Hindu Pluralism

by Elaine M. Fisher | 2017 | 113,630 words

This thesis is called Hindu Pluralism: “Religion and the Public Sphere in Early Modern South India”.—Hinduism has historically exhibited a marked tendency toward pluralism—and plurality—a trend that did not reverse in the centuries before colonialism but, rather, accelerated through the development of precolonial Indic early modernity. Hindu plur...

[Full title: The Many Meanings of Nārāyaṇa: Etymology and Lexicography in Intersectarian Debate]

As a tradition justly renowned for its rigorous analysis of the form and function of language, Sanskrit textual culture has always made room for etymology. Commentators in all subdisciplines habitually gravitated toward both historical etymology—namely, the morphological derivation of words provided by Pāṇinian grammar—and various techniques of semantic etymology, such as Yāska’s Nirukta, a school of thought devoted to deriving the meaning of Vedic texts from the level of the word upward. Both Pāṇinian Vyākaraṇa and Nairuktika etymology continued to flourish throughout the second millennium in south India, particularly as exegetical tools for defending sectarian-specific interpretations of scripture. Among noteworthy sectarian iconoclasts, Madhva in particular initiated a number of new and controversial approaches to Vedic exegesis, demarcating new boundaries for the scope and applicability of etymological analysis. In order to establish Viṣṇu himself as the “great purport,” or mahātātparya, of Vedic scripture, Madhva proposed new parameters for the very meaning of Vedic words themselves. Viṣṇu, he argued, being the sole entity in possession of all perfect attributes (guṇaparipūrṇatva), could literally be denoted by every single word in the Vedic corpus (sarvaśabdavācyatva), each of which held the capacity to signify one of his unique properties.[1]

In light of these contentious claims, it is no wonder that Madhva’s dialectic strategies sparked centuries of debate across south India as to the limits and proper applications of etymological analysis. As sectarian tensions escalated in subsequent centuries, theologians of all lineages seized upon this new permissiveness to elevate etymological speculation to new heights. Succinctly, we witness two distinctive trends in the approach to word meaning over the early modern centuries, cultivated expressly for the purpose of proving the superiority of one sect over another. First, theologians cultivated a predilection for what we might call “extreme etymology.” Reminiscent of the passion for śleṣa, or extreme feats of language, that spread like wildfire among the literary circles of south India in particular,[2] sectarian advocates strove to outdo their competitors in the complexity or even sheer number of etymologies they could defensibly derive from the name of their chosen deity.

One noteworthy example is a remarkable composition by the notable Mādhva theologian Vijayīndra Tīrtha, the Nārāyaṇaśabdārthanirvacaṇa (Etymology of the meaning of the word Nārāyaṇa). Circulated as a pamphlet-sized handbook for the possible derivations for this popular name of Viṣṇu, the Nārāyaṇaśabdārthanirvacaṇa assembles well over one hundred (126, to be precise) etymological explanations for the name Nārāyaṇa, all conforming precisely to the strictures of Pāṇinian grammatical analysis. Through such etymological feats, Vijayīndra effectively unites the supposed legitimacy of Pāṇinian grammatical derivation with a Nirukta-like freedom to derive any semantic meaning demanded by the commentator’s theological agenda. Elsewhere, Vijayīndra Tīrtha proves capable of subordinating even the most obvious primary word meanings to his creative etymologies. For instance, in his Turīyaśivakhaṇḍana—a treatise aimed explicitly at refuting the existence of a “transcendent fourth” Paramaśiva—Vijayīndra defends his characteristically Mādhva claim that all names of deities in the Vedic corpus ought to be interpreted primarily as signifiers of the god Viṣṇu, a principle he extracts from the Ṛgvedic passage “yo devānāṃ nāmadhā eka eva,” construed rather problematically by Madhva as “He who is the one single name of all the gods.”

As he writes,

“And moreover, through examination of the scriptural citation ‘yo devānāṃ nāmadhā eka eva,’ one establishes the conclusion that Nārāyaṇa alone is the single chief purport of the names of all gods. Otherwise, one would be forced to block the primary signification of the restrictive limitation: one single name.”[3]

In fact, the names of deities themselves, such as Nārāyaṇa, had become prime objects of contestation for entire generations of sectarian polemicists.[4] Names of individual deities do occur frequently in Vedic and Purāṇic literature, but by the sixteenth century many of these names had long since acquired a conventional association with one of the two principal sectarian deities of Vaidika Hindus. In such a context, given Vedic statements declaring that both “Īśāna” and “Nārāyaṇa” are the supreme deity, the sole source of the universe, it is all but inevitable that commentators should resort to strategic etymology to demonstrate that one or the other does not signify Śiva or Viṣṇu, respectively, as custom would hold. As a result, etymological virtuosity soon became a prized commodity among prominent theologians who wished to establish the absolute supremacy of one sectarian deity over the other.

