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By Swami Harshananda

Nārāyana Upanisad

This is a short Upaniṣad classed among the Minor Upanisads of the Krsna Yajurveda. It has four khanḍas or sections, all in prose.

The first describes how Nārāyaṇa, the Puruṣa (Paramapuruṣa, the Supreme Person) desired to create the world of beings. From him evolved the following objects and beings: prāṇa (the vital force); manas (mind); indriyas (the ten sense-organs); the pañcabhutas (five elements); the gods Brahmā, Rudra and Indra; the nine Prajāpatis (like Dakṣa); the twelve Ādityas, the eleven Rudras and the eight Vasus; and, lastly, all the Vedas. All these get manifested out of Nārāyaṇa, are activated by him during the life of the created world, and then, get merged back in him at the end of the cycle.

The second khaṇḍa describes how Nārāyaṇa is eternal and how Brahmā, Śiva, Indra, time in its three aspects, the quarters, and all the directions are all different facets of Nārāyaṇa. Nārāyaṇa who is without parts, without any imperfections or changes or names, is absolutely pure and the one without a second. One who knows him thus, becomes Viṣṇu Himself.

The third khaṇḍa describes the well-known aṣtākṣarīmantra, the mantra of eight letters of Nārāyaṇa—orh namo nārāyanāya. One who repeats this great mantra regularly as per the directions of the guru (spiritual teacher), will transcend all dishonour and will live long. He will also get wealth, cows and other objects of desire while living here and go to Brahmaloka (the world of Brahmā) after death. Later on, he will attain final liberation.

The last khaṇḍa describes Nārāyaṇa as Brahman, the Purusa (the all-pervading Being) who is of the nature of Praṇava (Orh) comprising the three syllables a, u

and m. The yogi who utters this Praṇava or the aṣṭākṣarīmantra will be liberated from the bondage of samsāra (transmigration) and attain the world called Vaikuṇṭha (the Abode of Viṣṇu).

This Nārāyaṇa who is pure solidified consciousness resides in the lotus of the heart. He is identified with Devakīputra-Kṛṣṇa, who is dear to the knowers of Brahman or to whom the latter are dear. He is also the dweller in the hearts of all beings, the un-caused Cause of the universe.

The Upaniṣad concludes with the eulogy that its study will destroy all sins, will bestow the merit of reciting all the Vedas, ultimately resulting in merging into Nārāyaṇa Himself.

Nārāyanī (‘the spouse or power of Nārāyaṇa’)

As the very name suggests, she is the śakti or female counterpart of Nārāyaṇa

and hence Lakṣml herself. Iconographi-cally she is shown just like Nārāyaṇa or


Nārāyaṇī is a well-known name of

Durgā too. The Devīmāhātmya contains a long hymn (17.1-35) on Nārāyaṇī and is known as the Nārāyanistuti. See DURGĀ for details.

Nārāyaṇī (or Nālāyanī) was also the name of the sage Mudgala’s wife, her other name being Indrasenā. It was she who was reborn as Draupadī in her next birth (vide Mahābhārata, Ādiparva, ch. 212).


  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore