Vishnu Sahasranama

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Vishnu Sahasranama
Vishnusahasranama manuscript, c. 1690

The Vishnu Sahasranama[1] (Sanskrit: विष्णुसहस्रनाम, romanizedviṣṇusahasranāma),[a] is a Sanskrit hymn containing a list of the 1,000 names of Vishnu, one of the main deities in Hinduism and the Supreme God in Vaishnavism. It is one of the most sacred and popular stotras in Hinduism. The most popular version of the Vishnu Sahasranama is featured in the Anushasana Parva of the epic Mahabharata. Other versions exist in the Padma Purana, the Skanda Purana, and the Garuda Purana. There is also a Sikh version of the Vishnu Sahasranama found in the work Sundar Gutka.[2]


In Sanskrit, sahasra means 'thousand'. The meaning of sahasra is situation dependent. nāma (nominative, the stem is nāman-) means 'name'. The compound is of the Bahuvrihi type and may be translated as 'having a thousand names'. In modern Hindi pronunciation, nāma is pronounced [na:m]. It is also pronounced sahasranāmam in South India.

The phalashruti (meritorious verse) of the hymn says that one who reads the text every day with full devotion achieves name, fame, wealth and knowledge in his life.[3][4]


The Vishnu Sahasranama is popular among Hindus, and a major part of prayer for devout Vaishnavas, or followers of Vishnu. While Vaishanvas venerate other deities, they believe that the universe, including the other divinities such as Shiva and Devi, are ultimately a manifestation of the Supreme Vishnu. Despite the existence of other sahasranamas of other gods, referring a sahasranama as "The Sahasranama," generally refers to the Vishnu Sahasranama alone, thereby indicating its wide popularity and use.[5]

Two of the names in Vishnu Sahasranama that refer to Shiva are "Shiva" (names # 27 and # 600 in Advaitin Adi Shankara's commentary) itself, "Shambhu" (name # 38), "Ishanah" (name #6 4), and "Rudra" (name # 114). Adi Sankara of Advaita Vedanta asserts that the deity Vishnu is Brahman itself (not just an aspect of Brahman).[6] Again, he notes that "only Hari (Vishnu) is eulogized by names such as Shiva",[7] a position consistent with interpretations of the Srivaishnavite commentator Parasara Bhattar. Parasara Bhattar had interpreted Shiva to mean a quality of Vishnu, such as "One who bestows auspiciousness".[8]

However, this interpretation of the name Shiva has been challenged by Swami Tapasyananda's translation of Shankara's commentary on the Vishnu Sahasranama.[9] He translates the 27th name, Shiva to mean:"One who is not affected by the three Gunas of Prakrti, Sattva, Rajas,and Tamas; The Kaivalaya Upanishad says, "He is both Brahma and Shiva." In the light of this statement of non-difference between Shiva and Vishnu, it is Vishnu Himself Who Is exalted by the praise and worship of Shiva."[9] Based on this commonly held Advaitan point of view which has been adopted by Smartas, Vishnu and Shiva are viewed as one and the same God, being different aspects of preservation and destruction respectively. As many Sanskrit words have multiple meanings, it is possible that both Vishnu and Shiva share names in this instance, e.g., the name Shiva itself means "auspicious"[10] which could also apply to Vishnu. The Deities Ananthapadmanabha and Shankaranarayana are worshipped by Hindus, as is Panduranga Vitthala, a form of Krishna with a Shiva Linga on his crown, signifying the oneness of both deities.

However, the Vaishnava commentator, Parasara Bhattar, a follower of Ramanujacharya has interpreted the names "Shiva" and "Rudra" in Vishnu Sahasranama to mean qualities or attributes of Vishnu, and not to indicate that Vishnu and Shiva are one and the same God. Vaishnavas worship Vishnu in his four-armed form, carrying conch, disc, flower and mace in his hands, believing that to be the Supreme form. However, Smarthas do not subscribe to this aspect or personification of God, as Smarthas say that God is Nirguna and thus devoid of form. Additionally, they believe that God is not limited by time nor limited by shape and color. Vaishnava traditions are of the opinion that Vishnu is both unlimited and yet still capable of having specific forms, as to give arguments to the contrary (to say that God is incapable of having a form) is to limit the unlimitable and all-powerful Supreme.

