The ‘Siva Sahasranamam' figures in the ‘Anusasanika Parva' of the Mahabharata. The book under review lists the 1,000 names of Lord Siva. The text is in Tamil and it is followed by transliteration in English and meaning in Tamil and English in that order.

As the author says in the prefatory note, he has interpreted the Lord's names as they appeared and appealed to him. For instance, the term bhima is brilliantly explicated from the perspective of sruti. Digvasase namah is fancied as “the quarters signifying space are enveloped by Him and hence they are His raiment”, thus bringing out its esoteric import. A plain reading of the term would border on the ridiculous.

Again, the name trijatin, taken literally, would seem to refer to the Lord's ‘three plaits of matted locks'. The reference here, as Anantharamaseshan says, signifies the three kinds of jnana (knowledge) — vijnana (worldly knowledge), samjnana (discernment) and prajnana (knowledge leading to liberation). Mrigalayaya, which is suggestive of the fleeting deer, connotes the mind. The deer ultimately finds a resting place, so does the mind by the grace of God. This is symbolised by the portrayal of the Lord holding a deer in one of His hands.

The apparent contradiction in vyakta avyaktaya is explained as “comprehension of the devout and the non-devout.” This echoes the intra-doctrinal differences in the Upanishadic statements related to the sakala and nishkala aspects of the Brahman. Acintyaya, which is explained as “inaccessible through arduous discipline of worship”, signifies the Vedic statement that the Brahman is beyond comprehension by the mind.

Need more explanation

For the learner, some of the divine names, however, may need more explanatory notes than what are given. For example, haraya is explained as the one who “subsumes every creation in the deluge… [and]attracts the minds of devotees.” But the words hara and hari are both traced to the root (hr, har, meaning ‘to take away'). Contextually, this means taking away or dispelling the avidya of devotees and thereby causing the atma jnana to manifest and ultimately leading to liberation or moksha.

On the philosophical plane, it is said there is no such thing as “gaining knowledge” as it is inherent in all beings and all that is necessary is to remove the ignorance or avidya that envelops it. The words hara and hari connote this process.

Again, aloka is explained as one who “transcends all worlds”. But what follows, in the author's commentary, like reference to ‘black hole', etc., may need elucidation. A few other names also have been interpreted in a rather abstruse way.

A scholar-devotee of eminence, the author deserves all credit for the determination and commitment he showed in completing this work, despite his failing health.

He must be complimented for interpreting the names from the standpoints of both Saivism and Vaishnavism. This is in line with the well-known maxim that the quintessence of Indian philosophy lies in preference, and not negation.

SRI SIVA SAHASRANAMA BHASHYAM: T.V. Anantaramaseshan; Trisakthi Publications, 56/21, First Avenue, Sastri Nagar, Adyar, Chennai-600020. Rs. 150.

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