In Narayana Suktam, there is a phrase: “sa: brahma sa: shiva sendra sokshara parama svarAt”.
There is a tendency for some to add a ‘sa: hari’ before the ‘sa: indra’, to make a claim that Narayana is different from Hari and build a case for a different supreme head altogether.
I have heard that adding the ‘sa: hari’ in this phrase actually breaks the meter – but I leave that to the Sanskrit vidwans.
Let us see how Azhvar uses the same phrase in his divya prabandham.
In Thiruvaymozhi 9.3.2, Azhvar says:
avanE agal njAlam padaiththu idandhAn
avanE aqdhu uNdu umizhndhAn aLandhAn
avanE avanum avanum avanum
avanE matRellAmum aRindhanamE
Here, we see the word ‘avan’ used seven times. In the first two lines, Azhvar talks about His creating, lifting, swallowing, protecting and measuring all the worlds. In the third line, he talks about Him (‘avanE’) and here he says ‘avanum’ three times.
Through this line, Azhvar speaks of Brahma, Shiva and Indra’s nature and that their behavior follows His determination. Instead of using their names, why does Azhvar just say ‘avan’? It is because he is ‘vEdam thamizh seydha mARan’ and is following the Upanishad (Narayana Suktam) vAkhyam here. There, Brahma, Siva and Indra are mentioned explicitly. But they are referred to as ‘sa:’ each time. Azhvar follows the same and calls them each as ‘avan’.
He avoids explicit reference to them, because it is not just these three, but everyone without missing anyone – ‘matrellAmum avanE’.
How does Azhvar know that? Because the Lord Himself has made him understand that – ‘(aRivikka) aRindhanamE’.
So, the reference is only to Brahma, Siva and Indra in the Suktam and in Azhvar’s verse. This should put to rest the question on the use of ‘sa: hari’ in the upanishad phrase, as being not needed.
adiyEn madhurakavi dAsan
(Adapted from an article by PB Annangarachariar Swami)