You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : September 1997

Name the Lord!

From: usdeiva (
Date: Sat Sep 20 1997 - 14:36:14 PDT

On giving children the name of God
  Date:  Thu, 4 Sep 1997 10:42:30 -0700 (PDT)
 From:   Mani Varadarajan <>

Re: bAlAji.   I have learned on good authority that in the 
"vaDa-dESam", i.e.,North India, "bAlA" was a name that some 
devotees called Krishna.   Naturally, adding the honorific, this 
became "bAlAji".      In South India, the name has unfortunately 
been reverse  engineered so much that some think that 
Tirupati Srinivasar actually represents a female personage! 
(bAlA = girl in Sanskrit).                          Mani
 Origin of Balaji    Date:    Wed, 17 Sep 1997 07:45:28 -0400 (EDT)
 From:     To:

I recently heard this interpretation on why the lord of Thirumalai is
referred to as Balaji-especially bt people of Veda Desham (North India).
The episode goes back to the Bala Dhruva. When  Dhruva, a  7 yr. old
Bala, asked his mother as to who his father was, she instructed him to
go to forest and ask  for father. Dhruva with great certainty that the
father would answer,  yelled out for his father on the Thirumala Hills.
Finally Vishnu appeared.  He resides their as the lord of Bala Dhruva 
(Balaji). Apparently Vishnu resides with Dhruva as well in Dhruva

Dasan, Tatachar (K. Sreekrishna),

~~ a Note.
[written by T.S. Sundara Rajan].
It has become trendy to refer to 'tiru-vEnkaTam-uDaiyAn' by the name 
'bAlAji'.   Even in SrIvaishNava families the children  have been given 
this name.     The following submissions are in the nature of a humble
and objective inquiry in this respect, and are in no way meant to
disconcert those who bear this name or their parents.

Sri Mani Varadarajan had reported that 'bAla' was "a name that some 
devotees called Krishna" in northern India; "adding the honorific, this 
became bAlAji".  ~~ I apologise to Manivara [= 'precious stone'] for 
putting this in quotes.

Sri Tatachar K Sreekrishna relates another folk tradition which holds
that the Lord came to be known as 'bAlAji' after the ['bAla' or]
child-devotee dhruva.

'tiru-vEnkaTam-uDaiyAn' and 'tirumalai-appan' are the beloved names of
the Lord occurring in the SrIvaishNava 'sampradAya' classics, and 
SECULAR CLASSICS.    The Telugu work 'SrIvEnkaTesa-vachana-Satakamu' 
[which has been published in Sanskrit translation also] could be an
important document for the purpose.   This was written by SrI
annamAchArya's grandson, SrI pedda-tirumalAchArya.

There is an assumption on the part of the Tamil SrIvaishNava-s that the 
name bAlAji  would readily identify  perumAL at tiruvEnkaTam hill
for the devotees all over the northern parts of India;  which is NOT the 
case at all.    I have lived in New Delhi for 35 years and had also
travelled extensively in the northern States, and can testify that
bAlAji is not such a well-known 'cognomen' for the perumAL as is
assumed.   The northeners refer to the 'divyadESam' as 'trupti' [not to
fault  them for tripping over tamizh names] and the Lord simply as

The name seems to have been brought into a vogue during the fairly 
prolonged management of the tirumalai temple dEvasthAnam by the 
'mahant' who, eventually, was superseded by the Government of the 
Presidency of Madras some time in 1930's.  [The 'presence' of the
'mahant' continues in tirumalai, if not in the temple administration; 
and no guess as to why the mahant of the time thought of the name
bAlAji.   We would certainly get yet another story if someone spent time
consulting with the present-generation of the mahant.]  I heard of the
possible 'mahant' role in this respect, from the family elders who had
known my father's elder brother, R. Rangasvami Aiyangar, during his
tenure as the first Commissioner of the dEvasthAnam committee set up
after  the 'mahant' was removed.

The name 'bAla' for SrIkr*shNa.

Aside  from the 'mahant',  let us for a while consider whether 'bAla' is
per se and at all the north-Indian word-name for  'child';   the Hindic
word for child is 'bacchA' [from the samskrta 'vatsa';  can we relate it
also to the Georgian-Russian 'vitch', as in Vladimir Iliano-vitch Lenin,
meaning son of Ilianov?].    'bAla' is child-male and 'bAlA' is
child-female, the feminine gender leading to irresponsible iconic
guesses; and here Manivara is worth quoting: "the name has unfortunately
been reverse engineered so much that some think that Tirupati Srinivasar
actually represents a female personage!"    

