Sahasranāma is a Sanskrit term which means "a thousand names". It is also a genre of stotra literature, usually found as a title of the text named after a deity, such as Vishnu Sahasranāma, wherein the deity is remembered by 1,000 names, attributes or epithets.
As stotras, Sahasra-namas are songs of praise, a type of devotional literature. The word is a compound of sahasra "thousand" and nāman "name". A Sahasranāma often includes the names of other deities, suggesting henotheistic equivalence and/or that they may be attributes rather than personal names. Thus the Ganesha Sahasranama list of one thousand names includes Brahma, Vishnu, Shakti, Shiva, Rudra, SadaShiva and others. It also includes epithets such as Jiva (life force), Satya (truth), Param (highest), Jnana (knowledge) and others. The Vishnu Sahasranama includes in its list work and jñāna-yājna (offering of knowledge) as two attributes of Vishnu. The Lalita Sahasranama, similarly, includes the energies of a goddess that manifest in an individual as desire, wisdom and action.
A sahasranama provides a terse list of attributes, virtues and legends symbolized by a deity. There are also many shorter stotras, containing only 108 names and accordingly called ashtottara-shata-nāma.
The sahasranamas such as the Vishnu Sahasranama, are not found in early Samhita manuscripts, rather found in medieval and later versions of various Samhitas. One of the significant works on Sahasranama is from the sub-school of Ramanuja and the Vishnu Sahasra-namam Bhasya (commentary) by 12th-century Parasara Bhattar.
Sahasranamas are used for recitals, in ways such as:
sravana, listening to recitals of names and glories of God
nama-sankirtana (nāma-sankīrtana), reciting the names of God either set to music or not
smarana, recalling divine deeds and teaching of divine deeds.
archana (archanā), worshipping the divine with ritual repetition of divine names.
Tantrikas chant the Bhavani Nāma Sahasra Stuti and the Kali Sahasranāma. While the Vishnu and Shiva Sahāsranamas are popular amongst all Hindus, the Lalita Sahasranama is mostly chanted in South India. The Ganesha Sahasranama is mainly chanted by Ganapatya, the Bhavani Nāma Sahasra Stuti is the choice of Kashmiri Paṇḍits, and the Kali Sahasranāma is mostly chanted by Bengalis.
Guru Arjan of Sikhism, along with his associates, are credited with Sukhmani Sahasranama, composed in gauri raga, based on Hindu Puranic literature, and dedicated to Rama and Krishna. This 17th-century Sikh text is entirely dedicated to bhakti themes along the lines of "Sri Rama Krishna Waheguru Miharvan", unlike Dasam Granth that focussed on warfare and sovereignty.
^ abSir Monier Monier-Williams, sahasranAman, A Sanskrit-English Dictionary: Etymologically and Philologically Arranged with Special Reference to Cognate Indo-European Languages, Oxford University Press (Reprinted: Motilal Banarsidass), ISBN978-8120831056
^P. Sankaranarayanan. Sri Viṣṇusahasranāma Stotram. With English Translation of Srī Saṅkara Bhagavatpāda’s Commentary. (Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan: Mumbai: 1996).
^Ram Karan Sharma. Śivasahasranāmāṣṭakam: Eight Collections of Hymns Containing One Thousand and Eight Names of Śiva. With Introduction and Śivasahasranāmākoṣa (A Dictionary of Names). (Nag Publishers: Delhi, 1996). ISBN81-7081-350-6. This work compares eight versions of the Śivasahasranāmāstotra. The Preface and Introduction (in English) by Ram Karan Sharma provide an analysis of how the eight versions compare with one another. The text of the eight versions is given in Sanskrit.
^Swami Chidbhavananda. Siva Sahasranama Stotram. Third Edition (Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam: Tirupparaithurai, 1997). With Navavali, Introduction, and English Rendering. The version provided by Chidbhavananda is from chapter 17 of the Anuśāsana Parva of the Mahābharata.
^Swami Tapasyananda (Editor). Śrī Lalitā Sahasranāma. (Sri Ramakrishna Math: Chennai, n.d.). With text, transliteration, and translation. ISBN81-7120-104-0.
^Labhashankar Mohanlal Joshi. Lalitā Sahasranāma: A Comprehensive Study of One Thousand Names of Lalitā Mahā-Tripurasundarī. Tantra in Contemporary Researches, no. 2. (D. K. Printworld (P) Ltd.: New Delhi, 1998). ISBN81-246-0073-2.
^The Gaṇeśa Purāṇa. Nag Publishers; Reprint 1993. "Introduction" in English by Ram Karan Sharma. Text in Sanskrit. ISBN81-7081-279-8.
^Gaṇeśasahasranāmastotram: mūla evaṁ srībhāskararāyakṛta 'khadyota' vārtika sahita. (Prācya Prakāśana: Vārāṇasī, 1991). Source text with a commentary by Bhāskararāya in Sanskrit.