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 8 - (Mahābhārata 12.328.1-53)

Janamejaya said:

1–2 O effulgent lord, please tell me the etymology of those various names of the Lord of the Preceptor, Hari, with which Vyāsa along with his disciples glorified this Madhusūdana. I am desirous of hearing it, listening to which I will become pure and blemish-free like the autumnal moon.

Vaiśaṃpāyana said:

3 Listen, king, how the all-pervading Hari, the well-pleased Soul, related the etymology of His own names arising from His nature and action.

4 O king, celebrating Him with His names, Phalguna, scourge of the enemy heroes, asked Keśava the Great Soul.

Arjuna said:

5 O Effulgent Lord, Lord of the past and the future, Creator of all beings, Immutable One, Refuge of the worlds, Lord of the universe, grantor of fearlessness to all the worlds!

6–7 O God, from You I wish to hear the etymology of those secret names, which are celebrated with your deeds by the great ṛṣis in the Vedas along with the purāṇas, Keśava! Except you there is no other, Lord, who will unfold the explanation of the names.

The Blessed Lord said:

8–9 O Arjuna, many names of Mine are celebrated by the great ṛṣis in the Ṛg Veda along with the Yajur Veda, likewise in the Atharvan chants and Sāmans, in Purāṇas together with Upaniṣads, as well as in the Jyotiṣa, in Sāṃkhya and Yoga scripture, and also in Āyurveda.

10 There, some of the names are related to my attributes and [some] have arisen from my actions. O sinless one, being attentive, listen to the explanation of those that have arisen from my actions, which is being told by Me. Dear one, previously, you indeed are the one considered to be my half.[1]

11–12 Salutations to the One of limitless glory, to Him who is the ultimate soul of embodied beings and the womb of all, moveable and immovable beings; to Nārāyaṇa, Viśva, the one without attributes and of the nature of attributes, from whose grace is born Brahmā and also Rudra born of wrath.[2]

13 O best of beings, that sattva which is with eighteen attributes is the ultimate Prakṛti, according to Me. With her yoga she supports the entire firmament and earth. She is lawful (ṛtā),[3] truthful (satyā),[4] immortal (amarā), invincible and is regarded as the world-soul.

14 From that [sattva] begin the transformations namely creation, dissolution, [etc.]. And from that the sacrifice, the sacrificer and the ancient Puruṣa, Virāṭ, who is called Aniruddha. He is the manifestation and dissolution of the worlds.

15 When Brahmā’s night ended, there arose a lotus, O lotus-eyed one [Arjuna], born of the Grace of that infinitely brilliant One. And therein arose Brahmā who also is verily born through His Grace.

16 At the end of [Brahmā’s] day[5], when he was infatuated with anger, from the god’s forehead, was born his son, Rudra, who causes destruction.

17 These two, foremost of the gods, considered to be born of grace and anger, directed on their ways by Him [Aniruddha] cause creation and destruction. These two who are the boon-givers to all the beings are merely the instruments (nimitta).[6]

18–19 Having a top-knot, with matted hair or a shaved head, resorting to the cremation grounds as his dwelling, taking on formidable vows, the yogi Rudra terrible to the triple cities, the ravisher of Dakṣa’s sacrifice, the one who took away Bhaga’s eyes is to be known as Nārāyaṇa himself in every age, Arjuna.[7]

20 Indeed, when that God of gods Maheśvara is being worshipped, Pārtha, verily the God Lord Nārāyaṇa is worshipped.

21 Son of Pāṇḍu! I am indeed the Soul of all the worlds. Therefore I worship Rudra at the outset [who is] My own Self.

22 In my mind, I thought that if I would not worship Īśāna, the boon-granting Śiva, no one would worship Me. Since whatever is set up as a standard by me, the world will follow accordingly.[8]

23 And as the standards are to be honored therefore I worship him. He who knows him [Rudra] knows Me, he who follows him, follows Me indeed.

24 Rudra and Nārāyaṇa are indeed one being [sattva], made into two. It [sattva][9] wanders in this world, son of Kuntī, being in manifestation and in all actions.

25 O joy of the Pāṇḍavas, deliberating in my mind that indeed no one can grant Me any boon, I worshipped My own Self, that ancient Lord Viśva,[10] by My own Self for the sake of a son.

