Sri Vishnu is an aspect of supreme consciousness who dwells within animate and inanimate beings of creation and controls our inner recesses of our being by constant source of motivation, judgement and perception. Vishnu literally means “the one who encompasses the world” who controls processes of creation and as an interdweller or Antaryaami and yet is unaccomplished by myriad souls and thus is referred as Para Vasudeva.
Among various names extensively used for Vishnu are Narayana, Hari, Govinda, Madhava, Vasudeva, Janardana, Rama, Krishna, Srinivasa, Narsimha etc.
Vishnu is also referred as Peetambara and his common form famous among devotees is the one where Lord is standing in equipoise and is called as “Samabhangi”. In this form Lords color is of rain bearing clouds which signifies all pervasiveness and having four hands. The upper hand holds conch which symbolizes that he is the eternal communicator and thus his word is the source of creation, discus reveals that Lord annihilates the worlds, whereas lower left hand hold mace implying that he always upholds rule of law and suitably punishes those who create havoc whereas his lower right hand is in Varada Mudra which is shown as holding lotus that bestows boons. He sports garland of attractive flowers strewn with wild flowers and Tulasi. Vishnu has a mark on his chest which is called as “Srivatsa” and is representation of Lakshmi as both of them cannot be separated hence this mark. He is donning a necklace of rare gems called as “Kaustabha” and his head has a towering diadem studded with precious gems.
Vishnu is commonly famous through his Dashaavtaras most venerated among them being Rama, Krishna, Buddha. Subsequently there is a complete school of Vaishnavism who consider Lord as Para Brahama with multitude of other gods and deities as attributes of Vishnu. The Lord has various avtars such as poorna avtars, ansha avtars , avesha avtars , leela avtars and jnana avtars which are acts of Lord to communicate with the worldly beings and impart meaningful lessons to humans. All these forms have different attributes, weapons, appearance’s which extended from time to time.
Vaishnavism is the important cult of followers of Lord and are widely spread in Indian Sub continent. It is important to mention that all the Agamas pertaining to Vishnavism were written in Kashmiri at a place called as Predhuman Peetha which is now known as Hari Parvat. The litanies’ written are Panchratra Agamas totaling around 200 in numbers. All the rituals of Vaishnavism are as per these agamas.
According to Vishnu Puran, Vaikuntha is the abode of Vishnu and is most sacrosanct place which is final refuge to the liberated souls. In Vaikuntha Lord is said to be residing on multi headed serpent also known as Adi Sesha. All other chief deities are in full attendance singing hymns and eulogizing lord through their prayers. The Lord is represented with six qualities of Wisdom (jnana), Sovereignty (Aishwarya), energy (Shakti), strength (Bala), valour (veerya) and luster (Tejas).
The Tulsi plant worship is an important ritualistic aspect of Vaishnavism and is offered to Vishnu besides recitation of Vishnu Saahsranaam. Vishnu is said to reside in a pot where tulsi is grown and is offered daily to Lord.
The important places of veneration in Jammu and Kashmir are Naubandhana Teertha also known as Vishnu Pad or Kaunser Nag in Pulwama, Kashmir besides Varahamulha now known as Baramula associated with varaha avtar of Lord and Anant Nag associated with Sesha nag who is also known as Anant nag.
The Vishnu has been the most venerated God among the rulers and hence various temples were dedicated to Him especially by Lalitaditya and Avantivarman. The official patronage for building of Vishnu temples was given during the reign of Avantiverman of Lohara dynasty and a famous temple of Avantiswamin was built near Avantipora.
Later Sikh rulers and most importantly by Dogra rulers the temples dedicated to different forms of Vishnu were built and murthis consecrated in them. The notable among them which stands tall on architectural grandeur are Ragunath temple of Jammu and Srinagar.
All the iconographic orientations of Vishnu in these temples are ornate, aesthetically beautiful and highly impressive.
By-Sunil Raina Rajanak
(The author is a founder member Himalayan Heritage Foundation.)