Friday, February 22, 2013

VENKATESHA SAHASRANAAMAAVALI


VENKATESA SAHASRANAAMAAVALI

PRAYER TO THE LORD OF THE HILL
(A  BRIEF REVIEW)

The deity in Tirumala shrine is called “Vengadattaan” or “Vengadavaa” by Tamils meaning “The Lord of The Hill”. Tirumala is a cluster of seven hills—Seshaadri, Neelaadri, Garudaadri, Anjanaadri, Vrishabhaadri, Naraayanaadri and Venkataadri. It represents seven peaks spread out like seven hoods of the divine serpant Aadisesha.  There are seven steps to Paramapada, the Supreme abode of Vishnu, Sri Vaikkuntha. One has to climb these to attain Salvation. The four sages who went to see the Lord Vishnu reclining on Adisesha were stopped at the sixth step by Jaya and Vijaya who were cursed by the angered Rishis. But Jaya and Vijaya were right in stopping them because the Rishis still had not vanquished their ego. The Lord diplomatically came down himself and appeased them but did not take them to seventh step as they needed more maturity. There are many lakes, rivulets and waterfalls which spring from these seven hills. 108 of these water sources are believed to be sacred and associated with various epic characters and miracles of Lord Venkatesa. Venkatesa is a sanskritized name of Vengadattan in Tamil.   There are seventeen holy waters (teerthas) whose waters are believed to combine the temple tank, Swaami Pushkarani. Lord Varaaha resides on the tank bundm of Swaami Pushkarani. Puraanas say that he gave away his rightfuil place to Lord Viashnu when he descended on earth as Venkatesa. The temple now stands at a place where once Varaaha dominantly stood and later vacated. Tirupati is therefore celebrated also as Aadi Varaaha Kshetra. This reminds of Tiruvallikkeni in Chennai where Lord Narasimha welcomed Lord Krishna who was the charioteer of Partha (Arjuna) and was therefore called Paartha Saarathi. Narasimha vacated his place to the tired warrior returning after   the fierce battle and turned towards west. This explains why Narasimha faces west in  Chennai contrary to the convention that  the deity in Hindu temples always faces East or North.

A Rigveda hymn reads: “Araayi kaane vikate Girim gachcha sadaanve|sriyam bithasya satvabhih tebhishtvaa shaatyaamaci” (8--8--13)—When you have lost your eyes of wisdom and wealth, while suffering alone without any help, join the crowd of devotees, climb the hills, go to the seat of Sridevi (Lakshmi) and worship Lord Venkatesa who is in the company of his consort. Thus the practice of worship of Vishnu as The Lord of the Hills goes back to Rigvedic period. Later several Puranaas have glorified Vishnu as Lord Venkatesa by including a chapter of Venkatesa Mahaatmya—Glory of the Lord of Hills.
Venkatesa Mahaatmya has prompted all hapless and helpless to reach Tirumala Hills and pray to Him as He is the “Eradicator of All Sins” and “Bestower of Wealth” as the twin meaning of the word “Vem-kata” signifies.

Vedas say:”Ghashotkaaya Swaahaa”—Oblation unto the Supreme Principle (Parmaatman) who is deeply interested in the praise of his qualities; Swaahaa. Hence devotees throng this richest temple in India throughout the year singing and praising   His glory chanting His Many names. Vedas also say “Eko viprah bahudaa  vadanti”—The One the learned call by many names. Probably it is this that prompted Bheeshma to chant Vishnu Sahasranaama for the first time having been mesmerized by the Viswaroopa Darsana of Lord Krishna.  Later many Sahasranaamaavalis and Ashoettaras followed the trend. Brahmaanda Purana brought out Venkatesa Sahasranaama and Varaaha Puraana Venkatesa Ashtoettara. The significance of 1008 and 108 has already been explained.  Does the Supreme have only 1008 names?  He has countless. Here thousand means countless. That is why numbers do not match often. It shows our own limitations to address him! A later brought out Bhajan composition, Venkatesa Govinda Namaavali just reflects the theme of Venkatesa Sahasra Naamaavali (VESN). Venkatesa Suprabhatam begins with the Sloka; “Kausalyaa Suprajaa Raama-Poorvaa sandhyaa pravartate|Uttishta narasaarddoola Kartavyam daivam aahnikam”—Oh Raaama! Kausalya’s son, twilight is appearing in the East. O Lion among men! Wake up! The divine daily rituals are to be performed. This first sloka is from Balakaanda of Ramayana but addressed to Lord Venkatesa as Rama. Venkatesa is Vishnu himself and Raama is an incarnation of Vishnu.

VESN begins with a prayer to Brahman (the Supreme Principle). It then offers prayers to Vishnu in his descent as Lord Venkatesa residing on a hill recalling Puraanic incidences as revealed in several Puraanas. In its prayer it glorifies the unique features of this deity as the Over-lord of Unity, both as male and female. The iconic representation is fully glorified in the Naamaavali. It vividly glorifies the Seven Hills and the holy waters (Teeerthas) of these sacred hills and pays reverence. Prayers further include glorification of Dasavataars (Ten Incarnations of Vishnu) of Vishnu. Vishnu has descended to Mother Earth after Dwaapara Yuga to join his consort Lakshmi, who had left Vaikunta (Sreevaikuna viraktaaya) and started residing in modern Kohlapur after insulted by sage Bhrigu to take care of his devotees as Venkatesa.  It concludes with a prayer to Supreme Principle as bramaanda- antar-bahir-vyaaptaaya—one who pervades internally as well as externally the entire Universe standing on the Hill with his protective mace (Venkataadri gadaadharaaya). Tirumala is often described as Bhoo-Vaikunta. If there could be a Heaven on Earth, it could only be Tirumala where the Lord resides with his consort Lakshmi who occupies a pride place in his chest.
 It is interesting to observe that Vishnu Sahasranaama also ends with the sloka: “Sankhabrinnandakee chakree sarngadhanvaa gadaadharah”--means one who holds His divine club celebrated as Kaumodakee-which generates and spreads beauty and joy as the name indicates.  It should not be concluded as a destructive weapon.  It is used on rare occasions as destructive weapon to destroy the unsurmountable evil as read in the Puraanas to bring joy and peace to his beloved devotees.
“Venkataadri samam sthaanam Brahmaande naasti kinchana | Venkatesa samoe devoe na bhootoe na bhavishyah ||”—(There is no place equal to Venkataadri in the whole Universe. A Divine equal to Lord Venkatesa has never been nor will be!

"Sacchidaatmanyanusyoote nitye vishnau vikalpitaah; Vyaktayo vividhaahsarvaa haatake katakaadivat ||(Aatmabodha 9)--Just as different ornaments|can be made out of the same gold, so all the divine appearances can be seen in Vishnu, all pervading, who is eternal and who is the very form of Truth-Existance-Bliss (Sat-chit-Aananda).

References:

     1. TTD Publication, Venkatesa Sahasranaama, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam, India
2.  Swami Chinmayananda, Thousand Ways to the Transcendental, Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai, India 
     3. Nandita Krishna, Balaji—Venkateshwara, Vakils, Feffer and Simons, Pvt. Ltd. Mumbai.

4.  Swami Narayanananda Saraswati, Venkatesasahasranaama, Swargaasram, U.P. India.