Tag Archives: Vyuhantara

Vishnu – Dwadashanamas – Part Four

Continued from Part Three –The Vyuha

vishnu red

F. Vyuhantara


19.1. In the Pancharatra schema of cosmology, Para is the undifferentiated Vasudeva while Vyuha is the stage of differentiated creation closer to the beings. Lakshmi Tantra (4:25-32) a Pancharatra text of about the tenth century explains “First there is only the substance (reality); then comes the state of being; next the creation; and then the activity”.

19.2. The text elaborates that right after the final stage of Vyuha evolution and the onset of jagrat (wakeful) state of existence, each of the four Vyuha produced three further forms that resembled their creators (Vyuha) in all respects.

19.3. Accordingly, from Vyuha -Vasudeva, Keshava, Narayana and Madhava emanated; from Sankarshana emanated Govinda, Vishnu and Madhusudana; from Pradyumna emanated Trivikrama, Vamana and Sridhara; and from Aniruddha emanated Hrishikesha, Padmanabha and Damodara.

19.4. Vyuha is the major formation and the twelve forms that emanated from it constitute the secondary formation; and therefore known as upavyha or vyuhantara, which literally means ‘the one that within the Vyuha’.

Maasa Devatha

20.1. Each of the twelve Vyuhantara is identified with a month and is revered as masa-devatha (lord of the month).And; collectively they are identified with the year.

– the source
the consort
the month

20.2. It is also said that the twelve Vyuhantara along with their source (four) together make sixteen ; and are symbolic of the phases of the moon “Shodasha kala) ; andthis also is a measure of Time.

Vyuhantara -Adityas – Sun -Vishnu

21.1. In the ancient Indian context, Year is identified with empherical Time, which in turn is identified with the Sun. Because, the Sun in its daily course defines the day (and night), the basic (shortest) unit of time and governs life.

[The shortest unit was obtained by dividing the day/night into eight equal parts and each eighth into sixty and each sixtieth into sixty again. One third of that resultant unit was kshana (three consecutive eyelid moments – roughly a second).

24 hours in a day X 60 minutes = 1,440 minutes; that is divided into 8 parts; each such part being equal to 180 minutes; which is divided into sixty units = each unit being 3 minutes or 180 seconds; and that is divided by 60 = 3 seconds; and that again is divided into three micro units = about one second (three consecutive eyelid movements)]

Aditi mother of gods

[Aditi is revered as the Deva Matri, the mother of all gods. In a way, all the gods are Adityas – children of Aditi.  The Adityas, who represent light are gods of light (Divi, Devas); bright and pure as streams of water; blameless; and, free from all guile and falsehood. The Adityas are upholders of Laws,” Upholding that which moves and that which moves not; and, are the protectors of all beings”.

Lord Vishnu was originally a solar deity (Addition); and, was later elevated to the status of a trinity God as the preserver of the world, to rescue the world and the dharma from the oppression of evil and social disorder.

Varuna, at one time, was regarded as the best among the Adityas, the solar deities; he was the lord of the sky; the god of heavenly light. But now, Surya (Savitr), the sun god is the most prominent Aditya. He is said to be endowed with many eyes (rays) corresponding to the twelve months of the year , described as the twelve spokes of the wheel of time.


The number as also the names of Adityas have varied from time to time. Originally, they were said to be to be six or seven in number, as per the hymns of Rig-Veda: Varuna, Mitra, Surya (Savitr), Chandra, Pusan, Agni, and Indra. And, Martanda was the eighth Aditya; but, was later left out.

The Brahmana texts list the twelve Adityas  as : Yama; Aryaman; Indra; Ravi; Varua; Dhātṛ; Bhaga; Savitṛ; Sūrya or Arka; Aśa; Mitra; and, Daka.

In another listing, Dhatri, Mitra, Aryaman, Rudra, Surya, Bhaga, Vivasvat, Pushan, Savitur, Tvashtir and Vishnu mentioned as Adityas.

The Linga Purana names the twelve Adityas as : Brahma;Vishnu;;Indra (The head of Ādityas); Tvaṣṭṛ; Varua;Dhata; Bhaga; Savitṛ; Vivasvat; Amshuman; Mitra; and, Pūan.

According to Bhagavata Purana, the twelve Adityas are : Vishnu (The head of all the Adityas); Aryaman; Indra; Tvashtha; Varuna; Dhata; Bhaga ; Parjanya (Savitr); Vivasvan ; Amshuman; Mitra; and, Pushya.

According to Vishnu Purana, the Adityas are :  Vishnu (This solar-deity is the head of all the Adityas); Aryaman; Śakra; Tvaṣṭṛ; Varua; Dhūti; Bhaga; Savitṛ; Vivasvat; Aśa; Mitra; and , Pūan.

Later , their numbers and names  almost,  settled down to twelve (Dwadasha Aditiya) as : Dhata ; Aryama;  Mitra; Varuna; Indra; Vivasvan; Tvashtha; Vishnu; Amshuman ; Bhaga; Pusha; and, Parjanja.]

21.2. The Vedic deities associated with the Sun and the energy are the twelve (Dwadasaha) Adityas, each controlling a month and collectively a year. They are the spokes of the wheel of Time. The twelve Vyuhantara therefore came to be identified with the Adityas.

solar months 2

With that the Vyuhantara came to be identified also with the empherical Time conceived as yearly cycles. And, thus, Vyuhantara are indeed the Sun.

21.3. Vishnu is the chief of the Adityas; and he is also identified with the Sun. The Vyuhantara, by extension, came to be recognized as the Adityas who in turn are the aspects of the Sun and Vishnu.

21.4. The identity of the Vyuhantara with the Adityas is discussed in detail in the Tantric texts such as Prapanchasara (12th century), Saradatilaka (14th century) and Tantrasara (16th century).

21.5. It is explained that the importance assigned to the twelve Vyuhantara is because of their identity with the Adityas, the Sun and Vishnu. And, their worship is indeed the worship of Vishnu as the Sun.

Adityas 12 and their associates


22.1. Mainly by virtue of its association with the Sun and Vishnu, the Vyuhantara or Upavyuha or the Dwadasha-murti (the twelve forms) is an indispensable part of the Sri Vaishnava daily prayer –sandhya vandanam– which essentially is Sun worship; and of the daily purification rite of investing the designated upper-body parts with the Vishnu insignia, the urdhva pundra. Each upavyuha is associated with a specific spot: Keshava – forehead; Narayana-lower abdomen(centre); Madhava-chest; Govinda-front neck (middle) ; Vishnu-lower abdomen (right); Madhusudana-right arm; Trivikrama-neck(right side);Vamana-lower abdomen (left); Sridhara-left arm; Hrishikesha-neck(left side); Padmanabha-back (lower spine); Damodara-back (upper spine); and concluded with salutations to Vasudeva –top of the head.

The appropriate Upavyuha is invoked through anga-nyasa (gestures) with devotion and reverence while investing each set of urdhva-pundra.

22.2. As regards their iconography, the Dwadasha-murtis all resemble the four-armed form of Vasudeva in jagrat (wakeful) state. And, ichnographically they are alike; each possess four arms, carries the same or almost the same Vaishnava insignia (ayudha) – the conch (shankha), the discus (chakra), the mace (gada) and the lotus (padma); they have pleasing countenance (saumya vaktra); they stand erect (sama-bhanga) on lotus pedestal; and wear yellow silk garment (pitambara), royal crown, regal ornaments and flowing garlands of flowers (vanamala). Their color or complexion, are derived from their source vyuha, which is the vyuha among the four (chaturvyuha) from which they originated.

22.3. All the Dwadasha murtis are depicted as solitary images, standing alone; yet each of them is associated with a Shakthi, a consort. Each Shakthi is regarded a form of Lakshmi.

22.4. The forms are differentiated by the order of the four ayudhas or insignia (shankha, chakra, gada and padma) they hold. The Padma Samhita (kriyapada: 16, 30-36) as also Lakshmi Tantra and others describes in detail the iconographic features of the Vyuhantara-murtis. There are again variations among those texts. Let’s talk of that in the last segment of this post.

VYUHA_GOVINDA with four bows

Caturvimsati murti

23. 1. The emanation process did not cease with the twelve Vyuhantara. Padma Samhita (Jnana kanda: 2, 26- 28) mentions that the four Vyuha  ‘ for some reason’ went on to create a sub –secondary Vyuhantara forms numbering twelve in two sets (4+8).This was achieved in a rather strange manner. Here, Vyuha- Vasudeva manifested another Vasudeva who manifested Nrusimha who in turn manifested Acchuta.

Sankarshana manifested another Sankarshana who gave raise to Purushottama who in turn manifested Adhokshaja.

Pradyumna manifested another Pradyumna who manifested Janardana who in turn manifested Upendra.

And Aniruddha manifested another Aniruddha who manifested Hari, who in turn manifested Krishna.

23.2. Thus the celebrated Caturvimsati murti group (the twenty-four forms) is composed by:

(a).  The twelve Vyuhantara or secondary forms:

[1.Keshava;2.Narayana;3.Madhava;4.Govinda;5.Vishnu;6.Madhusudana;7.Trivikrama;8.Vamana;9.Sridhara;10.Hrishikesha;11.Padmanabha;and 12.Damodara]

(b). Plus the four forms:

[13.  Sankarshana;  14. Vasudeva; 15.Pradyumna; and 16.Aniruddha]

(c). And, the eight further (sub secondary) emanatory forms:

[17. Purushottama; 18. Adhokshaja;   19. Nrusimha; 20. Acchuta; 21. Janardana;  22. Upendra; 23. Hari; and 24.Krishna]

24.1. The iconography of the latter set of twelve (from 13 to 24: from Sankarshana to Krishna follows that of the Dwadasha-murtis (from 1 to 12:  from Keshava to Damodara). As regards their colour, they follow the colour or the complexion of their source, that is: The first group of three along with Vasudeva is white; the second group along with Sankarshana is ruby red; the third group along with Pradyumna is golden yellow; and the fourth group along with Aniruddha is dark.

25.1. Padma Samhita states that the images of these twenty-four deities should be established in temples in order to acquire merit and prosperity. They might be established either separately or together. But, sculptural representation of all the forms is extremely rare. They are seen only in a few temples of Hoysala period (c.11th century).

25.2. While performing the daily Sandhya it is customary to recite the names of these twenty-four forms and invoke them in the twenty-four spots in the body.

25.3. The Gayatri- Sara- Samgraha, it is said, identifies of the twenty-four letters of the Gayatri Mantra with the deities (abhimana devatha) presiding over the names of the Caturvimsati murtis.[Please see the table appended.]

25.4. It is said the Vyuhantara from 13-16 though they bear the names of the original Vyuhas, they are not the same; they are different. Similarly, it is clarified that Vyuhantara murti with names such as Krishna, Narasimha, Trivikrama, Narayana etc should not be mistaken for the original deities bearing those names. It is also clarified that although the names of Vyuhantara forms resemble the names of Vishnu, ichnographically or otherwise they are NOT the Vishnu.

25.5. Among these twenty-four forms, the set of first twelve Dwadasha- murti, (from Keshava to Damodara), is assigned greater importance than the latter twelve.


Iconography of the Dwadasha murti

1.1. As mentioned earlier, the Vyuhantara murtis are ichnographically similar; they all resemble the four armed Vasudeva in jagrat state. They are differentiated by the manner they hold the four ayudhas or Vaishnava insignia (shankha, chakra, gada and padma).There is however no uniformity among the various texts .For instance, Tantra Sara draws up an elaborate scheme by taking the conch (shankha) symbolizing emancipation as the principle ayudha and works out various positions/ combinations  of the other three ayudhas in relation to shankha in upper right hand, shankha in upper left hand, shankha in lower left hand and shankha in lower right hand. Agni Purana, Padma Purana and Skanda Purana etc propose their own scheme.

1, 2. But the commonly accepted form is the one that is given in the Shilpa text Rupamandana, The order given there commences with the upper -right –hand, then goes on to the upper-left-hand , then down to the lower –left-hand and finally to the lower-right-hand. The flow is clock-wise commencing from the upper-right-hand. The initial configuration is with reference to the ayudhas held by Keshava: Shankha (URH); Chakra (ULH); Gada (LLH) and Padma (LRH). The ayudha-positions of the other vyuhantara are worked out by rotation.

[Please refer to the tables appended for the ayudha-positions of all the twenty-four Vyuhantara forms].

Let’s discuss briefly about the iconography of the Dwadasha murti; that is the first twelve Vyuhantara from Keshava to Damodara.

1. Keshava –Murti

keshavaKeshava-murti the first of the Vyuhantara who emanated from Vyuha-Vasudeva is lustrous like gold (suvarna-bha). He wears white garments; and pearl ornaments.

His ayudhas are: shankha (URH); chakra (ULH); gada (LLH); and padma (LRH).

His Shakthi is Sri or Kirti.

He is the Lord of Margashira month.

He is invoked in the forehead of the devotee (lalata).

His flag bears the emblem of the great Eagle (Mahat Garuda Ketana).

2. Narayana- Murti

narayanaNarayana –murti the second of the Vyuhantara who emanated from Para-Vasudeva is glowing like a dark blue cloud. His countenance is benign (saumya). He wears yellow silk garments (pitambara); and gem studded gold ornaments.

His ayudhas are: padma (URH); gada (ULH); chakra (LLH); and shankha (LRH).

His Shakthi is Vagisvari.

He is the Lord of Pushya month.

He is invoked in the lower abdomen (centre) of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of the great Eagle (Mahat Garuda Ketana).

3. Madhava-Murti

madhava3Murti the third among the Vyuhantara who emanated from Para-Vasudeva shines like blue-lotus (nilothphala) .He dress is multicoloured and is adorned with garlands of many hues. He looks magnificent like a full blossomed lotus.

His ayudhas are: chakra (URH); shankha (ULH); padma(LLH); and gada (LRH).

His Shakthi is Kanthi.

He is Lord of Magha month.

He is invoked in the chest of  the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of the great Eagle (Mahat Garuda Ketana)-

4. Govinda-Murti

govindaGovinda-Murti the fourth among the Vyuhantara; and the first to emanate from Sankarshana is soothingly bright like moon, like a pearl. His eyes are lustrous and attractive like red lotus. He is adorned in rich gold ornaments.

His ayudhas are: gada (URH); padma (ULH); shankha (LLH); and chakra(LRH).

His Shakthi is Kriya.

He is Lord of Phalguna month.

He is invoked in the front neck (middle) of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of the lofty palm-tree and a plough.

5. Vishnu-Murti

visnu murrtiVishnu-Murti the fifth among the Vyuhantara; and the second to emanate from Sankarshana is crystal white (sphatika). He wears gold coloured bright garments; and richly adorned with ornaments.

His ayudhas are: padma (URH); shankha (ULH);chakra (LLH); and gada (LRH).

His Shakthi is Shanthi.

He is Lord of Chaitra month.

He is invoked in the lower abdomen (right) of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of the lofty palm-tree and a plough.

6. Madhusudana-Murti

madhusudanaMurti the sixth among the Vyuhantara; and the third to emanate from Sankarshana is glowing like a red lotus. He wears silken yellow garments. He is richly adorned with ornaments.

His ayudhas are: shankha (URH); padma (ULH); gada (LLH); and chakra (LRH).

His Shakthi is Vibhuti.

He is Lord of Vaishakha month.

He is invoked in the right arm of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of the lofty palm-tree and a plough.

7. Trivikrama-Murti

trivikrama1Trivikrama Murti the seventh among the Vyuhantara; and the first to emanate from Pradyumna is glowing like a ruby. He is richly adorned with gold armlets, chains, earrings etc.

His ayudhas are: gada (URH); chakra (ULH); shankha (LLH); and padma (LRH).

His Shakthi is Iccha.

He is Lord of Jesta month.

He is invoked in the neck (right side) of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of crocodile (Madana)

8. Vamana Murti

vamanaVamana Murti the eighth among the Vyuhantara; and the second to emanate from Pradyumna is mellow glowing like jasmine , has wide eyes like lotus petals.

His ayudhas are: chakra (URH); gada (ULH); padma(LLH); and shankha (LRH).

His Shakthi is Priti.

He is Lord of Ashada month.

He is invoked in the lower abdomen (left) of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of crocodile (Madana).

9. Sridhara-Murti

sridharaSridhara-Murti the ninth among the Vyuhantara; and the third to emanate from Pradyumna is lustrous like white lotus. His eyes are beautiful and shining like a red lotus petal. He wears strings of pearls.

His ayudhas are: chakra (URH); gada (ULH); shankha (LLH); and padma (LRH).

His Shakthi is Rathi.

He is Lord of Shravana month.

He is invoked in the left arm of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of crocodile (Madana).

10. Hrishikesha – Murti

hrishikeshaHrishikesha – Murti the tenth among the Vyuhantara; and the first to emanate from Aniruddha is dazzling like lightning. He wears red garments; red flowered garlands and has stuck a red lotus in his hair.

His ayudhas are: chakra (URH); padma (ULH);shankha (LLH); and gada (LRH).

His Shakthi is Maaya.

He is Lord of Bhadrapada month.

He is invoked in neck (left side) of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of deer (mriga).

11. Padmanabha Murti

padmanabha1Padmanabha Murti the eleventh among the Vyuhantara; and the second to emanate from Aniruddha is glowing like a blue diamond. He wears bright yellow garments; and is adorned with many coloured gems and jewels; and multihued garlands.

His ayudhas are: padma (URH); chakra (ULH); gada(LLH); and shankha (LRH).

His Shakthi is Dhi.

He is Lord of Ashviyuja month.

He is invoked in back (lower spine) of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of deer (mriga).

12. Damodara Murti

damodaraDamodara Murti the twelfth and the last among the Vyuhantara; and the third to emanate from Aniruddha is enchanting like the tender green blades ofdurva grass and wide eyes like pools. He wears yellow silk garments; and many types of gems and jewels; strings of precious stones.

His ayudhas are: shankha (URH); gada (ULH); chakra (LLH); and padma(LRH).

His Shakthi is Mahima.

He is Lord of Kartika month.

He is invoked in back (upper spine) of the devotee.

His flag bears the emblem of deer (mriga).


The following tables indicate the ayudha positions of each Vyuhantara Murti , its presiding deity;  and,  its association with the letters of Gayatri Mantra.



vishnu with sridevi bhudevi

Sources and References

I gratefully acknowledgethe line-drawings and notes fromBrahmiya Chitrakarma Sastram

by Prof G Gnanananda

Vishnu Koshaby Prof.SK Ramachandra Rao

Ritual, state, and history in South Asia By J. C. Heesterman, A. W. van den Hoek, D. H. A. Kolff, M. S. Oort


Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Vishnu


Tags: , , , ,

Vishnu – Dwadashanamas – Part Three

Continued from Part Two – Narayana – Vasudeva Krishna -Para Vasudeva

E. The Vyuha

Para–Vasudeva and Lakshmi

13.1. As mentioned earlier, the central doctrine of the Pancharatra Agama is that the Absolute, the Brahman, out of loving- compassion, voluntary assumed bodily forms so that the devotees may gain access to his subtle form. He manifests himself in five-fold forms: Para or the supreme form of his transcendent being; Vyuha or the group of his forms called Vyuha-Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha brought together in worship and adoration as a complete body of divine power, and who represent the cosmic consciousness, intellect, mind, and the ego respectively; Vibhava or his glory seen through his incarnations or Avatars; Archa or his presence manifest in his idols and images worshipped by devotees; and as Antaryamin or his immanent presence within the Universe.

13.2. Para–Vasudeva represents the Pancharatra ideology of the transcendental form (para) of Narayana the supreme principle abiding in the highest realm paramapada. He is visualized as pure and resplendent like a clear crystal; and as the divinely auspicious charming form (divya mangala vigraha).  Para is the highest form and is referred to as ‘the first form’,’ the best of the Purushas’ and ‘the Highest Light’ etc. Para –Vasudeva is endowed with countless auspicious virtues (ananta kalyana guna), which include the important six ideal attributes: wisdom or gnosis (jnana), sovereignty (aishvarya), energy (sakthi), strength (bala), valour (virya) and splendour or glory (tejas).His other notable attributes are gambhirya (grandeur, majesty), audarya (generosity or benevolence), karunya (compassion), souseelya (chaste manners)and vaathsalya (affection).

13.3. Lakshmi (Sri) as energies intimately associated with Para –Vasudeva; and is regarded as the composite aspect of his transcendental form. While Para Vasudeva is pure consciousness, Lakshmi as creative energy is the cause of the material world. It is said, Lakshmi at his behest, that is by the power of his will (iccha sakthi), differentiates herself into the power of action (kriya sakthi) and the power of becoming (bhuti sakti). Out of her three powers the next phase of emanations (vyuha) proceeds

It is also explained that Lakshmi and Vasudeva are two aspects of the One reality. Within Para Vasudeva’s unity He implies She; and She implies He. Para Vasudeva is pure consciousness while Devi Lakshmi is his expression of “I-ness”. She is the thought within his consciousness; She is the energy that manifests His glory. She exists because of Him; and He depends on her to manifest all that he intends. Lakshmi is Vasudeva’s power to intend an act (kriya-shakthi); She is also the power to bring this act into being (bhuthi – shakthi).As conscious intent She is Agni –the fire; and as fruitful act She is Soma – the life-juice that feeds the fire (meaning all that sustains life). Just as fire produces liquid and liquid produces fire, She brings forth everything into being. Whenever we speak of Him acting, we understand the actor in fact is She. The Bhagavatas address the Supreme Being as the Unity of He and She; as the Father and Mother of all existence. Some scholars say that in the ancient Tamil poetry, the term Tirumal (Tiru = Shri; Mal = Mahat the Great One) means the Majestic Devi with the Great One, suggesting the essential unity of Lakshmi and Vasudeva. [See Denis Hudson’s Book]

13.4. The later Pancharatra texts mention, in addition to Lakshmi, two other consorts – Bhu-devi and Nila-devi – who too are regarded as energies associated with Narayana. The three Devis are said to also represent the three aspects (gunas) of nature (prakriti): Lakshmi (satva –white); Bhu (rajas –red) and Nila (tamas –dark). She is also the Maha-Maya the transcendent and magical creativity.

Emanation – Shristi 

14.1. The appearance of gunas in Lakshmi and Narayana sets in motion the process of emanation, the vyuha. The term Vyuha stands for structure or group or groups of persons. In the Vyuha emanation, Narayana manifests himself as five heroes of the Vrishni-yadava clan:Vasudeva-Krishna; his brother Sankarshana; Samba (son of Krishna –Jambavathi); Pradyumna (son of Krishna -Rukmini) and Aniruddha (son of Pradyumna).These five are together known as ‘heroes of a family’; and, the Bhagavata cult came to be known as ‘the doctrine of heroes’ (vira-vada). However, with Samba having been omitted from the group, the other four Vrishni heroes were revered as chatur-vyuha, the four essential aspects of Vishnu. Initially worship was offered to them individually; and later they were worshipped together in group.

14.2. Some scholars of the Pancharatra School try to explain why the Vyuha was composed by the relatives of Vasudeva – Krishna. They say when Narayana appeared on the earthly plane as Krishna, some of his attributes too took form as persons surrounding him. While Krishna, they say, is the complete manifestation those around him were sparks of the divine essence. Yet, Krishna and Vrishni heroes all originated from the same source, Narayana.

It is said; the gods are to be celebrated by their name, form, glory of their achievements and together with their friends (sthutistu naama rupena karmana baandhavena cha: Brihad-devatha -17)

Chatur Vyuha

15.1. Para is the undifferentiated Vasudeva while Vyuha is the stage of differentiated creation. Among the four Vyuha forms, the Vyuha-Vasudeva is regarded the most complete representation of Para-Vasudeva or Narayana. He is the embodiment of the ‘para’ nature of Narayana and is endowed with the six gunas in full measure. He is the source of other three Vyuha forms and is the creator of the second Vyuha, Sankarshana. Vasudeva says ‘the four Vyuha forms rest in me’ (chatur murti dharo hyam).

15.2. The chatur vyuha is compared to a pillar (visaka yupa) having four nodes (parva) bearing four resplendent lights, each light at a different height and each facing a different direction. The brightest of the four lights, at the top, glowing like a gem is Vyuha-Vasudeva the pure effulgence; it is all brightness. The other three lights, at the lower level, shining not-so-brightly, represent Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha. The light at the second level glowing red like a ruby is Sankarshana; the next one below that burning yellow like gold is Pradyumna; and the light at the lowest level dark like a rain bearing cloud is Aniruddha.

The Vyuha structure, attributes and functions


16. The structure, the symbolisms and the functions assigned to each vyuha-murti is not only elaborate but also very interesting.

It is explained; Vasudeva as the Supreme (para) and Vasudeva as formation (Vyuha) differ only in relation to the beings produced. It is said; the Supreme Being Para-Vasudeva cannot be seen within space-time, just as an embryo cannot see the mother in whom it resides. But Vyuha-Vasudeva as a formation can be seen just as the infant can see its mother soon after birth. Sadhana the devotional way of disciplined and dedicated life is the means to see and experience Vasudeva as the formation Vyuha.

Vyuha Vasudeva

Vasudeva, as formation, re-produces his body, its content and actions, in three specific re-arrangements of himself in sequence. The primary Vasudeva changes into the formation of plougher Sankarshana. He then changes into the pre-eminently mighty Pradyumna. He thereafter changes into the formation of unobstructed Aniruddha.

