Vishnu sahasranama

Vishnu sahasranama

The Vishnu sahasranāma (literally: "the thousand names of Vishnu") is a list of 1,000 names for Vishnu, one of the main forms of God in Hinduism and the personal supreme God for Vaishnavas (followers of Vishnu). It is also one of the most sacred and commonly chanted stotras in Hinduism. The Vishnu sahasranama as found in the Mahabharata is the most popular version of the 1000 names of Vishnu. Another version exists in the Padma Purana. Each name eulogizes one of His countless great attributes.

According to the 149th chapter of "Anushāsanaparva" in the epic Mahabharata, the names were handed down to Yudhisthira by the famous warrior Bhishma who was on his death bed at the battle of Kurukshetra. Yudhisthira asks Bhishma the following questions: [For IAST version of Sanskrit for these verses, see: Harvnb|Sankaranarayan|1996|pp=2-5.] [For Sanskrit text and translation, see: Tapasyananda, pp. 3-4.]

"IAST|kimekam daivatam loke"
"IAST|kim vāpyekam parāyaṇam"
"IAST|stuvantaḥ kam kamarcantaḥ prāpnuyurmānavāḥ subham"
"IAST|ko dharmaḥ sarva dharmāṇām bhavataḥ paramo mataḥ"
"IAST|kim japan mucyate jantuḥ janmasamsārabandhanāt"

Bhisma answers by stating that mankind will be free from all sorrows by chanting the "Vishnu sahasranāma"' which are the thousand names of the all-pervading Supreme Being Vishnu, who is the master of all the worlds, supreme over the "devas" and who is one with Brahman.

The "Vishnu sahasranāma" has been the subject of numerous commentaries. Adi Shankaracharya wrote a definitive commentary on the "sahasranāma" in the 8th century, which has been particularly influential for many schools of Hinduism. Parasara Bhattar, a follower of Ramanujacharya wrote a commentary in the 12th century, detailing the names of Vishnu from a Vishishtadvaita perspective. Hindu literature includes "sahasranamas" dedicated to Shiva, Devi, Ganesha and other popular deities.


In Sanskrit, "sahasra" means "a thousand" and "nāma" (nominative, the stem is "nāman-") means "name". The compound is of the Bahuvrihi type and may be translated as "having a thousand names". In modern Hindi pronunciation, "nāma" is pronounced [na:m] . It is also pronounced "sahasranāmam".


There are Sahasranāma for many forms of God (Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha, Shakti, and others). The Vishnu Sahasranāma is popular among common Hindus, and a major part of prayer for devout Vaishnavas, or followers of Vishnu. While "Vaishanvas" venerate other deities, they believe that the universe, including the other divinities such as Shiva and Devi, is ultimately a manifestation of the Supreme Lord Vishnu. Followers of Shaivism similarly give prominence to Shiva. Interestingly, despite the existence of other sahasranamas of other forms of God, referring a sahasranama as "The Sahasranama," generally refers to the Vishnu Sahasranama alone, thereby indicating its wide popularity and use. . [ Tapasyananda, pg. iv. ]

marta interpretations

In fact, the Shri Rudram, one of the most sacred prayers for Hindus and Shaivites in particular, describe Vishnu as an aspect of Shiva in the fifth anuvaka. Likewise, two of the names in Vishnu sahasranama that refer to Shiva are Shiva (names #27 and #600) itself, and Rudra (name #114). Adi Sankaracharya has interpreted this to mean that Vishnu and Shiva are the same and it is Vishnu that is praised by worship of Shiva. Another name possibly identifying Vishnu with Shiva is the 38th name, Shambhu. As many Sanskrit words have multiple meanings it is possible that both Vishnu and Shiva share names in this instance. For example, the name Shiva itself means "auspicious" [ [ Bhag-P 4.4.14] "Siva means mangala, or auspicious" ] which could also apply to Vishnu. However, from the Advaitan point of view, Vishnu and Shiva are one and the same God, being different aspects of preservation and destruction respectively. The deity of Harihara in particular is worshipped by both Vaishnavas and Shaivites as a combination of both personalities.

