Narayaniya (Narayaneeyam)

by Vishwa Adluri | 41,385 words

The English translation of the Narayaniya (Narayaneeyam), literally, “the work containing everything about Narayana”) which is a small text of 1006 verses occurring in the Shantiparva of the Mahabharata. The aim of the text is the glorification of the God Hari-Narayana, who is described as the God of gods (devadeva). Narayana is described as the g...

Chapter 1 - (Mahābhārata 12.321.1-43)

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

1 What God ought one sacrifice to if one wishes to obtain perfection, whether he is a householder or a student or a hermit or a mendicant?

2 How indeed can he obtain infallible heaven and [beyond it,] the ultimate good? By following what ritual practice to the gods and to the ancestors ought he to sacrifice?

3 When liberated, to which state does one go? Of what nature is liberation? Having attained to heaven, what must one do so as not to fall from the celestial realm?

4 Which god is the god of gods and likewise the ancestor of ancestors? And what transcends even that [heaven],[1] tell me all that, grandfather!

Bhīṣma said:

5 Skilled in enquiry, immaculate one, you ask me a question of deep mystery.

Not with logic[2] alone can this be articulated indeed even in hundreds of years,

6 Or without divine grace, king, or comprehension of knowledge.[3] Indeed the answer which I have to give you, enemy-slayer, is a profound mystery.

7 And about this they cite an ancient tale of the dialogue of Nārada and Ṛṣi Nārāyaṇa.

8 Nārāyaṇa, the eternal Soul of the universe, was born as Dharma’s progeny in quadruple form. Thus said my father [Śaṃtanu].

9 O monarch, previously in Kṛta yuga in the age of Svayambhū [Manu], [Nārāyaṇa manifested Himself] as Nara and [ṛṣi] Nārāyaṇa and also Hari and Kṛṣṇa.

10 Of these [four], immutable Nara and Nārāyaṇa, reaching Badari-āśrama, performed austerities in a golden chariot.[4]

11 Eight-wheeled indeed was that vehicle, composed of primal elements and mind-blowing. There, these two primeval lords of the world, having taken birth as Dharma’s sons, became emaciated like reed.

12 Due to their ardor and splendor, they were difficult to behold even by the gods. Only one whom they bless deserves to behold these two gods.

13–16 With their approval indeed, in his heart impelled by the one who dwells in the heart, descending onto Gandhamādana, from the summit of the Great Meru, Nārada, that immensely great being, wandered in all the worlds. The swift one [finally] came to that region, Badarī-āśrama, at the time of their [Nara and Nārāyaṇa’s] daily rituals. He became curious: “this is the complete abode in which are established all the worlds with the gods, asuras, celestial musicians, sages, kinnaras, and the snakes. One form it was previously, which again became fourfold.

17 The great progeny of Dharma’s lineage was brought up by these. Oh! how favored dharma is by these gods and also by Nara and Nārāyaṇa and by Kṛṣṇa and Hari.

18 There, Kṛṣṇa and Hari were engaged in some other work whereas these two higher Dharmas were likewise firmly established in austerities.

19 These two are verily the ultimate abode. What is their daily ritual? These two great intellects, the accomplished ones, the parents and the divinity of all beings, to which divinity indeed or to which ancestors do they offer sacrifice?”

20 Thus deliberating in his own mind, verily with devotion to Nārāyaṇa, [Nārada] then appeared forthwith near the gods.

21 He was beheld by these two after they performed the divine and ancestral rituals and was honored in the manner prescribed in the scriptures.

22 Having witnessed that great wonder, the unprecedented elaboration of ritual, the delighted divine sage Nārada sat nearby.

23 Fully beholding Nārāyaṇa and rejoicing to his very core, [Nārada] saluted the Great God and spoke these words:

24 “You are glorified in the Vedas along with the ancillary texts and the purāṇas. You are considered the Unborn, the Sempiternal, the Sustainer, the Insuperable Immortality. In You is established the entire universe, past, future and so on.