The four Vyuha forms are in essence the four aspects of Para-Vasudeva from whom they all originate. They represent the four dimensions of the created universe; and regulate the cosmic order, rta.

The emanation of the four Vyuhas follows a certain sequence. The Vyuha Vasudeva is the first emanation. From him arises the second Vyuha: Sankarshana who in turn gives rise to the third Vyuha: Pradyumna.   The fourth Vyuha, Aniruddha, is produced by Pradyumna.

In this process of emanation Para-Vasudeva remains unaffected, unchanged and ‘rests in his nature ‘.The other Vyuha forms are the differentiated aspects of the Para.

This evolution in stages is compared to lighting one lamp from another. Para- Vasudeva is also compared to a seed that holds in its womb the entire tree, but grows and flourishes richly into a visible form, over a period of time.

  • The Vyuha –Vasudeva, adorned in yellow or red garments; Peaceful and benevolent; white in colour like fresh snow, cow’s milk or jasmine; bright and clear like pure crystal ; complete; in all aspects (kala) . He has four arms representing four stages in the evolution and dissolution of the universe: creation or emergence (sristi), maintenance (sthiti), dissolution (samhara) and emancipation (mukthi). His lower right hand is in the gesture of protection or holds a lotus. A mace is held   in the lower left. His upper right hand holds Sudarshan Chakra (discus) ; and, upper left Panchajanya Shankha (conch).

Vyuha Vasudeva 2

Sankarshana who was dragged out of Vasudeva’s body (akrasya tu svakaad dehaath) too is complete in all the four aspects (chatuskala). He is Lustrous and glowing red in colour, as that of a ruby or the morning sun. He is depicted as very strong and vigorous. He wears yellow or blue garments; an earring in one ear. In his lower set of hands, he holds Musala (pestle) and a Hala (plough) while in the upper he bears Saranga Dhanush (bow) and Panchajanya Shankha.

According to Vishnudharmottara :

The Lord Samkarshana should have the appearance of Vasudeva but with a white body arid a blue dress. In place of Gada, the pestle should be represented; and, in place of Chakra, the plough. They should be endowed with the forms of men, furnished with beauty and with thin middle.

Vasudevasya-rupena karyaha Sankarshna-prabhuhu / Sa tu Shukla-vapuhu karyo Nila-vasa yadutthama // 3.85.21//

Gadha-sthane cha Musalam , Chakra-sthane cha Langulam / karthayo tanu-madhye  tau Nrupau rupa-samyuthau // 3.85.22//

And, Sankarshana , in turn,  produced Pradyumna.

Vyuha Sankarshana

The four-armed Pradyumna bright like burnished gold represents universal soul (vishva-atma).  He. in turn produced from half of his body (dehaardha), Aniruddha dark in colour, the master of yogis.

Pradyumna is the hue of tender Durva (grass); greenish blue and lustrous like the glow of a blue gem. He is extremely handsome; but, appears a trifle intoxicated. He wears yellow or red garments; beautified with rich, delicate ornaments. In his lower hands he holds Panchajanya Shankha and Kaumodaki-Gada (mace). His upper set of hands are adorned with Padma (lotus) and Sudarshan Chakra. When depicted with two arms, he is shown holding Saranga Dhanush and an arrow; and, wearing white garments.

Vishnudharmottara specifies that

Pradyumna again should have the appearance of Vasudeva; but he is green like the Druva-sprout; and wears a white garment. In place of the Chakra should be the bow ;and in place of the club the arrow ; and the plough and spear  should be shown similar to them (i. e., assuming human bodies)

Vasudevasya-rupena Pradhyumna-scha tattha bhaveth / Sa tu Durva-ankura -shyama  -sit vasa vidhiyate // 3.85. 23//

Chakra-sthane bhaveth Chapam , Gada-sthane tattha Sharam /tattha vidhitau kartayo tattha Musula -Langulau // 3.85.24//

Vyuha Pradyumna

Vyuha Aniruddha is dark-blue in complexion, like a rain bearing cloud. he inherits Pradyumna’s handsomeness from whom he emanates. He wears Pitambara (yellow silken garments). He is also described as rather pinkish like a fresh lotus, wearing red garments. He is adorned in rich ornaments and Vanamala (wild-flower garland). In his lower set of hands, he holds Khadga (dagger) and Khetaka (shield). In the upper hands he bears Saranga Dhanush and an arrow.

He is also depicted in a recumbent position, resting on Adi Sesha serpent, with his consorts.

Vishnudharmottara says :

One should make the image of Aniruddha, with a body of the colour of the lotus-petal; and wearing a red cloth. In place of the Chakra should be the sword. The personified shield should have the appearance of chakra personified; but the sword is rendered as a man of high stature. Their beautiful real forms in the shape of weapons should be partially shown on the heads of Chakra and others.

Yeta Deva tattha rupa Aniruddha-sya karayeth / Padma-patra-bhava-pusho Raktha-ambara -darasya tu // 3.85.25//

Chakra-sthane bhaveth Charma,Gada-sthane  Seemeva cha / Charmasya Chakra-rupena pranthuh Khadgo vidiyate // 3.85.26//

Vyuha Aniruddha


The alternate names assigned to the four forms are Paramahamasa or Purusha for Vyuha-Vasudeva; Vyoma or Satya for Sankarshana; Naada or Achyuta for Pradyumna; and Hamsa or Narayana for Aniruddha.

