Vishnu, aka: Viṣṇu, Visnu; 19 Definition(s)
Vishnu means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, the history of ancient India, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.
The Sanskrit term Viṣṇu can be transliterated into English as Visnu or Vishnu, using the IAST transliteration scheme (?).
Nāṭyaśāstra (theatrics and dramaturgy)
1) Viṣṇu (विष्णु) is a Sanskrit word referring to a deity. Acording to the Nāṭyaśāstra 1.88-93, when Brahmā, Indra and all other gods went to inspect the playhouse (nāṭyamaṇḍapa) designed by Viśvakarmā, he assigned different deities for the protection of the playhouse itself, as well as for the objects relating to dramatic performance (prayoga).
As such, Brahmā assigned Viṣṇu to the third section (joint/knot, parva) of the Jarjara (Indra’s banner staf). The protection of the playhouse was enacted because of the jealous Vighnas (malevolent spirits), who began to create terror for the actors.
2) Viṣṇu is also to be worshipped during raṅgapūjā, according to the Nāṭyaśāstra 3.1-8. Accordingly, the master of the dramatic art who has been initiated for the purpose shall consecrate the playhouse after he has made obeisance (eg., to Viṣṇu).(Source): Wisdom Library: Nāṭya-śāstra
One of the hands that indicate the forms which accord with the character and actions of Brahmā and other Devas.—Viṣṇu: Tripatāka with both hands.(Source): archive.org: The mirror of gesture (abhinaya-darpana)
Nāṭyaśāstra (नाट्यशास्त्र, natya-shastra) refers to both the ancient Indian tradition of performing arts, (e.g., theatrics, drama, dance, music), as well as the name of a Sanskrit work dealing with these subjects. It also teaches the rules for composing dramatic plays (nāṭya) and poetic works (kāvya).
Śāktism (Śākta philosophy)
Viṣṇu (विष्णु):—One of the male offspring from Mahāsarasvatī (sattva-form of Mahādevī). Also known as Kṛṣṇa, Hṛṣīkeśa, Vāsudeva and Janārdana. Mahāsarasvatī is one of the three primary forms of Devī, the other two being Mahālakṣmī and Mahākālī. Not to be confused with Sarasvatī, she is a more powerful cosmic aspect (vyaṣṭi) of Devi and represents the guṇa (universal energy) named sattva. Also see the Devī Māhātmya, a Sanskrit work from the 5th century, incorporated into the Mārkaṇḍeya-Purāṇa.(Source): Wisdom Library: Śāktism
Śākta (शाक्त, shakta) or Śāktism (shaktism) represents a tradition of Hinduism where the Goddess (Devī) is revered and worshipped. Śākta literature includes a range of scriptures, including various tantras, although its roots may be traced back to the Vedas.
Pāñcarātra (worship of Nārāyaṇa)
1) Viṣṇu (विष्णु, “all-pervading”):—One of the twenty-four forms of Viṣṇu through which Nārāyaṇa manifests himself. He is accompanied by a counterpart emanation of Lakṣmī (an aspect of Devī) who goes by the name Dhṛti.
2) Viṣṇu (विष्णु) refers to an aspect of nṛsiṃha (‘man-lion’), according to the Vihagendra-saṃhitā 4.17, which mentions seventy-four forms (inlcuding twenty forms of vyūha). He is also known as Viṣṇunṛsiṃha or Viṣṇunarasiṃha. Nṛsiṃha is a Tantric deity and refers to the furious (ugra) incarnation of Viṣṇu.
The 15th-century Vihagendra-saṃhīta is a canonical text of the Pāñcarātra corpus and, in twenty-four chapters, deals primarely with meditation on mantras and sacrificial oblations.(Source): Wisdom Library: Pāñcarātra
Pāñcarātra (पाञ्चरात्र, pancaratra) represents a tradition of Hinduism where Nārāyaṇa is revered and worshipped. Closeley related to Vaiṣnavism, the Pāñcarātra literature includes various Āgamas and tantras incorporating many Vaiṣnava philosophies.
Viṣṇu (विष्णु) is a Sanskrit name referring to one of the eight manifestations of Caṇḍa, who is a form of Bhairava. According to the Rudrayāmala, there are eight main forms of Bhairava who control the eight directions of this universe. Each form (eg., Caṇḍa) has a further eight sub-manifestations (eg., Viṣṇu), thus resulting in a total of 64 Bhairavas.
When depicting Viṣṇu according to traditional iconographic rules (śilpaśāstra), one should depcit him (and other forms of Caṇḍa) having a blue color and good looks; he should carry agni, śakti, gadā and kuṇḍa. The word Śilpaśāstra refers to an ancient Hindu science of arts and crafts, dealing with subjects such as painting, sculpture and iconography.(Source): Wisdom Library: Śilpa-śāstra
Viṣṇu (विष्णु) refers to one of the many varieties of the Śālagrāma (ammonite fossil stones).—The Viṣṇu stone has the size and shape of a bilva fruit, black in colour, a hole at the back (pṛṣṭha-chidra). . Śālagrāma stones are very ancient geological specimens, rendered rounded and smooth by water-currents in a great length of time. They (eg., Viṣṇu stones) are distinguished by the ammonite (śālā, described as “vajra-kīṭa”, “adamantine worms”) which having entered into them for residence, are fossilized in course of time, leaving discus-like marks inside the stone.(Source): archive.org: Pratima Kosa Encyclopedia of Indian Iconography - Vol 6
Viṣṇu is the name given to the cohesive or centripetal tendency of the universe — the Sattva Guṇa. It pervades all existence and is therefore known as "Viṣṇu". The name can be derived from the roots viṣ — viṣṇāti — to spread. viṣ — viṣati — to enter into or from viṣti — viveṣṭi — to surround = all these are expressions of pervasion.
In terms of consciousness Viṣṇu is identified with the dream-state (svapna) where things are conceived of as archetypes or prototypes prior to their manifestation. He is the abstract concept of all things whereas Brahmā is their realization in perishable materials.
Viṣṇu is the inner cause, the unseen power by which all things exist. Brahma is concerned with the outer material manifestation of all things, but Viṣṇu is their inner essence. Viṣṇu is the principle of duration and the power that holds the cosmos together. He is therefore the goal of all spiritual and religious paths.(Source): Red Zambala: Hindu Icons and Symbols | Trinity
Viṣṇu (विष्णु) is a sculpture found at the temple of Vijayeśvara, at the northern side.—On the north side there are two niches and in both there are images of Viṣṇu with four arms. The first one displays a standing Viṣṇu with four arms holding in his upper hands: right cakra, left conch, lower right resting on the thigh and the lower left holding a round object which is identified as the earth by locals. He is decked with all usual ornaments. This image is beautiful because the carving is completed. The next image depicts also Viṣṇu but it is incomplete. Only three of his hands are seen with discus in the upper right and mace in the lower right, the lower left resting on the thigh. The upper left is incomplete. He wears a tiara but the image is yet to be completed and polished.
