VSN #15 – Names of Sri Krishna

by Sahadev Komaragiri

Every Hindu mother dresses her toddler son as Sri Krishna and puts a flute in his hand. She buys a small sized crown and puts a peacock feather in it and adorns it on the boy’s delicate head. Where possible she even tries to place a ball of butter in his hands. While the boy is either playing with butter or chewing on the flute, the mother happily takes a bunch of pictures. Seeing adorable Lord Krishna in her own son is one of the happiest moments in the life of a Hindu mother.

This post is part of the series on viShNu sahasra naamaM

An entire chapter of Srimad Bhagavat is dedicated to the leelas or miracles performed by Lord Krishna as a toddler. After organizing Vedas into four different parts, authoring Mahabharata, Puranas and Brahma Sutras, Sage Vyasa still felt a big vacuum in his life. It was not until he wrote Srimad Bhagavat, on the advice of Sage Narada, that he felt fulfilled. His earlier works included several divine secrets, the essence of Vedas and great philosophical doctrines. What was missing were the stories that conveyed the love for God and Gods love for mankind. The story of Bhagavat celebrates this relationship of mankind with God and His relationship with His devotees. Jayadeva, one of the greatest Sanskrit poets, composed several epic poems and hymns on the life of Sri Krishna. He is credited with important contributions to the bhakti movement in India. Several composers before and after him contributed thousands of hymns and songs on Sri Krishna. The name kRrushNa is one of the most celebrated names in Hindu life and we find adequate references to it in the viShNu sahasranaamaM(VSN).

The avatar of Lord Krishna is a complete one. This is the only avatar, to that point, that is completely aware of its avatarhood. Lord Krishna had all the powers of Sri Maha Vishnu. He was in possession and complete control of Sudarshana Chakra, a weapon that belongs to Maha Vishnu. In short, there was nothing that Lord Krishna was incapable of doing. Every commentary that is written on the VSN justifies an explanation or interpretation of many names by referring to what Sri Krishna said in the Bhagavad Gita. Interpretation of many names in the VSN can be traced back to one of the attributes of Sri Krishna.

What follows is a short list of the names in the VSN that has a direct reference to the life of Sri Krishna. Of course, as with any name, there is more than one meaning or interpretation, but this list focuses on some of the common interpretations proposed by many commentators.

Lord Krishna had enemies all his life. When He was just a toddler, Kamsa, His evil incarnate maternal uncle sends a demon by name Kesi to get rid of Sri Krishna. Kamsa was aware of his imminent death in the hands of Sri Krishna and it was his desperate attempt to thwart the divine plans. When Kesi arrives in the form of a horse, Krishna takes away its powers and kills him easily. Having witnessed this Sage Narada says to Krishna, ‘O Lord, you have killed a demon by name Kesi, henceforth, you will be called kEsava.’

As a young boy, Lord Krishna was known for His mischievous behavior. He was known as ‘maakan chor’, the one who steals butter. Although the entire village of Madhura was charmed by His beauty and childhood pranks, there were always complaints about His behavior. His mother Yasoda ties him with a rope across his waist and ties the other end to a large object so that he is constrained to a location. Toddler Krishna manages to move around along with the large object. At one point the large object gets struck between two trees while he manages to go through them. He forces the object to come through by bringing down the two trees. This very of act of having Himself, willingly, constrained by a rope around His waist gets Him his new name of daamOdara, the word daama meaning a rope and the word udara represents the belly. In a spiritual sense the Lord is willing to get tied down by the love of His devotees, hence He is called daamOdara.

dEvakeenaMdana(989) and vaasudEva(352)
Having born to mother Devaki, he is known as dEvakinaMdan. His uncle Kamsa, knew that one of the sons of Devaki would be responsible for his death. He imprisoned both Devaki and her husband Vasudeva. Sri Krishna was eighth of the sons born to them. By the same token He is called as vaasudEva after his father VasuDeva. One has to read Bhagavat or watch any of the many videos available to know about one of the most absorbing parts of the story of the birth of Sri Krishna. My favorite is ‘Krishna’ DVDs produced by Ramanand Sagar.

chaaNuraaMdhraniShoodanaH(825) (Three words : chaaNur aaMdhra niShoodanH)
As young men, both Krishna and His brother Balarama visit His uncle Kamsa’s kingdom to challenge him for a fight. Kamsa appoints chaaNur, one of his trusted and able wrestlers. Young Krishna defeats and kills him after a long fight. chaaNur belonged to a placed called Andhra. Thus Krishna earns the title of chaaNuraaMdhraneeShoodanaH.

This is one of the most interesting names of Sri Krishna. It is interesting because the name SiKaMDi is associated with a eunuch who stands to fight Bheeshma in the battle of Mahabharat. Bheeshma refuses to fight and brings upon himself his own end. The word SiKaMDi has two words in it – SiKa and aMDi. SiKaMDi is One who sports a peacock feather on his Head. It is hard to imagine a picture of Lord Krishna without a peacock feather on His Head.

There are other names that refer to Lord Krishna. He is called yaduSreShTa(705) as He is the most renowned member of the Yadava dynasty. The name kRuShna itself appears a couple of times in the VSN as numbers 57 and 550. He is called gOpati(495) and gOhita(591). The root word gO represents a cow. He who protects and takes good care of cows is called gOpati or gOhita. He is called Sauri(340) as He is grandson of a King by name Sura.

It is one thing to get absorbed in the profound philosophies of Hinduism and the deep secrets offered by its vast literature especially Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads and Brahma Sutras. But it is entirely a different experience to get drowned in the stories of God, His powers and His leelas. The stories of Krishna as narrated in Vishnu Puran, Mahabharat and Bhagavat take the devotees to a new level of consciousness that is otherwise not possible by mere reflection on profound philosophies. That was the dilemma of Sage Vyas which got resolved only when he understood that the bond that connects God and His devotees is nothing but pure Love. This bonding is what is abundantly reflected in the stories of Sri Krishna.

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