The name Nārāyaṇa in particular came to occupy a central strategic position in these debates, as Vaiṣṇava expositors struggled to secure the name exclusively for Viṣṇu, and Śaiva commentators contrived some alternative explanation for why the name referred either to a transcendent Paramaśiva exclusively or to all three deities of the TrimūrtiBrahmā, Viṣṇu, and Rudra-Śiva. Moreover, their explanations of how Nārāyaṇa means what they propose it means draw on the heights of grammatical, etymological, and philological reasoning from across disciplines. One has only to survey the New Catalogus Catalogorum or any of the major manuscript libraries to observe a proliferation of treatises concerned with ṇa-tva, or the grammatical rules prompting retroflection of the nasal n in Sanskrit words and compounds, their origins concentrated quite specifically in early modern south India.[5] In essence, this peculiar fascination was no disinterested collective inquiry into morphological grammar; rather, the aim was to establish why Nārāyaṇa exhibited its retroflection in the final syllable, and what the implications of this retroflex were for the meaning of this highly contested name.

On the other hand—perhaps in response to such feats of extreme etymology—more circumspect theologians began to direct a critical gaze toward both the very concept of word meaning and the tools traditionally used to ascertain that meaning. If etymology can truly establish that a word signifies any deity or quality desired, what explanatory value does it possess? And, if traditional meanings of words and names can easily be undermined by etymological sleight of hand, of what use is a dictionary that tells us that Nārāyaṇa means “Viṣṇu”? It is this critical reflectivity toward disciplinary approaches to word meaning that occupied the attention of many of Appayya’s, Vijayīndra’s, and Nārāyaṇācārya’s near contemporaries. Particularly noteworthy in this regard is a dialogical exchange between a Smārta-Śaiva exegete, Govinda Nāyaka, and a Vaiṣṇava rival whose name remains unknown, in which the two debate the true meaning of the name Nārāyaṇa and the disciplinary approaches suitable for arriving at its true meaning.

Both the original Smārta treatise and the Vaiṣṇava response, which replies directly to the Smārta work in question, have been preserved in the same bundle at the Adyar Library and Research Centre in Chennai,[6] providing us with a unique opportunity to witness sectarian polemical exchange in action. What is most fascinating about this exchange, however, is that each opponent integrates a programmatic methodological statement into the substance of his claim, differing not only as to what the name Nārāyaṇa means but also how we can justifiably discern its signification. On the Smārta side, Govinda Nāyaka advocates etymology as the principal authority for determining word meaning, whereas his Vaiṣṇava interlocutor defends lexicography as the deciding factor in adjudicating signification. In the process, we meet with a substantive exchange regarding the relative merits of etymology and lexicography themselves as knowledge systems and tools for sectarian debate.

The first of these works, the Nārāyaṇaśabdasādhāraṇya of Govinda Nāyaka, advocates the Smārta position, arguing that the name Nārāyaṇa simultaneously signifies each deity of the Trimūrti—Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Rudra-Śiva.

He declares his intention plainly at the outset of the pamphlet:

“It is well-known in literature such as the Purāṇas that, based on the conventional usage by the learned and etymology, the term Nārāyaṇa is expressive of the Trimūrti—that is, Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva.”

As evidence for this rather bold assertion, Govinda Nāyaka proceeds to exemplify creative etymologies that construe the name Nārāyaṇa as referring to each of the three deities, corroborating these etymologies with Purāṇic citations that narrate these same meanings in well-known mythological episodes. Like the clever etymologies of Vijayīndra Tīrtha, Govinda Nāyaka’s glosses hinge on pedantic references to such unlikely Sanskrit lexemes as ṇa, a “word” that possesses the virtue of simultaneously accounting for the peculiar retroflexion in the compound Nārāyaṇa.

