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Sahasranāma is a Sanskrit term which means "a thousand names". It is also a genre of stotra literature, usually found as a title of the text named after a deity, such as Vishnu Sahasranāma, wherein the deity is remembered by 1,000 names, attributes or epithets.
As stotras, Sahasra-namas are songs of praise, a type of devotional literature. The word is a compound of sahasra "thousand" and nāman "name". A Sahasranāma often includes the names of other deities, suggesting henotheistic equivalence and/or that they may be attributes rather than personal names. Thus the Ganesha Sahasranama list of one thousand names includes Brahma, Vishnu, Shakti, Shiva, Rudra, SadaShiva and others. It also includes epithets such as Jiva (life force), Satya (truth), Param (highest), Jnana (knowledge) and others. The Vishnu Sahasranama includes in its list work and jñāna-yājna (offering of knowledge) as two attributes of Vishnu. The Lalita Sahasranama, similarly, includes the energies of a goddess that manifest in an individual as desire, wisdom and action.
A sahasranama provides a terse list of attributes, virtues and legends symbolized by a deity. There are also many shorter stotras, containing only 108 names and accordingly called ashtottara-shata-nāma.
The sahasranamas such as the Vishnu Sahasranama, are not found in early Samhita manuscripts, rather found in medieval and later versions of various Samhitas. One of the significant works on Sahasranama is from the sub-school of Ramanuja and the Vishnu Sahasra-namam Bhasya (commentary) by 12th-century Parasara Bhattar.
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Sahasranamas are used for recitals, in ways such as:
- sravana, listening to recitals of names and glories of God
- nama-sankirtana (nāma-sankīrtana), reciting the names of God either set to music or not
- smarana, recalling divine deeds and teaching of divine deeds.
- archana (archanā), worshipping the divine with ritual repetition of divine names.
The most well-known sahasranāmas are:
- Vishnu sahasranama, is a Vaishnavism stotra, and is found in section 13.135 (Anushasana Parva) of the Mahabharata, and all Puranas linked to Vaishnavism.
- Shiva sahasranama, is a Shaivism stotra, also found in 13.17 of the Mahabharata. It exists in eight different versions. The best-known version is from Book 13 of the Mahabharata.
- Lalita sahasranama, is a Shaktism stotra. This Devi-related work is found in the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa.
- Ganesha sahasranama, is a Smartism stotra. One version is found in the Ganesha Purana.
Tantrikas chant the Bhavani Nāma Sahasra Stuti and the Kali Sahasranāma. While the Vishnu and Shiva Sahāsranamas are popular amongst all Hindus, the Lalita Sahasranama is mostly chanted in South India. The Ganesha Sahasranama is mainly chanted by Ganapatya, the Bhavani Nāma Sahasra Stuti is the choice of Kashmiri Paṇḍits, and the Kali Sahasranāma is mostly chanted by Bengalis.
Guru Arjan of Sikhism, along with his associates, are credited with Sukhmani Sahasranama, composed in gauri raga, based on Hindu Puranic literature, and dedicated to Rama and Krishna. This 17th-century Sikh text is entirely dedicated to bhakti themes along the lines of "Sri Rama Krishna Waheguru Miharvan", unlike Dasam Granth that focussed on warfare and sovereignty.
- Sir Monier Monier-Williams, sahasranAman, A Sanskrit-English Dictionary: Etymologically and Philologically Arranged with Special Reference to Cognate Indo-European Languages, Oxford University Press (Reprinted: Motilal Banarsidass), ISBN 978-8120831056
- Harvey P. Alper (1991). Understanding Mantras. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 362–363. ISBN 978-81-208-0746-4.
- Nancy Ann Nayar (1992). Poetry as Theology: The Śrīvaiṣṇava Stotra in the Age of Rāmānuja. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 17. ISBN 978-3-447-03255-1.