25 The four modes of life (āśramas), God, are indeed based on that of the householder. Every day they worship You who abides in various forms.

26 [You are the] Father and Mother of the entire universe, and also the Eternal Guru. We know not to which deity or ancestor you sacrifice today.

The Effulgent Lord said:

27 O brāhmaṇa, this eternal secret of the Self is not to be revealed, but to you who is endowed with devotion, I shall tell it as it is.

28–29 That which is subtle, imperceptible, unmanifest, immovable, permanent and apart from senses, sense objects and also all beings, He is verily the indwelling Self of all beings and is called the Kṣetrajña (Knower of the Field). He is conceived as the Puruṣa transcending the three guṇas. From him has arisen the Unmanifest (avyakta), composed of the three guṇas, O best of the twice-born.

30–32 She is the unchanging Prakṛiti, who is the Unmanifest established in manifest forms. Know her to be the womb of us both. There is none either preceptor or god or twice-born one who is greater than He who is of the nature of being and non-being and who is verily being worshipped in divine and ancestral rites performed by both of us. He is to be known as our Self, therefore we both worship Him.

32 By Him this world sustaining limit is established, brāhmaṇa. This is His ordinance: [Obligatory] ritual to deity and ancestors is to be performed.

33–35 The twenty-one preceptors (prajāpatis) who sprang forth are: Brahman, Sthāṇu, Manu, Dakṣa, Bhṛgu, Dharma, Tapas, Dama, Marīci, Aṅgiras, Atri and Pulastya, Pulaha, and Kratu, Vasiṣṭha, and Parameṣṭhin, and also Vivasvat and Soma and he who is called Kardama, as well as Krodha and Vikrīta. They honor that God’s eternal law.[5]

36 Those best of the twice-born having properly understood the ritual to gods and ancestors know what is to be gained by them through it.[6]

37 Whatever embodied beings worship Him, even those residing in heaven, due to His Grace they too reach that state which is indicated by Him as the result.

38 Those who are freed from the seventeen attributes[7] as well as karmas become liberated, having left behind the fifteen kalās,[8] this is certain.

39 Kṣetrajña is verily ordained as the destination of the liberated, brāhmaṇa. Indeed he is glorified as all-pervading and devoid of attributes.

40 He can be envisioned by the yoga of knowledge. We two have sprung forth from Him. Knowing thus, we both worship that eternal Self.

41 The Vedas and the various modes of life which are resorted to by various embodied beings worship that Foremost One with devotion. And He grants them this state [i.e., liberation].

42 In this world, those who are graced by That [One] and who are well established in Oneness, this is their transcendence—that they enter into Him.

43 This secret teaching was expounded to you, Nārada, with devotion and love. It was also heard by you, wise Ṛṣi, with devotion towards us.

Footnotes and references:


tasmāt is not dual so it does not go with god of gods and ancestor of ancestors, therefore it must be svargāt parataram.


tarkayā, the feminine form of this word is interesting here. Generally this word is used in the masculine gender (tarkeṇa), which would not have upset the meter. It is tarkataḥ in K6.7, D5.


Obtaining knowledge is different from the soteriological goal of unification with the One. This is because, as Śaṅkara notes, in knowledge other than mokṣa, there is always a duality. 


Chariot is often a metaphor for the body, see for example Ka. U. 1.3.3–8.


Maryāda, lit. the limit, but also the law. Cf. verse 32.


Ātmaprāptāni is literally ātmanā prāptāni or ātmane prāptāni, that is, either obtained by one oneself or for oneself. Here the ātma prāpta would be self-fulfillment.


These seventeen are the five sense faculties of knowledge (jñānendriyas), the five sense organs of action (karmendriyas), the five vital breaths (prāṇas), mind (manas) and understanding (buddhi).


Literally, parts. See Bṛhadāraṇyaka Up. which says kalas = fifteen digits of the moon, the sixteenth is fixed. Fifteen are temporal, one is transcendent. In Muṇḍaka Up. 3.2.7 the fifteen are considered parts of the sensory apparatus.

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