View Full Version : Kṛṣṇa's names - a deeper look

01 September 2009, 11:38 AM
hariḥ oṁ


I thought I would add some additional insights to Kṛṣṇa's name and create this seperate post:

more to follow

We know this word keśava means having long ,handsome hair. Yet if we look deeper we see the brilliance of His name keśava. It is ka + a + īśa = keśava.
ka क- is brahmā ; it is also splendor, light; it is 1st consonant of the saṃskṛt assembly of akṣara¹, that is, the nāgarī¹ letters of the saṃskṛt alphabet.
a अ- is a noun of viṣṇu ; it is the first letter the first vowel (svara) of the saṃskṛt assembly of akṣara¹, that is, the nāgarī¹ letters of the saṃskṛt alphabet. From here , from this a, all else proceeds. īśa ईश- is master, lord; it is a noun of śiva, the Supreme, Śivabhaṭṭāraka

Another favorite name of Kṛṣṇa's ( for me) is hṛṣikeśaḥ हृषिकेशः hṛṣi हृषि is joy, splendor. Note that hṛṣya means to thrill with rapture , rejoice , exalt , be glad or pleased; + keśa केश is the hair on the head, which somewhat gets us back to keśava described above. Yet keśa is another name for the lunar mansion (nakṣhtra) of rohiṇī. This is the nakṣhtra of Kṛṣṇa's birth.

But what of this hṛ? This hṛ is to master, hold, win, subdue. But to master what? That of hṛṣīka हृषीक or the organs of the senses. Hence hṛṣikeśaḥ is the Lord, controller of the senses. It also ties in keśa , the one with long hair. Is there any relationship?

It is said ( by Mahaṛṣi Mahesh Yogī ) that long hair has to do with control of the senses. Cutting the hair , says Mahaṛṣi, some energy is released that also tends to release the senses from control.

So, in one word we see how hṛṣikeśaḥ is one filled with joy , splendor, and a master of the senses who has control. What can Kṛṣṇa control ? He is the Supreme so nothing is outside of his jurisdiction and will.

Kṛṣṇa is addressed as janardana by Arjuna in the Bhāgavad gītā. What do we find in this name?
janar = janas race , class of beings + dāna - the act of giving
jan जन् - to produce; to cause to be born; to generate or produce;
jana the next world or level of existence beyond mahar-loka. The 7 worlds...

bhū-loka - the earth ;
bhuvar-loka- the space between the earth and sun inhabited by munis , siddhas &c ;
svar-loka - indra's heaven above the sun or between it and the polar star ;
maha-rloka - a region above the polar star and inhabited by bhṛgu and other saints who survive the destruction of the 3 lower worlds ;
janarloka - inhabited by brahmā's son sanakumāra
tapar-loka - inhabited by deified vairāgins ;
satya-loka or brahma-loka - abode of brahmā

This jana also means creature , living being , man , person , race. We see this used as in King Janaka , the father of sītā, śrī rāma's wife.
Now ja ज means to be born or decended from. ja is also in the masculine gender (puṃ-liṅga ) viṣṇu. A nice connection!

So janardana is rich in meaning. He that gives the class of beings; The one that produces (jan) all; And who is this person? 'ja'
or viṣṇu.

But what of this name Kṛṣṇa कृष्ण - we know this to mean black, dark blue. Yet is there more that can be revealed? I think so and we can take a look in the next post.


02 September 2009, 08:49 PM
hariḥ oṁ

But what of this name Kṛṣṇa कृष्ण - we know this to mean black, dark blue. Yet is there more that can be revealed? I think so and we can take a look in the next post.

The beauty in His name (IMHO) is found in kṛṣ - to draw into one's power , become master of , overpower ; it also means to bend (a bow). The beauty is here: Kṛṣṇa tells us about how He creates. Kṛṣṇa says the following - Bhāgavad gītā , chapter 8 , 9th śloka:

prakṛtim svām avastabhya
visrjami punaḥ punaḥ |
bhūta-grāmam imaṁ kṛtsnam
avaśaṁ prakṛter vaśāt ||

This says curving back (leaning, resting-upon or avaṣṭabhya) onto my SELF (svām) I create (visṛjāmi) again and again (punaḥ punaḥ).
All this (kṛtsnam) which exists ( manifestation and variety bhūta-grāmam) , that comes into creation (prakṛti) is done by my authority or command (vaśāt).

