Sri and Visnu

One God in Two Persons


  • Klaus Klostermaier University of Manitoba Author



Goddess, Lokācārya Pillai, Rāmānuja, Śrīvaiṣṇava, Trinity, Vedānta Deśika


The Christian doctrine of the Trinity arose from the need to reconcile the divinity of Jesus with monotheism. Srivaisnava theologians faced a similar problem with their belief in the Goddess Sri or Laksmi and her husband Visnu or Narayana as two distinct deities in one godhead. The article examines the ways in which the divinity of Sri and her oneness with Visnu are upheld, using Ramanuja's Saranagati-gadya, Vedanta Desika's Rahasyatrayasara, and Lokacarya Pillai's Mumuksupadi. It then presents some of the scriptural sources and philosophical concepts with which the theologians support their position. In conclusion, the doctrine is briefly compared with the Christian Trinity and the Saiva ardhanarisvara.

Author Biography

  • Klaus Klostermaier, University of Manitoba

    Klaus Klostermaier is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the University of Manitoba, which he joined in 1970. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and was the Director of Academic Affairs at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies from 1997–1998. His many books include Hindu and Christian in Vrindaban, A Survey of Hinduism, and Hinduism: a Short Introduction.


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Dasgupta, S. N. 1922. A History of Indian Philosophy, vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Goldberg, Ellen. 2002. The Lord Who is Half Woman: Ardhanarisvara in Indian and Feminist Perspective. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Iyengar, M. B. Narasimha (trans.) 1962. Mumukshupadi of Pillai Lokacharya. Madras: Education Publishing Co.

Klostermaier, K. 1995. 'Sri-Tattva: The Goddess Principle.' Journal of Vaisnava Studies 4 (1): 21-36.

LaCugna, C. M. 1987. 'Trinity'. In M. Eliade (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Religion: vol. 15, 53-57. 16 vols. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Raghavacarya (Sri Jagadguru Sri Ramanuja-Sampradaya-Acarya Acaryapitha-Adhipati Raghavacarya Swamiji Maharaja). 1973. 'Sri Tattva' (in Hindi, with many Sanskrit quotations). Visnu-anka, Kalyana 47: 203-11. All page references in this article are to my English translation (Klostermaier 1995).

Rajagopala Ayyangar, M. R. (trans.) 1956. Srimad Rahasyatrayasara of Sri Vedanta Desika. Kumbakonam: Agnihotram Ramanremainsuja Tathachariar






How to Cite

Klostermaier, K. (2014). Sri and Visnu: One God in Two Persons. Religions of South Asia, 8(2), 181-195.