Narayana (Sanskrit: नारायण, IAST: Nārāyaṇa) is one of the forms and names of Lord Vishnu, who is in yogic slumber under the celestial waters, referring to the masculine principle. He is also known as Purushottama and is considered the Supreme being in Vaishnavism.[1][2][3][4]

A depiction of Narayana at the Badami Cave Temples in Karnataka

As per texts like the Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Garuda Purana and the Padma Purana, Narayana is Vishnu himself who incarnates in various avatars.

According to the Bhagavad Gita, he is also the "Guru of the Universe". The Bhagavata Purana declares Narayana as the Supreme Personality of Godhead who engages in the creation of 14 worlds within the universe Brahma who is Deity of rajas-guna, himself sustains, maintains and preserves the universe as Vishnu by accepting sattva-guna. Narayana himself annihilates the universe at the end of Maha-Kalpa as Kalagni Rudra who is presiding deity of tamas-guna.

According to the Bhagavata Purana, Purusha Sukta, Narayana Sukta, and Narayana Upanishad from the Vedas, he is the ultimate soul.

According to Madhvacharya, Narayana is one of the five Vyuhas of Vishnu, which are cosmic emanations of God in contrast to his incarnate avatars. Bryant, Edwin F., Krishna: a Sourcebook. p. 359 "Madhvacharya separates Vishnu's manifestations into two groups: Vishnu's vyuhas (emanations) and His avataras (incarnations). The Vyuhas have their basis in the Pancharatras, a sectarian text that was accepted as authoritative by both the Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita schools of Vedanta. They are mechanisms by which the universe is ordered, was created, and evolves. According to Madhvacharya, Vishnu has five vyuhas, named Narayana, Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha, which evolve one after the other in the development of the universe.

Nomenclature and etymologyEdit

Sacred Vedic Scriptures Though later Naarayana as a god got attached with Vishnu, in the Vedic literature, it is affiliated to The Sun god, Surya deva, Surya- deva is Naarayana, and Naraayana is Surya Deva. Nara - refers to pin on of his Chariot. This very pin ' Nara ' initiates the movement, the beginning of the day. Nara also means a Soul in Sancrith, and it was told that, Surya is manifested soul of the over-lord.This Nara, comes on to earth, this travel from far away space into the skies, is termed as ' aayana '. He, the Surya is evident as absolute truth, as he makes this everyday journey from far. Also Nara-yanthra - means Sun's dial. In another interpretation, Nara - is Waters, this refers to celestial waters, or the Ocean beyond Heavens.Since Surya comes out of this water, to make a onward journey, this very process of coming out of his dwelling and doing his rta - dharma, is termed as ' Naarayana '.


Lord Vishnu is mainly affiliated to Narayana

In the Vedas and Puranas, Narayana is described as having the divine blackish-blue color of water-filled clouds, four-armed, holding a Padma (lotus), Kaumodaki (mace), Panchajanya Shankha (conch) and the Sudarshana Chakra (discus).


As stated in the epic Itihāsa, the Mahabharata:

I am Narayana, the Source of all things, the Eternal, the Unchangeable. I am the Creator of all things, and the Destroyer also of all. I am Vishnu, I am Brahma and I am Shankara, the chief of the gods. I am king Vaisravana, and I am Yama, the lord of the deceased spirits. I am Siva, I am Soma, and I am Kasyapa the lord of the created things. And, O best of regenerate ones, I am he called Dhatri, and he also that is called Vidhatri, and I am Sacrifice embodied. Fire is my mouth, the earth my feet, and the Sun and the Moon are my eyes; the Heaven is the crown of my head, the firmament and the cardinal points are my ears; the waters are born of my sweat. Space with the cardinal points are my body, and the Air is my mind...

...And, O Brahmana, whatever is obtained by men by the practice of truth, charity, ascetic austerities, and peace and harmlessness towards all creatures, and such other handsome deeds, is obtained because of my arrangements. Governed by my ordinance, men wander within my body, their senses overwhelmed by me. They move not according to their will but as they are moved by me.

