Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore
All of us who perform Sandhyavandanam utter this holy name daily. And those who perform Aachamanam on the numerous occasions it is required to be done daily, (other than during Sandhyavandanam), invariably have to pay obeisance to this Emperuman. There are fourteen names of the Lord, which figure in every Achamanam (excluding the Govinda naama, which is repeated). Of these, the least popular appears to be ‘Hrisheekesa:’. And how do you measure the popularity of Bhagavan naamas? From the names people give their children, of course! We are not talking here about Rishis, Azhwars or other Bhaktas, who have delighted in uttering all the names of the Lord, but of ordinary people like you and I, to whom certain of the Lord’s holy names appeals much more than others. We thus have amongst us any number of Achyuthans, Anantans and Kesavans. Children named after Govindan, Narayanan, Madhavan, Sridharan, Vishnu and Padmanabhan are literally countless, while Damodarans are also not scarce. People named after Trivikraman and Vaamanan appear to be slightly less in number, though the variants of these names (like Vikram) abound.
It is the name Hrisheekesan which doesn’t appear to have caught the fancy of many people, though of late it appears to be gaining in numbers. Still, in the name game, Hrisheekesan is definitely far behind the other naamas of the Lord. Tell me, can you think of one single person who is of any consequence in the Vaishnava Sampradaayam today, named Hrisheekesan? I personally have not come across any Hrisheekesa Iyengar or Hrisheekesaacharya. Neither in the Guru Parampara, nor in the list of Azhwars, nor even among the latter-day scholars of the Sampradaayam do you find people named after Hrisheekesan. Even non-Vaishnavites appear not very enamoured of the name and but for a Hrisheekesh Mukherjee, you are unable to recollect any popular figure with the name. Why should this be so? is the name any the less holy or less significant in purport or less effective in rewarding its votaries? Leaving aside commoners like us, we find that even Azhwars, who are thrilled to utter the names of the Lord, have resorted to Hrisheekesan only sparingly, preferring His other names. All this made me do some research and I came up with quite a few surprising results.
What exactly does the name Hrisheekesa: mean?
We find a definition of this tirunaamam in Harivamsam. Rudra, while showering praise on Sri Krishna, offers us an explanation of this holy name’
‘Hrisheekaani indriyaani aahu: teshaam Eeso yato bhavaan
Hrisheekesa: tato Vishnu: khyaato deveshu Kesava:’
Hrisheekam denotes senses’, senses which have a propensity to lead us astray and make us indulge in all sorts of excesses. It is these senses which lead to our downfall. However, even these errant senses find themselves completely cowed down by the Lord, who is therefore called the Lord of the Hrisheekaas — Hrisheekaanaam eesa: or Hrisheekesa:
Hrisheekesa is thus the Master of the Senses. This is no mean feat, for our senses always get the better of us, even if we do have a strong will and resist being pulled down by them. Says a Sanskrit adage, ‘Balavaan Indriya graama: Vidvaamsam api karshati’. The senses are indeed extremely powerful: even if one knows well their destructive power and is always on guard against them, it is ultimately they which win hands down and make the individual succumb to his senses. It is these all-powerful senses which face abject defeat at the hands of the Lord, who keeps them in tight check and control, thereby earning the sobriquet, Hrisheekesa:. Keeping the aforesaid Harivamsa sloka in mind, Sri Sankaracharya says in his Vishnu Sahasranaama Bhaashyam”Hrisheekaani Indriyaani, teshaam Eesa: Khetragya roopa bhaak’. The Supreme Soul in whose control all senses subsist is known as Hrisheekesa:–‘Indriyaani yasya vase varttante, sa Paramaatma Hrisheekesa:’.
We thus find that the Lord is in control of not only His own senses, but also of all beings in His vast creation, ranging from the exalted four-headed Brahmaa charged with the function of creation, to the lowliest worm languishing in the gutters,‘Tat karanaanaam api niyaamakatvaat Hrisheekesa:’. He is the controller and director of all sense organs, internal and external, of all beings, in every way. This is how Sri Ramanuja views the Hrisheekesa naama’s purport ‘Paraavara nikhila jana antara baahya karanaanaam sarva prakaara niyamane avastthitham’(Gita Bhaashyam). However, the Lord is entirely beyond the sense organs of mortals, including those of lofty deities.
Are there any other purports of this holy name? Yes indeed, and the following are a few:
Sri Paraasara Bhattar offers another beautiful explanation of this tirunaamam
‘Harshaat soukhyaat sukha aiswaryaat Hrisheekesatvam asnute’
The Lord is the embodiment of bliss and happiness and rules over His boundless domain effortlessly. His overlordship is absolutely without the strains normally associated with administering vast territories and peoples. Thus, due to Harsham (happiness), Sukha Aiswayram (effortless rulership), He is known as Hrisheekesa:.
The Lord Himself explains to Arjuna why He is called Hrisheekesa:. The rays of the Sun and the Moon, known as ‘Kesa’, gladden the hearts of people by waking them up to a new day and lulling them to sleep after a hard day’s toil, respectively. It is due to this generation of Harsha or happiness in His subjects through the ‘Kesa’ or rays of the Sun and the Moon, that the Lord is acclaimed as Hrisheekesa:. Here is the relative sloka from the Santi Parva of Mahabharatam’
‘Sooryaa Chandramasou sasvat amsubhi: kesa sanjitai:
bodhayan svaapayanschaiva jagat uttishttate prithak
bodhanaat svaapanaat chaiva jagata: harshanam bhavet
Agneeshoma kritai: ebhi: karmabhi: Paandu Nandana!
Hrisheekesoham eesaana: Varado loka bhaavana:’
Sri Sankaracharya quotes the Taittireeya Samhita in support of this explanation ‘Soorya rasmi: Harikesa: purastaat’.
Swami Desikan, expanding on the ideas of Sri Ramanuja, refers to the Ahirbudhnya Samhita, quoting copiously to drive home alternate purports. Emperuman, while being the Supreme Overlord, delights from the sport of Creation. This delight or Harsham gives Him the name Hrisheeksesa:, apart from establishing His supremacy’
‘Kreedayaa hrishyati vyaktam Eesa: san srishti roopayaa
Hrisheekesatvam Eesasya devatvam cha asya tat sphutam’.
The Ahirbudhnya Samhita says further that Hrisheekesa is one who has the quality of Veeryam (the attribute of being unchanged and unaltered, despite being the sole material cause of Creation)’
‘Avikaaritayaa jushta: Hrisheeka: veerya roopayaa
Eesa: svaatantrya yogena nityam srishtyaadi karmani
Isvarya Veerya roopatvam Hrisheekesatvam uchyate’
Thus the overlordship of all worlds (Isvaryam) and immutability (Veeryam) give the Lord the name Hrisheekesa:
We have another beautiful comment on the origin and meaning of Hrisheekesa:–this is from Sri Madhwaacharya, who splits the word into four parts’Harsha, ee, ka and eesa:. Ee refers to Sri Mahalakshmi, Ka to the four-headed Brahmaa and Eesa to Rudra. Harsham means happiness. Thus, Hrisheekesa refers to one who confers bliss on Sri, Brahmaa and Rudra. One is reminded here of the Tiruvaimozi paasuram ‘Eraalum Irayonum Disai mukhanum Tirumagalum kooraalum tani udamban’. The Lord has allotted space on His divine body to His beloved Consort (on His broad chest), to Brahma (on the lotus rising from His navel) and to Rudra, thereby affording them boundless bliss. Could Sri Madhwacharya be referring to this paasuram while commenting on the tirunaamam’
Having seen the purport of this divine name, shall we go on to the characteristics of this Hrisheekesa?
According to Agamas, each individual form of the Lord is endowed with distinct traits, colour, weapons, etc. We learn from Swami Desikan that Hrisheekesa has the complexion of lightning. He sports four beautiful hands and in each of them is held a Hammer/Mallet or Mudgaram. When we wear tiruman and sree choornam at the twelve appointed places, the place belonging to Hrisheekesan is the left neck.
Here is the relative slokam from Panniru Naamam’
‘En Ideekesan irai keezh idakkazhutthu endru ivattril
nannilai minnuruvaai naalu murkaram kondu alikkum’
While this is the popularly accepted form of Hrisheekesa, in agreement with the description in the Panchaayudha Stotram, another version has Him holding the Chakra, Padma, Shankha and Gada and naming His Consort as Mangala or Harsha (a form of Mahalakshmi).
The twelve Emperumans represented by the Dvaadaasa Naamas are said to emanate from the four Vyooha Moorties’Vasudeva, Pradyumna, Aniruddha and Sankarshana. Of these, our Hrisheekesa is said to emanate from Aniruddha. According to the Gayatri Saara Sangraha, each of the twenty-four letters in the Gayatri Mantram represents one of the twenty-four moorties of the Lord. As such, Hrisheekesa is represented by the letter ‘Rga:’ (from the word Bharga:), whose presiding deity is Saavitri.