Vyuha-Vasudeva represents Purusha (the all inclusive cosmic person); Sankarshana the Prakrti (individual soul or the material manifestation); Pradyumna the Manas (consciousness and mind) and Aniruddha the Ahamkara (the ego or the individual identify).

The four Vyuha forms are also said to represent the four states of consciousness; Vyuha-Vasudeva represents Turiya (the state beyond all states); Sankarshana the Shushupti (dreamless sleep); Pradyumna the Svapna (dream state) and Aniruddha the Jagrat (wakeful state).

Each Vyuha form is associated with a Yuga (a great period or an era). Vyuha-Vasudeva is associated with Krita-yuga; Sankarshana with Treta-yuga; Pradyumna with Dwapara-yuga; and Aniruddha with Kali-yuga.

Among the Dashavataras (the ten avatars of Vishnu) Vyuha-Vasudeva is associated with Vamana and Vasudeva-Krishna; Sankarshana with Matsya, Kurma, Parushuarama, Sri Rama and Kalki; Pradyumna with the Buddha; and Aniruddha with Varaha and Nrusimha.

When Vyuha forms are depicted on the Vimana of a Vishnu temple, the Vyuha-Vasudeva is placed on the East, Sankarshana on the South; Pradyumna on the West; and Aniruddha on the South face of the Vimana.

The Vyuha-Vasudeva who virtually is Para Vasudeva himself, is complete and endowed with all the six divine attributes (shad-guna): wisdom or gnosis (jnana) , sovereignty (aishvarya) ,  energy or potency (sakthi), strength (bala) , valour (virya) and splendour or glory (tejas)

The six attributes (gunas) are grouped into three sets. The first set comprising the first three gunas (jnana, aishvarya and shakthi) is said to be in the ‘plane of rest’; the second set comprising the latter three gunas (balavirya and tejas) is said to be in ‘the plane of activity’; and the third set comprises three pairs of two each :  jnana and Balaaishvarya and virya; the third pair being shakthi and tejas. The scheme of grouping in the third set is such that a guna each from the first set is paired with a guna from the second set. (Please refer to the table appended).

The Vyuha forms are thus significant both in spiritual and in physical planes.

  • It is said that all the six divine attributes (shad-guna) are present in Vyuha-Vasudeva, in full measure. He is the pure aggregate of the six supreme qualities; but they rest in him undifferentiated and un-manifest.

However, only two each of those gunas appear dominantly in each of the other three Vyuhas. The dominant gunas in Sankarshana are: jnana and Bala; in Pradyumna: Aishvarya and Virya; and in Aniruddha: Shakthi and Tejas.

It is clarified that it should not be construed that all six attributes are not present in each of the other three Vyuha forms (Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha). But, it is implied that two specific gunas are dominant or explicit in each of those three Vyuhas, while the other four gunas are present in them in seed or potent form.

  • It is said, while Vyuha-Vasudeva represents Dharma, rta the cosmic order, the other Vyuhas are each assigned two distinct types of functions: one related to creation and the other related to guiding the jivas on the path to salvation.

As regards the creation- functions, it is said, that with Sankarshana (Bala) creation assumes an embryonic form; through Pradyumna (Aishvarya) the duality of Purusha and Prakrti makes its appearance; and Aniruddha (ShakthI) enables the body and soul to grow.

[There are various versions of this concept. For instance, Lakshmi Tantra mentions the function of Aniruddha as creation; of Pradyumna as preservation; and of Sankarshana as destruction.]

As regards guiding the souls, Sankarshana (jnana) teaches the ‘siddantha’ the governing principles (ekantika –marga); Pradyumna (virya) helps its translation into practice (tatkriya); and Aniruddha (tejas) brings about the fruit of such practice (kriya phala), which is liberation.

The Vyuha context

17.1. There are arguments among various schools including the Vaishnavas on the Vyuha-concept. All agree with possibility of Vasudeva Parama-purusha manifesting himself in several forms in order to be accessible to the aspirants. However, some, notably Parashara Bhattar (12th century CE), point out that Vyuha- Vasudeva is virtually the Para_vasudeva in full measure. And, wonder if there was a need or relevance for Para-Vasudeva to replicate as Vyuha-Vasudeva –murti. They remark, it would suffice if the Vyuha is restricted to three forms: Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha.

17.2. The Vyuha concept appears to be ancient and much older to that of the Avatars. It also appears to be better structured and function- oriented. Each Vyuha form has a designated position, specific aspects and defined functions. The Vyuha manifestations are actively associated with the processes of creation, evolution and maintenance of the world and the world-order. They also protect and guide the devotees on the path to salvation. In other words, Vyuha is a dynamic group which is closely associated with the functions of the world and expresses itself eloquently.

17.3. In the Pancharatra tradition which recommends icon worship (Archa) in the place of rituals like Yajnas, the approach to the divine is graded. And, in its   hierarchy of divinities, the Vyuha murtis are ranked higher than the Avatars. The Vyuha murtis are regarded celestial beings while Avatars are those who descended to the earthly plane.  The devotees, it is said, attain to or gain approach to the Vyuhas only after worship of Vibhava forms (Avatars) such as Sri Rama and others. A devotee contemplates on the subtle form of Vasudeva only through worship of Vyuha murtis.