Drawing on the various attested meanings of ṇa, for instance, he explains the name Nārāyaṇa as follows:

Nāra is the aggregate of individual souls, or naras. The one from whom liberation [is given] to that [aggregate] [is Nārāyaṇa]. Ṇa, in fact, indicates liberation, as attested in the Ratnamālā: ‘Ṇa refers to a lotus or knowledge.’ The dative case ending is not elided.”[7]

And subsequently:

“Or, Nārāyaṇa refers to the ṇa, or ‘lover,’ of the nāra, the aggregate of women in Vraja. The dative case ending is not elided, as in the compound ‘lover to Ahalyā.’[8] The word ṇa, in the Ratnamālā, is said to refer to a lover, Bhairava, a thorn, or a sound.”[9]

In the above examples, the name Nārāyaṇa is construed in the conventionally accepted sense, as an alternative name for Viṣṇu. The true force of Govinda Nāyaka’s argument comes into view, however, when he applies the same etymological strategies to render the name Nārāyaṇa capable of signifying Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva equally. Just as the name was construed above to signify “the lover of the women of Vraja,” a meaning that unmistakably refers to the Vaiṣṇava theology of Kṛṣṇa, the same name, he argues, can be derived to reveal hidden references to the canonical mythology of Śiva or Brahmā. These references, in turn, once revealed, demonstrate a genuine ontological capacity within the name Nārāyaṇa to bring to mind the gods Śiva and Brahmā to the same degree as Viṣṇu.

Take, for instance, the following alternative etymologies, which evoke the motifs of Śiva as Gaṅgādhara, bearer of the river Ganges, and Brahmā as originating from the lotus-navel of Viṣṇu:

Or, [Śiva is so called] because of his being the abode of the water of the Gaṅgā—or nāra. Nāra s are clearly defined as “waters” in the Kūrma Purāṇa. In various locations in the Purāṇas, the word Nārāyaṇa is revealed as referring to Śiva.[10]

Now is clarified the fact that the word Nārāyaṇa can also refer to the Four-Faced [Brahmā].... He of whom the lotus stalks, or nāla, arising from [Viṣṇu’s] navel are ayana s—that is, they take the form of paths for coming and going. Ayana is used in the sense of “refuge” or “path.” In the Śiva Purāṇa, [we encounter such a usage of the term nāla]: “O sage, having gone on each nāla for a hundred years, he mounted the lotus by means of the path of the nāla, O sage.[11]

This approach is no mere parlor trick; rather, the author intends to advance a genuine argument about the intrinsic signifying capacity of the name Nārāyaṇa, which, in turn, holds serious implications for the orthodox Vaidika pedigree of non-Vaiṣṇava Hindu sects. Etymology, traditionally, is a fundamental criterion for the signifying capacity (śakti) of a word. By attesting valid Pāṇinian etymologies of the sacred name Nārāyaṇa that unambiguously evoke Śiva and Brahmā, Govinda Nāyaka implies that the Vedas themselves, when using the name Nārāyaṇa, simultaneously inculcate the authority of each of the three deities of the Trimūrti through the signifying capacity (śakti) of that single name.

On this basis, Śaivas would be able to advance a Vedic exegetical defense of the transcendence of a unitary Paramaśiva, who is beyond name and form, encompassing all three subordinate deities—including Viṣṇu, who is referred to directly by the name Nārāyaṇa. Govinda Nāyaka himself hints at just such an implication:

“Or, all names may apply to all deities, because the three are reflections of one consciousness.”[12]

In essence, the project is to undercut the Mādhva concept of sarvaśabdavācyatva, “being signified by all names,” from the Vedas, so that it refers not to Viṣṇu but to the nondual, absolute Paramaśiva. And furthermore, if all three deities can be proven ontologically equivalent on etymological grounds, there can be no possibility of presuming an inherent difference in the Purāṇas of Śaiva, Brāhma, and Vaiṣṇava origin on the grounds of their respective authorship alone.

In the second of the two tracts, the Nārāyaṇaśabdanirukti, an anonymous Vaiṣṇava polemicist attempts to refute these claims, maintaining that the name Nārāyaṇa refers exclusively to Viṣṇu in common parlance. Taking refuge in the old maxim “Customary usage supersedes etymology” (rūḍhir yogam apaharati), the author contends that etymological sophistry bears no relationship to the actual semantic function of a word, whether in scripture or worldly discourse. To the contrary, if one were free to provide alternative etymological explanations for any scriptural term, including names of deities, chaos would result, especially in the domain of ritual. Given that particular religious observances are prescribed in Purāṇic scriptures as appropriate for the worship of each individual deity, one would be free to substitute any of the ritual instructions or implements at will simply by replacing the name Śiva with Viṣṇu.