In the Sri Vaishnava and Sadh Vaishnava tradition, the Bhagavad-gita and the Vishnu Sahasranama are considered the two eyes of spiritual revelation.

In other Vaishnava traditions too, the Vishnu Sahasranama is considered an important text. Within Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Vallabha sampradaya, Nimbarka sampradaya and among Ramanandis, the chanting of the names of Krishna and Rama are considered to be superior to that of Vishnu. Based on another verse in the Padma Purana which says that the benefit of chanting the one thousand names of Vishnu can be derived from chanting one name of Rama, and a verse in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana equating the benefit of chanting three names of Rama with one name of Krishna. However, it is important to realize that those verses in those puranas are not to be interpreted literally, as many believe that there is no difference between Vishnu and Krishna and Rama. This theological difference can be expressed as follows: Many Vaishnava groups recognize Krishna and Rama as an Avatar of Vishnu, while others, instead, consider Him (Krishna) to be svayam bhagavan, or the original form of the Lord. Yet these verses can be interpreted as it is more important to have pure bhakti or devotion than merely repeating the many names of God without emotion. Indeed, Shri Krishna Himself said, "Arjuna, One may be desirous of praising by reciting the thousand names. But, on my part, I feel praised by one shloka. There is no doubt about it.” [11]

Within Vaisnavism some groups, such as Sri sampradaya, adhere to and follow the Rig Veda: 1.156.3, which states "O ye who wish to gain realization of the supreme truth, utter the name of Vishnu at least once in the steadfast faith that it will lead you to such realization." [12]

Interpretations alluding to the power of God in controlling karma

Many names in the Vishnusahasranama, the thousand names of Vishnu allude to the power of God in controlling karma. For example, the 135th name of Vishnu, Dharmadhyaksha, in Sankara's interpretation means, "One who directly sees the merits (Dharma) and demerits (Adharma), of beings by bestowing their due rewards on them."[13]

Other names of Vishnu alluding to this nature of God are Bhavanah, the 32nd name, Vidhata, the 44th name, Apramattah, the 325th name, Sthanadah, the 387th name and Srivibhavanah, the 609th name.[14] Bhavanah, according to Sankara's interpretation, means "One who generates the fruits of Karmas of all Jivas for them to enjoy."[15] The Brahma Sutra (3.2.28) "Phalmatah upapatteh" speaks of the Lord's function as the bestower of the fruits of all actions of the jivas.[15]

General thoughts

Sections from Swami Tapasyananda's translation of the concluding verses of Vishnu Sahasranama, state the following: "Nothing evil or inauspicious will befall a man here or hereafter who daily hears or repeats these names." That comment is noteworthy. King Nahusha, a once righteous king, ancestor of Yudhishthira, after performing a hundred Ashwamedha sacrifices, became king of devas, but was later expelled from Svarga or heaven due to a curse by the great sage Agastya due to his pride and arrogance and became a python for thousands of years.[16] In the commentary to this sloka Sankara states that a fall akin to that of king Nahusha will not happen to that devotee who recites Vishnu Sahasranama daily.

Merits of recitation[edit]

Believers in the recitation of the Sahasranama claim that it brings unwavering calm of mind, complete freedom from stress and brings eternal knowledge. In orthodox Hindu tradition, a devotee should daily chant the Upanishads, Gita, Rudram, Purusha Sukta and Vishnu Sahasranama.


Recitation and aggregation

An alternative approach is to say the starting prayer, and then say the names collected in stanzas (As they were originally said by Bhishma.) Such stanzas are called Slokas in Sanskrit. The Sahasranama (apart from the initial and concluding prayers) has a total of 108 shlokas.

For example, the first sloka is:

om visvam vishnur-vashatkaro bhutbhavyabhavatprabhuh
bhutkrd bhutbhrd-bhaavo bhutatma bhutabhavanah

Notice the aggregation of several words and the omission of their intervening spaces. For example, the last word of the first line of this Sloka:


corresponds to:

om bhutabhavya bhavat prabhave namah

of the expanded version.

This joining-together of words is a common feature of Sanskrit and is called Samasa- a compound. It makes the slokas compact, and easier to remember.

Mentions, Quotes and Commentaries[edit]


  • Adi Shankara of Advaita Vedanta in Verse 27 of Bhaja Govindam,[17] said that the Gita and Vishnusahasranama should be chanted and the form of the Lord of Lakshmi, Vishnu should always be meditated on. He also said that the Sahasranama bestowed all noble virtues on those who chanted it.[18]
  • Parasara Bhattar, a follower of Ramanujacharya had said that Vishnusahasranama absolves people of all sins and has no equal[18]
  • Madhvacharya, propounder of Dvaita philosophy, said that the Sahasranama was the essence of the Mahabharata, which in turn was the essence of the Sastras and that each word of the Sahasranama had 100 meanings.[18]
  • Swaminarayan, founder of the Hindu Swaminarayan faith, said in verse 118 of the scripture, Shikshapatri, that one should "either recite or have the 10th canto,(of Bhagavata Purana ) and also other holy scriptures like the "Vishnusahasranama" recited at a holy place according to one's capacity. "The recital is such that it gives fruits according to whatever is desired."[19]
  • Swaminarayan also said in verses 93–96, "I have the highest esteem for these eight holy scriptures: 1-4)the four Vedas, 5) the Vyas-Sutra,(i.e., Brahma Sutras, 6) the Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7) Shri Vishnusahasranama in the Mahabharata, and 8) the Yajnavalkya Smrti which is at the center of the Dharma Scriptures; and all My disciples who wish to prosper should listen to these eight holy scriptures, and the brahmanas under my shelter should learn and teach these holy scriptures, and read them to others."
  • Swami Sivananda, in his twenty important spiritual instructions, stated that the Vishnusahasranama, along with other religious texts, should be studied systematically.[20]


  • Sri N. Krishnamachari, a Vaishnavite scholar, at Stephen Knapp's website, quoting Vaishnavite scholars, states that there are six reasons for the greatness of Vishnusahasranama:
  • 1) "Vishnusahasranama is the essence of the Mahabharata;
  • 2) Great sages such as Narada, the Alvars, and composers including Saint Tyagaraja have made repeated references to the "Thousand Names of Vishnu" in their devotional works;
  • 3) The person who strung together the thousand names as part of the Mahabharata and preserved it for the world was none other than Sage Veda Vyasa, the compiler of the Vedas;
  • 4) Bhishma considered chanting of the Vishnusahasranama the best and easiest of all dharmas, or the means to attain relief from all bondage;
  • 5) It is widely accepted that the chanting this Stotram gives relief from all sorrows, and leads to happiness and peace of mind;
  • 6) Vishnusahasranama is in conformity with the teachings of the Gita."[21]

In this way we find all the scriptures aiming at the Supreme Person. In the Rig Veda (1.22.20) the mantra is om tad vishnoh paramam padam sada pashyanti surayah ("The demigods are always looking to that supreme abode of Vishnu"). The whole Vedic process, therefore, is to understand Lord Vishnu, and any scripture is directly or indirectly chanting the glories of the Supreme Lord, Vishnu.”[22]

sri rama rama rameti rame rame manorame
  sahasranama tat tulyam rama nama varanane

This translates to:

O Varanana (lovely-faced lady), I chant the holy name of Rama, Rama, Rama and thus constantly enjoy this beautiful sound. This holy name of Sri Rama is equal to one thousand holy names of Lord Vishnu." (Brhad Visnusahasranamastotra, Uttara-khanda, Padma Purana 72.335)

sahasra-namnam punyanam, trir-avrttya tu yat phalam
 ekavrttya tu krsnasya, namaikam tat prayacchati

This translates to:

"The pious results (punya) achieved by chanting the thousand holy names of Vishnu (Vishnusahasranama-Stotram) three times can be attained by only one utterance of the holy name of Krishna."

  • Krishna Himself said:

yo mam nama sahasrena stotum icchati pandava
sohamekena slokena stuta eva na samsaya

This translates to:

"Arjuna, One may be desirous of praising by reciting the thousand names. But, on my part, I feel praised by one sloka. There is no doubt about it.”

  • From the oldest scriptural text in Hinduism, the Rig Veda; I.156.3b,[23] it states:

"O ye who wish to gain realization of the Supreme Truth, utter the name of "Vishnu" at least once in the steadfast faith that it will lead you to such realization."