What else may we find in His name?
As mentioned kṛṣ is to draw into one's power, drag , pull. But what does Kṛṣṇa pull you into? He pulls you into his power of 'na'. Yet this na, is spelled/sounded ṇa. It is said it is to be applied to nirvṛti designed for the etymology of kṛṣṇa. And what does this nirvṛti mean ? Complete satisfaction or happiness , bliss , pleasure , delight - it means emancipation. Many think of nir-vāṇa. Hence Kṛṣṇa then pulls you (kṛṣ) to complete satisfaction, to emancipation (ṇa or nirvṛti).

There is another view of Kṛṣṇa's name that is held by svāmī prakaśanand sarasvatī. He mentions¹ Kṛṣṇa's proper spelling is Kṛṣṇ. By adding the 'a' at the end of His name turns the gender to female, and hence is referring to rādhā¹, Kṛṣṇ's beloved gopī.

I can see his point as he mentions 'a' has been added after certain nouns. This 'a' is the natural silent sound that comes out from ones lips…saying rām, ( or arjun, or yog) one sooner or later has to open one's lips after the 'm' at the end of rām, and one slightly sounds an 'a' without trying; same with arjun or yog.

If I say śiva, I am talking about the male personality; yet if I say śivā, the personality is now that of śivī - the energy of śiva personified as his wife i.e. durgā or pārvatī, etc. The long ā changess gender in this case. That said, I will leave this explanation to the greater minds of saṃskṛta (sankṛt) grammar.


words and references

From svāmī prakaśanand sarasvatī's book, The True History and the Religion of India, page 30.
rādhā is a gift or favor; prosperity or success. She too is repectfully know as rādhārānī . Some say 'rādhika' yet this is a noun for 'king'

03 September 2009, 11:46 AM
hariḥ oṁ

Govinda is considered a chief herdsman. This stems from go + vinda.
go - is anything coming from or belonging to an ox or cow + vinda which is finding , getting , or gaining. That is,
the person that finds, or goes and gets ( manages) or gains from 'go' or oxen/cows.

Other views

If we add 'tra' to 'go' we have protection, hence we get gotra or a group ~herd~, family or race i.e. ones family name or lineage.
go + inda - 'in' is rooted in 'inv' or to have in one's power , take possession of , pervade i.e. to be lord or master of anything.This is were we find the roots to Indra , 'in' and leading to 'inv' - the ruler of the the devatā.
Yet how does 'go' fit in here? 'Go' is also rays of light (regarded as the ~herds of the sky~ from which indra fights with vṛtra.
go + vid - 'vid' is knowing , understanding , a knower ; Now here 'go' is another name for speech , sarasvatī (devā ) and therefore of learning and wisdom.

Kṛṣṇa as govinda is the chief herdsman of all gotra; He is the ruler of the devatā and the knower of all speech, wisdom and knowledge..


03 September 2009, 08:12 PM
hariḥ oṁ

acyuta अच्युत, please place me between the two armies, so I may see who is present here (today) - Bhāgavad gītā , chapter 1 , 21st śloka

Arjuna addresses Kṛṣṇa as acyuta अच्युत. This means firm, imperishable , permanent.
We can look at it this way:

a + cyuta - 'a' = not + 'cyuta' = moved, shaken or fallen i.e. not fallen. It suggests not fallen from Divine status ( some say into the re-birth of man). He is the imperishable, the immovable, invincible. Hence Brahman, Divine Being.
It is worthy to note that 'ac' of acyuta means 'to go , move'. So in one word, we see Kṛṣṇa addressed as the movable
and immovable - a quality of Brahman.

Does anyone have an opinion of why acyuta was used in this situation? When Kṛṣṇa is acting as Arjuna's charioteer?


04 September 2009, 01:04 PM
hariḥ oṁ


Does anyone have an opinion of why acyuta was used in this situation? When Kṛṣṇa is acting as Arjuna's charioteer?

