Lakshmi with Vishnu-Narayana at Vaikuntha

Narayana (Sanskrit: नारायण; nārāyaṇa;Kannada: ನಾರಾಯಣ;Telugu: నారాయణ;Tamil: நாராயணன்) or Narayan or Naraina is an important Sanskrit name for Vishnu, and in many contemporary vernaculars a common Indian name. Narayana is also identified as the original man, Purusha. The Puranas present divergent views on Narayana. In the Kurma Purana he is identified with Brahman and Krishna-Vishnu.[1]

In the Mahabharata Krishna is often referred to as Narayana and Arjuna as Nara.[2] The epic identifies them both in plural 'Krishnas', or as part incarnations of the earlier incarnations of Vishnu, recalling their mystical identity as Nara-Narayana.[3]



Narayana is spoken of in the scriptures as being 'parabrahman', 'paramatma' and 'parameshwar' which are all ways of saying "absolute" or "supreme" God/Lord/Soul. In the Vedas it is written that that "Narayana parabrahman tatvam Narayana paraha |", which points to the how Narayana is essentially the supreme force and/or essence of all.

Antar Vahisca Sarvam vyapta Narayana stitaha means inside and out Narayana is pervaded through out the universe both spritual and material universes. He resides at the eternal blissful Vaikuntha planet, which is situated at Sweta dwipa, he is also called Vaikuntha nathan and kheerabdhi nathan means the lord of milk ocean, he plays his divine past times with his consort Laxmi and other liberated souls. He never leaves milk ocean but his power works through out the universe as it says in Upanisada Om purna midam purnat purna muduchyate means he is the complete whole,even though everything comes from him, he is still the complete.

A painting of Vishnu seated on lotus

In Sanskrit, another name for water is ‘Naara’. The Supreme Lord Vishnu whose resting place ('Ayana') is ‘Naara’ is therefore called Naarayana. "Naara" also means the living entities (Jivas). Therefore, another meaning of Naarayana is 'resting place for all living entities'. The close association of Narayana with water explains the frequent depiction of Narayana in Hindu art as standing or sitting on an ocean. Another important translation of Narayana is "The Supreme Being who is the foundation of all men".[4]

"Harivansh" Adhyay 88 shlok 44 explicitly define Narayan as: Naaraa Aapah
samaakyaataastaasaamayanamaaditah, yatastavan bhootabhavyesha tat-Naarayanashabditah. Naaarah
Aapah samaakhyaat means naarah known as aapah (Water), Naaraanaam aaditah ayanan yasya sah (from the beginning (aditah) you are resting in (ayanam) that is why (yasya sah), oh lord of past and future(bhoot-bhavuesha, you are called (shabditah) Narayan.

In Mahabharat "Aranyak Parva- Chapter 272 shlok 42"- Published by Sastu Sahitya Vardhak Karyalay, Ahmedabad, India)- Naar means water in human (Nar) body, is residence (Aayan) of God (Naarayan).

Another interpretation of the word Narayana sees Nara meaning "human" and Ayana as "direction/goal". Some view Narayana as meaning "son of man." Hence Narayana refers to the "direction of a human" (or the one that helps a human to his/her goal, i.e. towards moksha). Nara is related to moksha as both are rooted to the Water element (Ap), one of the Great Elements (Mahābhūta). (See also Tattva).

Nara means humans and Ayana means shelter so Narayana means the shelter of all human beings. The Sama Veda reads: "'Om Namo Narayanayeti mantra upasaka Vaikuntha bhuvanam gamishyati', or "Whosoever chants the 'Om Namo Narayana' mantra reaches the ultimate goal Vaikuntha planet where one attains eternal blissful life." Vaikuntha is the supreme spiritual abode; there is nothing that exists beyond Vaikuntha, Vaikuntha means 'no desires'.

Actually, Lord Narayan is the supreme almighty, everything emnates from Him. In the Yajurveda it says, 'Om adha nitya Narayan ha, brahma narayanaha, shivasca narayana ha, shankarsca narayanaha and kalacha narayanaha, sarva bhutasca mekam via narayana Karan purusha makarana parabramahan' and ultimately it says 'Savo deve eko Narayana na dwitiyacha kaschit' ("There is only one God Narayana and no second"). He Himself expands as Brahma the creator (Generator), Vishnu the maintainer (Operator) and Shiva as the annihilator (Destroyer)-GOD. Whether you read Rig Veda or any other Vedas and Puranas it has said Lord Narayan is the supreme and there is absolutely nothing beyond Him, it says in Srimad Bhagavatam 'Yesha tu Narayanam devam adevam isham' ('Narayan is the lord of the lords beyond him there is nothing exists'). Whoever worships with love and devotion achieves the highest destination Vaikuntha. (G as Generator, O as Operator and D as Destroyer hence GOD)


Narayana expands as second caturvyuha (first is expanded from Balarama/Baladeva). He is in center of Narayanaloka (Vaikunthaloka), and around Him are four Personalities of Godhead. This caturvyuha is following:

From Sankarshana expands Mahavishnu From Aniruddha expands Kṣīrodakaśāyī Vishnu This Vasudeva is different from Vasudeva (Krishna) From Pradyumna expands Garbhodaksayi Vishnu

From the second Sankarshana (Sankarshana of caturvyuha, which expands from Narayana, not the Sankarshana which expands from Balarama) expands Mahavishnu. Also, This second Sanakrshana is called Maha-Sankarshana. From this Mahavishnu expands Garbhodakashayi-Vishnu, and from Garbhodakashayi-Vishnu expands Ksirodakashayi-Vishnu: |-

|- |Narayana resides in Vaikuntha
on planets called Vaikunthaloka |One of two Sankarshanas of two caturvyuhas (one from Baladeva, the second from Narayana) |MahaVishnu is lying on
Karana Ocean and breathing
and many material universes manifest |Garbhodakashayi Vishnu enters into
every material universe
(Brahmanda) |Kshirodakasayi Vishnu is
in everyone's heart,
in every atom,
and on Milk ocean |All material universes rest
on hoods of Ananta/Shesha |} From navel of Garbhodakashayi-Vishnu lotus sprouts out, where Brahma is born. But this Brahmaloka is temporary, while Brahmalokah sanatana, planets of Supreme Personality of Godhead (here called as Brahman) are eternal - Vaikuntha planets, planets in spiritual world.

Narayana expanded Himself into caturvyuha, and that caturvyuha also expands into many other personalities of Godhead with four hands. According to position of attributes (weapons etc.) in their hands, They have different names. They hold conch-shell, club, lotus flower, sudarshana cakra in their hands in different /to be expanded/.

These four personalities - Sankarshana, Aniruddha, Vasudeva, Pradyumna – expand themselves two times. One time - as two personalities of Godhead each (4*2), and another time - three Personalities of Godhead each (4*3). The last twelve also rule twelve months of calendar (aside from demigods which also rule 12 months in material world). So total there are 24 Personalities of Godhead, and They all expand from Narayana. There are many other planets in Vaikuntha, spiritual world, and all those planets are inhabited. Still, it is said that there is the possibility of falling away even from Vaikuntha, so one is advised to go to Goloka Vrindavana, from where there is no return. This is not usually accepted by other four Vaisnava sampradayas, but only in sampradaya which goes from Sri Caitasnya Mahaprabhu. But every Vaisnava samparadaya of their number of 5 (or four, if to say that Caitanya Sampradaya also is in Brahma sampradaya) accept that Narayana expands as caturvyuha, and from Sankarsana here comes Mahavishnu and other Personalities of Godhead - Paramatma. Controversies are encouraged to discuss so this only makes faith in Bhagavan (Vishnu, Krishna, Narayana) stronger.

Narayana, expansion of first caturvyuha, expands from Sankarshana, who is expanded from Balarama, who is expansion of Krishna. So Krishna has 64 transcendental qualities in full, but because Narayana is Personality of Godhead who is expansion of Krishna, so He has less transcendental qualities, precisely - 60 transcendental qualities in number. But other personalities have even less. Brahma and Shiva have 55 transcendental qualities, and jivaatmas, souls have 50 transcendental qualities - in minimum.

Second Caturvyuha

(Paramatma or
for meditation
for yogis.
See: yoga)
(in center)

Actually Narayana is not an expansion of Krishna, according to Srimad Bhagavat mahapuran, Krishna is expansion of Lord Narayana, all the incarnations including Rama, Krishna and Narshima including 21 incarnations are kala, meaning partial expansion of Narayanas universal form, written in first canto of Srimad Bhagavatam It is mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam Lord Narayana appeared on earth in satya yuga as Nara Narayana and later in dwapar yuga that Nara became Arjun and Narayana became Krishna. So how can one say Narayana is an expansion of Krishna, this is not Vedic knowledge rather some sentiments and so called gurus and devotees write their own imaginations, therefore one should always follow the Vedas. It is clearly stated in Yajur Vedas that 'savo deve eko Narayana na dwitiyacha kaschit', meaning there is only one Narayana no other second.

