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SrI vishNu sahasranAmam - Slokam 69 - keSavah.

From: Narasimhan Krishnamachari (
Date: Thu Jan 31 2002 - 20:28:11 PST

654 (23). keSavah -   a) One who has beautiful locks of hair
	b) He whose hair is of supreme fragrance
	c) He who is the source or origin of brahmA and Siva.
	d) He who is the source of the rays emanating from the Sun etc.
	e) The Slayer of keSi
	f) The tormentor of His enemies
	g) One who has Adhipatyam over water (oceans etc.)
	h) One who has Adhipatyam over the different kinds of sukham
(including moksham)

Om keSavAya namah.

This nAma occurred as nAma 23 in Sloka 3.  

The word keSa refers to hair, as also rays of light.  Some of the
interpretations are based on these two meanings.  Another approach at
interpreting the nAma is based on the word kam = water or sukham.  Yet
another interpretation is based on the root kliS - to torment.  There
is also one which is based on kah + Isah = keSah. 

>From amara pada vivRti of lingayasUrin, we have the following:

a) SobhanAh keSA yasya sah keSavah - He who has beautiful hair.  keSa
means hair, and the suffix va is added to keSa to denote the "beauty"
of the hair, by a grammatical rule - "keSAdvo'nyatarasyAm"  iti
praSamsAyAm vah (SrI BhaTTar).  SrI aNNa'ngarAcArya svAmi nicely
translates the nAma in tamizh as "kuzhal azhagar". 

Under nAma 23, SrI BhaTTar adds that by implication, this nAma
indicates that the Lord is possessed of qualities like supremacy and
loveliness which are all His own by nature.  He possesses curly locks
of hair, which are sublime, soft and blue (praSasta - snigdha - nIla -
kuTila - kuntalah). 

SrI rAdhAkRshNa SAstri adds to this anubhavam further.  In His
incarnation as nRsimha, the beauty of His Lion's hair (piDari mayir in
tamizh) was exceptionally beautiful.  MArIca has described Lord rAma's
hair as "SikhI kanaka mAlayA" - beautiful like a golden garland.  The
gopi-s describe Him as "kuTila kuntalam komalAnanam - One with curly
locks of hair and lotus-like face.  SrI Samkara bhAshyam is "abhirUpAh
keSAh yasya sah keSavah" - "His hair's beauty is compatible with His
divya ma'ngala rUpam" - black, curly, consistent, just indescribably

NammAzhvAr describes the beauty of the keSam of bhagavAn as well as its
fragrance in 7.7.9 - tiruvAimozhi:

	koLginRa kOLiruLaic cugirndiTTa kozhum SuruLin 
             	uL koNDa  nIla nan-nUl tazhai kol? anRu ..

"I thought may be the darkness of His hair can be compared to the
thread made out of the darkness that results at the time of pralaya
kAlam; but no, this is not a good enough comparison - there is no
comparison.    The comforting fragrance of tulasi that emanates from
His kuzhal has completely stolen my AtmA, and only I can feel it and
feel about it". 

b) vAnti gandhayanti iti vAh gandhavantah keSAh yasya iti keSavah
(based on the root vA - gatigandhanayoh)- He who has fragrant keSa.  We
just saw nammAzhvAr's reference in the previous para to the fragrance
of tulasi emanating from His kuzhal.

c) bhagavAn is called keSava because ka - brahmA, and ISa - Siva,
originated from His body.  SrI Sankara and SrI BhaTTar quote the
following from harivamSa: 

ka iti brahmaNo nAma (brahmeti samAkhyAta) ISo'ham sarva dehinAm |
AvAm tavA'nge sambhUtau (tavAmSa sambhUtau) tasmAt keSava nAmavAn ||  -
 (harivamSa 3.88.48)

The above are words of Siva to bhagavAn - (ka is the name of brahma,
and I am ISa who rules over all the embodied beings.  Both of us have
been born out of Thy body, and therefore Thou art known by the name
keSava).  Thus, the nAma signifies that brahma and Siva originated from

d) SrI Samkara gives the additional interpretation that He is the owner
of the keSa-s or rays that emanate from the Sun, the moon, and all the
effulgent objects in the cosmos, and so He is called keSava.  He gives
the support from mahAbhArata:

	amSavo ye prakASante mamaite keSa sam~jnitAh   |
	sarvaj~nAh keSavam tasmAt mAm Ahuh dvija-sattamAh   ||  (mahA.

(Literallay, the above says: "The rays that are emanating from Me are
called keSa-s, and so the learned Brahmins call me by the name

e) SrI rAdhAkRshNa SAstri gives a reference from vishNu purANam, and
narrates that when brahmA with the other deva-s sought the help of Lord
nArayaNa against the terror from asura-s, the Lord plucked two keSa-s
(hairs - one black and one white), and told brahmA that those two hairs
will descend on earth as kRshNa and balarAma, and relieve the earth of
the burden of the demons:

	evam sastUyamAnastu bhagavAn parameSvarah   |
	ujjahArAtmanah keSau sita-kRshNau mahAmune   ||

	uvAca ca surAnetau mat-keSau vasudhAtale   |
	avatIrya bhuvo bhAra kleSa hAnim karishyatah  ||  (vishNu purA.

(The commentator indicates that the above should be taken just as an
indication by bhagavAn that His hair should be sufficient to take care
of the asura-s, and should not be literally taken to suggest that the
two hairs took incarnation).

f) SrI satyadevo vAsishTha has another anubhavam of this nAma - He
derives the meaning that keSavah signifies One who torments His enemies
- based on the root kliS - vibAdhane - to torment, to distress, and the
uNAdi sutra (kliSeran lo lopaSca). kliSnAti, kliSyate vA anena iti

g) Two more interpretations by SrI satyadevo VasishTha: kam refers to
water and to sukham:  kam = jalam or sukham; He who has the Adhipatyam
over water (oceans etc.) is keSavah - jalam tamIshTa aiSvarya bhAvAya
nayati iti keSah (kam + Isah); or, He who has control over the sukham
(aihika as well as Amushmika) of the jIva-s.
h) In the explanation under nAma 23, the interpretation of the nAma
based on His destroying keSi has been covered.   This is also
explicitly the subject of the next nAma. 

-dAsan kRshNamAcAryan


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