When a mantra is given in the Puranas, it's usually preceded by a Dhyanam, which describes the appearance of the god whom you're supposed to meditate upon before reciting the mantra. For instance, in my profile page I quote the Sri Vishnu Stuti, which is part of the Dhyana shlokas of the Vishnu Sahasranamam. But now I'm interested in the Dhyana of another mantra.

This excerpt from the Narada Purana describes a mantra called the Keshava Nyasa, a hymn to Vishnu which was heard from the gods by the sage Narayana, an incarnation of Vishnu whom I discuss here. Here's the appearance of Vishnu you're supposed to meditate upon before reciting it:

On should worship Hari who is equipped with discus and other weapons, who is holding a vessel and a mirror. He is accompanied by Lakshmi who has the brilliance of lightning and who is adorned with a lot of ornaments.

My question is, why is Vishnu described as "holding a vessel and a mirror"?

First of all, what does "vessel" mean here? Does it mean a ship or a container of some kind? I'm not sure what Sanskrit word is being translated as vessel, but if someone can look in the Sanskrit version of the Narada Purana, available here and here, I'd appreciate it.

Are there any other scriptures which mention Vishnu holding a vessel and a mirror, and/or explain their significance? I suppose the mirror could signify that the individual soul is reflected in Vishnu, or something along those lines.

  • 3
    This is "kumbhādarśadharaṃ harim" from verse 99, page 493 in the link you gave. (Found it as the header in your excerpt says III.66.84–104 for that page, and I scrolled around in that link until I found "अथषट्षष्टितमोऽध्यायः", i.e. "now the 66th chapter", then matched the excerpt (which is a close translation) and the verses.) That's presumably kumbha (jar, pitcher, water-pot, ...) and ādarśa (looking-glass, mirror, ...). As for the iconography of Hari bearing a kumbha, I don't know any details. – ShreevatsaR Aug 8 '15 at 21:13
  • @ShreevatsaR Thank you so much! That should help me find an answer. – Keshav Srinivasan Aug 8 '15 at 21:40
  • @KeshavSrinivasan It may be the dhanvantari avatar who appears in samudramathan. He appears with a vessel of nectar. I don't know about mirror thing. – Sarvabhouma Nov 28 '16 at 10:41
  • The mirror could be Mohini. Visnu dharmottara doesn't mention Mohini's svarupa but it does mention Uma's holding a lotus and a mirror. Mirror signifies pure knowledge. As Brahmanda Purana mentions Vishnu becoming Mohini due to Uma's grace it could be that Mohini retained that image of holding a mirror. Although this is just pure speculation and I don't have any proof of Mohini's iconography. – Arya Sep 21 '17 at 19:53

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