For those interested in the Mantra incorporating the Hrisheekesa naamam, it can be found in the 18th sloka of the 18th Chapter of the Fifth Skandam of Srimad Bhagavatam. When Sri Krishna escapes Pootana’s murderous attempt, the frightened Gopas and Gopis invoke the blessings of various forms of Vishnu for the protection of the divine child. And one of the principal deities called upon is Hrisheekesa, whose benediction is sought for guarding the Indriyas or sense organs of Sri Krishna’
‘Indriyaani Hrisheekesa: praanaan Narayana: avatu
Sveta dveepa Pati: chittam mano Yogeswara: avatu’ (Srimad Bhagavatam)
If you want to be rid of fear, it is Hrisheekesa you must apply to. This is the prescription given to Dhritaraashtra, who fears for the life of his sons and their kingdom’
‘Jaanati esha Hrisheekesam puraanam yaccha vai navam
Susrooshamaanam ekaagram mokshyate mahato bhayaat’
In turn, Dhritaraashtra urges Duryodhana to surrender to Hrisheekesa, before it is too late’
‘Duryodhana! Hrisheekesam prapadyasva Janaardanam
Aapto n: Sanjaya: taata! Sharanam gaccha Kesavam’
Buoyed by significant victories on the battle field, Yudhishttira extols the glory of Hrisheekesa, praising Him as the Creator of all worlds, the Supreme Power without a beginning and an end, declaring that those who surrender to Hrisheekesa would have no grief, fear or troubles. Though Sri Krishna has any number of names which are commonly used by the Pandavas to address Him, it is significant that Yudhishttira repeatedly mentions Hrisheekesa in the context of granting relief from fear and trouble’
‘Srashtaaram sarva lokaanaam Paramaatmaanam Achyutam
Ye prapanaa Hrisheekesam n te muhyanti karhichit
‘Anaadi nidhanam devam loka kartaaram avyayam
Tvaam bhaktaa ye Hrisheekesa! Durgaani atitaranti te’
It is interesting to find the all-knowing Bheeshma too uttering the Hrisheekesa naama in delight and attributing Creation, Protection and Destruction to Him’
‘Namaste Bhagavan! Vishno! Lokaanaam nidhana udbhava!
Tvam hi kartaa Hrisheekesa! Samhartaa cha aparaajita:’
The haloed residents of the Sveta Dveepam pay obeisance to the Lord, addressing Him as Hrisheekesan–
‘Jitante Pundareekaaksha! Namaste Visva Bhaavana!
Namastestu Hrisheekesa! Maha Purusha Poorvaja!’
When requested by Rishis to recount the tales of Mahabharata as propounded by Vyaasa, the Soota Pouraanika commences his recitation with a salute to Hrisheekesa, holding Him to be the most auspicious and as the Preceptor to the whole world-
‘Maangalyam mangalam Vishnum varenyam anagham suchim
Namaskritya Hrisheekesam charaachara Gurum Harim’
In his commentary to the Tiruvaimozhi paasuram devoted to Hrisheekesan, Sri Nampillai has some beautiful things to say. Though all the sense organs have been provided to human beings to enable them to realize, appreciate and delight at the sight of the Lord, normally they are quite immune to His attractions and insist on indulging in sensual pleasures and leading us far from the path of the scripture. However, in the case of His devotees, Emperuman, being Hrisheekesan (the controller of senses), ensures that the devotees’ sense organs focus solely on Him and are prevented from going astray. And how does He achieve this’ To the devotee, He shows Himself in all His splendour, lavishes all His affection on the bhakta and enslaves the latter by His innumerable auspicious attributes. This ensures that the devotee is totally ensnared in the Lord’s net of love, with all his senses focused on the Lord, with no chance at all of their being misdirected towards material pleasures, says Sri Nampillai”Tannai arigaikku parikaram aaga tanda indriyangalai kondu sabdaadi vishayangalai virumbi naan anarttha padaame, tannaiye arigaikku parikaram aampadi panni upakaritta mahopakaarakan’.
Is Hrisheekesan a common, generic name which can refer to any entity having sense control’ After all, most of the Maharshis were adept at keeping their senses under tight leash. Or does it denote only Sriman Narayana’ This question is easily resolved, if one refers to Arunagirinathar’s Tiruppugazh, where he adulates Hrisheekesan with choice phrases that can refer only to Narayana. Here is the Tiruppugazh in question’
‘Upasaantha chittha kurukula
Bava Paandavarkku Varadhan mai
Uruvon prasiddha nediyavan Rishikesan
Ulageendra pacchai Umai anan
Vada Venkatattil uraibavan
Uyar Saarnga Chakra karatalan marugone’
The unmistakable adjectives like Paandavarkku Varadan, Nediyavan, Vada Venkatatthil Uraibavan, Saarnga Chakra kara talan, etc. indicate that the Hrishikesan referred to in the poem and elsewhere too, is Sriman Narayana and none other.
Hrisheekesa’s holy name would surely save us from the deadly spears of Yama’s minions and we would be spared the ignominy of dogs biting off and chewing on our limbs at the crematorium, if only we utter the tirunaamam of Hrisheekesan, says Periyazhwar’
‘Tudai vazhi ummai naaikal kavaraa
Soolatthaalum ummai paaivadum seyyaar
Idai vazhiyil neer koorayum izhaveer
Irudeekesan endru ettha valleere’.
Well, from all the aforesaid, we find that Hrisheekesan is not as unknown as we thought initially. People may not be much enamoured of calling their children by this name, but as we have seen above, that is hardly a yardstick of Hrisheekesa’s boundless greatness and glory.
Srimate Sri LakshmiNrisimha divya paduka sevaka Srivan Satakopa Sri Narayana Yatindra Mahadesikaya nama:
Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore