Lord Hayagriva in Sanskrit Literature

by Anindita Adhikari | 2019 | 56,368 words

This page relates ‘Central Myth (1): Narayana as Virat Purusha’ of the study on Lord Hayagriva as found in Sanskrit Literature such as the Vedas, Upanishads, Mahabharata, Puranas and Tantras. Hayagriva as an incarnation of Vishnu is worshipped as the supreme Lord of knowledge and wisdom but also symbolizes power and intelligence. His name means “the horse-headed one”.

Central Myth (1): Nārāyaṇa as Virāṭ Puruṣa

Nārāyaṇa is the name of Viṣṇu, the absolute being who is considered as the supreme deity in Vaiṣṇavism. In the Bhāgavatapurāṇa, Nārāyaṇa Sūkta, Puruṣa Sūkta and Srī Sūkta of the Vedas, he is mentioned as the ultimate soul. The word ‘Nārāyaṇa’ depicts “The one who rests on waters of creation”. The Manusmṛti declares the waters to be ‘naraḥ’, for the waters are created by Nara-Nārāyana, the first to exist. The waters were his original abode, ‘ayana’, so he is mentioned as Nārāyaṇa.[1]

At the outset of the kalpa, as he pondered over creation and there came out creation which was devoid of intellect and was filled with darkness. According to Bhāgavatapurāṇa: ‘Nārāyaṇam Devaṃ adevaṃ īśaṃ’.[2] The notion of the Virāṭ Puruṣa is evidently a development of the idea in seed form, in Puruṣa sūkta of Ṛgveda. The Virāṭa Puruṣa is otherwise called Nārāyaṇa in the Bhāgavatpurāṇa. [3] At the end of previous kalpa, Nārāyaṇa, the Virāṭa Puruṣa with thousand heads, thousands eyes, thousand foots etc slept on the water created by Himself. Hence He is proclaimed as such by the Vedas. In the primeval waters, the entire universe comprising of movables and immovable’s were destroyed—“Ekārṇave tadā tasminnaṣṭe sthāvarajaṅgame.”

The Virāṭa Puruṣa Nārāyaṇa with nirguṇa or devoid of attributes before creation, has became saguṇa or assumed the many qualities of Māyā. In the Bhāratakaumudī commentary interprets the word ‘saguṇa and nirguṇa’ as ‘sākāratve saguṇaḥ satvādiguṇavān, nirākāra-cinmayatve ca nirguṇa sattvādiguṇaśūnyaḥ.’ It implies that it is a wish of Īśvara to sustain, destroy and recreate self manifestation.

Footnotes and references:


“Āpo nārā iti proktā āpo vai narasūnavaḥ/
Tā yadasyāyanaṃ tasya pūrvaṃ tena nārāyaṇaḥ smṛtaḥ//” Manu, I.10.


Bhāgavata Purāṇa, 1.18;2.1.

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