So this might be a little controversial, but I was really curios what is the earliest reference of names "Hari" and "Ram" in vedic scriptures ?
The way I think it is this way : Names like Ram and Hari were originally used for Brahman , but it might have been given to avatars of Vishnu later as Ram for Ramchandra and Hari for Krishna respectively.
Because if there's a reference of 'Ram' in vedas predating to birth of Ramchandra, then its obvious 'Ram' can't be referncing to Ramchandra as it is not possible to refer to someone who's not born yet , or perhaps I am wrong on this one ? it could be a prophesy of sorts.
Many names of god like
- Krishna (Attractor or Black, black as in outer space, universe the saguna swaroop of brahman)
- Narayana (Nar[human] + Aayan[resting place] , meaning ultimate refuge of humans)
- Hari (hari could mean gold perhaps ? the word hiranya in sanskrit and Zar in persian both refer to gold and are closer to "Hari" word. Gold as in precious and radiating)
- Damodar (One who is known through a mind which is purified (Udara) by means of self-control (dama)")
Regarding Rama , the wikipedia article on Rama says
The word also appears in ancient Upanishads and Aranyakas layer of Vedic literature, as well as music and other post-Vedic literature, but in qualifying context of something or someone who is "charming, beautiful, lovely" or "darkness, night".
In another context as found in other Vedic texts, the word means "pleasing, delightful, charming, beautiful, lovely"
So , perhaps Hari, Ram, Krishna, Damodar, Narayana, etc are all names of Brahman but as they were given to avatars , their original meaning got hidden ?