arta, ArthArthi and JignyAsu besides the jnAnIs by using the term "satvanAm".

Arta = One who seeks to regain wealth he has lost.

ArthArthi = One who wants new wealth.

JignyAsu = One who seeks knowledge of the pure self, divested of prakrti.

JnAni = bhakti yOgis and prapannAs who consider bhagavAn as their goal to be attained.


In this whole anuvAka, the word “pati” must be interpreted as “possessor of” or “master of” as opposed to “Lord of”. Because, everything is the body of bhagavAn and hence his property. So, he possesses everything as his inseparable attributes.

Namah sahamanaya nivyadhina avyadhin inam patayou namah |

Meaning: To the one who is always victorious and forgives the faults of his devotees, who strikes down the enemies in the form of ruchi (desire for sense gratification), the Lord among subduers.

Nivyadhina means striking down, AvyAdhini refers to enemies which rob us of our true nature – the ruchi or inclination for objects of enjoyment that attract our senses, etc.

Namah kakubhaya nishanginestenanam patayou namo |

Meaning: The possessor or master (pati) of those stealthy thieves who are foremost in, having ability to cleave ie, remove (atmA from body)

This refers to kaivalyArTis who are immersed in the bliss of the individual self and do not progress to paramAtma anubhava. They are called thieves as they have stolen a property of bhagavAn, namely themselves (the AtmA). Instead of aiming to serve bhagavAn, they prefer meditating on the jivA’s individual bliss.

They are stealthy since they are classed as sAttvikas but their goal is not paramAtma.

“Nishangi” can be interpreted as cleaving. Kakubhaya – best.

Namo nishangina ishudhimate taskaranam patayou namo |

Meaning: The Possessor of those who steal openly, holding an arrow and bow, with a quiver of arrows.

“Arrows” refers to organs of action and “Bow” refers to the mind. “quiver of arrows” implies that the activities of the organs of action are abundant. This refers to those who are attracted to materialistic pursuits and hence openly opposed to bhagavad anubhava. They are asurAs.

Note – The word “steal” is used because the jivA considers himself as independent; it is theft from the paramAtma’s point of view.

Namo vanchate pari vanchate stayunam patayou namo |

Meaning: One who is the master of those who know his mastery but cheats his master, of those who cheat at all times, of those who profess sincerity but cheat without revealing themselves.

The mahAbHArata refers to theivery and cheating as "One who steals the AtmA by not knowing its true nature". Anyone, who does not accept the atmA as the sarIram and hence, sesha (servant) as well as the property of bhagavAn, is a thief as he has stolen bhagavAn's property (namely himself).

In the seventh chapter of Gita, Krishna mentions 4 types of people with Asuric behaviour – mUdaH, nara-adhamAh, mAyayA apa-hrta jnAna and Asuram bhAvam AsritaH. The last 3 are described in this mantra.

Vanchate – People who know bhagavAn from his deeds and general guNams, but do not have a complete knowledge of his essential nature. Hence, they do not approach him due to lack of knowledge of his easy accessibility. Ie, these are people who have studied the sAstras and accept existence of bhagavAn, but have no clear knowledge and do not approach him (nara adhamAh).

Parivanchate – The ones who hate bhagavAn no matter how much they get to know him and harm themselves through deceitful reasoning (Asuram bhAvam AsritaH). The more they know of his greatness, the more they hate him.

stAyu – People with good knowledge of bhagavAn, but who get swayed by deceitful arguments and harm themselves (mAyayA apa-hrta jnAna). These people claim to follow the sAstras, but are kuDrsHtIs who give interpretations that go against bhagavAn.

He is the master of all these.

Namo nicherave paricharayaranyanam patayou namo |

Meaning: The Master of those whose vAsaNas, dEha sambandham, ahamkAraM causes them to move away from true knowledge.

Nicheru – creeping – refers to our influences and tendencies (vAsaNas).

parichara – moving away , araNya – forest which is a metaphor for knowledge (vidyAraNyam) – indicative of penance and meditation which yield knowledge.

This is the type of person who is described as mUdAH in gita – gratification of the senses is their only goal. They have zero knowledge of the highest purUshArtham.

Namah shrukavibhyo jigham sadbhyo mushnatam patayou namo |

Meaning: The lord who holds the weapon (sword) to slay the ahamkAram which steals true knowledge of self.

Shrukavi – holder of weapon, jighamsadbhya – intention to kill, mushnatam – those enemies who steal (knowledge of our true nature).

Does he forsake those above 4 groups? No. He is ever ready to even help them.

Namo simadbhyo naktam charadbhyah prakruntanam patayou namo |

Meaning: The Lord who bears the swords (potency) to cleave the bodies of the jivAtmas or remove the ignorance of those wandering in ignorance/samsArA.

After removing ahamkAram, he gives moksha or true jnAnam. This is the way he helps them. Once he finds the slightest excuse, he acts to bring them towards him.

Naktamchara – One who wanders in ignorance, asimadbhyo – swords (indicates his great prowess), prakruntanam (cutting).

Nama ushnishine giricharaya kuluncha nam patayou namo |

Meaning: Master of those who wear a crown or thiruparivattam (those who have mastered the sAstras and attained parama-purushArtham), those who wander (search) through the sAstras and those who pluck the hairs of their head (nAstikAs).

Ushnishine – Those who wear an ornament on their heads. Ie, they have realised the true purushArtham of the veda.

Giri - veda, giricharA - wandering through the veda sAstra trying to ascertain the true puruShartham or those attached to several lower purushArthams prescribed by the veda.

Kuluncha - One who plucks hairs – they cause himsa to themselves. This refers to nAstika-s. By their false reasoning, they hurt themselves.

Nama ishumadbhyo dhanvavibhyascha vo namo |

Meaning: Salutations to you who carry the arrows and bows (for the devotees to enjoy as ornaments and hence, distracted from other sense enjoyments).

1st anuvAkam, 1st mantra mentions this. Refer jitantE stOtra as well – his weapons are not for himself but for his devotees. This could be a summation of the various forms such as the vyUhAs and upa-vyUhAs as well.

Nama atanvanebhyah pratida dhane bhyascha vo namo |

Meaning: Salutations to you who string the bow and fit the arrows in them.

This shows he possesses the resolve to protect – satya sankalpathvam.

Nama ayacchadbhya visrujad bhyascha vo namo |

Meaning: Salutations to you of many forms who pull the bow-string and discharge your arrows.

This shows his strength to protect.

Namo syadbhyo vidhyad bhyascha vo namo |

Meaning: Of those forms who shoot the arrows and strikes the desired targets.

He, in the numerous forms he takes, destroys our obstacles to true knowledge of Brahman, sriman nArAyaNa.

Nama ashinebhyash shayane bhyascha vo namo |

Meaning: Salutations to the forms that are sitting and lying down.

Azhwars say “ninrAn irundhAn kidanthAn nadanthAn” (He stands, sits, lies down and walks). Nammazhwar says Pulingudiyil kidandthu varagunamangai irundhu vaikuntathil ninRu – meaning, he lies down in Thirupulingudi, sits in Varagunamangai and stands in srI vaikuntam (these are divya kshetras in tamil nadu). The act of lying down, sitting and standing show that these forms are impatient and restlessly waiting for the jivA to come to him. The analogy is that of a restless person compulsively sitting down, walking, etc in anticipation of something.

Namah svapadbhyo jagrad bhyascha vo namo |

Meaning: salutations to the presiding deities of the waking and sleeping states (the vyUhAs).

Even during sleep and waking, he is the one who makes the self enjoy the objects of enjoyments. So, attachments and the lack thereof during sleep and waking states are due to him. He is the maker of dreams as well.
So, he is present to protect us during both sleeping and waking states. The vyUhas are the presiding deities of the waking and sleeping states as well and they protect us in those states.

Nama stishthadbhyo dhavad bhyascha vo namo |

Meaning: Salutations those forms that stand up and run (towards the devotees).

These forms also exist for our sake and show his impatience in saving the jivA.

Namah sabhabhya sabhapati bhyascha vo namo |

Meaning: To you, who is the body and the jivAs in such bodies, the baddhas (and hence, the jivAs in it).

Sabha – body, an assemblage of organs.

Sabhapati – the jivAs, who own such bodies - samsArIs.

He is the self of the bodies as well as the jivAs adhering in such bodies. Nammazhwar says “adiyEn ullAn udaL ullAn” (He is in me, the Self/servant and in my body as well). and hence, by sAmAnAdhikaraNyam, is equated to them.

This explains the reason why he wants to save them, as they are his property, he is duty-bound to save them. After all, an owner would want to ensure all his property is safe!

Namo ashvebhyo svapati bhyascha vo namah ||

Meaning: One who is the form of no tomorrows, ie, destroyer of births for these jivAs (the upAyam) and One who is of the form of such nityAs and muktAs who have no tomorrow (ie, their upEyam) as well.

Thus, in order to destroy our enemies and give us mOksha, he is the upAyam and upEyam as well. Not only is he the sole purushArtham, he also is the means to help us get the purushArtham. Why is he the means? Because, as the previous mantra said, we are his property. Hence, it is in his interests to rescue us and we need not do any sAdhana to attract his attention as it is already given to us.


Throughout this anuvAkam, bhagavAn is equated with various things like intellect, sense organs, the jivAs, prakrti, etc. This is because of the fact that everything is his body as per the sAstras. Just as names of the body denote the self that is inseparably attached to the body, all names denote bhagavAn, the indweller of all that is his body. But since he has associated with this body out of his own will and not due to karma, he is unaffected by the sorrows and doShams of the body.

With that understanding, let us explore the 4th anuvAkam, which is most interesting.

Nama avyadhinibhyo vividhyanti bhyascha vo namo |

Meaning: One who is of the form of the objects of desire and the diseases (anubhOktavyam) that arise from them.

avyAdhinI – As this is in the feminine case, it can be taken as ruchI in the previous anuvAkam. Swami pillai lOkAchAryar, in his work “samsArA sAmrAjyam”, describes the desires in the feminine form, as the “wives” (pinivargangal) of the jivA, who need to be experienced.

vivyAdhInI refers to what swami pillai lOkAchAryar, in the same work, refers ro as “anubhOktavyam” – they are diseases which are the outcome of such enjoyment. These are also metaphorically referred to as female servants by the achAryan in this work – niDrAdevi (enjoying the phalans), dariDradevi (who brings daridram), aSuchidevi (disinclination towards sattvam) and sadAdukhavarshinI (One who showers sorrow).

Nama uganabhya strumhati bhyascha vo namo |

Meaning: Of the form of superior qualities like mEdhA, anasUya, vidyA, etc which crush the ruchi and anubhOktavyam.

As the evils are described in the feminine case, so are the good qualities. Swami vedAnta desikan says that One must never give vidyA to one who has clasped the hands of asUya, thus personifying vidyA and asUya as females. So, it is implied that vidyA must be present with us along with anasUya. These “feminine” qualities are alluded to here, along with others like mEdha (intelligence). If the jivA possesses these qualities, he can develop vairAgyam.

Namo grutsebhyo gratsapati bhyascha vo namo |

Meaning: Of the form of intelligence (needed for bhakti yOga) and the Ones with such intelligence (ie, ability to undertake bhakti yOga).

Intelligence refers to the capacity for undertaking bhakti yOgA, which is jnAna viSeshaNa and is often referred to as “buddhi yOgA". This is the most appropriate meaning considering the succeeding mantrAs.

Namo vratebhyo vrata pati bhyascha vo namo |

Meaning: Of the form of different associations (inclinations, desires, guNams, karmas) and the jivAs with such associations.

In order to discriminate between truth and falsity, and understand the tattvas so that knowledge needed for bhakti yOga can be obtained, these mantras now describe the tattvas about bhagavAn and jivAs. Knowing this will give us the discriminatory knowledge.

vrAta – associations of different inclinations, vAsaNas, tendencies, the varying proportions of the three guNas and the pApa-puNya karmas.

vrAtapati – the jivAs possess such inclinations.

Namo ganebhyo ganapati bhyascha vo namo |

Meaning: One who is the form of such different classes (varNa and jAti, manushya, deva, etc arising from associations) and the jivAs who posses such classes OR Lord (sriman nArAyaNa) of all classes.

Here, gaNam refers to the classes of varNa, jAti and the type of being – manuShya, deva, plants, animals, etc that arise from such associations mentioned in the previous mantrA.

gaNapati can be directly interpreted as sriman nArAyaNa, who is the Lord causing such classes based on the jivas’ karma. Or, it can be interpreted as the jivAs who possess such distinctions.

Namo virupebhyo vishvarupe bhyascha vo namo |

Meaning: One who is of manifold forms due to the universe being his body.

“yasya Atma sarIram”, yasya prithvi sarIram”, “anganyAnya devatA”, “jagath sarvam sarIram tE” are statements from shruti and smrtI that substantiate this interpretation.

The equation of the jivAs and their characteristics with paramAtmA so far is explained as the logic of co-ordinate predication (sAmAnAdhikaranNyam) due to sarIrAtma bhAvam in this mantra.

viSvarUpa - the viSvam (universe) is his rUpam (form, ie, body).

Namo mahadbhyah kshullake bhyascha vo namo |

Meaning: One who is greater than the greatest and who is smaller than the smallest (indwelling self of the jivA).

The daharavidyA and nArAyaNa suktam describe him as subtler than the subtle jivA. This very subtle daharAkAsam is also described as greater than the greatest.

Sriman nArAyaNa is very subtle because he is the indweller of even the jivAtma, which is aNu and the daharAkAsan in the heart lotus. He is very great as he is the abode of all objects of enjoyment, ie, he supports the universes and everything within them that are objects of enjoyment for the jivA.

Namo rathibhyo rathe bhyascha vo namah |

Meaning: One who is of the form of the intellect (buddhi) and the pure self, divested of prakrti.

rathI – One driving the chariot, ie, charioteer – The katOpanishad refers to the intellect as the charioteer of the body which is the chariot.

arathE – One who is not the body, or who has no body, ie, the jivAtma in its pure state, divested of prakrti, of the form of knowledge and bliss. The pure self is omniscient due to extended dharma bhUta jnAnA.

Namo rathEbhyo rathapati bhyasca vo namah |

Meaning: One who is of the form of the bodies and the jivAs associated with such bodies.

Ratham – Chariot – refers to body.

Rathapati – the jivA inseparably associated with the body. The katOpanishad declares the jivAtmA in the body as the master of the chariot.

One should note that in the previous mantra, “aratE” denoted the pure self disassociated from the body, whereas “rathapati” here denotes the jivAs inseparably associated with the body (and hence, with contracted dharma bhUta jnAnA). This avoids redundancy.

Nammazhwar says “adiyEn ullAn, uDal ullAn” – he is in me, the servant and in my body as the indweller.

Namah senabhya senani bhyascha vo namah |

Meaning: One who is of the form of his devotees and the Lord of his devotees.

srI parAsara bhattar interprets “Sena” as “inena vartate iti senA” – “inena” means “svAmin saha” – One who is always with bhagavAn is sena.
Thus, his devotees are known as Sena. Senani – Lord of such devotees.

Although he is in everything as described by the previous mantrAs, he cherishes his devotees more than anyone.

Namah kshattrubhya sangrahitru bhyascha vo namah |

Meaning: One who is always attending (to the needs of the jivAtmA) and One who wins over the jivA.

He is ever vigilant and waits patiently for some excuse to make the jivA turn towards him. Once he finds that excuse, he immediately bestows the jnAnA on the jivA and makes the jivA realise his mastery.

sayaNa interprets kshattr as “antaHpurAdhyAksha”, which is the meaning I have used here. He attends on the jivAtma, ie, fulfills all his desires, gives the jivA permission to act (pratama pravrtti) and also waits to find an excuse to turn the jivA towards him.

Nama stakshabhyo ratha kar bhyascha vo namah |

Meaning: One who is of the form of carpenters (jivAs, doer of action) and the the instruments – ie, the organs of action and senses of knowledge (constituting the body).

From this mantra onwards, the condition of the baddha jivAs wallowing in samsArA is described to gain an understanding of our position. As always, bhagavAn is equated to these jivAs by the logic of sarIrAtma bhAva.

He is of the form of the carpenters (signifying the jivAs, the doer) and makes the instruments, ie, the organs of action and senses of knowledge for the jivA to perform sAdhaNa.

The brahma sutrAs refer to the jivAtma as a carpenter. Bhagavad rAmAnujar ascertains that the sutrAs declare prakrti cannot be responsible for action; it is the intelligence of the jivAtmA that performs action. Again, the jivA is not active always. Just as a carpenter has his tools with him always, but works only when he wishes. The jivAtma, though provided with instruments of action, works when he pleases. Just as the carpenter is different from his tools, the jivAtma is different from the body.

It is bhagavAn who furnishes us with organs of action and the senses of knowledge. Why does he give us these? To perform sAdhaNa to attain bhagavAn.

So, this mantra shows that the knowledge provided by bhagavAn, is 1) the jivAtma is the doer and different from its body, 2) the organs of action and the senses of knowledge are provided by bhagavAn based on karma for performance of sAdhana to reach him.

Rathakar – the instruments of action. This can be interpreted as body-maker as “ratha” signifies body. But due to succeeding mantras declaring the jivA to be the potter, etc, it would be better to take this as Ratha – instruments of action and knowledge (ie, organs of action and 5 senses of knowledge), kar – action, ie, “One who makes the organs of actions and the senses of knowledge that constitute the body” as it suits the context and avoids redundancy.

ThiruchandaviRuttam of Thirumazhisai azhwar – pAsuram 3 refers to bhagavAn as the One who gives us the instruments of action – organs and senses.

Namah kulalebhyah karmare bhyascha vo namah |

Meaning: One who is of the form of the potters (jivAs connected to pleasure-pain through their bodies) and the makers of metal (the modifications of prakrti such as mahaT, etc and the karmas of jivAs that result in varying proportions of sattva, rajas and tamas).


One who is of the form of the potters (jivAs connected to pleasure-pain through their bodies) and the makers of metal (the jives that transmigrate with subtle bodies to create new ones).

In the srI bhAshyam, it is mentioned that Potters direct their tools to make pots with the help of their own bodies and similarly, the jivAs thus, directs its intelligence to experience pleasure or pain through its own bodies. But is the jivA the doer? No, it is the modifications of prakrti starting from mahaT and the karmAs of jivAs, designated as “makers” in this mantra that result in the manifestation of three guNams of sattva, rajas and tamas, designated as “metal”.

The information about the 3 guNams being modifications of prakrti are described in gita bhAshya of yatirAjA, particularly under the slokas 13.22 and 14.5.

The Tripura samhArA contains the following incident – the asura maya constructed three cities of Iron, Silver and Gold. The inner meaning is that the asura maya stands for prakrti designated as mAyA and the three metals used for building the cities are the 3 guNams – sattva, rajas and tamas. So, “metal” here refers to these guNams.
Or, “metal” refers to the subtle body carried by the jivAtma to a new birth, which it uses to create a new body. YajnavAlikya compares the jives to a goldsmith in the BrihadAranyaka Upanishad. The goldsmith uses existing gold to create ornaments, similarlyt the jivA has its subtle body with vAsaNas to create a new body.

Namah punjishtebhyo nishade bhyascha vo namah |

Meaning: Of the form of those who accumulate (karmas) and of the form of those who torture others to gain the objects of their desires.

Swayed by the organs of action and knowledge, along with the influence of the guNas, the jivAs accumulate puNya and pApa karmas with their actions. Due to the influence of the guNams, the jivAs, to attain the objects of their desire, also causes himsa both to himself and to others.

In the rAmAyaNa, an interpretation is given for niShAda as a description of rAvaNa - itaraam saadayati piiDayati iti niSaada – rAvaNa is called nishAda as he tortures others for his benefit. That interpretation fits the context here.

Punjishta refers to accumulating.

Nama ishukrudbhyo dhanva krud bhyascha vo namah |

Meaning: Of the form of the makers (jivAs) of arrows (mind sharpened with meditation on paramAtmA) and bows (the knowledge of the Upanishads).

MundakOpanishad 2.2.4 – The arrow symbolises the mind which is constantly meditating on bhagavAn and understanding the sesha-seshI (servant-master) relationship between jivAtmA and sriman nArAyaNa. The bow symbolises the praNava, which talks about the relationship between jivA and paramAtmA.

“Arrows” are in plural because of the plurality of jivAs and their minds. “maker” refers to the jivAs who hone themselves with meditation and knowledge.