A sculpture of Viṣṇu is also found on the sixth pillar of the southern half of the maṇḍapa.—In the top medallion is seated Viṣṇu on Garuḍa. He is shown with four hands, having usual conch and discus in his upper left and right hands respectively. Of the lower two, the right is some gesture of holding something and the left is resting on his thigh. Garuḍa is seated in vīrāsana. By the side of Viṣṇu is a running river.(Source): Archaeological Survey of India: Śaiva monuments at Paṭṭadakal (śilpa)
Viṣṇu (विष्णु) as depicted according to an image found in the Jondhalī Baug on the Ṭhāṇā-Āgrā.—From the weapons held in its hands, the image appears to be of the Śrīdhara type. It measures 125 cm. in height and is standing in the samabhaṅga pose. Viṣṇu holds the lotus, the discus, the mace and the conch in his hands and wears several necklaces and a torque. His yajñopavita and campakamālā are prominently seen. He has a high karaṇḍa-mukuṭa with a lotus prabhāvalī appearing behind it. He wears beautiful ear-ornaments, bracelets and anklets, and the folds of his lower garment are shown falling gracefully in front. He has a fine smile playing on his face. On the right is shown the donor of the image in the añjalimudrā, and on the left his wife with a pot full of sweets. By their side are seen two gaṇas holding musical instruments.(Source): What is India: Inscriptions of the Śilāhāras (shilpashastra)
Śilpaśāstra (शिल्पशास्त्र, shilpa-shastra) represents the ancient Indian science of creative arts such as sculpture, iconography and painting. Closely related to Vāstuśāstra (architecture), they often share the same literature.
- 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa XII. 11. 44; Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 23. 20; Vāyu-purāṇa 66. 61, 66.
- 2) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 24. 34; III. 3. 68; Matsya-purāṇa 6. 4; 171. 56. Viṣṇu-purāṇa I. 15. 130.
- 3) Ib. I. 22. 3; II. 10. 18.
1b) A god of Ābhūtaraya group.*
- * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 36. 56.
1c) (Uttamaśloka) worshipped for dharma. His abode above the position of seven sages, where is found the great Dhruva with others;1 different forms of; as Trivikrama broke aṇḍakaṭāha and let the Ganges in; as Sankarṣaṇa, worshipped by Śiva in Ilāvṛta; as Hayagrīva in Bhadrāśva country; as Nṛsimha in Harivarṣa; as Kāmadeva in Ketumālā; as Matsya in Ramyaka; as Kūrma in Hiraṇmaya; also Sānkhyanidarśana; as Varāha in Uttara Kuru country; also in the form of both Yajña and Kratu; as Sītārāma in Kimpuruṣa; as Naranārāyaṇa in Bhāratavarṣa; as Sūrya in Plakṣadvīpa; as Soma in Śālmali; as Agni in Kuśadvīpa; as a form of water in Krauñcadvīpa; as Vāyu in Śākadvīpa; as Brahmā in Puṣkaradvīpa.2 Propitiated by Dakṣa after his reconciliation with Śiva, Viṣṇu came to receive offerings in person in the form of yajña and was praised by all present including Brahmā and Śiva. He told Dakṣa that he was not different from Śiva or Brahmā.3 presented Pṛthu with Sudarśana and addressed him to befriend Indra, to be devoted to Him and to conduct himself righteously.4 His residence near Kṣīroda where he sleeps in yoga: vanquisher of Bali; saw a liṅga of effulgence and with Brahmā went down and up to know its origin and end, but could not get at that. Śiva's remark that his right and left arms were Brahmā and Viṣṇu. This is Mahāyāgam and Māheśvaram balam;5 cursed by Bhṛgu to take 10 (7 Matsya-purāṇa) incarnations on the earth; called Puruṣa and Yajña.6 In Svāyambhuva epoch was born of Ākūtī, in Svārociṣa, born of Tuṣitā as Ajita, in Uttama epoch, born of Satyā as Satya, in Tāmasa born of Hariṇī as Hari, in Vaivasvata, born of Kaśyapa and Aditī with the name Vaikuṇṭha.7 Overlord of Ādityas; gave peacock and fowl to Kumāra.8
- 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa II. 3. 22; III. ch. 13 (whole); V. 22. 17; 23. 1.
- 2) Ib. V. 17. 1 and 16; chh. 18-20 (whole);
- 3) Ib. IV. 7. 18-54; 14. 26.
- 4) Ib. IV. 15. 16; 20. 2-16, 31 [1-2].
- 5) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 26. 2; 27. 22.
- 6) Ib. III. 3. 85-106; 72. 3-17; Matsya-purāṇa 47. 99-103.
