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Bhagavan Krishna with Radharani

Bhagavan, (alternate spellings including Bhagvān, Bhagwan or Bhagawan, from the Sanskrit nt-stem bhaga-vant- nominative भगवान् Bhagavān) is a term for God used in Hinduism particularly in the Vaisnava traditions where God is conceived as a caring, compassionate person concerned for the welfare of his creatures. It is generally translated by the English word Lord. Bhagavan can also be an honorific title for a God-realized (i.e. fully enlightened) human being or an incarnation of God in human form (avatara) such as Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. In the Pali scriptures Gautama Buddha is referred to as Bhagavan Buddha (translated with the phrase 'Lord Buddha' or 'The Blessed One'[1]).

In Hinduism it indicates the Supreme Being or Absolute Truth conceived as a Personal God.[2][3] This personal feature indicated by the word Bhagavan differentiates its usage from other similar terms[4] such as Brahman, the "Supreme Spirit" or "spirit", and thus, in this usage, Bhagavan is analogous to the Christian conception of God the Father. In Vaisnavism, a devotee of Bhagvan Krishna is called a Bhāgavata.

Bhagavan used as a title of veneration is often directly used as "Lord", as in "Bhagavan Rama", "Bhagavan Krishna", "Bhagavan Shiva", etc. In Buddhism and Jainism, Gautama Buddha, Mahavira and other Tirthankaras, Buddhas and bodhisattvas are also venerated with this title. The feminine of Bhagavat is Bhagawatī and is an epithet of Durga and other goddesses.

The title is also used by a number of contemporary spiritual teachers in India who claim to be Bhagavan or have realized impersonal Brahman.


Bhagavan literally means "possessing fortune, prosperous" (from the noun bhaga, meaning "fortune, wealth", cognate to Slavic bog "god", Russian богатый (bogatyj) "wealthy"), and hence "illustrious, divine, venerable, holy", etc.[5]


In the Bhagavad Gita bhagavan designates an avatar of the supreme lord incarnated on Earth as a human being in this case Lord Krishna.

The Bhagavata Purana (1.2.11) states the definition of Bhagavan to mean the supreme most being:

The Learned Know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma or Bhagavan.[a]

The Sanskrit word bhagavan is explained in the Vishnu Purana (6.5.74, Venkateshvara edition 1910) by the great authority, Parashara Muni, the father of Vyasa Deva, defines Bhagavan as one who possesses six opulences completely, as follows:

The Supreme Personality who possesses all riches, all strength, all fame, all beauty, all knowledge and all renunciation is called Bhagavan. There are many persons who are very rich, very powerful, very beautiful, very famous, very learned, and very much detached, but no one can claim that he possesses all riches, all strength, etc., entirely.[b]

In Tamil Bhagavan பகவன் can find its roots in Pagu பகு -Skim, Pagir பகிர் -share,and hence one skims and clears ultimate, one who shares his own with creation is Bhagavan.திருக்குறள் तिरुक्कुरल् Oldest available philosophic text roughly dated 2000 years begins with ஆதி பகவன் आदि भगवान aadi bhagavan -entire text of the short couplet is Agara mudhala ezhuththellaam aadi bhagavan mudhattre ulagu. அகர முதல எழுத்தெல்லாம் ஆதி பகவன் முதற்றே உலகு ----अगर मुधल एज़ुथ्थेल्लम् आदि भगवन मुधत्त्रे उलगु The term Adhi means times immemorial in the past also it means the primordial fire or spark that generates this universe, the one that shares this primordial fire is ......

Early epigraphical evidence[edit]


The Bhāgavat religion of early Hinduism is documented epigraphically from around 100 BCE, such as in the inscriptions of the Heliodorus pillar;; in which Heliodorus, an Indo-Greek ambassador from Taxila to the court of a Sunga king, describes himself as a Bhagavata ("Heliodorena bhagavatena"):

This Garuda-standard of Vasudeva (Vishnu), the God of Gods

was erected here by the Bhagavata Heliodoros, the son of Dion, a man of Taxila, sent by the Great Greek (Yona) King Antialcidas, as ambassador to King Kasiputra Bhagabhadra, the Savior

son of the princess from Benares, in the fourteenth year of his reign."[c]

(Archaeological Survey of India, Annual Report (1908-1909))

In Buddhism[edit]

The word "Bhagava" is used many times to refer to the Buddha in the Pali suttas. The term "Bhagava" has been used in Pali Anussati or recollections as one of the terms that describes the "Tathāgata".

In the Buddha anussati, Bhagavan is defined the following way:

Iti pi so Bhagavā

Thus is Buddha,

1) Arahaṃ - deserving homage.
2) Sammā-sambuddho - perfectly awakened.
3) Vijjā-caraṇa sampanno - perfect in true knowledge and conduct.
4) Sugato - well gone (to Nibbana)
5) Lokavidū - knower of the worlds
6) Anuttaro purisa-damma-sārathi - incomparable leader (lit. charioteer) of persons to be tamed.
7) Satthā deva-manusānaṃ - teacher of gods and humans.
8) Buddho - awakened one.
9) Bhagavāti - Blessed One.

Sākamunisa bhagavato is recorded in the kharoshthi dedication of a vase placed in a Buddhist stupa by the Greek meridarch (civil governor of a province) named Theodorus (Tarn, p391):

"Theudorena meridarkhena pratithavida ime sarira sakamunisa bhagavato bahu-jana-stitiye":
"The meridarch Theodorus has enshrined relics of Lord Shakyamuni, for the welfare of the mass of the people"
(Swāt relic vase inscription of the Meridarkh Theodoros [1])

See also[edit]


  1. ^ vadanti tat tattva-vidas/ tattvam yaj jnanam advayam/ brahmeti paramatmeti/ bhagavan iti sabdyate
  2. ^ aiśvaryasya samagrasya vīryasya yaśasaḥ śriyaḥ/ jñāna-vairāgyayoś caiva/ ṣannāḥ bhaga itīraṇā
  3. ^ Devadevasa Va [sude]vasa Garudadhvajo ayam/ karito i[a] Heliodorena bhaga-/ vatena Diyasa putrena Takhasilakena/ Yonadatena agatena maharajasa/ Amtalikitasa upa[m]ta samkasam-rano/ Kasiput[r]asa [Bh]agabhadrasa tratarasa/ vasena [chatu]dasena rajena vadhamanasa


  1. ^ The latter term preferred by Bhikkhu Bodhi in his English translations of the Pali Canon
  2. ^ Who is Krishna? "God the person, or Bhagavan"
  3. ^ About Bhagwan? "Know about Bhagwan"
  4. ^ Bhag-P 1.2.11 "Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma or Bhagavan"
  5. ^ Macdonell Sanskrit-English dictionary


  • Thomas Mcevilley (2002). The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies. Skyhorse Publishing Inc. ISBN 978-1-58115-203-6. 
  • Baij Nath Puri (1987). Buddhism In Central Asia. Motilal Banarsidass Pub. ISBN 978-81-208-0372-5. 
  • The Greeks in Bactria and India, W.W. Tarn, Cambridge University Press.