17.4. In comparison, the Avatar concept appears rather nebulous. Avatar is the Vibhava form of emanation, the pragmatic stage, in which the God makes himself visible (avirbhava) descending to the earthly plane, for a specific purpose. And, only a handful of such Avatars are the major ones (purna), most others being either partial (amsha) or in passing (avesha). The recognition of an Avatar appeared to have come about as a response to the then popular sentiments. Each tradition follows its own interpretation of Avatar; the number of recognized Avatars too varies from School to School. For instance the Pancharatra Samhita lists as many as thirty-nine Avatars, while the Bhagavata – Purana mentions twenty-two Avatars; and the most recognized Avatars are ten. The legends connected with those Avatars also vary. Their virtues or position in the pantheon are often vague.



18. The Vyuha concept is one of the most significant features of the Vaishnava traditions, particularly of the Pancharatra. In its schema of cosmology, Para is the undifferentiated Vasudeva while Vyuha is the stage of differentiated creation closer to the beings. The Vyuha influence is wide spread across its various texts of philosophy, theology and Shilpa (temple architecture).For instance, Sri Parashara Bhattar (c.12th century) in his celebrated commentary on Vishnu-sahasra-nama observed that the Vishnu-names from 1 to 122 glorify Vishnu’s transcendental form Para; the next set of names from 123 to 146 expound the Vyuha forms; and then the stotra moves on to Vibhava (Avatars), Archa and other attributes.

The Vyuha in turn gave raise to twenty-four classical forms of Vishnu, the names of which are recited each day with devotion and reverence by most Hindus. Of the twenty-four secondary Vyuha (Vyuhantara), the first twelve (Dwadasha murti) are regarded more important.

We shall talk about the Dwadasha murti   in the next post.The following is the brief iconographic description of the Vyuhas, in summary.Vyuha murtis are manifestations of Para-Vasudeva, the chief of the Vyuha (adyaksha); and, therefore their general features follow that of Vasudeva. The Agama texts of the Vaishnava persuasion (Vishvaksena Samhita, Isvara Samhita, Vishnudharmottara and Padma Samhita) as also the Shilpa texts such as Rupamandana carry elaborate descriptions of the Vyuha-murtis. The texts prescribe that icons of the four Vyuhas be installed separately. It is also mentioned that Vyuha -Vasudeva be depicted in standing posture (sthanaka); Sankarshana in seated posture (aasana); Pradyumna in resting or leaning posture; and Aniruddha in moving posture(yana karmani). The Vishvaksena Samita (11:145) however states that the Vyuha murti (images) may be depicted either as seated (aasana), recumbent (sayana), standing (sthanaka) or as in motion (Yana).




Vyuha –Vasudeva murti

vyuha vasudeva

Vyuha Vasudeva is represented as bright and clear as the pure crystal (shuddha spatika mani), as the cow’s milk, as jasmine or as the fresh snow. His aspect is peaceful and benevolent (saumya); and he wears yellow or red garments. He may be two or four armed. His lower right hand assumes the gesture of protection or it holds a lotus (padma); and his lower left hand holds the mace (gada).His upper right hand holds the discus (chakra) and the left hand holds the conch (shankha).He is adorned tastefully with ornaments. His image is scaled in uttama-dasatala measure.

Vyuha –Sankarshana murti

vyuha sankarshana

Vyuha-Sankarshana is lustrous and glowing red as a ruby or the morning sun. He is depicted as a very strong and vigorous person. He wears yellow or blue garments ; and an earring in one ear (kundalaka vibhushita).In his lower set of hands he holds pestle (musala) and a plough (hala or langala). In the upper hands he holds a bow (dhanus) and a conch (shankha).He is richly ornamented.

Vyuha –Pradyumna murti

vyuha pradyumna

Pradyumna is the colour of tender durva –grass or lustrous like the light of a glowing blue gem (durva- marakata prakhyam).He is very handsome; his disposition is as if slightly intoxicated (madothkata) and he wears yellow or red silken garments. His ornaments are rich and delicate.  He holds in the lower set of hands a conch (shankha) and a mace (gada).In the upper hands he holds a lotus (padma) and a discus (chakra).

When he is two-armed he is shown in white garments holding a bow and an arrow.

Vyuha –Aniruddha murti

vyuha aniruddha

Aniruddha is dark-blue like the rain- bearing cloud. He is very handsome. He wears yellow silken garments (pitambara). He is also described as rather pinkish like a fresh red lotus, wearing red garments. He is richly ornamented and has flowing long flower- garlands (vanamala). He holds in his lower set of hands a dagger (khadga) and a shield (khetaka). In the upper hands he holds a bow and an arrow.

He is also shown in recumbent position, resting on Sesha and in company of his consorts.


Vishnu Dwadasanama

Vishnu on Garuda 2

Sources and References

I gratefully acknowledge the line-drawings and notes from Brahmiya Chitrakarma Sastram  by Prof . Dr. G Gnanananda

Vishnu Kosha by Prof.SK Ramachandra Rao


Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Vishnu


Tags: , , , , , , , ,