What is the origin of tandav dance?

Lord Shiva in the form of Nataraj


1. Forms of Shiva

1.1 Rudra

‘The Vedic Rudra was a destroyer and fearful too but Shiva who is the deity of worship of all non-Aryan classes and tribes displays the aspect of creation. The Vedic Aryans did not know about Shiva. They only knew Rudra. An important adjective about Him in the Vedas is Vrushabh (वृषभ). This word is derived from the root vrush (वृष्‌). It has two meanings, the one granting rain and the one possessing tremendous ability to procreate. Rudra gives rain which causes the growth of vegetation. This is the concept clearly expressed in the mantras about Rudra in the Rugveda. Presently the word vrushabh is used to refer to a bull since it has an exceptional power to procreate.’ Some of the meanings of the word Rudra are as follows.

  • Ru (रु) means to cry and dru (द्रु) means to run. Rudra is the one who cries, who makes one cry and one who runs away while crying.
  • Rut (रुत्‌) means sorrow of the materialistic world. One who vanquishes and overcomes it is Rudra.
  • Rut means the truth, that is the Upanishads composed of words. One who has realised or expounded the truth is Rudra.
  • Rut is speech consisting of words or the knowledge of Self-realisation expounded through this medium. One who bestows this to worshippers is Rudra.’

Attendants of Rudra (Rudragans): ‘They are Rudra’s subordinates who remain in His proximity and serve Him. They are said to be one crore in number. Spirits (bhut), vetal, uchchushma, pretputan, kubhand are the attendants created by Rudra. The attendants of Rudra don an attire similar to that of their master. They reside in heaven, destroy evildoers, protect the righteous, observe the pashupat vowed religious observance (vrat), vanquish obstacles of the yogis and serve Lord Shiva perpetually.’

1.2 Ardhanarinateshvar (Ardhanarishvar)

‘In the ancient times the divine birth passage (yoni) and the divine phallus (linga) were two distinct entities. Later man combined them into a single Shivalinga and commenced its worship. Later when man became civilized and acquired sufficient talent to sculpt idols he created the form of Ardhanarishvar as a symbol of the divine birth passage and divine phallus. The objective of these two forms is that if generation of offsprings should occur then the two forms certainly need to unite. These two sculptures aim at portraying the distinction of man and woman prior to the commencement of creation. In the initial stages the male-female principles were inseparable, that is they were merged into one another. Even today in the organisms of the lowest strata female and male principles are present in the same body. They themselves are male and female and procreate from within themselves.

Agnishomatmakam jagat (अग्‍निषोमात्‍मकं जगत्‌)” is a quote from the Shrutis (Vedas). Fire (agni) is the male principle and is present in the menstrual flow of the female. The moon (soma) is the feminine principle and is present in the sperm of the male. Desire (kama) is the force binding the two. These two principles get attracted to one another due to desire. Philosophy too elucidates the same tenet. When Shiva gets associated with Divine Energy (Shakti) He becomes active. In the non-duality (advait) described in the holy text of Shivagam, Divine Energy (Shakti), that is the Great Illusion (Maya) is not renounced but is considered as the Energy of Brahman (Brahmashakti). The permanent union of Shiva and Shakti is considered as non-duality. Hemadri has described how this half-feminine (ardhanari) form is to be created in the text Chaturvargachintamani. According to him – the right half of Shiva should be that of a woman.’ In this form the potential of the feminine as well as the masculine principle is equal; hence it is described as ‘Shaktyasahitaha Shambuhu (शक्‍त्‍यासहित: शंभु: ।)’ meaning The Lord Shambhu (Shiva) along with Divine Energy (Shakti).

1.3 Kalbhairav

He is one out of the eight bhairavs and was created from Shiva’s wrath. After Shiva had the fifth head of Lord Brahma severed through Kalbhairav, He directed Kalbhairav to stay at Kashi, a place of pilgrimage. Kalbhairav is also referred to as the ‘guardian of Kashi’. On entering Kashi, first one has to pay obeisance to Him. When returning after paying obeisance to Him one ties His black thread across one’s arm.

1.4 Virabhadra

He has made Vetal His vehicle. A legend says that it was Virabhadra who first ritualistically worshipped Shiva in the form of His divine phallus (linga).

1.5 Bhairav (Bhairavnath)

Definition and meaning

  • Bhuhu (भू:) – bhai (भै) – bhavaha (भव:) – ravaha (रव:)’ means one who creates an uproar as he is born.
  • Bhaihi (भै:) means frequencies of light and ravaha (रव:) means sound. The point where frequencies of light and sound unite is the earth (bhairavi) and Bhairavnath is the master (nath) of that earth.
  • Bhuhu (भू:) means a part formed from several particles and ravaha means small particles. Hence bhairav means the earth created from several small particles and Bhairavnath is its master.