As our Vaiṣṇava polemicist warns us:

Then, the following could be said: a statement that prohibits worshipping Viṣṇu with unhusked barleycorns would signify the prohibition of worshipping Śiva with unhusked barleycorns. A statement prescribing darśan of Śiva at dusk would prescribe the darśan of Viṣṇu at dusk. A statement that prescribes the observance of a vow for Viṣṇu on the Ekādaśī (the eleventh day of the lunar fortnight) would then prescribe the observance of that vow for Śiva on the Ekādaśī, and so forth. Because the consequence would be entailed that all rituals described in the Purāṇas, and so forth, could be practiced however one desires, the differential arrangements of Vedic practices would be dissolved, and no sin would accrue to those who practiced in whatever manner they wished.[13]

Clearly, for both interlocutors, the etymology of the name Nārāyaṇa was by no means a matter restricted to academic pedantry; rather, both sides believed the issue had wide-ranging consequences for the regulation of public religious observances across sectarian lines. Philology, in short, facilitated the adjudication of religious practice. For our present purposes, however, what is most interesting is the conceptual consequences of this polemical interaction—that is, the pressure that exchanges such as this one placed on those who would reflect on core textual practices of textual interpretation within the Sanskrit knowledge systems. In the present scenario, Govinda Nāyaka and his Vaiṣṇava opponent did not rest their cases at the proposal and refutation of individual etymologies; rather, their exchange overflowed the boundaries of pure polemic, sparking deeper theoretical reflections about the utility of etymological modes of interpretation. Govinda Nāyaka, for his part, defends the practice of “extreme etymology” on theoretical grounds, dismissing not only the maxim “Customary usage supersedes etymology” but also the discipline of lexicography itself and its authority with regard to word meaning.

On the limitations of the standard Sanskrit lexicon, Govinda Nāyaka writes,

One might argue that because [the word Nārāyaṇa] appears in lexicons as referring to Viṣṇu in such passages as “Viṣṇu, Nārāyaṇa, Kṛṣṇa,” and so forth, it cannot refer commonly to the triad of deities—this is not correct. What is commonly known from a lexicon, after all, serves merely for the education of children. Otherwise, words not included [in the lexicon] could not possibly refer to Viṣṇu. Precisely the same would be true as well for words referring to Brahmā and Śiva....

Therefore, because words such as Nārāyaṇa are revealed in the Purāṇas as referring to the triad of deities, it should be understood that such words are construed through a restriction of their signifying power as referring to Viṣṇu [alone]. For that very reason, Kaiyaṭa has explained that a word, which possesses multiple signifying capacities, is applied to a signified entity by means of the delimitation of the word’s signifying power. Such is the case with the application of the word twice-born, which signifies a member of the three classes, to the Brahmin in particular owing to the currency of this usage among the ignorant—after all, it is revealed in the Nāradīya: “‘twice-borns’ are Brahmins, Kṣatriyas, and Vaiśyas.” Likewise, when the words Brahmin or Smārta are employed, although they signify Smārtas, Vaiṣṇavas, Mādhvas, [and] Śaivas, only Smārtas are understood, rather than Vaiṣṇavas and the rest, owing to the currency of such usage among the ignorant. And the same occurs as well with the word Nārāyaṇa.[14]

At first glance, Govinda Nāyaka’s argument may strike the reader as intuitively plausible. After all, does a word acquire its power to convey meaning simply because its definition appears in a dictionary? To the contrary, authors of lexicons have selected the principal definitions of words so as to meet the needs of a rather restricted audience—namely, those who have no prior acquaintance with a word, and who thus require a straightforward indication of its most frequently attested meaning. Moreover, if a specific idiomatic sense of a word has gained currency in popular discourse, lexicons will be more likely to point readers toward this specific meaning rather than toward the full range of the word’s denotative capacity. This is the case with words such as the term Smārta, which, in classical literature signified all individuals learned in the smṛti s, but which in early modern south India came to refer exclusively to one particular sectarian community. Theoretically speaking, Govinda Nāyaka refers to this linguistic phenomenon as the “restriction” of a word’s signifying capacity (śakti). And by restricting the signification of a word for a particular purpose, he argues, one cannot genuinely curtail the word’s capacity to denote a wide range of meanings in various contexts.

Where Govinda Nāyaka’s opponent differs, however, is on the very nature of lexicography as a discipline. Specifically, he draws our attention to the intensely philological practice of compiling a dictionary, an enterprise that requires a sustained engagement with living speech communities as well as with the extensive canon of texts written in the Sanskrit language. A lexicon is not, ideally speaking, simply a collection of signposts for the ignorant; rather, producers of dictionaries aim to compile the range of meanings attested for a word across all extant genres of textuality, orienting the discerning reader both to the statistically most significant meanings and those specialized senses of words that are restricted to particular contexts. Presented with such a lexicon—that is, one that has been compiled through an exhaustive philological analysis of all major textual genres—no responsible exegete should ascribe a meaning to a Purāṇic name that has never before been attested in the history of Sanskrit textuality. And if a passage attesting an improbable meaning for a term happens to be found, it would more than warrant suspicion of interpolation, particularly in a Purāṇic corpus biased toward the sectarian faction the citation favors.