- David Kinsley (1974), Through the Looking Glass: Divine Madness in the Hindu Religious Tradition, History of Religions, Vol. 13, No. 4, pages 270-305
- John S. Mbiti. Concepts of God in Africa. p.217, 1970
- श्रीगणपतिसहस्रनामावली, Sri Ganapati Sahasranama, SanskritDocuments.Org Archive
- Dharm Bhawuk (2011). Spirituality and Indian Psychology. Springer. pp. 152–153. ISBN 978-1441981103.
- V. R. Ramachandra Dikshitar (1942). The Lalitā Cult. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 4–5 with footnote 7. ISBN 978-81-208-0919-2.
- Nancy Ann Nayar (1992). Poetry as Theology: The Śrīvaiṣṇava Stotra in the Age of Rāmānuja. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 23–24. ISBN 978-3-447-03255-1.
- Nancy Ann Nayar (1992). Poetry as Theology: The Śrīvaiṣṇava Stotra in the Age of Rāmānuja. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 82–83. ISBN 978-3-447-03255-1.
- P. Pratap Kumar (1997). The Goddess Lakṣmī: The Divine Consort in South Indian Vaiṣṇava Tradition. Scholars Press/The American Academy of Religion. pp. 77–79. ISBN 978-0788501999.
- Jessica Frazier (2014). The Bloomsbury Companion to Hindu Studies. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 186 footnote 22. ISBN 978-1472567161.
- Swami Vimalananda. Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram. With Namavali, Introduction, English Rendering and Index. Fourth Edition. (Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam: 1985).
- Klostermaier, Klaus K. (2010). Survey of Hinduism, A: Third Edition. State University of New York Press. p. 530 with footnote 35. ISBN 978-0-7914-8011-3.
- P. Sankaranarayanan. Sri Viṣṇusahasranāma Stotram. With English Translation of Srī Saṅkara Bhagavatpāda’s Commentary. (Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan: Mumbai: 1996).
- Ram Karan Sharma. Śivasahasranāmāṣṭakam: Eight Collections of Hymns Containing One Thousand and Eight Names of Śiva. With Introduction and Śivasahasranāmākoṣa (A Dictionary of Names). (Nag Publishers: Delhi, 1996). ISBN 81-7081-350-6. This work compares eight versions of the Śivasahasranāmāstotra. The Preface and Introduction (in English) by Ram Karan Sharma provide an analysis of how the eight versions compare with one another. The text of the eight versions is given in Sanskrit.
- Swami Chidbhavananda. Siva Sahasranama Stotram. Third Edition (Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam: Tirupparaithurai, 1997). With Navavali, Introduction, and English Rendering. The version provided by Chidbhavananda is from chapter 17 of the Anuśāsana Parva of the Mahābharata.
- Swami Tapasyananda (Editor). Śrī Lalitā Sahasranāma. (Sri Ramakrishna Math: Chennai, n.d.). With text, transliteration, and translation. ISBN 81-7120-104-0.
- Labhashankar Mohanlal Joshi. Lalitā Sahasranāma: A Comprehensive Study of One Thousand Names of Lalitā Mahā-Tripurasundarī. Tantra in Contemporary Researches, no. 2. (D. K. Printworld (P) Ltd.: New Delhi, 1998). ISBN 81-246-0073-2.
- The Gaṇeśa Purāṇa. Nag Publishers; Reprint 1993. "Introduction" in English by Ram Karan Sharma. Text in Sanskrit. ISBN 81-7081-279-8.
- Gaṇeśasahasranāmastotram: mūla evaṁ srībhāskararāyakṛta 'khadyota' vārtika sahita. (Prācya Prakāśana: Vārāṇasī, 1991). Source text with a commentary by Bhāskararāya in Sanskrit.
- Johannes Klatt (1892). Specimen of a Literary-bibliographical Jaina-onomasticon. O. Harrassowitz. pp. 39–40.
- Jain Journal, Volumes 2-3, Jain Bhawan., 1967, p. 125
- Pashaura Singh; Louis E. Fenech (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Oxford University Press. pp. 175–178. ISBN 978-0-19-100412-4.
- C. Ramanujachari. The Spiritual heritage of Thiagaraja. Ramakrishna Students Home, Mylapore, Chennai, 1957.
- Media related to Sahasranama at Wikimedia Commons