A few views
This theme is offered by Nitin Kumar

Even though Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme, out of his love for his friend/devotee, Kṛṣṇa brings Himself to the 'movable' level of matter as the charioteer ( ratha रथ chariot, also a name for the body - that which moves); Yet no matter, He never loses His status as the Supreme as , a + cyutá - 'a' = not + 'cyuta' = moved, shaken or fallen.

Here's a few of my thoughts

Kṛṣṇa is addressed as acyuta suggests immovable and movable. As the charioteer his is movable, acting in the relative field of existence (matter) for his devotee, yet as a + cyutá , He is simultaniously being recognized as the Immovable - He has not lost His Supreme Status; He has not fallen into the rebirth of man even as charioteer and this is recognized by Arunja's call.

Another view ( my assessment again)

By the request of Arjuna, Kṛṣṇa draws the chariot between the two great armies, the field of action.
With any action there is an action and a reaction ( the two armies) . Yet the position of the chariot with acyuta is in the middle (madhya¹), in the gap of action and reaction, beyond the field of action.
That is, between movable ( as we reall 'cyutá' is moved) and 'ac' is immovable. Hence the Supreme can be found there in this gap - the whole world stands still there i.e. the armies on both sides watch-on and do not act.
Like that, this gap found in conciousness is considered turiya , the 4th. And with Kṛṣṇa being there He is even beyond the 4th ( called turiyata).
Hence (IMHO) this symbolically infoms the reader of where pure knowledge, pure consciousness and the glory of the Supreme can be found - between any two actions, within the gap.


words and references

मध्य or madhya = middlemost , intermediate , central, standing between two , impartial , neutral. What is one between? the in and out breath that is calm. Over time it blossoms to turiya.
more on turiya : http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/showthread.php?t=2996 (http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/showthread.php?t=2996)
the home of turiya : http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/showpost.php?p=23697&postcount=18 (http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/showpost.php?p=23697&postcount=18)


05 September 2009, 10:50 AM
hariḥ oṁ


Arjuna said, puruṣottama, what is brahman ? Bhāgavad gītā , chapter 8, 1st śloka

puruṣottama पुरुषोत्तम - the best of men, an excellent superior man; also the soul and original source of the universe.
If we look at the components we have puruṣa + uttama.
puruṣa - is a male, a human being, yet , uttama - highest, chief, most elevated. Yet if we look just a bit deeper,

puru - is abundant, and ṣa is best, excellent. This ṣa also means wise, knowledge and eternal happiness , final emancipation. Hence the richness of puruṣa is the best, most excellent and wise, that brings eternal happiness & final emancipation.

When we look at puruṣa + uttama, Kṛṣṇa is being adressed as the most highest, elevated Being, and therefore the Supreme Being
who brings eternal happiness and final emancipation.

Another parallel word for puruṣottama could be anuttara अनुत्तर - chief, principle. Svāmī Lakṣman-jū uses this word also as unsurpassable, there is nothing that is beyond this anuttara , and applies this to the Supreme Being.


06 September 2009, 02:47 PM
hariḥ oṁ



mādhava, how can we be happy by killing our own relatives ( the son's of dhṛtarāṣṭra¹ , our friends and kinsmen) ? - Bhāgavad gītā , chapter 1 , 36th śloka

mādhava माधव we know is peculiar to the descendants of madhu, the yādava-s. mā́dhava as a noun also means sweetness , from madhu or sweet , delicious , pleasant , charming , delightful - some call this honey.
This madhu is a noun and can be applied to a brāhmaṇa ; it is also is a kind of meter.

A deeper look

A deeper view brings us to mā. We mentioned in a previous post that mā is also a noun of brahmā , viṣṇu , śiva , and yama, and this still applies here. Also, mā applies as 'time' or 'measure' (as in māti) i.e. corresponding to measure ; it also means light, knowledge, welfare,
It is a particle of prohibition or negation like mā́ no vadhīr , do not slay us.
mad मद् is to enjoy heavenly bliss , as we can see the association then with mā́dhava as sweetness.