Vaishnava interpretations

However, the Vaishnava commentator, Parasara Bhattar, a follower of Ramanujacharya has interpreted the names "Shiva" and "Rudra" in Vishnu sahasranama to mean qualities or attributes of Vishnu, and not to indicate that Vishnu and Shiva are one and the same God. Vaishnavas worship Vishnu in his four-armed form, carrying conch, disc, flower and mace in his hands, believing that to be the Supreme form. However, Smarthas do not subscribe to this aspect or personification of God, as Smarthas say that God is pure and thus devoid of form. Additionally, they believe that God is not limited by time nor limited by shape and color. Vaishnava traditions are of the opinion that Vishnu is both unlimited and yet still capable of having specific forms, as to give arguments to the contrary (to say that God is incapable of having a form) is to limit the unlimitable and all-powerful Supreme

In the Sri Vaishnava tradition the Bhagavad-gita and the Vishnu Sahasranama are considered the two eyes of spiritual revelation.

In other Vaishnava traditions too, the Vishnu Sahasranama is considered an important text. Within Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Vallabha sampradaya, Nimbarka sampradaya and among Ramanandis, the chanting of the names of Krishna and Rama to be superior to that of Vishnu. Based on another verse in the Padma Purana which says that the benefit of chanting the one thousand names of Vishnu can be derived from chanting one name of Rama, and a verse in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana equating the benefit of chanting three names of Rama with one name of Krishna. However, it is important to realize that those verses in those puranas are not to be interpreted literally, as many believe that there is no difference between Vishnu and Krishna. This theological difference can be expressed as follows: Many Vaishnava groups recognize Krishna as an avatar of Vishnu, while others, instead, consider Him to be svayam bhagavan, or the original form of the Lord. Yet these verses can be interpreted as it is more important to have pure bhakti or devotion than merely repeating the many names of God without emotion. Indeed, Shri Krishna Himself said, "Arjuna, One may be desirous of praising by reciting the thousand names. But, on my part, I feel praised by one shloka. There is no doubt about it.” [ Srivaishnavism ] ]

Within Vaisnavism some groups, such as Sri sampradaya, adhere to and follow the Rig Veda: V.I.15b.3, which states "O ye who wish to gain realization of the supreme truth, utter the name of Vishnu at least once in the steadfast faith that it will lead you to such realization." [ Foreword of P. Sankaranarayan's translation of Vishnu sahasranama, Bhavan's Book University ]

General thoughts

Sections from Swami Tapasyananda's translation of the concluding verses of Vishnu sahasranama, state the following: "Nothing "evil or inauspicious" will befall a man here or "hereafter" who daily hears or repeats these names." That comment is noteworthy. King Nahusha, a once righteous king, ancestor of Yudhisthira, according to excerpt from C. Rajagopalachari's translation of the Mahabharata, , become an Indra, king of devas, but was later expelled from Swarga or heaven due to a curse by the great sage Agastya for his eventual gain in pride and arrogance and become a python for thousands of years. [] , story #53 ]

Thus, chanting of Vishnu sahasranama will help lead to success in this life and hereafter.

A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada gives a Gaudiya Vaishnava interpretation of verse 7.24 from the Bhagavad Gita, wherein he quotes the avatar, Krishna, as saying: "Unintelligent men, who do not know Me perfectly, think that I, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, was impersonal before and have now assumed this personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is imperishable and supreme." [ [ B-Gita 7.24] Chapter 7: Knowledge of the Absolute ] Prabhupada has also stated that “I beg to point out that the Hindu religion is perfectly based on the personal conception of God, or Vishnu." [ [] First sentence of letter ]

In Swami Chidbhavananda's translation of the Bhagavad Gita, he gives an opposite interpretation of the same verse, 7:24, "men of poor understanding think of Me, the unmanifest, as having manifestation, not knowing My supreme state, immutable and unsurpassed." Swami Chidbhavananda, holding Advaita views, gives more importance to God being formless while Srila Prabhupada, following Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's philosophy, gives importance to God with form. Ramakrishna analogized God with form and without form as being like ice and liquid water, as being both the same but in different states. [ [ Words of Sri Ramakrishna ] ]

