VSN #1 – A Series on viShNu sahasra naamaM

by Sahadev Komaragiri

For many years I was part of viShNu sahasra naamaM chanting group in Cleveland, Ohio. Every Friday evening we used to gather at someone’s house and chant viShNu sahasra naamaM along with a few other chants. It is usually followed by a sumptuous dinner and some times a satsang – a discussion on spiritual topics. I am aware of many other groups that do the same. These groups now exist in almost every town across India, the US and many other countries. It might be surprising that many of those who chant viShNu sahasra naamaM may not be aware of its origin and significance. I read Mahabharata when I was very young and therefore I instantly knew that viShNu sahasra naamaM was part of the anushasana parva and that Bheeshmacharya narrates it to King Yudhistir. This fact is not very commonly known.

Table of Contents
This Announcement
The Five Questions
The Revelation
Dhyaana Sloka
In Praise of Lord Vishnu
Thousand Names
The First of The Names
The Last of the Names
Melodious Names
Most Common Names
Names in Numeric Values
Names of Sri Krishna
Great Names
Mention of the Avatars
Wealth Considerations
uttara peeThika
Apologies and Dedication

It is only recently that I developed a greater interest in viShNu sahasra naamaM and its significance. One cursory glance at any of the number of books written on the topic will make you aware of the wealth of knowledge that surrounds the seemingly small topic. First there is Shankara Bhashyam, an eloquent commentary written by Adi Shankara, the quintessential hero of vedic revival in India. This commentary has several translations and is also the basis for many other commentaries written by others. Unfortunately there are hardly any commentaries in English language. There are a few books that provide meanings on the names but as such there are no major authoritative texts in English language. Available texts on this subject is another topic for another day. It now suffices to say that there is plenty of literature in the regional languages of India.

viShNu sahasra naamaM literally means 1000 names of Lord Vishnu. It is authored by sage Vyasa and is found in Anushasana Parva of the epic Mahabharata.  Each chapter in Mahabharat is called a parva. When chanting, it is customary to start with poorva peeTika, then chant the sahasranaama stotram or praise of Lord Vishnu with his thousand names, and finally end with uttara peeTika. Poorva peetika starts with a prayer to Lord Vishnu as the remover of obstacles. It is followed by a verse describing sage Vyasa’s lineage . In this verse, Vyasa is described as the great grandson of Vashista, grandson of Shakti, son of Parasara and father of Shuka maharshi. It is an extraordinary lineage of great sages of immense knowledge and sacred powers. It is followed by another verse describing Vyasa as none other than Lord Vishnu himself. I offer my humble pranams to Vyasa with the invocation of these two verses:

vyasaM vasishTa naptAram ShaktE pautrama kalmasham|
paraSharAtmajaM vandE shukatAtaM tapOnidhim||

vyAsaya vishNu roopAya vyAsaroopaya vishNavE|
namO vai brahma nidhayE vaashisTaya namOnamaH||

In a series of articles that follow, I will write an introduction to viShNu sahasra naamaM and the backdrop against which it emanated. It will be followed by several posts that will include my own understanding of some of the names and their deeper significance. It is my experience that this life will acquire a whole new meaning simply by reflecting upon the names and their inner meaning. It is my fervent hope that these articles generate the necessary interest in our search for a meaning of our very existence. All that I write is what I gathered and understood from various texts that I have been reading. This would be an adventure for someone who is in the process of learning, but it has now become increasingly difficult for me to not let out the bursts of inspiration I received from such reading!

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Bala Girisaballa October 11, 2010 at 1:25 am

Great! I will follow this thread!


Raghavendra October 11, 2010 at 10:08 am

Good one.. I hope to see more…


Gayathri Krishnamoorthy October 11, 2010 at 11:20 am

Nice prologue! Thanks for doing this.


jagannath girisaballa October 12, 2010 at 1:21 am

looking forward ….


Sunil Narahari January 3, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Sairam Sahadev,

Wonderful way to both educate and learn. Your style of writing is pretty simple and flowing. I was unable to stop reading the blogs both on Annamacharya and Vishnu Sahasranamam.
You have now intrigued my interest.
I can see a lot of value for the Grp 4 and to a large extent for Grp 3 in SSE.

Way to go.

Best of Luck.


Sahadev Komaragiri January 3, 2011 at 11:20 pm

Sunil, Thanks for your feedback. It is a very good learning experience for me and hope it will be the same for the readers of this blog.


austere February 1, 2011 at 7:24 am

Thank you.


Sridhar June 9, 2011 at 1:23 am

Nice blog and good writing – I also like you to read Eknath Easwaran’s books on Indian spirituality – especially on “Bhagawad Gita “or “1001 names of Vishnu”

Love to meet you when you are back in India.

Best Regards, Sridhar Sattiraju


Sahadev Komaragiri June 10, 2011 at 12:04 am

Sridhar, Thanks. I have Eknath Easwran’s book on Upanishads. I will try and read the books you mentioned. Yes, send me a mail with your contact info and may be we can meet some time.


Raj August 31, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Radhe Krishna Sahadev!

Namaskaram to all and thanks to Sahadev for the kainkaryam he is doing on explaining, educating and enlightening us on the Vishnu Sahasranamam and other spiritual topics.

We a group of few families in North Wales, PA do weekly Bhajans every Friday, that includes chanting Vishnu Sahasranamam and Lakshmi Astotharam. We also distribute free Rama Nama books all over the world for anyone who is interested, as part of Rama Nama Writing Yagnam we conduct, which is an ongoing initiative. Please check http://www.srisrikolahalan.com for details on this.

Radhe Krishna!



Hari August 15, 2012 at 3:21 am

The heart of Mahabharata lies in the Bhagavad Gita? Vishnu Sahasranaamam and the Sanatsujaateeyam. That is why Sree Sankara Bhagavadpada chose to write bhaashyam yo all three. Anyone reading the Mahabharata will have his life sanctified. For truly there is nothing newer. While reading the Mahabharata sometimes one gets confudef. When one recites VSN he gets inspired with hidden meanings in the text
This has the blessings of Rishi Vyasa as well as Bhagavan Krishna who in reality are both divine incarnations hence identical.


Hari August 15, 2012 at 3:23 am

Apologies for spl errors in my earlier comment. I am posting them with my mobile.


Rao March 21, 2013 at 11:16 am

Sahadev garu, just came across your wonderful blog. I became enamored of Vishnu Sahasranamam after acquiring a record of M.S. Subbulakshmi belting it out with incredible power and authority; I had been at best a very shaky believer in the Divine, but there was no denying the Grand Old Chanteuse. I had thought off and on about memorizing it since then, but after literally decades have passed, I got around to actually doing it. I am pleased to say that the whole thing is now my constant companion and, I like to think, it “recites itself” in my head.

(My favorite part is in the epilogue, in which Parvati asks Shiva whether there are any shortcuts employed by the learned to get around chanting all 100 names, and Ishwara gives a deadpan reply that it is enough to chant Rama’s name once to get the same effect as the sahasranamam. To my mind, it recalls the close friendship that sprang up between Rama and Shiva on the banks of the Ocean when Rama honors Shiva prior to embarking on the assault on Lanka. )


Sahadev Komaragiri March 22, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Rao garu,
Thanks for your comments and thoughtful ideas on vishNu sahasra naamam. I really like the “recites itself” part. You are so fortunate.


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