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We Hindus often hear the words "ishwar" and "bhagvan" . What are the differences between these two words?

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Short version of jabahar's answer with an analogy: There is no difference, the same way there is no difference between two and 2 -- they both refer to the same entity. – rishimaharaj Jul 28 '14 at 2:33
yes there is literally no difference between Bhagavan and the Isvara!! – Harshit Meena Feb 11 at 3:42
up vote 12 down vote accepted

Bhagvan is a term made of two different words, bhaga and van. Bhaga generally means supreme opulence. The Vishnu Purana defines bhaga as below:

aiśvaryasya samagrasya dharmasya yaśasariśrayaḥ
jñānavairāgyayoścaiva ṣaṇṇāṃ bhaga itīraṇā
[VP - 6.5.74]

Complete splendor, virtue, glory, opulence, knowledge, dispassion - these six are known as bhaga.

So just like one who has dhana (wealth) is known as dhanavan, one how has all these six is known as bhagavan. ( bhaga + van = bhagavan ) But the opluences descried above are only found in the supreme personality of Godhead. Hence, the absolute truth, Brahman is also called as Bhagavan.

Apart from this, Bhagavan also means the omniscient being who has the complete knowledge of creation, dissolution, knowledge, ignorance, etc.:

utpattiṃ pralayaṃ caiva bhūtānāmāgatiṃ gatim
vettiṃ vidyāmavidyāṃ ca sa vācyo bhagavāniti
[VP - 6.5.78]

Now, regarding Ishwara, it has been derived from the Sanskrit root ish, which means to rule. So Ishwara means the supreme being who rules over everyone and everything. But as God is only such being, He is also known as Ishwara. ( īśate iti īśvaraḥ )

So irrespective of whether we say Bhagavan or Iswara, both imply the same personal form of God. Just their meanings are different.

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In Hindu Religion, the word Bhagwan has symbolic meaning too. The word encompasses Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space – the five elements. Thus the term Bhagavan translates as the manifestation of the physical form of universe.

In the word भगवान (Bhagavan) –

‘भ’ stands for Bhoomi or Earth

'ग' stands for Gagan or Space

‘व’ stands for Vayu or Air

‘आ’ stands for Agni or Fire

‘न’ stands for Neer or Water

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Good! But the question is "What is the difference between “Ishwar” and “Bhagvan”? – hims056 Jul 3 '14 at 7:30
@hims056 since there is apparently no difference so it made sense to just detail the meaning of Bhagwan rather have a separate ques. for same. – user115 Jul 3 '14 at 7:37
@vedicd You could have mentioned that there is no difference in your answer itself. It would have given a better answer. – Dharmaputhiran Jul 3 '14 at 18:05

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