'bAla' is, of course, exclusively 'bAl-kishan' and 'bAl-mukund' in
northern India [for the most endearing experience of God as Child],
though 'bAla' is rarely used as a 'compleat' name in itself.     'bAlA'
in feminine form as THE name of dAkshAyaNI-pArvatI-umAdEvI does not seem
warranted by any of the commonly accepted works.   If one is not looking
for the authority ['pramANam'] of  authentic works, one would gladly
accept fancy explanations and fancier etymology;   like 'mAtA' or 'ambA'
or 'dEvI' or the Tamil 'AttA', each of which could be picked up by one
or the other of the hill-trekking devotees of vaishNO-dEvi near Jammu,
or santOshI-mA of very fuzzy origin, or the concrete-n-scarlet-n-raucous
mEl-maruvattUr deity, etc.  One who contemplates on the exalted epithet
"bahu-SObhamAnAm umAm hAimavatIm" of kEnOpanishad for umA-dEvI would
feel totally lost in this scramble of labelling and mislabelling.    One
instance of mis-naming: The large and surpassingly beautiful
ananta-nArAyaNa reclining in a tank under the open sky, about 12 km to
the west of kAThmaNDu in Nepal is referred to as the 'budhA nIlkanth' by
the locals;   but they are obviously not right.   Just wrong tags!

SrIkr*shNa in Northern India.

Well, what else do they call kr*shNa in northern India?   'kr*shNa' is
always 'kahnaiyA', and 'lAl', quite often 'mErE lAl', the equivalent of
'mon ch`ere'. In the ceremonial 'rAjwAdi' ballads of the Rajasthan
royalty, 'kr*shNA' is also 'jas' [from the upanishad 'tasya nAma
mahad-yaSah'].    The four-armed nArAyaNa/vishNu in standing pose is
nowhere referred to as  'kr*shNa' [or by the supposed northernism of
'bAla'].   Even in  the two most 'kr*shNa' divya-dEsam of mathurA and
dvArakA, the Lord is in the classic form of 'vaishNavam' [referred to as
such in nATyam, and] described in drAupadI's
puNDarIkAksha...",and is referred to as 'dvArakAdhIS'.  In jOshImaTh en
route badarikASramam, it is vAsudEv, in vishNupAda-mandir, gayA, it is
gadAdhar [the original name of svAmi vivEkAnanda's teacher
rI-rAmakr*shNa];  nArAyaN in piThOrAgarh in uttar-pradES near Indo-Tibet
border;  jagat-SirOmaNi in the famed amEr ['Amber'] fort of jaipur

Little reason that the northerners should call 'tiru-vEnkaTam-uDaiyAn'
as 'bAla' to mean 'kr*shNa'.

'uDAiyavar' and Lord Srinivasa.

uDAiyavar had a partiality for the name 'SrInivAsa', among the names of
the Lord, vide the dhyAna-slOkam of SrIbhAshyam, 
       "Sruti-Sirasi vidIptE brahmaNi SrInivasE..."

uDAiyavar's association with tiru-vEnkaTam-uDaiyAn is so well known that
the name 'SrInivAsa' has become specific ['ruDhi'] to Him. [A discursive
thought is that it is to  uDAiyavar, tirumangai mannan, and nammAzhvAr  
that we owe the dear names SelvappiLLai/SampatkumAran, deivac-chilaiyAr,
and vAnamAmalai.]

dhruva in tiru-vEnKaTam?

To identify dhruva as 'bAla' and transpose the name to 'tirumalai appan'
is also not worth a scrutiny.     The 'bhAgavata-purANam' says the
'matsyAvatAram'occurred in river 'krtamAlA' which is a tributary of
'vAikAi' flowing by Madurai.   The 'bhAgavatam' yields absolute pearls
in the context of the dhruva episode: the twelve-syllabled vAsudEva
mantram which drew the Lord in epiphany to the child devotee.    Here is
dhruva's ecstatic tribute to the immanent spirit and innner director

"yO/(a)ntah praviSya mama vAcham imAm prasuptAm
 sanjIvayati akhila-Sakti-dharah sva-dhAmnA
 anyAmScha hasta-charaNa-SravaNa-tvak-AdIn
 prANAn namO bhagavatE purushAya tasmAi."

[I salute bhagavAn ~ of six prime excellences!     He permeates my Self 
in entirety;  his majesty arouses  my speech which hitherto had been 
slumbering.   And activates the other faculties:  my hands and feet, my 
hearing and my sensing skin;  all of these and my very breath of life.  
He is the purusha!]
Such beauties there are in the  'bhAgavatam' episode, but the celebrated
'purANam' does not locate dhruva's penance in tirumalai.    This is 
therefore an unauthenticated account.     Hence, no 'dhruva-bAlA-ji'.

'sthala-purANam' [SP], and the SrIvaishNava divya-dESam:

Of the SrIvaishNava divya-dESam(s), it is only of Srirangam that there
are 'SP'  references in the entire run of aruLiccheyal/divyaprabandham', 
viz., vibhIshaNa AzhvAr establishing 'periya perumAL' on the Srirangam 
island ["tan-aDiyAr tirattakattut-tAmaraiyAL", periyAzhvAr], and chandra 
cleansing himself through penance performed at the 'tIrtham'  known 
[after him] as 'chandra-pushkariNI' in SrIranganAtha-svAmi temple 
["tEmbal iLan-tingaL siRai viDuttu", last decad of periya-tirumozhi].
Less known is that the great poet kamban extols 'periya perumAL' as the 
household deity [ikshvAku-kula-dhanam] of SrIrAma's iksh-vAku ancestry:

"piNi-yaranga vinai-akala, neDun-kAlam tavam pENi,
 maNi-arangu neDu-muDiyAi ! malar-ayanE vazhi-paTTu,
 paNi-arangap perum-pAyal  param-SuDarai yAm kANa
 aNi-arangam tantAnai  aRiyAdAr, aRiyAdAr !"