— Mahabharata (translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli, 1883-1896), Book 3, Varna Parva, Chapter CLXXXVIII (188)[5]

In the Mahabharata, Krishna is also synonymous with Narayana and Arjuna is referred to as Nara.[6] The epic identifies them both in plural 'Krishnas', or as part incarnations of the earlier incarnations of Vishnu, recalling their mystical identity as Nara-Narayana.[7]

Narayana is also described in the Bhagavad Gita as having a universal form (Vishvarupa) which is beyond the ordinary limits of human perception or imagination.[8]

Narayana's eternal and supreme abode beyond the material universe is Vaikuntha which is a realm of bliss and happiness called Paramapadha, which means final or highest place for liberated souls, where they enjoy bliss and happiness for eternity in the company of the supreme lord. Vaikuntha is situated beyond the material universe and hence, cannot be perceived or measured by material science or logic.[9] Sometimes, Ksheera Sagara where Narayana or Vishnu rests on Ananta Shesha is also perceived as Vaikuntha within the material universe.

The Śruti texts mention Narayana as the primordial being , who was present even when Brahma and Ishana (Shiva) were not present. Thus, He is the Supreme Soul. [10]


The Mahāsamaya Sutta (DN 20) of the Pali Canon mentions a deity by the name Veṇhu (Sanskrit: Viṣṇu), though the text suggests that this name may also signify a class of deva. He also appears in the Veṇḍu Sutta (SN 2.12) as Veṇḍu where he addresses Gautama Buddha by celebrating the joy experienced by those who follow the Dhamma. He also makes brief mention of Manu.[11]

Mahayana Buddhism elaborates on the character of this deity, where is often called Nārāyaṇa (Chinese: 那羅延天; Tibetan: མཐུ་བོ་ཆེ།) or more rarely, Narasiṃha (納拉辛哈) and Vāsudeva (婆藪天). Literature often depicts him as a Vajradhara (金剛力士). He is present in the Womb Realm Mandala and is among the twelve guardian devas of the Diamond Realm Mandala. He is associated with Śrāvaṇa in esoteric astrology.[12] His queen consort is Nārāyaṇī.[13] He is said to have been born from Avalokiteśvara's heart.[14] The Buddhas are sometimes described as having a firm body like Nārāyaṇa.

The Yogācārabhūmi Śāstra describes him as having three faces with a greenish-yellow complexion. He holds a wheel in his right hand and rides upon a garuḍa. Chapter 6 of the Yiqiejing Yinyi explains that he belongs to the Kāmadhātu and is veneration for the acquisition of power. Chapter 41 adds that he has eight arms that wield various "Dharma weapons" (dharmayuda) with which he subjugates the asuras.

He appears as an interlocutor in several Mahayana sutras, including the Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra, Sarvapuṇyasamuccayasamādhi Sūtra and the Nārāyaṇaparipṛcchā Dhāraṇī.

He is also mentioned in several places in the Lalitavistara Sūtra, one of the Sutras that describe the life of Gautama Buddha. It is said that The Buddha "is endowed with the great strength of Nārāyaṇa, he is called the great Nārāyaṇa himself."


Balabhadra and Narayana are mighty half brothers, who appear nine times in each half of the time cycles of the Jain cosmology and jointly rule half the earth as half-chakravarti. Ultimately Prati-naryana is killed by Narayana for his unrighteousness and immorality. Narayana are extremely powerful and are as powerful as 2 Balabhadras. Chakravartins are as powerful as 2 Narayanas. Hence Narayanas become half-chakravartins. Tirthankaras are much more powerful than Chakravartins. In Jain Mahabharta, there is a friendly duel between cousin brothers Neminatha (Tirthankara) and Krishna (Naryana) in which Neminath defeats Krishna without any effort at all. There is also a story of Neminath lifting Conch of Krishna and blowing it without any effort. In Jain Mahabharat, the main fight between Krishna and Jarasandha is described, who is killed by Krishna.

Ancient TextsEdit

Narayana is hailed in certain parts of Vedas like, Narayana Suktam and Vishnu Suktam. Lord Narayana is also hailed in selective Vaishnava Upanishads like, Narayana Upanishad, Maha Narayana Upanishad and Narasimha Tapani Upanishad.[15]

See alsoEdit

Vyūhas Image Attributes Symbol[19][20] Direction Face Concept
Vāsudeva   Chakra Wheel
Gadā Mace
Shanka Conch
Garuda Eagle   East Saumya
(Placid/ benevolent)
  Bala Strength
Samkarsana   Lāṅgala Plough
Musala Pestle
Wine glass
Tala Fan palm   South Simha Lion   Jṅāna Knowledge
Pradyumna   Cāpa Bow
Bāṇa Arrow
Makara Crocodile   West Raudra Kapila   Aiśvaryā Sovereignty
Aniruddha   Carma Shield
Khaḍga Sword
Ṛṣya (ऋष्य) White-footed antelope North Varaha Boar   Śakti Power


  1. ^ John Clifford Holt (2008). The Buddhist Viṣṇu: Religious Transformation, Politics, and Culture. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. p. 268. ISBN 9788120832695.
  2. ^ Jon Paul Sydnor (29 March 2012). Ramanuja and Schleiermacher: Toward a Constructive Comparative Theology. ISD LLC. p. 110. ISBN 9780227900352.
  3. ^ C. Mackenzie Brown (29 August 1990). The Triumph of the Goddess: The Canonical Models and Theological Visions of the Devi-Bhagavata Purana. SUNY Press. p. 28. ISBN 9780791403648.
  4. ^ Peter Clarke; Friedhelm Hardy; Leslie Houlden; Stewart Sutherland (14 January 2004). The World's Religions. Routledge. p. 748. ISBN 9781136851858.
  5. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 3: Vana Parva: Markandeya-Samasya Parva: Section CLXXXVIII". Retrieved 5 December 2019.
  6. ^ Vaisnavism Saivism and Minor Religious Systems, Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar. Published by Asian Educational Services, p.46.
  7. ^ Hiltebeitel, Alf (1990). The ritual of battle: Krishna in the Mahābhārata. Albany, N.Y: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-0249-5. p61
  8. ^ Prabhupada, AC Bhaktivedanta. "Bhagavad-gita As It Is Chapter 11 Verse 3". Archived from the original on 15 May 2008. Retrieved 10 May 2008. "see the cosmic manifestation"
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 May 2007. Retrieved 21 May 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Upanishads".
  11. ^ "SN 2.12: With Vishnu —Bhikkhu Sujato". SuttaCentral. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  12. ^ "那羅延". Digital Dictionary of Buddhism. 2009. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  13. ^ Giebel, Rolf W. (translator) (2005). The Vairocanābhisaṃbodhi Sūtra (PDF). BDK America, Inc. {{cite book}}: |first1= has generic name (help)
  14. ^ Roberts, Peter Alan; Tulku Yeshi (2013). "The Basket's Display". 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  15. ^ "Narayanastra – Defending Vaishnavism as the supreme Vedic position". Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  16. ^ Atherton, Cynthia Packert (1997). The Sculpture of Early Medieval Rajasthan. BRILL. p. 78. ISBN 978-90-04-10789-2.
  17. ^ A Comprehensive History of India: pt. 1-2. A.D. 300-985. Orient Longmans. 1982. p. 866.
  18. ^ Parlier-Renault, Edith (2007). Temples de l'Inde méridionale: VIe-VIIIe siècles. La mise en scène des mythes. Presses Paris Sorbonne. pp. 38–42. ISBN 978-2-84050-464-1.
  19. ^ "A shrine of Aniruddha, the fourth of the 'vyuhas', which had within its precincts a 'rsyadhvaja', i. e. a column bearing on its top the figure of a 'rsya' or a white antelope which was his characteristic 'lanchana'." in Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art. Indian Society of Oriental Art. 1937. p. 16.
  20. ^ Gupta, Vinay K. "Vrishnis in Ancient Literature and Art". Indology's Pulse Arts in Context, Doris Meth Srinivasan Festschrift Volume, Eds. Corinna Wessels Mevissen and Gerd Mevissen with Assistance of Vinay Kumar Gupta: 80–81.

External linksEdit