As our Vaiṣṇava polemicist argues,

For, a lexicon does not of its own accord restrict the signifying power of a word, generally used by prior authors in various senses, to a single object. Nor does it state that a word generally employed by prior authors in a restricted set of senses can in fact be taken in a variety of senses. Rather, it states that a word possesses signifying capacities with regard to precisely those meanings for which it has attained currency, which are not contrary to general usage, and do not provoke the scorn of learned people—because, like grammar, lexicography is subordinate to actual usage. Otherwise, a lexicon would not be usable by all people. Thus, a lexicon of its own accord clearly defines the conventional meaning, which has become current owing to repeated usage by a multitude of people, so that it may be easily understood.[15]

In other words, to explain that words such as Nārāyaṇa have one commonly accepted meaning does not require a theoretical appeal to the “restriction” of signifying power. Rather, critical reasoning and extensive reading across genres is sufficient to alert the discerning mind that Nārāyaṇa simply does not mean “the one who bears the river Ganges” in any naturally occurring citation. While, conveniently for the Vaiṣṇava case, words such as Śiva (auspicious), Īśāna (Lord), Maheśvara (Great Lord), and other names of the god Śiva regularly function as descriptive adjectives in the Mahābhārata, the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, and other religious texts, “words such as Nārāyaṇa,” the Vaiṣṇava polemicist maintains, “despite their intrinsic generalizability, do not occur in general usage in such narrative passages as referring to something other than Nārāyaṇa, either independently or as qualifying adjectives.... The word Nārāyaṇa is not observed to be employed in the sense of Śiva, and so forth, anywhere except in the statements you have exemplified.”[16]

Extreme etymology, quite simply, stretches the common sense of philology beyond all reasonable credulity. Our author rests his case, concluding by impugning the textual integrity of the passages from the Śaiva Purāṇas that Govinda Nāyaka cites in defense of his alternative etymologies of Nārāyaṇa:

The employed usages that you have cited as conveying the fact that the word Nārāyaṇa refers to Śiva are not exemplified in texts such as the Nīlakaṇṭha Bhāṣya, Śivārkamaṇidīpikā, Śivastutisūktimālikā, Śivatattvaviveka, and Śaivakarṇāmṛta,[17] [which were written] by followers of the Śaiva doctrine who are extremely selfinterested, for the purpose of establishing that the word Nārāyaṇa refers to Śiva. Nor do we exemplify them when attempting to refute them, a process that involves recording each individual line contained in those texts. Moreover, because in the Mahābhārata, and other works as well, interpolations are observed, it is difficult to avoid the doubt that interpolations may exist in extremely prolix works such as the Śiva Purāṇa and the Skanda Purāṇa, as these works are generally compiled by Śaivas alone. After all, fabricated texts on the greatness of sacred centers, which concern modern temples and other sites, are being composed and attributed precisely to the Skanda Purāṇa, the Śiva Purāṇa, and so forth. Thus the passages you cite are not Purāṇic at all.[18]

Indeed, our author’s final allegation is genuinely credible: early modern south India had witnessed the emergence of Purāṇic factories, of sorts, fabricating a mythological past (sacred “narratives of place,” or talapurāṇam s, Skt. sthalapurāṇa s) for devotional sites across the Tamil country—Madurai being no exception, as will be discussed in the next chapter. As the Vaiṣṇava counterattack on the Nārāyaṇaśabdanirukti reaches its logical conclusion, readers are led to the same state of guarded skepticism that Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita encounters in his Śivatattvarahasya. When implausible proof texts surface in debate, sectarian philologians apply a renewed critical gaze to the textual integrity of sectarian scripture itself, warning against the ever-present reality of textual drift and, consequently, the dangers interpolation can pose for responsible scriptural exegesis. Throughout this exchange, Govinda Nāyaka and our anonymous Vaiṣṇava polemicist advance arguments far removed from the doctrinal claims of sectarian theology. In search of common ground for contestation, both opponents have turned instead to the disciplinary tools of textual hermeneutics, generating an informed reconsideration of the limits of two key approaches to semantic analysis. Each of the two, etymology and lexicography, although supported by centuries of classical learning, appear to the eyes of early modern polemicists as themselves contingent analytic devices, subject to application only within the restricted confines of cautious philological reasoning.

Footnotes and references:


See Stoker (2007) for more details on Madhva’s use of Nirukta in his Ṛgbhāṣya.


See for instance Bronner (2010, 233).


kiṃ ca yo devānāṃ nāmadhā eka eva iti śrutiparyālocanayā nārāyaṇa eva sarvadevanāmamukhyārtha iti siddhyati. anyathā tatra “namadhā eka eva” ityavadhāraṇasya bādhitārthāpatteḥ.


The fact that the debate at hand was not restricted to a small handful of interlocutors can be gleaned from a reference in the anonymous Nārāyaṇaśabdanirukti (see below) to an additional group of imagined opponents, whom the author claims to have already dismissed: “Previously, we had a debate with Mallanārādhya and so forth, who are very well acquainted with the works of Appayya Dīkṣita.” He writes: “appayadīkṣitagrantheṣu samyakparicayaśālibhiḥ mallanārādhyaprabhṛtibhiḥ sahāsmākaṃ pūrvaṃ vivāde prasakte tair nārāṇām ayaṇau yasmāt sa iti śivaparatayā vigrahe kathite viṣṇuviṣayakanārāyaṇapadavigrahāṇām ivaitadvigrahasya nirvacanamūlakatvābhāvād agrāhyatvam ity asmābhir dūṣaṇe datte tair aṅgīkrtyaiva sthitatvāt dīkṣitagranthasandarbheṇa sarvathā viruddhatvāc ca. tasmāt tāni vacanāny agrāhyāṇy eva.” (Nārāyaṇaśabdanirukti, fol. 36). That the opponent in question appears to have a Vīraśaiva name suggests that sectarian debate had thoroughly permeated the south Indian religious landscape by the eighteenth century.


We encounter, for instance, the Ṇatvakhaṇḍana of Veṅkaṭācārya, the Ṇatvacandrikā of Kṛṣṇa Sudhī, the Ṇatvatattvaparitrāṇa of Śrīnivāsadāsa, the Ṇatvatattvavibhūṣaṇa, and several works titled the Ṇatvadarpaṇa, to name a few.


These manuscripts, the Nārāyaṇaśabdasādhāraṇya of Govinda Nāyaka and the Nārāyaṇaśabdanirukti (or Nārāyaṇaśabdasādhāraṇyakhaṇḍana) of unknown authorship, are preserved in the Adyar Library and Research Centre in the same bundle, no. DX 819. Citations in this chapter are taken directly from the Adyar manuscripts. After transcribing these Adyar manuscripts, I discovered that an English translation of the two works has been published by Bahulikar and Hebbar (2011), under the title Who Is the Supreme God, Visnu or Siva?: A Rendering of the 16th Century ce Theological Debates in South India between the Vaisnava and the Saiva Sects of Hinduism. While the editors fail to provide attestation of the origin of the manuscripts used for their translation, presumably the same Adyar manuscripts have been used for this edition as well. All translations in the present chapter are my own. The published translation, at times out of touch with the larger world of early modern Sanskrit intellectual life, frequently obscures the particulars of śāstric debate and fails to capture the idiom and force of the arguments. For instance, a reference made by Govinda Nāyaka to the na hi nindā maxim (discussed above), a subject of controversy since the time of Appayya, is occluded by the editors as follows: “Therefore, we should understand that all these Purāṇas extol particular deities by reducing the importance of others.”


narāṇāṃ jīvāṇāṃ samūho nāraṃ tasmai nārāyaṇaḥ. mokṣaḥ ṇaṃ jñānaṃ vā yasmād bhavatīti. ṇas tu nirvṛtivācakaḥ. ṇaṃ sarojadale jñānam iti ratnamālāyāṃ caturthyā aluk. Nārāyaṇaśabdasādhāraṇya, fol. 11.


Govinda Nāyaka’s Śrīvaiṣṇava critic, in the Nārāyaṇaśabdanirukti, dismisses these etymologies by citing Pāṇini 2.1.36, which informs us that dative compounds occur only when a word is joined with artha, bali, hita, or sukha, or when it indicates a dative of purpose, such as kuṇḍalahiraṇyam (gold for the purpose of earrings). In these cases, however, classical Pāṇinian grammar requires that the dative termination be elided as expected in such compounds. The particular compound ahalyāyaijāraḥ, he informs us, is a Vedic (chāndasa) usage and, hence, inapplicable to Purāṇic exegesis.


vraje nārāya ārīsamudāyāya ṇaḥ jāro vā ahalyāyaijāra iti vat caturthyā aluk. ṇaśabdas tu pumāñjāre bhairave kaṇṭake dhvanau iti ratnamālāyām. Nārāyaṇaśabdasādhāraṇya, fol. 10.


nāraṃ gaṅgājalaṃ tadāśayatvād vā āpo nārā iti sukṛtir iti kaurme. tatra tatra purāṇeṣu śivaparatvena nārāyaṇśabdaḥ śrūyata [emended from śūyata] iti, Nārāyaṇaśabdasādhāraṇya, fol. 15–16.


nārāyaṇapadasya caturmukhaparatvam api nirūpyate... nābhikamalanālāni ayanāni gamanāgamanamārgarūpāṇi yasyeti vā. ayanaṃ nilaye mārge || nāle nāle gatas tatra varṣāṇāṃ śatakaṃ mune | ārurohāya kamalaṃ nālamārgeṇa vai mune || iti śivapurāṇe. Nārāyaṇaśabdasādhāraṇya, fol. 18–19. Here the la-kāra and repha in nāla and nāra are treated interchangeably, in fact a common morphological pattern. I have not been able to confirm a Purāṇic precedent for the verse Govinda Nāyaka has cited here; the grammar shows signs of corruption in the transcribed manuscript.


trayāṇām ekacitpratibimbatvena sarveṣāṃ sarvanāmāni sambhavantīti vā. Nārāyaṇaśabdasādhāraṇya, fol. 22.


akṣatair viṣṇupūjananiṣedhakasya akṣataiḥ śivapūjananiṣedhaparatvaṃ pra doṣe śivadarśanavidhāyakasya tadā viṣṇudarśanavidhāyakatvam ekādaśyāṃ viṣṇuvratavidhāyakasya tadā śivavratavidhāyakatvam ityādirūpeṇādi vaktuṃ śakyatvāt. purāṇādyuktasarvadharmāṇāṃ yatheṣṭam anuṣṭheyatvāpattyā sarvavaidikavyavasthā-bhaṅgāpatteḥ. yathecchānuṣṭhātṝṇāṃ pratyavāyavattvābhāvāpatteś ca. Nārāyaṇaśabdanirukti, fol. 5.


nanu viṣṇur nārāyaṇaḥ kṛṣṇa ityādikośeṣu viṣṇuparatvenaiva dṛṣṭatvān na mūrtitrayasādhāraṇyam iti cen na. kośaprasiddhas tu bālabodhanamātraiva. no cet tatrānuktānāṃ śabdānāṃ viṣṇuparatvaṃ na syāt. evam eva brahmaśivaparyāyeṣv api.... tasmāt devatātrayaparatvena nārāyaṇādiśabdānāṃ śrutatvād iti kośādiṣu nārāyaṇādiśabdānāṃ viṣṇvādiṣu śaktisaṃkocenaiva viniyoga ity avagantavyam. ata eva anekaśakteḥ śabdasya śaktyavacchedena saṃjñini viniyogād iti kaiyaṭoktiḥ. traivarṇyavācakadvijaśabdasya ajñaprasiddhyā brāhmaṇe viniyogavat brāhmaṇakṣatriyaviśaḥ dvijā iti hi viśrutāḥ. iti nāradīye. smārtavaiṣṇavamādhvaśaivādivācakabrāhmaṇasmārtaśabdayoḥ prayoge ajñaprasiddhyā smārtānām eva bodhaḥ, na tu vaiṣṇavādīnāṃ tadvac ca nārāyaṇapadam api. Nārāyaṇaśabdasādhāraṇya, fol. 20–22.


na hi koṣaḥ anekārtheṣu pūrvaiḥ prāyaśaḥ prayuktasya śabdasya tadekadeśe śaktir iti svayaṃ nirdhārayati na vā alpārtheṣu pūrvaiḥ prāyaśaḥ prayujyamānasya śabdasya bahvartheṣu śaktir iti vā vadati kiṃtu yāvatsv artheṣu viduṣām anindaprathamo nānyathāsiddhaḥ pracuraprayogaḥ tāvatsv eva śaktir iti vadati vyākaraṇavatkośasyāpi prayogaśaraṇatvāt, anyathā tasya sarvajanaparigrahābhāvāpatteḥ. ato mahājanapracuraprayogasiddhāṃ rūḍhiṃ sugrahatvāya kośasvayaṃ suṣṭhaṃ nirūpayatīti. Nārāyaṇaśabdanirukti, fol. 28–30.


