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CHAPTER 12 – Names of Gods: Post-Vedic

CHAPTER 12 – Names of Gods: Post-Vedic

In the last chapter, we saw that Gods are neither polytheistic nor monotheistic, but both are expressions which try to convey the truths of a higher consciousness. We also saw that the Names of Gods are, at heart, the truths of man’s own higher life.

We now turn to the post-Vedic Gods and their Names. This will make our discussion more comprehensive and also help towards deeper self-discovery.

The Vedic conception of Godhead was not primitive, nor was it an aberration. On the contrary, it represented a fundamental movement and sensibility of the psyche; therefore, it had a shap- ing influence and it set the pattern for all subsequent develop- ments in the conceptualization of Gods. True, as we might expect, during the long passage of time, there have been many changes in the idiom and even in the mentality of the people. Some of the old Gods have been forgotten; others have become less important and yet others are remembered under different names. But behind all these changes, one can still observe a continuity in the spirit of approach.

Some old Gods like Sirya and Agni are not exactly forgotten but others have come up so fast that they have pushed the former into the background; but they still continue to be sufficiently important. Su=rya has no longer temples dedicated to him as he did a thousand years ago but he is still invoked daily by millions of people through the Gayatri mantra. Agni has lost his pre-eminent position but even today, in millions of homes, he is worshipped daily with grains of rice and the first cake is offered unto the fire as oblation. Millions of people when they first light a lamp every evening, or even put on the electric light, salute it. To them, the spirit of the Sun descends into the lamp for the night; many others pay homage to the light of the lamp as a symbol of their chosen deity who, of course, differs from people to people and region to region.

The new Gods also share the characteristics of their Vedic predecessors. They too are plural in form but unitary in essence. Like the old Gods, they are also psychic or physical in origin, the physical soon turning into the psychic and the psychic taking on a physical garb. Each of these new Gods also has multiple Names which are at heart the truths of man’s own being and which are revealed only to people of purity and meditation.

Even today when the modes of worship have considerably changed, the Names of Gods remain very important. The best of hymns and the great music built on them are nothing but Gods’ Names, other devotional ideas and sentiments merely hanging on them. According to the Yoga of Devotion, certain Names like Aum, Rama, Krsna, Siva are as big as the whole Reality. These names encompass all the worlds and all the levels of existence. Their vibrations, sounds and meaning enter into all sounds and meanings and words.

Every God has a thousand Names whether he is Visnu or Siva or GaneSa, Rama or Krsna or whether she is Ganga (the Ganges), Gayatri or Sita or the Mother Goddess in her various mani- festations as Kali or Durga or Sarasvati. The Mahabharata gives 1,008 Names for Siva,! 1,000 for Visnu,? 108 Names for the Sun. But while all Gods have these Names, we shall choose by way of illustration only four deities and give their more important Names to show how they interpenetrate each other and how they embody man’s psychic truths and meanings. This should help in deepening our study of man and his Gods and his higher life.

Of these four deities, two, Visnu and Siva, are psychic in origin; but the other two, Strya and Ganga, have also physical coordinates. Of the last two, Su=rya has a peculiar universality. He is non-Aryan, Aryan, Vedic, and post-Vedic. He was worshipped also by the Red Indians, the Incas and the Mexicans, who all developed their religious cultures independently, insulated from any influence originating in the old world. He is a visible God, pratyaksa devata (also one of the Names of Ganga), par excellence.

‘Mahabharata, Anusasanaparva, 17, 31-153.

Tbid., 149, 14-20.

Ibid., Vanaparva, 3, 16-28.



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Let us see what a Hindu worships in these symbols and Gods. When we study the Names of these different Gods, we find that each God is possessed of the highest attributes, and these are the same attributes. This makes it clear that the Hindus worship the same deity in all these symbols. This is not only an observable fact of experience, it also makes logical and spiritual sense. Whatever symbol the soul chooses, it seeks to worship through it, its highest image of perfection, light and truth. It is its natural aspiration; it will not be satisfied with anything less than this image. So what- ever be the deity chosen for worship, it will invest him or her with all the attributes of perfection, light and power.‘

In these names we see that each God is supreme and each has the attributes of the supreme. He is the creator of the world as well its supporting principle; therefore, the names of all the elements are His Names. He is beyond time but He is also the measure of all times; therefore, the names of the yugas, the months and days are His Names. He is the object of all knowledge; He is also the means by which we know Him. So, in a way, all names are His Names. All names proclaim Him, manifest Him. He is beyond every name and yet all names derive from Him.

