Featured Post

Vishnu Sahasranamam (VS) : A few thoughts

Vishnu Sahasranamam (VS) : A few thoughts
God is one, it is said as though that is a great revelation. Experience does not reveal god, one or many. Thus, god is a product of faith. Faith has been diverse. How do we explain the diversity? Why has one god appeared as many? There is no answer. We live with that multiplicity. The multiplicity is indefinite. Sahasra stands for a large indeterminate number. God has appeared in innumerable forms and names to believing minds. The nameless and formless, the basic force of existence, has been captured by human minds in quest (like a child cries for food, like a gopi pines for Krishna) in myriad forms and many names. Religion is a symbolic reduction of that heart ache. It has manifested in various ways and enriched the emotional life of people.
Sahasranamam is a way to address god in longing and in understanding. Recitation of Vishnu Sahasranamam is a tradition. It is not just a prayer or praise. It alludes to puranic stories and encapsulates vedantic truths. Its cadence and the judicious mix of phonetic sounds is an exercise for the tongue, lungs and brain. (It has similar words leading to different continuations and with deficient practice, one may go astray). It is a commitment and a cleansing.
Manikkavachakar sang:
ஒரு நாமம் ஓர் உருவம் ஒன்றும் இல்லார்க்கு ஆயிரம் திருநாமம் பாடித் தெள்ளேணம் கொட்டாமோ,”
(We will give a thousand names to god who has no name or form, and celebrate.)
Vishnu means all-pervading, same as Atma. Vishnu Sahasranamam is a string of 1000 names describing god transcendentally and with reference to mythology, which is also in expatiation of the ideas of sruti. It is the most popular sahasranamam followed by Lalitha sahasranamam.
Adi Sankara has written a bhashyam for it in Vedantic light. Sankara gives an alternative root-based meaning also for some mythological names. For example, he explains Krishna as ‘krishi is sat and na is ananda and Krishan is one in whom sat and ananda are there always.’

In poetry, fillers are used to conform to prosody, like च, अथ, एव, तु. In VS, it is very limited. occurs twice, अथ once, and एव twice.
Certain names appear more than once.
They are विष्णुः (3), पुरुषः (2), श्रीमान्(4), केशवः (2), शिवः(2), प्रभुः (2), आदित्यः(2), विधाता (2), पद्मनाभः(3), स्थविष्ठः (2), कृष्णः(2), प्राणदः (4), प्राणः(3), प्रजापतिः (2), हिरण्यगर्भः(2), माधवः (3), ईश्वरः(2), विक्रमी (2), संवत्सरः(2), अजः (3), सिद्धः(2), अच्युतः (2), अमेयात्मा(2), वसुः (3), वसुमनाः(2), सत्यः (3), समः(2), अमोघः (2), विश्वयोनिः(2), वेदवित् (2), चतुरात्मा (2), चतुर्व्यूहः (2), भोक्ता (3), अनघः (2), शुचिः (2), नियमः (2), यमः (2), वीरहा (3), माधवः (3), अनिर्देश्यवपुः (2), श्रीनिवासः (2), सतां गतिः (2), सर्वज्ञः (2), अनिरुद्धः (2), गोविन्दः (2), सुपर्णः (2), निवृत्तात्मा (3), अनिलः (2), विभुः (2), ऋद्धः (2), पावनः (2), अनलः (2), कान्तः (2), महीधरः (2), वासुदेवः (3), शौरिः (2), भीमः (2), मार्गः (2), उद्भवः (2), वीरः (3), प्रणवः (2), दक्षः (2), प्रमाणं (2), अनिर्विण्णः (2), क्षामः (2), यज्ञः (2), सुव्रतः (2), सुखदः (2), गोपतिः (2), गोप्ता (2), शुभाङ्गः (2), स्रष्टा (2), कुमुदः (2), अनन्तः (2), पुण्यः (2), वसुप्रदः (2), अपराजितः (2), सविता (2), चक्री (2), अक्षोभ्यः (2), आदिदेवः (2), कृतागमः (2), तारः (2), वायुवाहनः (2), हुतभुक् (2).
85 names are repeated once or more, 70 twice each, 13 thrice each and 2 four times each. Thus, 102 names are repeated. Sankara explains that they are homographs.
Different words denoting the same meaning also occur copiously.
The names are in masculine (to be connected to Vishnu), in feminine (to be connected to devata) and in neuter (to be connected to Brahman).
The sequence is not in any particular order. The sound and intonation matter more than meaning for the order. There is an effect of reciting because of the sound, which is beneficial.

In Brahma Sutras containing 555 cryptic aphorisms, the first four are considered defining. In Gita containing 700 slokas, the teaching is said to be complete with the fifty-third sloka in the second chapter. In the same manner, we may consider the first two terms in VS as crucial.
It is significant that the first term is Viswam, not Vishnu. The first thing we become aware of is the world, where we live, with which we deal and of which we are a part. It is the worldly experience that leads us to Brahman. Viswam is also called jagat, something that consciousness makes us aware of, or lokam, understood through sensory experience (phenomenal world). It is by trying to understand how the world is in our experience, we get to the reality of Brahman.
[In a Siva stotram also, we have (जगन्मयाय)]
Sankara’s emphasis is that the Brahman and world are not separate. VS seems to favour that view.
Viswam is neutral like Brahman, but neutral is not to be identified with lacking consciousness. The next term removes any ambiguity. Vishnu stands for ‘person’ (not like human as many religions seem to suggest) with distinct consciousness.
The concept of Siva and Sakti (inanimate and animate) can be seen in Viswam and Vishnu. The two pairs are not to be seen as two separate entities, but as a way of understanding reality analytically.
To be sure, Vishnu as a person is described throughout.
Also called Hrishikesa (हृषीकेशः,the lord of all senses) and Hari (हरिः,
one who destroys samsara), he is father of Brahma, the Pitamaha (प्रपितामहः).
His names are sweet (शुचिश्रवाः, मधुः).