Our author’s complete argument on this point runs as follows: na hi koṣaḥ anekārtheṣu pūrvaiḥ prāyaśaḥ prayuktasya śabdasya tadekadeśe śaktir iti svayaṃ nirdhārayati na vā alpārtheṣu pūrvaiḥ prāyaśaḥ prayujyamānasya śabdasya bahvartheṣu śaktir iti vā vadati kiṃtu yāvatsv artheṣu viduṣām anindaprathamo nānyathāsiddhaḥ pracuraprayogaḥ tāvatsv eva śaktir iti vadati vyākaraṇavatkośasyāpi prayogaśaraṇatvāt, anyathā tasya sarvajanaparigrahābhāvāpatteḥ. ato mahājanapracuraprayogasiddhāṃ rūḍhiṃ sugrahatvāya kośasvayaṃ suṣṭhaṃ nirūpayatīti.... yat prāye śrūyate yac ca tat tādṛg avagamyata iti nyāyena ni-yataprayogaviṣayapratipāditaśaktikapadāntarasahapaṭhitasya nārāyaṇapadasyāpi niyataprayogaviṣayapratipāditaśaktikatvasyaiva vaktavyavattvāc ca śiveśāneśvaramaheśvarādiśabdānāṃ stutyādibhāgavyatiriktakathābhāgeṣu viśeṣaṇatayā viśeṣyatayā ca viṣṇvādau bhāratabhāgavatādiṣu paraḥsahasraprayogāṇāṃ sāmānyaśaktigrāhakakośānāṃ ca sattvāt teṣāṃ sādhāraṇye ‘pi nārāyaṇādiśabdānāṃ kathābhāgeṣu viśeṣaṇatayā svatantratayā vā nārāyaṇavyatirikte sāmānyaśaktyā sampratipannaprayogābhāvena kośābhāvena cāsādhāraṇatayā tṛṇaghṛtasāmānyaśaktānāṃ barhirājyādiśabdānāṃ saṃskṛta tṛṇaghṛtādāv āryāṇāṃ śaktisaṃkocena viniyogavat kośe śivādiśabdānāṃ rudrādau śaktisaṃkocena viniyogavac ca nārāyaṇaśabdasya śaktisaṃkocena viniyogakalpanāyāṃ nyāyāviṣayabhūtāyā asambhavāc ca viśiṣyāpi tvadudāhṛtavacanavyatiriktasthale kvāpi nārāyaṇapadasya śivādau prayogādarśanāt. Nārāyaṇaśabdanirukti, fol. 30–32.


The Nīlakaṇṭha Bhāṣya refers to Śrīkaṇṭha’s Bhāṣya on the Brahmasūtras. The Śivārkamaṇidīpikā is Appayya Dīkṣita’s subcommentary on Śrīkaṇṭha’s Bhāṣya; the Śivatattvaviveka is a sectarian polemical work composed by Appayya Dīkṣita, an autocommentary on the author’s Śikhariṇīmālā (such titles became commonplace owing to the reputation of antecedent works such as Madhva’s Viṣṇutattvanirṇaya—cf. Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita’s Śivatattvarahasya). The Śaivakarṇāmṛta presumably refers to the work of Appayya’s typically cited as the Śivakarṇāmṛta.


bhavadudāhṛtanārāyaṇapadaśivaparatvapratipādakair vacanaprayogā nārāya ṇ apadasya śivaparatvasādhane atyantāgrahavadbhiḥ śaivatanmatānusāribhiḥ nīlakaṇṭhabhāṣyaśivārkamaṇidīpikāśivastutiśūktimālikāśivatattvavivekaśaivakarṇāmṛtādiṣu anudāhṛtatvāt. tattadgranthasthapaṅktilekhanapūrvakaṃ tatkhaṇḍakair asmadīyaiś cānudāhṛtatvāt bhāratādiṣv api prakṣiptadarśanād ativistṛtaśaivaskāndādiṣu prakṣiptasadbhāvaśaṅkāyā durvāratvāt. teṣāṃ śaivaskāndādīnāṃ prāyaśaḥ śaivair eva sampadyamānatvāt. ādhunikadevālayādivi ṣayakakalpitakṣetramāhātmyādīnāṃ śaivaskāndāditanniṣṭhatvenaiva kriyamāṇatvāc ca pa urāṇikā eva na bhavanti. And our author continues: appayyadīkṣitena skāndavacanam udāhṛtam ity uktam. tad api daśasaṃvatsaramadhye kaiścid ādhuknikaiḥ kalpayitvā kvacit kośeṣu likhitam eva pūrvapustakeṣv adarśanāt. dīkṣitagranthakhaṇḍakair asmadīyair anudāhṛtatvāt. Nārāyaṇaśabdanirukti, fol. 34–36.

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