Vasudha Narayanan vasu at
Mon Apr 28 14:26:22 UTC 1997

Dear Dr. Wilke:
Thanks for your note.  I re read your original questions carefully now and
would like to add some trivial information for what it is worth.  I'm afraid
I have not really explored this field and you are probably familiar with
most of these points. 
1. I have seen nAmAvalis for deities like Hanuman, Murugan etc in addition
to local manifestations of Visnu et al. The number in a recent namavali for
Murugan was acutally 300 or so.  I checked with the composer and she said
that's what she got in her dreams.  Have also seen names for Sai Baba.
2.  I don't know about secret names, but the custom of giving "ritual" names
is still very strong among many families.  This is a traditional name like
Lakshmi, or the name of one's village goddess or kula daivam.  such names
are used only for rituals (samskaras, or when archana is done in your name
in the temple).  Certainly not secret by  any stretch of the imagination.
My mother insisted that my name Lakshmi (which probably only she uses even
in ritual circumstances) be put on my Tamil wedding invitation.  However, my
"official" name has always been Vasudha.  A lot of families use a modern
name like "Priya" as the official one and the ritual "devijagadAmbAL" or
something comparable for the ritual usage.  Three names were given to me,
five to my sister (I feel deprived!) The custom of changing a girl's name by
her in-laws (soon after the wedding) is almost gone now, though I did here
of one instance a few years back. This was more the rule during the time of
my grandmother.
3. I'm afraid I 'm not familiar with Coomaraswami's thesis on the namavali
beginning with Yaksha stuff.  Since I had not studied this, I had simply
assumed that the Vishnu sahasranama in the MBh was a kind of prototype.
4. New namavalis come into existence all the time; recently, I saw a list
where names and epithets from Tyagaraja's kritis were lined up.  I also have
lists praising the kuttu vilakku (the oil lamps).
If I do come accross any lists for Chellattamman or Nagatamman ( I will be
in south India this July during the ADi month when these ammans are
worshipped) I will let you know.
Best wishes, 

Vasudha Narayanan
Professor of Religion
Gibson Professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611

At 11:59 AM 4/17/97 BST, you wrote:
>>Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 15:25:01 +0200
>>To: indology-request at
>>From: Annette Wilke <wilke at>
>>Subject: nAma
>>Dear Indologists,
>>I am presently working on Divine Names in Hinduism and I am interested in
>some informations concerning the topic:
>>1) Do also folk deities have (sahasra)nAmAvalis or even nAmastotras? (I
>know only a vast number of examples of litanies to the deities of the
>>2) Modern gurus often do have litanies with 108 or 1000 names (such as
>Chinmaya, Ramana Maharshi, Amma). Is it a modern practice or do you know
>litanies to historical saints?
>>3) Which editions and translations are available of nAmasiddhAnta-sources,
>especially those of the saints of the Kaveri-delta/Tanjavur (SadAshiva
>Brahmendra, Bodhendra, SadgurusamI). Is LaxmIdhara's BhagavannAmakaumudI
>edited or even translated?
>>4) Is there a traditional codex of the japa-formulas of Vishnu, RAma,
>Krishna and synonyms (To my knowledge there seems to be no restriction, but
>rather dependence on certain sampradAyas, initiated by gurus) 
>>5) Is it still a common practice to give a secret name to a child? (In
>interviews I got the impression that the practice is rather outdated)
>>Thanks indeed for all informations and suggestions.
>>Yours, Annette Wilke
>Dr. Annette Wilke
>University of Berne
>Institute for the Science of Religions
>Lerchenweg 36
>CH-3000 Bern 9
>Tel.: 031 / 631 35 81  Fax.: 031 / 631 35 51

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