Just before the battle began in Kurukshetra, Krishna instructed Arjuna on the supreme Truth of the Immortal Self. The revived and rejuvenated Arjuna rose up and fought for 18 days, wherein all but 10 of the 45 lakhs of warriors were killed. When the battlefield was thus reduced to a silent graveyard, countless kshatriya women for the first time in our land stepped down to Bhageerathi to offer water oblations to the departed souls, under Yudhishtira’s tutelage.
Right then Kuntee Devee came running to tell Yudhishtira “offer oblations to Karna, your elder brother too”. Lo, the atmosphere abruptly changed. With broken heart, Dharmaputra began to lament irretrievably: “Why did my mother hold back this truth from me all along? I would have placed all my rights before my elder brother, averting this cruel bloodshed. I am now no victor at all. I have lost the war and everything else. The only course for me now is to seek the woods for the rest of my life, eating austerely wild fruits and roots.” What was to be rejoicing pinnacle of a great victory suddenly became the vexing scene of severe lamentation! None could console Dharmaputra. Even Krishna could not!
Suddenly Vyasadevasaid something, which aroused questions and curiosity in Yudhishtira’s mind, and he sought some clarification. “Your grandfather, still lying in the bed of arrows, will instruct you properly. Go to him.” “How can I, the loathesome sinner, approach my Grandfather, from whom I shamelessly sought the means to defeat (him)”, Yudhishtira wondered. Thereupon Krishna led him to the grandsire, who gave him elaborate instruction.
Yudhishthira’s Question to Bheeshma
को धर्म: सर्वधर्माणां भवत: परमो मत: ।
किं जपन्मुच्यते जन्तुर्जन्मसंसारबन्धनात् ।।
किमेकं दैवतं लोके किं वाप्येकं परायणम् ।
स्तुवन्त: कं कमर्चन्त: प्राप्नुयुमानवा: शुभम् ।।
“In this universe Who is the one refuge for all? Who is the greatest Lord in the world? By beseeching whom can a person gain auspiciousness? By worshipping whom can a person gain auspiciousness? What is, in thy opinion, the Greatest of all Dharmas? By chanting whose name, can one go beyond the bonds of worldliness?”
The dialogue between them in the Shanti parva of Mahabharatam is long, covering all aspects of Dharma: “Events transpire for good. The wheel of time cannot be turned back. Kurukshetra war is over. Nothing can reverse it. What afflicts your heart is not the bygone war, but its prevailing memory. There is a way to treat it. Perform the great holy act – Ashvamedha, the greatest of all Yagas. That will subdue all sins, purify and liberate your mind” Bheeshma said consolingly.
Vishnu sahasranama equals Ashvamedha Yaga
Only kings can afford Ashvamedha Yaga. What is the refuge for ordinary people, steeped in heinous sins, wondered compassionate Dharmaputra. What will redress and relieve their heart?’
As if in response, Bheeshma narrated to him the 1000 names of Lord Mahavishnu. Vishnu is the Lord of all Yajnas and Yagas. Yajno vai Vishnuh, pronounces Yajurveda. Vishnu Himself denotes Yajna. By reciting 1000 names of Vishnu, offering archna or oblations chanting these, all sins will be dissolved, assured the grandfather.
Date of Vishnu sahasranama
First it was Lord Shiva who narrated Vishnu sahasranama to Parvati, showing how holy, purifying, redressing and rewarding it is. Bheeshma recited, lying on the bed of arrows, the 1000 Names to enlighten his grandson. While Shiva’s narration to Parvati is enshrouded in the mysterious past, Bheeshma Pitamaha’s rendering is part of our vibrant Epic Mahabharata authored by Vyasa Deva.
त्र्यधिका विंशतिरब्दास्तदेह मम जन्मनोऽ तीता: ।।
Thus the date of Mahabharata war comes to 3139 BC.
This means that 5151 years have passed already, since Mahabharata War, and also Vishnu-sahasranama.
Planetary positions, astrological data, geographical references, inscriptions and scriptural pronouncements, studies of Vikramaditya to Shaka varsha period, Bishva Panchanga published by Benares Hindu University, Saraswatee Panchanga of Navalgarh, Rajasthan, Vishva Vijaya Panchangam of Solan, Himachal Pradesh and allied records, all go to authenticate the assessment.
Unbroken Continuity Of Vishnu sahasranama
It is necessary that everyone knows and appreciates the origin of our sacred Vishnu sahasranama and how our people succeeded in preserving it intact for millennia, what undeniable relevance and practical application these Names have, and how they go to strengthen, deepen and sublimate human personality. Right knowledge alone will evoke sufficient appreciation and allegiance for anything whatever.
Though Vishnu sahasranama has been indelibly imprinted in our people for 5151 years, the greatness and grace it instils and bestows are rarely thought of or discussed. In order to fill the grave gap and let Vishnu sahasranama’s grace and grandeur reach one and all, we should with cultural fidelity and fervour, give it a sacred place in our daily life and practice.