My views¹ on the application of mādhava
ha ह (mādhava)has mutiple meanings, yet the one I am referring to is war and battle from a 4th root of this word 'han' or destroying.

va व (mādhava ) too has multiple meanings, yet in this application I am applying, va is also defined as ' auspiciousness '.

So, in one word Arjuna implies a few things by using mādhava. It is the following:
What sweetness (mā́dhava) can come from destroying (ha or han) our relatives as you are decended from madhu ( yādava-s) ; what measure (mā) of welfare can come from this war (ha) and what asupiciousness (va) or heaven (mad) can we attain from doing this?

With this one word of mā́dhava, the question that Arjuna poses to of Kṛṣṇa is also contained within the name mādhava.

another view¹
ma + dhav ; ma माis a noun for happiness + dhav धव is husband, posessor. Hence Arjuna uses this epithet to suggest to Kṛṣṇa,
you are the possessor of happiness, what is the way out of this delimia that will not bring misfortune



dhṛtarāṣṭra in the Mahābhārata, was the eldest son of vyāsa by the widow of vicitra-vīrya (brother of pāṇḍu and vidura) and born blind;

husband of gāndhāri and father of 100 sons of whom the eldest was duryodhana

dhṛtarāṣṭra धृतराष्ट्र means whose empire is firm , a powerful king - from dhṛta धृत held born or maintained + rāṣṭra राष्ट्र kingdom , realm , empire , dominion , district , country
this notion of ma + dhav is offered by Nitin Kumar
Any errors or blemishes that may occur in my interpretation are of my own making. All corrections or additions are welcomed.

07 September 2009, 12:01 PM
hariḥ oṁ


O madhusūdhana I do not wish to kill my relatives, though killed myself - Bhāgavad gītā , chapter 1 , 35th śloka
madhusūdhana मधुसूदन is the destroyer/slayer (sūdhana) of the demon madhu; some call Kṛṣṇa madhu-patiḥ the Lord/Master ( over) madhu. Another view is destroyer of honey as madhu is defined as honey also.

Why does Arjuna address Kṛṣṇa as such? One view is offered by Mahaṛṣi Mahesh Yogī . He suggests that if Kṛṣṇa as madhusūdhana sees the enemy on the battlefield as demonic, then Kṛṣṇa should rise to dispose of them as he did the demon madhu.

Another view one may consider
We have talked of madhu in a previous post - it means honey, anything sweet, delicious and/or charming. Another view ( and definition) of this madhu is any sweet intoxicating drink. Because of its intoxication and attractiveness it is considered attachment or rāga ~ vehement desire~. This is the demon, vehement desire that keeps one bound to birth-after-birth.
It is Kṛṣṇa (the Supreme) as madhusūdhana that slays this attachment and rids one of the incessent birth-and-death cycle.


08 September 2009, 12:02 PM
hariḥ oṁ



Another name of Kṛṣṇa is hari हरि . If we look at the components ha + ri it gives us a good indication of this name. I mentioned in a previous post above that a root of 'ha' is 'han' and this means killing , destroying , removing.
The 2nd definition of ha is meditation , auspiciousness, sky , heaven , paradise. This ha is found both in hari हरि (Kṛṣṇa) and also found in hara हर (śiva).
What is of great interest ( to me) is both are rooted in hṛ हृ- to take away , carry off , seize ; it also means to remove , destroy , dispel .

So now the common sense question , what is to taken away , carried off , seized, removed , destroyed or dispelled? Ignorance. The ignorance of one's true level of Being.

Why not just call kṛṣṇa & śiva 'ha' ? We could. Yet what is added? hari and hara. What is being offered?

ri रि is rooted in rī री, and this rī is rooted in rā रा (as is ra र is rooted in rā रा).
If we understand rā रा we have broken the code.

rā रा is to acquire or possess, yet also to grant , give , bestow , impart.
On one end hṛ हृ is there to remove , destroy or dispel ignorance; and this is then replaced with rā रा , to bestow, impart and grant.

But what is given ? IMHO its is grace some call anugraha¹ of the Supreme. And what is given? Fullness of Being. In Vedānta it is considered sat + cit + ānanda (pure existence + all consciousness + bliss).

