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What is Sahasranama? - Importance - Reason - Benefits

Sahasranama or Sahasranamam are hymns in Hindu Holy Scriptures in which a deity is referred to by 1,000 or more different names. ‘Sahasra’ means thousand or a very large number. ‘Nama’ means name. So the literal translation of Sahasranama is 'thousand names'. Here is a look at the importance, reason and benefits of Sahasranama in Hinduism.

Sahasranamas are classified as stotras or hymns of praise. The thousand or more names take a reader of the stotra through the entire attributes, functions and stories related to the deity. It is a sort of an encyclopedia on the deity.

Some of the important Sahasranamam are Lalitha Sahasranama, Vishnu Sahasranama and Shiva Sahasranama. Each deity in Hindu pantheons has a Sahasranama created by devotees.

There are also many shorter hymns like ‘Ashtottara shatanama stotram’ which has only 108 names.

Chanting of Name of God in Hinduism

The chanting the name or the divine name has an important place in Hinduism and is associated with the Bhakti tradition in Hindu religion. The adoration of the Supreme truth by the name takes two forms – Japa and Stotra.

Japa is the silent repetition generally of a single divine name or of a mantra which may also be a long formula.

The stotra, however, is invariably uttered aloud, and it may consist in chanting verses conveying the glory and attributes of the Divine. The Sahasranama is perhaps the most popular and holiest form of Stotras among Hindus.

Saharahama Importance In Hinduism

The word Sahranama means the thousand names of the Lord.

According to the Vedic tradition there is only one manifesting sound (Shabda) indicative of the Supreme Being (Para Brahman), and that is called ‘Om,’ as far as the human ears could capture it.

Just as that one Para Brahman is adored as manifesting in the form of many deities, the one name Om, indicative of Him, also takes the form of innumerable sound forms representing Divine attributes and other excellences.

Sahasranama is perhaps the most extensive elaboration of the Divine name.

Benefits And Reason of Sahasranama

The main benefits of Sahasranama is communion with the deity. It puts a devotee in the path of self realization and ultimately moksha or liberation.

Inward concentration is the essence of devotional practice, but inward concentration is also the most difficult to practice. So, aspirants treading the path of devotion are given practices of varying subtlety for communion with the divine. Concentrated meditation is the highest form of communion, japa comes next and stotra and external worship come still after.

While meditation and japa can be done only very imperfectly by majority of devotees, stotra and external worship can be practiced much more successfully and with greater devotional satisfaction. Hence, the importance of Sahasranama in devotional practice.

The Sahasranama stotra is a special form of devotional composition. Every sahasranama is an invocation of particular deity, and the names strung together into verses in it will briefly indicate the philosophical, theological and ritualistic doctrines of the deity as also the world saving exploits of the deity elaborately dealt within the puranas and other literature.

A sahasranama stotram has six characteristics
  1. Salutation
  2. Benediction,
  3. Statement of the doctrine
  4. Praise of the deity
  5. His attributes, description of his valor, form and deeds
  6. Prayer.
The basic teaching of Sanatana Dharma is that – there is only One Truth. Men of wisdom says the paths to it are many. Sahasranama is the 1000 paths to reach the Supreme Truth. 

Notes taken the introduction of Visnu Sahasranama (2013)  By Swami Tapasyananda  published by Sri Ramakrishna Math Chennai