The Vishnu Sahasranama has been the subject of numerous commentaries:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A tatpurusha compound


  • Sharma, B. N. Krishnamurti (2000). A History of the Dvaita School of Vedānta and Its Literature, Vol 1. 3rd Edition. Motilal Banarsidass (2008 Reprint). ISBN 978-8120815759.


  1. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 February 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Sahasranama". 2 October 2023.
  3. ^ Shri Vishnu Sahasranamam - Phala Sruthi, archived from the original on 22 December 2021, retrieved 12 October 2021
  4. ^ Aiyangar, Sridhar (31 December 2017). "SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (PHALASHRUTI) – FINAL PART (117)". Divya Kataksham. Retrieved 12 October 2021.
  5. ^ Tapasyananda, pg. iv.
  6. ^ Commentary to sloka 13, "yatra puMliGgashabdaprayOgaH, tatra viSNurvishESyaH; yatra strIliMga shabdaH, tatra dEvatA prayOgaH; yatra napuMsaliGga prayOgaH, tatra brahmEti vishEshyatE (where a word of masculine gender is used, the noun is Vishnu, in feminine gender the noun is Devata, and in neuter gender the noun is Brahma)", Transcription of Sankara's commentary to Vishnusahasranamastotra
  7. ^ Commentary to sloka 17 in Transcription of Sankara's commentary to Vishnusahasranamastotra, "sivAdi nAmabhiH hariH eva stUyate"
  8. ^ (Internet Archive copy)
  9. ^ a b Tapasyananda, pg. 47.
  10. ^ Bhag-P 4.4.14 "Siva means mangala, or auspicious"
  11. ^ "Srivaishnavism". Archived from the original on 20 February 2008. Retrieved 21 June 2008.
  12. ^ Foreword of P. Sankaranarayan's translation of Vishnu Sahasranama, Bhavan's Book University
  13. ^ Tapasyananda, Swami. Sri Vishnu Sahasranama, pg. 62.
  14. ^ Tapasyananda, Swami. Sri Vishnu Sahasranama, pgs. 48, 49, 87, 96 and 123.
  15. ^ a b Tapasyananda, Swami. Sri Vishnu Sahasranama, pg. 48.
  16. ^ "MAHABHARATA retold by C". Archived from the original on 21 December 2004. Retrieved 16 December 2004., story #53
  17. ^ Bhaja Govindam:
  18. ^ a b c "On the Buddha in verse". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 16 December 2005. Archived from the original on 21 January 2007.
  19. ^ "Shree Swaminarayan Temple Cardiff - Scriptures - Shikshapatri". Archived from the original on 21 March 2007. Retrieved 3 October 2006.
  20. ^ 20 Important Spiritual Instructions
  21. ^ "Thousand Names of the Supreme".
  22. ^ The Krishna Consciousness Movement is the Genuine Vedic Way
  23. ^ "The Rig Veda".
  24. ^ Sri Vishnu sahasranama : With the bhashya of Sri Parasara Bhattar : With translation in English /. Sri Visishtadvaita Pracharini Sabha. 8 August 1983.
  25. ^ "". Archived from the original on 9 August 2020. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  26. ^ Sharma 2000, p. 452.
  27. ^ Sharma 2000, p. 496.
  28. ^ Sharma 2000, p. 508.
  29. ^ Narang, Sudesh (1984). The Vaisnava Philosophy According to Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa. Nag Publishers.
  30. ^ Prabhupada, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila: The Pastimes of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. ISBN 978-91-7149-661-4.


  • Sankaranarayan, P. (1996), Śrī Viṣṇu Sahasranāma Stotram, Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. With an English Translation of Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada's Commentary
  • Tapasyananda, Swami, Sri Vishnu Sahasranama, Chennai: Sri Ramakrishna Math. Sanskrit and English, with an English translation of Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada's commentary.

Further reading[edit]

  • Sanskrit & Hindi: Sri Vishnu Sahasranama, Gita Press, Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh 273005, India
  • Sanskrit & English: The Thousand Names of Vishnu and the Satyanarayana Vrat, translated by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Devi Mandir, Napa.

Other translations:

  • Sanskrit & Gujarati: Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram; translated by Shri Yogeshwarji, India @
  • Sanskrit & English: Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram; translated by Swami Vimalananda, Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam, Tiruchirapalli, India, 1985

External links[edit]