The divine Sage, Devarṣhi Nārada is perhaps one of the most "notoriously popular", and thus, one of the most misunderstood divinity within Hinduism. Nārada (‘Nāra’ stands for knowledge and ‘Da’ stands for Giver or Provider) is popular as a ‘Loka Sanchari ’ or a Universal Tourist. He is also popular as ‘Kalaha Priya’ or as an instigator or an agent provocateur, but his end objective would always be for ‘Loka Kalyana’ or for Universal Benefit. However, he's mostly veiled by his acts of being a mischief monger and in popular mass vernacular, it's not uncommon to see, anyone inciting feuds is generally given sobriquet like ‘‘Nārada Muni’’, as an inflammatory title or remark. As a verse about Nārada, popularly attributed to Paurāṇika literature proclaims:
नारं नरसमूहं कलहेन द्यति खण्डयति इति नारदः।
Meaning: The one who incites strife amongst men via discord creation tactics is called Nārada.
And thus, in this answer we'll try to ameliorate some of those "mis-understandings".
First, we'll have to look at little bit of basics:
We agree that the time within Hinduism is eternal and cyclic.
As Shri Kṛiṣhṇa puts it beautifully in the Srimad Bhagvad Gītā
[2.12] : O Partha ! Nor at any time indeed was I not, nor thou, nor these rulers of men, nor verily shall we ever cease to be hereafter.
And thus, one must understand that, never was there a time, when the great Sage, Devarṣhi Nārada wasn't a devotee of the Lord, nor shall he ever, cease to be the Lord's devotee.
Secondly, it must be very well ‘‘tried to be known’’ by us normal humans, that it's all, a mere past-time (līlā, लीला) of the Supreme. We all are veiled by the great cosmic illusion (mahamaya / yogamaya). It is the Lord himself, who through his own potencies of partial expansions (amsa avatara), has manifested as a mind-born son of Lord Brahma. See how the emphasis is laid on - ‘‘tried to be known’’. It's because one cannot ever understand or comprehend the Supreme or his myriad līlā's, in any way whatsoever. One might be able to experience him, that too, through his Kṛipā (कृपा - grace) & Karuṇā (करुणा - compassion) only.
As once, I heard in a Bhāgavata-Kathā discourse:
"The ways of the Lord are incomprehensible. On one hand, he'll roam through the forest, crying like a mortal human; one the other hand, a mere touch of his feet salvages Ahalyā from her curse. On one hand, he'll eat mud and show everything to be within him, on the other hand, he'll steal the mākhan (butter) and gets caught & tied up to a mortar. On one hand, he'll destroy Pūtanā just via breastfeeding and, on the other hand, he shall end his earthly affairs by a mere arrowshot to his toe."
Since it's the Lord himself in his role as Nārada, he, for the sake for his devotees, to instill within them Dharma, to teach them the path and the sense of devotion, thus, he himself manifests as Devarṣhi Nārada, always chants, sings and eulogise the Supreme via various eloquent ways like japa, bhajan, dhyāna, saṅkīrtana, etc..
[Question 1]. What are the scriptural references for the popular catchprase - "Nārāyaṇa-Nārāyaṇa", always sung by Devarṣhi Nārada on all the mythology based TV shows ?
Although the rendition does look, sound and feel appropriate and good, when portrayed cinematically. However, As such the particular specific catchphrase ("Nārāyaṇa-Nārāyaṇa") that is generally portrayed in the TV, is a typical case of the creative-artistic cinematic license, and as such may also be posited, to be based on interpolations and local culture based syncretization of local stories, traditional poems, folklores and beliefs.
An example of such syncretization will be the prose in the Pada-Ratnakar based Hindi devotional recensions composed by Hanuman Prasad Poddar . I'm just quoting a specific prose:
गाते भगवन्नाम निरंतर प्रेम रस सुधा सागर मग्न।
तन मन की स्मृति नहीं तनिक सी, वृत्ति नित्य प्रभु पद संलग्न।।
सहज बजाते वीणा सुस्वर मधुर, लिए कर में करताल।
हो उन्मत्त नृत्य करते, मुनि नारद रहते नित्यनिहाल।।
The poet in the above prose gives a description of the sacred love and devotion of Nārada Munī towards the Lord, which makes him constantly sing, dance, play his vīṇā (वीणा) and khartal (खरतल) and ultimately, loose the sense of any kind of duality.
However, Nārada is definitely told to be wandering across the whole existence, always ever devoted to the Lord and always eulogizing Hari in myriad ways.
Some Scriptural instances for the same are being given below:
1. Srimad Bhagavata Purāṇa: Nārada's previous life, devotion and re-birth.
- SB Canto 1: Chapter 7 & Chapter 6, gives the story of previous lives of the Nārada. In some previous MahaKalpa, he was a gandharva named, Upabarhaṇa, whence he was cursed to be born as a maid's son. Thereon, On account of his association with some yogis, he developed devotion to the Lord and hence Viṣhṇu himself appeared before him, foretelling that in his next birth, in the next creation cycle (Kalpa), being born as Brahma's son , he shall attain full devotion (bhakti) to the Lord.
In the words of Nārada himself:
After 4,300,000,000 solar years, when Brahmā awoke to create again by
the will of the Lord, all the ṛṣis like Marīci, Aṅgirā, Atri and so on
were created from the transcendental body of the Lord, and I also
appeared along with them. [SB - 1.6.30]
Since then, by the grace of the almighty Viṣṇu, I travel everywhere without restriction both in the transcendental world and in the three divisions of the material world. This is because I am fixed in unbroken devotional service of the Lord. [SB - 1.6.31]
And thus I travel, constantly singing the transcendental message of
the glories of the Lord, vibrating this instrument called a vīṇā,
which is charged with transcendental sound and which was given to me
by Lord Kṛṣṇa. [SB - 1.6.32]
The above mentioned incident of obtaining the Vīṇā from Shri Kṛiṣhṇa is found in the Vāsudeva-Māhātmyam of the Skanda Purana. By the way, Devarṣhi's Vīṇā is named as Mahatī.
2. Skanda Purāṇa: Boon by Shri Kṛiṣhṇa
- In the Section 9 - Vāsudeva-māhātmya, Chapter 18, of the Skanda Purāṇa, this conversation takes place whence Lord Kṛiṣhṇa on being propiated by Nārada, bestows on him "unflinching devotion (bhakti) for Hari" and blessed him with the boon to always sing the glories of the Lord and his devotees.
“Oh, sage! Listening to those words of the Lord, the
great sage Nārada deemed himself a blessed person. He addressed the
Lord thus: (51)
O Lord! By your very ‘darsan’ my desires
have been completely fulfilled. I believe that the good fortune of
your ‘darsan’ is very difficult to obtain by any living being. (52)
Hence, I have no other desire to obtain except your ‘darsan’, and that
of your people and the nectar-like abode of yours. (53)
There is nothing more formidable to obtain in all the worlds, by
offering prayers to your pleased self. (54)
Other worldly pleasures
obtained by performing the Vedic sacrifices, regarded highly by the
Devatas and Manes, are momentary. (55)
Lord! I do not desire to have
even a little of that great happiness from you. I beseech You, the
greatest bestower of boons, to grant me only one boon. (56)
mind be supremely enthusiastic in constantly singing Your qualities
and those of Your devotees. Let my love for You be even increasing”.
Skanda said: Thus being prayed by Nārada,
Shri Kṛiṣhṇa said – “Let
it be so”, and giving him a ‘Mahati-Veena’ useful for singing, told
him again. (58)
Thus listening to the words of the Lord, Nārada, with tears of
joy pouring from his eyes, and being blessed with his intended
desire, prostrated and returned. (68)
3. Other Incidents as reasons for Nārada's constant singing of Hari Bhajans:
A) Padma Purāṇa: Nārada questions Lord Vishnu
- Once Nārada asked Lord Viṣhṇu where he does he actually resides. Thus, Lord Viṣhṇu replied:
[ Padma Purana: Uttara Khanda - 94.23 ]
नाहं वसामि वैकुण्ठे योगिनां हृदये न च ।
मद्भक्ता यत्र गायन्ति तत्र तिष्ठामि नारद ॥
nāham vasāmi vaikunthe yogināma hŗdaye na ca ।
madbhaktā yatra gāyanti tatra tiśthāmi nārada ॥
Neither do I reside in Vaikuntha, nor do I dwell in the hearts of the yogis; O Narada, I stay where my devotess are singing.
