When we perform any Vedic ritual we begin with an undertaking pledge (sankalpa) saying GOVINDA, GOVINDA, GOVINDA. In any discourse, be it on SRIMAD RAMAYANA, SRIMAD BHAGAVATA and VISHNU PURANAM, we hear the speaker saying “Govinda Nama Sankeertanam” and the entire assembly of devotees repeating “GOVINDA! GOVINDA! “Why should we read the RAMAYANA and wind up chanting GOVINDA-NAMA and not RAMA-NAMA? why should a narration of PRAHLADA CHARITRA finish with GOVINDA-NAMA instead of NRISIMHA-NAMA? This practice of chanting GOVINDA-NAMA must have been initiated by an expert SANSKRIT scholar and has come down since ancient times for there is an interesting and scholarly treatise on the substance of GOVINDA-NAMA.
The word Govinda affords several interpretations
The Incarnation as the Fish (Matsyaavatara) Once BRAHMA became conceited, arrogant and momentarily forgot SRIMAN NARAYANthAe, primordial creator. He thought, “I am the lord of creation. DEVENDRtAh,e king of the celestials, worships me. 1 recite the four VEDA-S through my four mouths. I am incomparable”. BRAHMA thus remained immersed in a State of self-admiration. A demon (asura) called SHANKHA was watching him, waiting for the moment when he could deceive him. BRAHMA, in a lax moment, yawned and the asura with his magical powers snatched the four VEDA-s and took shelter inside the depths of the ocean. BRAHMA lost the eternal fountain of knowledge, his divine aura and powers. He lamented over the loss, unable to continue with the task of creation and sought refuge at the feet of SRIMAN NARAYANA. The Lord assumed the form of a giant fish to destroy SHANKHA and to restore the VEDA-s to BRAHMA. Here the term GOVINDA refers to the Lord’s MATSYAAVATARA. It is derived thus: Gaavah Brahmaanam Vindayati Iti Govindah. Gaavah refers to the VEDA-s that are recited sonorously and are in the form of sound(sabda). Vindayati means to restore.
The Incarnation as the Tortoise (Kurma Avatara)
The gods (deva-s) and demons (asura-s)attempted to churn the Milky Ocean to obtain divine ambrosia (amrita). They bound the MANDARA mountain with the serpent VASUKI to churn the ocean but the mount went on slipping. The Lord assumed the form of a huge Tortoise, supported the mount on His back and helped the deva-s and asura-s to complete their task. Here the KURMAAVATARA is called GOVINDA,
which is derived as Gobhyah Vindati. Gobhyah means from waters. Vindati means to retrieve or protect. (Since the Lord helped to retrieve the nectar from the ocean, He is GOVINDA).
The Incarnation as the Boar (Varaha Avatara)
Once a demon called HIRANYAKSHA secured boons from BRAHMA with his penance and terrorised the three worlds with his might. HIRANYAKSHA captured the earth and hid it inside the ocean. The Lord assumed the form of a huge white boar, killed HIRANYAKSHA and lifted Mother Earth on His tusks and restored her to the original position and glory. Gaam Vindateeti Govindah. Here the term gaam refers to the earth; vindati means to recover and rescue.
The Incarnation as the Man-Lion (Nrisimha Avatara)
The Lord responded to PRAHLADA’S assertion that NARAYANA is omnipresent – present everywhere. He emerged out of a pillar as NRISIMHA and tore up HIRANYAKASHIPU with His nails. The anger of the Lord erupted as flames all over His divine form and engulfed all the asura-s who came to HIRANYAKASHIPU’S aid. Here GOVINDA is JVALANRISIMHA whose anger consumed all the evil forces. Goshu Vindayateeti GOVINDAH is the interpretation; gosh means in flames; vindayati means engulfs. Thus scholars ingeniously interpret the word GOVINDA to mean the remaining incarnations of VAMAN, PARASURAMA, RAMA, BALARAMA, KRISHNA and KALKI also.
Sri Nrisimha Priya