Ajamila: A Brahmin who was ostracized by his caste because he married an outcaste and was so infatuated with her that he committed several misdeeds. However, when dying, he called to his side his son, Narayana, by name and was therefore redeemed by the Lord for taking His name!. For the story on ajamila and the importance of the name, go to Narayana.
Akrura: Krishna's paternal uncle and a great admirer-devotee of Lord Krishna
Ambarisha: the great king in the ikshvAku dynasty, famous for his superlative devotion; for a detail on his exemplary devotion, go to Devotee Calls the Tune
Arjuna: the great hero of the mahAbhArata, the middle one of the five Pandava princes; friend and disciple of Lord Krishna. Krishna became his charioteer in the great war and their friendly discourse at the start of the battle constitutes the bhagavad-gItA For an unusual summary of the teachings of the gita, go to the Secret of Secrets.
Bhishma: the grandfather figure in the mahA-bhArata; respected and revered by everyone, friend and foe. An intense devotee, through intellectual conviction, of Lord Krishna. After the mahAbhArata War, it was to him that Yudhishtira, King of Hastinapur, at the instance of Lord Krishna, asked several questions on Hindu dharma and to him is due the elaborate expositions on the various subtleties and niceties of dharma that occupy a sizable portion of the great epic.
Dakshina-murti: The manifestation of Siva as a youthful preceptor, trampling upon the demon of ignorance, facing the southern direction to ward off Spiritual Death from His devotees and confer on them Immortality. The hymn composed by Sankara on Dakshina-murti, known as dakshina-murti ashTakam is very famous.
Garuda: the King of birds; born of kaSyapa and vinatA; the bitter enemy of serpents; the eternal carrier or vAhana of Lord VishNu and as such his most intimate devotee.
Gopis: the milkmaids of Brindavan; companions and staunch self-effacing devotees of Lord Krishna; the role-models of bhakti par excellence.
Hanuman: the well-known devotee of Lord Rama; the hero, next only to Rama himself, of the Ramayana; has the form of a monkey. Orthodox opinion will classify him as the foremost devotee of the Lord and to be worshipped as such as a God in his own right and as an ishTa-devatA (= favourite deity); the one deity worshipped and revered throughout the Hindu world without exception of caste or region or school of philosophy to which one belongs. .
Kannappar : One of the earliest of the 63 nAyanmArs; who worshipped the Lord in the queerest ways; having already plucked his eye to successfully replace the bleeding eye of the stone Siva-linga that he was worshipping, was ready to pluck his other eye to offer it as replacement of the other eye of the Lord which started bleeding; cited as role model of bhakti by Adi Sankaracharya.
King Bali: also known as mahAbali, grandson of the great devotee, Prahlada. By his spiritual prowess he became king of the three worlds. Later the Lord had to appear as a dwarf (vAmana-avatAra) and trick him into submission by his own promise
Lakshmana: brother of Lord Rama in the Ramayana; the descent (= avatAra) on earth of Adi-Sesha, the serpent-seat of Lord Vishnu in the world of Vaikuntha.
Narada: the great divine devotee of the Lord, who perambulates all the three worlds with the Lord's name in his heart and on his lips, with a vINA in his hand, bringing comfort to all, through his famous but mysterious machinations, which always end in the success of virtue over vice; the apostle of nAma-sankIrtana (= recitation and singing of God's names) and the legendary author of the authoritative bhakti-sUtras.He is not only the divine messenger in the purANas, but the friend, philosopher, guide and consoler of all - gods, humans and asuras alike - the intermediary between God and His creation.He places himself in the hands of God as a willing instrument for the service of man and prefers to enjoy the Divine play and company to becoming merged in Him for ever. To that extent he is gracious enough to retain a little ego to teach the other souls immersed in samsAra.
Pandavas: The five sons of Pandu; the heroes of the epic Mahabharata, much maligned by the Kauravas, the one hundred sons of Dhritarashtra.
Parasara: Father of Vyasa; author of one of the smRtis (moral codes) known as Parasara-smRti. Later in the 12th century, Sri Ramanuja named one of his disciples Parasara, who wrote the famous commentary on Vishnu-sahasra-nAma, known as the Parasara-bhatta-bhashya.
Parikshit: the Pandava emperor; grandson of Arjuna; son of Abhimanyu; to him was narrated the entire bhagavata story by Sage Suka and thus arose Vyasa's bhAgavata-purANa
Patanjali: A great seer of rare insight. The first exponent of the yoga system of Indian philosophy and the author of ‘yogasUtras’, the authoritative tone of which speaks of his genuine personal experience. For a brief explanation of the eight-fold yoga taught by him go to The Consummation. Is probably different from the celebrated grammarian of the same name who lived in the 2nd century B.C.
Ravana: The Brahmin-born Rakshasa king of Lanka, who brought destruction on himself by committing the one sin of carrying off Lord Rama’s consort, Sita. Since he met his end on the battlefield at the hands of the Lord Himself, he attained salvation (after one more birth).
Sanat-sujata: One of the four sons of BrahmA the Creator, born out of his sheer mental construct. Like his three other brothers, Sanaka, Sanandana and Sanatana, he also refused to lead a worldly life and chose a life of renunciation and illumination.
Sugriva: the dethroned king of the monkey kingdom in the Ramayana; befriended by Lord Rama and restored by him to kingship; he placed the might of all his kingdom at Rama's disposal against Ravana
Suka: the great boy-sage, son of vyAsa, noted as the perfect specimen of one who has renounced both internally and externally; therefore referred to in all scriptural literature as a brahma-jnAni (= one who lives always in the full realisation of brahman)
Uddhava: cousin, admirer-devotee and confidant of Lord Krishna; the parting message that Krishna gives to him on the eve of His exit from the world is known as 'uddhava-gItA', built into 18 chapters of the eleventh skanda of the bhAgavata-purANa.
Vyasa: The celebrated author and father figure not just in the story of the Maha-bharata, but in the entire cultural milieu of Hinduism. The prolific nature of his writings transcends, in quantum alone, not to speak of its qualitative impact, that of any writer in (probably) any language in the total history of mankind.
Yajna-valkya: Reputed Maharishi and Seer of the Upanishads. For the famous teaching of Yajna-valkya to his wife Maitreyi, go to Essence of Upanishads.
Yasoda: cow-herd queen and foster mother of Lord Krishna. She got several instances of the Godhood of the child Krishna but her affection and attachment were so intense that it turned into a motherly love of the divine in the form of the child.
Yudhishtira: The eldest of the Pandavas in the Mahabharata. Not only the true hero of the story, but the role model for all time for all souls wedded to dharma.
Copyright Ó V. Krishnamurthy