Pronunciation and Merits of Recitation

In the linked preface prayer (But not in the succeeding Sahasranama) non-formal pronunciation is used, since correct representation of pronunciation requires extensive use of diacritic marks. An example: Sanskrit/Hindi has three letters representing S, which are represented here as 's', 'sh', the third 'sh', as used in the Sanskrit word "shatkona" (= "hexagon"), Vishnu, Krishna and others is actually a retroflex phoneme and has no equivalent in English. Retroflex phonemes are those where the tongue is slightly coiled back in the palate and released along with the phoneme's sound. Also, the 'n' in "Vishnu" and "Krishna" is retroflex. In formal transliteration of Sanskrit alphabet to English, this set-up is denoted by placing dots above or below the letter 's'. More details can be found at Sanskrit language#Consonants.

Although devotion is considered the most important thing while reciting any prayer or mantra (Unless used for tantric purposes, where the sound's vibration plays the major role), use of the correct pronunciation is believed by devotees to enhance the satisfaction derived from the recital, in the case of both vocal and mental chants.

Believers in the recitation of the Sahasranama claim that it brings unwavering calm of mind, complete freedom from stress and eternal knowledge. Sections from Swami Tapasyananda's translation of the concluding verses of Vishnu sahasranama, state the following: "Nothing evil or inauspicious will befall a man here or hereafter who daily hears or repeats these names.. Whichever devoted man, getting up early in the morning and purifying himself, repeats this hymn devoted to Vasudeva, with a mind that is concentrated on Him, that man attains to great fame, leadership among his peers, wealth that is secure and the supreme good unsurpassed by anything. He will be free from all fears and be endowed with great courage and energy and he will be free from diseases. Beauty of form, strength of body and mind, and virtuous character will be natural to him.... One who reads this hymn every day with devotion and attention attains to peace of mind, patience, prosperity, mental stability, memory and reputation.... "Whoever desires advancement and happiness should repeat this devotional hymn on Vishnu composed by Vyasa"....Never will defeat attend on a man who adores the Lotus-Eyed One (KamalNayani), who is the Master of all the worlds, who is birthless, and out of whom the worlds have originated and into whom they dissolve."

Swami Tapasyananda stated that in orthodox Hindu tradition, a devotee should daily chant the Upanishads, Gita, Rudram, Purusha Sukta and Vishnu sahasranama. If one cannot do all this on any day, it is believed that chanting Visnu sahasranama alone is sufficient. Vishnu sahasranama can be chanted at any time, irrespective of gender.

It is customary to commence the "Vishnu sahasranama" with a devotional prayer to Vishnu.


Recitation and aggregation

An alternative approach is to say the starting prayer, and then say the names collected in stanzas (As they were originally said by Bhishma.) Such stanzas are called "Shlokas" in Sanskrit. The Sahasranama (apart from the initial and concluding prayers) has a total of 108 shlokas.

For example, the first shloka is:: "Om Vishvam Vishnurvashatkaaro Bhootbhavyabhavatprabhuh": "Bhootkrid Bhootbhridbhaavo Bhootaatma Bhootbhavanah"

Notice the aggregation of several words and the omission of their intervening spaces. For example, the last word of the first line of this Shloka:: "Bhootabhavyabhavatprabhuh"

corresponds to:: "OM Bhoota Bhavya Bhavat Prabhave Namaha"of the expanded version.

This joining-together of words is a common feature of Sanskrit and is called Sandhi. It makes the shlokas compact and easier to remember, which was necessary in ancient India since the religious scriptures were seldom written down and were memorised by Brahmins, or the priest class. This collection of memorised knowledge was passed by word-of-mouth from Guru to disciple [which is called in Hindi, SHRUTI GYANA]

Tradition of recitation

From ancient times, until as recently as the 19th century, many Hindus in learned families daily recited the Sahasranama, or a similar set of prayer "Shlokas" of their chosen deity. (Such a collection of Shlokas which are used for recital purposes is generally called a "Stotra" (Both 't's have soft pronunciation.))