In Kaśmir Śaivism there is a slightly different view…it may be viewed simply as the end of vowels (svara) ; called out as 16th vowel and is called visarga or ḥ ( some write aḥ अः ). This visagra विसर्ग means 'producer' or expansion¹, it also means final emancipation , exemption from worldly existence, and it is a noun for Śiva.


10 September 2009, 05:34 AM
Try what I may, the posts are filled with boxes. Could be written in Martian.

10 September 2009, 10:45 AM
hariḥ oṁ

Namaste rcscwc,

Try what I may, the posts are filled with boxes. Could be written in Martian.
I do not know how you solve this issue... perhaps if you address it with satay the administrator, you folks can work through the problem.

the text is in Tahoma font [FONT=Tahoma][SIZE=3], and the sanskrit symbols are just that.

hope you are able to find the correction.


14 September 2009, 11:26 AM
hariḥ oṁ


O viśveśvara I see your Universal Form (viśva-rupa); I see no beginning, nor middle or end." … Bhāgavad gītā 11.16

viśveśvara विश्वेश्वर is a noun of śiva; yet we need to dis-assemble this word to viśve+śva+ra to appreciate this epithet of Kṛṣṇa

When we use viśve it is equal to 'with' or 'all'; an application would be used with devā-s as in viśve-deva -'all the gods collectively' .
From viśve we get to viśva विश्व - whole , entire , all-pervading or all-containing , omnipresent; it's a noun for the universe.

And what of this śvara ? sva+ra . śva =svan and this is rooted in śvi 'to swell much' . This compliments viśva, whole or entire as 'śvi' swells to this wholeness, to the all-pervading, to the universe. And this 'ra' has a few definitions that nicely apply.

ra is brightness , splendour , fire, heat as it is used in ravi ( the sun); it is also rooted in 'rā' meaing acquiring, possessing.
So this viśveśvara is rich in meaning; that which is bright and splndorious (ra) that acquires (rā) or swells (śvi) to the fullness of the all-pervading, all-containing universe (viśva). This is the greatness of viśveśvara.


26 December 2013, 10:07 AM
Namaste Yajvan ji,

Thanks a ton for these explanations.

I would like to give an input about the word KeSava

In Vishnu Sahasranama, it occurs as 23rd word. Adi Shankara interprets the word keSava in 3 different ways. Similar to what you have explained. However there is some difference in the meaning deduced from Grammetially.

23 केशव keSava

Shankara BhASya by Gita Press

Adi Shankara in his BhASya explains the meaning of the word KeSava in three different ways. The second definition is:

KeSava is made up of 4 words

'ka', 'a', 'isa', 'va'

ka = Brahma
a = Vishnu
isa = Mahadev / Shiva / Shankara / Mahesha / Rudra
va = That which one has in one's possession, what is under one's sway. i.e. One who contains in himself - Lord of Creation, Preservation and Dissolution is keSava.

Paramacharya upon explaining this statement says: He must be ParamAtmAn

Paramacharya also says that in Veda-s and PurANa-s Brahma and Vishnu are referred to as such (ka & a) at many places.

Page: 192, Part 6, The Guru Tradition, Kanchi Paramacharya
Vishnu Sahasranama Shankara BhASya, Hindi Translation, Gita Press, Page 75-76

Other two explanations of the word KeSava are:

The one whose keSa (hair) is called as KeSava
Then follows above explanation (Ref. Panini Sutra 5.2.109)
The killer or slayer of demon KeSIkA is called as KeSava. Further acharya cites Ref of Vishnu PurANa 5.16.23

We can connect the word KeSava with a famous SubhAshita-s which forms the essence of veda-s

"Ruchinam vaichitryad rijukutil nana path jusham;
nrinam ekogamyastvamasi pyasamarnavmiti"

"Due to the differences in individual dispositions, people follow different paths, but you are the only destination of all of them, just as the sea is the destination of all the waters"

Akashat patitam toyam sagaram prati gacchati,
sarva deva namaskaram Keshavam prati gacchati"

"All the water fallen from the sky goes to the sea,
salutations to all the gods reaches to the KeSava"

Hari OM