He has a thousand heads (सहस्रमूर्धा, बहुशिरा, शताननः, one with many faces), an auspicious face (स्वास्यः), faces being in all directions (सर्वतोमुखः), a thousand eyes (सहस्राक्षः), ears with ear ornaments (कुण्डली), good and valiant shoulders (सुभुजः, वीरबाहुः) with golden ornament (कनकाङ्गदी, रुचिराङ्गदः), chest where Lakshmi resides (श्रीनिवासः, श्रीवासः, श्रीधरः) and the Srivatsa mole is prominent (श्रीवत्सवक्षाः), a navel with a golden hue (हिरण्यनाभः) shining like a gem (रत्ननाभः) from which a lotus stalk sprouts (पद्मनाभः), and a thousand feet (सहस्रपात्).
His eyes are big (महाक्षः), red (लोहिताक्षः), auspicious-looking (सुलोचनः), clear (स्वक्षः) and lotus-like (पुण्डरीकाक्षः, पद्मनिभेक्षणः, अरविन्दाक्षः, पुष्कराक्षः). His one eye is sun (रविलोचनः). His glance is auspicious (शुभेक्षणः). His smile is like a bud flowering (पुष्पहासः)
His complexion is golden (सुवर्णवर्णः).
His parts are handsome (शुभाङ्गः), the best (वराङ्गः), shine like gold (हेमाङ्गः, सुवर्णबिन्दुः), have radiance (द्युतिधरः), and are covered by sandal paste (चन्दनाङ्गदी). He has brightness like that of the sun (भास्करद्युतिः).
He is handsome (सुन्दरः, पेशलः), attractive (मनोहरः, कान्तः) and a huge form (भीमः), wonderful (अद्भुतः). He has pretty features (स्वङ्गः). His form is big (महामूर्तिः, also स्थविष्ठः a huge one), like that of the moon (नक्षत्री, चन्द्राम्शुः) and luminous (दीप्तमूर्तिः).
He has two wives Sridevi or Lakshmi (श्रीमान्, लक्ष्मीवान्, श्रीपतिः, श्रीशः) and Bhudevi or Mother Earth (कुमुदः, happy with the Mother Earth; गोपतिः, मेदिनीपतिः husband of Mother Earth).
His abode is Vaikunta (वैकुण्ठः). He lies on the great ocean (महोदधिशयः, कुवलेशयः, नारायणः).
He wields a good bow (धन्वी, धनुर्धरः, सुधन्वा) called Sarnga (शार्ङ्गधन्वा), a discus and a mace (चक्रगदाधरः, गदाधरः, शङ्खभृत्, चक्री), a sword called Nandaka (नन्दकी), a wheel of the chariot in his hand (रथाङ्गपाणिः) - all weapons of destruction (सर्वप्रहरणायुधः). He wears a forest garland (वनमाली) and  vaijayanthi garland (स्रग्वी)
His flag has the emblem of Garuda (गरुदध्वजः).
His retas is golden (वसुरेता). He has good taste (सुरुचिः). He has terrific prowess (भीमपराक्रमः).
Nature (Prakrti) is the first thing we see and all clues are to be obtained through nature. Several natural forms are signified by the names.
महाभूतः (of great form; the world is made of the five elements).
वह्निः  (fire, also सप्तजिह्वः, one with seven tongues, सप्तैधाः one with seven flames); अनिलः (wind also पवनः, वायुः); वरुणः, पर्जन्यः (rain), अपां निधिः (ocean, also अम्भोनिधिः, रत्नगर्भः, ocean that has gems in it).
आदित्यः : Sun (also अहःसंवर्तकः, the one who makes the day; प्रतापनः,one who scorches; भानुः, Shining one; सहस्रांशुः, one of thousand rays; गभस्तिनेमिः; सहस्रार्चिः : one with a thousand rays; सप्तवाहनः : one with seven vehicles; विहायसगतिः one for whom the sky is the path; रविः; सूर्यः: सविता).
शशबिन्दुः (moon).
भुजगोत्तमः (the best of snakes: Vasuki, also महोरगः); सिंहः; वृषभः (bull);
वृक्षः (tree); अश्वत्थः (a tree); अचलः (unmoving: mountain).
दिशः (direction); ऋतुः (season); महाह्रदः (great ravine); महागर्तः  (great pit).
शिशिरः (cold)
Gods and Rishis:
अमरप्रभुः : lord of devas - Indra (also सुरेशः, सुराध्यक्षः, महेन्द्रः, सुरेश्वरः, देवेशः, देवभृत्  गुरुः); विश्वकर्मा (maker of the universe, divine architect); सुपर्णः (one with beautiful wings, Garuda); धनेश्वरः (Kubera); अन्तकः (Yama).
स्कन्दः (Subrahmanya); देवः; महादेवः; भूः लक्ष्मीः (Lakshmi of earth); भुवः :लक्ष्मीः (Lakshmi of the skies).
वारुणः (Vasishtha or Agasthya, son of Varuna).
अमृतपः (drinkers of amruta); अमृताशः (eater of ambrosia).

Vedas are the earliest scriptures. A number of names refer to Vedas.
महास्वनः (one with great nada: sound); वेदः (giver of knowledge); वेदवित् (one who knows the message of Vedas; also चतुर्वेदवित् : one who knows the four Vedas); वेदाङ्गः (one for whom Vedas are limbs); विश्रुतात्मा  (specially explained in Vedas); श्रुतिसागरः (ocean of Vedas); वाग्मी (one from whoM the Vedas emanated); स्पष्टाक्षरः (one who is in the form of Om); मन्त्रः (one who is in the form of Vedas); प्रणवः (Om); त्रिसामा (worshipped by three samas); सामगः (one who sings sama); साम (samaveda); शब्दसहः (one who is revealed by the Vedas); कृतलक्षणः (one who has laid down the scriptures, also ऊर्जितशासनः); व्यादिशः (one who lays down the rules for Indra, etc.); कृतागमः (the creator of agama).

Yagna related:
The Vedas are concerned with Yagna and several names refer to yagna.