With increasing Westernization, the practice of the Sahasranama rituals are reducing in commonality, and have been criticized for becoming more mechanical and devoid of feeling. Though a very significant number of Hindu households still have daily prayer/worship sessions (Called a Puja. In ancient Vedic times, it was also called a "Sandhya").

Inclusion of other deities

One notable thing about the Sahasranama is that it includes names of other Hindu deities such as Shiva, Brahma, etc. within it. According to followers of Vaishnava theology, this is an example of "Vishnu" considered in His universal aspect, as an aggregation, and basis of all other deities which emanate from Him. In this cosmic aspect, Vishnu is also called "Mahavishnu" (Great Vishnu). By an Advaitan interpretation, this notation is not surprising as followers of Advaita philosophy, in particular, Smartas believe that Vishnu and Shiva are the same and are hence different aspects of the one Supreme Being.

Quotes about Vishnu Sahasranama

*Sri N. Krishnamachari, a Vaishnavite scholar, at Steven Knapp's web site, quoting Vaishnavite scholars, states that there are six reasons for the greatness of Vishnu sahasranama: :"1. Vishnu sahasranama is the essence of the Mahabharata;:2. Great sages such as Narada, the Alvars, and composers including Saint Tyagaraja have made repeated references to the "Thousand Names of Vishnu" in their devotional works; :3. The person who strung together the thousand names as part of the Mahabharata and preserved it for the world was none other than Sage Veda Vyasa, the foremost knower of the Vedas, who is considered an avatar of Vishnu;:4. Bhishma considered chanting of the Vishnu sahasranama the best and easiest of all dharmas, or the means to attain relief from all bondage;:5. It is widely accepted that the chanting of this Stotram gives relief from all sorrows and leads to happiness and peace of mind;:6. Vishnu sahasranama is in conformity with the teachings of the Gita." [ ]

*Adi Sankaracharya, the Advaita philosopher, in verse 27 of his hymn, Bhaja Govindam, [ [ Bhaja Govindam: ] ] , said that the Gita and Vishnu sahasranama should be chanted and the form of the Lord of Lakshmi, Vishnu should always be meditated on. He also said that the Sahasranama bestowed all noble virtues on those who chanted it. [ The Hindu: Entertainment Bangalore / Book Review: On the Buddha in verse ] ]

*Parasara Bhattar had said that Vishnu sahasranama absolves people of all sins and has no equal

*Madhvacharya, the Dvaita philosopher, said that the Sahasranama was the essence of the Mahabharata which in turn was the essence of the Shastras and that each word of the Sahasranama had 100 meanings.

*Swaminarayan, founder of the Hindu Swaminarayan sect,said in verse 118 of the scripture, Shikshapatri, that one should "either recite or have the 10th canto,(of Bhagavata purana ) and also other holy scriptures like the "Vishnu Sahasranama" recited at a holy place according to one's capacity. "The recital is such that it gives fruits according to whatever is desired." [ [ Shree Swaminarayan Temple Cardiff - Scriptures - Shikshapatri ] ]

* Swaminarayan also said in verses 93-96, "I have the highest esteem for these eight holy scriptures: the four Vedas, the Vyas-Sutra,(i.e., Brahma Sutras, the Shreemad Bhagavata Purana, the "Shree Vishnu Sahasranama" in the Mahabharata, and the Yaagnavalkya Smruti which is at the center of the Dharma Scriptures; and all My disciples who wish to prosper "should listen" to these 8 holy scriptures, and brahmins under My shelter should learn and teach these holy scriptures and read them to others."

* The well-known biographical book of Sri Shirdi Sai Baba - "Sri Sai Satcharitra" - mentions that Vishnu Sahasranama was highly recommended by Baba.
* The great saint, Shirdi Sai Baba, on commentating about the merits of Vishnu sahasranama, said: "Oh Shama, this book is very valuable and efficacious, so I present it to you, you read it. Once I suffered intensely and My heart began to palpitate and My life was in danger. At that critical time, I hugged this book to My heart and then, Shama, what a relief it gave me! I thought that Allah Himself came down and saved Me. So I give this to you, read it slowly, little by little, read daily one name at least and it will do you good." [ [ Sai Newletter - Sai Vichaar ] ]

*Swami Sivananda, in his 20 important spiritual instructions, stated that the Vishnu sahasranama, along with other religious texts, should be studied systematically. [ [ 20 Important Spiritual Instructions] ]

*Quote by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada; on February 15, 1970 to J.F.Staal; Professor of Philosophy and of South Asian Languages. Second paragraph, states: ”In this way we find all the scriptures aiming at the Supreme Person. In the Rig Veda (1.22.20) the mantra is om tad vishnoh paramam padam sada pashyanti surayah ("The demigods are always looking to that supreme abode of Vishnu"). The whole Vedic process, therefore, is to understand Lord Vishnu, and any scripture is directly or indirectly chanting the glories of the Supreme Lord, Vishnu.” [ [ The Krishna Consciousness Movement is the Genuine Vedic Way ] ]

*Lord Shiva addressed his wife, Parvati:

:"O Varanana (lovely-faced woman), I chant the holy name of Rama, Rama, Rama and thus constantly enjoy this beautiful sound. This holy name of Ramachandra is equal to one thousand holy names of Lord Vishnu." (Brhad-visnu-sahasranama-stotra, Uttara-khanda, Padma Purana 72.335)

:"sahasra-namnam punyanam, trir-avrttya tu yat phalam; ekavrttya tu krsnasya, namaikam tat prayacchati"

*Brahmānda Purana said:

:"The pious results (punya) achieved by chanting the thousand holy names of Vishnu (Vishnu sahasra nama stotram) three times can be attained by only one utterance of the holy name of Krishna."

*Shri Krishna Himself said, "Arjuna, One may be desirous of praising by reciting the thousand names. But, on my part, I feel praised by one shloka. There is no doubt about it.”

*From the oldest scriptural text in Hinduism, the Rig Veda; V.I.15b.3, it states:"O ye who wish to gain realization of the Supreme Truth, utter the name of "Vishnu" at least once in the steadfast faith that it will lead you to such realization."

Benefits of chanting Vishnu Sahasranama

The following lines are from the Mahabharata and are quoted portions from the text. Believers believe that regular chanting of the hymn can accrue benefits.

On avoiding evil, succeeding in battle, and gaining affluence, pleasure, happiness, and offspring:

:Bhisma said, "Even thus have I recited to thee, without any exception, the thousand excellent names of the high-souled Kesava whose glory should always be sung. "That man who hears the names every day or who recites them every day, never meets with any evil either here or hereafter." If a Brahmana does this he succeeds in mastering the Vedanta; if a Kshatriya does it, he becomes always successful in battle. A Vaisya, by doing it, becomes possessed of affluence, while a Sudra earns great happiness."

:If one becomes desirous of earning the merit of righteousness, one succeeds in earning it (by hearing or reciting these names). If it is wealth that one desires, one succeeds in earning wealth (by acting in this way)." So also the man who wishes for enjoyments of the senses succeeds in enjoying all kinds of pleasures, and the man desirous of offspring acquires offspring (by pursuing this course of conduct)."

On acquiring fame, prosperity, prowess, energy, strength, beauty, removing fear, avoiding calamity, and being cured of disease:

:"That man who with devotion and perseverance and heart wholly turned towards him, recites these thousand names of Vasudeva every day, after having purified himself, succeeds in acquiring great fame, a position of eminence among his kinsmen, enduring prosperity, and lastly, that which is of the highest benefit to him (viz., emancipation Moksha itself). Such a man never meets with fear at any time, and acquires great prowess and energy. Disease never afflicts him; splendour of complexion, strength, beauty, and accomplishments become his. The sick become hale, the afflicted become freed from their afflictions; the frightened become freed from fear, and he that is plunged in calamity becomes freed from calamity."

:"The man who hymns the praises of that foremost of Beings by reciting His thousand names with devotion succeeds in quickly crossing all difficulties. That mortal who takes refuge in Vasudeva and who becomes devoted to Him, becomes freed of all sins and attains to eternal Brahman. They who are devoted to Vasudeva have never to encounter any evil. They become freed from the fear of birth, death, decrepitude, and disease."

On acquiring righteousness and intelligence, and avoiding the sins of evil:

:"That man who with devotion and faith recites this hymn (consisting of the thousand names of Vasudeva) succeeds in acquiring felicity of soul, forgiveness of disposition, Prosperity, intelligence, memory, and fame. Neither wrath, nor jealousy, nor cupidity, nor evil understanding ever appears in those men of righteousness who are devoted to that foremost of beings. The firmament with the sun, moon and stars, the welkin, the points of the compass, the earth and the ocean, are all held and supported by the prowess of the high-souled Vasudeva. The whole mobile and immobile universe with the deities, Asuras, and Gandharvas, Yakshas, Uragas and Rakshasas, is under the sway of Krishna."

On the origins of the soul, the source of righteous behavior, and the basis of all knowledge and existence:

:"The senses, mind, understanding, life, energy, strength and memory, it has been said, have Vasudeva for their soul. Indeed, this body that is called Kshetra, and the intelligent soul within, that is called the knower of Kshetra, also have Vasudeva for their soul. Conduct (consisting of practices) is said to be the foremost of all topics treated of in the scriptures. Righteousness has conduct for its basis. The unfading Vasudeva is said to be the Lord of righteousness. The Rishis, the Pitris, the deities, the great (primal) elements, the metals, indeed, the entire mobile and immobile universe, has sprung from Narayana. Yoga, the Sankhya Philosophy, knowledge, all mechanical arts, the Vedas, the diverse scriptures, and all learning, have sprung from Janardana. Vishnu is the one great element or substance which has spread itself out into multifarious forms. Covering the three worlds, He the soul of all things, enjoys them all."

:His glory knows no diminution, and He it is that is the Enjoyer of the universe (as its Supreme Lord). This hymn in praise of the illustrious Vishnu composed by Vyasa, should be recited by that person who wishes to acquire happiness and that which is the highest benefit (viz., emancipation). Those persons that worship and adore the Lord of the universe, that deity who is inborn and possessed of blazing effulgence, who is the origin or cause of the universe, who knows no deterioration, and who is endued with eyes that are as large and beautiful as the petals of the lotus, have never to meet with any discomfiture."

"Bhisma's quote cited from Ganguli translation of Vishnu Sahasranama (public domain)

ee also

* Sahasranama
* Lalita sahasranama
* Shiva Sahasranama
* Ganesha Sahasranama
* Hare Krishna



last =Sankaranarayan
first =P.
author-link =
last2 =
first2 =
author2-link =
editor-first =
year =1996
title =IAST|Śrī Viṣṇu Sahasranāma Stotram
edition =
volume =
place =Mumbai
publisher =Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
isbn =
. With an English Translation of Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada's Commentary
last =Tapasyananda
first =Swami
author-link =Tapasyananda
last2 =
first2 =
author2-link =
editor-first =
year =
title =Sri Vishnu Sahasranama
edition =
volume =
place =Chennai
publisher =Sri Ramakrishna Math
isbn =
. Sanskrit and English, with an English translation of Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada's commentary.

Further reading

* Sanskrit & Hindi: Sri Vishnu Sahasranama, Gita Press, Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh 273005, India

* Sanskrit & English: The Thousand Names of Vishnu and the Satyanarayana Vrat, translated by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Devi Mandir, Napa.

Other translations:

* Sanskrit & Gujarati: Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram; translated by Shri Yogeshwarji, India @
* Sanskrit & English: Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram; translated by Swami Vimalananda, Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam, Tiruchirapalli, India, 1985

External links

* [ Full text] in Sanskrit in the Devanagari alphabet (श्रीविष्णुसहस्रनामस्तोत्रम्) (Wikisource)
* [ Vishnu sahasranama]
* [ Hindi Translation of Introductory and Final Conversations between Sri Bheesham Pitamah and Yudhishthira, along with Sanskrit Text of The 1000 Names of Bhagwaan Vishnu]
* [ Vishnu sahasranama names and meanings.]
* [ Vishnu sahasranama excerpt from the Mahabharata by Kisari Mohan Ganguly (published between 1883 and 1896)]
* [ Sanskrit Text + Commentary and Translations]

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