Religious Sects in India Vaishnavism | iiQ8 Vishnu, Narayana, Bhaga

Religious Sects in India Vaishnavism


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Religious sects in India: 🔴VAISHNAVISM PART 1: VEDIC ORIGINS

👉#Vaishnavism is a belief system within Hinduism which considers Vishnu as physical embodiment of “#Para_Brahman”, the “Ultimate Reality” & supreme power which creates, sustains & absorbs universe, as explained in Vedic texts.

👉Followers of Vaishnavism (Vaishnavas/Vaishnavites) worship Vishnu, his consort #Lakshmi, & his various forms (#Avataras). Famous Vaishnavite saints are also worshipped, as they are considered to be “Divine”.

👉Like other popular Hindu sub-sects such as #Shavism (Shiva cult) & #Shaktheism (Shakthi/Devi cult), Vaishnavism also has its own branches, spread across many parts of country & the world.

🔴Vedic origins:

👉Vedic deities emerged from real-life heroes of different vedic tribes, divine interpretations of nature & philosophical concepts regarding human lives, its beginning, death and after-life.

👉Different attributes of Vishnu were given in Rig-Veda & other other vedic texts initially as different deities. They were:

👉In vedic texts, he is shown as a solar deity, associated with Surya (sun god). In later puranic texts, he is said to be one of the 12 #Adityas (sons of Heavenly mother Aditi Devi & sage Kashyapa).

👉In Rig-Veda, only 5 out of entire 1028 hymns are dedicated exclusively for Vishnu. But he is mentioned in many other hymns which are dedicated to Indra, Agni & Surya. He is shown as One who helps Indra & other gods to win battles against Asuras (demons)

👉Later, Sun & the solar disk became associated with Vishnu as the #SudarshanChakra (Disk-weapon). Vishnu’s 6th Avatar, Vamana was a son of Aditi too, thus clearly making him part of Adityas.The concept of “Suryanarayana” (Sun & Vishnu) again reaffirms their union.


👉The Vishnu-sukta in Rig-Veda tells about how Vishnu, from a small size, enlarged himself covering the Three worlds (Heaven, Earth & Hell), taking three strides or three steps measuring the Universe. He was then called “Tri-vikrama” (Lord of three worlds)

👉This reference to measuring earth by three steps later became basis of #Vamana avatar, where Vishnu, disguised as a dwarf priest, asked for the generous King Mahabali of three feet of land, & measured the entire Universe in just two feets, placing the third feet on Mahabali’s head.

👉Narayana is shown as a water deity who resides in Sea. He is called as “son of Purusha” (primeval man from whom Universe was created according to Vedic theology) &
“Supreme being who is foundation of all humans”

👉The divine attributes of Narayana were explained in #NarayanaSuktam of Taittiriya Aranyaka, within Krishna Yajurveda. Later, Narayana is defined in Mahabharatha as
“Source of all things, the Eternal, the Unchangeable, Creator & Destroyer of all things”

Nara~ Water/Human Ayana~ vehicle/abode/dwelling place.

👉Nara was later identified with humans & Narayana as “one who dwells inside Humans”.


👉Bhaga was a god of wealth, prosperity, marriage & morning. He was also considered as one of the Adityas.

👉It is from the word Bhaga (wealth/fortune) that we got other related words such as “#Bhagya” (good luck) & “#Bhagavan” (blessed one/Divine) & #Bhagavatha (follower of Bhagavan)


👉In #PurushaSukta of Rig-Veda, Narayana Sukta & Rudra sukta of Yajur-Veda, the name Hari is used to invoke “Para Brahman” (Ultimate Reality/Highest Soul). Para Brahman is also referred to as Narayana & Purusha.

👉Later, Hari was defined as “one who takes away or remove sorrow” (as explained by #AdiShankaracharya’s commentary on Vishnu Sahsranama, a Vaishnavite text)


Image Religious Sects in India Vaishnavism | iiQ8 Vishnu, Narayana, Bhaga

चैत्र नवरात्र : पाँचवा दिन : मां स्कंदमाता सिंहासनगता नित्यं पद्माञ्चित करद्वया। शुभदास्तु सदा देवी स्कन्दमाता यशस्विनी॥


#Varaha (Boar) story:

👉In Yajur-Veda , there is a story about #Parajapati (one of the creator-gods of vedic religion) takes shape of a boar (wild pig) & raises mother earth from the deep cosmic ocean.

👉Later this might have developed into Varaha avatar of Vishnu, in which he incarnates as a wild boar, raises earth from a flood & kills Hiranyaksha, an Asura.

👉The later Varaha Upanishad is about a dialogue between Vishnu in his Varaha form & sage Ribhu. They discusses on philosophies such as Brahman, Atman (soul), Tattvas (principles of life), etc.

#Narasimha (Lion-Man) story:

👉The vedic story about Indra & Namuci tells that Namuci, a demon, got a boon from Indra that Indra will neither try to slay him with his “palm of the hand nor with the fist”, neither in day nor in night, neither “anything that the dry” nor “anything that is moist”.

👉Namuci becomes stronger & threathens Devas by stealing their Soma drink. Devas them seeks help of #Saraswati (goddess of Saraswati river & learning) who makes a thunderbolt out of a “foam of water”. Indra uses this thunderbolt to kill Namuci at evening time.

👉By this time, Namuci had drank up all Soma. Devas then extract the good soma from the blood of evil Namuci.

👉This story that fate has its own way even after all precautions, might have later became basis of Narasimha (Man-Lion) avatar of Vishnu, where he kills Hiranyakashipu, who had boons similar to those of Namuci, in a gruesome manner.

👉By the end of Vedic period, concept of “Para-Brahman”, which creates, sustains & absorbs universe, became popular. Philosophers/Sages began to think that the Divine power was above & deeper than the usual phenomena of Nature. Their ideas became reflected in the #Upanishads.


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👉Though Para-Brahman was considered to be formless, sages still tried to explain it as a physical, human form, being variously interpreted as Vishnu, Shiva or Devi.

👉The concept of Vishnu, Narayana, Hari, Bhaga, Prajapati gradually amalgamated to form #Maha_Vishnu, a Supreme deity who is a personification of Para-Brahman.


Religious sects in India Vaishnavism




👉During Mahajanapada period (600-300 BCE), many theological sects came into being such as traditional Vedic beliefs, Buddhism, Jainism, Ajivika & even atheist groups called Charvaka.

👉One such group were “#Bhagavatas”.They were a very popular sect in north-western parts of Ancient India, such as Bactria (Afghanistan & Central Asian countries), Punjab-Sindhu region, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat & Malwa (western MP).

👉They worshipped #VāsudevaKrishna (ā=aa), an old warrior-hero of #Yadava tribes of western India, & those associated with him.

👉According to Puranas, Yadavas got their name from their ancestor, King Yadu. They were a tribal confedaracy-republic (“sangha”) who dominated areas around #Mathura
region, with many sub-tribes such as Abhiras, Andhakas, Vrishnis, & Satvatas, who all worshipped Krishna.

🔴Textual sources:

👉In the work Ashtadhyayi of Sanskrit scholar & grammarian #Panini (4th century BCE), word “Vāsudevaka” is explained as a person who is Bhakta (devotee) of Vāsudeva.

👉”Indika” a book written by Greek Ambassador in Maurya court Megasthen tells about Krishna worship in Mathura.

👉”Puranas” & “#Mahabharata” ~ although developed over many years, Mahabharata almost achieved its fullest form by 2nd century BCE. It contains vivid details about
Vāsudeva & his association with Vrishni-Yadavas. Other Puranic texts between 3rd century BCE-3rd century CE also gives informations regarding Vāsudeva cult.

👉It is theorized that Bhagavatism developed through different stages, with different attributes of Krishna being worshipped initially in different forms.


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🔴#Vrishni_Heroes & Vasudeva Cult:

👉Vrishni-Yadava clan of Mathura worshipped a set of five warriors who were were most probably their previous leaders, known as Vrishni Heroes (Panchaviras). They were:

1. #Balarama_Samkarshana, son of Vasudeva Anakadundubhi and Devaki (possessions: plow & mace)

2. Vāsudeva-Krishna, another son of Vasudeva Anakadundubhi & Devaki (possessions:conch & wheel/discus)

3. #Pradyumna, son of Vāsudeva & Rukmini (possessions: bow & arrow)

4. #Samba, son of Vāsudeva & Jambavati (possessions: wine cup), and

5. #Aniruddha, son of Pradyumna (possessions: sword & shield)

👉Out of these, Vāsudeva-Krishna was the most revered, held above other deities. Also, Vrishnis worshipped goddess #Ekanamsha/Subhadra, sister of Balarama & Vāsudeva.

🔴Gopala-Krishna of Abhira tribe:

👉Abhira-Yadavas occupied Gujarat-Rajasthan area.

👉Their important deity was Gopala-Krishna, who was believed to have born among them. He was worshipped as a child god & many stories of Gopala-Krishna were popular among people.

🔴Krishna-Govinda of other Yadavas tribes:

👉Other Yadava tribes also worshiped a warrior named Krishna-Govinda, who was considered to be a great leader, & statesman.


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👉Satvata-Yadavas had lions as their symbols which later became adhered to #Narasimha (lion-man avatar of Vishnu) cult.

👉Gradually, all these Krishna’s amalgamated into one, being revered by Yadava tribes; Vrishni-Heroes were collectively called as “#Bhagavatam”, their devotees “Bhagavata”. The cult is now called as #Bhagavatism. Mathura became center of this cult.

👉After the compilation of #BhagavathGita in Mahabharata complete by 3rd-2nd century BCE, Vāsudeva-Krishna, the one who delivers Gita to his devotee Arjuna, is later unified with Vishnu-Narayana, considered as a physical embodiment of Upanishadic “Para-Brahman” (Ultimate Reality which governs Universe)

👉Soon, Bhagavatism spread among many other communities such as Indo-Greeks, Shakas, Kushanas & finally Imperial Guptas.

🔴We will list here some of the archeological evidences which shows the development & achievements of Bhagavatism:

👉Earliest images of Balarama, Vāsudeva & Lakshmi were found from ancient city of Ai-Khanoum (Afghanistan) issued by Indo-Greek king Agathocles (reign. 190-180 BCE).

👉Rock paintings in Tikla ( near Gwalior, MP) shows three deities, believed to be Balarama, Krishna & Ekanamsha/Subhadra.

👉#Heliodorus_pillar is a stone pillar built around 113 BCE in Vidisha (MP). The pillar was part of a temple complex built for Vāsudeva & Vrishni Heroes, by Heliodorus, an ambassador send by Indo-Greek king of Takshashila (Taxila) Antialcidas to the court of Shunga Emperor Bhagabhadra.


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👉This pillar contains Prakrit language records written with Brahmi script. It is one of the oldest surviving inscriptions which has verses from the epic “Mahabharata” written. Also, it once had a Garuda (eagle) capital on top, which shows the connection with Vāsudeva (Vishnu) & his mythological vehicle Garuda.

👉The first Indo-Shaka invader & ruler Maues had issued many coins depicting Indian & Greek gods, to appease local population, including that of Balarama.

👉Mora well inscriptions discovered from Mathura tells in detail about a temple dedicated for Bhagavatam. They were made by an Indo-Shaka ruler of Mathura named Sodasa/Sudasa in 1st century CE.

👉Sculptural panel from Kondamotu (Guntur, Andhra) shows five Vrishni-Heroes in genealogical order, with Narasimha in center. The panel is dated to 4th century CE, showing that Bhagavata movement was popular in southern India too.


🔴Vyuha-vada & Avatar-vada doctrines:

👉By 1st century CE, Vira-vada (hero-worship) of Vrishni-Heroes became “#Vyuha_vada” (emanation-worship).

👉”Emanation” means something which comes out of another source. Other Vrishni Heroes except Samba (who lost popularity) were considered to be emerged from Supreme God Vāsudeva-Narayana.

👉Many Kushana statues of this time shows Balarama, Pradyumna & Anirudha being emerged out different parts of Vāsudeva. These four were called as “#Chatur_vyuha” (four emanations of Vishnu-Narayana)

👉Chatur-vyuha or Chatur-murti statues often showed Balarama as Lion, Pradhyumna as Boar & Anirudha as Kapila (ferocious one).

👉Later, Vyuha-vada expanded to include more deities, leading to development of #Avatara_vada (Incarnation worship~ reverence to 10 incarnations of Vishnu).

👉By the time Imperial Guptas (319 -543 CE), Bhagavatism was a widespread movement across the country. Guptas were vaishnavitas, with Emperor Chandra Gupta II/Vikramaditya even publicly stating himself as a “Parama-Bhagavta” (supreme devotee of Vāsudeva-vishnu).

👉Guptas also had Garuda/eagle as their imperial insignia, which is associated with Vaishnavism.


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Religious Sects in India Vaishnavism | iiQ8 Vishnu, Narayana, Bhaga

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