And thus, another reason why Nārada constantly sings the glories of Hari.
B) Linga Purāṇa: The story of Tumburu, and how Narada learnt music:
- The story starts when Nārada visits Vaikuntha and hears Mātā Lakṣhmī raving about the musical capabilities of Tumburu, who is further approved and praised by Lord Viṣhṇu. Nārada feeling alienated from the Lord and hence in dejection perform a tapas whence an ākāṣhvaṇī advice him to learn the art of Music from Ulūka. Having learnt from Ulūka and the likes of other renowned gandharvas, Nārada sets on to propitiate the Lord with his singing. However, Viṣhṇu still declare Tumburu as the best. Further, to mitigate Nārada's apparent dejection, he assures him to teach him music in his Kriṣhṇa avatāra.
This is discussed in the Volume 2, Chapter 2 & 3 of the Linga Purāṇa. In the end, The Lord in his Kriṣhṇa avatāra teaches Nārada, the art of music and thus declares him on an equal footing with Tumburu & Gopa.
[तृतीयोऽध्यायः Chapter 3]
आहूय कृष्णो भगवान् स्वयमेव महामुनिम् ।
अशिक्षयदमेयात्मा गानयोगमनुत्तमम्॥ १०३ ॥
Then lord Krishna, the incomprehensible soul, himself called the great sage and taught him the excellent art of music.
उवाच च हृषीकेशः सर्वज्ञस्त्वं महामुने ।
प्रहस्य गानयोगेन गायस्व मम सन्निधौ ॥१०५॥
Lord Viṣhṇu then laughed and said- "O great Sage, you have now attained the perfect
knowledge. Having been equipped with the perfect knowledge pretty well, you now sing in
[द्वितीयोऽध्यायः Chapter 2]
ततो नारायणो देवस्तस्मै सर्वप्रदाय वै ।
कालयोगेन विश्वात्मा समं चक्रेऽथ तुंबरोः ॥१॥
Thereafter, Lord Viṣhṇu - the universal soul, besides being Mahākāla,
bestowed everything on Nārada, equated him with Tumburu.
नारदं मुनिशार्दूलमेवं वृत्तमभूत्पुरा ।
नारायणस्य गीतानां गानं श्रेष्ठं पुनः पुनः ॥२॥
Thus, Nārada was made the best of all the sages. This even is
related to earlier times. The singing of Nārāyaṇa's songs again and
again, is an excellent event.
गानेनाराधितो विष्णुः सत्कीर्ति ज्ञानवर्चसी ।
ददाति तुष्टिं स्थानं च यथाऽसौ कौशिकस्य वै ॥३॥
Lord Viṣhṇu, who is adored with the singing of songs, bestows excellent grace,
wisdom, lustre, satisfaction and abode as it happened to Kausika.
Hence, this forms another account for Nārada's constant love for singing Hari bhajans.
And thus, we conclude how and why Nārada constantly eulogise Lord Nārāyaṇa (Viṣhṇu) by constantly chanting his names or singing his glories through myriad ways of japa, bhajan, dhyāna, saṅkīrtana, etc.
[Question 2]. Is Nārada really a ‘Kalaha Priya’ (कलह-प्रिय) / Mischief Monger, who incites people to chaos and feuds? Is he an agent provocateur in the typical villainous sense ?
In the [ Srimad Bhagvatam: Canto 6, Chapter 5, Verse 39 ], This is how Prajāpatī Dakṣha described Nārada and terms his acts as mischiefs, before cursing him to wander across the whole creation:
ननु भागवता नित्यं भूतानुग्रहकातरा: ।
ऋते त्वां सौहृदघ्नं वै वैरङ्करमवैरिणाम् ॥ ३९ ॥
Meaning: All the devotees of the Lord but you are very kind to the conditioned souls and are eager to benefit others. Although you wear the dress of a devotee, you create enmity with people who are not your enemies, or you break friendship and create enmity between friends. Are you not ashamed of posing as a devotee while performing these abominable actions?
