The fact that Sriman Narayana is Numero Uno has been unequivocally established by Sri Vaishnava Acharyas, drawing extensively from the Vedas, Saasthras, Ithihaasas, Puranas and other time-tested scriptures. He is the means and end of all beings. He is the protector and benefactor of the whole world. His auspicious virtues (திருக்கல்யாண குணங்கள்) are countless and His glory limitless.
Perhaps, because of this the Lord has given us a Thousand Names (Sahasra Naamam) of His through Bhishma for us to sing His greatness, atleast to some extent. The grandsire was in his death-bed after having been pierced by arrows all through the body in the Kurukshethra war. He was waiting for the advent of Uththaraayanam to breathe his last. The power of his penance and will helped him stay alive till such time Dakshinaayanam gave way to Uththaraayanam.
During this period only Bhishma composed the famous Vishnu Sahasranaamam and Bhishma Sthuthi and they formed part of the Mahabharatha as narrated by sage Vyasa.
With Bhishma's death, an era of great wisdom and knowledge was about to come to an end. Hence, Krishna advised Yudhishtira to seek Bhishma's counsel on any and all aspects of life. The resultant dialogue was witnessed by both Vyasa and Krishna.
Yudhishtira posed questions such as 'who is the ultimate Supreme reality', 'by worshipping whom a man attains salvation' and 'what is the easiest way by which mankind can get everlasting happiness, eternal peace and become free from misery and sorrow'. Bhishma's only answer to all these questions was 'Vishnu' and he mentioned thousand names of the Lord, in the process. This is the origin of Sahasra Naamam.
The uniqueness of these names is that even any of these names will bequeath as much auspiciousness as the Lord Himself. The names are as powerful as their owner.
Reciting and even hearing the masterpiece comprising the Lord's glorious names eradicates all evils and bestows auspiciousness. The significance of 'Naama Sankeerthanam' was derived from this. Naama Sankeerthanam, in turn, will eventually pave the way for the ultimate goal — Saraanaagathi. That is why the Lord's names are held in such high esteem in our Sampradaya.
Azhwars and our Acharyas have expressed the greatness of the Lord's names in no uncertain terms. As many as nine Azhwars have sung the glory of these great names. The following is a sample list in the chronological order:
...ஆயிரம் பேர்ச் செங்கண் கரியானைக் கை தொழுதக்கால். (Mudhal Thiruvanthaadhi - 65)
"Karmas will not occur on those who worship the Lord with a thousand names."
...நாமத்தால் ஏத்துதிரேல் நன்று. (Mudhal Thiruvanthaadhi - 70)
"If You can praise Him by singing His names, it is well done."
...ஞானத்தால் நன்குணர்ந்து நாரணன் தன் நாமங்கள்... (Irandaam Thiruvanthaadhi - 2)
"If we chant with knowledge Narayana and His many other names, it will secure us a place beside Him."
...நாமம் பல சொல்லி நாராயணா என்று... (Moonraam Thiruvanthaadhi - 8)
"Let us praise Him with folded hands, chanting Narayana and His many other names."
Thirumazhisai Azhwars Dasan
செவிக்கு இன்பமாவதுவும் செங்கண்மால் நாமம்... (Naanmukan Thiruvanthaadhi - 69)
"Sweet to the ears are the Lord's Names."
...நின் நாமதேயம் இன்னதென்ன வல்லம் அல்ல... (Thiru-chandha Viruththam - 13)
We are incapable of knowing You by any one particular name (of the many)...
...கனியின்மையின் கருக்காய் கடிப்பவர் போல் திருநாமச்சொல் கற்றனமே. (Thiruviruththam - 64)
"We too, not quite blessed with ripe fruit, that is, the Rug Veda, bit (learned) raw fruit, that is, the Lord's names."
அடர் பொன் முடியானை ஆயிரம் பேரானை… இடர் கடியும் மாதா பிதுவாக வைத்தேன்... (Periya Thiruvanthaadhi - 70)
"One with a thick golden crown and a thousand names... I regarded Him as my mother and father"
...பேரும் ஓராயிரம் பிற பல உடைய எம்பெருமான்... (Thiruvoymozhi 1-3-4)
"The Lord who has a thousand different names."
...பணங்கொள் அரவணையான் திருநாமம் படிமினோ... (Thiruvoymozhi 4-1-8)
"Recite the names of the one on the hooded serpent."
...பாடீர் அவன் நாமம் வீடே பெறலாமே. (Thiruvoymozhi 10-5-5)
"If you sing His names you can secure liberation."
நண்ணினம் நாராயணனை நாமங்கள் பல சொல்லி... (Thiruvoymozhi 10-6-3)
"We attained Narayana by chanting His many names."
...தொண்டக் குலத்தில் உள்ளீர் வந்து அடி தொழுது ஆயிர நாமம் சொல்லி... (Periyazhwar Thirumozhi 1-1-5)
"Those of you who are in the lineage of devotees, fall at His feet chanting His thousand names."
...நல்வகையால் நமோ நாராயணா என்று நாமம் பல பரவி… பல்லாண்டு கூறுவனே. (Periyazhwar Thirumozhi 1-1-11)
"I shall, in the right way, chant Your name Narayana... and wish You well."
... ஓவாதே நமோ நாரணா என்று… அன்று எனக்கவை பட்டினி நாளே (Periyazhwar Thirumozhi 5-1-6)
"The day on which I didn't chant Namo Narayana... is a day of starving for me."
... மாமாயன் மாதவன் வைகுந்தன் என்றென்று நாமம் பலவும் நவின்றேலோர் எம்பாவாய். (ThirupPaavai - 9)
"Chant His many names such as Maamaayan, Madhavan, Vaikunthan, etc."
Thondar AdipPodi Azhwar
... நரகமே சுவர்கமாகும் நாமங்கள் உடைய நம்பி... (Thirumaalai - 12)
"The Lord has names which can turn even the hell into the heaven."
... இமையோர்கள் பேர்களாயிரம் பரவி நின்று அடி தொழும் பிரிதி சென்று அடை நெஞ்சே. (Periya Thirumozhi 1-2-8)
"O, heart, reach ThirupPiridhi, where the celestials chant the Lord's thousand names and surrender unto His feet."
... பேர் ஆயிரமும் ஓதுமின்கள் (Periya Thirumozhi 1-5-10)
"Chant the thousand names."
நாமம் பலவுமுடை நாரண நம்பி (Periya Thirumozhi 10-8-4)
"Narayana is the Lord with many names..."
...பேராளன் பேரான பேர்கள் ஆயிரங்களுமே பேசீர்களே. (Periya Thirumozhi 11-6-5)
"Say the thousand names of the Lord."
That Madhurakavi Azhwar and ThirupPaan Azhwar do not figure in the above list is least surprising - the former sung only on Satakopa, his Acharya, and the latter got immersed in the narration of Lord Ranganatha's form. However, Kulasekhara Azhwar's absence is a matter of intrigue.
Of course, the above is not an all-inclusive list and contains only some of the impromptu references emphasising the importance of the Lord's names. There are a few decades dedicated to the greatness of His names, such as, போய்ப்பாடு (Periyawar Thirumozhi 2-3), காசும் கறையுடை (Periyazhwar Thirumozhi 4-6), வாடினேன் வாடி (Periya Thirumozhi 1-1), கேசவன் தமர் (Thiruvoymozhi 2-7), etc.
Sri Andal's penchant for the Dwaadasa Naamas is evident as she has sprinkled them all through Naachhiyar Thirumozhi and, of course, Thiruppaavai in excess of 40 places in all. An analysis would reveal that all except Vishnu occur in Naachchiyaar Thirumozhi, some of them a number of times. The term Vishnu has been used only as a reference to herself, as the daughter of Vittuchiththar (as signature) in the final verses of some of the decades.
It may be noted that our elders have held that we should recite particular names of the Lord before some of our routines — Hari as we wake up, Govinda before we eat, Kesava when we start out, Madhava when we go to bed, etc.
Let us all call out the Lord's name as many times as possible during our daily routines, besides chanting the Sahasra Naamam regularly and derive the benefits accruing from it.
Meet you in the next Note.
எங்கள் தூப்புல் பிள்ளை பாதம் என் சென்னியதே!
Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar