Vishnu is one of the most significant deities in Hinduism. He is the Supreme God Svayam Bhagavan of Vaishnavism (one of the principal denominations of Hinduism). He is also known as Narayana and Hari. As one of the five primary forms of God in the Smarta tradition, he is conceived as “the Preserver or the Protector”.
In Hindu sacred texts, Vishnu is usually described as having the dark complexion of water-filled clouds and having four arms. He is depicted as a pale blue being, as are his incarnations Rama and Krishna. He holds a padma (lotus flower) in his lower left hand, the Kaumodaki gada (mace) in his lower right hand, the Panchajanya shankha (conch) in his upper left hand and the discus weapon considered to be the most powerful weapon according to Hindu Religion Sudarshana Chakra in his upper right hand.
The traditional explanation of the name Vishnu involves the root viś, meaning “to settle” (cognate with Latin vicus, English -wich “village,” Slavic: vas -ves), or also (in the Rigveda) “to enter into, to pervade,” glossing the name as “the All-Pervading One”. Yaska, an early commentator on the Vedas, in his Nirukta, (etymological interpretation), defines Vishnu as viṣṇur viṣvater vā vyaśnoter vā, “one who enters everywhere”. He also writes, atha yad viṣito bhavati tad viṣnurbhavati, “that which is free from fetters and bondages is Vishnu”.
Sacred texts – Shruti and Smriti
Shruti is considered to be solely of divine origin. It is preserved as a whole, instead of verse by verse. It includes the four Vedas (Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda) the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas and the Upanishads with commentaries on them.
The Vaishnava canon presents Vishnu as the supreme being, rather than another name for the Sun God, who also bore the name Suryanarayana and is considered only as a form of Vishnu.
The Vishnu Smṛti, is one of the later books of the Dharmashastra tradition of Hinduism and the only one that focuses on the bhakti tradition and the required daily puja to Vishnu, rather than the means of knowing dharma. It is also known for its handling of the controversial subject of the practice of sati (self-immolation of a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre). The text was composed by an individual or group. The author(s) created a collection of the commonly known legal maxims that were attributed to Vishnu into one book, as Indian oral culture began to be recorded more formally.
Vishnu is the only Bhagavan as declared in the Bhagavata 1:2:11 in the verse: vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvam yaj jnanam advayam brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate, translated as “Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this non-dual substance as Brahman, Paramātma and Bhagavan. Krishna Dvaipâyana Vyâsadeva, also called Bâdarâyana is a writer of Shrimad bhagwat. He is the Lord, the bhagavân, among the philosophers, who in India assembled all the holy texts
Tamil Sangam literature (300BCE to 500CE) mentions mAyOn, or the dark one, as the supreme deity who creates, sustains and destroys the universe. Paripadal 3 describes the glory of Thirumal in the most superlative terms.
Relations with deities
The three gods of the Trimurti clan are inseparable and in harmony in view of their common vision and universal good. They are perfectly ideal in all respects. They complement each other. Within Vaishnavism, Vishnu is widely seen as Svayam Bhagavan meaning God himself.
Adherents of Hinduism believe Vishnu’s eternal and supreme abode beyond the material universe is called Vaikuntha, which is also known as Paramdhama, the realm of eternal bliss and happiness and the final or highest place for liberated souls who have attained Moksha. Vaikuntha is situated beyond the material universe and hence, cannot be perceived or measured by material science or logic.Vishnu’s other abode within the material universe is Ksheera Sagara (the ocean of milk), where he reclines and rests on Ananta Shesha, (the king of the serpent deities, commonly shown with a thousand heads).
The true Vaishnaav, the devotee of Vishnu, is the one with whom God is thoroughly pleased. He dwells apart from Maya. Performing good deeds, he does not seek rewards. Spotlessly pure is the religion of such a Vaishnaav; he has no desire for the fruits of his labors. He is absorbed in devotional worship and the singing of Kirtan, the songs of the Lords Glory. Within his mind and body, he meditates in remembrance on the Lord of the Universe. He is kind to all creatures. He holds fast to the Naam, and inspires others to chant it. O Nanak, such a Vaishnaav obtains the supreme status.
Thousand names of Vishnu
Vishnu’s many names and followers are collected in the Vishnusahasranama (“Vishnu’s thousand names”), one well-known version of which is found in the Mahabharata. The character Bhishma recites the names before Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, praising Vishnu as the supreme god. These sahasranama are regarded as the essence of all Vedas by followers of Vaishnavism, who believe sincere chanting of Vishnusahasranama results in spiritual well-being and greater awareness of God
In popular culture
4034 Vishnu is an asteroid discovered by Eleanor F. Helin.
Vishnu rocks are a type of volcanic sediment found in the Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA. Consequently, mass formations are known as Vishnu’s temples.