“Every nation had these symbols in so far as they represented the best in that nation’s soul. For example, the Norse had beautiful names for God. One such name was ‘Balder’, meaning the ‘bright one’. Another name was ‘Heimdallr’, meaning the ‘world-gleam’, or ‘he who shrines over the world’. What beautiful names! Light and illumination were necessary attributes of a deity and all nations and races had names of God or Gods which brought out this attribute prominently.

The Scandinavians used the term ‘Tivar’ for their Gods, which means the ‘shining ones’, and is related to the Sanskrit devas, which means the same thing. Other attributes too were not neglected. God Frey is ‘battle-bold’. Balder is a youth, attractive and graceful. Goddess Sif has luxuriant golden hair. Odin is grey-haired and yet has none of the weakness of age. Thor is also conceived as being in the prime of life.


If we look at the Names of the four deities we have chosen for discussion, we are struck by certain features. For example, we find that each God is also the other.

Siva is Visnu, Krsna, KeSava, HrsikeSa, Hari—all popular names for Visnu. Siva is also Ravi and Bhanu, names for Sirya.

One of Visnu’s names is Siva. Visnu is also Aditya, Sirya and Savita.

Su=rya is Visnu, Rudra, Skanda, Varuna, Brahma, Indra, Yama, Soma, Siva.

Ganga is Vaisnavi, Kamala, Indira, Kali, Girisuta or Parvati (consort of Siva), Durga, Brahmi (power of Brahma), and Laksmi (consort of Visnu).

Each has the attributes of the supreme Godhead.

Siva is Aja (Beginningless), Ananta (without End), Amara (Immortal), Amita (Boundless), Amogha (Unfailing), Asoka (beyond Grief).

Visnu is Aja (Beginningless), Ananta (Endless), Atula (Peer- less), Acyuta (Steadfast), Vitabhaya (beyond Fear), Purna (All), Pavitra (Holy), Asoka (beyond Grief), Visoka (without Grief), Acala (Unmovable), Aprameya (Immeasurable), Amrta (Death- less), Ameyatma (One whose Being cannot be Fathomed), Avyaya (Imperishable), Abhi (Unborn), Punya (Virtuous), Anadi (without Beginning), Anamaya (Free from Disease), Adhara (the Ground; the Base), Adhata (One who is without a Creator).

Ganga too is Visoka (without Grief), Asoka (beyond Grief), Atula (Incomparable), Amogha (Unfailing), Acyuta (Steadfast), Adhara (the Base), Ananda (Bliss), Apara (having nothing Beyond), Abhaya (Fearless), Amrta (Deathless), Pita (Purified), Punya (Virtuous), Pirti (Fulfilment).

Surya is Aja (Beginningless), Ananta (Endless).

Each one is also the first and the highest one, and also the most esteemed.

Siva is Adi (the Prime Source), Devadeva (Lord of Gods), Pita (Father), Mata (Mother), Piirna (All).

Visnu is Puratana (Ancient), Sanatana (Eternal), Prabhu (Lord), DeveSsa (God of Gods).

Ganga is Mata (Mother), Isvari (All-Powerful), Jyestha (the Eldest), Pranavaksararipini (consisting of the Syllable Om), Adya (the first One), Muni-Stuta (praised by Sages).

Su=rya is Adideva (the First God), Devadeva (Lord of Gods), Sanatana (the Eldest), Mata (Mother), Pita (Father), Sarvadi (One Before All), Sarvalokanamaskrta (worshipped by All).

Each combines all the opposites.

Siva is Sat-Asat (Being: Non-being), Ksara-Aksara (Perish- able: Imperishable), Eka-Naikariipa (One: Multiform), or Naikatma (of manifold nature).

Similarly, Visnu is Sat-Asat (Being: Non-being), Eka-Naika (One: Many), Amirti-Anekamiirti (having no Form: having many Forms), Siiksma-Sthila (Intangible: Tangible).

Surya is Jivana-Mrtyu (Life: Death), Srasta-Samvartaka (Creator: Destroyer), Vykta-Avyakta (Manifest: Unmanifest).

Each is also the source, the embodiment and the secret Self or truth of everything.

Siva is Sarva (All), Bhava (Being, Source), Bhitaélaya (Ground of all Beings), Bhutasraya (Refuge of all Beings), Sarvatma (the Self of All), Sarvabhiitatma (Self of all Beings).

Visnu is Prabhava (Source), Bhiitabhavana (Creator of Beings), Bhitabhrt (Nourisher of Beings), Bhava (Reality), Bharta (Nourisher), Bhavana (Creator), Bhiitatma (the Self of all Creatures), Putatma (the Pure Self), Paramatma (the Highest Self), Dharmatma (the Virtuous Self).

Su=rya is Bhu=tas^raya (the Refuge of all Beings), Bhitapati (the Lord of Beings), Caracaratma (the Self of all that Moves or is Still), Siksmatma (the Subtle Self), Prasantatma (the Tranquil Self), Visvatma (the Self of the World).

Ganga is Bhava (Creator), Jagadyoni (Source of the World), Jagadatma (Self of the World), Paramatmasvariipa (Form of the Highest Self).

Each is also the Gods and the Elements of Nature.

Siva is Anila (Wind), Anala (Fire), Akasa (Sky), Soma (Moon), Bhanu (Sun), Savita (Sun), Vayu (Wind), Vata (Breeze).

Visnu is Anila (Wind), Ravi (Sun), Anala (Fire), Pavana (Wind), Vahni (Fire).

Su=rya is Sagara (Sea), Jimiita (Cloud), Aindhanagni (Fuel-fire), Apa (Water), Teja (Fire), Prthivi (Earth), Kha (Ether), Akasa (Sky), Vahni (Fire), Jatharagni (Digestive Fire).

Each is beyond time, yet it gives names to all the planets and all the measures of time.

Siva is Ksana (Moment), Kala (Time), Candra (Moon), Strya (Sun), Sani (Saturn), Ketu (Ketu), Ksapa (Night), Rtu (Season), Masa (Month), Paksa (Fortnight), Kali (Kaliyuga).

Su=rya is Ksapa (Night), Yama (A period of 3 hours), Ksana (Moment), Samvatsara-kara (Cause of the Year), Krta (Satya- yuga), Treta (Treta-yuga), Dvapara (Dvapara-yuga), Kali (Kali- yuga), Soma (Moon), Angaraka (Mars), Budha (Mercury), Brhaspati (Jupiter), Sukra (Venus), Sanaiscara (Saturn).

Each one is full of valour, vigour and beauty.

Siva is Ajita (Unconquered), Vijaya (Victory), Tejopahari (He who takes away all the strength and dignity of an opponent by a mere glance), Mahesvasa (Great Archer), Dhanvi (Archer), Banahasta (Wielder of Arrows), Urdhvareta (Living in Chastity), Urdhvalinga (the Chaste One), Mahakarma (Doer of Great Deeds), Manovega (travelling with the Speed of the Mind), Vikramin (Valorous), Sthanu (Steadfast), Sthira (Immovable), Sumahasvana (making a Great Sonorous Sound), Vidaruna (Terrible); He is Sahasra-bahu (having a Thousand Arms), Sahasra- pada (having a Thousand Feet), Sahasra-mirdha, (having a Thousand Heads), Mahamirdhan (having a Great Head), Maha- netra (having Great Eyes), Maha-hanu (having a Great Jaw), Maha-griva (having a Great Neck), Maha-kambu (having a Stark Neck), Mahoraska or Mahavaksas (Broad-chested), Maha-danta (having large Teeth), Mahajihva (Long-tongued), Hiranya-bahu (Golden-Armed), Subhaksa (Auspicious-Eyed), Bahumala (Multi-Garlanded), Mahamala (wearing a Great Garland).

Similarly, Visnu is Ugra (Impetuous), Jeta (Victor), Jaya (Victory), Durjaya (Unconquered), Vira (Valiant), Ksama (Capable), Duratikrama (Unsurpassable), Vijaya (Victory), Isvara (Lord), Dhanvi (Archer), Sudhanva (Skilful Archer), Mahesvasa (Great Archer), Sthira (Immovable), Sthanu (Steadfast), Sthavira (Stable), Daruna (Terrible), Bhima (Great), Vasuretas (of Plenti- ful Energy), Sughosa (Sonorous), Suvarnaretas (of Golden Vitality), Sarvaga (Going Everywhere), Urdhvaga (Going High). He is Sahasra-mirdha (having a Thousand Heads), Sahasra-pada (having a Thousand Feet), Sahasraksa (Thousand-Eyed), Visva- bahu (having Arms on every side), Satanana (Thousand-Faced), Mahaksa (Great-Eyed), Vira-bahu (with Powerful Arms), Maha- krama (Moving Greatly), Visva-mirti (having the world for his Form), Maha-mirti (Great-bodied), Diptamirti (of Splendid Form), Satamirti (having a Hundred Forms), Suvarnavarna (Golden Complexioned), Hemanga (Golden Limbed), Varanga (having Wonderful Limbs), Sundara (Beautiful), Sulocana (with Beautiful Eyes), Candanangadin (wearing Sandalwood Bracelets).

Ganga is Jaya (Victory), Vijaya (Victory), I$vari (Ruler), Krantalokatraya (encompassing the Three Worlds). She is Taporiipa (the Embodiment of Austerity), Tapomayi (Full of Austerity), Prasannariipa (of Joyous Form), Puta (Pure), Prita (the Happy One), Abhirama (Pleasing), Rama (Beautiful), Kanti (Splendour), Tejogarbha (Source of Vitality), Ananda (Blissful), Adbhutaripa (of Wonderful Beauty), Aégcarya-mirti (of Wonder- ful Form), Kamalaksi (Lotus-Eyed), Ghosa (Sonorous), Sundari (Beautiful).

Sirya is Jaya (Victory), Visala (the Vast), Diptamsu (of Blazing Rays), Sauri (Heroic), Suci (Pure), Sighraga (of Quick Move-ment), Arvindaksa (Lotus-Eyed).

They have also other qualities of knowledge, light, askesis, joy, and truthful resolve.

Siva is Sarvajfia (All-Knowing), Satya-vrata (of True Resolve), Kanta (Resplendent), Soma (Moon-like), Sompa (Drinker of the Soma juice), Santa (Tranquil), Ksama (Forbearing).

Visnu is Suci (Pure), Satyadharma (of true Law), Su-vrata (of right Resolve), Saha (Forbearing), Ksama (Forgiving), Srinivasa (Abode of Beauty) Mahatapa (the Great Ascetic), Sutapa (Rightly Austere).

Ganga is Vrata-ripa (Embodiment of Resolve), Punyagarbha (Source of Righteousness), Santa (Tranquil), Soma (Moon-like), Punya (Righteous), Premasampanna (full of Love), Punana (Purifying), Dhrti (constant in Resolution), Dharmadhura (the Highest Dharma or the Nave round which Dharma revolves), Sraddha (Faith), Srimati (full of Grace and Beauty), Dharma-jala (whose Waters are Dharma), Nityotsava (always Festive).

Sirya is Maitreya (Friend), Karunanvita (endowed with Compassion).

Each is everywhere.

Siva is Sarvatomukha (facing All), Sarvadvara (the Universal Gate), Sarvadhatu (Essence of All).

Visnu is also Sarvatomukha (Facing All).

Su=rya is Vigvatomukha (facing All Sides), Sarvatomukha (facing All), Sarva-dhatu (Essence of All).

Ganga too is Visvatomukhi (facing All), Visva (All-pervading).

Each is also the great goal, the wide gate, the way and the knowledge that leads to the destination.

Siva is Nirvana (the Great Ceasing-to-be), Santi (the Great Peace), Purusa (the Spirit), Saksi (Witness), Ksetrajfia (Knower). He is Moksadvara (the Gate of Liberation), Svarga-dvara (the Gate of Heaven), Praja-dvara (the Gate to all Beings). He is also the knowledge that leads to this goal. He is Yoga (Yoga), Yogi (Perfect in Yoga), Yama (Self-Control), Niyama (Vows), Dama (Restraint), Sama (Renunciation), Guru (Teacher), Mantra (the Creative Word).

Visnu is Su=nya (the Great Void), Santi (the Great Peace), Brahma (the Highest Knowledge), Nirvana (Ceasing to-be). He is also the Marga (the Path), Stuti (Hymn of Praise), Yoga (Yoga), Yogi (Perfect in Yogas), Sada-Yogi (Established in Yoga), Yogisa (the Lord of Yogins), Maha-yajfia (the Great Sacrifice), Veda (the Vedas), Vedanga (limbs of Vedic knowledge), Vedavit (Knower of the Vedas).

Ganga is Nirvanajanani (Mother of Nirvana), Yogini (Perfect in Yoga), Yogayoni (Source of Yoga), Dharmdhura (the Acme of Righteousness), Rksvariipa (one whose Soul is the Rgveda), Vedavati (of the Form of the Vedas), Maha-vidya (the Highest knowledge of Brahma).

Su=rya is Moksadvara (the Gate to Liberation), Svarga-dvara (the Gate of Heaven), Yogin (Perfect in Yoga), Vedakarta (Creator of the Vedas), Vedavahana (Vehicle of the Vedas).

Each is a great teacher, protector and saviour.

Siva is Gati (Resort), Para-gati (the Supreme Resort), Bhakt- anam Parama-gati (the Supreme Resort of Devotees), Brahmaloka (the World of Brahma), Parama-Brahma (the Supreme Brahma). He is also the Mantra (the Secret Word), Parama-Mantra (the Ultimate Secret Word), Yoga (Union), Guru (Teacher), Yajiia (Sacrifice), Tirtha Deva (the Luminous Pilgrimage).

Visnu is Nistha (Perfection), Parayanam (the Last Resort), Saranam (Shelter), Dhama (Abode), Gati (Refuge), Gati-Sattama (the Most Excellent Refuge), Muktanam Paramagati (the Refuge of the Liberated Ones), Satam-gati (the Refuge of Good Men), Sad-Gati (the True Refuge), Asrama (the Rest), Sannivasa (the True Dwelling). He is also Yoga (Union or Path to God-Union), Yama (Self-Restraint), Niyama (Vows), Guru (Teacher), Mantra (the Secret Word), Marga (the Way), Yajfia (the Sacrifice), Maha Yajiia (the Great Sacrifice), Jagatah Setuh (the Bridge by which to cross over to the other Shores of the World).

They are also the great healers and bearers of all gifts to their worshippers. Therefore, they are loved.

Siva is Vara (Boon), Varada (Giver of Boons), Kama (Desire), Gopta (Protector). He is Jivana (Life), Dhanvantari (the Great Physician), Tarah (the Great Boatman, through whom one crosses the Ocean of Existence), Ista (Beloved).

Visnu is Jivana (Life), Prana (Breath), Tarana (the safe Pas- sage). He is Sukhada (Giver of Happiness), Gopta (Protector), Papanasana (Destroyer of Sin), Kama (Desire), Kamaha (Destroyer of Desires), Pavana (Purifier), Varada (Giver of Boons), Mangalam-param (the Highest Well-Being), Ista (Beloved).

Ganga is Jivana (Life), Mahausadha (the Great Medicine), Prana (Life), Pranada (the Giver of Life), Arogyada (the Giver of Health), Dirghayukarini (the Giver of Long Life), Tari (Boat), Tara (one who takes you across the World of Existence). She is Nityasukhada (the Giver of Eternal Happiness), Kalyani (Promoter of Well-being), Varaprada (Boon-Giver), Punya-prada (Giver of Righteousness), Dhanada (Giver of Wealth), Dharma- kamarthamoksada (Promoter of the Four Aims of Life—Dharma, Kama, Artha, Moksa), Pavani (Purifier), Yajiiaphala-prada (Giver of the Fruits of Sacrifice), Yogasiddhi-prada (Giver of the Per- fections of Yoga), Yogajfianaprada (Giver of the knowledge of Yoga), Yuktibuddhida (Giver of Reason and Intelligence), Yasoda (Giver of Fame), Ista (Beloved).

Su=rya is also Jivana (Life), Dhanvantari (the Great Physician), Kamada (He who fulfills desires), Varada (Giver of Boons), Pranadharaka (Life-Support).

All are equally worshipful.

Siva is Idya (Worthy of Worship), Saranya (Shelter), Varenya (Worthy), Pada (Goal).

Visnu is Mahejya (Worthy of Great Offerings), Manya (Esteemed), Stavya (Worthy of Praise), Maharha (Greatly Worthy).

Ganga is Kamya (to be Desired), Vandya (Worthy of Saluta- tions), Manya (Esteemed), Namya (Worthy of Homage), Yajaniya (Worthy of Sacrifice), Ejya (Worthy of Oblations), Idya (Worthy of Worship), Namaskarya (Venerable), Vedya (to be Known), Dhyeya (to be Meditated upon), Cintya (Worthy of Re- flection), Japya (Worthy of Chant), Dhanya (Worthy of Thanks- giving), Yacya (Worthy of Being Wooed).

All have their seats in the secret cave of the heart and are difficult to realize.

Siva is Guhavasi (dwelling in the Secret Cave of the Heart).

Visnu is Durlabha (difficult to Attain), Durgama (difficult to Reach), Guhya (Inscrutable), Gabhira (Deep), Gahana (Myster- ious), Gupta (Secret), Dur-Dhara (One difficult to Hold).

Ganga is Gidhariipa (Enigmatic), Guhavidya (Secret Science), Durgama (One difficult to Reach), Durasada (One difficult to Approach), Durlabha (difficult to Attain).

On the other hand all of them are said to be easily attainable.

Ganga is Dhyanagamyasvarupa (One who is reached through Meditation), Dharmalabhya (attainable through Dharma), Bhaktasulabha (Easily attained by Devotees),

Visnu is Sulabha (easily Attained).

Siva is Prakasa (Manifest), Suvijfieya (easily Known), Prasada (easily Pleased), Abhigamya (Within Reach).

They are also the Great Questions, the Key to all Answers, the Great Exposition of everything.

Siva and Visnu are Kim (Who? What? The Great Question to be pondered over), Yat (the Self-Proved, the Self-Evident), Tat (that which brings out, enlarges upon, the Great Exposition).