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Narayana (Sanskrit: नारायण; nārāyaṇa) or Narayan is an important Sanskrit name for Vishnu, and in many contemporary vernaculars a common Indian name. Narayana is also identified as the original man, Purusha. The Puranas present divergent views on Narayana. In the Kurma Purana he is identified with Brahman and Krishna-Vishnu, but in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana Narayana is considered different from Krishna and also considered part of Krishna.[1]

In the Mahabharata Krishna is often referred to as Narayana and Arjuna as Nara.[2] The epic identifies them both in plural 'Krishnas', or as part incarnations of the earlier incarnations of Vishnu, recalling their mystical identity as Nara-Narayana.[3] Followers of Lord Swaminarayan believe that Narayan manifested himself as Swaminarayan.[4]



A painting of Vishnu seated on lotus

In Sanskrit, another name for water is ‘Naara’. The Supreme Lord Vishnu whose resting place ('Ayana') is ‘Naara’ is therefore called Naarayana. "Naara" also means the living entities (Jivas). Therefore, another meaning of Naarayana is 'resting place for all living entities. The close association of Narayana with water explains the frequent depiction of Narayana in Hindu art as standing or sitting on an ocean. Another important translation of Narayana is "The supreme Man who is the foundation of all men".

Another interpretation of the word Narayana sees Nara meaning "human" and Ayana as "direction/goal". Hence Narayana refers to the "direction of a human" (or the one that helps a human to his/her goal, i.e. towards moksha). Nara is related to moksha as both are rooted to the Water element (Ap), one of the Great Elements (Mahābhūta). (See also Tattva).

According to the Vaishnav Philosophy, the Narayana is the Purnapurrushttom Purush lord Keshav. In Gita, lord Krishna admits that he is the Keshav.


  • Narayanasamy
  • Narayanaswamy
  • Narayan
  • Narayanan
  • Narine
  • Narayanaswami
  • Narain

Religious uses

  • Narayana is another name for Vishnu and appears as the 245th name in the Vishnu sahasranama. (See Vaishnava Theology.)
  • The book, Sri Ramanuja, His Life, Religion, and Philosophy, states that the name "Narayana" means, "He who is the dwelling place, i.e., the source, support and dissolving ground of all Jivas or souls, including inert matter."
  • Om Namo NārāyaNāya is one of the most famous mantras chanted by Hindus. This mantra, along with Om Namah Shivāya, and the Gayatri mantra are the most sacred prayers by Hindus.
  • When doing a puja, people say the 108 names of Narayana.

A verse that confers the Devas' subordinate status comes from the Vishnu sahasranama, whose concluding verses state: "The Rishis (great sages), ancestors, the Devas, the great elements, in fact, all things moving and unmoving constituting this universe have originated from Narayana." This verse indicates that the Devas are subordinate to Vishnu, but Vishnu is often named a Deva. (Vasudeva, Narasimhadeva, etc.)

Secular uses

  • In the video game Myst III: Exile, the final age to which the player travels is called Narayan. It consists of an ocean extending to the horizon, beneath a clouded sky in which float trees, suspended by bubbly "pearls" released periodically by the ocean.
  • The name of the Siamese king Narai (r. 1656-1688) is a Thai pronunciation of Narayana.


  1. ^ Raghavan, V. (1982). International Sanskrit Conference v.4. The Ministry. ISBN Page 142.  
  2. ^ Vaisnavism Saivism and Minor Religious Systems, Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar. Published by Asian Educational Services, p.46.
  3. ^ Hiltebeitel, Alf (1990). The ritual of battle: Krishna in the Mahābhārata. Albany, N.Y: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-0249-5.   p61
  4. ^ "Lord Narayan manifested himself as Lord Swaminarayan".  

External links



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

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Alternative forms


From Sanskrit नारायण (nārāyaṇá).

Proper noun




  1. (Hinduism) A name for Vishnu.
  2. A male given name used in India.


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