Most people only know about the Vishnu Sahasranamam, the famous hymn of the thousand names of Vishnu. But the Anushasana Parva of the Mahabharata, the same Parva which contains the Vishnu Sahasranamam, also contains a Shiva Sahasranamam in this chapter. It's told to Krishna by the sage Upamanyu, a devotee of Shiva, and after Upamanyu recites it he tells Krishna the origins of the Shiva Sahasranamam:

It formerly resided in the breast of Brahma the Creator. Brahma imparted it unto Sakra. Sakra imparted unto Mrityu. Mrityu imparted it unto the Rudras. From the Rudras Tandi got it. Indeed Tandi acquired it in the region of Brahman as the reward of his severe austerities. Tandi communicated it to Sukra, and Sukra of Bhrigu's race communicated it to Gautama. Gautama in his turn, O descendant of Madhu, communicated it to Vaivaswata-Manu. Manu communicated it unto Narayana of great intelligence, numbered among the Sadhyas and held exceedingly dear by him. The illustrious Narayana, numbered among the Sadhyas and possessed of glory that knows no diminution, communicated it to Yama. Vaivaswat Yama communicated it to Nachiketa. Nachiketa, O thou of Vrishni's race, communicated to Markandeya. From Markandeya, O Janarddana, I obtained it as the reward of my vows and fasts.

My question is, who is this Narayana who is "numbered among the Sadhyas"? Apparently the Sadhyas are a group of 12 Vedic gods who are the sons of Daksha and his wife Sadhya. As I discuss in this question, in the Yuddha Kanda of the Ramayana, after the battle of Lanka is over Brahma addresses Rama using numerous appellations of Vishnu and his incarnations. In particular he says this

You are the eighth Rudra among (eleven) Rudras and the fifth (Viryavan by name) among the Sadhyas (a particular class of celestials belonging to Gana Devata).

So could this Viryavan, fifth among the Sadhyas, be the same as the Narayana figure mentioned by Upamanyu? Are there any scriptures that describe the story of Vishnu's incarnation as a Sadhya?

On a side note, as I discuss in this answer, both Vaivasvata Manu and Yama are sons of Surya the sun god and his wife Sanjana. So whoever this Narayana is, he seems to have passed the Shiva Sahasranamam between one brother and another!

  • Yes, the ignorant ones n even most devas don't know or properly understand it. Only the ones with the grace of Mahādeva knows n understand it As told by Krishna to Yudhishthira . Sep 21, 2023 at 12:43

1 Answer 1


Chapter 3 (pg 18-19) of the Upodghatapada of the Brahmanda Purana describes the progeny of Dharma. In it there is a mention of Nara and Narayana as Sadhyas.

4.Twelve Sādhyas were born as the sons of Sadhya and Dharma. Those conversant with the Devas affirm that they are superior to other Devas.

5.These are the gods called Jaya, created from the mouth of Brahma with a desire for progeny. All are remembered as Devas with Mantras as their bodies, in all the Manvantaras.

6-7. The names of the (special) Yajñas of these (twelve Devas) are well-known viz. Darśa, Paurinamäsa, Brhad Rathantara, Vitti Vivitti, Äkūti, Kūti, Vijñătr, Vijñāta and Yajña.

8-9. Due to the curse of Brahma, those were born as Jitas in the Svayambhuva Manvantara, as Tusitas in the Svarocisa, as Satyas in the Uttama, as Devas named Haris in Tamasa Manvantara and as Vaikuņțhas in the Raivata Manvantara. In the Caksusa Manvantara, they were born as the Devas named Sādhyas out of their own will.”

10-14. The twelve Devas of great dignity and splendour, sons of Dharma and named Sadhyas, were to have been born in the Caksusa Manvantara.

In the Svarocisa Manvantara, they were the Devas of great prowess named Tusitas. They spoke to one another-"when there is a little balance of Caksusa Manvantara (?) , we shall enter this lady of noble dignity (of the) Sadhyá herself and shall be born in the (Caksusa) Manvantara. That will be conducive to our excellence (and beatitude)".

After saying thus, those twelve Devas were born of (Sadhya) and Dharma, the descendant of the self-born lord.

Nara and Narayana were also born once again therein.

15.They had originally been Vipascit and Indra, as well as Satya and Hari. Formerly, in the Svarocisa Manvantara, they were the sons of Tusita.

16-17. These names are mentioned when Tusitas had become Sādhyas viz. Mana, Anumantr, Prãņa, Nara, Apána of great virility, Viti, Naya, Haya, Harinsa, Nārāyaņa, Vibhu and Prabhu. Thus twelve Sādhyas were born.

Chapter 8 (pg 41) of the same Purana describes that Narayana was crowned the King of the Sadhyas.

  1. He made Prahlāda, the delighter of Diti, the king of Daityas, Narayana, of the Sadhyas and the bull-bannered god as the king of Rudras.

Chapter 203 of the Matsya Purana gives a similar enumeration but omits Nara. And it mentions Viryavan as a Sadhya but no info on him is given.

मरुत्वत्यां मरुत्वन्तः सर्वे पुत्राः प्रकीर्त्तिताः॥९॥ संकल्पायाश्च मुहूर्त्ताश्च मुहूर्त्तायाः साध्याः साध्यासुताः स्मृताः॥ १०॥ मनो मनुश्च प्राणश्च नरोषा नोच वीर्यवान्। चित्तहाय्योंयनश्चैव हंसो नारायणस्तथा॥ ११॥

Marutván were born of Marutvats. Samkalpa gave birth to Samkalpa, Muhürtas to Mahurtas, and Sādhyas gave birth to Sādhyas.

Mana, Manu, Prāņa, Naroșā, Noca, Vīryavăn, Cittahārya, Ayana, Harihsa, Nārāyaņa, Vibhu and Prabhu were the twelve Sadhyas.

Chapter 218 (pg 24) of the Agni Purana gives a hymn during the coronation of Kings where Narayana and Viryavan are mentioned.

Dakşa, Bhurgu, the celestials, Manah Anumantă, Prāņah, Nava, Apána, Vīryavån, Vītihotra, Naya, Sãdhya, Harihsa and Narayana protect you. May the foremost among the celestials who are devoted to the welfare of universe such as Vibhu, Prabhu, and the twelve Suns Dhata, Mitra, Aryamá, Pusa,

Chapter 121 (pg 2) of fourth part of the Narada Purana describes a Vrata known as the Sadhya Vrata. Here Nara, Naryana and Viryavan are mentioned.

54a. The excellent holy rite of the Sådhya Vrata' is to be observed on the twelfth day in the bright half of the month of Margasirsa.

The Sadhyas are twelve in number. They are stated as follows : Manobhava, Prana, Nara, Yata (v.l. Apāna) Vīryavăn, Citi, Haya, Nrpa (v.l. Naya) Harihsa, Narayana, Vibhu and Prabhu.

These shall be represented by raw rice grains and worshiped with scents, fragrant flowers etc. He should then feed twelve leading Brahmanas. Good Daksinas are to be given to them.

He should then bid farewell to them saying, 'May Narayana be pleased.'

And since Nara and Narayana are mentioned as the sons of Dharma in Mahabharata, it leaves no doubt that they are the same ones quoted in the Puranas.

In this connection is cited the old history of the discourse between Narada and the Rishi Narayana. I heard it from my sire that in the Krita age, O monarch, during the epoch of the Self-born Manu, the eternal Narayana, the Soul of the universe, took birth as the son of Dharma in a quadruple form, viz., as Nara, Narayana, Hari, and the Self-create Krishna.

So far there has been very little info on the Viryavan Sadhya but he has been mentioned as quoted above.

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