Ananta (infinite)

Ananta is a Sanskrit term which means 'endless' or 'limitless', also means 'eternal' or 'infinite',[1] in other words, it also means infinitude or an unending expansion or without limit. It is one of the many names of Lord Vishnu.[2] Ananta is the Shesha-naga, the celestial snake, on which Lord Vishnu reclines.[3]

In the Mahabharata, Ananta or Adi-sesa, the serpent, or Vasuki, is the son of Kasyapa, one of the Prajapatis, through Kadru as her eldest son. Kadru had asked her sons to stay suspended in the hair of Airavata’s tail who on refusing to do so were cursed to die at the serpent-yajna of Janamejaya. Ananta was saved by Brahma who directed him to go to the nether world and support the world on his hoods, and thus became the king of the Nagas in Patala. Rudra, who consumes the three worlds, is believed to have emanated from the face of Ananta. By the grace of Ananta, Garga was able to master the sciences of astronomy and causation. Vishnu reposes on Ananta floating on the ocean of eternal existence sheltered by his hoods. Ananta is an epithet of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Skanda, Krishna, Balarama, earth, and the letter A.[4][5] Ananta also appears in the Buddhist iconography as one of three female deities emanating from Dhyani Buddha Amitabha.

Ananta is that which is without destruction because it is not subject to the six modifications such as birth, growth, death etc.[6] According to the Vedanta School, the term Ananta used in the phrase “ anadi (begininngless) ananta (endless) akhanda (unbroken) sat-chit-ananda (being-consciousness-bliss)” refers to the Infinite, the single non-dual reality.[7] It denotes Brahman[8] as one of its six attributes which are prajna, priyam, satyam, ananta, ananda and stithi which manifest themselves in space which is common to all six as the basis.[9] It denotes the infinite causal energy of the Creator, the energy in the form of chaitanya that has no end.[10] There exist four types of objects or categories – 1) Nitya, which has no beginning or an end, 2) Anitya, which has a beginning and end, 3) Anadi, which has no beginning but has an end and 4) Ananta, which has a beginning but no end.Brahman has no initial cause and is known as anadikarana, the uncreated who is not a product, which means Brahman has no material cause and is not the material cause of anything.[11] Ananta is the infinite space,[12] the infinite space is Brahman.

According to the Yoga School, Ananta is the serpent of infinity who eavesdropped on the secret teaching that was being imparted to Goddess Parvati by Lord Shiva; the secret teaching was Yoga. On being apprehended Ananta was sentenced by Lord Shiva to impart that teaching to human beings for which purpose Ananta assumed the human form and was called Patanjali.[13] In his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali stresses upon the use of breath to achieve perfection in posture which entails steadiness and comfort, by making an effort, the effort meant is the effort of breathing. The effort of breathing has been highlighted by the term, Ananta, in Sutra 2.47.[14] Ananta was called Patanjali because he desired to teach Yoga to human beings, he fell from heaven to earth landing in the palm of a virtuous woman named Gonika.[15]

According to Jainism the pure soul of each life form is Ananta-gyana (Endless Knowledge), Ananta-darshana (Endless Perception), Ananta-caritra (Endless Consciousness) and Ananta-sukha (Endless Bliss).[16] The 14th of the 24 Jain Tirathankaras is known as Ananta or Anant Nath.[17]


  1. Roshen Dalal. Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books. p. 27.
  2. Shri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
  3. Stephen Knapp. The Heart of Hinduism: The Eastern Path of Freedom, Empowerment and Illumination. iUniverse. p. 159.
  4. Ganga Ram Garg. Encyclopaedia of the Hindu World. Concept Publishing Company. pp. 424–5.
  5. Parameshwaranand. Encyclopaedic dictionary of the Puranas Vol.1. Sarup and Sons. p. 65.
  6. Ramanuj Prasad. Know the Upanishads. S.Publishers. p. 112.
  7. Michael James. Happiness and the Art of Being. Arul Books. p. 257.
  8. M.P.Pandit. Upanishads: Gateways of Knowledge. Lotus Press. p. 127.
  9. Paul Deussen. The Philosophy of the Upanishads. Cosimo Inc. p. 90.
  10. Bhagavad Gita Ch.11 Sl.19.
  11. Narsimhacarana Panda. The Vibrating Universe. Motilal Banarsidas. p. 21.
  12. M.N.Behera. Brownstudy of Heathenland. University Press of America. p. 14.
  13. Gregor Maehle. Ashtanga Yoga The Intermediate Series: Mythology, anatomy and Practice. New World Library. pp. 41, 134.
  14. Srivatsa Ramaswami. Yoga for Three Stages of Life. Inner Traditions. p. 96.
  15. R.S.Bajpai. The Splendours and Dimensions of Yoga. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 113.
  16. Arun Kumar Jain. Faith and Philosophy of Jainism. Gyan Publishing House. p. 6.
  17. Pratiyogita Darpan: General Studies of Indian History. Upkar Prakashan. p. 44.
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