Types: ‘The text Shiva Agam describes sixty-four types of bhairavs. Eight bhairavs constitute one category (varga). The chiefs of these eight categories are famous as the eight bhairavs (ashtabhairav). Kalbhairav and Batukbhairav are famous among the Bhairavs. The Tantra texts consider the sixty-four bhairavs as the masters of the sixty-four yoginis and display close association between Divine Energy (Shakti) and the bhairavs. It is said that a Bhairav guards every seat of Divine Energy (Shaktipith). The holy text Mahapithnirupan states that ritualistic worship (puja) of Divine Energy done without the inclusion of the Bhairav proves to be futile. In Maharashtra generally Bhairav is worshipped as the village deity (gramadevata). He is referred to as Bhairoba, Bahiroba or Viroba. The deity has its seat in almost every village in a snake hole or a crematorium. At times it is in the form of an idol or in the form of a round stone (tandala). It is said that when at night He patrols on horseback He is accompanied by a black dog.’

Subordinate deities (kshudradevata): First chant the Name Bhairav and then any other Name of a deity such as Vishnu, Shiva, Lakshmi, etc. not chanted earlier, each for two minutes. Both the times note the spiritual experience obtained. Then read the following section. At one satsang (spiritual meeting) after chanting the Name of Bhairav and Narayan seekers got the following spiritual experiences.

  Bhairav Narayan
1. Felt pleasant 4 12
2. Felt distressed 12 1
3. Felt nothing 18 21
Total 34 34

The average spiritual level of the seekers was 35%. During a satsang, at times the spiritual level of a seeker can rise to even 40-50%. The spiritual level of an average individual is 20% while that of one who has attained the Final Liberation (Moksha) is 100%. If average individuals perform the same experiment, they do not perceive anything. Hence in such experiments everyone does not get spiritual experiences. Only those with a spiritual level of more than 35% are able to perceive a little from the subtle dimension and are able to give answers.

This will prove why one should not undertake spiritual practice of Bhairav. Just as one thorn is removed with another, spiritual practice of Bhairav generates an energy which decreases distress caused by distressing energy. During this process the individual may undergo some distress. Bhairav is a deity of the southern path (dakshinmarg) or region after death while Narayan is a deity from the northern path (uttarmarg) that is path of Bliss.

1.6 Vetal

The word Vetal (वेताळ) is created from the word vaital (वैताल) meaning one who makes even a severe aberration dance to His tune. When ahat and anahat sounds fuse ‘vai (वै)’ frequencies are generated. They correct the abnormalities. ‘Vetal is also called Agyavetal, Jvalavetal or Pralayvetal. Skanda soldiers like Vetal, etc. are included in the spirit attendants (bhutagans) of Shiva. The Matsya Puran describes Vetal as one who feeds on ‘‘flesh and blood’’. Lord Shiva has made Vetal the presiding deity of spirits (pishach). The sorcerers (mantriks) call Vetal vir (brave). Vaitali, the mother of Vetal has gained importance as a “Matruka” deity. Idols of Vetal are made of wood or stone. Vetal as the village deity (gramadevata) is in the form of a round stone (tandala). In Goa its idols are made of wood or stone and at times are nude. The idols sport a trident or a staff. It is because of these fearsome qualities that Vetal became a subordinate (kshudradevata) or a village deity. He is the village deity in several villages of Goa like Priol, Amone, Savarde, etc. and in those in the vicinity of Pune in Maharashtra. In western Maharashtra the idol exists in the form of a round stone smeared with shendur (a saffron coloured powder) on the village border. More round stones smeared with shendur surround it. They are referred to as the soldiers of Vetal. Often temples of the nine planets (navagraha) adjoin the temple of Vetal. The community of Mahars in Maharashtra worship Him in the nude. To please Him sacrifices (balis) of roosters and goats are offered. In some places, sweet delicacies too are offered. During a religious festival, He is taken out in a procession seated in a palanquin decorated with flowers.’

1.7 Bhutnath

‘He is one of the subordinate deities from a category similar to that of Vetal. Goa has temples of this deity. At midnight He commences patrolling along with His soldiers. It is said that at that time He wields a staff in His hand and a blanket on His shoulder. Believing that His slippers wear out with His wandering about on foot, people in the vicinity of Savantvadi in Maharashtra offer Him a pair of new slippers every month. If one is possessed by a spirit then it is driven off by summoning Bhutnath.’

