viṣṇu विष्णु

Definition: m. (prob. fr. viṣ-,"All-pervader"or"Worker") Name of one of the principal Hindu deities (in the later mythology regarded as"the preserver", and with brahmā-"the creator"and śiva-"the destroyer" , constituting the well-known tri-mūrti- or triad;although viṣṇu- comes second in the triad he is identified with the supreme deity by his worshippers;in the Vedic period, however, he is not placed in the foremost rank, although he is frequently invoked with other gods [ especially with indra- whom he assists in killing vṛtra- and with whom he drinks the soma- juice; see his later names indrānuja- and upendra-];as distinguished from the other Vedic deities, he is a personification of the light and of the sun, especially in his striding over the heavens, which he is said to do in three paces [See tri-vikrama-and see bali-, vāmana-],explained as denoting the threefold manifestations of light in the form of fire, lightning, and the sun, or as designating the three daily stations of the sun in his rising, culminating, and setting; viṣṇu- does not appear to have been included at first among the āditya-s [ q.v ], although in later times he is accorded the foremost place among them;in the brāhmaṇa-s he is identified with sacrifice, and in one described as a dwarf;in the mahā-bhārata- and rāmāyaṇa- he rises to the supremacy which in some places he now enjoys as the most popular deity of modern Hindu worship;the great rivalry between him and śiva-[ see vaiṣṇava-and śaiva-]is not fully developed till the period of the purāṇa-s: the distinguishing feature in the character of the Post-vedic viṣṇu- is his condescending to become incarnate in a portion of his essence on ten principal occasions, to deliver mankind from certain great dangers[ see avatāra-and ];some of the purāṇa-s make 22 incarnations, or even 24, instead of 10;the vaiṣṇava-s regard viṣṇu- as the supreme being, and often identify him with nārāyaṇa-, the personified puruṣa- or primeval living spirit [described as moving on the waters, reclining on śeṣa-, the serpent of infinity, while the god brahmā- emerges from a lotus growing from his navel; see ];the wives of viṣṇu- are aditi- and sinīvālī-, later lakṣmī- or śrī- and even sarasvatī-;his son is kāma-deva-, god of love, and his paradise is called vaikuṇṭha-;he is usually represented with a peculiar mark on his breast called śrī-vatsa-, and as holding a śaṅkha-,or conch-shell called pāñcajanya-, a cakra-or quoit-like missile-weapon called su-darśana-, a gadā-or club called kaumodakī- and a padma-or lotus;he has also a bow called śārṅga-, and a sword called nandaka-;his vāhana-or vehicle is garuḍa- q.v;he has a jewel on his wrist called syamantaka-, another on his breast called kaustubha-, and the river Ganges is said to issue from his foot;the demons slain by him in his character of "preserver from evil", or by kṛṣṇa- as identified with him, are madhu-, dhenuka-, cāṇūra-, yamala-, and arjuna- [see yamalārjuna-], kāla-nemi-, haya-grīva-, śakaṭa-, ariṣṭa-, kaiṭabha-, kaṃsa-, keśin-, mura-, śālva-, mainda-, dvi-vida-, rāhu-, hiraṇya-kaśipu-, bāṇa-, kāliya-, naraka-, bali-;he is worshipped under a thousand names, which are all enumerated in ;he is sometimes regarded as the divinity of the lunar mansion called śravaṇa-) etc. (see )


Dictionary: Monier-Williams
Literary Sources: IW. 327, Manu i , 10, MBh. xiii , 6950-7056, RV., RTL. 44, IW. 324
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