Pastime expansions from Narayana-Caturvyuha

Personality of Godhead
from second caturvyuha
related pastime forms
Vāsudeva Adhokṣaja and Puruṣottama
Sańkarṣaṇa Upendra and Acyuta
Pradyumna Nṛsiḿha and Janārdana
Aniruddha Hari and Kṛṣṇa


  • Narayanasamy
  • Narayanaswamy
  • Narayan
  • Narayanan
  • Narine
  • Narayanaswami
  • Narain

Religious uses

  • Narayana is another name for Vishnu and appears as the 245th name in the Vishnu sahasranama (See Vaishnava Theology).
  • Actually Narayana is not another name of Vishnu because Narayana is Vishnu himself, it is written in vedas Narayana is the original name of God from whom everything exists, it says in Bhagavat Mahapuran and Rig veda that Narayana devam adevam isham means Narayana is the only lord beyond him there is no other lord. Therefore great sages like Devarshi Narada always chants Narayan,Narayan and Sriman Narayan.It says in Rig veda that Brahma Narayanaha,Vishnu Narayanaha and Rudra Narayanaha.
  • Narayan is the primeval Lord of all whom everything originates,in the Purusha Sukta mantras it is said from the Universal form of Narayana, Brahma,Vishnu and Mahesh created for creations,maintenance,and destruction of the whole cosmos and to protect religion and saints he took 21 incarnations which is mentioned in Bhagavat Mahapuran first canto. The universal form of Narayana mentioned in Maha Narayana Upanisad as Om sahasra sreesam devam vishwakhyam vishwa sambhubam, viswam Narayana devam aksharam paramam padam, means that universal form has got thousands of heads,eyes,legs etc created from Narayana who is indestructible seed and whose feet is the ultimate shelter for all
  • The book, Sri Ramanuja, His Life, Religion, and Philosophy, states that the name "Narayana" means, "He who is the dwelling place, i.e., the source, support and dissolving ground of all Jivas or souls, including inert matter."
  • Om Namo NārāyaNāya is one of the most famous mantras chanted by Hindus. This mantra, along with Om Namah Shivāya, and the Gayatri mantra are the most sacred prayers by Hindus[citation needed].
  • When doing a puja, people say the 108 names of Narayana.

A verse that confers the Devas' subordinate status comes from the Vishnu sahasranama, whose concluding verses state: "The Rishis (great sages), ancestors, the Devas, the great elements, in fact, all things moving and unmoving constituting this universe have originated from Narayana." This verse indicates that the Devas are subordinate to Vishnu, but Vishnu is often named a Deva. (Vasudeva, Narasimhadeva, etc.)

Rarity of devotees of Narayana

Vedas say that devotees of Narayana, Vishnu are quite rare, and still more rare are those who are pure devotees (of Vishnu, Narayana, Krishna). "nava-kotyas tu devanam rishayah sapta-kotayah narayanayanah sarve ye kecit tat-parayanah" "There are ninety million demigods and seventy million sages, who are all called narayanayana, devotees of Lord Narayana. Among them, only a few are called narayana-parayana/direct devotees are called narayana-parayanas/."[5]

Secular uses

  • In the video game Grand Theft Auto 2 from the Grand Theft Auto series, Narayana is the name of a neighbourhood occupied by the Hare Krishna street gang.
  • In the video game Myst III: Exile, the final age to which the player travels is called Narayan. It consists of an ocean extending to the horizon, beneath a clouded sky in which float trees, suspended by bubbly "pearls" released periodically by the ocean.
  • The name of the Siamese king Narai (r. 1656-1688) is a Thai pronunciation of Narayana.

See also


  1. ^ Raghavan, V. (1982). International Sanskrit Conference v.4. The Ministry. ISBN Page 142. 
  2. ^ Vaisnavism Saivism and Minor Religious Systems, Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar. Published by Asian Educational Services, p.46.
  3. ^ Hiltebeitel, Alf (1990). The ritual of battle: Krishna in the Mahābhārata. Albany, N.Y: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-0249-5.  p61
  4. ^ Harivansh, Adhyay 88 shlock 44, also, Manu Smruti 1:10 " The Law Code of Manu", Published by Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-280271-2, page 11
  5. ^ O great sage, among many millions who are liberated and perfect in knowledge of liberation, one may be a devotee of Lord Narayana, or Krishna. Such devotees, who are fully peaceful, are extremely rare. Unless the dirt within the core of one's heart is cleansed away, one cannot become a pure devotee. Therefore the word sudurlabhah ("very rarely found") is used in this verse. Not only among hundreds and thousands, but among millions of perfectly liberated souls, a pure devotee is hardly ever found. Srimad Bhagavatam 6.14.5

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