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Bhagavan – The Meaning of the Term Bhagawan

Bhagavan is the common term used to mean God in Hinduism. 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 Bhagavan –

‘Bh’ stands for Bhoomi or Earth

G stands for Gagan or Space

‘V’ stands for Vayu or Air

‘A’ stands for Agni or Fire

‘N’ stands for Neer or Water


He is the one who is endowed with bhaga - wealth, fame and luster.  Bhagavan is the most common term used for the Absolute that creates, sustains and dissolves the universe. 

Brahman, the absolute, is impersonal, inactive, devoid of limiting adjuncts, and is of the nature of pristine purity of the self. Such a concept does not suggest intimate communion between Bhagavan (object of devotion) and his bhakta (devotee). A devotee craves for something concrete and substantial in the form of an object of his devotion, responsive enough to his prayers. This object is best realized in the form of Bhagavan, at times personalized as an ideal parent, husband, son or ruler. It is in this context that avatars of Bhagavan described in Puranas such as Srimad Bhagavata Purana, become meaningful.


In his commentary on Bhagavad Gita, Adi Shankaracharya explains the word Bhagavan as the one who possesses six virtues - jnana (knowledge), aishwarya (lordliness), shakti (power), bala (strength), virya (prowess) and tejas (effulgence).