- 7) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 107-122.
- 8) Ib. III. 10. 46; 24. 6; 33. 15; 42. 48; 71. 176 and 262. Matsya-purāṇa 6. 4; 171. 56.
1d) A Bhārgava gotrakāra.*
- * Matsya-purāṇa 195. 20.
1e) One of the nine sons of Sāvarṇi.*
- * Vāyu-purāṇa 100. 22.
The Purāṇas (पुराण, purana) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahāpurāṇas total over 400,000 ślokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.
Kathā (narrative stories)
Viṣṇu (विष्णु).—Viṣṇu, a deity of Ṛgveda is reborn in Puranic Pantheon and has acquired a new glory and boundless power. New epithets are given to him as for example, Hari, Trivikrama, Muraripu, Murāri, Caturbhuja, Upendra, Cakrapāṇi, Nanārdana, Kaṃsāri, Murajit, Acyuta, Śārṅgin, Kaiṭabhāri, Madhuripu and Asuradviṣ.
Viṣṇu in Ṛgveda is a sun deity, who like the sun takes three strides (vikrama) across the three kinds of space. There his weapon as a precursor of the later Cakra is a revolving wheel represented like the sun. The inferior position of Viṣṇu as a sun-deity in Ṛgveda is changed to one of supreme importance in the Brāhmaṇas, where he already assumes the form of a dwarf and rescues the earth from the Asuras in three strides.
Viṣṇu reclines on the couch formed hy Śeṣa, the thousand-hooded serpent. He is referred to as resting on the lap of Lakṣmī and waring on his chest a gem named Kaustubh and he is waited upon by the humble Garuḍa.(Source): Shodhganga: A critical appreciation of soddhalas udayasundarikatha
Kathās (कथा) are special kind of Sanskrit literature: they are a kind of a mix between Itihāsa (historical legends) and Mahākāvya (epic poetry). Some Kathās reflect socio-political instructions for the King while others remind the reader of the historical deeds of the Gods, sages and heroes.
General definition (in Hinduism)
One of the 108 names of Krishna; Meaning: "All Prevailing Lord"(Source): humindian: 108 names of Lord Krishna
Vishnu is the protective aspect of the supreme trinity. He is the entity that is most often involved in mortal affairs. Some say he was created by Shiva, others say that he arose out of the cosmic void. Laxmi is his consort. His abode is Vaikunta. He is usually depicted as resting on a giant snake, Adisesha, which is itself floating in an ocean of milk.
He has undertaken ten avatars(incarnations), each to achieve a specific purpose, to avert a specific calamity facing either mankind or the Devas. There are more than ten incarnations attributed to him, but only ten of them are considered major. The list of such avatars varies a bit in different sources. For more about his incarnations, see 'Incarnations of Vishnu'.
He is called the 'brother of Indra', since he was born as a son of Aditi in his Vamana avatar. He is described as being ever desirous of helping the Devas, and an enemy of their half-brothers, the Asuras. He is dark-colored, with mega-varnam (cloud-hued), being one of his epithets. He is generally depicted as having four arms, holding a Sudharshana Chakra (discus), conch, lotus and a mace respectively.
His consort is Laxmi, who is said to have arisen from the ocean of milk in Vaikunta, when it was churned by the Devas and Asuras to obtain Amrit. His followers are known as Vaishnavaite, and many of them wear the 'namam' on their forehead.(Source): Apam Napat: Indian Mythology
Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)
Viṣṇu (विष्णु) refers to the deity that appears on the great waters (maha-apas) after the kalpa-fire according to the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra (chapter XIV).—After the kalpa-fire, everything is empty (śūnya); then by the causal power of the merits of beings, the winds (vāyu) come from all the directions and, interacting and mixing with one another, they are able to support the great waters (mahāpas). On these waters there is a man with a thousand heads, two thousand arms and two thousand legs called Wei mieou (Viṣṇu).
From Viṣṇu’s navel (nābhi) comes a precious lotus, golden in color, with a thousand petals, the light and rays of which are like the combined light of a thousand suns. On this lotus there is seated cross-legged a man who, in turn, possesses an infinite light. He is called Fan t’ien wang (Brahmādevarāja) who mentally gives birth to eight sons who, in their turn, give rise to the heavens, the earth and people.(Source): Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra
Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.
General definition (in Jainism)
Viṣṇu (विष्णु) is the father of Śreyāṃsa, the eleventh of twenty-four Tīrthaṅkaras in Janism according to the Ācāradinakara (14th century work on Jain conduct written by Vardhamāna Sūri). A Tīrthaṅkara is an enlightened being who has conquered saṃsāra (cycle of birth and death), leaving behind him a path for others to follow.
The wife of Viṣṇu is Viṣṇu according to Śvetāmbara or Veṇudevī according to Digambara. It is an ancient Jain practice to worship the Tīrthaṅkara’s parents in various rites, such as the pratiṣṭhāvidhi.(Source): Wisdom Library: Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.
India history and geogprahy
Viṣṇu-worship in Rājasthān.—The Ghosundi Inscription of the 2nd century B.C., records the construction of a stone wall round the hall of worship of Sankarṣaṇa-Balarāma and Vāsudeva by Sarvatāta of Gaja family. The fact that Viṣṇu was worshipped as early as the 2nd century B. C., is known from this inscription. From this time onwards the sculptured art and images at various places in Rājasthān reveal that Viṣṇu in his several manifestations was a prominent deity of the Hindus.(Source): archive.org: Social Life In Medieval Rajasthan
Temples of Viṣṇu constructed by the Śilāhāra dynasty (r. 765-1215 A.D.).—The Śilāhāras of Koṅkaṇ were devotees of Śiva. Though they themselves built no temples of Viṣṇu, inscriptions of the age mention several shrines of the god erected by their officers and subjects. They are not, however, existing at present. But some images of Viṣṇu, either previously installed in them or meant for them, have been found. One of them was discovered in the Jondhalī Baug on the Ṭhāṇā-Āgrā road.(Source): What is India: Inscriptions of the Śilāhāras
The history of India traces the identification of countries, villages, towns and other regions of India, as well as royal dynasties, rulers, tribes, local festivities and traditions and regional languages. Ancient India enjoyed religious freedom and encourages the path of Dharma, a concept common to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.
Languages of India and abroad
viṣṇu (विष्णु).—m One of the Hindu triad.(Source): DDSA: The Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English
Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.
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Search found 141 books and stories containing Vishnu, Viṣṇu or Visnu. You can also click to the full overview containing English textual excerpts. Below are direct links for the most relevant articles:
The Ganesha Purana (by Gregory Baily)
Devi Bhagavata Purana (by Swami Vijñanananda)
Chapter 5 - On the narrative of Hayagrīva < [Book 1]
Chapter 9 - On the killing of Madhu Kaiṭabha < [Book 1]
Chapter 11 - On the origin of the Ganges < [Book 9]
The Mirror of Gesture (abhinaya-darpana) (by Ananda Coomaraswamy)
Plate XIV - Combined Hands (part 2) < [Plates]
The Vishnu Purana (by Horace Hayman Wilson)
Chapter XX - Visnu appears to Prahlada < [Book I]
Chapter VIII - How Vishnu is to be worshipped < [Book III]
Śrī Gauḍīya Kaṇṭhahāra (by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati)
The Bhagavata Purana (by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada)
Chapter 19 - Performing the Pumsavana Ritualistic Ceremony < [Canto VI - Prescribed Duties for Mankind]
Chapter 1 - The Advent of Lord Krishna: Introduction < [Canto X - The Summum Bonum]
Chapter 19 - Lord Vamanadeva Begs Charity from Bali Maharaja < [Canto VIII - Withdrawal of the Cosmic Creations]
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