Vishnu (Sanskrit विष्णु Viṣṇu) is the Supreme God in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God.
The Vishnu Sahasranama declares Vishnu as Paramatma (supreme soul) and Parameshwara (supreme God). It describes Vishnu as the All-Pervading essence of all beings, the master of—and beyond—the past, present and future, the creator and destroyer of all existences, one who supports, sustains and governs the Universe and originates and develops all elements within.
In the Puranas, Vishnu is described as having the divine colour of water filled clouds, four-armed, holding a lotus, mace, conch (shankha) and chakra (wheel). Vishnu is also described in the Bhagavad Gita as having a 'Universal Form' (Vishvarupa) which is beyond the ordinary limits of human perception.
The Purana also describe each of the Dasavatara of Vishnu. Among these ten principal avatara described, nine have occurred in the past and one will take place in the future, at the end of Kali Yuga. In the commentary of creator Brahma in Vishnu Sahasranamam, he refers to Vishnu as "Sahasrakoti Yuga Dharine", which means that these incarnations take place in all Yugas in cosmic scales. The Bhagavad Gita mentions their purpose as being to rejuvenate Dharma and vanquish negative forces as also to display His divine pastimes in front of the conditioned/fallen souls. In almost all Hindu denominations, Vishnu is either worshiped directly or in the form of his ten avatara, such as Rama and Krishna.
The Trimurti (English: ‘three forms’; Sanskrit: trimūrti) is a concept in Hinduism "in which the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction are personified by the forms of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the maintainer or preserver, and Shiva the destroyer or transformer." These three deities have been called "the Hindu triad" or the "Great Trinity". Of the three members of the Trimurti, the Bhagavata Purana, which espouses the Vaishnavite viewpoint, explains that the greatest benefit can be had from Vishnu.
Thousand names of Vishnu
Vishnu has a large number of names and followers that are collected in the Vishnu sahasranama ("Vishnu's thousand names") from within the larger work Mahabharata. The character Bhishma recites the names before Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, praising him (Vishnu) as the supreme god. These Sahasranama are regarded as the essence of all Vedas by followers of Vaishnavism, who believe sincere chanting of Vishnu Sahasranama results in spiritual well-being and a greater awareness of God.
The names are generally derived from the anantakalyanagunas (meaning: infinite auspicious attributes). Some names are:
- Achintya (Incomprehensible, beyond understanding)
- Acyutah (infallible)
- Ananta (endless, eternal, infinite)
- Balaji (another name of Vishnu)
- Damodara (having a rope (dama) around his belly (udara): a name of Krishna)
- Govinda (protector of the cows & brahmins; master of the senses: a name of Krishna)
- Hari (one who takes away)
- Hayagriva (Horse-necked)
- Jagannatha (Owner/Ruler of the world/universe)
- Janardana (One who is worshiped by people for Wealth)
- Keshava (slayer of Keshi, having long or much or handsome hair, from Atharvaveda viii , 6 , 23)
- Krishna (born during the third epoch or yuga, his deeds range from cow protection (go rakshya) to absolving the earth of load of sins)
- Madhava (relating to the season of spring)
- Madhusudana (he who destroyed the demon called Madhu)
- Narayana (said to mean "he who is the abode of nār (= ether)", i.e., the whole universe's shelter. Also means "The supreme Man who is the foundation of all men". Another meaning is "He who lays in the water".
- Padmanabha (lotus-naveled one, from whose navel sprang the lotus which contained Brahma, who created the universe)
- Perumal Name he is known in Tamil
- Purushottama - The Supreme Eternal Being
- Ram (born during the second epoch or Yuga, his deeds primarily established the ideal living principles for a man)
- Hrishikesh (Lord of the senses or Lord within the heart; "hri" root meaning the heart)
- Satyanarayana (a combination of satya and Narayana meaning 'protector of truth')
- Shikhandee: He who wears a peacock feather.
- Souryarayan (the one who destroys the evil/sins and who comforts us) described in Vishnu kautuvam.
- Sridhara (consort of Sri = Laxmi or Ultimate wealth)
- Siddhartha (one who attains perfection, birth name of Buddha avatar in the last epoch of Kali Yuga)
- Sriman (the pride of Shri or Lakshmi); Often Sriman is combined with the name, Narayana , to form a compound word, Sriman Narayana.
- Srinivasa (the abode of Shri) (also specifically referring to his form in the temple at Tirupati). Also the form of Vishnu at Tirupati is well-known as Venkateswara.
- Trivikrama (Conqueror of the three worlds, as in Vamana avatara).
- Vishal (Immense, The Unstoppable One).
- Vamana (dwarfish, small or short in stature, a dwarf brahmana)
- Vāsudeva ( "All-Pervading god", with the long vowel A; it also means "the son of Vasudeva", i.e. Krishna)
- Shreesh (Husband of Goddess Lakshmi).
- Guruvayurappan Lord of Guruvayur (Temple made by Guru (Brihaspati) & Vayu deva)
- Jagannath is the south eastern name of Vishnu. The word juggernaut has its origin from this name of Vishnu (The Jagannatha temple is in Puri, Orissa where every year there is a festival in which huge chariots are drawn through the city. These chariots are the vahana (vehicle) for the 3 main gods of this temple - Jagannatha, Balarama (Jagannath's brother) and Subhadra (Jagannatha's sister). Hundreds of men are needed to pull each of these chariots. When they start moving, they keep moving and are difficult to stop. That is the idea behind the word juggernaut which means something huge that cannot be stopped.)
- Sohama means the most intelligent, it is strongest form of Vishnu with a thousand brains and hands
Relations with other deities
Vishnu's consort is Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Maya is the samvit (the primary intelligence) of Vishnu, while the other five attributes emerge from this samvit and hence Maya is his ahamata, activity, or Vishnu's Power. This power of God, Maya or Shakti, is personified and is called Shri or Lakshmi, Maya, Vishnumaya, or Mahamaya, and She is said to manifest Herself in, 1) kriyāshakti, (Creative Activity) and 2) bhütishakti (Creation) of Universe. Hence this world cannot part with his creativity i.e., ahamta, which is a feminine form which in its feminine form is called Shri or Lakshmi or Maya.
He therefore needs consort Goddess Lakshmi to be with Him always, untouched by any. Thus goddess Lakshmi has to accompany Vishnu in all His incarnations.
Vishnu is also associated with Bhudevi or Prithvi, the earth goddess; Tulsi; Ganga, goddess of river Ganges and also Saraswati, goddess of learning. In the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, verses 2.6.13-95 it is described that Vishnu has three wives, who constantly quarrel with each other, so that eventually, he keeps only Lakshmi, giving Ganga to Shiva and Saraswati to Brahma.
Vishnu's vehicle is Garuda, the eagle, and he is commonly depicted as riding on his shoulders. Another name of him is "Veda-Atma" or The Soul of the Vedas and Vedic truth.
As Guru Kshethram, the guru of the devas, he is the arch-enemy of Shukra, the guru of the Asuras.