Sharangati (Surrender) a way of Salvation

Article Posted in: Essay

“Sharanagati (surrender) – a way of Salvation

published in Vol.II, Issue.XX, September 2016

Introduction to the Author:

Dr. G. Mohana Charyulu is presently working as an Associate Professor and Chairman RPAC, Dept. of English K L University Vijayawada A.P. India. His research articles are published in Various national and International journals focusing the areas like Language, Literature, Translations and Comparative Studies. One scholar under his supervision was awarded and Ph. D. and two more scholars are in the pipeline. There are 8 research scholars are pursuing their research under his supervision.

“Sharanagati (surrender) – a way of Salvation

Sharanagati” (complete surrender) has been eulogized as the easiest way of salvation to reach God in Sri Vaishnava sampradayam of Hinduism. One can feel the divine grace When Sharanagati has truly happened, everything is being done by the Lord and one can experience as just an instrument in His hands. If the complete surrender has not happened and the thought of ego i.e. ‘I’ am the doer, frequently provokes it. At this juncture the ego has to be hit on its head with the understanding that it is all God’s will and one is nothing but an instrument in His hands. If it is constantly done, the frequency of ego raising its head will reduce and slowly it would lead to the state of total surrender. It may take place in one birth or may span many births. The surrender may also be prostrated not only before God but also before the lotus feet of Uttama Guru (Beloved Teacher). Holy Scriptures suggested the Sharanagati through the Gesture of Supplication with folded palms names as ‘Anjali’. It is repeated numerously and adulatory in Puranas, Itihasas, Vedas and Upanishads. It is also told through the great sayings of Acharyas (Teachers). —Sage Bharadwadaja says: “anjali: parama mudra, kshipram deva prasadini” (the Surrender with folded palm is the best of all gestures and secures for us the favours of the Lord, with all expedition). My article titled “Sharanagati (surrender) – a way of salvation” depicts how it destroys all inauspiciousness and builds up all good which resulted in the lives of devotees like Droupadi (Sri Mahabharatam), Gajendra Moksham  (Sri mad Bhagavatam), Vibhishana Sharanagati ( Srimad Ramayanam). At the same time, surrender to God one’s soul signifies the absolutely priceless offering which is relished by the genius Bhagavad Ramanuja, Vedanta Deshika and a host of many great minds.

In the West, the word “surrender” means the act of yielding to the power of another or the acknowledgment of defeat. This does not, in any way, reflect the true meaning of the process of surrender in the Hindu spiritual tradition. As far as my own knowledge, I have not found an equivalent English word for the process which, in Hindi, is called sharanagati – the process of surrender. Sharanagati is a combination of the two words shara, meaning shelter, and agat, meaning one who has come to be sheltered. The person who has come to the place of refuge or shelter can be called a sharanagat. Only a person who is afraid of worldly misery comes for relief to the shelter of a powerful entity. But this phrase cannot express the emotional vibrations that the word sharanagat bears in it.

At times when someone who is afraid takes the shelter of any person or place, he is fully dependent upon that shelter, and he does not even think of any other help for his liberation. In this state of shelter, he surrenders all of his body, mind and other sense organs to the situation. Like in the situation of a drowning person, he surrenders himself to the person coming to his rescue. In the situation of a person terrified of the scorching heat from the sun during peak hours of the summer noon, if he finds a tree for shelter then he cannot ignore it at any cost. The mental state of that drowning person, or the peace felt at the moment the overheated person finds relief cannot be expressed in words. But, even these worldly examples are not complete in the real understanding of a sharanagat.

Our devotional strength can be assessed by our ability to take shelter in Paramatma under whatever the circumstances may be. A completely immersed Devotee only can understand the Paramatma Consciousness Who are always looking for an opportunity to intensify their shelter-taking in the Lord. In such situations, whether one is explicitly calling out to the Lord for protection or internally awaiting Lord’s protection, it is merely a circumstantial detail; but because of reposing one’s exclusive faith in Lord’s protection, both the positions are equally great. Thus One who has taken exclusive shelter of the Supreme Lord, Srimannarayana, becomes free from fruitive activities, which are based on material lust. In fact, one who has taken shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord is freed from even the desire to enjoy material sense gratification. Plans for enjoying sex life, social prestige and money cannot develop within his mind. Thus he is considered as bhagavatottama, in Srivaishnava Sampradaya, a pure devotee of the Lord on the highest platform.

When Draupadi was initially attempting to hold on to her sari with one hand while calling out to Lord Krishna, her surrender was not considered exclusive. However, when she threw both her arms up in the air, calling out “He Krishna!”, that mood of exclusive shelter in Krishna’s protection is the highest platform of devotional service. Reflecting upon Draupadi’s mood of devotion, Krishna says, “When I was away from Draupadi, she cried with the words, ‘He Govinda!’ This call for Me has put Me in her debt, and that indebtedness is gradually increasing in My heart!” This clearly establishes the highest platform of Draupadi’s sharanagati to Lord Krishna. In Prahlada’s example as well, we can find instances of his praying for the shelter and protection of Lord Narayana. He believes that Narayana is the only savior of life. He treats him as his father, mother, teacher and everything. Rest and unrest, sin and redemption, peace and destruction and everything is Lord Narayana. His reply to his mother when she asked him “How are You? When Lord Narayana is everything of our life why should we fear mother? He expresses his highest mode of Sharanagati.

Lord Krishna Said to Udbhava:

martyo yadā tyakta-samasta-karmā

niveditātmā vichikīrṣito me

tadāmṛtatvaṁ pratipadyamāno

mayātma-bhūyāya cha kalpate vai: Srimad Bhagavatam (11.29.34)

“When a mortal being completely rejects all pursuit of mundane enjoyment and liberation, surrenders themselves unto Me, and serves Me according to My desires, they obtain immortality (amrtatva)—they awaken to their eternal spiritual form like My own, with which they are able to relish the nectar of their intimate loving relationship with Me.”

The pure devotees of the Lord are distinguished from others due to their following the six intrinsic principles of exclusive surrender to the Supreme Lord mentioned above which are also found in the Vaishnava-tantra as follows:

anukulyasya-sankalpah, pratikulyasya-varjjanam

raksisyatiti visvaso, goptrtve varanam tatha

atma-niksepa-karpanye, sad-vidha saranagatih (Sri Sri Prapana-jivanamrtam 2.32)


“Acceptance of the favorable, rejection of the unfavorable, the faith that ‘He will surely protect me,’ embracing the Lord’s guardianship, complete dependence on Him, and the perception of one’s utter helplessness without Him, these six are the essential limbs of exclusive surrender unto the Lord.”

In Sri Vaisnava Tradition Saranagati is divided into six divisions:

  1. Accepting those things that are favorable for devotion to God (anukulyasya sankalpa)
  2. Rejecting those things that are averse to surrender to God (pratikulyasya varjanam)
  3. Considering God to be one’s protector in all circumstances (raksisyatiti visvasa)
  4. Accepting God as one’s maintainer (goptrtve varanam)
  5. Surrendering everything in God’s service (atma-niksepa)
  6. Cultivating a humble attitude (karpanya)

The Bhagavata describes Gajendra Moksha as one of the many inconceivable exploits of Lord Vishnu. A great devotee of Vishnu, King Indradyumna, was cursed by the sage Agastya to be reborn as an elephant. The sage’s words proved true and Indradyumna was reborn as Gajendra, or the king of elephants. One day, as he stepped into a lake to drink his fill, he was caught by a crocodile. Though he fought with all his might to shake it off, the crocodile only tightened its grip. Gajendra remained thus for many years. The elephant and the crocodile struggled for a thousand years. When a thousand years over, the elephant began to tire, although the crocodile’s strength was still undiminished. Gajendra lost a lot of blood and he became very weak. He finally realized that only God could help him and called out to Lord Narayana.
Lord Vishnu heard Gajendra’s cries for help and appeared on his vehicle, Garuda. He sent the Sudarshana Chakra whirling down. The Chakra killed the crocodile and set Gajendra free. Gajendra offered Lord Narayana a Lotus and thanked him for saving his life. Strange as it may seem, the crocodile then adopted the form of a gandharva. His name was Huhu. He had been cursed by a sage that he would become a crocodile. And the sage had told him that he would be freed from the curse by Lord Vishnu. That had now happened. In fact the elephant had earlier also been a king named Indradyumna. And he had been cursed by a sage that he would be born as an elephant. Indradyumna too was freed from his curse and became Vishnu’s companion. When we are in life or death situation, we suddenly realize that our ego and intellectual reasoning cannot save us. We suddenly become humble before the higher power. We realize how insignificant our power is towards controlling the situations in the real world. We all become devotees in desperate situations and surrender ourselves to the higher power i.e. Lord Narayana.

In the entire universe, it is Sri Narayana that is to be worshipped as the Ultimate Resort. Six colossal figures stand testimony to this: Prahlada, Vibhishana, Gajendra the elephant-king, Panchali, Ahalya and Dhruva. They are the blessed ones who have received, respectively, superlative affection, supreme refuge, undisputable protection, infinite compassion, total absolution and apex of benefaction, from the Lord.

Works Cited:

  1. Sivavadhani, Vavillalaa Studies in Srimadbhagavatam, V. Ramaswamy Sastrulu & Sons, Esplanade, 1918
  2. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.29.34
  3. Sri Sri Prapana-jivanamrtam 2.32
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