The ‘Gunas’ (Attributes) and their Characteristics

Further to Lord Brahma’s conversation with Maha Devi, the features of the Three ‘Gunas’ or attributes were explained to Narada. Normally, Faith is known to exist in the form of three Gunas viz. Sattva Guna, Rajas Guna and Tamas Guna. Sattva is described as the fountain of Goodness and happiness in a pure form. Its colour is stated to be white standing for purity, integrity, happiness, contentment, forgiveness and faith. The Rajas Guna is stated to be red in colour and is featured as false pride, deceipt, avarice, hatred and selfishness. The Tamo Guna standing for black colour is stated to feature ignorance, lack of resources, anger, fear and quarrelsomeness. There is no set identity of the Gunas but are intermingled and rapidly changeable. A person who is Good basically might spurt out into anger and pride and change over in the same breath to fear. But surely the resultant impact would be disastrous. As, Lord Krishna stated in Bhagavad Gita:


Dhyayato vishayam pumsaha sanghas theshupa jayate /
Sangat sanjayatey kama kamakrodhobhi jaaythey /
Krodhaha bhavati sammohaha, sammohat smrithi vibhramaha /
Smritir bhramsaha buddhi naso buddhi nashoth prayatyati.

An unfullfilled desire would lead to anger.
Anger leads to obsession.
Obsession leads to failure of memory (focussed thinking) and
lack of memory leads to mental balance!


Narada reacted instantly to the Principles of ‘Gunas’ saying that normally one felt that Lords Vishnu, Brahma and Siva represented Satvic, Rajasic and Tamasic Gunas respectively but the description was not fully represented in their cases. Brahma replied that the predominance of their Gunas was described but there was no water-tight segregation possible in their cases too as in the case of human beings. He gave the illustration of a lamp, but the wick, the oil and the flame together provided light. The three materials denoted the Rajas, Satvik and Tamas Gunas, just as each or any living being could –and normally did- synthesise the Gunas. In this connection Brahma gave the example to Narada of an illiterate Brahmana, Satyavrata who turned out to be a Learned Sage, by the Grace of Maha Devi Sarasvati.


Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager, India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India The author can be contacted at