From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Kaustubha literally means ‘that which pervades the universe’.

According to the various systems of philosophy and the mystical traditions, God is both nirākāra[1] and nirguṇa.[2] He is also attributed as sākāra and saguṇa.[3]

One of the most widely known and worshiped forms of God from the Vedic period is that of Viṣṇu-Nārāyaṇa. Detailed descriptions of Viṣṇu-Nārāyaṇa as found in the epics and the purāṇas state that he wears an extraordinarily brilliant and beautiful gem called “Kaustubha” on his chest. It covers the Śrīvatsa mark there. This gem is said to have emerged out of the kṣīrasamudra or the ocean of milk at the time of its churning. It got lodged on Viṣṇu’s chest by itself.[4]

Literally, the word ‘Kaustubha’ means ‘that which pervades the whole universe’. Symbolically, it stands for all that enjoys (bhoktā) and the Srīvatsa mark represents all that is enjoyed (bhogya). The two together represents the created universe in all its aspects which itself is like an ornament for God.


  1. Nirākāra means without any particular form.
  2. Nirguṇa means without attributes.
  3. Saguṇa is with form and attributes.
  4. Mahāhhārata, Ādiparva 18.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore