Sahasranāmastotras

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Sahasranamastotras, SahasranAmastotras, Sahasranaamastotras


Sahasranāmastotras literally means ‘hymns containing one thousand names’.

The chanting of the nāma or the divine name has an important place in the disciplines prescribed by the Bhakti schools of Vedānta like those of Rāmānuja,[1] Madhva[2] and Caitanya.[3] In fact, this tradition goes so far as to declare that the nāma[4] and the nāmin[5] are identical.

Types of Repetition of Names of God

This adoration of God by the divine name assumes two forms:

  1. Japa - In japa, the name of God or even a long formula has to be silently repeated.
  2. Stotra - The stotra is invariably uttered aloud. It may consist in chanting verses conveying the glory and attributes of God. The sahasranāmastotras belong to this group and are extremely popular.

Meaning of Sahasranāma

The word sahasranāma literally means ‘thousand names of God’. According to the Vedic tradition, there is only one manifesting sound[6] indicative of the Supreme Being.[7] This is called Praṇava or Om.

Just as the one Parabrahman is adored as manifesting in the form of many deities, the one name Om, indicative of Him, also takes the shape of innumerable sound forms representing divine attributes and other excellence. A sahasranāma is the most extensive elaboration of the divine name. Its recitation along with pujā or ritualistic worship, is said to be an easier method to control the mind than japa and meditation.

Composition of Sahasranāmastrotra

Though a sahasranāmastotra comprises only the names of the deity, these names have been so ingeniously composed as to reflect many aspects of the divine.

Modes of Chanting Sahasranāmastotra

Generally, a sahasranāmastotra has to be chanted ceremoniously, preceded by certain preliminaries. They are:

  1. Reciting the name of the ṛṣi or the sage to whom it was first revealed
  2. The chandas or the meter in which it is composed
  3. The devatā or the deity adored through this stotra
  4. The viniyoga or the purpose for which it is chanted

This should be followed by karanyāsa and aṅganyāsa[8] Then the dhyānaśloka describes the form of the deity to be chanted. At the end, it is the normal practice to recite the phalaśruti or eulogy of the hymn also. If one likes, these thousand names can be used in ritualistic worship also offering flowers or tulasī leaves[9] or bilva leaves[10] or even kuṅkum[11] with each name.

Fruits of Chanting Sahasranāmastotra

Religious tradition often considers that some of the names of the sahasranāmastotras are potent with special powers and their repetition can result in the fulfillment of one’s desires. A very large number of sahasranāmastotras are now available in print. They occur mostly in the purāṇas and are addressed to several deities of the religious pantheon.

List of Sahasranāmastotra

The following is a list of the sahasranāmas thus available, arranged in the English alphabetical order:

  1. Āñjaneya
  2. Bālā
  3. Bhavānī
  4. Dakārādi-śrīdurgā
  5. Durgā
  6. Gaṇapati
  7. Gāyatrī
  8. Hayagrīva
  9. Kakārādi-kṛṣṇa
  10. Kāli
  11. Kālikā
  12. Lakṣmī
  13. Lakṣmīnṛsimha
  14. Lalitārahasya
  15. Lalitā
  16. Makārādi-śrīrāma
  17. Mīnākṣī
  18. Pārvatī
  19. Rādhikā
  20. Rakārādi-śrīrāma
  21. Rāma
  22. Santānagopāla
  23. Sarasvatī
  24. Sītā
  25. Śiva
  26. Soḍaśī-rāj arājeśvari Surya
  27. Suryopāṣaṇa
  28. Syāmalā
  29. Veṅkaṭeśa
  30. Viṣṇu

Epilogue

Though thus thirty-three sahasranāmastotras have been printed so far, only three of Viṣṇu, Śiva and Lalitā are extremely popular and constantly in use.


References

  1. He lived in A. D. 1017- 1137.
  2. He lived in A. D. 1238-1317.
  3. Caitanya lived in A. D. 1485-1533.
  4. Nāma means the name.
  5. Nāmin means the one who is named, i.e., God.
  6. Here sound indicates śabda.
  7. Supreme Being is called as Parabrahman.
  8. Aṅganyāsa is the ceremonial purification of the hands and the upper limbs.
  9. Tulasī leaves are also called as holy basil.
  10. Bilva leavves are also called as Aegle marmelos.
  11. Kuṅkum means vermilion powder.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore