What does word BHAGAVAN mean

The word ‘bhagavan’ is a commonly used Sanskrit word. It is used by people, who do not even know Sanskrit, as it is present in almost every Indian language. The widely used meaning of the word ‘bhagavan’ is God. In many Indian languages, it also means an honourable person. However, it is necessary to see the other meanings and the origins of this word. This is a Sanskrit word. Sanskrit is a classical language like Greek, Latin, and Persian. And in Sanskrit, as in most classical languages, most words are derived from a stem or root.

The word ‘bhagavan’ is derived from the stem word bhaga by adding a matup suffix. Bhaga is derived from the root word bhaj, which means to divide, distribute, allot, apportion, share, grant, bestow, furnish, supply, to obtain as one’s share, receive as, partake of, enjoy, possess, have, to turn or resort to, engage in, assume, put on, experience, incur, undergo, feel, go or fall into, pursue, practise, cultivate, fall to the lot or share of, declare for, prefer, choose, serve, honour, revere, love, adore, deal out, put to flight, chase, cook, and dress food. Bhaga means dispenser, gracious lord, patron, good fortune, happiness, welfare, prosperity, dignity, majesty, distinction, excellence, beauty, loveliness, love, affection, glory, desire, knowledge, greatness, effort, dharma, moksha, lustre, sun, moon, part, wife, relative, characteristic, attendant, quality, mental state, essence, action, omnipotence, virtue, occult power, and dalliance. There is a god named Bhaga in the Vedas, who distributes wealth.


‘Bhagavan’ is a person having the qualities of bhaga. A person who has the six qualities of complete sovereignty, valour, honour, prosperity, knowledge, and dispassion is called ‘bhagavan’. ‘Bhagavan’ also refers to one who knows about the creation and dissolution of the universe, the appearance and disappearance of living beings, and wisdom and ignorance. ‘Bhagavan’ means a form of God, the signs of the presence of God, illumined, omniscient, Lord Buddha, rishi, Atman, honourable, worshipful, adorable, prince, deity, Jina, glorious, illustrious, revered, venerable, divine, holy, fortunate, prosperous, and happy.

‘Bhagavan’ also refers to one receiving the bhakti of the devotees. Sanatana Dharma believes in the incarnation of God or bhagavan whenever virtue subsides and evil increases. Bhagavan is male in gender and the female equivalent is called ‘bhagavati’. However, many consider the term ‘bhagavan’ to be beyond gender.


This word is used in Hindu, Jain, Sikh, and Buddhist texts. In most parts of India, this word is also used as an honorific title to address a person of importance. The essence of the supreme Truth or Brahman is also referred to by the word ‘bhagavan’. A person who completely understands the meaning of this word attains holy wisdom and the gist of the entire Vedas. The letter bh means the cherisher and supporter of the universe. The letter ga means leader, impeller, or creator. The letter va denotes that fundamental spirit that pervades all beings. In its entirety, the word ‘Bhagavan’ denotes the supreme Lord, who is the creator, sustainer, and the destroyer of this universe.


Author is Editor Prabuddha Bharata. The Balabodha series as written is a glossary of words and not an article. So insights is not intended. 


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This article was first published in the February 2019 issue of Prabuddha Bharata, monthly journal of The Ramakrishna Order started by Swami Vivekananda in 1896. This article is courtesy and copyright Prabuddha Bharata. I have been reading the Prabuddha Bharata for years and found it enlightening. Cost is Rs 180/ for one year, Rs 475/ for three years, Rs 2100/ for twenty years. To subscribe https://shop.advaitaashrama.org/subscribe/

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