वषट्कारः (vashat is a term uttered in yagna; propiated by such mantras); हविर्हरिः (one who receives the sacrificial offering); महामखः (the great sacrifice); यज्ञः (sacrifice, also क्रतुः, सत्रं, महाक्रतुः, महायज्ञः, यज्वा); इज्यः (one who is propitiated in sacrifice, also महेज्यः); सोमपः (drinker of soma); महायज्वा (one who performs great sacrifices, also यज्ञकृत्, यज्ञी); महाहविः (great offering in sacrifice, also हविः); सवः (soma rasa); हुतभुक् (one who eats the sacrificial offering); यज्ञपतिः (the head of yagnas); यज्ञाङ्गः : the parts of yagna; यज्ञवाहनः (one who facilitates yagnas); यज्ञभृत् (one who accepts yagnas); यज्ञभुक् (enjoyer of yagnas); यज्ञसाधनः (one who is attained through the means of yagnas); यज्ञान्तकृत् (one who makes the fruits of yagnas); यज्ञगुह्यं (the secret of yagnas): सामगायनः (singer of sama hymns); शिपिविष्टः (one who resides in sacrificial animals); भूरिदक्षिणः (abundant dakshina); मेधजः (one who manifests in sacrifice).

The idea of creation (Brahma), protection (Vishnu) and destruction (Siva) are reflected in the names listed next.
“The six gunas – jnana (omniscience), aishvarya (lordship), shakti (potency), bala (force), virya (virtue) and tejas (self-sufficiency), acting in pairs and in totality, are the instruments and the subtle material of pure creation. Vyūhas are the first beings created, and they represent the effective parts of a coherent whole.
In Upanishadic terminology ‘virAT’ is the sum-total of all the ‘sthUla-sharIra-s’ (gross bodies) of all the jIvas put together; ‘hiraNyagarbha’ is the sum-total of the sUkShma-sharIra-s (subtle bodies) of all the jIvas. That is the cosmic-mind. Iswara is the sum-total of all the ‘karana-sarira-s’ (causal bodies)’ of all the jiva-s put together.
The vasana-s of all jiva-s get registered in the cosmic mind i.e., ‘hiranyagarbha’, and at the time of next birth, their vasana-s are derived from hiranyagarbha and hence the next birth goes according to those vasana-s.)
Creation emerged from Hiranyagarbha, which is oval in shape, a golden egg, like the one materialised a few days ago. The mouth was the first to emerge from this shape. From the mouth, sound. Then, the nose, through which air began flowing. Eyes came next, with fire emanating through them. Ears arrived next.”
महोत्साहः (engaged in creation, maintenance and reabsorption); महाकर्मा (doer of big deeds like creation); महावीर्यः (one who manifests as the powerful mahat at the time of creation); वर्धनः (one who helps in expanding); वर्धमानः (one who expands as the universe); विस्तारः (one in whom the world expands); युगादिकृत् (creator of yuga, etc.); युगावर्तः (one who makes yugas come up cyclically); क्षोभनः (one who churns nature and beings at the time of creation); करणं (instrument of creation); समीहनः (one who assumes desires at the time of creation); ब्रह्मकृत् (one who created Brahma); ब्रह्मविवर्धनः (one who fosters Brahma); ब्रह्मी (one in whom Brahma is); महाकर्मा (one who has created the five elements, also प्रभवः);
कर्ता (doer); विकर्ता (creator of variety); व्यवसायः (effort); कृतिः (action);
Cause of the world:
धातुरत्तमः (the original cause that is the source of earth, etc., also हेतुः, कारणं, बीजमव्ययं, unchanging cause); सर्वादिः (source of all); विश्वयोनिः (source of the universe, also उद्भवः, विश्वरेताः); भूतादिः (the source of beings, also प्रजाभवः, आत्मयोनिः the source of Atma); जगदादिजः (born in the beginning, Hiranyagarbha); आदिदेवः (primordial god).
वृद्धात्मा (one with an ancient soul)
प्रमाणं (source of knowledge)
भूतभावनः (one who creates, also ईशानः, सर्गः, वेधाः, स्रष्टा, ब्रह्मा, वाचस्पतिः अयोनिजः : unborn Brahma, जननः); मनुः (the progenitor; the archetypal man, also प्रजापतिः); वाचस्पतिः उदारधीः : lord of speech with superior intellect; चतुरात्मा (one who has four supreme forms at the time of creation, etc. Brahma, Daksha et al, time, and all living beings); जनजन्मादिः : the source of the birth of people.
अमृतांशूद्भवः : one from whom moon emerged
सुतत्न्तुः (one whose web is the world); (तन्तुवर्धनः : one who expands that web)
बभ्रुः : protector (also गोप्ता, रक्षणः); आवर्तनः one who operates the wheel of life (also समावर्तः);
As supporter of the framework of the universe:
प्रतिष्ठितः (rooted firmly); अधिष्ठानं (the base of the universe, also लोकाधिष्ठानं); व्यवस्थानः (one in whom the universe is situated); भर्ता (one who bears, also धुर्यः); धाता (one who bears everything); आधारनिलयः  (the support of the supporters of the earth); स्थाणुः (one who is firm); स्थावरः स्थाणुः (permanently established and bearing earth, etc.); त्रिलोकद्रुक् (one who bears the three worlds); धराधरः (one who bears the world); भारभृत् (bearer of earth, also महीधरः); वायुवाहनः (the carrier of winds); नक्षत्रनेमिः (the mover of stars).
Supporter of life
भुतभृत् (one who sustains life); प्राणः (the vital life breath); प्राणनिलयः (the resting place of life breath); प्राणदः (one who regulates life breath); समीरणः (powers life through breath); प्राणभृत् (the supporter of life); प्राणजीवनः (one who gives life through the life breath); जीवनः (one who makes life possible).
भूतकृत् (one who destroys, also शर्वः, त्वष्टा, प्रतर्दनः, रुद्रः, संग्रहः, जह्नुः, शिवः, सोमः); कृतान्तकृत् (one who brings about dissolution); लोकसारङ्गः  (one who absorbs the world like a bee); विरामः (the end, all beings end in him, also संस्थानः, अप्ययः); संक्षेप्ता (one who collapses the universe at the time of pralaya); निष्ठा (one in whom beings reside for long during pralaya);  भगहा (one who destroys wealth at the time of pralaya); क्षामः (when all changes subside, he resides in Atma)
If god is the cause of the world, what is the cause of god? He is ever present, uncaused and changeless. These ideas are brought in the following names:
अभूः (unborn); पुरातनः (ancient, also सनात्, सनातनतमः, the most ancient, ज्येष्ठः); अनादिः (beginningless); प्राग्वंशः (one whose lineage is the oldest); अग्रजः (first-born).
स्थविरो ध्रुवः (ancient and stable one).
The Best
God as the best of everything is one of the ideas that has been current. The tenth chapter of Gita is about it. The following names suggest that.
पुरुषोत्तमः the best of ‘persons’; श्रेष्ठः : the best; विजयः, धनञ्जयः (Arjuna); अतीन्द्रः (better than Indra); जेता (superior to all others); महाबलः (more powerful than the strong); महाबुद्धिः (more intelligent than the wizards); महाशक्तिः (of great energy); महाद्युतिः (of great effulgence); गोविदां पतिः (the leader of the eloquent); नेता (leader); विशिष्टः (supreme); शक्तिमतां श्रेष्ठः (the best among those with prowess); ज्ञानमुत्तमम् (supreme knowledge); उत्तरः (best of all); श्रीमतां वरः (the best of the prosperous); उदीर्णः (the highest); सत्ता (one with supreme gnana); सर्वशस्त्रभृतां वरः (the best of the wielders of weapons); क्षमिणां वरः (best among the tolerant); उर्ध्वगः (one who is above all, also न्यग्रोधः); वसुमनाः (of the best mind); बृहद्भानुः (supreme sun, bigger than the sun); पृथुः (big); पुरुसत्तमः (the best of purus); ज्योतिरादित्यः (one who is in the luminous zone of sun).

World as in god’s body
The dhyana sloka says:
भूः पादौ यस्य नाभिर्वियदसुरानिलश्चन्द्रसूयौ च नेत्रे
कर्णावाशा शिरो द्यौर्मुखमपी दहनो यस्य वास्तेयमब्धिः I
अन्तस्थं यस्य विश्वं सुरनरखग गोभोगिगन्धर्वादैत्यैः
चित्रं रंरम्यते तं त्रिभुवनवपुषं विश्नुमीशं नमामि II
He - whose feet form the earth, naval the sky,breath the air, eyes the sun and the moon, ears directions, head the heaven, mouth the fire, those who live in the sky, stomach the oceans; Inside whom is all the universe including gods, human beings, birds, serpents, gandharva, and demons, deities - I bow to him, the Lord Vishnu, the body of the three worlds, charming mysteriously.
This idea that the world is in his body is brought out by the following names:
भूगर्भः (the one in whose womb the earth is); धाम (the abode for all, also सर्वासुनिलयः, वसुः); वृषोदरः (one in whose stomach the beings dwell); विश्वबाहुः (one who has the universe as his shoulders); कुम्भः (one in whom everything is contained like in a pot); वत्सरः (one in whom everything resides); एकपात् : one with one foot (world and beings); भूतावासः (one in whom beings dwell); भूर्भुवःस्वस्तरुः (one who is like a tree of three worlds).

We come across words that are apparently opposite in meaning:
1.    निमिषः : one whose eyes are closed in yoga nidra
अनिमिषः : one who is ever awake
2.    सत् : the existence (Brahman)
असत् : the non-descript Brahman (the world)
3.    क्षरं : the beings that are subject to destruction (the world)
अक्षरं : indestructible (the soul)
4.    अमूर्तिमान् : one without form (nirguna Brahman)
अनेकमूर्तिः : one with many forms (saguna Brahman)
5.    एकः : one (Brahman)
नैकः : not one (avataras)
6.    अचलः : unmoving (inanimate or matter)
चलः : moving (spirit)
7.    दुर्लभः : difficult to attain (nirguna Brahman)
सुलभः : easy to attain (compassionate Iswara)
8.    अमूर्तिः (nirguna Brahman)
मूर्तिमान् (avataras)
9.    भयकृत् : giver of fear to the wicked
भयनाशनः : remover of fear for the good
10. अणुः : small
बृहत् : big
11. कृशः : formless (Brahman)
स्थूलः : gross (world)
12. गुणभृत् : wielder of qualities (saguna Brahman)
निर्गुणः : devoid of qualities (nirguna Brahman)
13. धाता (creator)
अधाता (uncreated)
अविज्ञाता : not in the league of atma which thinks that it is the doer
उदुम्बरः : one who manifested from the sky
अणुः : small
बृहत् : big
धनुर्वेदः : archery
अभिप्रायः : wish
The purpose of human life has been defined as dharma, artha, kama, moksha. While moksha is about freeing from the world and aptly pushed to the rear, the other three are about this world. Dharma is a code of conduct much wider than morality. Dharma covers all aspects of life and is the defining term of Hinduism. Earning wealth and fulfilling desires are legitimate worldly pursuits. Kama, which is desire in general and sexual desire in particular, is a scriptural injunction. Ideas like desirelessness and desireless action are later in time and are not the overriding tenets of Hinduism. We will see the names that cover the purusharthas.
चतुर्भावः (one from whom the purusharthas arise).
वृषकर्मा (doer of dharma, also धर्मकृत्, धर्मी); धर्माध्यक्षः (one who presides over dharma and its fruits); वृषाही (one who has dharma and yaga); वृषपर्वा (dharma as steps in the liberation path); वृषप्रियः (one for whom dharma is dear); धर्मः; धर्मयूपः (tied to the sacrificial post of dharma); धर्मगुप् (one who protects dharma);  धर्मविदुत्तमः (the best among those that know dharma); स्कन्दधरः (one who stabilizes dharma).

Artha (wealth)
अव्ययः निधिः (indestructible wealth); वसुः (wealth); महाधनः  (great wealth, also महानिधिः); श्रीनिधिः (a repository of wealth); सद्भूतिः (good wealth); पणः (stake); अर्थः; भूतिः (wealth); श्रीविभावनः (one who apportions wealth according to merit); प्रद्युम्नः (one with great wealth); वसुदः (giver of wealth, also श्रीदः, श्रीकरः, द्रविणप्रदः, वसुप्रदः); धन्यः (the wealthy); अनन्तश्रीः (one of endless wealth); महर्द्धिः (one endowed with aiswarya, also ऋद्धः prosperous); श्रीगर्भः (one who has aiswarya in his stomach); परर्द्धिः (one with supreme endowments); भूषणः (an ornament).
कामकृत् (one who fulfils the desires, also कामप्रदः, सर्वकामदः); कामः; कामदेवः (Manmatha); कामपालः (protector of kama); कामी (one with desires).
महाभोगः (great enjoyment)
The idea of moksha can be inferred from the following:
योगविदां नेता (the lord of gnanis); योगीशः (lord of yogis); योगः (one whom people attain through yoga); सदायोगी (always self-explicit); योगी;
अग्रणीः (one who leads the best of seekers to their destiny); तारणः (one who helps to cross the ocean of samsara, also तारः , उत्तारणः); मार्गः (the path to moksha); अनलः (one who is the destiny of souls).
संयासकृत् (establisher of the state of renunciation); कामहा (destroyer of lust).
ज्ञानगम्यः (attainable through gnana); वेद्यः (one to be known);
Refuge (sarana)
मुक्तानां परमा गतिः (the supreme destiny of liberated souls); शरणं(refuge, also परायणं, आश्रमः, पदमनुत्तमं the refuge par excellence, लोकत्रयाश्रयः refuge of the three worlds).
सतां गतिः (the destiny of the virtuous, also सद्गतिः, सत्परायणः, सन्निवासः); विश्रामः (the resting place); गतिसत्तमः (the best and the refuge of all); चतुर्गतिः (the refuge of four varnas and four asramas); वरारोहः (one attaining whom is the best course); परिग्रहः (a good hold).
Vikara or change and limitation by time characterize normal beings and god is above that. But he is the creator and master of time.
भूत-भव्य-भवत्प्रभुः (master of past present and future, also भूतभव्यभवन्नाथः);. संवत्सरः (year); समयज्ञः (one who knows time); कालः (time); शर्वरीकरः (one who creates night).
Iswara (lord)
God is Iswara, the lord, who oversees and regulates the world as suggested in the following names:
प्रधान-पुरुशेश्वरः (lord of nature and ‘person’); प्रभुः (one who has limitless prowess); ईश्वरः; प्रभूतः (has qualities like wisdom, lordship, etc.); सर्वेश्वरः (the lord of all lords); लोकाध्यक्षः (one who oversees the world, also सर्वतश्चक्षुः, सर्वदृक्, सर्वदर्शी, त्रिदशाध्यक्षः, overseer of the three states of wakefulness, dream, and deep sleep); शास्ता (ruler); शिष्टकृत् (one who issues orders); जनेश्वरः (lord of people); परमेश्वरः (supreme god); भूतमहेश्वरः (great lord of beings); ज्योतिर्गणेश्वरः (lord of the luminous bodies); अनीशः (one without lord); भगवान् (god); शूरजनेश्वरः (lord of valiant people); त्रिलोकेशः (lord of the three worlds); लोकनाथः (the lord of the world, also लोक्स्वमी); क्षितीशः (lord of the earth);
विभुः : one who is varied like Hiranyagarbha
सर्ववागीश्वरेश्वरः : lord of all those who are adept in speech like Brahma
नयः (one who leads).

Saguna Brahman (Benevolent god)
The idea of god who is competent and benevolent is the substance of all theistic religions. Any number of names mean that, including those appearing under other heads.
गुणभृत् (wielder of qualities); सत्ववान् (having satva nature); सात्विकः (personification of satva qualities); सत्कर्ता (one who does good); साधुः (good); सुव्रतः (one has sacred vows); सत्कृतिः (one whose deeds are virtuous);
दक्षः (competent, also क्षमः, दक्षिणः); विश्वदक्षिणः (adept in everything); सर्वसहः (all competent); मङ्गलं परम् (supremely auspicious) सुप्रसादः (one whose grace is a blessing); स्वस्तिदः (giver of auspiciousness); स्वस्तिकृत् (one who creates auspiciousness); स्वस्ति (auspiciousness); स्वस्तिभुक (one who enjoys auspiciousness); स्वस्तिदक्षिणः (one who is capable of giving auspiciousness);
मेधावी (capable of remembering a number of texts); कविः (one who knows everything); गुरुः (one who teaches all branches of knowledge); गुरुतमः (one who teaches even Brahma, etc.); सर्वलक्ष्णलक्ष्ण्यः (one who has gnana obtained through all means); सर्वज्ञः (omniscient); छिन्नसंशयः (one for whom all doubts are resolved); सुमेधा (one who has auspicious intelligence); सत्यमेधा (one with true wisdom); विद्वत्तमः (learned);
आत्मवान् (autonomous, also स्ववशः);
कृतज्ञः (one who remembers the deeds)
अहः (the effulgent) सर्ववित् भानुः (omniscient and resplendent) भ्राजिष्णुः : the effulgent; ज्योतिः (light); अर्चिष्मान् (one who gives light to luminous bodies); महातेजा (one with large radiance); तेजोवृषः (one who showers radiance); विरोचनः (illuminating); प्रकाशनः (one who brightens everything); ओजस्तेजोद्युतिधरः (one who has life-breath, valour and effulgence).
सर्वदर्शनः (the one whose eyes show all the paths)
सिद्धः (accomplished also सिद्धार्थः, सिद्धसंकल्पः, कृतकर्मा);
सिद्धिः (perfection); अनघः (blemishless); नन्दः (one who is full in all respects); पुष्टः (one who has everything); पूर्णः (perfect); पूरयिता (one who makes everyone perfect);
अमोघः (giver of all fruits) सन्धाता (one who yokes fruits of deeds with deeds) सिद्धिदः (one who apportions fruits according to deeds) सिद्धिसाधनः (one who facilitates successful completion of tasks); वृषभाक्षः (one whose eyes fulfil wishes); वरदः (granter of boons); दिवस्पृक् (giver of heaven); वाजसनः (one who feeds those who ask for); भावनः (distributor of fruits of action);
महातपाः (one with great power of penance)
ऊर्जितः (mighty); दुग्धरः (difficult to bear); बृहद्रूपः (having big forms); वेगवान् (the fast one, also मनोजवः one with the speed of mind); ); अनिरुद्धः (unstoppable); अमितप्रभः (of unlimited prowess); दृढः (determined);
नियमः (one who fixes all in their work) ग्रामणीः (one who organizes the living beings) स्थानदः (one who places people appropriately); निग्रहः (one who controls); दमः (control); नियन्ता (administrator); विदिशः (distributor of fruits on merits); विधाता (one who powers action and their results); कुन्दरः (giver of pure effects); वंशवर्धनः (one who expands the lineage)
न्यायः (the just, also चतुरश्रः);
प्रसन्नात्मा (one with a clear self); परमः स्पष्टः (supreme and full of clarity)
सत्कृतः (worshipped by the worthy); पद्मगर्भः (one who is in the lotus-like hearts of devotees); महार्हः : worthy of supreme worship; स्तव्यः (worthy of worship); स्तवप्रियः (fond of worship); स्तोत्रं (prayer); अर्चितः (worshipped one); स्तुतिः (act of praying); स्तोता (person praying); अर्कः (worth of being propitiated); अर्हः (worthy);
विविक्तः : one who stays clear of changes during such expansion and contraction
जगतःसेतुः : the bridge of the world
सत्यधर्मपराक्रमः : the one who has unfailing dharma and valour
पावनः (purifier); पूतात्मा (one whose soul is free from gunas. In combination with gunas, manifestation occurs); पवित्रं (pure, also शुचिः); विशुद्धात्मा (purified soul); कुन्दः (spotless like kunda flower);
इष्टः (dear one, also शिष्टेष्टः,dear to the wise); अनुकूलः (one who is helpful); सहः (one who accepts everyone); सुदर्शनः (affable); नन्दनः (giver of joy); सुमुखः (pleasant-faced); सुघोषः (pleasant-toned);सुखदः (giver of comfort); सुहृत् (good friend); वत्सलः (kind); प्रियार्हः (worthy of love); प्रियकृत् (doer of kind things, also शंभुः doer of good); प्रीतिवर्धनः (one who enhances enjoyment); सुलभः (affable); लोकबन्धुः (relative of the world);
क्रोधहा : one who destroys anger of the virtuous; जितक्रोधः (one who has controlled anger, also जितमन्युः); अरौद्रः (free from anger);
प्रथितः (famous); सत्कीर्तिः (of true fame); पुण्यकीर्तिः (one whose fame is virtuous); मान्यः  (one who is worthy of esteem); अमानी (one with no cause for shame); मानदः (one who gives dignity to beings); कथितः (talked about);
अप्रमत्तः (not careless); प्रजागरः (ever wakeful); अक्षोभ्यः (one who cannot be disturbed)
अशोकः (free from grief, also अनिर्विण्णः, विशोकः); निर्वाणं (state of being free from all suffering); शोकनाशनः (one who destroys sorrow);
नेयः : the one who is led
अधोक्षजः : one who never undergoes deterioration
सत्यसन्धः (has taken the vow of keeping to truth); सत्यधर्मा (one who has satya and dharma); सत्यधर्मपरायणः (adherent of satya and dharma);
दाशार्हः (worthy of receiving gifts); प्रग्रहः (one who receives offerings by devotees);
विनयितासाक्षी : one who watches humility in beings
गभीरः (majestic); महामनाः (broad-minded); सुन्दः (compassionate); अक्रूरः (free from cruelty); महान् (great);
स्वाङ्गः : one whose limbs are enough for his acts
औषधं (medicine, also भेषजं); भिषक् (doctor, also वैद्यः); अनामयः (free from diseas);
शान्तः (calm); शान्तिः (tranquility); शान्तिदः (giver of mental peace)
क्षेमकृत् : one who helps keep safely what has been attained
तीर्थकरः : one who established various branches of faith
चलः : moving
दुरतिक्रमः : one whose order cannot be disobeyed
अक्षोभ्यः (not rattled); वीतभयः (one for whom fear is gone);
अमृतवपुः : of immortal body
पुण्यश्रवणकीर्तनः : one hearing and chanting whose qualities is virtue
दुष्कृतिहा (one who destroys bad acts); दुष्स्वप्नानाशनः (one who alleviates bad dreams); भयापहः (one who removes fear); पापनाशनः (destroyer of sins, also विशोधनः)
सन्तः (good people); सत्पथाचारः (one who adopts the ways of the good);
विश्वधृक् (One who can take on the whole world)
विषमः (one of different nature from others)

वृषाकृतिः (incarnates for establishing dharma) is reminiscent of the Gita sloka about god taking avataras to establish dharma. The other names which allude to incarnation are नैकात्मा (one with many forms); नैकजः (one of several incarnations); नैकरूपः (of many forms); व्यक्तरूपः (one whose form is seen); नैककर्मकृत् (engaged in many acts); अनन्तरूपः (of infinite forms); संभवः (one who is born at his will). (It is explained that god chooses his birth at will whereas other beings are governed by their samskara); अनेकमूर्तिः, शतमूर्तिः (one with many forms); नैकः (not one); शरीरभूतभृत् (one who bears the five elements for taking birth).
The incarnations covered are:
1.    Matsya: महीभर्ता : one who saved the earth from submerging in the deluge; महाशृङ्गः, शृङ्गी (one who used his horn to lug the earth during deluge); नैकश्रुङ्गः : one with four horns.
(Matsya rescued Manu and earthly existence from a great deluge).
2.     विष्वक्सेनः : on whose will to fight scares the demons (The Kurma Purana describes Vishvaksena as born out of a portion of Vishnu, carrying a conch (shankha), Sudarshana chakra (discus) and gada (mace) and wearing yellow clothes like his master).
3.    Kurma: महाद्रिदृक् (one who bore Mandara mountain; when gods and demons churned the milky ocean for nectar).
4.    Varaha: धरणीधरः (bearer of earth); कपीन्द्रः (king of bears); महावराहः; कपिः; वृषाकपिः (the one who was in the form of dharma and Varaha).
(When Hiranyaksha tormented the earth and its inhabitants, she sinks into the primordial waters. Vishnu took the form of the Varaha, descended into the depths of the oceans, slew the demon and retrieved the Earth from the ocean, lifting her on his tusks.)
5.    Narasimha: नारसिंहवपुः, (incarnated as Narasimha in response to the prayer of Prahlada whom Hiranyakasipu tormented because of his devotion to Vishnu, and killed Hiranyakasipu in that form); चतुर्दंष्ट्रः : one who has four teeth.
6.    नारायणः : one who resides on water; नरः : one who leads (It can be taken as Nara- Narayana avatara); सुतपाः : one who does auspicious penance  (as Nara and Narayana).
(Nara-Narayana is the twin-brother avatar of the God Vishnu on earth, working for the preservation of dharma or righteousness).
7.    Kapila: महर्षिः कपिलाचार्यः, कपिलः.
(Kapila was the son of Kardama Prajapati and his wife Devahuti. Kapila presents to his mother Devahuti, the philosophy of yoga and theistic dualism.)
8.    Vyasa: सर्वदृक् व्यासः.
(Vyasa compiled Vedas, puranas and Mahabharata).
9.    Vamana: उपेन्द्रः : brother of Indra (Vamana) (also वासवानुजः); वामनः; प्रांशुः : Trivikrama; त्रिविक्रमः; त्रिपदः : one who has three steps; विक्रमः : the one who measured the whole world; महाक्रमः : one who took three big steps; वैखानः : one who dug the earth.
(Vishnu incarnated as Vamana to overpower Mahabali in order to protect Indra. He begs of Mahabali earth of the size of three steps by his dwarf self during a sacrifice. After Mahabali grants the boon, Vamana becomes Vikrama, a giant, and his two steps covered the earth and the sky, and for the third step, Mahabali offered his head. When Vishnu put his foot on his head, he sank to the netherworld where he became the monarch.)
10. Parasurama खण्डपरशुः
(Parasurama’s father was killed by a king unjustly and Parasurama kills all kings in revenge.)
11. Rama: महेष्वासः : a great archer (Rama); भूशयः : one who lay on the earth (wanting to cross ocean); कालनेमिनिहा : killer of Kalanemi (Hanuman who killed Kalanemi who tried to obstruct his fetching the herbs to revive Lakshmana).
12. Balarama हलायुधः; गदाग्रजः : brother of Gada.
13. Krishna कृष्णः; केशवः, केशिहा (killer of Kesi, a demon sent by Kamsa to kill Krishna, who assumes the form of a giant horse. Krishna hurls him far holding him by his legs, and kills him by thrusting his left hand to Kesi’s mouth and choking him); माधवः (husband of Lakshmi); मधुसूदनः killer of the demon, Madhu. (From the 'ear wax' of Lord Vishnu, two demons named Madhu and Kaitabha were born. They obtained a boon from Goddess Lakshmi that they would only die whenever they wished. They tormented the world. At the request of Brahma, Vishnu incarnated as Hayagriva and tricked the demons to grant him a boon. He sought their death as his boon. This is how they were killed.); अच्युतः (one who never slips); जनार्दनः (One who inflicts suffering on evil men); चतुर्व्यूहः [one who has four vyuhas. The Chatur-vyūha forms of Vishnu are related to four of the six causes of creation which six are God Himself as the final cause of creation and His five aspects – Narāyana ('thinking'), Vāsudeva ('feeling'), Samkarśana ('willing'), Pradyumna ('knowing') and Aniruddha ('acting') successively; each divinity controls its specific creative energy.]; गोविन्दः, गोपतिः (the protector of cows); मुकुन्दः (giver of mukti); संकर्षणः अच्युतः (one who draws everything to him during pralaya); गोहितः (one who is interested in welfare of cows); यदुश्रेष्ठः* : the best of Yadus; देवकीनन्दनः (pleaser of Devaki); चतुर्मूर्तिः (of four forms; शिखण्डी (one who wears peacock feather); चतुर्बाहुः (of four shoulders); सात्त्वतां पतिः* (leader of Satvats); अनिरुद्धः (unstoppable); सुयामुनः (one who had several Yamunas around him); चाणूरान्ध्रनिशूधनः (killer of Chanura); वत्सी (protector of calves).
(*Vrishni was son of Satvata, a descendant of Yadu, the son of Yayati. He had two wives, Gandhari and Madri. He had a son named Devamidhusha by his wife Madri. Vasudeva, the father of Krishna, was the grandson of Devamidhusha.)

God takes avataras to protect sadhus and destroy evil-doers. All gods have some weapon, which symbolises that gods would act against evil. This theme is brought in many names.
Protection of the virtuous/devas
वृषः (one who showers what devotees desire); दर्पदः (giver of pride of the good); भक्तवत्सलः (kind to his devotees); भयनाशनः (remover of fear for the good); सदामर्षी (one who tolerates the mistakes of the good)
सुरानन्दः giver of bliss to devas; इन्द्रकर्मा : one who acts for Indra
Suppression of the wicked
विक्रमी (brave); दुराधर्षः (incapable of being intimidated); उग्रः (fierce);
सहिष्णुः (one who overwhelms demons like Hiranyaksha); दमनः (punisher of the guilty); सुरारिहा (destroyer of enemies of devas); सहस्रजित् (one who conquers thousands of asuras); अनन्तजित् (one who conquers endlessly, also जयः, समितिञ्जयः one who is victorious in war, जयन्तः, सर्वविञ्जयी one who is omniscient and victorious, अनिवर्ती one who never returns without victory from war, पुरुजित् conqueror of many); दुर्मर्षणः (unbeatable); सत्यपराक्रमः (one of unfailing valour, also शूरः, वीरः); अजितः (unconquered);
क्रोधकृत् कर्ता (one who shows anger on the wicked and kills them); वीरहा (slayer of demons); पुरन्दरः (one who destroys the cities of asuras); शत्रुघ्नः (killer of enemies, also दुरारिहा, शत्रुजित्, शत्रुतापनः tormentor of enemies); जितामित्रः (one who has conquered enemies); विदारणः (one who tears away the wicked);; दारुणः (cruel to evil doers); रणप्रियः (fond of war); दर्पहा (destroyer of pride of the wicked); भयकृत् (giver of fear to the wicked); विनयः (punisher of the wicked);
अनयः : one who is not led
सुषेणः (one who has auspicious army); अप्रतिरथः (one without an opponent); अमितविक्रमः (one with unparalleled valour); शूरसेनः (one in whose army great warriors are there); दुर्धरः (difficult to hold or stop); दुर्जयः (difficult to conquer); सुवीरः (good warrior); श्रमणः (one who gives strife); दमयिता (one who suppresses)
दण्डः : baton
Lastly, we come to Atma. The soul of Hinduism is soul, its nature and destiny, on which there are different opinions. One has a choice, but it is decided by birth mostly. Several names bring in focus the Vedanta doctrines. 
भूतात्मा (the soul of all beings that is the unchanging and eternal substance, the changes being passing in nature); पुरुषः (the one who is in the body); पुनर्वसुः (dweller as soul in living beings again and again); हंसः (one who indwells all bodies); विश्वात्मा (the soul of the world); अवशिष्टः (one who is inside everyone); शरभः (the dweller in the bodies of beings); त्रिलोकात्मा (the indwelling soul of the three worlds); अनन्तात्मा (infinite soul); जीवः; पर्यवस्थितः (one who pervades the world); यमः  (one who is inside); परमेष्ठी (one who resides in the supreme space in heart); सत्वस्थः (one who resides in all beings);
क्षेत्रज्ञः (the one who knows the body, does not identify himself with the body); सन्धिमान् (the enjoyer of fruits); भोक्ता (consumer, also अन्नादः); तत्ववित्: (knower of truth);
अक्षरः (immortal); सूक्ष्मः (subtle);
विश्वम् (world); विश्वमूर्तिः (one who is in the form of the world); सर्वः; त्रिकुब्धाम (fills all, up, down and middle); क्रमः (omnipresent); सर्वगः (one who pervades all); कृताकृतः  (one who is both the cause and the effect); व्याप्तः (all-pervasive, also व्यापी); असत् ( the non-descript Brahman, the world); क्षरं (that which is subject to destruction); अन्नं (food, matter, also भोजनं); स्थूलः (gross).
परमात्मा (the supreme being); विमुक्तात्मा (one of autonomous soul); विजितात्मा (one for whom the Atma is conquered); अविधेयात्मा (one whose Atma is not controlled by anyone else);
अव्ययः (changeless, also शाश्वतः eternal) साक्क्षी (one who is a mere observer; स्वयंभूः (existing by himself); स्वधृतः (self-supported); अधृतः (unsupported); अधाता (one who has no creator); स्वयंजातः (self-born); अजः (unborn); समः; शाश्वतः स्थाणुः (ensconced eternally); स्थिरः (stable); स्वाभाव्यः (having no birth by nature); निवृत्तात्मा (one who is liberated from repetitive life).
अनादिनिधनः (without beginning or end, अमृतः, अमृत्युः); जन्ममृत्युजरातिगः (one who is above changes like birth, death, aging, etc.); धृतात्मा (one who is firm as soul, unique and unborn and undying); ध्रुवः (indestructible); व्यग्रः (one without end);
अप्रमेयः (beyond all sensory means of knowledge, also अग्राह्यः, असंमितः not gauged by anything, अव्यङ्गः  one whose form is unintelligible, अतीन्द्रियः, अनिर्देश्यवपुः whose nature cannot be pointed out, व्यालः incapable of being grasped like a serpent); गहनः (unfathomable); गुप्तः (hidden, also गुहः); गुह्यः (one who dwells in the secret recess of heart); गहनः (one whose nature and competence are beyond scrutiny);
अनुत्तमः (unparalleled, also अतुलः);; समात्मा;
संवृतः (covered, also महाकोशः  one who has many kosas,)
अदृश्यः (unseen, also अव्यक्तः, अमूर्तिमान् one without form, अमूर्तिः, कृशः formless)
असन्ख्येयः (countless)
विक्षरः (indestructible, also अक्षरं)
सत् (the existence, also ब्रह्म : Brahman; यत् : which, तत् : that, कः bliss, किं one whose nature must be enquired into); प्रत्ययः (consciousness); अनन्तः (infinite, अप्रमेयात्मा one whose soul is immeasurable, अमेयात्मा); एकः (one); एकात्मा (of one soul); सत्यः; सर्वयोगविनिसृतः (free from all association); प्रकाशात्मा (having the soul that is self-luminous);
तुष्टः (blissful); श्रेयः (one with incessant bliss); दृप्तः (blissful); शर्म (of supreme bliss); प्रमोदनः (blissful); आनन्दी (one who is of the nature of bliss); शतानन्दः (one whose bliss appears manifold because of conditioned perception); नन्दिः (of the form of bliss); आनन्दः (bliss).
अनर्थः : one who has no desire; (also घृताशीः); विरतः (detached);
शून्यः (one without special attributes); निर्गुणः (devoid of qualities);
दुर्लभः (difficult to attain to); दुर्गमः (difficult to get across to); दुर्गः (impenetrable); दुरावासः (difficult to retain in mind); अचिन्त्यः (beyond the reach of thought); शब्दातिगः (one who is beyond words); गभीरात्मा (of unfathomable nature);
महामायः (capable of deluding even the illusion creators); नैकमायः (one who makes many illusions); नहुषः (one who binds all beings by his maya); स्वापनः (one who makes beings forget Atma by his maya).