1.8 Nataraj

Shiva is believed to assume two states – the superconscious state (samadhi) and the tandav or lasya dance. The former refers to the unmanifest (nirgun) and the latter to the manifest (sagun). ‘Body movements which depict a particular event or issue is called natan or natya. The one who performs this natan is a nat (actor). Traditionally it is believed that Nataraj is the promoter of dance. Since Shiva is the pioneer among actors (nats) the title Nataraj is accorded to Him. The universe is His school of dance. Just as He is the dancer so is He also its observer. The role that Nataraj plays is to bring about activity in the universe with the commencement of His dance and to merge the movable and unmovable (animate and inanimate) creation into Him when He stops it. Thereafter He remains engrossed in Bliss solitarily. In short, Nataraj is the manifest representation of all activity of God. Nataraj’s dance is considered to represent the five actions of God, namely creation, sustenance, dissolution, the covering of the Great Illusion (Maya) and initiation (anugraha) (God’s grace to be liberated from the Great Illusion).’

The tandav dance: ‘In the Sangitaratnakar (7.5 – 6) origin of the tandav dance is explained as follows –

प्रयोगमुद्धतं स्‍मृत्‍वा स्‍वप्रयुक्‍तं ततो हर: ।
तण्‍डुना स्‍वगणाग्रण्‍या भरताय व्‍यदीदृशत्‌ ।।
लास्‍यमस्‍याग्रत: प्रीत्‍या पार्वत्‍या समदीदृशत्‌ ।
बुद्‌ध्‍वाथ ताण्‍डवं तण्‍डोर्मर्त्‍येभ्‍यो मुनयोऽवदन्‌ ।।

Meaning: Then Shiva showed the uddhat dance, which He had performed earlier, to Sage Bharat through the chief of His attendants (Tandu). He also made Parvati perform the lasya dance, with great enthusiasm in front of Sage Bharat. Lasya is a dance form performed by women wherein the hands remain free. Sage Bharat and others later taught this dance, performed by Tandu known as the tandav dance, to man.

The dance in which the sound (nad) in every cell of the body (bhuvans) is that of Shiva is called the tandav dance. It is a dance performed by males and consists of postures (mudras), for instance the dnyanmudra is performed by touching the tips of the thumb and the index finger to each other. On account of this the mounds of Guru (Jupiter) and Shukra (Venus) on the palm are joined together, that is a male and a female unite.

This dance is of seven types – 1. Anandtandav, 2. Sandhyatandav (Pradosh dance), 3. Kalikatandav, 4. Tripurtandav, 5. Gouritandav, 6. Sanhartandav and 7. Umatandav.

Of these seven types the verse (stotra) Shivapradosh (alias Pradosh) describes the sandhyatandav as – Shiva performs this dance in the evening with Gouri the creator of the three worlds seated on a throne studded with precious stones. When Shiva dances Sarasvati plays the vina (a stringed instrument), Indra plays the flute, Brahma keeps the rhythm, Lakshmi sings, Vishnu plays the mrudanga (a kind of drum) and all the other deities stand around and watch the dance programme. In this dance Shiva has two arms and the scene of a demon being crushed under His feet is absent.

Of the above seven types the Gouritandav and Umatandav are both fearsome in nature. In this dance Shiva assumes the form of Bhairav or Virabhadra and is accompanied by Uma or Gouri. He performs this frightful dance in the crematorium where there are burning ashes of the corpses, along with the spirit attendants (bhutagans). Among Nataraj’s sattvik (sattva predominant) dance forms along with the sandhya dance, the nadanta dance is also extremely famous. The world famous idol of Nataraj at Chidambaram is in this very pose. Followers of the Shaiva and the Shakta sects consider these dances to be symbols of specific principles. In their opinion, during such a destructive, fearsome dance Shiva not only destroys the world but also frees embodied souls from bondage. The crematorium is chosen for the dance to depict that the ego of the embodied soul is reduced to ashes. Deities as well as demons are enthusiastic to accompany Lord Shiva during the tandav dance.’ An example of a posture from the Anandtandav illustrated below show how significant the various postures adopted in a tandav dance are.

1. ‘Different earings in each
2. The small hourglass shaped
    hand drum in the rear right
Creation of Brahman in the form of
sound and word
3. Fire in the rear left hand Purification of Brahman in the form of
sound and word
4. The front right hand Protection to devotees
5. The front left hand Points to the foot raised for liberation
of embodied souls
6. The demons Apasmar or
    Muyalak crushed under the
    right foot.
Destruction of nescience (avidya) or
ignorance (adnyan)
7. The surrounding circle Cycle of Illusion (Maya)
8. The hand and foot touched
     to the chakra
Purifying the Great Illusion (Maya)
9. Five lingas arising
    spontaneously from the
    flames of the chakra
The subtle five cosmic elements’

1.9 Kirat

‘This is the Kapalik form of Lord Shiva. Among the masses this form is as popular as Shiva. In this form He drapes Himself with elephant hide and likes to drink liquor. He is engrossed in various sports of pleasure and is surrounded by thousands of women. Opposite Him the spirits dance merrily. Bhagvati Uma also dressed in the same attire accompanies Him. During the period of emergence of the Shaiva sect, this pleasure loving form of Shiva gradually lapsed into obscurity. Only His association with dance persisted. As that dancing form of Shiva evolved further the idol of Shiva as Nataraj was created.’

2. The family

2.1 The consort

Refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Vol. 9 B- Shakti, point – Divine Energy associated with Shiva’.

2.2 The son

A. Kartikeya

‘He is the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati. He is named Kartikeya because He was nurtured and brought up by deities of the constellation of six stars known as Krutikas. The story about Kartikeya goes thus – After Kartikeya slayed a demon, Tarkasur, He became famous. As a result, Parvati began pampering Him. Too much pampering spoilt Him and He began molesting the consorts of deities. The deities complained about Him to Parvati. To subdue His boisterousness Parvati began to manifest Herself in every woman that He saw. This manifestation (sakshatkar) induced a feeling of repentance in Kartikeya and He swore that since that day He would view every woman in the world as His mother. The Shivalilamrut narrates a story in which Kartikeya has cursed women saying ‘Those women who come to pay their respects to Me will be widowed for seven births’. However there is no evidence of this in the Purans. In Maharashtra Kartikeya is a celibate (brahmachari) while in South India He has two wives. In Bangal, in the Hindu lunar month of Kartik an earthen idol (kshanika) of Kartikeya is worshipped by women desirous of bearing a son.’ This idol holds a peacock feather in His hand, not a staff.

B. Ganapati

Information on Ganapati is given in ‘Science of Spirituality : Vol 9 C – Ganapati’.

C. Others

Several infant deities such as Murugan, Shvasta, Shasta, Skanda, Atavi, Atavishvar, Avalokiteshvar, Avaloki, Kotputra, etc. later merged into Lord Shiva.

At a satsang (spiritual meeting) seven people felt pleasant after chanting Skanda’s Name, six felt distressed and the remaining twelve felt nothing. Distress refers to feeling aversed to chanting the Name, heaviness in the chest, headache, etc. That is why worship of Skanda is not prevalent.

2.3 Attendants of Shiva (Shivagans)

Attendants of Lord Shiva reside in Shiva’s region (Shivalok). Attendants are servitors. They control the divine birth passage (mahayoni) and the pure particles (pavitrakas). Yamadharma and the chief of the southern region (dakshinlok) Virabhadra are also attendants of Shiva. Virabhadra is the only deity who is directly associated with the southern region, hence He is the master of spirits (bhut) and is called Bhutnath. When spirits come in contact with purity they are saved from the effects of destiny, become attendants of Shiva in Shiva’s region and derive a type of Bliss called mod. The different types of Shiva’s attendants are as follows.

  • Ugragans: They undertake spiritual practice of the form of Shankar called Ugreshvar.
  • Rudragans: Rudra means cranky. They weep yearning for a vision of God.
  • Bhut and pishachagans

The functions and spiritual practice of each of these three attendants are different. Some attendants come to Shiva from Yama’s region (Yamalok) while others approach Him through Nandi, the bull as a medium.

Nandi: Nandaha (नंद:) means one whose nature is that of Bliss. Nandi thus means one who is Blissful. Here information on Nandi as an attendant is given. Further Nandi as a vehicle is discussed. ‘He is the chief attendant of Shiva and has several names viz. Nandish, Nandishvar and Nandikeshvar. Nandi performed rigorous austerities at the age of eight or nine years and acquired the proximity of Lord Shiva. Shiva accepted him as His son and chose him as the chief of His attendants. Later, he married Suyasha, the daughter of a Marut. Shaivites consider Nandi to be spiritually a symbol of the principle of Bliss. When Shiva performs the tandav dance he stands by to keep the rhythm. In South India, generally, the idol of Nandish is present on the left or right side of the main entrance of Shiva’s temple.’

2.4 Messengers of Shiva (Shivadut)

‘They are short, stocky and have a reddish complexion. Two tusks arise from their mouths. They have four arms holding a noose, a serpent, a trident and a vessel (mahapatra). Their duty is to transport the souls of the devotees of Lord Shiva when they die, in the pushpak plane to Kailas, the abode of Lord Shiva.’

2.5 Nandi as the vehicle (vahan)

Nandi in the form of a bull is Shiva’s vehicle and occupies an important position in Shiva’s family. Nandi is paid obeisance before Shiva.

Shrungadarshan: Shrungadarshan means viewing the divine phallus (linga) of Lord Shiva from in between Nandi’s horns. ‘Sayanacharya has derived the word vrushabh (वृषभ) from the root vrush (वृष) and it means the one who showers. The other meaning of the word vrushabh is one possessing tremendous energy for procreation.’ That is why Nandi is considered as a feature of evolved masculinity. Just as Manu is the first exponent of the science of righteous conduct (dharmashastra) and Bruhaspati that of economics (arthashastra). Nandi is the founder of the science of sex (kamashastra). In a temple of Lord Mahadev Nandi stands on one leg with the other three bent at the knees. It signifies that in the Kaliyug, Righteousness (Dharma) exists only to the extent of one fourth.

2.6 Comparison between various forms of Shiva and His retinue

Shiva’s form
nance %
lution %
1. Shiva 100 10 2 2 96
2. Rudra 70 70 25 40 35
3. Ardhanarishvar 70 50 28 70 2
4. Ganapati 70 10 10 70 20
5. Kalbhairav,
60 60 10 40 50
6. Virbhadra 60 40 30 40 30
7. Mangesh 60 30 30 50 20
8. Bhairav 50 50 20 30 50
9. Vaijanath 50 30 30 30 40
10. Jotiba 50 30 20 30 50
11. Ravalnath 50 25 20 30 50
12. Khandoba 40 30 20 50 30
13. Vetal 30 20 10 20 70
14. Bhutnath 30 10 10 40 50
15. Mhasoba 20 20 20 40 40
16. Nandi * 20 10 40 50 10
17. Nataraj 10 10 10 80 10
18. Kirat 10 10 10 70 20
19. Attendants
     of Shiva
10 10 10 50 40
20. Messengers
     of Shiva
10 10 10 40 50
21. An average
1/1000 1/10000 10 30 60
22. An average
1/1 crore 1/1 crore 10 30 60
23. Jyotirlinga 1/1 lakh 1/1 lakh 10 30 60
24. Banalinga 1/10 lakh 1/10 lakh 10 30 60
25. Ravan,
30 30 5 30 65

* The chief of the attendants of Shiva not Nandi as a vehicle.

3. Shiva’s region (Shivalok) and His abode

  • Shiva’s region: All those who are able to purify their lives go to Shiva’s region. The region where Serenity, purity and spiritual evolvement exist, is Shiva’s region.
  • Shiva’s abode: Penance augments the body temperature. To reduce it, Shiva lives on the Kailas (के + लास) mountain, the place where ice resembles a cluster of bananas. Lord Shankar’s other abode is the cremation ground.


What is the significance of adorning rudraksha when performing ritualistic worship?


‘Along with Shiva all the deities of His retinue are simple and are easily satisfied. They do not require a temple as a residence. They can live atop a mountain, beneath a tree, on a pimpal tree or anywhere else peacefully. They also do not aspire for an offering of food (mahanaivedya). Offering a coconut is sufficient to appease them.’

Preparing for the ritualistic worship

1. Application of holy ash (bhasma)

One should not commence the ritualistic worship of Lord Shiva without application of holy ash (bhasma). More information on holy ash is provided in point ‘Holy ash (bhasma)’.

1.1 The ritual of creating holy ash

‘Pure holy ash is that which is produced from a cake of cowdung collected before falling to the ground. [The importance of cowdung is given in ‘Science of Spirituality : Vol. 5 – Path of Devotion (Bhaktiyoga)’.] This holy ash is fit for application only after it is consecrated with the efficacious Gayatri mantra. One who has not completed the purashcharan of the Gayatri mantra may purify the ash by chanting any other efficacious Shivamantra.’

1.2 What is used as holy ash?

  • Cowdung is burnt to prepare holy ash. This is mostly used as the average person is unable to tolerate human ash.
  • Earth from the site of an ancient sacrificial fire (yadnya).
  • Holy ash from a mountain at Gangapur.
  • Human ash: This is used by sorcerers (tantriks).

1.3 Where should holy ash be applied?

  • 1. Along with a mantra

    Holy ash should be placed on the palm along with
    the chanting of mantras such as ‘Sadyojat’, etc.
    It should be consecrated with mantras
    such as ‘Agniritya, etc. – 200
    Uttering mantras such as ‘Manastoken’ etc. the holy ash
    should be rubbed with the thumb,
    Along with mantras such as the ‘Tryambak
    it should be applied to the forehead. – 201
    Chanting the ‘Tryayushemantra it should be
    applied to the forehead and arms,
    Thus amidst chanting of the same mantras the holy ash
    should be applied to different parts of the body. – 202

    Shri Gurucharitra, Adhyay 29
  • 2. Along with spiritual emotion (bhav)

    One who does not know mantras should
    apply it with pure spiritual emotion.
    If one uses it wholeheartedly, its glory is great !

    Shri Gurucharitra 29:218

1.4 Tripundra

Tripundra refers to the three horizontal stripes of holy ash.

A. How should they be applied ?

Brahmans (priests) should smear their bodies with holy ash before commencement of various rituals such as rites for departed souls (shraddhas), sacrificial fires (yadnya and hom), ritualistic worship (puja) and Vaishvadev. The ritual of application of holy ash is in the Brahmakarma section of the Rugveda. It can be summarised as – after sipping water from the palm (achman) and performing pranayam, soak some holy ash on the palm of the left hand. Then using the second, middle and ring fingers of the right hand smear it across the forehead horizontally, apply it to the face, chest, neck, arms, sides of the abdomen, sex organs and legs amidst chanting of mantras such as ‘Om agniriti bhasma, Vayuriti bhasma (ॐ अग्‍निरिति भस्‍म, वायुरिति भस्‍म)’ etc. After applying all over the body chant the Name of Shiva thrice.

First using the middle and ring fingers
it should be applied to the forehead.
Then with the thumb, the middle line
should be drawn in the reverse direction.

Shri Gurucharitra 29:204

Meaning: First the upper and lower stripes should be drawn from left to right using the middle and ring fingers. Then the middle stripe should be drawn from right to left using the thumb. [Since the stripes are drawn in both directions instead of the right or left channel, it facilitates activation of the Sushumna channel (nadi).]

The tripundra should be shaped like eyebrows. Often a dot of holy ash is applied in the middle of these three stripes.

B. Implied meaning of the three stripes

  • According to Shri Gurucharitra (29:205-211)
      The stripes
    Upper Middle Lower
    Letter a (अ) u (उ) m (म)
    Fire Garhapatya Dakshinagni Ahavaniya
    Region (lok) Earth (bhu) Nether (bhuva) Dyu (heaven)
    Form of The
    Supreme God
    The soul The inner soul The Supreme
    Component Raja Sattva Tama
    Veda Rugveda Yajurveda Samaveda
    Energy Energy of
    Energy of
    Energy of
    Period of the
    Morning Afternoon Evening
    Deity Mahadev Maheshvar Shiva
  • Tripundra means spiritual knowledge, purity and penance (spiritual practice of Yoga), so also the three eyes of Lord Shiva.
  • According to Vasudevopanishad, tripundra represents the trinity (trimurti), the three mystic words uttered during the ritual of sandhya (vyahyati)and the three rhythms (chandas).
  • According to astrology the three stripes from below upwards represent the planets Guru (Jupiter), Shani (Saturn) and Ravi (Sun) respectively.

C. Who should apply it ?: All that is celibates, householders, retired householders and renunciants should apply it. People from all the four classes (varnas) have a right to apply it.

D. Benefits: Holy ash is useful for cleansing any kind of sin.

2. Adorning rudrakshas

Adorning a rudraksha mala (rosary) when performing ritualistic worship is ideal. Especially followers of the Nath and Vam sects and Kapaliks use rudrakshas.

2.1 Origin and meaning of the word rudraksha

The word rudraksha (रुद्राक्ष) is derived from two words rudra (रुद्र) and aksha (अक्ष). The various meanings of the word rudra are given in point ‘Rudra’. Considering some of the meanings of the word aksha the meanings of the word rudraksha are given below –

  • Aksha means the eye. Rudra and aksha means the one who is capable of viewing and doing everything (e.g. the third eye) is Rudra. Aksha means axis. Since the eye rotates about in only one axis (aksha) it too is called aksha.
  • Rudra means one who weeps. A (अ) means to take and ksha (क्ष) means to give. Hence aksha (अक्ष) means the potential to receive or give. Rudraksha is the one who has the potential to wipe off tears and endow one with happiness.

2.2 The rudra (rudhir) tree

This is found at a height of three thousand metres above or below sea level. The rudraksha tree grows in crevices, not on plain ground. Its leaves resemble those of tamarind or nux vomica but are longer. Annually it yields one to two thousand fruits. The yatis in the Himalayas survive only on these fruits. These fruits are also called fruits of nectar (amrutphal). If eaten, they curb thirst.

2.3 The rudraksha

Its fruits ripen on the tree and fall during winter. Then the seeds in it dry up. Each fruit has fifteen to sixteen seeds (that is rudrakshas). The more the number of seeds, the smaller is their size and the less is their cost. Instead of using a small rudraksha solitarily, several small rudrakshas are strung together along with a large one. A rudraksha has a natural opening from one side to the other. It need not be created. This opening throughout its length is called a vahini (channel). A rudraksha is reddish in colour with yellow stripes and is flat like a fish. On one side it has an open mouth.


