The Bhagavata Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 780,972 words | ISBN-10: 8120838203 | ISBN-13: 9788120838208

This page describes Popular etymologies of ‘Narayana’ of the English translation of the Bhagavata Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas containing roughly 18,000 metrical verses. Topics include ancient Indian history, religion, philosophy, geography, mythology, etc. The text has been interpreted by various schools of philosophy. This is the of the Appendices of the Bhagavatapurana.

Popular etymologies of ‘Nārāyaṇa’

Verse 14 (extracted from Chapter 14 of Book 10 the Bhāgavata Purāṇa):

नारायणस्त्वं न हि सर्वदेहिनां आत्मास्यधीशाखिललोकसाक्षी ।
नारायणोऽङ्‌गं नरभूजलायनात् तच्चापि सत्यं न तवैव माया ॥ १४ ॥

nārāyaṇastvaṃ na hi sarvadehināṃ ātmāsyadhīśākhilalokasākṣī |
nārāyaṇo'ṅ‌gaṃ narabhūjalāyanāt taccāpi satyaṃ na tavaiva māyā || 14 ||

“Are you not Nārāyaṇa? Yes, you are Nārāyaṇa inasmuch as you are the soul of all embodied creatures, who thus form your dwelling place (and nāra means the aggregate of living beings). You are Nārāyaṇa as you are the Lord who preside over and promote life in all beings, and being the witness to the entire universe, you alone know them all. You are the Nārāyaṇa—the Deity that abide in (and thus are the basis) of all the twenty-four principles evolved out of Nara, as well as waters—your abode for reposing, which is the evolute of Nara who is also your part. Even your reposing on water is also not true, but your māyā, as your form is indiscernible”


This verse gives or rather implies different popular etymologies of ‘Nārāyaṇa’. Bhāvāratha Dīpikā gives them as follows:

nāraṃ jīvasamūhaḥ, ayanam āśrayaḥ

(i) Nāra—aggregate of all beings; ayanam—abode. Hence one who dwells in all bodies as their soul.

(ii) Nārasya ayanam pravṛttiḥ—The source of the Promoter of all the aggregate of jīvas.

(iii) Nāram ayase—You know the aggregate of all beings, ay—to know.

(iv) Nāra—that which is produced from Nara.

Nāra—water. Nārāyaṇa is one who dwells in or reposes on water.

The above etymologies are supported by SS., Bhāgavata Candrikā etc. SN. quotes the following verses in support of the above etymologies.

nārāṇām ayanatvācca nārāyaṇa iti smṛtaḥ /
nāra-śabdena jīvānāṃ samūhaḥ procyate budhaiḥ //
teṣām ayana-bhūtatvān nārāyaṇa iti smṛtaḥ /
nāro narāṇāṃ saṅghātas tasvāham ayanaṃ gatiḥ /
tenāsmi munibhir nityaṃ nārāyaṇa iti smṛtaḥ //
cetanā'cetanaṃ sarvaṃ viṣṇor yad vyatiricyate /
nāraṃ tadayanaṃ cedaṃ yasya nārāyaṇas tu saḥ //

VT. states that God’s reposing on cosmic water is not illusory (māyika), because it, being a sportive act (līlā) of God. is real.

SG. explains, god Brahmā was so over-whelmed with the spiritual feat (of assuming the form of calves, cowherd boys etc.) that he regarded Lord Kṛṣṇa as greater than Nārāyaṇa, “Oh Kṛṣṇa you are not Nārāyaṇa, Oh Lord of the totality of Brahmāṇḍas (all the universe) is only your part or a ray?”

According to SG. Kṛṣṇa is the real, complete Supreme Person (Kṛṣṇas tu pūrṇa puruṣottamaḥ)

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