More Tales Of Vishnu

According to the Vaishnavas, there is only one god and he is Janardana, another name of Lord Vishnu. He is the soul of the Universe, the one who existed before creation. Vaishnavism is Pancharatra with a close connection to the sankhya-yoga beliefs i.e. Devotion to Bhagvan, practising ahintsa, purity of mind and action, and to be Sattvika. He takes the designation of Brahma, Lord Vishnu, Shiva accordingly as he creates, preserves and destroys. Lord Vishnu as Creator, creates himself; as Preserver, preserves himself; as Destroyer, destroys himself at the end of a yuga. The world of earth, air, fire, water, ether, the senses and the mind are all considered as the lord of elements, the universal form and imperishable. Hence he is the cause of Creation, Preservation and Destruction.

According to the Lord Vishnu Parana, affecting the quality of activity, Hari, the lord of all, himself becomes Brahma, engaged in the creation of the universe. Lord Vishnu, with the quality of goodness, and of immeasurable power, preserves created things through successive ages, until the close or the period termed a Kalpa when the same mighty deity Janardana, invested with the quality of darkness, assumes the frightening form of Rudra and swallows up the universe. Having devoured all things and converted the universe into one vast ocean, the Supreme Lord reposes upon his mighty serpent couch Ananta the endless, symbolising eternity amidst the primordial ocean. He awakens at the start of a new era and again as Brahma, starts creating anew.

Lord Vishnu
Mahavishnu Yogeshwara, C 10th century A.D. Mathura

Lord Vishnu is considered the most influential member of the Hindu trinity of gods, Brahma, Lord Vishnu, Shiva Le. the Creator, the Preserver, the Destroyer. He is a combination of the three-god concept: VasudevaKrishna, the man-god; the vedic sun-god, Surya; and the Cosmic god Narayana. Brahma as such does not receive any worship though his name is invoked at most sacrifices. Out of the remaining two deities, Shiva stands for annihilation and darkness, and Lord Vishnu stands for the Sattva or the cohesive force representing continuity of existence. Since it is the centripetal force which holds the universe together, it is also the force which is responsible for matter and life.

Lord Vishnu is this force and light which pervades in all directions. He defeats the powers of destruction and overcomes all difficulties. The idea of motion, swift, far extending motion is constantly associated with him. The antiquity of Lord Vishnu worship dates back to a few centuries before the Christian era, as seen from the Nanaghat Cave inscriptions of Naganika. This is confirmed by a Garudadhvaja erected in honour of Vasudeva at Besnagar, Vidisha, 2nd cent B.C., Madhya Pradesh, by Heliodorus, a Greek who called himself a Bhagavata.

Since there can be no life without death, no existence without destruction, Lord Vishnu and Shiva are considered as inter-dependent Whereas Shiva is the Lord of destruction, Lord Vishnu is the symbol of perpetual life and preservation of what exists.

Lord Vishnu
Lord Vishnu consorts Goddess Laxmi & Goddess Saraswati; 10 century AD; Bengal

Vedic god:

Lord Vishnu is an old Vedic god mentioned in all the four Vedas: the Rig-veda, the Yajur-veda, the Sama-veda, the Atharvaveda. He is identified with the Sun. According to some indologists and scholars he denotes the different forms of light i.e. fire, lightning and Solar light According to others, the different positions of the sun, Le. rising, culmination and setting. In the latter definition, Lord Vishnu as Narayana is said to reside in the Orb of the Sun and as such Lord Vishnu is till today worshipped on Sundays and other prescribed auspicious occasions as Surya-Narayana.

In the Vedas, the Adityas are the sons of Aditi, the mother of the universe, 7-8 in number. In the Shatapatha Brahmana they are 8-12 in number and Lord Vishnu is one of them. In the Mahabharata, Lord Vishnu is mentioned as one of the twelve Adityas. A story in the Shatapatha Brahmana mentions that when Lord Vishnu rose to the position of eminence among the devatas, the deities became envious of him and cut off his head but they soon got alarmed and wished to have him back They requested the celestial physicians, the Ashvins, to restore his head. Ashvins made Lord Vishnu whole again and placed him among the devatas.

Lord Vishnu
Lord Vishnu with consorts Bhudevi & Shridevi; 1250 AD; Somnathapuuram; Karnataka

Lord Vishnu’s gradual rise to importance in the late vedic period is mainly because he is conceived in the Vedas as Sacrifice and is worshipped as Yajna-Narayana. According to a slightly different version of the above story, Lord Vishnu as sacrifice became the most important devata by first comprehending the issue of the sacrifice and his head was cut off by his bow and it became the Sun. The bow-string was cut by the Ashvins who assumed the form of ants as directed by the devatas who were jealous of Lord Vishnu.

Titles Of Vishnu:

The most well known titles of Lord Vishnu are: Anantasayana, reposing on Ananta; Bhakta-dasa, His devotee’s slave; Narayana, moving on the waters; Janaradana, men afflicting; Kaitabhajit, Kaitabha vanquisher; Chaturbhuja, four-armed; Harishikesa, erect haired; Hari, tawny; Kesava, the hairy or the radiant one; Kiritin, wearing a diadem; Jala-sayin, reposing on the waters; Gadadhar, Club-bearer; Madhu-sudana, destroyer of Madhu; Mukunda, deliverer; Padma-nabha, lotusnavelled; Panchayudha, carrying five weapons; Pandu- ranga, white coloured (although he is usually depicted as dark complexioned); Perumal, a name by which he is known in South India; Pitambara, clothed in yellow coloured garments; Sharigin,, carrying the bow Sharanga; Pundarikaksha, the lotus-eyed one; Ranga-natha; Lord of colours; Shridhara, one who has the sign of Shri on him; Shrinivas, splendour-raimented; Trivikrama, one who took three steps; Uru-gaya, wide-going; Urukrama, wide-strider; Varada-raja, boon granting king; Vasudeva, Beneficial Lord; Venkatachala, moving upon the hills; Venkatanatha, Lord of the hills; Venkatesvara, Hill God; Vitthoba, Name of Lord Vishnu as worshipped at Pandharpur on the Bhima river in Maharashtra; Vishvaksena, General who looks after all the directions; Vishvarupa, Omnipresent, of many forms.

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