2.4 Special features

  • The rudraksha converts light frequencies of deities from the universe into sound frequencies in the body of man and vice versa. As a result, man can absorb frequencies of deities and human thoughts can get converted into the language of deities.
  • The rudraksha absorbs sama (sattva) frequencies. Similarly sama frequencies are emitted by its crests. A real rudraksha can be recognised by the vibrations felt by holding it in the hand. At that time the body absorbs the sama frequencies emitted by the rudraksha. If a rudraksha is held between the thumb and ring finger, vibrations are felt anywhere in the body. Even if kept nearby the effect of a rudraksha is felt for upto half an hour. Thus during that period one is able to perceive vibrations even if any other object is held with the fingers. However if the hands are washed with water then they are not perceived.
  • A mala (rosary) of rudrakshas can be used for chanting the Name of any deity.
  • Chanting done adorning a mala of rudrakshas is a thousand times more beneficial than chanting done without wearing such a mala. Chanting done with a rudraksha mala is ten thousand times more beneficial than chanting done with a rosary of any other kind. Hence Shaivites believe that one cannot make mantras efficacious rapidly and without chanting the mantra using or wearing a rudraksha mala.
  • Rudrakshas facilitate the activation of spiritual energy (kundalini) and the occurrence of keval kumbhak (automatic breath holding) in pranayam.

2.5 Fake rudrakshas

  • A. Bhadraksha: Its tree resembles a rudraksha tree; but its fruits and seeds are round. Its seeds, that is bhadrakshas do not have openings, that is no upper and lower parts. Use of bhadrakshas increases unfavourable (visham) frequencies. Generally bhadrakshas were sold as rudrakshas. Birds do not eat its fruits and if they do, they perish.
  • B. Vikrutaksha: Nowadays mostly this itself is sold as a rudraksha. This is the seed of a type of wild berry. Vikrutaksha is used for sacrificial fires of tantriks, black magic like jaran and maran, uchchatan, etc. by sorcerers. A gypsy tribe from Nepal called the Gurangs first began using the vikrutaksha. An opening is made in the seed with a hot needle. Similarly figures like Om, svastik, a conch, a wheel, etc. are carved on it. It is dyed by immersing in water containing catechu. That is why its colour runs when it is kept in water.
  • C. Artificial rudrakshas: These are made from sealing wax, wood, plastic, etc.
  • D. Differences between real and fake rudrakshas
      A real rudraksha A fake rudraksha
    1. Form Flat like a fish Round
    2. Colour (reddish) Fast Runs when washed in
    3. If thrown in water Sinks immediately Either floats or sinks
    gradually with wavy
    4. An opening thoughout
        its length
    Present Has to be made with
    a needle
    5. Rotation about itself
        when hung in a copper
        vessel or in water.
    Occurs Does not occur
    6. Eaten away by
        termites after
    No Yes
    7. Cost of each (in the
        year 1997)
    Rs 4,000 – 40,000 Rs 20 – 200
    8. Which frequencies
        does it absorb?
    Sama (Sattva)     –
    9. Perception of
    Are felt Are not felt
  • E. Fake rudrakshas and saints: Externally even if saints give a ‘fake’ rudraksha, with the divine consciousness (chaitanya) of the former, from within it gets converted into a ‘real’ one.

2.6 An ideal rudraksha


  • Heavy and radiant
  • With distinct openings
  • One adorned with auspicious symbols such as a Shivalinga, a svastik, etc.
  • ‘The bigger the rudraksha and the smaller the shaligram, the more ideal it is.’ – Merutantra
  • A rudraksha obtained from a tree whose girth is beyond the span of one’s arms, that is an old tree.
  • A rudraksha obtained from a rudraksha tree situated at a great height above sea level.
  • A rudraksha obtained from the top branches of a tree.

    Rudrakshas obtained from trees at a great height are more efficacious since they receive the sattva component coming from above in greater quantities. [Refer ‘Science of Spirituality: Vol. 7 – Supreme God, God, Incarnations and Deities, point – Guardian deities of the territory (Kshetrapaldevata)’.]

  • The white coloured one is the best. Rudrakshas of an inferior quality in the ascending order are crimson, yellow or black in colour. Generally white and yellow rudrakshas are uncommon while red and black ones are common.