26 Nor indeed does Viṣṇu bow down to any other god, except his own Self, therefore I worship Rudra.

27 The gods accompanied by Brahmā, Rudra, Indra and the Ṛṣis worship the best of gods, the God Nārāyaṇa Hari.

28 Of all of them who were, are and are going to be, Bhārata, the foremost is Viṣṇu, always worthy of devotion and worship.

29 O son of Kuntī, do salute Viṣṇu, the giver of sacrificial oblations, the giver of refuge. Salute the boon bestower and also the One who enjoys the oblations and hymns.[11]

30 You have heard [from me] that four kinds of people are my devotees, thus.[12] Of these the single-minded are the best, who are devoted to only one god.[13] I am indeed the goal of those who perform actions without any wish [for result].

31 And those remaining three [types of] devotees, are considered as those who verily are desirous of fruit [of their actions]. They are all of the nature of falling away (cyavanadharmāṇaḥ).[14] But the self-realized one obtains the best[15] share.

32 The best among the enlightened ones take refuge in Brahmā and Śitikaṇṭha and all those others said to be the gods—what they ultimately seek is Me alone.[16] Pārtha, I have thus narrated to you the characteristic feature regarding a devotee.[17]

33 You and I, Kaunteya, are considered to be Nara and Nārāyaṇa, who have entered into human form to take down the burden [of the Earth].[18]

34 I know the yogas of Self-knowledge: who I am and wherefrom I come, Bhārata. The dharma charactertized by nivṛtti and also that related to prosperity.

35 Only I, the Sempiternal One, am celebrated as the [final] destination (ayanaṃ) of all mortals (narāṇām).[19] Waters are called nārā, because waters are those who have man (nara) as their progeny.[20] That was my abode in ancient times,[21] therefore I am verily Nārāyaṇa.[22]

36 As if becoming the sun, I enclose the entire universe with rays. And I am the abode (adhivāsa) of all beings, therefore verily I am Vāsudeva.

37 I am the destination of all beings and of those who indeed [are My] progeny, Bhārata. Heaven and earth are pervaded by Me, Pārtha, and supreme is my effulgence.

38 Finally, I am in [all] the beings, and I am desirous of that, Bhārata.[23] And verily due to the action of stepping,[24] Pārtha, I am well known as Viṣṇu.[25]

39 People desiring accomplishment through self-control (dama) crave for Me as well as Heaven, earth, and the intermediary region,[26] therefore I am Dāmodara.

40 Pṛśni signifies food, likewise the Vedas are waters and ambrosia. These are forever in my womb, therefore I am Pṛśnigarbha.

41 The ṛṣis spoke to me regarding Trita who was pushed into a well, “O Pṛśnigarbha! save Trita who is pushed into the well by Ekata and Dvita!”

42 Then, the great ṛṣi, the first son of Brahmā, came up from the receptacle of water chanting “O Pṛśnigarbha” again and again.

43 Those rays which shine forth when Sūrya, Agni, and Soma[27] are burning the worlds, are to be regarded as My hair (keśa). Therefore the all-knowing best of the sages call me Keśava.

44 The great souled Utathya impregnated his own wife. Once Utathya disappeared due to divine wizardry, Bṛhaspati, then approached his wife, Bhārata.

45 O son of Kuntī, then the foetus composed of five elements said to that best of ṛṣis who approached for intercourse,

46 “I have come here before, boon giver, you should not molest my mother.” Hearing this Bṛhaspati became incensed and cursed:

47 “I who had approached for intercourse was obstructed by you. Therefore you will be born blind by my curse, there is no doubt about this.”

48 By that prominent ṛṣi’s curse, he entered into a long period of darkness. And in ancient times, he indeed was the ṛṣi Dīrghatamas by name.

49–50 Having obtained the four ancient Vedas along with their ancillary and supplementary texts, he then employed this secret name of mine “Keśava!” again and again with the procedure which had come down through succession. He gained his sight and became Gautama again.

51 O Arjuna, thus My name “Keśava” is boon bestowing to all the gods and great-souled ṛṣis.

52 Agni was united with Soma and was made into a single source having a common origin. Therefore this entire universe of moving and non-moving beings is of the nature of Agni and Soma (agnīṣomātmaka).

53 Moreover, it is [said] in the Purāṇas: “Agni and Soma are of the nature of having one origin (ekayonyātmakāv agnīṣomau),” “the gods have fire as their mouth (devāś cāgnimukhā iti),” “due to the state of the having the same origin, glorifying each other, they sustain this universe (ekayonitvāc ca parasparaṃ mahayanto lokān dhārayata iti).”

Footnotes and references:


Cf. 5.48.20–21, especially nārāyaṇo naraś caiva sattvam ekaṃ dvidhākṛtam.


There are square brackets for verses 11 and 12, inserted by Belvarkar for reasons deriving from higher criticism. He feels that it is strange that Nārāyaṇa should offer salutations to Himself. However, this passage is not only well attested in mss., it is also germane to a significant point made in this chapter, that Nārāyaṇa not only cannot worship any other god (328.27) but that He also does indeed worship Himself (328.26).


Ṛta = the law, primarily causal, which rules over the effects of actions, both on a personal and a cosmological level. This is the feminine form of this noun.


Satya = truth, that is, that which remains unchanged in the three modes of time; also: being. This is the feminine form of the noun.


Brahmā and Rudra does relate to day and night.


Cf. Bhagavadgītā 11.33.


The term literally is pāṇḍaveya, which would usually mean “son of a pāṇḍava,” but also, as Monier-Williams notes, “a pāṇḍava” or an “adherent of the pāṇḍavas.”


Cf. Bhagavadgītā 3.21: yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas tat tad evetaro janaḥ | sa yat pramāṇaṃ kurute lokas tad anuvartate ||


Cf. verse 12.328.13.


Cf. verse 12.328.11, Viśva.


Cf. Bhagavadgītā 4.24.


Bhagavadgītā 7.16 may be meant: caturvidhā bhajante māṃ janāḥ sukṛtino’arjuna | ārto jijñāsurarthārthī jñānī ca bharatarṣabha ||


Ananya; Bhagavadgītā 8.14, 9.22 etc.


Vishwa Adluri and Joydeep Bagchee, “From Poetic Salvation to Immortality: The Myths of Ruru and Orpheus in Indic and Greek Myth,” History of Religions 51, no. 3 (2012): 239–61.


Ganguli says, correctly, “Emancipation or complete identification with the Supreme Soul.”


Smṛtāḥ = remembered, but can also mean those that are described in smṛti literature, that is, the epics and the purāṇas.


This is a special feature of classical Hinduism also. The polytheism here preserves both the particularity of a deity, rendering the deity personal and preserving the particularity of the specific myth and ritual, but it is also ultimately ontologically monistic and salvific.


Bhārāvataraṇa is a technical term of great importance in the epic. It includes the concepts of devarahasya, devakārya, prādurbhūti, avatāra, etc. This feature forms the exact opposite of an anthropocentric view of the purpose of human life, by placing not man but earth at the center of a discourse on temporal existence.


This is the main sentence of the entire chapter, as it discloses the nirukti that Arjuna asked the Lord to reveal.


For a beautiful description of the Ocean as the abode of all beings, see Ādiparvan 1.15. We can take nara as jātau ekavacanam for all beings.


Ancient times = before the present cycle of time, understood either as kalpa or yuga.


Iconographically, the Nārāyaṇa who rests on the waters before the birth of the lotus-born Brahmā from his navel.


Reading adhibhūtāni in the sense of bhūtāni adhi, we can read this as: “Finally, I am those beings and I am desirous of that, O Bhārata.” The idea would be similar to Bhagavadgītā 7.19: vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti.


There are two references to Viṣṇu’s strides. In ritual of the darśapūrṇamāsa sacrifices (new and full moon sacrifices), the sacrificer walks some steps at the conclusion of the sacrifice. In myth, the three strides of Viṣṇu are referenced as early as the Ṛgveda. This motif is full-blown in the avatāra of Vāmana in several Purāṇas.


Gita Press has: viccha gatau (tudādi), viccha dīptau (curādi), viṣu secane (bhvādi), viṣḷ vyāptau (juhotyādi), viś a praveśane (tudādi), ṣṇu prastravaṇe (adādi). From all these dhātus we obtain the word viṣṇu; hence, all these meanings—destiny, illumination, nourishing, pervading, entering, prastravaṇa, etc.—are implied in the name viṣṇu.


The derivation is from dama, augmented by da (= diva), ma (= madhya) and ū (= ūrvi), which are also the three steps of Viṣṇu.


That is, sun, fire, and moon.

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