                                            [kamba rAmAyaNam,
kula-muRaik-kiLattu patalam]

rshi viSvAmitra introduces the youth SrIrAma and LakshmaNa to 
SrI-janaka-mahAraja.   Striving to be rid of the debility of action,
brahmA, the spirit of lotus flower, performed a long penance and adored 
SrI-ranganAtha. The Lord is Effulgent in reclension over the
multi-hooded couch of 'ananta'.    O king of lofty bejewelled crest, it
was SrIrAma's ancestor ikshvAku who brought the Lord  from brahmA's
satyalOkam to this earth, so that we (mortals) could look at him with
our eyes.   If there be any that do not know of this lineage, they,
alas, know nothing!         

There is little historic content,  poetic beauty, elevating philosophy ,
or devotional inspiration in   'sthala-purANam' [SP] as a genre, which
is being sustained through the oral tradition of 'archaka'/gurukkaL  in
the various temples.  Most of the SP as such are of recent origin, and
many Saiva SP were written by tiriSirapuram InAkshi-sundaram piLLai 
and his better-known scholar-disciple u.vE. svAminAtha aiyar.   There
was perhaps a ritual anxiety to claim antiquity for each temple, for
which the SP served as a means. Even in respect of temples constructed
barely yesterday, the SP gets ready before the temples are readied.   
The trail of a serpent which led a devotee to the chosen site etc.    
The samhitA and vAstu-Sastram do, of course, provide for procedural
inspection and consecration of a temple site, but there is not much
force in insisting that this or that temple was the venue or site or
stage for a specific happening recorded in the purANa literature.  To
illustrate, it is accepted that the SrIrAma incarnation occurred in
ayOdhyA, and SrIkr*shNa in mathurA;  but it somewhat confuses the tracks
of inquiry to claim that SrI-nr*simha incarnation occurred in nAmakkal
or ahObilam, when the padma-purANam  clearly names the incarnation site
as 'mauli-snAn',  identified on the northern banks of river sindhu, with
the prophecy that it would be eventually infested with 'mlEccha'
marauders;  I verified that the modern city of multAn [in bhawalpur of
to-day's Pakistan Panjab] fills the bill in all respects, and I have
read in the autobiography of Sri T. Prakasam Pantulu-garu that he was
included in the committee deputed by the Indian National Congress party 
to visit multan to report on the Muslim-'Hindu' disturbances which
occurred consequent on the wanton destruction of the ancient
SrI-nr*simha temple. 

The divya-dESam status.

The divya-dESam which have been hymned in AzhvAr aruLic-cheyal have this
exalted status, and have thrived without the SP.    The passionate
devotion of Sri anantAzhvAn (tirumalai anantANpiLLai), who was chosen
by uDAiyavar to organise the worship for tiru-vEnkaTam-uDaiyAn, had 
led him to compose the kAvyam 'SrI-vEnkaTESa itihAsa-mAlA', but this is
not  to be regarded as a 'sthala-purANam'.     

For the SrIvaishNava heart, the most self-sufficient and satisfying SP
could be that the given 'divya-dESam' was hymned by the AzhvAr.
To recite periyAzhvAr tirumozhi,

"aravattu amaLi-yinODum azhakiya pARkaDalODum
 aravindap-pAvAiyum tAnum akampaDi vandu pukundu
 paravat-tirai pala mOdap-paLLi koLkinRa pirAnAi
 paravukinRAn viTTuchittan paTTinam kAvaRporuTTE."

[The Lord has occupied the city of my heart, the waves (of my love)
  lapping at it.   His serpent couch is laid out and he reclines on
it.   He has moved in (his very dwelling,) the ocean of milk.    He and  
  his consort, aravindA, and all of his retinue!]

Be it so with tiru-vEnkaTam, which is invoked in the oldest non-Sanskrit
Indian classic extant, tol-kAppiam, to demarcate the boundary of the 
tamizh-speaking region.     

"Senni-yOngu taN tiru-vEnkaTam uDaiyAi! ulaku
  tannAi vAzha-ninRa nambI! dAmOdarA! satirA!
  ennAiyum en uDAimAi-yum un chakkarap-poRi oRRik-koNDu
  nin aruLE purindirundEn ini en tiruk-kuRippE ?"

"vEnkaTESa-samO dEvO na bhUtO na bhavishyati !"

 ~ aDiyEn rAmAnujadAsan T.S. Sundara Rajan.

puraTTASi Sanikkizhamai
(kanyA mAsam, sThira-vAsaram)