However, it's difficult to grasp the "Līlā" of the Lord sometimes, even for a person, as exalted as Dakṣha, who also happens to be the Lord's devotee. Thus, As already discussed in the starting, Nārada is Vishnu himself in his partial expansion. Thus this must be understood in terms of his cosmic past-times (līlā), which is beyond comprehension on a material level, for us. In fact, it can be very well stated that, he's is a unique fund of knowledge, robust commonsense and uncanny wit and wisdom that shapes destinies of various Beings in the Supreme Lord’s Creation and hence ultimately aid in the upholding of the Dharma.
One must also note, the crucial role Nārada plays at several instances, thus shaping destiny for the greater good, all as per the "Divine-Plan". Whenever there occur a serious speed-breaker in the stories, it's Nārada who comes to the aid, for defining Dharma and inculcating motivational guidance on the protagonists. Some instances being:
It's no surprise that Lord Krishna says he's Nārada amongst the divine sages.
Srimad Bhagvad Gītā: Chapter 10, Verse 26
[10.26]: Among all the trees ( I am) the Peepul; Among the divine sages, I am Nārada; among Gandharvas, Chitraratha; among the perfected, the sage Kapila.
A modern Sanskrit Dictionary, named Shabda-Kalpa-Druma ( शब्दकल्पद्रुम ), by Radha Kanta Deb Bahadur , defines the following about Nārada:
नारं परमात्म विषयकं ज्ञानं ददाति नारदः
नारं नरसमूहम दयते पालयति
ज्ञान दानेनेति नारदः
The one who bestows the Supreme Knowledge of the self is Nārada.
The one who protects and maintains the highest knowledge on Men, is Nārada.
Lastly, in a conversation between Yudhisthira and Bhishma in the Mahabharata: Shanti Parva (MokshaDharma Parva), Section CCXXX , Bhishma cites what Sri Kriṣhṇa once told Ugrasena about the greatness of Nārada. I'm just quoting here, the beginning and ending parts.
"Yudhishthira said, 'What man is there who is dear to all, who
gladdens all persons, and who is endued with every merit and every
"Bhishma said, 'In this connection I shall recite to thee the words
that Kesava, asked by Ugrasena, said unto him on a former occasion.'
"Ugrasena said, 'All persons seem to be very solicitous of speaking of
the merits of Nārada. I think that celestial Rishi, must really be
possessed of every kind of merit. I ask thee, tell me this, O Kesava!'
"Vasudeva said, 'O chief of the Kukkuras, listen to me as I mention in
brief those good qualities of Narada with which I am acquainted, O
king! Nārada is as learned in the scriptures as he is good and pious
in his conduct. And yet, on account of his conduct, he never cherishes
pride that makes one's blood so hot. It is for this reason that he is
worshipped everywhere. Discontent, wrath, levity, and fear, these do
not exist in Nārada. He is free from procrastination, and possessed of
courage. For this he is worshipped everywhere. Nārada deserves the
respectful worship of all
understanding is firm and stable. His soul is unattached to all
things. For this he is everywhere worshipped with respect. Who,
indeed, is there that will not love him who is thus possessed of every
merit and accomplishment, who is clever in all things, who is pure in
body and mind, who is entirely auspicious, who is well-versed with the
course of time and its opportuneness for particular acts, and who is
well-acquainted with all agreeable things?'"
And hence, we can, thus conclude that Nārada is indeed, in no way, a "Mishcief Monger". His actions must tried to be comprehended, only through the prism of cosmic-pastime (līlā) of the Supreme.
The Notion of Nārada going everywhere while chanting "Nārāyaṇa-Nārāyaṇa", is an interpolation on the fact, that Nārada does roam about the whole creation, although, chanting various names of the Lord, in myriad ways of japa, bhajan, dhyāna, saṅkīrtana, et al.
The cinematic portrayal of Nārada has been in an inflammatory sense of being an agent provocateur and thus a discord inciting 'Mishcief Monger'. However, whatever Nārada does is ultimately done keeping in mind, the mass benefit principle of "Bhaujana Hitāya, Bahujana Sukhāya" i.e, welfare of the many, the happiness of the many. Thus, his activities are just a part of the cosmic-pastime (līlā) of the Supreme, only aimed at establishing the Dharma, and thus in essence, Narada masquerading as a provocateor, is actually a corrector, guide, and a bridge between the extremes of vice and virtue.