Nira-Narsingpur Narasimha, Lakmii-n.rsi.mha-sahasra-naaman
ashok.aklujkar at UBC.CA
Tue Nov 13 16:49:41 UTC 2007
As I suggested on 04 November, Prof. R.V. Joshi sent me as an e-mail
attachment the passage in which the two problematic words niira and nira
appear. He did this by sending a scan of the first two pages of
;Srii-Lakmii-n.rsi.mha-sahasra-naaman. In the exchange that subsequently
took place on 13 November there are some points which may be of interest to
the members of this list where the discussion began. Hence I am reproducing
the exchange in a slightly edited form. --- ashok aklujkar
That it is always better to make inquiries like yours by providing the
context (and exact grammatical forms found in a text) is borne out by the
attachment you sent. It is evident that niira and nira will not be
explained by the information Prof. Deshpande kindly provided. The name of a
river, even if it is understood as a short form of names like Sadaa-niiraa,
is not intended.
For niira, taking its usual meaning 'water' would be one justifiable way,
for the author has alternated (a) epithets of Vi.s.nu with (b) names of
entities associated/associable with Vi.s.nu in several other lines of the
Lak.smii-n.rsi.mha-sahasra-naaman. Perhaps he expected us to take the
latter as Vi.s.nu's representations or as metaphors for Vi.s.nu. Cf.
vajra-dehaaya : vajraaya
a.t.ta-haasaaya ro.saaya (not as clear an example as the preceding and the
following but possible)
nirgu.naaya gu.naaya ca
nime.saaya nibandhaaya nime.sa-gamanaaya ca
satya-dvajaaya mu;njaaya mu;nja-ke;saaya
harii;saaya ca ;se.saaya
(There may, of course, be many more examples in the pages not included in
The other way to account for niira may essentially be the same as the one
for nira. Only the prexifes involved will be different: nir/nis in the
first case and ni in the second.
nira can be derived from ni + rai 'wealth, endowed object' (well-attested
in the Veda). This rai becomes raa in some contexts as Monier-Williams has
noted. The derivate ni + raa as a bahu-vriihi, changed to nira, so that it
can qualify a masculine noun understood in the context (nitaraam /
ati;sayavatii raa.h yasya/asya) would mean 'one with much property /
If niira is analysed the same way, the meaning would be 'one without any
possessions' and essentially become a synonym of nirgu.na.
Thirdly, it is possible that niira is not a Dravidian word at all. Derived
from ni + iir, it could have originally meant 'one moving downward' (cp.
the formations of similarly structured niipa and nii.da, which are not
Dravidian and at least one of which, nii.da, has Indo-European cognates in
"nest" etc.). If the obviously and impressively learned author of the
sahasra-naaman, who frequently engages in word play, had the etymological
meaning in mind, he could have intended to refer to Vi.s.nu's descending
into the world, his avataara feature, through niira.
(An analysis of the other nouns he has employed as adjectives should be
attempted along similar lines. The nouns vajra, haasa ... suukta etc.
listed above may be derivable also as adjectives. A pandit once showed me
how English "cat" is a perfectly good Skt word: ka from muu.saka on the
pattern of bhaamaa for satya-bhaamaa etc. kam a.tatiiti kaa.t 'That it goes
after a mouse makes it a cat.' In the hands of gifted pandits, the noble
teaching vasudhaiva ku.tumbakam is applicable even in the sphere of
The dhyaana verse of the Sahasra-naaman you are working on is found also as
the first verse of ;Srii-lak.smii-n.rsi.mha-karu.naa-rasa-stotra attributed
to ;S:nkara/ Aadya ;Sa:nkaraacaarya in the anthologies of his compositions.
How old do you think is the ;Srii-lak.smii-n.rsi.mha-sahasra-naaman? Is
there any traditional Skt commentary on it? If not, you should write one.
It is quite a remarkable sahasra-naaman.
I deeply appreciate your interpretation. There is no sanskrit commentary on
this Sahasra-Naama as far as I know. It is stated in the colophon that it is
taken from the N .rsi .mha Puraana but in the N .rsi.mha Puraana editions I
have before me , it is not there.
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