As “bows” are in plural unlike the mundakOpanishad, one must take it as many types of knowledge. SwamI periyavAcchan pillai says that jnAna and vairAgya, the components of true knowledge, are of many types. Since the guNams of bhagavAn are many, the knowledge of them is also many. Since there are many different things to develop vairAgyam about, the vairAgyam is also many. Hence, the plurality is justified here as well.

Namo mrugayubhyah sva ni bhyascha vo namo |

Meaning: Of the form of animals (anger) and fires (meditative knowledge of sriman nArAyaNa).

mRga – animal – refers to the anger (ie, the attachments and desires of the jivA that result in anger) which need to be sacrificed in the fire that is contemplative knowledge of sriman nArAyaNa, the inner self of all beings.

The mahAnArAyaNopanishad describes nyAsa vidyA, the prapatti marga with the metaphor of a sacrifice and instructs how it should be performed. The Upanishad equates the anger to an animal (paShu) and the knowledge of Brahman as the inner self of all beings as the fire in which it must be sacrificed.

The anger referred to as “paShu” in the Upanishad, is mentioned as “mRgam” here.

This refers to the sAdhaNa that must be performed with the sharpened mind and knowledge. Even before the progression of bhakti yOga, anga prapatti must be performed to destroy the karmas that obstruct the commencement of bhakti yOga proper.

Namah svabhyah svapati bhyascha vo namah ||

Meaning: Of the form of auspicious tomorrows (births through which the sAdhaNa must be done for a long period) and the jivAs who go through many such auspicious births (before getting liberated).

In the previous anuvAka, we had “ashvEbhyo ashvapati” – ashva means no tomorrow and indicated the end of the cycle of births. Ashvapati is one who possesses this trait of no tomorrows, ie, the jivAs who are muktas and nityas.

In this anuvAka, we have shvEbhyo – tomorrows, ie, births. shvEpati – jivAs who have such births left, ie, baddhas and in this context, mumukkshus desirous of mOksha, who perform sAdhaNa.

We interpret “shvEbhyo shvapati” as "auspicious births" and not merely general births – the process described is bhakti yOga and it takes many auspicious births for completion.

Sriman nArAyaNa will guide us through those auspicious births for completing that upAsaNa. Krishna says in the gitA “bahUnAm janmanAm ante jnAnavAn mAm prapadyantE”. After many auspicious births, one finally becomes a jnAnI. srI rAmAnujar does not interpret it as just “many births” because there are bad and good births. It makes no sense to say one can become a jnAni after any kind of birth because it negates the point of sAdhaNa itself if bad births are also included. So, the phrase “bahUnAm janmanAm” means “many auspicious births of highly sAttvic disposition”.

So, here too, shvEbhyO and shvEpati refer to auspicious births and the jivAs who take such auspicious births for completion of sAdhaNa and attainment of moksha, srI vaikuntA, by the unfailing guidance of Achyuta.


Swami nammazwar, in the thiruvaimOzhi, hails Oppiliappan, the Lord of thiruviNNagar divya desam, as the One who reconciles contrasting attributes as follows:

nalguravum selvum naragum suvarkkamumAy,
velpagaiyum naTpum viDamum amudamumAy,
palvagaiyum parandaperu mAnennai yALvAnai,
selvammalgu kuDittiru viNNagark kaNDEnE

Meaning: The Lord who manifests the apparently contradictory features of poverty and prosperity, hell and heaven, enmity and amity, and poison and nectar together (all-in-one) enslaved me. I saw him in the prosperous town tiruviNNagar (uppili appan kOvil/oppili appan kOvil).

This same tattvam is mentioned as “ahO rAtrE” (day and night) in the purusha sukta. He, being the parabrahman, is easily able to reconcile contradictory attributes. He has the snake (adi sesha) and eagle (garuda) as his servants for instance.

This guNam of reconciling contradictory attributes is termed by the wise and knowledgeable AchAryas of srI vaishnava/vishishtadvaita vedAntA as “agatitagatanA sAmarthyam”.

This guNam is the theme of this anuvAkam. The previous anuvAkam ended with the proclamation that bhagavAn would guide us through many auspicious births to mOksha. This anuvAkam shows what we must do to make our births auspicious, ie, we must meditate on his glorious attributes which superbly reconcile opposites.

Namo bhavaya cha Rudraya cha |

Meaning: Salutations to he from whom all effects emerge, ie, the cause of the Universe (ie, samsArA) and the destroyer of the disease of samsArA.

srI ranga rAmAnuja muni interprets "bhavA" in the upanishads as the name of sriman nArAyaNa, as he from whom all effects emerge.

As he is the creator of the universe who allots bodies based on karma, he keeps the baddha jivAs bound in samsArA which is also his sport (lOkavattu lIla kaivalyam). The sAstras say that this samsAra manDalam is like a toy for bhagavAn to play with.

At the same time, he liberates us from samsArA. Rudra means "rudaM saMsAraduHkhaM drAvayatIti rudra". Both srI ranga rAmAnuja muni and Bhatta bhAskara give this interpretation.

He is the one who keeps the baddhas bound in samsArA, and he is also the destroyer of the disease of samsArA. This is the contradiction.

Namah sharvaya cha pashupatayou cha |

Meaning: Salutations to the remover of sorrows of the jivAs and the possessor of anger to those same jivAs (paShupatayE).

“paShupati” is mentioned to be a name of narasimha as per the narasimha tApanIya Upanishad.

sharvA is a name of nArAyaNa as per the vishNu sahasranAmA. Bhattar gives the following meaning for sharvA – “sva sarIra bhUtAnAm asubhamapi srNAti iti sharvah” – he removes the evils of objects that are his body. As per “yasya AtmA sarIram, yasya prithvi sarIram”, the universe and jivAs are the body of Brahman. So, he removes evils, ie, sorrows of his devotees, who are his body.
Thus, he has compassion for the jivAs as they are his body.

At the same time, he possesses anger towards these same jivAs who constitute his body because of their transgressions. “paShu” means anger according to the mahAnArAyaNopanishad and “pati” means possessor of that anger designated by “paShu”.

Both prahlAda and hiranyakasipu are jivAs and constitute his body. He exhibited compassion to PrahlAda and anger to Hiranyakasipu. This is the contradiction.

Namo nilagrivaya cha shiti kanthaya cha |

Meaning: Salutations to Narasimha with the black throat and Hayagriva (or Narasimha himself) of White (sAttvic) voice/sound.

The narasimha tApanIya Upanishad refers to narasimhA as nIlalohita, ie, his body is red and the inside of his cavernous throat is black. In this terrifying form, he destroyed hiranyakasipu with blood curdling roars, hence known as “kAntIrava”.

But the same bhagavAn is also known as one of sweet and sAttvic speech. “shiti” means white and refers to sattva guNam. “kaNtha” means sound or voice. Hayagriva’s voice is the vedic speech itself and therefore, he is sitikaNtha.

There is thus, a reason why the veda uses “nilagrIva” and “sitikaNtha”. The usage of “griva” intends to show that the actual, ie, physical color of the throat (on the inside) revealed by his gaping jaws in narasimha avatAra is black. The usage of “kaNtha” is to make us understand that this refers to the voice or sound (as opposed to the neck) and therefore, “white” must be metaphorically taken to signify sattva guNam. Of course, hayagrivA is white (suddha sphatika sattva mUrthy) all over, but here, the reference is to his speech only.

It is also possible to interpret “SitikaNtha” as the same black throated  narasimhA, since he also spoke sweet words to prahlAda after killing hiranyakasipu.

The attribute of sAttvic sound emanating from bhagavAn is manifest clearly in hayagriva avatArA. In slokA 2 of srI hayagrIva stOtra, srI vedAnta desikan clearly states that the “hEsha-hala-hala” neighing sound of srI hayagrIva is the sound of the very veda and the essence of all the Upanishads.

This is the contradiction praised here. One who has a terrifying form with lion-roars as narasimha and who with a crystal white form who speaks sattvic speech as Hayagriva. Or, the same narasimha himself who spoke white (sAttvic) words of vedic purport to prahlAda.

Namah kapardinE cha vyuptake shaya cha |

Meaning: One with the matted locks (srI rAmA) and One with the shaven head (Buddha).

“kapardin” is a name of srI rAmA. The vAlmiki rAmAyaNa declares in many places that srI rAmA, who went to the forest, had matted locks and thus, is jaTadhAri. One such pramAnam is this,

niriikShya sa muhuurtam tu dadarsha bharato gurum |
uTaje raamam aasiinaam jaTaa maNDala dhaariNam || 2-99-25

niriikSya= looking around; muhuurtam= for a moment; saH bharataH= that Bharata; dadarsha= beheld; gurm= his elder brother; raamam= Rama; aasiinam= seated; uTaje= in the hut; jaTaamaN^Dala dhaariNam= wearing matted locks.

Looking around for a moment, Bharata beheld his elder brother, Rama himself seated in the hut, wearing matted locks.

He as Rama in the forest had matted locks (Kapardin) and He in his Buddha avatara had shaved head (vyuptakEsha). Bhagavatam and other texts mention his avatara as a shaven headed Buddha (not Gautama Siddhartha, but a Buddha from a previous yuga was Vishnu).

There is a contradictory guNam here and this is how we derive it. Reasoning is as follows - Rama went to the forest to, 1) satisfy the wishes of his father, 2) fulfill the wishes of the devas who surrended to him and defeat rAvaNa, 3) shower his grace on devotees like Guha, VibhishaNa, Sugriva, AnjanEya, etc.

Thus, the purpose of going to the forest and hence, wearing matted locks was to show the path of vedic dharma (obeying parents as well as showing his ability to protect the jivAs who surrender to him). Rama was also intolerant of nAstika vada like chAruvaka - this is mentioned in the rAmAyaNa.

Now, take the Buddha avatara - the purpose of shaving his head was to mislead the asurAs by negating that very dharma he had established with his forest travel and matted locks! Is this not a contradiction?

The texts say that in his Buddha avatArA, he was so convincing that even nArada, a great jnAnI, was briefly deluded and shaved his head, going to mahAvishnu and exclaiming joyfully, “I have discovered a wonderful new philosophy”, upon which bhagavAn corrected nArada and put him on the right path!

With matted locks, he established dharma and was known as the embodiment of dharma (rAmO vigrahavAn dharmA). With shaven head, he negated that very dharma. He who was the embodiment of dharma as srI rAmA, was the embodiment of adharma as Buddha!

This is the contradiction.

Namah sahasrakshaya cha shatadhanvane cha |

Meaning: One with omniscience and many bows (ie, varied actions).

Normally, “sahasra” and “sata” are taken as synonyms to mean “many” and “infinite”, but the vedas would never use both in the same sentence unless it is with different intent.

“sahasrAkshan” obviously refers to his omniscience.

“shatadhanvanE” – This means “many bows”. This can be interpreted as performing varied actions (bow being a metaphor for acts). What this means is, despite being supremely omniscient, he performs various actions during his avatArAs that appear contrary to that of an omniscient being. As srI rAmA, he lamented over sita’s disappearance, inquired the birds, trees, rivers, etc as to where she had been abducted. He feigned ignorance that he did not know the might of rAvaNa and also seemed apparently unable to distinguish between sugrIva and vAli when they were fighting (in reality, he wanted to kill vAli only when lakshmana garlanded sugrIva, the analogy being that lakshmana is the AchArya who blesses the sishya who is sugrIva, and without this blessing, parabrahman, srI rAmA, will not act).

In his archa avatArA, the form in temples, he seems quite helpless as well.

This mantra can also be interpreted in another way – he is omniscient because he knows all the jivAs. Yet, he helps the jivAs in myriad ways (shatadhanvanE), feigning ignorance of their faults.

Thus, he is both omniscient and ignorant. This is the contradiction.

Namo girishaya cha sipivishtaya cha |

Meaning: He who is the Lord of the form of clouds and also in the form of rays emanating everywhere (sun, fire etc.)

“Giri” means cloud. So “Girisha” means “Lord of clouds” or “Lord, who is in the form of clouds”. This is the most suitable interpretation that goes well with the meaning of Sipivista as given by srI parAsara bhattar in the vishNu sahasranAma as follows - raSmayah, tAn sampravishTah - vyAptavAn iti SipivishTah.

Clouds block the rays of the Sun. Yet, he is in both, ie, the indweller. Neither clouds nor rays of sun, fire, etc can function without his will. Thus, this is a contradiction.

Namo middhushta maya ceshumate cha |

Meaning: Salutations to the One who drenches the world with rain (ie, phalans for punya karmas) and to the possessor of arrows (phalans for pApa karmas).

“Drenching the world with rains” is a metaphor for providing us with desirable phalans. He is like a dark cloud that bestows us aishwaryam and other gifts based on our punya karmas. “possessor of arrows” implies his ability to punish us for pApa karmas. The metaphor is apt, since a shower of rains is pleasurable whereas a shower of arrows is certainly undesirable!

He provides the phalans of punya-pApa karmas. Thus, he is a benefactor as well as chastiser. This is the contradiction.

Namo hrasvaya cha vamanaya cha |

Meaning: The daharAkAsan in the heart lotus (who is always associated with srI) and vAmana (who feigned to be a brahmachAri).

Bhagavan abides in the lotus of the heart as the consort of Lakshmi. The nArAyaNa suktam says, “nIlatoyada madhyasthA vidyullekheva bhAsvarA” – His complexion is bluish-black and his consort, Lakshmi, who resides on chest, exudes such a powerful golden effulgence that it radiates from her place on his chest to the entirety of his body. Thus, his beautiful body becomes a happy blend of blackish golden color and he exists as srIya pathi: in the heart lotus – so goes the interpretation of srI vedAnta desikan in the varadarAja panchAsath and srI ranga rAmAnuja muni quotes this in his bhAshya for the nArAyaNa suktam.

But in vAmana avatAra, he was a brahmachari and feigned to be unmarried. Our achAryas say that he hid his chest (where Lakshmi resides always) with his upper cloth so that no-one would know he was married! Azhwars have mentioned this fact.

Thus, he is a gruhastha in the heart lotus and a brahmachAri as vAmanan.

Note that both forms, ie, daharAkAsan and vAmanan, are of short stature. The only difference between them is the presence and apparent absence of srI mahAlakshmi. This is the contradiction seen here.

Namo bruhate cha varshiyase cha |

Meaning: Salutations to the great One with parathvam (supremacy) and to the One with excellent qualities such as sousIlyam and soulabhyam (easy accessibility).

He is very great, the all-pervading brahman, from whom even mind and speech depart, unable to extol his greatness fully - yathO vAchO nivartantE aprApya manasA saha:.

But this great purusha, that even the vedas are unable to fathom, was easily accessible to the gopIs who did not have vedhAdhikAram, to jatAyu, a vulture by birth who was unqualified for vedic anushtAna, to Vibhishana, a rAkshasa by birth, to vidurA, whose company was preferred by Krishna over that of the great ones like Bhishma and Drona. This is the quality of soulabhyam (appearing in front of us) and sousIlyam (mingling with others of a lower status than him). Thirumangai Azhwar also says, “Ezhai edhalan kizhmagan ennAdhirangi” (He, the lofty one, descended to make friends with Guha).

Thus, this mantra extols the contradictory attributes of parathvam (absolute supremacy) and soulabhyam/sousIlyam (easy accessibility) of sriman nArAyaNa.

Namo vruddhaya cha samvrudhvane cha |

Meaning: To the One who is grown up (ie, all his desires are fulfilled) and to the One who keeps growing (ie, he expects services and praise from us).

BhagavAn is avApta samasta kAman, ie, One whose desires are fulfilled as per the sAstrAs. Yet, he is always ever eager to receive services from us. When he takes residence in a temple, he expects us to bathe him, feed him and praise him with stOtrA. In srI vaikuntam, he sits like a spoiled prince, enjoying his union with his 3 wives (srI, bhU and nilA), expecting all the jivAs to perform various services to him, sing stOtrAs, divya prabandhams and sAma ganam to him.

Despite being invulnerable, he wants us to pray for his protection by saying “pallAndu” or “jayA” (may auspiciousness and victory reign on you).

This is the contradiction praised here.

Namo Agriyaya cha prathamaya cha |

Meaning: He who is the cause and he who is the primary effect (the jivAtmA).

He is the causal brahman as well as the antaryAmin of the effected jivA. “prataMa” denotes the individual self which is greater than prakrti.

The contradiction here is the he is the cause as well as the effect since the effects are different states of the cause itself. When we say, he is the jivA, it is implied that he is the antaryAmin of the jivA as per sAmAnAdhikaraNyam and sarIrAtma bhAva.

This mantra can be understood by the meanings of “tat tvam asi” in the sath vidyA of chAndOgya Upanishad, detailed by swami rAmAnujar in his vedArtha sangraham.

As he is both the cause and effect, which is a wonder not seen anywhere else, this is a contradiction.

Nama Ashave chajiraya cha |

Meaning: Salutations to him who pervades everything (ie, does not move) and moves quickly.

The 5th mantra of the IsavAsya Upanishad, describes paramAtma, sriman nArAyaNa as he who moves and does not move. The Upanishad says he is unmoving as all other entities are pervaded by him always. But the Upanishad also says “AtyEti thiShtatH” – By residing as the inner self of all in everything, he overtakes the running ones and others.

This is contradiction seen here.

Namah shrighriyaya cha shibhyaya cha |

Meaning: He who is swift (quicker than the mind) and who moves quickly (towards his devotees ie, is attainable easily for his devotees).

The 4th and 5th mantras of the IsavAsya Upanishad explains this curious mantra in part. Since both the terms “shrighriya” and “shibhya” refer to quickness, they must be interpreted differently and also in the theme of reconciling contradictory attributes.

Shrighriya – He is swifter than the mind as he exists beyond the range of the mind’s perception.

Shibhya – Despite being beyond perception, he moves very quickly, ie, responds and makes himself known to his true devotees immediately. This interpretation is validated by the 5th mantra of the IsavAsya Upanishad which says “He is both near and afar” in the sense that he is near to those whose minds are placed in him with devotion, whereas he is far to those whose minds are attached to the objects of the senses. It is also the meaning of the name “dakshah” in the vishNu sahasranAmA (akrUrah pEshalO daksho) as given by srI parAshara bhattar – “dakshah” means he who responded very promptly to the cry of his devotee Gajendra who was caught by the crocodile.

So, we take the meaning, that though he is swifter than the mind, he moves very quickly towards his devotees and thus is near for them, as they can comprehend him easily.

Nama urmyaya chavas vanyaya cha |

Meaning: Salutations to One who is calm (grace) and who is turbulent (anger).

BhagavAn has two eyes. The sAstras and srI vaishnava AchAryAs say that one eye is like the cool moon that only looks at the merits of the jivAs and full of grace whereas the other eye is like the hot sun that perceives the demerits of the jivAs and is full of anger.

“urmya” means “undulating” which is a metaphor for calm and thus, refers to his graceful eye. “avasvanya” refers to roaring (or turbulent) and thus metaphorically refers to his other eye, which is full of anger. This is the contradiction here.

But with the mediation of srI mahAlakshmI (whose two eyes are both mercy), the anger of bhagavAn at our trespasses is assuaged.

Namah srotasyaya cha dvipyaya cha ||

Meaning: One who is the course/channel (upAya) and the sole refuge (upEyam).

The Upanishads say “amrtasya sEthu” – this brahman (amRta) is the bridge, ie, the means to attain the end. So, he is the upAyam.

Srotas = channel, dvIpa = supreme refuge.

Even if we take the literal meaning given by other commentators, ie, channel of water reaching an island, by saying he is that water and he is the island, it establishes that he is both the means and the end as well.

Once attaining him, he remains our refuge as the object of enjoyment and hence is the upEyam/purushArtham as well.

Everything in this world is always a means to an end. Since nothing in this world can ever be both the means and an end, it is a contradictory quality that is unique in sriman nArAyaNa only. And since this is the greatest set of 2 qualities that give us mOksham, they are mentioned at the conclusion of this anuvAka.


This anuvAkam also continues praising the ability of bhagavAn to reconcile contradictions.

Namo jyoushthaya cha kanishthaya cha |

Meaning: Salutations to the Eldest and the Youngest.

He is the eldest as he existed before all beings. He is older than Brahma, the self-born because he created Brahma (vishNu sahasranAmA – jyEshta srEshta prajApati).
But he is also nitya yuva (ever young) in appearance and beauty despite being the father of even Brahma.

Namah purvajaya chaparajaya cha |

Meaning: Salutations to the head of all gains and losses and to the one whose possessions exist solely for his devotees.

The jitantE stOtra says “namastEstu hrishIkEsha mahApurusha pUrvaja”.

Swami nAyanar Achan pillai, while interpreting the name “pUrvaja” in the jitantE stOtra says that it means that he is the head of all gains and losses in creation, avatAra lIla and in being the upAya (means). In other words, all gains, losses and fruits are his. The upanishadic vAkya “bahusyAm prajAyEya” means that the pride of descending (as the antaryAmin of the jivA) through many bodies is his. At the same time, “sa ekAki na ramEta” implies that the displeasure of being alone is also his. His avatArAs are for the sake of “sAdhu paritrAnam”, ie, his own benefit of saving his devotees and the other acts such as destroying asurAs, eliminating the kauravas are just an excuse for this.  The purpose of giving the Gita was for his benefit, to ensure that the jivAs developed bhakti towards him.

Even during bhOga in rAsa lila, he alone kept the flute and played sweet music in the midst of so many gOpIs to show his precedence over them. He is the upAyam for the jivA, he leads the jivA to srI vaikunta and he accepts the services from the jivA in srI vaikunta.

Thus, everything is about him and all gains and losses are his; so he is pUrvaja.

“aparAja” is the opposite of “pUrvaja”. Although all gains and losses are his, whatever he possesses, only exists for the benefit of his devotees. In fact, his very quality of being the head of all gains and losses is for the benefit of his devotees only, as evidenced in the jitantE stOtra as follows:

na tE rUpam na chAkArO nAyudhAni na chAspadam | tathAspi puruShAkArO bhaktAnAm tvam prakAshasE ||.

Meaning: Your divine characteristics, your auspicious personality, your svarUpa-rUpa-guNa-vibhUti, your weapons and ornaments, your supreme abode of srI vaikunta are not for you but are for the benefit of your devotees. Though independent, ou become the property of your devotees. Therfore, you shine brightly with the virtue of absolute greatness as described in the purusha sukta.

Namo Madhya maya chapagalbhaya cha |

Meaning: Salutations to the One in the middle (Vishnu) and the One who is not bold (ie, hides his supremacy).

Vishnu is the second of the trimUrty. Sriman nArAyaNa, as the antaryAmin of Brahma, creates. Sriman nArAyaNa, as the antaryAmin of Rudra, destroys. But this bhagavAn protects directly by descending as Vishnu.

The mahAbHArata states the purpose and function of vishNu avatAra as follows:

gatiSca nastvam pUrvajo jagatah prabhuh   |
rakshArtham sarva-bhUtAnAm vishNustvam upajagmivAn      ||
(MB Udyoga 12.11)

"You are our refuge;  You are the first-born amongst the gods. You are the Lord of the Universe.  You have assumed the role of vishNu for the protection of all the worlds.

He, staying amidst Brahma and Rudra, is also the first-born, the sarvalOka mahEswara and the supreme refuge. That is indicated by the name “madhyama”.

The name “apagalbha” shows that despite existing as the supreme refuge of all, he hides his supremacy and is not easily understood as the foremost of gods. The devas often become confused as to who among the three is the most powerful (as narrated by paraShurAmA in the rAmAyaNa). Bhrigu maharishi had to test all 3 gods to finally arrive at the conclusion that vishNu alone was the sattvik god. So, this name shows his guNam of sousIlyam, ie, mingling with those of lesser status extremely well to conceal his true nature.

Namo jaghanyaya cha, budhniyaya cha |

Meaning: He who is the lowest and the base or root (of the great).

As he is sarvAntaryAmin, he is the inner self of the lowest and the greatest.
We have to take “budhni” as meaning base of the greatest to derive the context properly. Interpreting it as just “base” makes no sense. Hence, to say he is the base, ie, the source of glory for those of high rank fits the context.

Namah shobhyaya cha, prati saryaya cha |

Meaning: He who is endowed with supernal beauty and is yet present in this world of living beings.

“sobha” refers to the beauty of his form as vishNu - his weapons, ornaments, abode and exploits, all of which are non-material and out of his own will. With this unnatural beauty, which is of suddha sattvam and aprAkrtam (non-material), he has descended into the material world.

Namo yamyaya cha, kshemyaya cha |

Meaning: One who is like yama (for the asurAs) and One who bestowes peace (to his devotees).

He is like yama, the chastiser for the asurAs and bestowes peace of mind (and auspiciousness to his devotees. This explains “paritrAnAya sAdhunAm vinAshAya ca duskrtAm”. Hiranyakasipu feared his appearance as Narasimha, whereas PrahlAda was overwhelmed with joy.

Nama urvaryaya cha khalyaya cha |

Meaning: One who is present in the area full of food-grains (srI vaikuntam) and One who is present in the area where the grain needs to be separated from the chaff (samsAra mandalam).

Food-grains that are edible metaphorically refers to the liberated jivAs who have fully realised their nature and have no association with prakrti. As such jivAs constantly perform services to him, they are like food for the paramAtma as per the taittiriya Upanishad (aham annam, aham annam – I am food for parabrahman). In contrast, the samsAra mandalam is like the area full of grains (jivAs) that are associated with the inedible part, the chaff (prakrti/sarIra) and need to be separated from prakrti, ie, liberated.

He is present in both worlds. srI Krishna, despite having plenty of butter in his own house (prepared by yashoda) still stole butter from other houses. Likewise, although bhagavAn has infinite number of jivAs serving him in srI vaikunta, he comes to samsAra to liberate the baddhas and make them serve him as well.

Nama shlokyaya chavasanyaya cha |

Meaning: One who is the apara-vidyA and the para vidyA.

“shlokyAya” refers to the vedas, vedAngas and upa-brahmaNas which provide aparOksha jnAnA. “avasanya” refers to the goal of knowledge, ie, parOksha jnAnA (upAsaNa vidhi brahma sAkshAtkAratvam).

The mundakOpanishad talks of two levels of knowledge. One is “apara-vidyA” which is aparOksha jnAnA (indirect or mediate knowledge) and refers to the rg, yajus, sAma and atharva vedas, siksha, kalpa, grammar, nirukta, chandas and jyOtisha. The Upanishads are also included in the category of “apara vidyA”. Otherwise, to say that the Vedas are apara and Upanishad are para would mean the Upanishads are not vedic, which is illogical as knowledge of Brahman can be derived from even the Rg veda samhitas, etc.  

“para-vidyA” is parOksha jnAnA (immediate or direct knowledge), which is upAsaNa, or bhakti rUpa jnAnA, culminating in brahma sAkShAtkAram . This is called para vidyA since it is the fruit of studying the apara-vidyA, ie, studying the Vedas (apara-vidya) makes us understand upAsaNa as the means to attain Brahman and the actual upAsaNa is of the nature of brahma sAkShAtkAram (para vidya).

Namo vanyaya cha, kakshyaya cha |

Meaning: One who is of the form of the forest (knowledge of the jivAtmA) and in the form of the enclosure (obstacles to that knowledge).

Forest is a metaphor for knowledge. BhagavAn provides knowledge to the jivA by destroying the karmas and making the dharma bhUta jnAnA (attributive knowledge) of the jivA blossom. At the same time, he is the one who keeps the jivAs embodied, which result in contraction of their dharma bhUta jnAnA.

The contraction of dharma bhUta jnAnA is often compared to the flow of water (knowledge) hindered by a dam (karmas/obstacles to knowledge) or to radiance (knowledge) of a flame blocked by placing a paper (karmas/obstacles to knowledge). So, it is appropriate to interpret “kaksha” as referring to such obstacles to knowledge. Just as enclosures prevent the forest from growing further and extending its reach, these obstacles and karmas prevent our knowledge from expanding.

By virtue of the jivAtma being his vibhUti and he being the indweller of all and having everything as his body, he is both knowledge and the obstacles to it.

Namah shravaya cha pratisravaya cha |

Meaning: One who is of the form of hearing (sishya) and answering (AchAryA).

The sishya hears, ie, learns the knowledge of Brahman from an AchArya. The AchArya answers the queries of the jivAs.

Nama asu shenaya chashurathaya cha |

Meaning: One who has a non-material body with suddha sattva saktIs (sriman nArAyaNa) and One who has a material body (jivAtma) .

“susheNa” is a name that occurs in the vishNu sahasranAmA (mahAvarAhO govindaH susheNa kanakAngadi), which is interpreted by srI parAshara bhattar as “he who has a non-material body wth divya saktIs that are like an army to attract the devotees”.

“AsusheNa” conveys this meaning His body is of pure suddha sattvam, panchOpanishad mayam and composed of divya saktIs like parameshthi, pumAn, etc. These characteristics are like an army that “conquers” the baddha, mukta and nitya jivAs and make these jivAs serve him.

At the same time, the jivAs are called “ashurathA”, ie, possessing a swift chariot which is the material body. The usage of “swift” indicates that this material body is very quick to delude the jivA and make him attached to the objects of the senses, forgetting his true nature which is to serve parabrahman.

The jivAs material body is the reason why the jivAs resist the grace of bhagavAn. So, bhagavAn uses his non-material body to attract the baddha jivA deluded by its material body.

His non-material body is made of jnAnam, whereas the material body of the jivAs is made of ajnAnam.

Nama shuraya cha, chavabhindate cha |

Meaning: One who is victorious, while standing alone (paramAtma) and One who is broken/pierced, ie, defeated (jivAtma).

Among the three guNams of souryam, vIryam and parAkramam that constitute valor, the word “souryam” or “shUra” means One who is victorious by facing his opponents head on alone. srI rAmA is known as “asahAya shUra”, ie, he faced the kara-dhUshanAdhigal all alone and defeated them.
In this context, shUra refers to his quality of defeating the baddha jivAs by his beauty (referred to as “AshushEna” in the previous mantra) and he does this without the help of anybody (ie, he alone is the upAyam).
The jivAtma is described as broken or defeated by this beauty and becomes his slave. BhagavAn’s beauty is like an arrow that pierces the attachments of the jivAs and destroys them, upon which the jivA realises his true nature.

Namo varmine cha, varuyour cha |

Meaning: One who wears the armor (of prakrti for those with tamO guNa) and One who has a lofty home (ie, is the excellent refuge for the jnAnIs).

The vishNu sahasranAmA contains the name (saMvrttah) – he remains hidden from the ignorant. Prakrti, which is also known as mAya, hides bhagavAn from the ajnAnIs. This is referred to as “varminE”.

But for the jnAnIs, he is the best refuge and the ultimate goal. Unlike the ajnAnIs, for whom he is hidden and hence chase lesser goals, for the jnAnIs, he is well-known to them and is the supreme goal.

Namo bilmine cha kavacine cha |

Meaning: One who is crowned (by ajnAnIs) and One who is protected (by jnAnIs).
The crown symbolises parathvam or supremacy. For ajnAnIs who have not realised his ability to mingle with others, his ease of accessibility and his characteristics such as tenderness, youth, beauty, etc., he appears to them as a very great being who cannot be approached. They see him as unapproachable, majestic and too great for them.
But the jnAnIs are those, who in their extreme love for bhagavAn, forget that he is supreme and unassailable by anyone. These jnAnIs regard his guNams of tenderness, softness, incredible beauty, youth and become afraid for his safety. In their extremely intoxicated condition of love, they forget his invulnerability and regard him as a fragile and precious object that is to be protected. They think, “he, of such tenderness, is standing in front me in this evil samsArA, full of enemies and dangers. So, I will wish him all auspiciousness and a long life.” Thus they sing, “pallAndu” (may you live long), “jaya” (may you be ever victorious) and “svasti” (may you always be well) and so on. This was the mood of periyazhwar, yaShoda, nandagOpa and srI rAmAnuja muni (who believed srI ranganAtha was vulnerable to the common cold!).

Namah shrutaya cha shrutasenaya cha |

Meaning: One who is knowledge (by nature) and the knowledge of his devotees.
shrutA refers to knowledge that is both his nature and attribute. He is omniscient and is also knowledge-self.

shrutasenA refers to the knowledge of his devotees. Sena – inena vartatE iti sena, ie, sena is anything associated with bhagavAn and refers to his devotees. So, shrutasena refers to knowledge of his devotees. When we say that he is the knowledge of his devotees, it means that 1) he is the object of knowledge for his devotees, 2) the knowledge of his devotees depends on him.

The gita sloka 10.5 illustrates this as follows.

Svayam evAtmanAtmAnam vettA tvam purushOttama (~Gita 10.5)

Arjuna says that bhagavAn, who is puruShOttama, alone knows himself by himself. What this means is, BhagavAn knows himself by his own nature. His knowledge is not given to him by anybody; it is his own and he is independent. This distinguishes him from the jivAs, who know him by virtue of the knowledge he grants them. In other words, the knowledge of the jivAs are dependent on bhagavAn, whereas the knowledge of bhagavAn is his own and he is independent.

The word “puruShOttama” is broken down as follows – puruSha shows he is the lord of the baddha jivAs. “ut” shows he is the lord of the mukta jivAs. “tamap” shows he is the lord of the nitya sUrIs, the eternally liberated jivAs like adi sesha, garuda etc. This is as per the vyAkhyAna of srI parAshara bhattar.

Thus, his knowledge is his own and he is independent, whereas the knowledge of the baddhas, muktAs and nityAs is dependent on his grace.
This concludes the anuvAka.


As always, everything in the mantras is equated with paramAtmA by virtue of all being his body (sarIrAtma bhAva and sAmAnAdhikaraNya).

This anuvAka describes what gItAcHAryan describes as "rAja vidyA" and "rAja guhyam" - the glorious path of bhakti yOga, also known as upAsaNa and how the jivAtmA, distracted by material pleasures, finally turns towards this path, culminating in mOksha prApti.

Namo dundubhyaya chahananyaya cha |

Meaning: One who is the drum (objects of enjoyment for the senses) and the act of beating the drum (sense organs).

The brihadAranyaka Upanishad (2.4.7) explains the analogy of the drum and the beating of the drum as pertaining to the senses and sense organs. The drum is the source of production of sounds and refers to the objects of enjoyment of the senses. The person beating the drum is the sense organs that contact the objects of enjoyment for experiencing external objects (likened to sound of the drum). By taking away the drum or stopping the person from beating the drum, the sound is controlled. Similarly, by taking away the objects of enjoyment or controlling the senses, the experience of external objects is controlled.

Namo dhrusnave cha pramrushaya cha |

Meaning: One who is the fierce or bold (indrIyas) and the handling (ie, controlling the indrIyas).

The indrIyas are fierce or bold in the sense that they tend to wander towards the objects of enjoyment. BhagavAn is both the indriyAs as well as the means to handle, ie, control them (using yama, niyamA, etc) by virtue of everything being his body.

Drshna – bold.

Pramrsha – handling.

Namo dutaya cha, prahitaya cha |

Meaning: One who is the messenger (the senses of knowledge) and the action of being sent (the organs of action).

The senses of knowledge act as the messenger to the mind for conveying taste, touch, etc. The organs of action such as speech, apprehension, etc are the actions performed by using the senses of knowledge.

This is described in the third pAsuram of thirucchandaviruttam by thirumazhisai azhwar.

Namo nisangine cheshudhi mate cha |

Meaning: The One who cuts away (the controlled mind that removes attachments) and the holder of arrows (the organs of knowledge and action that are controlled).

“nisangin” means to cleave or knife – it represents the mind that is able to control the senses and wean them away from the objects of enjoyment.

The vishNu purAnA says that the shafts of vishNu is to be meditated upon as the senses of knowledge and the organs of action. In that sense, “arrows” here refer to the same thing. But since the sense organs were already mentioned in the previous mantra, we interpret the organs here as those in control as opposed to the previous mantra which stated the organs to be enjoying the objects of gratification. This avoids redundancy.

Nama stikshneshave chayudhine cha |

Meaning: The One who possesses sharp arrows (the senses sharpened by meditation on Brahman) and the holder of weapons (performance and knowledge of the karmas to remove the obstacles to upAsaNa).

The word “sharp arrows” refers to senses that are now directed towards Brahman. The last two mantras have been describing the senses. First, it described the uncontrolled senses that were used in enjoying the objects of senses. The next mantra described the senses that were controlled by the mind gto develop detachment from the object of senses. Now, the senses, that are made to focus on Brahman (after developing vairAgya from other attachments) are described.

It is not enough to merely possess the will to meditate on Brahman. One must also perform the karmas sanctioned in the sAstrAs to remove the obstacles (ie, pApa karmas) to meditation on Brahman. In this context, the isavasya Upanishad says the following,

andham tamah pravisanti ye asambhutim upasate
tato bhuya iva te tamo ya u sambhutyam ratah (~Isa.Up – 12).

Meaning: Those who practise only the karmas for removing the obstacles to brahma prApti (asambhUtim) enter into blinding darkness. Those who practice meditation only (sambhUti), enter into a greater darkness.

SambhUti is derived from the root “sam” and refers to samAdhi, which is meditation on the self leading to brahma prApti. AsambhUti is the opposite of sambhUti, which is the performance of karmas to eliminate obstacles to Brahman. The Upanishad says that either done alone is no use. They have to be done together. These terms “asambhUti” and “sambhUti” are also conveyed by the synonyms “avidya” and “vidya” in the Upanishad.

Namah svayu dhaya cha sudhanvane cha |

Meaning: One who has good weapons (strength for upAsaNa) and a good bow (referring to ahamkara).

“ayudhAni” refers in general to strength for upAsaNa. This refers to the ability to perform the accessories of upAsaNa as well as the physical and mental faculties needed for undertaking the upAsaNa.

The vishNu purAnA states that the bow, sArnga of vishNu stands for bhagavAN being the supporter of ahaMkArA in its two fold divisions (mAnasa ahaMkAra and rAjasa ahamkara).

So, that is what is referred to here. “svadhanvanE” refers to sAttivka tyAga. The upAsaNa must be performed with the knowledge that bhagavAn is the master (seshi) and the jivA is the servant (sesha).

Namah srutyaya cha patyAya cha |

Meaning: One who is aiming (the jivAtma) and One who is the way (upAsaNa/prapatti mArgas).

The mundakOpanishad describes the individual self as the arrow to be aimed at the target which is Brahman. Hence, “srutyA” refers to the individual self.

“patyA” refers to the sAdhaNa, which is bhakti yOga and prapatti. The puruSha suktam says, “nAnya: panthA ayanAya vidyatE” – I know of no other way . The “way” here refers to the two upAyAs, bhakti yOgA and prapatti. This is mentioned by srI vedAnta desikan in his nikshEpa raksha as well as other vishishtadvaitic commentators on the puruSha suktam. Prapatti is one of the brahma vidyAs described by the upanishads, also known as nyAsa vidyA.

Namah katyaya cha nipyaya cha |

Meaning: One who is (in) the hole (daharAkAsan) and in (the form of) the ground (supporter).

From this mantra onwards, the various brahma vidyAs required for upAsaNa are described. A brahma vidyA is a particular mode of meditation in which the upAsaka chooses a particular guNam of sriman nArAyaNa and meditates on that guNam ceaselessly like the uninterrupted flow of oil. Although the svarUpa nirupaka dharmas – satyam, jnAnam, anantam, anandam and amalatvam – are common for all brahma vidyAs, the guNam specified other than these is different for each type of vidyA. But the fruit of all the vidyAs is the same, ie, mOksha prApti after brahma sAkshAtkAram and hence, the upAsaka is free to choose whatever vidyA he likes.

“hole” refers to the aperture in the lotus bud of the heart. The nArAyaNa suktam declares that the heart, which is like a slightly closed bud, hangs down being well covered by veins. At the end of that is a subtle hole. There is established the supreme brahman, the husband of srI, nArAyaNa, the self of all.

“ground” refers to the fact that this daharAkAsan, despite being subtle, is the supporter of all the objects of enjoyment. As the universe is his body, all objects of enjoyment are contained in him.

Thus, this is the dahara vidyA.

Katya – hole, nipya – ground.

Namah sudyaya cha, sarasyaya cha |

Meaning: One who is sweet (madhu vidyA) and ever new (ie, his sweet guNams are inexhaustible and keep renewing).

The madhu vidyA prescribes meditation on Brahman within the sun, as honey, ie, he is very sweet to meditate upon.

And the nAma “sarasyA” refers to the fact that his sweet guNams are inexhaustible. In fact, the more you meditate on his guNams, the more newer guNams you discover in him and when you meditate on these, still newer ones come up. This way, he is like a source of enjoyment that never gets old and seems new each time you experience him.

Nammazhwar refers to this as “appodhaiappodhu en ArAvamudham” – an everlasting, inexhaustible source of nectar that seems newer and sweeter each time I taste it. The sahasranAmA refers to this trait as “bhaktyA purusham avyayam”.

Thus, this is the madhu vidyA.

Sudya – sweet drink

Sarasya – new.

Namo anAdyaya cha, vaishantaya cha |

Meaning: One who is beginningless and the indweller of vaisvAnarAgni.

“Vaishanta” can be interpreted as he who is the “anta” (limit, source or cause) of vaisvAnarAgni. This refers to the vaisvAnara vidya.

srI rAmAnujar in his srI bhAshyam shows that the brahma sutrAs, while describing the vaisvAnara vidyA, declare that the infinite brahman must be meditated upon as limited by a particular space such as bhu lOka, srI vaikunta, etc. This limitation is only for the purpose of meditation and does not actually limit brahman.

anAdya – He who has no beginning (or end).

Thus, this is the vaisvAnara vidyA.

Namah kupyaya chavatyaya cha |

Meaning: One who is in the cave (ie, the jivAtma who is in the cave of the heart) and dwells in the abyss (paramAtmA).

The first name describes the inner self of the jivAtmA. The second name describes the paramAtmA who has the jivAtmA as his body. This interpretation is needed to avoid redundancy. There is a slight difference in these two perspectives when meditating on this tattvam during the course of upAsaNa.

The path of bhakti yOga must be taken with the realisation that paramAtma, sriman nArAyaNa, is the inner self of the jivAtma. The texts, as quoted by srI yatirAjar in his srI bhAshya, state the following regarding this,

“The wise who by meditation on his Self recognises the Ancient who is difficult to see, who has entered into the dark, who is hidden in the cave, who dwells in the abyss, as Brahman, he indeed leaves joy and sorrow far behind.”

This mantra states that all the brahma vidyAs, which were described earlier, must be adopted by the yOgI with the knowledge and the meditation of paramAtma as the indweller of the jivAtmA. Then only, the upAsaNa will be successful.

Kupya – cave, vatya – hole.

Namo varshyaya cha chavarshyaya cha |

Meaning: Of the form of rain and bright weather.

So far, the different brahma vidyAs that the upAsaka would choose to meditate on Brahman were described. Now, what is being described is the final stages of yOgA. The svetAsvatArA Upanishad describes that when a yOgI is excelling in yOga and nearing the end, ie, brahma sAkshAtkAram, he will see certain signs before the arrival of Brahman. This is the text of the svetAsvatArA upanishad given below:

“In yoga these forms namely mist, smoke, the sun, the wind, fire, the firefly, lightnening, the sphatika mani and moon appear prior as signs of the manifestation of Brahman.”

So, the rain, weather and whatever else is described in the succeeding mantrAs refer to these signs that herald the vision of Brahman, sriman nArAyaNa. There is certainly a difference between the objects described here and the ones in the Upanishad as signs for arrival of Brahman, but that is not a problem. Even the deities described for the archIrAdi and dhUmAdi mArgas by the bhagavad gita and Upanishads differ marginally. It depends upon the rishi and the possibility that all these are seen.

Avarshya – not raining.

Namo meghyaya cha, vidyutyaya cha |

Meaning: Of the form of clouds and lightning.

Again, these are signs prior to arrival of Brahman.

Nama idhriyaya chatapyaya cha |

Meaning: Of the form of mist and sunshine.

Idhriya – interpreted as autumn season clouds covering sky, so mist like.

Atapya – heat or sunlight.

Namo vatyaya cha, reshmiyaya cha |

Meaning: Of the form of wind and storm.

Vatya – wind, reshmi – storm.

Namo vastavyaya cha vastupaya cha ||

Meaning: One who is associated with a divine body (vAstavya) and One who protects the Jiva who is his dwelling place (vAstupA).

The final stage of yOga is sAkshAtkAram of sriman nArAyaNa. The svetAsvatArA Upanishad describes that the yOgI will, as if through a lamp, visualize Brahman, the unborn, unchanging and pure. As per the Upanishad, this form of Brahman is “sarvatattvam”, ie, characterised by all the weapons and ornaments that stand for various tattvas as described in the astra-bhUshaNa adhyAya of vishNu purAna. He will be seen as the One characterised by all entities through the means of the reality of the jivAtmA.

"vAstavya” refers to One who dwells in his divine auspicious body which is the abode of all tattvas. “vAstupA” - One who protects the dwelling place. The Jiva is the dwelling place of the Lord as evidenced by sahasranAma - "vasuh" (one who dwells in the heart of his devotees). Thus, he protects his devotees from the heat of samsAra when they perceive his auspicious form via yoga.

Then, the upAsaka immediately attains mOkshA.

Therefore, this anuvAka concludes with the assurance that upAsaNa will fetch us brahma sAkshAtkAram and mOksha prApti


The previous anuvAkAs successively described, after “svebhyO svepati”, the guNams that the jivAs must meditate in many auspicious births (the anuvAkas on agatitagatanA sAmarthyam). This would lead to the indrIyas being controlled and directed towards upAsaNa. The last anuvAkam finished with the yOgI attaining brahma sAkshAtkAram and moksha prApti.

Thus, this anuvAkam describes the beauty of one such form, the narasimha avatArA which was meditated upon and perceived directly by prahlAda. And in the course of this, it also describes the greatness of his avatArAs.

One might ask, is it relevant to talk about narasimhA when the previous anuvAka concluded with the success of upAsaNa and hence, mOksha? After all, shouldn’t it describe srI vaikunta, mOxa sthAna instead? The doubt is dispelled by the vishNu sahasranAma itself. The first group of nAmas in the sahasranAma are interpreted by srI parAsara bhattar as a description of paravAsudevan in srI vaikunta. But even among these names, one can see "nArasimha vapu: srImAn” occurring! The allusion to narasimhA in the context of srI vaikunta occurs thus, in the sahasranAma itself. This is because of the beauty and unusual nature of his form, and his vAtsalya guNam towards prahlAda, that srI Lakshmi narasimhA is often equated with paravAsudeva.
Alternatively, one can say that when bhagavAn finally appeared before the yOgI in the final mantra of the previous anuvAkam, this was the form seen by the yOgI (ie, that of srI Lakshmi narasimha) and he is describing it now.

Note: This portion can even be interpreted in favour of srI rAmA. For instance, “Agrevadha” refers to how he killed the kara-dhushaNAdigal by standing in front of them, alone in direct combat. “dUrevadha” is how he crowned vibhishaNa as king of Lanka even before going there to fight and defeat rAvaNa (so we take it that rAvaNa was dead even before the battle had begun). But since the narasimha tApanIya Upanishad declares the satarudriyam to be praising narasimhA only and also because the sahasranAmA contains “nArasimha vapuh srimAn” as the first nAma of an avatAram, the context suits srI lakshmi narasimhA only. And that is the way we take it.

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.

Andal also says he is manattuku iniyAn (very sweet to meditate on), which is the meaning of Soma.

Namas tAmrAya ca ArunAya ca

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


One who is of deep red color (of his eyes) and rosy red (of his lips, palms and soles).

Please refer the 1st anuvAkam of Shri Rudram (mantra 1.7 – asau yastAmrOruNa…) for the explanation of the interpretation of tAmra and AruNa as referring to para and vyUha.

The first interpretation is derived from the fact that narasimhA is praised in the context of paravAsudevan and also from the vishNu purAna which says narasimhA is sankarshaNAmsam.

The second interpretation is derived from thiruvAimozhi 9.5.6.

Namas sangAya ca paShupatayE ca

Meaning: Salutation to the One who is inclined to his devotees (to prahlAda) and to the Possessor of Anger towards Hiranyakasipu (Pashupati).

“sangA” – he has a propensity or inclination towards his devotees like prahlAda. “paShu” means anger in the Upanishads. He is paShupati possesses anger towards Hiranyakasipu.

Namah ugrAya ca bhImAya ca

Meaning: Salutations to the One who is formidable to the adharmIs like hiranyakasipu (ugrA) and who becomes extremely terrible for the adharmIs who continue to remain bent on adharma (bhIma)

BhagavAn initially did not appear in person, but thwarted Hiranyakasipu’s plans to kill Prahlada, thus being a formidable enemy. But when Hiranyakasipu went too far, he assumed a terrible appearance and killed him.

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.

This also means he has the sakti to save his devotees without even appearing (dUrevadha). But in order to give darshaNam to them and accept their services, he appears directly to kill their enemies (agrEvadha), as he did for Gajendra.

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 who is the protector, who has a golden mane.

"vRksha" - this name appears in the sahasranAma and signifies he gives protection to his devotees like a shady tree from the heat of samsAra.

"harikEsha" - The term "kEsha" means hair or mane. "Hari" refers to the golden color of the mane. According to the pramAnA in the sahasranAma:

- "nArasimha vapuH srImAn" - his form as Narasimha is beautiful.

- The chAndogya upanishad also says - ya eSho.antarAditye hiraNmayaH puruSho dR^ishyate hiraNyashmashrurhiraNyakesha ApraNasvAtsarva eva suvarNaH  || tasya yathA kapyAsaM puNDarIkamevamakShiNI tasyoditi nAma sa eSha sarvebhyaH pApmabhya udita.

The upanishad refers to his hair as "hiraNyakesha". Sri Ranga rAmAnuja muni identifies the form of bhagavAn as the indweller of the Sun as Sri Narasimha only because of the reference to his golden mane.

One must note that this name (harikEsha) occurred for paravAsudEva in the 2nd anuvAka. The same is applied to srI narasimha as well because of the explanation I gave in the beginning of this anuvAka. The form of narasimhA is celebrated throughout the sAstra as one who is equal with srI vaikuntanAtha. Even the sahasranAma alludes to it, as does the nrisimha tApanIya upanishad.

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. SrI bhattar quotes pramAnams from the rAmAyaNa for the name "shambhu":

"rUpa audArya guNai: pumsAm drshti citta apahAriNam" - (Sri Rama) attracts the eyes and hearts of beholders by His beauty, generosity, and similar qualities.

“candra kAntAnanam rAmam atIva priya darsanam" - Rama who has a face lovelier than the moon, and who has an extremely pleasing appearance.

His form is not only beautiful here as narasimhA, but the beauty of his form attracts us and thus, is the upAyam for us to attain mOksha. In mOksha also, we enjoy the beauty of his form, so it is an upEyam, ie, purushArtham as well.

SrI parAsara bhattar says under the nAma “nArasimha vapuh srImAn” in the sahasranAmA that although his appearance as a half-man, half-lion may seem an odd appearance, still, his form was so beautiful and attractive that after seeing him, people would never want to look at an ordinary man or an ordinary lion again!

Namas shankarAyaca mayaskarAya ca

Meaning: Salutations to He who destroys our difficulties, therby providing peace and comfort to meditate on him (Shankara) and he who provides pleasure of moksha (mayaskarA).

The meaning of Shankara is given by srI krishNa while addressing the antaryAmin of pArvati pati, ie, narasimhA himself, in the harivamSha as follows:

saMsaktAnAM nityadA yatkaroShi
shamaM bhrAtR^ivyAnyadvyanaishIH samastAn |
tasmAddevaH sha~Nkaro.asyaprameyaH
sadbhirdharmaj~naiH kathyase sarvanAthaH ||2-74-30

Meaning: (bhagavAn srI krishNa praises narasimhA) You provide comfort and peace to your devotees like PrahlAda. You punish the asurAs like Hiranyakasipu who oppose you as enemies. Hence you, Deva (who is full of vAtsalyam), are called Shankara, of an undefinable and unknowable nature by logical means (apramEya) who can only be experienced.

This is the meaning of Shankara. He makes the situation conducive for the devotees by removing obstacles like hiranyakasipu. Then, he gives us the pleasure of mOksha.

Namas sivAya ca sivatarAya ca

Meaning: Salutations to the One who confers auspiciousness (Siva) and to the One who is the greatest among those that confer auspiciousness (SivatarA).

“Siva” is interpreted as per bhagavad guna darpanam.

“SivatarA” must be interpreted in the vein of “mangalAnAm ca mangalaM”in the sahasranAmA. SrI ParAsara Bhattar says that he is the most intensely desirable, being even more desirable than fragrant garlands, sandal paste, nectar etc and also more desirable than the individual self that being divested of prakrti, is full of knowledge and bliss. For all these reasons, he is the supreme object to be obtained and hence, is “sivatarA”.

Nama stirthyaya cha kulyaya cha |

Meaning: One who is pure (and hence, the upAyam) and the shore (upEyam).

This mantra is understood by the name “anukUlah” occurring in the sahasranAmA. “kUlam” means shore, ie, goal and “anukUlah” means he who takes us to the goal.

He is pure and hence, is the supreme purifier. This is said about srI rAmA in the rAmAyaNA, uttara khaNda. The name “pAvanaH” in the sahasranAma also conveys this.

Nammazhwar also says, devAdideva perumAn en tIrthanE – This lord of devas, my swami, is pure (ThiruvAimOzhi – 2.8.5). The tamil word “tIrtan” and Sanskrit “tIrtha” have the same intent. Similarly ThiruppAnazhwar (pAn perumAl) says “amalanAdipirAn” – here “amalan” means pure and refers to his pure nature as well as his ability to purify everything else.

Since he purifies everyone by his pure nature, this means that his act of purifying us is the sAdhaNa for us. Hence, this signifies the fact that he is the upAyam for mOksha.

“kUlya” is interpreted as “shore” or “goal”. This means, he is the goal (kUlya) as well as the means to attain the goal (signified by "tirthya").

Namah paryaya chavaryaya cha |

Meaning: One who is successful and irresistible (which is the cause of his success).

He is always successful in rescuing the jivAs. The reason is because he is irresistible by the beauty of his form which attracts the chEtanas eventually towards him, by his irresistible flow of grace which never ceases to act despite the faults of the jivAs and by his irresistible might which destroys the obstacles of the jivAs. He is known as “Krishna” because of his irresistibility.

Nammazhwar also says, “vaikuntam puguvadhu mannavar vidhiyE” – “All jivAs, without exception, are destined to attain srI vaikunta; this is due to his grace”. So, all of us will definitely get mOksha someday, even the basest and lowest of us.

Of course, even if he liberates infinite jivAs, there will still be infinite jivAs to be liberated (infinity minus infinity = infinity). So, the samsAra mandalam will never cease to exist. So this does not conflict with the idea that all jivAs will be liberated.

The name “siddhi” occurs in the vishNu sahasranAmA which means “successful or accomplishment” as per bhattar. It implies that he is the goal or accomplishment to be attained by adopting the means. So, that is also a meaning.

Namah prataranaya chottaranaya cha |

Meaning: One who increases (ie, those who have resorted to him and himself as well) and the rescuer of the devas from asurAs (in the manner stated in previous mantras).

“prataraNa” means “increasing” and must be interpreted in light of the nAma “vardhanaH vardamAnaH” in the sahasranAma. The name "vardhanaH" refers to his guNam of increasing, augmenting and nourishing those like prahlAda and the devas who resort to him. He increases their knowledge, their capacity to perform kaimkaryam and their progress in sAdhaNa.

And in doing so, he himself grows in happiness and hence is "vardhamAnah". So, he grows and makes others grow. This is illustrated in the harivamSha. The devas and rishis summoned vishNu to help defeat the tripurAsuras. Upon helping Rudra and the other devas to vanquish the asurAs, vishNu was said to be smiling because of his yOga. The “yOga” here refers to his constant meditation and acts on ways to help the chEtanas. Since he had accomplished that, he was smiling happily. Mandodari calls srI rAmA as mahAyOgI - he who is always thinking of ways to help chEtanas. He killed rAvaNa only to stop the latter from accumulating more sin in the present body and not out of enmity. This great guNam is praised by Mandodari. The same for all asurAs he kills, such as hiranyakasipu, sisupAla, etc. He has even their welfare on his mind.

How does he do it, ie, grow and make others grow? He is “uttAraNat uttarah” – the rescuer. He increases the fame of his devotees by rescuing them from their enemies, ie the asurAs and destroys such obstacles this way. Just as he destroyed the tripurAsuras and just as he destroyed hiranyakasipu.

Nama ataryaya chaladyaya cha |

Meaning: One who is inseparably associated with the Universe which is to be crossed over or conquered as his body(AtArya) and who is competent as he bears the burden of the Universe with ease (AlAdya)

Prakrti mandalam, which is to be conquered by the jIvAs, is the body of bhagavAn. Yet, he is unaffected by the changes of prakrti and supports it with ease.

“AtArya” – “tArya” refers to the Universe which is to be conquered or crossed over by the baddhas. “AtArya” is one who is associated with it, ie, it is his body.

“AlAdya” – derived from “alam” meaning competent. Synonymous to “kshamaH” nAma in sahasranAma.

Namah shaspyaya cha, phenyaya cha |

Meaning: One who is not known (entirely) and One who is thick (ie, of inscrutable deeds).

yatO vAcho nivartantE aprApya manasA saha: - His greatness is infinite and thus, mind and speech depart without determining the extent of his greatness.

saSpa – refers to a lack of awareness and hence must be taken as “not comprehended fully.” This refers to his kalyAna guNams which are infinite and displayed during his avatArams for the experience of devotees.

phenya – refers to thickness and hence, inscrutability. This refers to his actions during his avatArams which are inscrutable. How did he manage to destroy hiranyakasipu without violating the boons of Brahma? Why did he lament for Sita as though he was ignorant? Why does he appear as a small child who shows the entire universe in his mouth? Why, he, the supreme being, was born as a fish and a boar? Why does he mingle and stay among us, who are so lacking in knowledge of him? The vishNu sahasranAma refers to him as “amEyAtma”, ie, of an incomprehensible nature.

The rishi mArkandEya expresses his astonishment at the inscrutable lIla of bhagavAn in the mahAbhArata as follows (quoted by Bhattar in the sahasranAmA):

katham nu ayam SiSuh Sete loke nASam upAgate |
tapasA cintayanScApi tam SiSum nopalakshaye ||

(vana parva -191-94)

"When the entire world has met with destruction, how come this child is alive and lying down (on a leaf)? Even though I try to understand this through the power of my austerities, I am unable to understand the true nature of this child".

Namah sikatya ya cha pravahyaya cha ||

Meaning: One who is of the form of sandy soil (sattva) and of the form of a stream (of thought).

If it wasn’t for the grace of AndAl nAcchiyar, it is likely that one would never find the AdhyAtma meaning for this mantra.

In nAcchiyar thirumOzhi, AndAl invokes kAmadeva (the deity of love) to unite her with krishNa and uses the metaphor of sand as follows:

veLLai nuN maNaR koNDu teru aNindu (pAsuram 1.2)

Here, AndAl thAyAr says that she will spread white hued sandy soil from the riverbed on the streets for kAmadevan to walk on and wait for his arrival.

The metaphor of white sand is used to denote sattva guNa. Since kAmadevan is himself a deity of rajO guNam, and AndAl’s union with KrishNa is of the nature of pure sattva, she says she will use white sand. This is as per the vyAkhyANa of periyavAcchan pillai.

Here, “sikatya” refers to sand and “pravAhya” refers to a stream or flow of water. So, we must link the metaphor to sand near the flow of river. As per AndAl nAchiyar’s pAsuram, the sand from the riverbed is always white. So, we now derive the meaning from the metaphor – Just as the sand connected with the riverbed is white by virtue of its association with the river, the unceasing contemplation of bhagavAn’s kalyAna guNams increases the sattva guNam in us.

In other words, this anuvAkam ends with the declaration that sriman nArAyaNa alone is the basis of sattva and hence is worthy of being contemplated upon.


Having praised the auspicious guNams of srI Lakshmi narasimhan in the previous anuvAkam after having a vision of this bhagavAn, this anuvAkam shows how such enjoyment of bhagavAn is obtained by jnAnIs, whereas it is denied to ajnAnIs.

Nama irinyaya cha prapathya cha |

Meaning: Of the form of one in a barren field (ie, lack of knowledge and bliss gained from it) and one following the path (ie, possess knowledge of Brahman).

The meanings should be clear.

srI kamban says in his saThagOpa anthAthi the following – “MaaRanai vaazhtthalar pAlaikkaDam pakalE kaDanthu Eki” – Those who do not praise swami nammazhwar are like travellers in a desert.  In other words, these people are bereft of knowledge and the pleasure gained from such knowledge. Thus, “barren field” denotes lack of knowledge.

“path” refers to knowledge. “vedAhamEdham purusham mahAntam, Aditya varNam tamasas parastAt: tvamEvam vidwAn amrtam iha bhavati, nAnya: panthA ayanAya vidyatE” – The usage of “way” or “path” here describes bhakti yOgA or prapatti, as does the word “vedA” (knowing). The sAstrAs also say “jnAnAn mOkshO jAyatE” (By knowledge, comes mOkshA).

Namah kim shilya cha kshayanaya cha |

Meaning: Of the form of stones that cause doubt and of the form of driving away (the doubts with the vedas)

srI parAsara bhattar says that bhagavAn provides the vedas for destroying the doubts. “Stones” refer to the obstacles impeding our knowledge like karma vAsaNas, triguNas, etc. He is both the doubts as well as clear knowledge by virtue of everything being his body.

BhagavAn is known as “bhayakrt, bhayanAshaNah” – he creates fear in those who violate the sAstrAs and drives away the fear for those who follow the sAstrAs. Hence, a similar meaning is given here.

Namah kapardine cha pulastayou cha |

Meaning: Of the form of one with  matted locks (indicative of penance - upAsakas) and one with smooth hair (indicative of prapannas).

Those who try to attain bhagavAn with their self-effort practise upAsaNa and hence, have matted hair due to arduous penance. Those who follow the prapatti mArga do not do such penances (as self-effort; they still do most of those karmas as a service to bhagavAn) and hence, they have smooth hair.

This is thus, indicative of two types of devotees. The ones who try to attain bhagavAn with self-effort (ie, ahamkAram) in their minds are inferior devotees (though essentially jnAnIs). The azhwars often speak of matted locks as a metaphor for penances by self-effort.

Namo goshyouraya cha, grihyaya cha |

Meaning: Of the form of one who stays in (ie, attached to) the indriyAs and of one who is domesticated (ie, who has conquered their senses).
“go” refers to indriyAs and hence, to those who are slaves of their senses. “grhyA” refers to being domesticated, ie, having control over the indriyAs. As we have seen earlier, “paShu” refers to a brahma jnAni with vairAgyam.

Nama stalpyaya cha, gehyaya cha |

Meaning: Of the one in the cot (ie, kaivalyArti) and one who is domestic (ie, has knowledge of his subservience).

The cot is employed as a metaphor in thiruppAvai by AndAl nAchiyAr. “Lying or sleeping in a cot” refers to brahmAnandam. However, here, the reference to “cot” denotes the kaivalyArti, or a person who meditates on the bliss of his own self. The jivAtma, divested of prakrti, is knowledge-self and blissful and hence, is a purushArtham.

The gita refers to 4 types of devotees. Among these, “jignyAsu” refers to the one who seeks the bliss of the individual self whereas “jnAni” is a knower of Brahman. It is not appropriate to interpret “jignyAsu” as one who is seeking knowledge of Brahman and “jnAni” as one who has knowledge of Brahman because the goals of these two categories are the same – namely, Brahman. Whereas the classification in Gita is based on differences in goals. So, “jignyAsu” denotes the seeker of the bliss of individual self (kaivalyArti) and “jnAni” is a knower of Brahman.

The kaivalyArti or jignyAsu is referred to as a cot here because just as a person sleeps on a cot, aloof to everyone, the kaivalyArti meditates on his own self. By being immersed in his own self, he is ignoring the object of greater bliss and the knowledge of his own servitude is hidden from him. So, he is inferior to the one who is domesticated, ie, one who has a knowledge that he is a sesha of Brahman, the jnAni.

Gehya means domesticated. To avoid redundancy with the previous mantra, we interpret it as one who knows that he is a servant of Brahman. Indeed, srI rAmAnujar defines “jnAni” in gitA as one who has realised that he is the sesha (servant) and Brahman is the seshi (master).

Namah katyaya cha, gahvareshthaya cha |

Meaning: One who is in a hole (caught in samsArA) and one who worships in the cave (of the heart).

The cycle of births and deaths binding us to material existence is often compared to a hole in texts like the bhagavatam. Those caught in it are attracted to material desires. The wise however, meditate on bhagavAn residing in the cave of the heart to cut the knots binding them to material existence.
Gahvara – cave, isTa – worships.

Namo hradayyaya cha niveshpya ya cha |

Meaning:  Of one who is in the heart (jivAtma) and One who enters or rests (paramAtma or the pure self).

To avoid redundancy, one must interprert “hradayya” as the jivAtma. The jivA residing in the heart, is controlling the body and transmigrating in samsArA. “niveshpyA” pertains to either entering or resting/lying. If entering, it refers to paramAtmA who is the inner self of the jivAtma entering the body. If resting or lying, then also it pertains to paramAtmA who patiently resides as the antaryAmin of the jivAtma and witnesses the jivA transmigrating through samsArA, waiting for the latter to turn towards him.

Here, the ajnAnI is the jivAtma, whereas paramAtma is the jnAnI. The upanishadic statement “dvA suparNa” must be remembered here.

Or, hradayya refers to the bound jivA, whereas “entering” refers to the pure jivAtma just entering the body.

Niveza – enter, nivezavat – lying/resting in/on.

Namah pam savyaya cha rajasyaya cha |

Meaning: Of the form of dust (karmas hiding the true nature of jivA) and to be scattered as dust (karmas being destroyed by knowledge).

The sAstras compare the pure self covered by karma to a gem covered in dust, so that explains the first name.

The karmas, when destroyed, are mentioned to be burned like cotton in a fire (AndAl says “thIyil thUsAgum” – burnt like cotton in a fire) and other such analogies, so referring to them as scattering like dust is appropriate.

pAMsava – dust, rajasya – scattering dust

Nama shuskyaya cha Harityaya cha |

Meaning: Of the form of fruitless (endeavors) and green (ie, fruitful endeavors).

The ignorant who perform either the tAmasa mode of worship or those indulging in non-vedic rites are in reality performing fruitless endeavors. Whereas, the jnAnIs perform actions that result in fruitful phalans.
To avoid redundancy, we do not interpret this as the 1st mantra of the anuvAkam.
Shushkya – fruitless.

Harita – green – implies phalans.

Namo lopyaya cholapya cha |

Meaning: One who is in inaccessible places (unreachable by the ignorant) and in grassy places (ie, where sAdhaNa yields fruit).

lOpya – Being among thickets or inaccessible regions.

ulapya – abiding in ulapa grass.

To the ignorant who have no knowledge of the means to attain him, he is inaccessible. To those who have the proper knowledge of sAdhaNa, he is easily available to them.
This can be considered as a continuation of the previous mantra.

Nama urvyaya cha surmyaya cha |

Meaning: One who is far off (to the ignorant) and in channels (easily accessible to the jnAnIs)

Urvya – far off.

sUrmya – channels.

Since he is inaccessible to those with no proper knowledge of sAdhaNa, they think he is far off. But to those who perform the right sAdhaNa, he seems easily attainable. The channels signify access to objects like water bodies, etc. Thus, it signifies accessibility.

Namah parnyaya cha parnashadyaya cha |

Meaning:  He who is in the leaves (karmas) and (the knowledge) relating to (the karmas).

The leaves signify the various karmas to be performed as per the vedas. But these karmas are useless unless there is knowledge of Brahman, the indirect means to perform the karmas as well as the bestower of fruits.

Karma yOgA, which consists of various actions sanctioned by the sAstras such as nitya-naimittika karmas, acts like charity, pilgrimages to temples, meditation, subsisting on roots and fruits, etc must be done without the sense of “I” and dedicated to sriman nArAyaNa. Thus, knowledge is a component of karma yOgA.

This mantra thus, shows how those who have knowledge of sAdhaNa must perform the sAdhaNa.

This is the meaning of the mantra. Karmas done without knowledge yield ephemeral results as compared to karmas done with knowledge of Brahman, which take us further in the steps to mOksha prApti.

paRnya – leaves, parNazadya – relating to it.

Namo paguramanaya chabhighnate cha |

Meaning: To One who has an uplifted weapon (ego) and to One who strikes (down the ego).

apaguramAna – udyatAyudhaH.

In the rAmAyaNa, srI rAmA kept fighting rAvaNa so long as the latter kept attacking him. But the moment rAvaNa was defenceless and weaponless, srI rAmA declared, “go and rest today, come back to fight tomorrow”. Thus, the ego of ajnAnIs is like a weapon that is raised, ready to fight against the grace of bhagavAn.

“abhignatE” refers to the jnAnIs who strike down their ego by declaring their servitude.

Nama akkhyidate cha, prakkhi date cha |

Meaning:  To One who attacks mildly (upAsakas) and to One who attacks a lot (prapannAs).

The first part refers to those who try to attain bhagavAn with their self-efforts. Although these people are sAttvikAs, they still retain the ahamkAram of self-effort. Hence, they are agnAnIs. Swami pillai lOkAchAryar “prapakAntaram ajñarkku upAyam”. Whereas, the jnAnIs are the prapannas who destroy their ahamkAram completely by renouncing self-effort.

“Attacking mildly” refers to those who perform sAttvika tyAga but retain the ahamkAram of self-effort. “Attacking fiercely” refers to those who remove all traces of ahamkAram by renouncing self-effort.

Namo vah kirikebhyo devanam hrudayou bhyo |

Meaning: The One (paramAtma) who shines (and hence scatters the enemies) and One (paramAtma) who is present in the heart of his devotees.

The name “bhAskara dyUti” in the sahasranAmA is interpreted by srI parAsara bhattar as One who possesses an effulgence that shatters and throws his enemies in all directions.

The same bhagavAn shines as srIya pathi in the heart of his devotees. His effulgence scares the asurAs, but is a delight for the devotees.

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."
Kirika – shine.

Namo vikshina kebhyo |

Meaning: salutations to the tormentors who torture in many ways (ie, the indrIyas and ego which stray towards various objects of enjoyment OR the jivAs who are attracted to the objects of enjoyment and possess ego) and diminish (the dharma bhUta jnAna, ie, attributive knowledge of the jivAtmA).
kshIna – diminish.

Namo vichinvakte bhyo |

Meaning: Salutations to those (indrIyas or jnAnIs) who seek out (ie, directed towards the knowledge of Brahman).

Nama anir hatebhyo |

Meaning: Salutations to One who is indestructible (enemy that is the mind indulging in sense gratification).

“Indestructible” must be taken in a negative sense, viz., an indestructible enemy to ensure that the continuity of this anuvAkam is maintained.  It refers to the mind that engages in sense gratification, which is considered the enemy of the jivAtmA. We cannot conquer the mind with our self efforts and hence, it is referred to as indestructible.

Anirhata – indestructible nature.

Nama amivaktebhyaha ||

Meaning: Salutations to One (bhagavAn) of the form of destroying (the mind indulging in senses).

The sAtvata samhitA (12.51) of the pAncharAtra, quoted by swami periyavAchan pillai in his thirucchandavirutham vyAkhyAnam for pAsuram 51, talks of bhagavAn as the destroyer of the mind that indulges in sense gratification,

"The Lord destroys the monstrous mind (Ravana) with ten heads formed by the ten senses of the spiritual seeker by the use of the arrows of wisdom." (~sAtvata samhitA, 12.51)

Thus, this anuvAka ends with the declaration that bhagavAn alone can destroy our attachments and thus give us knowledge


Wealth, Cattle, Children, etc are needed as accessories, ie, articles that aid upAsaNa. Hence, this anuvAkam requests bhagavAn to protect such possessions, not get angry at our trespasses or wants for such possessions (as these are to be used in upAsaNa and not for enjoyment) and grant success of upAsaNa.

The deity being propitiated is bhagavAn srI lakshmi narasimhA.

Drape Andha saspate daridran nilalohita, esham purushanam esham pushunam ma bhermaro mo esham kim chanamamat |

Drapa – srI vaikunta, andasaspatE – master of food (anandam), daridran – possessing nothing (for himself) or one with no bad qualities, nilalOhitA – narasimhA (one who rescues his devotees), esham purushAnAm – these sons of mine, esham pashUnam – these animals, mAbhE – do not cause fear, mAro – destroying, kimcana – anyone, Amamat – let them get ill.

Meaning: Master of nitya sUrIs in srI vaikunta! One who gives everything to his devotees and exists for their sake OR One without doShas! Narasimha who came quickly to the aid of prahlAda! Please do not cause fear in the form of death and disease to my sons and cattle (ie, let them be well).

This mantra is for the purpose of kAmya karmas. “Do not harm me even if I desire children and cattle. These are accessories for the development of bhakti. You are also worshipped by the kAmya karmas.”

He possesses nothing in the sense that nothing is for him. His svarUpa-rUpa-guNa-vibhUti is for his devotees only. This has been well-established. Or “daridra” may refer to the absence of bad qualities.

This is as per the vyAkhyAnam of Upanishad bhAshyakArar for the svEtAsvatArA Upanishad (mantra 4.22).

Narasimha, as has been mentioned before, is known in the narasimha tApanIya upanishad as "nilalOhitA" (red body and black neck), which also says he is the One referred to by the Yajur Veda in its entirety (and hence, the satarudriyam).

Ya te Rudra Shiva tanu Shiva vishvaha bheshaji, Shiva Rudrasya Bhesaji tasya no mruda jivase |

Ya tE - by that, Rudra – destroyer of the disease of samsArA, shivatanu – auspicious body, shivAvishvabhEjasi – full to the brim with auspicious qualities that are like medicine to remove fear of samsArA, shivA – conferring auspiciousness, rudrasya – of the form making shed tears on seeing your auspicious guNams, bheshaji – the only remedy for the incurable disease of samsArA, taya – with that, na – us, jIvasI – for living in samsArA, mRda – show us your nirhEtuka krpA.

Meaning: O Rudra (Destroyer of the disease of samsArA). Shine out to us with that auspicious body (that is most agreeable on account of causing happiness), which is complete with auspicious attributes to remove the fear of samsArA. Show us your nirhEtuka krupa in the form of making us shed tears on enjoying your auspicious qualities, which is the only remedy for the incurable disease of samsArA, therby enabling us to live in samsArA (comfortably till mOkshA).

Bhattar interprets “bhEshajam” as medicine for driving away the fear of samsArA and “bhishak” as the physician for the illness of samsArA.

Imam Rudraya tavase kapardane kshayadviraya Prabhara mahe matim, Yatha na sha masa dvipade chatushpade vishvam pushtam Grame asminnana turam |

imam – this, Rudraya – for the sake of the destroyer of samsara (we meditate), tavase – possessed of the knowledge to lead the chEtanas out of samsArA, kapardinE – Shaggy mane (Narasimha), kshayadvIra – possessing great valor, prabhara – we perform, yathA – by which, na – to our, dvIpade shamastu – peace will come, chatushpadE – two legged and four legged animals, vishvampushtam – fully complete with no wants or desires, grAmE – village (ie, body/dwelling), asminn - in this, anAturam – free of disease, astu – will be.

Meaning: We meditate for the sake of Rudra (the destroyer of the disease of samsArA), who possesses the knowledge to lead the chEtanas out of samsArA, who has a shaggy mane as Narasimha, who possesses valor to subdue the enemies (obstacles to brahma jnAnam). We perform (ie, accessories to upAsaNa performed in such a way) by which peace will be attained for our bipeds and quadrupeds (ie, possessions used as accessories to upAsaNa) and will be fully complete with no wants or desires (ie, develop vairAgyam by sAttvika tyAga), becoming free of disease in this body.

Tapas – interpreted by srI parAsara bhattar as possessing the knowledge to lead chEtanas out of samsArA.

Kapardin, which had been interpreted as "matted hair" for bhagavAn srI rAmA and also for upAsakAs, is interpreted here as "shaggy mane". A lion's mane is matted and hence, it avoids redundancy to interpret it this way here, also suiting the context.

Mruda no Rudrota no maya skrudhi kshayadviraya Namasa vidhema te, yacchamcha yoscha manurayaje pita Tadshyama tava Rudra pranitau |

mRdAno – shower your grace on us, Rudra – making us cry by experiencing your kalyAna guNams, uta – also, maya –the bliss of kaimkaryam and uninterrupted service in mOksha sthAnam, kRdhi – grant, kshayadvirAya – by destroying the karmas, namasA vidhEma – we offer many salutations with “namaha”, ie, self-surrender, yaccamcha yoscha – bliss and freedom from suffering, manurAjaye – who earns by intellect, pita – cause, tat – that, ashyAm – we may attain, tava – your, Rudra – destroyer of the disease of samsArA, pranitau – by your guidance, ie, being the upAya.

Meaning: Rudra (One who causes us to cry on experiencing your kalyAna guNams)! Shower your grace on us by destroying our karmas obstructing moksha prApti so that we may also gain the bliss of kaimkaryam in srI vaikunta. We offer many salutations of “nama:” (not mine). O Rudra (Destroyer of the disease of samsArA)! Become our upAyam so we may attain that (purushArtham of kaimkaryam) earned by the intellect, which causes bliss and freedom from suffering.

namasA vidhEma – bhUyishtAm namOktim vidhEma – Isavasya Upanishad.

“Manu” is interpreted by srI parAsara bhattar in his Vishnu sahasranAma bhAshyam as “the thinker” – so, in this case, it refers to the intellect of the jivAtmA. upAsaNa is termed “buddhi yOgA” and prapatti is “chaitanya krt”, so both upAyams are forms of knowledge – “jnAnAn mOkshO jAyatE”. Hence, the intellect of the jivAtma earns the purushArtham of kaimkaryam.

“pitA” is interpreted to denote “cause” by swami pillai lOkAchAryar in his beautiful and extraordinarily easy to understand srI sUkti known as nava vidha sambandham. So that meaning can be taken in this context as well.

The purushArtham desired by jivAs is two-fold as per Swami nAyanAr’s thiruvullam in AchArya Hrudayam – 1) Obtainment of bliss, 2) Freedom from suffering. Both are contained in the purushArtham of bhagavad/bhAgavatA/AchArya kaimkaryam in srI vaikunta.

The latter part of this mantra also occurs in the Rudra Suktam of Rg Veda

Ma no mahanta muta ma no arbhakam ma na ukshanta Muta ma na ukshitam, ma no vadhih pitaram mota Mataram priya ma nastanuvo Rudra ririshaha |

Ma – do not, no – our, mahantam – great (old age) muta – also, ma – do not, no – our, arbhakam – childish (stage), ma – do not, no – our, ukshanta – youthful (stage), uta – also, ma – do not, our – fully grown (stage), ma – do not, no – our, vadhih – kill, pitaram – our fathers, uta – also, mataram – mothers, priyamAnastanuvO – those dear to me by deha sambandham, Rudra – destroyer of the disease of samsArA, ririsha – do not kill.

Meaning: Do not harm our (knowledge of you, ie, make us steadfast in upAsaNa) in the four stages of our life – child, youth in the prime of life, fully grown to adulthood and great (old age) . O Rudra (Destroyer of the disease of samsArA), do not harm our fathers, mothers and those dear to me by virtue of bodily connection (relatives).

Ma nastoke tanayou ma na ayusi ma no goshu ma no Ashveshu ririsaha | Viranma no Rudra bhamito vadhirhavi - shmanto namasa vidhema te |

Ma – do not na – our, tOkE – children, tanayou – those belonging to our family, ma – do not, na – our, ayushI – lifespan, ma- do not, na – our, goShu – cows, ma – do not, na – our, ashvEshu – horses, ririsha – kill. VirAn – strength, ma – do not – no – our, Rudra – Destroyer of the disease of samsArA, bhAmita – be angry, vadhir – kill, haviSman – with sacrifice (ie, self-surrender), tE – to you, namasA vidhEma – offer our salutations of “nama:”

Meaning: Do not harm our children, those belonging to our family such as the wife (who aid in upAsaNa), our lifespan (earned by steadfast study of the veda), our cows and horses (articles used as accessories to upAsaNa). O Rudra (Destroyer of the disease of samsArA)! Do not be angry (at our transgressions and non-adherence to sAstra) and harm our strength (ability to sustain upAsaNa). We offer ourselves (as sacrifice, ie, self-surrender) to you with salutations of “nama:” (not mine).

Tanaya – belonging to family such as wife. Interpreted as such to remove redundancy since children are mentioned already.
“vedanUl pirAyam nUru”, says swami thondaraddipodi azhwar.

"Kasmai devAya haviSha vidhEma" is answered here as sriman nArAyaNa, as the destroyer of the disease of samsArA.

Aratte goghna uta purushaghne kshayadviraya sumna masme Te astu, Raksha cha no adhi cha deva bruhyatha cha nah Sharma yacchavi barhah |

ArathE – near, goghna – that which troubles our indrIyas, uta – also, purshagne – that which destroys (the nature) of the self, kshayadviraya – destroying the karmas (which are the cause), sumna – graceful, tE – your, asmE – for us, astu – become, raksha ca – also protect, no – our, adhibruhI – speak in our favour, cha – also, deva – One with vAtsalya guNam, can a – also for us, sarma ca – also bliss, the highest goal to be attained, yacchavi – grant us, dvibarhah – may there be peace.

Meaning: Let your grace come near for us, destroying the karmas that trouble our indrIyas (by making them attached to sense objects) and also destroy the true nature of the self (by making us feel independent and forget our servitude). O One with vAtsalya guNa (deva)! Protect us by speaking in our favour (ie, consider our faults as dOshams) and grant us the bliss of selfless kaimkaryam in srI vaikunta, which is the highest goal to be attained. Thus, may there be peace.

He speaks in our favour as stated by swami periyAzhwar - ennadiyAr adhu seiyyAr; sedihAreA nanRu seidhAr. He considers even our doshams as bhOgyam and is blind to our faults.

Sarma is interpreted by srI parAsara bhattar in the vishNu sahasranama bhAshya as “paramAnanda rUpatvAt sarma”.

Purusha refers to the jivAtmA as per Gita bhAshya of srI yatirAjar.

Stuhi shrutam garta sadam yuvanam mrugannabhima mupahat numugram, mruda jaritre Rudra Satvano anyante asmanniva pantu senaha |

Meaning: Praise the famous (ie, well known by the narasimha tApanIya Upanishad or well known in shruti) Rudra (the destroyer of the disease of samsArA) who dwells in the cave of the heart, who is eternally young, and who is fierce like a lion. O Rudra (One who makes us shed tears on enjoying your kalyAna guNams)! Being praised by our words, confer happiness to us who have been afflicted by having a body subjected to old age and death. Let Your forces annihilate others who are Your enemies and spare us.

I have simply pasted the explanation of srI bhatta bhAskara since his meaning is adequate enough for this mantra.

The reference to a "lion" is not metaphorical. It is literally the form of narasimhA in the cave of the heart. This is stated by srI vedAnta desika. This vAkyam occurs in the narasimha tApanIya upanishad with "rudra" being replaced by "mRgam", denoting narasimhA.

Our enemies are his enemies as he wants us to gain mOksham so we can serve him. “seNa” refers to his divya mangala vigraha which has divya shaktIs that are like an army to attract us. Or, it refers to his army of nitya sUrIs who destroy the obstacles to knowledge of Parabrahman, sriman nArAyaNa (yasya dvirada vaktrAdhyA…).

Parino Rudrasya hetir vrunaktu pari tve shasya durmati raghayoho |Ava sthira maghavad bhyastanushva midhvasttokaya tanayaya mridaya |

parinO – surrounding (prakrti), rudrasya – of Rudra (the destroyer of the disease of samsArA), hetir – weapons, na – of us, parivrnaktu – leaving aside (come), tveshasya – impulse (drives), durmati – unsound intellect (viparIta jnAnA) (may leave us), aghayo – intending harm, Avasthira – faultless (with respect to purushArthams, maghavadbhya – be munificent to us, avatanushva – the jivAs associated with body, mIdva – shower your grace, tokaya – for our children, tanaya – for our family, mRda – grant happiness.

Meaning: O Rudra (the destroyer of the disease of samsArA), leaving aside your weapons (come to us) so that (this prakrti) surrounding us, which drives us to do harm (by not understanding our nature) owing to viparIta jnAnA, (may leave us). Faultless (in bestowing purushArthams), Be munificent to us, the jivAs associated with bodies (and hence stuck in samsArA) and shower your grace, granting happiness for our children and family.

Midhushthama shivatama shivo nah sumana bhava parame vriksha Ayudhan nidhaya krittim vasana achara pinakam bibhradagahi |

Midhushtama – drenching the world with rain (ie, bestowing us with purushArthams), shivatama – of an auspicious nature (ie, everlasting and purifying), shivo – conferring auspiciousness, na – to us, sumana bhava – graceful form, paramE vrkshA – the best protector, Ayudham – weapons, nidhaya – putting aside, krittim vasana – One in whom resides fame (of sousIlyam or the ability to grant brahmAnandam) OR wearing the garment of skins, achAr – please come to us, pinAkam bibruth – One who bears (has as his body) srI vaikuntam, which abounds in bliss (come to us).

Meaning: One who bestows us the purushArthams which are of an auspicious (ie, everlasting and purifying) nature that confers auspiciousness to us! Greatest of Protectors! Come to us, assuming a graceful demeanor, leaving aside your weapons, you, who bear srI vaikuntA, that abounds in bliss as your body, in whom resides the fame of mingling with others lesser than you or of granting BrahmAnandam.


Meaning: One who bestows us the purushArthams which are of an auspicious (ie, everlasting and purifying) nature that confers auspiciousness to us! Greatest of Protectors! Come to us, assuming a graceful demeanor, leaving aside your weapons, you, who bear srI vaikuntA, that abounds in bliss as your body, wearing garments of skin (as you did as srI rAmA for the sole purpose of exhibiting sousIlyam and saranAgati dharma).

“midhushtamA” is interpreted as above by srI ranga rAmAnuja muni.

“pinakam” is interpreted as one who has srI vaikunta (nakham) that abounds/overflows/ever increases in bliss ( pi – payate, pIpeti, pIpyAna) as his body.

“krittivAsA” can be interpreted as One in whom resides the guNam of fame (of sousIlyam or of the ability to grant brahmAnandam). kritti, vasAn - One who displays this guNam.

Also, “krttivAsA” can be interpreted in a straightforward manner as wearer of skins, which is a trait of srI rAmA as seen below,

vRkshe vRkshe ca paSyAmi cIra kRshNAjinAmbaram |
gRhIta dhanusham rAmam pASa hastamiva antakam ||"
(vAlmiki rAmAyaNa, AraNya khaNda 39.14)

(mArica says) "In every tree I see rAma dressed in tree bark and black deer-skin and His bow drawn as though He is the god of death with the rope in hand."

The reason srI rAmA came dressed in skins, ie, went to the forest was 1) to establish saranAgati dharma, 2) to exhibit his guNam of sousIlyam, 3) to shower his nirhEtuka krupa on all jivAs. Thus he is krttivAsA. He goes through hardships such as wearing skins and matted hair and going to the forest to help us.

In addition, srI narasimhA can also be called “krttivAsA”, the wearer of skin as some purAnAs say he donned the skin of Brahma in that avatArAm. This refers to the red color of his body since Brahma is usually associated with red due to rajO guNam (which is represented by red color). This is mentioned in srI kUrEsa vijayam.

Vikirida vilohita Namaste astu bhagavaha, Yaste sahasragam hetayo nyamasmanniva pantu tah |

Vikirida – destroyer of karmas OR One who has the strange (yet beautiful) form of half-man, half-lion, vilOhita – reddish complexioned one (narasimhA), Namaste astu – I offer salutations of “nama:” to you, bhagavaha – Possessor of 6 guNams (jnAna, bala, vIrya, aishwarya, tejas and shakti) , ya – which, tE – your, sahasra hEtaye – thousands of weapons (ie, omnipotence), asmAt anyam - that which is different to us (ie, not compatible to atma svarUpa), nivapanthu – let them be destroyed.

Meaning: O Narasimha of Red complexion! One who is the destroyer of karmas OR who has the beautiful yet odd form of half-man, half-lion! BhagavAn, who has the 6 guNams of jnAna, bala, vIrya, aishwarya, Shakti and tejas! I offer salutations of “nama:” by which the (karmas, vAsaNas, ahamkAra) that is different from us (the nature of the jivAtma, which is seshatvam/pAratantryam) will be destroyed by virtue of your omnipotence.

Sahasrani sahasradha bahuvostava hetayah | Tasamishano bhagavah parachina mukha krudhi ||

sahasrAni – thousands of, sahasradha – thousand fold, tavabahavo – in your hands, hetayah – weapons, tAsAmmukah – their front, ishanO – the controller of the baddhas, muktas and nityAs, bhagavah – one who is worthy of worship, parAchina – away from (us), kRdhi – please (you must) do.

Meaning: You, who are worthy of worship, have thousands (infinite) of weapons in your thousand fold (infinite) arms. O Controller of the baddhAs, muktAs and nityAs! You must please turn their front (weapons facing us) away from us.

Meaning of “IshAna” is given as per the sahasranAma bhAshya of srI parAsara bhattar.

This anuvAka thus ends with a prArthanai to bhagavAn to hide his cosmic form, the vishvarUpa and show his beautiful, apRAkrta divya mangala vigraha.


Sahasrani sahasrasho you Rudra Adhi bhumyam, teshagam Sahasra yojane vadhanvani tanmasi |

We request those thousands of veins expanding from the heart (known as rudrAs), present in thousand fold varieties (differently colored and leading to different gaTis) who are present in the earth (ie, the body made of earthly elements) shall loosen their bowstrings and their bows be deposited thousands of yojanAs (ie, very far away) from us.

The brihadAraNyaka and chAndOgya Upanishads declare that there are thousands of veins expanding from the heart, which possess differently colored serums of black, blue, red, yellow, green, white, etc. The exact pramAnams for these veins will be provided in the following mantras. These veins have the following functions:

-     The jivAs move to these veins during the state of dreaming and comes back to his place in the heart lotus after experiencing he dreams.

-     These veins are the passage of the departure of the jivAtma from the body and lead to either the archirAdi gaThi (brahmapAtha leading to srI vaikuntA, ie, liberation), the dhUmAdi gaThi (leading to other worlds based on merits and demerits in samsArA) and the 3rd gaTi (born as insects, germs or stuck in insentient objects).

These veins are referred to here as “rudrAH” collectively for the following reason. The brihadAraNyaka Upanishad says that the 11 rudrAs presiding over the 10 organs of the body and the mind (which makes the 11th) are called “rudra” because they make the relatives weep at the time of departure from the mortal body. The veins are called “rudrAs” in the same sense as they cause the departure of the jivAtma from its body and thus, make his relatives weep.

The reference to “loosening bow-strings”, etc is a request to the indwelling paramAtma, sriman nArAyaNa, of these veins (or the deities presiding over the veins) to assume a graceful demeanor and ensure that we are led by these veins to the upper worlds and not to naraka and lower births.

Asmin mahatyarnaven tarikshe bhava adhi|.

In this samsAra mandalam which is like a large ocean and in paramapada denoted as “antarIksha”, the (veins) exist (ie, lead to)

The veins lead to lower births and worlds, which are present in samsArA (denoted as mahatArNavam) as well as to srI vaikunta (denoted as antarIksha).

It is also possible to include satya loka and the upper worlds along with srI vaikunTa in the category of antarIksha as the sAstras say that the successful practitioner of bhakti yOgA spends some time (ie, one birth) in the upper worlds before proceeding to srI vaikunta.

Nila griva shiti kantha sharva adhah kshama charah |.
The blue black passages (veins), the narrow white cavities that are the removers (of ills) lead downwards (to lower worlds and births).

This requires some explanation. With all humility, I can say that nearly every commentator has got this anuvAkam wrong. And I am saying this without any ahaMkAraM on my part, since this explanation is purely due to the brilliant commentary of srI ranga rAmAnuja muni on the brihadAraNyaka Upanishad, without which nothing would be clear.

The brihadAranyaka Upanishad refers to the veins in the body as follows:
There are in his body nerves (nadis) called hita, which are fine as a hair divided into a thousand parts and are filled with white, blue, brown, green and red fluids (~ Br.Up – 4.3.20)

These veins act as passages for the jivAs to travel out of the body to other worlds based on its punya and papa. The chandOgya Upanishad also describes these same veins and says that they lead to archirAdi and dhUmAdi gatIs. The suShumna nAdi leads to srI vaikunta, the other nerves lead to lower worlds.

nIlagrIvAH– the term “nila” denotes black-blue, the color of the serums and “grIvAH” refers to passages, ie, veins. “grIvAH” does not refer to a neck as interpreted by other commentators here, but indicates some form of passages which signifies the veins that the jivAs travel through.

shitikaNThAH – “shiti” means “white” and is the color of the serum. “kaNTha” means a narrow way or a cavity and hence, refers to another kind of vein.

The usage of “grIva” and “kaNTha” is only to illustrate a morphological difference between these veins – both “nIlagrIva” and “sitikaNTha” refer to different types of veins only.

SharvAH – the term means “remover” as per srI parAsara bhattar’s explanation. The usage of the term “remover” is to suggest that these veins are the removers of ills. The jivAtma has been accumulating pApa karmas in this body. So, by dispatching the jivA to naraka and lower worlds, the jivA is prevented from indulging in further detrimental acts in this particular body. Furthermore, the time spent in naraka lOkAs also remove the pApa karmas of the jivAs and hence, the existence of these worlds is only another aspect of sriman nArAyaNa’s grace, to extinguish the pApa karmas of the jivAs by a period of brief suffering. So, the ills of the body that caused the jivAs to perform such wicked deeds are removed by these veins which dislodge the jivA from the body, hence the veins are called sharvAH. These veins may also despatch the jivAs to lower births like animal, insect or germ, or trap the jivA in its next birth within an insentient thing, where its dharma bhUta jnAna is reduced to almost nil and it is unable to  act until pralaya.

Just as surgery is a brief painful procedure to a healthy life, these lower births and hells are brief painful measures to remove the pApa karmas. After a lifetime of sin, a lower birth for a brief period or suffering in naraka means that the jivA does not indulge in sins anymore and it has extinguished a major load of pApa karmas, so is it not in reality beneficial to us? Of course, the ever acting grace of sriman nArAyaNa will definitely grant us another human birth after this suffering.

Nila griva shiti kantha divam Rudra upashritaha |

The blue black passages (veins), narrow white cavities, the destroyers of samsArA, take the jivAs to srI vaikuntA.

These same veins also lead the meritorious jivAtma out of the body to archirAdi gathi (ie, path to srI vaikunta).

divam upashRta – take the jivAs to srI vaikuntA (divam).

It would have been possible to interpret divam as “swarga”, but the word “rudrA” shows that these veins are the destroyers of samsArA. So, we must take “divam” as signifying srI vaikunta via archirAdi gathi. Hence, these veins lead towards liberation for the mumukkshu.

It is also possible to interpret “divam upaShrta” as “they take the jivAs to upper worlds such as swarga, satya lOka and then to srI vaikunta”. Because, the practitioners of certain vidyAs like the madhu vidyA are first elevated to the status of vasus, adityAs and rudras, and spend some time in the upper worlds contuining their upAsaNa in deva sarIra before finally getting liberated. srI bhIshmAchArya was one such madhu vidyA upAsakar who became a vasu before getting liberation.

Yo vrikshesu saspinjara nilagriva vilohitaha, Yo bhutana madhi patayo vishikhasah kapardianaha |

Which (veins that are well known in sAstra) are present in all men (denoted as trees) as green-yellow, blue-black veins and reddish serums, which (veins) reside in (ie, are common for) all beings with matted hair (astikAs) and shaved heads (nAstikAs).

From here onwards the term “yaH” is used frequently. This term is used by srI bhIshmar in the vishNu sahasranAma to denote bhagavAn sriman nArAyaNa. SrI parAsara bhattar states there that “yaH” is used to denote something which is very well known in the sAstra. In the sahasraNama, of course it is bhagavAn who is well known in the sAstra.

Here, the reference is to the veins, which are well-established as the transporters of the jivAs in the sAstra. “yaH” as per the venerable Bhattar means something which is so well-known in sAstra that it is beyond scope for doubt.

The brihadAraNyaka Upanishad states that the man is a tree as follows:

Man is a tree. (This is) true. His hair is its leaves, his skin its outer bark.  It is from his skin that blood flows, and from the bark sap. Therefore when a man is wounded, blood flows, as sap from a tree is injured. His flesh is its inner bark, and his tendons its innermost layer of bark; both are tough. His bones lie under, as does its wood; his marrow is comparable to its pith. (~ Br. Up – 3.9.28)

So, “vRkshEshu” refers to humans. Note that when we say “man” or “human” or “manuShya” it includes all intelligent beings from manuShyas to devas, gandharvAs, yakshAs, rakshasAs, etc.

“saspinjara”, “nIlagrIva” and “vilOhitAH” refer to the veins containing colored serums. The pramANam for this was given in the previous mantra from the brihadAraNyaka Upanishad, which I will reproduce again:

There are in his body nerves (nadis) called hita, which are fine as a hair divided into a thousand parts and are filled with white, blue, brown, green and red fluids (~ Br.Up – 4.3.20)

Matted hair is indicative of upAsakas and hence, these veins lead the jivA upwards to better worlds. Shaved heads indicate nAstikas, who are led downwards to lower worlds by the veins. As matted hair implies performance of penances, it refers to the followers of sAstra, ie, the meritorious jivAs. As it is against vaidika dharma to shave the head completely (except in infancy for a brief period; even Brahmins must have a shika), the shaved heads are indicative of nAstikAs and asurAs.

Earlier in anuvAka 9, matted locks had stood for upAsakas (inferior devotees) whereas smooth hair had denoted prapannAs (superior devotees). That meaning must not be confused here. In this context, matted locks only stand for a general performance of penances prescribed by sAstras in a positive light. This also avoids redundancy.
In the Gita, bhagavAn tells Arjuna that both an upAsaka and a prapanna must meditate on the two paths (archirAdi and dhUmAdi gaTis). So, knowledge of these veins and where they lead is an accessory to meditation on Brahman.

You annesu vividhyanti patresu pibato janan |

Which (objects of enjoyment provided by transport through the veins, well known in sAstra) reside in foods, in varied forms of containers (the three guNams) (afflict the) people who drink (those who experience the objects of enjoyment).

This refers to those subtle vasaNas prevalent in foods that cause sattva, rajas and tamO guNams in the jivAtmA. “Varied containers” refer to the varying proportions of sattva, rajas and tamas. Swami vedAnta desikan interprets “hiranmayEna pAtrEna” in the isavAsya Upanishad as the guNam of rajas that is like a golden vessel as it appears to contain objects of enjoyment.

The foods contain sattva, rajas and tamas in varying amounts due to vAsaNas and the jivAs who partake of these are afflicted by such guNams and act accordingly (leading to the gatIs described above). Hence, AhAra niyamam is essential for an upAsaka.
To continue with the pattern of interpreting “yaH” as a reference to veins and at the same time to adhere to the meaning, I have taken it as “objects of enjoyment provided by transport through the veins” which is well-known in sAstra.

You patham pathi rakshaya ailabruda yavyudhah |

Which (veins, well known in the sAstra) are the protectors of the paths, for all paths (archirAdhi and dhUmAdi mArgas as well as the third gaTi), the givers of food (ie, make us experience our phalans), who destroy (the punya and pApa karmas by making us experience them).

The chandOgya upanishad says that these veins containing colored serums connect to the paths which in turn lead to upper and lower worlds. The suShumna nAdi alone leads to the archirAdi gaThi which is the path to srI vaikunta, ie, brahmapatha Other veins lead to dhUmAdi gatI which is the path to lower worlds. Hence, these veins are protectors of the paths. These deities are well known in the Upanishads, gita and other sAstra.

Our karmas are exhausted as we experience their phalans. The Upanishads say that the jivA rests in these veins even during dreams, so the experiences in dreams can be considered here in addition to passage to upper and lower worlds, which these veins bring about.

You tirthani pracharanti srukavanto nisanginah |

Which (individual selves travelling the veins, as is well-known in the sAstra as different from the body) move about the paths, holding arrows (ie, minds), possessing ability to cleave (themselves from the gross body).

This refers to the jivAs who, by virtue of mind, that is either indulging in objects of sense gratification or concentrated with meditation on Brahman, move along these paths to lower or upper worlds correspondingly.

nisanginaH – possessing ability to cleave or remove attachment.

yaH – In keeping with the theme of interpreting this as “veins”, I have taken it as “the individual selves travelling in the veins”, which is well-known by the sAstra.

You etavanta scha bhuyam sascha disho Rudra vitasthire | Tesagam sahasra yojane vadhanvani tanmasi ||  
Which (veins, well-known in the sAstra), so much mentioned now, and still more numerous, expanding in all directions (from the heart), are “rudrAs” as they make the relatives weep at the time of departure from the mortal body, we request that they leave their bows at a distance of a thousand yOjanas (ie, let them lead us to better births and gatIs).

The brihadAraNyaka Upanishad says that the 11 rudrAs presiding over the 10 organs of the body and the mind (which makes the 11th) are called “rudra” because they make the relatives weep at the time of departure from the mortal body. The veins are called “rudrAs” in the same sense as they cause the departure of the jivAtma from its body.

Namo Rudrebhyo you pruthivyam you ntarikshe, You divi yousa mannam vato varsamisa vastebhyo Dasha pracirdasha dakshina dasha prati cirda sho
dicirda shor Dhvastebhyo Namaste no mridayantu te yam dvismo Yascha no dvestim tam vo jambhe dadhami |

Namo rudrEbhyo – prostrations to the rudrAs, ie, the veins,  yo prithivyAm – who reside in the samsAra mandala, yo antarIkshE – who reside in, ie, lead to srI vaikunta, yo divi – who is in, ie, provide the phalan of, sacrifice (ie, action), yo sa annam – which is in, ie, cause of experiencing, the phalans, vAto – who is in, ie, leads the jivA, designated as wind (as it migrates through samsArA), that is expelled from the body, varShaimsha – who is the rains and arrows, ie, lead the jivA to gaTis based on punya and pApa karmas,  vastEbhyO – to be stayed in (during dreams), dasha prAchi dasha dakshina pratichi dasho dashi dasha uRdhvaH namaste – We salute with all ten fingers (ie, in Anjali mudra) east-faced, south-faced, west-faced, north-faced and upwards (the suShumna nAdi leading to archirAdi gaThi). Nah  mridayantu – be graceful to us, te yam dvishmo yascha no dveshtim tam vo jambhE dadAmi – by virtue of my prostrations, I give those who we hate and those who hate us to your open mouth, ie, passages (the punya and pApa karmas along with the vAsaNas).

Prostrations to the indweller of the veins sriman nArAyaNa known as rudra (hence these veins are known as rudrAs) whuch lead to samsAra mandalam, to srI vaikunta, which provide the results of my action and which is the cause of experiencing those results, which lead the jivAtma who is like wind as he is constantly transmigrating in samsArA out of body, which lead us to different gaTis based on our punya and pApa karmas and which are the dwelling place of the jivAtma as he dreams. We salute the indweller of these veins,with the famous Anjali mudrA (capable of destroying all sins) in all directions (that these veins extend to from the heart) that they be graceful to us and make us expend our punya and pApa karmas by transporting us to the various gaTis and making us dream; by virtue of which we will extinguish our karmas, relinquish the vAsaNas and attain moksha.

Divi – means sacrifice, refers to activities conducted by the jivA to earn punya and pApa karmas thus leading to upper or lower worlds/births through the veins.

vAta – Normally refers to wind expelled from the body. But the isavasya Upanishad says “vAyur anilamamRutam” – here, swami vedAnta desikan says that “vAyu” denotes the jivAtma which is like wind in the sense that he is always moving, ie, transmigrating in samsArA. So, vAta refers to the jivAtma, who is always transmigrating and who is expelled from the body by the veins.

rudrAH – We take the term “rudra” to denote the antaryAmin of the veins or their presiding deities, ie, sriman nArAyaNa. This is because this mantra offers prostrations and is in contrast to previous mantras where the veins were termed “rudrAH” as they make the relatives weep at the time of departure from the mortal body.

Tryambakam yajamahe sugandhim pushtivardhanam urvarurkamiva bhamdhanam mrityor mukshiya mamritate |

Tryambakam – AchArya rAmAnuja who knows the 3 vedas, yajAmahE – we worship, sugandhim – full of all fragrances and scents, pushtivardhanam –One who increases or expands wealth (the dharma bhUta jnAnam and the 8-fold qualities of the jivAtma), urvarurkamiva – (separating) like a ripe berry or melon bandhanAth – from the stalk, mRtyO – from samsAra, mukshIya – liberate us, amRutAth – from performing kaimkaryams to AchAryan, mAmritAtE – do not relieve me (ie, you are my upEyam as well).

O LakshmaNa muni who knows the 3 Vedas! We worship you, who are full of all fragrances and scents (ie, you possess all the objects of enjoyment and are the greatest purushArtham) and who increase the dharma bhUta jnAnam of the jivAtma, which when expanded to infinity, liberates the jivA by manifesting the 8-fold guNams of apahatapApma, etc. Like a ripe berry being released from its stalk, ie, when I have become complete with services to the AchArya, liberate me (without any effort on my part) from samsArA. Do not relieve me of my services to you, as I will still be your servant in srI vaikuntA as well.

These mantras are chanted along with the rudraprashNam.

Firstly, “Tryambaka” does not signify paramAtma here. The reason is because sriman nArAyaNa has been consistently referred to as “Rudra” in all preceding as well as succeeding mantrAs and there is no apparent reason to break this continuity. Therfore, this mantra is referring to someone other than sriman nArAyaNa, who can also grant moksha. This is none other than the AchAryan, who of course, for sri vaishnavas, is bhagavad bhAshyakArar, yatirAja, srI vishNu loka mani mandapa mArga dAyI, srI rAmAnuja muni.

The svetAsvatArA Upanishad also declares that one must commence upAsaNa only after offering respects to the guru.

“Tryambaka” means “One who knows the 3 vedas” and hence refers to the omniscient AchAryan. While other meanings of the name denote paramAtma, this meaning is common to both sriman nArAyaNa as well as the AcHAryan. So, it denotes the guru here.

By imparting us the knowledge of tattva traya and rahasya traya, the AcHAryan increases our dharma bhUta jnAna and consequently, upon liberation we attain omniscience ( Sarvam ha pasya: pasyathi SarvamApnOthi Sarvasa – the mukta jivA sees all, enjoys all, etc) and the 8-fold qualities beginning with apahatapApma etc. For more information on dharma bhUta jnAna and these 8-fold qualities, please refer srI bhAshya and vedArtha sangraha of srI  yatirAja.

As per the sAstra vAkya “AchArya devO bhavaH”, swami madhurakavi azhwar’s declaration in kaNNinun siruthAmbu “deivu maRRariyEn kurugUr nambi” (I know of no god other than my AchAryan, swami nammazhwar) and swami pillai lOkAchAryar’s reiteration of the same in srI vachana bhUshaNam “AchArya abhimAnamE uttArakam” (the greatest upAya is devotion to the AcHArya) – the devotion to AchAryan can be either an anga to bhakti and prapatti yOgAs, or it can be adopted as an independent means by itself. Just serving the AchAryan will lead to mOkshA as the AcHAryan serves as the mediator for his sishya.

“Like a ripe berry or melon falling from its stalk” – Our bondage in samsArA is finished once we attain true knowledge. The sAstrAs say “jnAnAn mOkShO jAyatE”. True knowledge is simply a form of unceasing service and devotion to the AchArya.
“Do not relieve me of your services even in mOkshA” - The service to the AchAryan is not merely a means to an end, but an end in itself. Even in srI vaikunta, we serve the achAryan incessantly and for ever. Even though we attain omniscience and the same perfection as the AchArya in mOksha, we remain subservient to him by our nature, as he is the One who provided us our purushArtham. So, he is the ultimate end.The Linga PurAnA, quoted by srI parAsara bhattar in his vishNu sahasranAma bhAshyam says that in srI vaikuntA, which is mOksha, the liberated jivA serves bhagavAn as well as his devotees (ie, the nitya sUrIs and achAryAs).

The devotion to AcHArya as leading to mOksha can be seen in the incident of srI shabari in the rAmAyaNa. Swami manavAla mAmunigal notes something of significance – srI rAmA ate the fruits offered to him by Shabari, but refused the food offered by Guha. The reason is because Shabari had grown ripe with the services to her AchAryan; therefore, srI rAmA’s grace was unhindered for her and he accepted her fruits due to her AchArya bhakti; she attained mOksha as well. But in the case of Guha, although he was a great devotee and favoured by srI rAmA, he did not have AcHArya sambandham and hence, his offerings were not accepted by bhagavAn, although his devotion was highly regarded.

That Shabari attained mOksha only by her AcHArya sambandham is reteirated by the fact that it was her AchAryan who told her to wait for srI rAmA. Also, when srI rAmA enters her hut, the first question he asks Sabari is this,

Kacchit tE niyamAH prAptAH kacchit tE manasaH sukham |
kaccit tE guru shushrUSA sa phala chAru bhASiNi||

caaru bhaaSiNi = oh, suave, speaker; te niyamaaH praaptaaH kaccit = your, commitments [to certain pledges, like caandraayaNaadi vrata-s,] achieved, anywise; te manasaH sukham kaccit = your, self, appeased, anyway; te guru shushruuSaa = your, mentors, subservience to, sa phalaa = with, fruit [brought to fruition]; kaccit = isn't it!

"Oh, suave speaker, mayhap your sacred commitments are achieved, anywise... appeased is your self, anyway... and your subservience to your mentors brought to fruition, perchance... isn't it!" Thus Rama enquired with Shabari. [~ vAlmiki rAmAyaNa 3-74-9]

It was by her AchArya bhakti that she had completed everything and become ripe, so to speak.

And srI shabari also replies,

adya prApta tapaH siddhiH tava samdarshanAt mayA |
adya mE sa phalam janmam guruvaH ca su pUjitAH  ||

adya = just now / today; tava sam darshanaat = by your, pleasing appearance - manifestation; maya = by me; tapaH siddhiH praaptaa = ascesis, accomplishment, is achieved; adya = now only / today; me janma sa phalam = my, birth, with, fruit - fructified; guravaH ca su puujitaaH = to mentors [my subservience,] also, well, hallowed.

"Just now, on your pleasing manifestation before me my ascesis is accomplished, and now only my birth is fructified, and now only my subservience to my mentors is well hallowed... [~ vAlmiki rAmAyaNa 3-74-11]

This incident is thus, the essence of the mahAmrityunjaya mantrA.

Yo Rudro agnau yo apsu ya oshadhishu yo Rudro vishva bhuvana vivesha tasmai Rudraya namo astu |

Yo rudrO – which Rudra, agnou – in fire, yo apsu – who (is) in water,  yOshadishu – who (is) in herbs, yo rudrO vishva bhuvaNa vivesha – which rudra has entered fully in all worlds as the jivAs(ie, antaryAmin pUrnatvam due to sAmAnAdhikaraNyam), tasmai rudrAya namo astu – Let my prostration be to that Rudra.

Let my prostration be to that Rudra (destroyer of the disease of samsArA), which is in fire, water, herbs, is the indweller with all perfections (ie, no diversity) of all beings.

After meditating on the guru, this is the way an upAsaka must meditate on sriman nArAyaNa, ie, the jagath is his body and he is the indwelling self.
“yaH” indicates “that Rudra, who is well-known in the sAstra, ie, well-established as paramAtma, sriman nArAyaNa” and no other. As mentioned before, srI bhishmA refers to vishNu as “yaH” in the sahasranAmA only in this respect. In other words, the Rudra praised by the veda is the destroyer of the disease of samsArA and is sriman nArAyaNa only.

vishvA bhuvanA vivEsha – Who is present as antaryAmin in all beings, and complete in that form. The word “entered” suggests that it is the jivAtma, which is the body of paramAtma, that has entered, ie, assumed bodies in samsArA. By the logic of sAmAnAdhikaraNyam, we say paramAtma (the inner self of the jivA and who has the jivA as his body) has entered the worlds.  As per “nEha nAnAsti kincana”, there is no division in Brahman, ie, the paramAtma indwelling in a rock, plant, man, deva, etc is the same with respect to svarUpa-rUpa-guNa-vibhUti and does not diminish by virtue of his immanence.

Tamu shthuti yah svishuh sudhanva yo vishvasya shyati bheshajasya Yakshvamahe saumanasaya Rudram namo bhrdevamasuram duvasya |

Tamu stuhi – we praise, yah – he who is well-known, svishuh – as possessing a beautiful arrow, sudhanva – a good bow, yo vishvasya shyati bheshajasya – who is the abode of all medicines (due to srI mahAlakshmi on his chest), yakshvamahE – worship with delight, saumanasAya – for right knowledge, rudram – the destroyer of the disease of samsArA, namobhi – with the offering of “not mine”, devamasuram duvasya – worship the one with vAtsalya guNam with strength (knowledge)

We praise he who is well-known in the sAstra (as srI rAmA), who possesses a beautiful arrow and an excellent bow (to destroy the obstacles, the karmas which impede our knowledge of Brahman), who is the abode of all medicines by virtue of having srI mahAlakshmi on his chest. We worship Rudra, the destroyer of the disease of samsArA with delight (rejoicing in experience of his kalyAna guNams) for right knowledge of our seshatvam and pAratantryam. We offer prostrations of nama: (not mine) with vAtsalya guNam (ie, he is blind to our faults), the strong (ie, knowledgeable as he knows our desires and can fulfil them).

As meditation stated in the previous mantra culminates in brahma sAkshAtkAram, this mantra describes the beauty of his form seen by the upAsaka. The 3 namaskArams indicated by tamu stuhi, yakshvamahE, namObhi are of the form of prostrations by speech, mind and body.

It is srI mahAlakshmi who is the source of all medicine. As she resides on his chest, he becomes the abode of all medicine. It is said by sri vaishnava AchAryas that Sita embraced srI rAmA after his war with Khara and Dushana to heal his injuries with the herbs on her body.

The presence of srI is important as she acts as a mediator (purushakAram) to make bhagavAn’s guNam of vAtsalyam (denoted by deva) to rise, so it is mentioned here.
“asuram” is interpreted by other commentators as strong. The strength is a metaphor for knowledge as stated by srI ranga rAmAnuja muni in his mahAnArAyaNa Upanishad bhAshya. Or, it can even be taken as literal strength – he possesses the strength to destroy our enemies.

Ayam mE hasta bhagavAnya mE bhagavattara ayam mE vishvabhesajo yam shivabhimarshanaha |  
mE – my, ayam hasta – this Anjali hastam (hands clasped), bhagavAnya – is worthy of worship, mE – my, bhagavattara – is extremely purifying, mE – my, ayam shivabhimarshanaha – touch (ie, palms touching each other) which is auspicious, vishvabhesajo – is the medicine for all ills (pertaining to samsArA)

This Anjali hastam formed by my hands is worthy of worship as it brings sriman nArAyaNa under our control (by us surrendering to him) and fetches us all purushArthams. My Anjali hasta mudrA is therefore, extremely purifying and the auspicious clasp of my palms is the medicine for all ills of samsArA.

The only thing that can defeat the nArAyaNastra is saranAgati. Similarly, the Anjali mudra or Anjali hastam, palms clasped in an expression of saranAgati, defeats bhagavAn’s supreme independence (his ability to punish and reward us based on our faults and merits) and brings him under our control, ie, his grace flows completely towards us and his anger is nullified. So, this Anjali mudra is very auspicious and worthy of worship.

Swami vedAnta desikan has written a whole grantha on the greatness of Anjali mudra. This work was inspired by a sloka from the stOtra ratnam of Alavandar who says:

tvadanghrim uddisya kadaapi kenacit yathaa tathaa vaapi sakrut kutoanjali: |tadaiva mushNaati asubhaani aseshata: subhaani puhNaati na jaatu hiiyate ||

Meaning: Whosoever, in whatever manner, at whatever time, supplicates to You with palms joined even once, that act dispels at once all his miseries and contributes to his well-being. An act of supplication to You is never in vain.

For more, please read Anjali vaibhavam of swami vedAnta desikan.

Yo te sahasramayutam pasha mrityo martyaya hantave Tanyagyasya mayaya sarvanava yajamahe |

Yo tE – sahasramayutam pasha – your thousands of myriad nooses constituting prakrti, mrtyo – One who is death to samsArA for his devotees, martyaya – for the samsArIs going through the cycle of births and deaths, hantavE – trapping, tAn sarvAn – all of them, yajnyasya mAyaya – by sacrifice (self-surrender) on my part, avayajamahe – put aside.

O Narasimha, who is death to samsArA! You possess prakrti, which is of myriad forms and is like a thousand nooses for trapping the chEtanas in samsArA. Please remove this mAya by accepting my self-surrender.

Since the glory of Anjali mudra was explained in the previous mantra, this one talks about what such Anjali mudra, clasped for performing saranAgati, can accomplish. “sahasramayutam pasha” refers to prakrti. As it bewilders the jivA in many ways due to its three guNams of sattva, rajas and tamas in varying proportions, the word ayutam is used. As it traps the chEtanas in samsArA, it is referred to as a thousand (or infinite) nooses.

Narasimha is known as “mrtyu mrtyu” in the mantra rAja pada stOtra. He is death (denoted by the first mrtyu) to samsArA (denoted by the second mrtyu) for his devotees.

The gita slOka, of course, is relevant here:

mama maya duratyaya mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etam taranti te

Meaning: This mAya (prakrti) of Mine consists of the three Gunas, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Because it is created by Me, the Divine, for purpose of sport, it is divine in its power and therefore difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto me can easily cross it. (~Gita 7.14)

The svetAsvatAra is the same thing:

maayaa.n tu prakR^iti.n vidyaanmaayina.n cha maheshvaram.h |
tasyavayavabhuutaistu vyaapta.n sarvamida.n jagat.h ||

Meaning: Prakrti is to be known as mAyA. The great Lord (MaheshwarA) is the mover of mAyA. All this universe is pervaded by the jivAs (ie, they fill the universe) who are his inseparable attributes. (~ Sve.Up 4.10)

“mahEshwara” refers to sriman nArAyaNa only here. “bhUta mahEshwara” is a name occurring in the sahasranAmA. The name also occurs in the Gita as an epithet of Krishna.

Mrityave Svaha, Mrityave Svahaha |

I offer this food (myself) in sacrifice (self-surrender) to Narasimha, who is death for the samsArA of his devotees.

OM Namo Bhagavate Rudraya Vishnave mrityume pahi | Prananam granthirasi rudro ma vishantakaha. Tenan nenapyayasva ||

Om. Salutation to the destroyer of the disease of samsArA (rudra), who is all-pervading (vishNu; hence he is present everywhere to protect his devotees). Protect me from samsArA (denoted as mrtyu, the cycle of births and deaths). One who makes us shed tears of joy on experiencing your kalyAna guNams (Rudra)! You reside as an antidote for the knots (of samsArA) as the life force of your devotees. I offer this food (praise).

“Annam” here refers to praise. SaranAgati was performed in the last mantra, and it is not to be repeated again.


This concludes my write-ups on Shri Rudram.

I submit this to the lotus feet of srI rAmAnuja muni and all pUrvAchAryas.

sollaar thamizoru moonRum churuthikaL naan_gumellai
illaa aRan^eRi yaavum therinthavan eNNaruncheer
nNallaar paravum iraamaa Nnuchan_thiru naamam nambik
kallaar akalitath thOr,ethu pERenRu kaamipparE. (~ irAmAnusa nURRandhAdhi 44)

Meaning: Art, music, drama in Tamil, the Rg, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana Vedas, the innumerable and limitless dharma sAstras – all these are comprehended by him in crystal clear clarity – he who is the personification of limitless auspicious attributes and praised by scholars (discerning vaidikas) for the same. For one who has not learned his auspicious name of “rAmAnuja”, in this vast world, what other thing could such a one desire for and for which end?


  1. Dear Readers,

    As you know, we have provided innumerable proofs from shruti and smriti that Shri Rudram is an excellent hymn of Vishnu. The only relation Rudra has with it is that it consists of 11 anuvAkAs used for curbing the 10 senses and mind presided over by the 11 Rudras and so, it is possible to meditate on the Lord as rudrAntaryAmin using the hymn (as evidenced by reference to "girishanta" - creator of girisha).

    Now, pramANAs aside, let us apply a bit of common sense. The question that needs to be asked is this - Can the Shri Rudram be interpreted to denote any other devata other than Vishnu? The answer is a resounding no.

    When anyone tries to interpret the hymn in a shaiva manner, it completely loses its' meaning. Thus, shaivite commentators have given nonsensical meanings like "lord of horses, rivers, muddy ponds" etc to various nAmAs. Since the true meanings of these nAmAs are attributes and leelas that uniquely belong to Vishnu, they cannot be attributed properly to a lesser devata that lacks those attributes.

    As an example, consider the explanation of "vyuptakesha" in the below links:

    Look at the way shaivites have struggled with "Vyuptakesha". They give it the following meanings:

    1) It refers to Shiva as a baby chastising Indra (note that this is a tamasic story found in Skanda Purana that has been interpolated into the now infamous Drona Parva of Mahabharata)

    2) It refers to Shiva as shaven-headed in general (as he has matted hair on one side and is shaven on other side).

    3) It refers to Shiva as a sanyasi, which our "maha-periya dveshi", Kanchi Chandrasekhara Sarasvati interprets this as Adi Shankara.

    Note that all 3 options are not valid. Because even the "maha-periya dveshi" Chandrasekhara Saraswati admits that this anuvaka talks about characteristics that are opposites. "Shaven head" is not opposite of "matted locks" - for that matter hair can be curly, or straight etc. The opposite of shaven head is merely having hair and so "kapardin" in that sense is not an opposite of "vyuptakesha".

    Hence we have to consider the inner meaning only. And if we do that, one cannot say a "sanyasi" is the opposite of Shiva's form with matted locks. For both signify upAsaNa, both are jnAnis, etc.

    Thus, the only legitimate interpretation is that "Kapardin" refers to Rama and "Vyuptakesha" refers to Buddha. Both were polar opposites - Vishnu donned the matted locks in the forest as Rama to establish dharma (of saranagata-rakshagatva) and he assumed the shaven headed form of Maha-Moha to establish adharma.

    Even Valmiki says "rAmo vigrahavAn dharma". Why "vigraha" here? It is because Rama specially executed his dharma in his forest attire as opposed to his princely attire. Only in the firest, he gave moksha to Jatayu, gave Sugriva and co the chance to serve him, blessed the rishis with his presence, took Vibhishana under his protectiob etc. All these he did with matted locks and deer-skin, not the crown and princely clothing.

    Thus, only Vishnu can be properly denoted by this name.

    Similarly, "hrasvaya ca vAmanAya" - unless you take the meaning we gave above (presence of mahalakshmi in the hridaya rUpa and her absence in vAmana), you cannot get an opposite meaning for the two names.

    In conclusion, even basic logic shows that rudradevva cannot be described by Shri Rudram. It leads to inadequate and non-contextual interpretations.

  2. Nice jokej, can u plz explain the last hymn of Anuvaka 1

    1. The entire commentary for Anuvaka 1 is available here:

  3. Please accept my pranams. I happened to listen to a CD on Rudram meanings by Sriman U.Ve.Karunakaran Swami. He explained that there are three meanings for Rudram. One is glorifying the Agni. The second meaning glorifying Rudra and the third is glorifying Lord Narayana. He gave detailed explanations on selected mantras and gave how it refers to Lord Rudra and also Lord Narayana.

    1. The swamy is following the Dvaita explanation of the Rudram as given by Shri Bannanje Govindacharya. It is not accepted in our sampradaya that there are 3 levels of meanings to the Shri Rudram.

      Vidwans are prone to make such errors, doesn't mean they aren't knowledgeable. But that is also the reason why we shouldn't blindly follow them, unlike pUrvAchAryAs who are infallible.

    2. Shri Harikumar,

      Also, Shri Ranga Ramanuja Muni, in his bhashyas, confirms certain mantras apply to both Rudra, or to Narayana, such as "sarvo vai rudro..." which can be taken as signifying Rudra for attaining quick benefits, and also can be used in upAsaNa for meditation on Brahman, Sriman Narayana. However, the Acharya clearly says that the Rudram mantras (which occur in the Shvetasvatara) and the Pancha Brahma mantras do not denote pArvati pati in any manner and only refer to Narayana.

      Thus, shri karunakaran swami is clearly not aware of this. I suggested his CD to confirm that Rudram is interpreted as describing Rama in our sampradayam, but beyond that, one cannot consider vidwans over pUrvAchAryAs like Shri RRM.

      Also, apologies that your comment was posted late. Some technical error.

  4. Many thanks for the clarification. I also called Sriman U.Ve. Karunakaran Swami and spoke on this subject. He also mentioned that there is a Narasimha para interprepation of Sri Rudram which is possible. Do you have any material on this please?

    Also you have mentioned that Sri Bananjee Govindacharya has given the three fold meaning of rudram. Is there any book or CD on this please?

  5. Aaryamaa,

    I haven't heard VSK swamin's Rudram upanyasam CD, but, have heard him explain parts of shrIrudram on two other occasions. Both times, he explained how the 3 interpretations (Shrirama, Agni and Shiva) are from Shrivaishnava Bhashyam, Sayana Bhashyam and Shaivagamas respectively. Not once did he mention that all three are accepted SV sampradaya and, on one of the occasions, he explained that the opening mantra has namastE astudhanvanE, something that is applicable solely to shrIrAma and not Shiva or Agni. Am guessing that he quotes 3 Bhashyams in public upanyasams for political correctness.

    I wish you had clarified with him before posting sentences like "The swamy is following the Dvaita explanation of the Rudram as given by Shri Bannanje Govindacharya", "Vidwans are prone to make such errors, doesn't mean they aren't knowledgeable. But that is also the reason why we shouldn't blindly follow them" and "Thus, shri karunakaran swami is clearly not aware of this"; such blanket statements against a well known vidwan don't look good for you.


    1. //I wish you had clarified with him before posting sentences like "The swamy is following the Dvaita explanation of the Rudram as given by Shri Bannanje Govindacharya", "Vidwans are prone to make such errors, doesn't mean they aren't knowledgeable. But that is also the reason why we shouldn't blindly follow them" and "Thus, shri karunakaran swami is clearly not aware of this"; such blanket statements against a well known vidwan don't look good for you. //

      If someone talks about alternative interpretations of the Rudram, the onus is on him to clarify, not us. A poster came up saying Karunakara Swami interprets the Rudram as referring to Agni and Shiva in addition to Rama as well. We replied saying that is wrong according to sampradaya. Now, the onus is on the poster to clarify that Karunakaran Swami had not claimed the interpretations referrng to Agni and Shiva were of Sri Vaishnava philosophy. In such a case, we have no obligation to immediately go fact-check; the person bringing up Karunakaran Swami has to do that. On the other hand, if said poster simply does not make this clarification, the immediate and logical conclusion is that the Swami is saying something incorrect; since Shaivite and agni-based interpretations are NOT a part of our philosophy.

      Let us clarify one thing -- we do not have great faith in blindly following modern day vidwans. The ancient days of vidwans being almost completely adherent to tradition are gone. When they say something, we analyse it with what has been said by Purvacharyas and then decide for ourselves whether they are adhering to tradition. This is something that is recommended by the Purvacharyas themselves and involves no ahankara in doing so.

      //I wish you had clarified with him before posting sentences like "The swamy is following the Dvaita explanation of the Rudram as given by Shri Bannanje Govindacharya", "Vidwans are prone to make such errors, doesn't mean they aren't knowledgeable. But that is also the reason why we shouldn't blindly follow them" and "Thus, shri karunakaran swami is clearly not aware of this"; such blanket statements against a well known vidwan don't look good for you.//

      Ask the poster who brought it up, not me. It is a fact that "there are 3 different interpretations of the Veda" is a Madhva tenet, not ours. And that poster did not clarify that the vidwan had acknowledged he was quoting from other bhashyas.

      It is also not your place to decide what looks good for me or not. Shri Karunakaran Swami is a well-known vidwan, yes, we have respect for him, again yes, but that doesn't mean what I said about him is entirely wrong. There are instances of deviation (not this, but in other topics), and that is common to all modern vidwans, not just him. So, I suggest that if you find my comments inflammatory, you can simply choose to follow what you want.

      Lastly, instead of microanalyzing my comments and trying to reform me, I suggest you take what you want from this blog and leave it at that.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Neither of us deserve that respect. Please direct your respects to the great sri vaishnavas acharyas as we simply followed their meanings.

      Only purpose of this blog is to highlight the great intellect of pUrvAchAryAs without whose priceless works, the Vedas would be "kadalosai" -- as useless and incomprehensible as the unintelligible sound of the sea -- to laypeople like us.

  7. Dear All,

    Just wanted to compile a list of "Rudram references" in the smriti. It is still quite striking to see how clearly the smritis identify the "Rudra" of Shri Rudram as none other than Narayana.

    Why does the Rudram address the rAghava-simha rUpa of the Lord? The answer is simple. The Rudram has 11 anuvAkAs, each for one indrIya. The object of the Rudram is to destroy the effects of the senses and promote jnAna-yoga, which is realization of the self, as per Kaivalya Upanishad and other shrutis. To that effect, the Lord is to be meditated on to realize the individual self and thus he forms the subject of Rudram.

    But again, why rAghava-simha? We have to understand that for every sUkta, it is necessary to determine the form of the Lord to be meditated on, and the particular attributes that are to be meditated. Hence, here are two reasons for the Veda Purusha glorifying rAghava-simha in the Rudram:

    - The pAncharAtra says that SankarshaNa is the presiding deity of the jIva. Since the Rudram is an accessory to jnAna-yoga, the realization of the jIva, it is logical to meditate on SankarshaNa-rUpa as the subject matter of the Rudram. And it is well known that the SankarshaNa-rUpa is Narasimha only.

    - So, that settles the form of the Lord. What about the attributes? Well, we know that rAma killed rAvaNa. The same pAncharAtra likens rAvaNa to the monstrous mind with the 10 senses (10 heads). Hence, rAma killed the actions of the body due to the wayward senses, which perfectly fits the theme of the Rudram in controlling the senses.

    - Hence, the combined form of rAghava-simha, in which qualities of Lord Rama are superimposed on the form of Narasimha, comprise the deity of the Shri Rudram!


  8. Cont'd from above...

    And just to refresh your memories, here are the correlations between Rudram and the qualities of Lord Rama:

    1- Shruti: om namastE rudra manyava utOta ishavE nama:|
    namastE astu dhanvanE bAhubhyAmUta tE nama:||

    Meaning: BhagavAn Rudra! I offer my salutations of "namaha" (not mine) to your anger. I offer my salutations of "namaha" to your arrow and bow. In addition, may my prostrations be to your sturdy arms that carry the bow and arrow.

    1- Smriti: evam uktvA dhanuSh pANiH krodha visphArita IkShaNaH |babhUva rAmo durdharSho yuga anta agnir iva jvalan|| sampIDya ca dhanur ghoram kampayitvA sharair jagat| mumoca vishikhAn ugrAn vajrANi iva shata kratuH|| (~ vAlmiki rAmAyaNam – 6-21-(25-26))

    Meaning: Speaking as above (ie, admonishing samudra rAjan), Rama with his eyes made larger by anger and wielding a bow with his hand, became dreadful to look at, as a blazing fire at the end of the world.
    Swaying his terrific bow and making the earth tremble by his violence Rama released the arrow resembling a powerful thunderbolt of Indra (into the ocean).

    2- Shruti: yA te rudra shivA tanUragOrApApakAshinI|
    thayA nasthanuvA shantamayA girishanthAbhichAkasIhi||

    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).

    2- Smriti: arjuna uvaca ~ drstvedam manusam rupam tava saumyam janardanaidanim asmi samvrttah sa-cetah prakrtim gatah (~Gita 11.51)

    Meaning: Arjuna said ~ Having beheld this pleasing and unique form of Yours, human in configuration, endowed with grace, tenderness, beauty etc., the excellence of which is infinite, I have now become composed, and I am restored to my normal nature.

    (NOTE: Some shAstras declare that Rama showed his viSvarUpa to Parashurama, hence this can be taken as referring to rAma as well).


  9. 3-- Shruti: yAmishuM girishanta haste bibharshyastavE |
    shivAM giritra tAm kuru mA himsI: purushaM jagath ||

    Meaning: O Girishanta (Creator of GirishA/pArvai pati Rudradeva), O Giritra (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 the JivAtmA who is migrating in the samsAra (purusham jagat).

    NOTE: "Creator of Rudra" is most apt as the deity is SankarshaNa here, the innerself of Rudra, and from whom Rudra is produced.

    3-- Smriti: tairna tatsparshanam pApam saheyam pApakarmabhiH || amoghaH kriyatAm rAma tatra teShu sharottamaH | (~ vAlmiki rAmAyaNam 2-22-33)

    Meaning: (Samudra rAjan said:) I am not able to bear that touch of those wicked people, the evil doers. O rAmA, Let this excellent arrow (that is never rendered in vain) be released over them there.

    4-- Shruti: Pramuncha DhanvanastvamubhayorArthinayorjyAm | YAsCha tE hasta ishavah ParA tA Bhagavo vapa|| (10)
    avatatya Dhanusthvagum sahasrAksha satEshudhe |NisIrya salyAnam mukhA Shivo nah sumanA bhava || (11)
    vijyaM dhanuH kapardinO vishalyO bANavAn.h uta |(12)

    Collective meaning: RudrA! Please untie the bowstring from both ends of your bow. Also, lay down your arrow. (10) You, who have a thousand eyes, ie, you are omniscient (sahasrAkshan) and bear a hundred quivers, ie, you are omnipotent (satEshudhE), must loosen the bowstring and blunt the tips of your arrows, thus becoming peaceful (ie, confer auspiciousness) to us. (11) May the bow of Kapardin be without its' bowstring. (12)

    4-- Smriti: brahmavirbhirmahābhāgairbrāhmaṇairupaśobhitam | taddṛṣṭvā rāghavaḥ śrīmāṃstāpasāśramamaṇḍalam || abhyagacchanmahātejā vijyaṃ kṛtvā mahaddhanuḥ | (~Aranya Khanda 1.9)

    Meaning: That glorious and great resplendent Rama on seeing those precincts of hermitage that is graced with Brahmans who are highly fortunate as they have received the grace of the Lord, who are the knowers of the Veda, neared it, unstringing the bowstring of his great bow.

    (NOTE: "Kapardin" refers to the matted locks of the Lord in the forest during his exile).

    However, the Rudram takes care to remind us that though the attributes of shrI rAma are meditated upon here, the form to be meditated on is the Lord Narasimha only as follows:

    Stuhi shrutam garta sadam yuvanam mrugannabhima mupahat numugram, mruda jaritre Rudra Satvano anyante asmanniva pantu senaha |

    Meaning: Praise the famous (ie, well known by the narasimha tApanIya Upanishad or well known in shruti) Rudra (the destroyer of the disease of samsArA) who dwells in the cave of the heart, who is eternally young, and who is fierce like a lion. O Rudra (One who makes us shed tears on enjoying your kalyAna guNams)! Being praised by our words, confer happiness to us who have been afflicted by having a body subjected to old age and death. Let Your forces annihilate others who are Your enemies and spare us.

    "mrga" refers to Narasimha only. The tApanIya upanishad modifies this mantra and uses the word "simha" clearly.

    If even after all this, people still think the Satarudriyam refers to some other god, then they truly are deluded. Anyway, was just summarizing observations which had been made quite awhile ago, always good to revisit sat-vishayas.


  10. Just an observation. Kindly note the parallels with the 7th AnuvAka of Sri Rudram and the 18th pAsuram of Thirumangai Azhwar's ThirukkurunthAndakam. Reproducing the pAsuram here:

    iLaippinai yiyakkam neekki yirun^thumun Nnimaiyaik kootti,
    aLappilaim pulana takki anpavar kaNNE vaiththu,
    thuLakkamil sin^thai seythu thOnRalum sutarvittu, AngkE
    viLakkinai vithiyil kANpAr meymmaiyE kANkiR pArE

    Meaning: Becoming emaciated (ie, not experiencing sense objects), being seated firmly or ensuring the mind is not wavering, balancing the upper and lower eyelids (focusing), drawing the senses inwards away from sense objects, focusing one's love on Sriman Narayana uninterruptedly (ie, bhakti yoga or upAsaNa that is loving contemplation), meditating (in a manner) and providing the Lord a seat in the cave of one's heart, shining resplendently with atma-guNAs such as sama, dhama etc and strictly adhering to Vedic injunctions -- in such a state of samAdhi -- in such a state of bhakti yoga -- They (the yogis) see the Lord as the effulgent Supreme Light in their hearts. They may have seen the divine auspicious form of the Lord.

    Note the parallels between the 7th Anuvaka and this pAsuram. Both progressively describe the weaning away of the mind from sense objects, and focusing on upAsaNa, the Veda providing a bit more detail on the particulars. Especially, the following parallels are word-by-word:

    1) Beginning with how the mind is weaned away from sense attachments, similar to the start of the 7th anuvAka.

    2) Vidhiyil - Azhwar uses this word to show that the Yogis meditate according to Vidhi, or Vedic injunctions. What are these injunctions? A yogi can adopt any of the brahma vidyAs mentioned in the Upanishads, such as Madhu Vidya, Dahara Vidya, etc. If you notice, the mantras beginning with "Namah katyaya cha nipyaya cha..." describe the different vidyas.

    3) "Meimai" - In tamil, "mei" means truth or reality. The divine auspicious form of the Lord is characterized by all tattvas and hence it is referred to azhwar as "meimai" (the tattvam). Similarly, the 7th anuvAka ends with "Namo vastavyaya cha vastupaya cha" -- one who is associated with a divine body (vAstavya) and One who enjoys his own divine auspicious body (vAstupA).

    The Lord dwells in his body, and he himself enjoys the greatness of his own auspicious body since it is a source of enjoyment for his devotees.

    Note: Our initial interpretation in the article was off, as it was written very early on in our research. This is the correct interpretation.

    Here, you can see how the Veda Purusha (Rudram) and Azhwar have followed each other so perfectly. It is quite amusing to note that though the nAyanmArs pay great homage to the Rudram, the true meanings of Rudram parallel that of Thirumangai Azhwar who never even mentions the Rudram by name!

    The only difference between the Veda and Azhwar is this -- The Veda says that such a Yogi will definitely see the divine auspicious form but Azhwar is more cautious and says, "kAnkir pArE" (they may have seen). Azhwar says "may" because firstly, he is a prapanna who did not follow this path. Secondly, this path is so difficult, so very few if any might have succeeded. Thirdly, this path is also against the nature of the Atma, so it is difficult to imagine anyone succeeding.

    That is why in the next pAsuram, azhwar says worship the Lords in temples, they are much easier to see than via this Yoga! He also makes a reference to Siva getting bhagavad prasAda to rid himself of the kapAla and brahma hatya dosha -- This is again a pointed reference to how Shiva who performed tripura samhAra (inner meaning: bhakti yoga) attained ahamkAra, cut off the head of Brahma, then surrendered (prapatti) to the Lord to cleanse his dosha -- showing how prapatti is superior to bhakti.

  11. Respected Swami , thanks for the enlightening posts. I have heard that the Universal form shown by Lord Krishna in the 11th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita is closely related to BHagavan Narasimha. i.e. The Narasimha anushtup mahamantra ugram veeram mahavishnu.. is said to represent the description of the universal form of the Lord from the verses of Gita. Is there any article or book explaining this?

    1. Well, about the only thing I can think of is that the form of the Vyuha Sankarshana is half-man, half-lion -- the same form that the Narasimha avatAra exhibited, and on account of this Narasimha is often hailed as the vyUha Sankarshana himself verily descending as vibhava. Hence, it is often surmised that the reference to fangs etc in the vishvarUpa refers to the features of the lion-like form of Sankarshana. That's all there is to that really.

      It is also to be noted that the upAsakas of Sankarshana -- Garuda, Adi Sesha and Shiva -- all have attained a degree of "sArUpyam" and "sAmyam" with the features of the Lord -- in terms of similarity of names (Garuda and Adi Sesha are called Sankarshana, while Shiva's similarities are well documented in the blog), similarity of the attribute of knowledge (Garuda being "vedAtma" -- the self of the Vedas and Shiva being a loka-guru), attribute of strength (Garuda being the carrier of the Lord and fierce to poisons/snakes, Adi Sesha bearing the worlds, and both Adi Sesha and Shiva aiding in the work of destruction).

      Since Sankarshana is the vyUha associated with strength, the guNa predominant in destruction, the destructive aspect of the viShvarUpa is mapped to him, and by default, to Narasimha.


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