2.7 Practical suggestions for its use

A. Making the rudraksha efficacious: ‘First consecrate the rudraksha by sprinkling it with water five to sixty-one times amidst chanting of an efficacious mantra. Then the rudraksha may be touched to a consecrated linga. Without touching a jyotirlinga or in specific difficult situations, a consecrated linga (pindi or shalunka), a rudraksha cannot be charged with energy significantly. Thereafter choosing an auspicious moment (muhurt) for instance, Mahashivratra, Amrutsiddhi, etc. depending on the opening of the rudraksha the corresponding mantra of that opening should be chanted 21, 42 or 102 times and chanting the mrutyunjay or aghor mantra the rudraksha should be consecrated (rudrabhishek). Following this the rudraksha is consecrated either with the Shiva principle or depending on the opening, with the female deity [Divine Energy (Shakti)]. (Refer point ‘2.7 G’.) Such a rudraksha is said to be an “efficacious (siddha) one”.

B. Maintaining the efficacy of a rudraksha: Maintaining the efficacy of an efficacious rudraksha after adorning it, is important. To maintain it, it is necessary to observe the rules given below.

  • Application of holy ash: refer point ‘Application of holy ash (bhasma)’.
  • Ritualistic worship of the Shivalinga: Ritualistic worship of Shiva’s linga or a rudraksha is important. No other person should be allowed to touch such efficacious rudrakshas. If someone touches it accidentally, then it should be purified with urine of a cow or holy water from a place of pilgrimage.
  • Rememberance of Lord Shiva: After awaking and before going to bed one should remember Lord Shiva.

C. Ritual of adorning a rudraksha: Even to wear an efficacious rudraksha it is customary to choose an auspicious time. Before this an individual who has activated the energy in the mantra applies holy ash and chanting mantras of Shiva makes a resolve (sankalpa) and ties the rudraksha to the seeker. Then the one who knows the efficacious mantra advises the seeker to chant the Shiva mantra.

D. Site where a rudraksha is to be worn depending upon the number of its openings: This is decided by the ability of the rudraksha to absorb energy, the ability of various organs to tolerate that energy, the deities of those organs as well as the objective of using the rudraksha.

Number of
Site Objective
1 Wearing a gold or silver
ring on the appropriate
finger depending on one’s
motive and according to
astrology, so that the
rudraksha makes contact
with the skin
4, 6, 9 Right arm   
(Variant) 4 Tuft of hair on the crown of
the head (shendi)
(Variant) 9 Left arm  
5, 7, 10, 12, 13 Throat  
  Tuft of hair on the crown of
the head
Cure of illnesses
  Ears Grace of the Sun deity
  Neck Cleansing one of the
sins of slaying men and
11, 14 Tuft of hair on the crown of
the head
(Variant) 14 Forehead   

E. Number of rudrakshas: Various holy texts have prescribed the use of 108, 249, 1000 and 1100 rudrakshas. The greater the number the more is the benefit. One wearing a rudraksha is cleansed not only of his sins, but also acquires the ability to cleanse others’ sins.

All benefits are obtained by touching and looking at a rudraksha (darshan). Hence looking at it everyday and its contact with the body both are important.

  • Number of rudrakshas and sites in the body: This depends upon the ability of the organs in the body, to absorb and endure the energy of the rudraksha and their deities.

    1.  The one who wears a thousand rudrakshas as a garland
         becomes like Lord Rudra Himself and is offered obeisance
         by all the deities. – 14
         If one is unable to tie a thousand then one may wear sixteen
         on both the arms, one on the tuft of hair on the head and
         twenty-four* on both the wrists. – 15
         Wear thirty-two on the neck, forty on the head and twelve
         on both the ears as an alternative. – 16
         A chain of a hundred and eight may be worn around the
         neck. Listen O seeker you will be like the son of Rudra by
         wearing them this way. – 17
         Pearls, corals, marble, silver, a kind of precious stone and
         gold may be worn in the chain of rudrakshas. – 18
         The benefit of this is immense, a chain of rudrakshas is
         great. One should wear a rudraksha as and when one gets it. – 19

    Shri Gurucharitra, Adhyay 33.

         * 12 on each wrist


    Number of beads
    in the rosary
    Site Objective
    22 Around the head   
    6 Ears   
    27 Neck   
    32 Neck (hanging
    upto level of
    the heart)
    15 Shoulder Usually those gifted by saints
    are tied to the shoulder
    12 Wrist   
    249 Waist Specific penance
    1000, 1100 Around the
    Responsibility for others or
    the brunt of sins


  • The number of rudrakshas in the japamala (rosary) depending on the objective: This is decided by the science of numerology.
    Number of beads Objective
    32 Wealth
    102 Merits
    104 Health and strength
    107 The Final Liberation (Moksha)
    108 Righteousness (Dharma), wealth, desire
    and the Final Liberation

F. Use of rudrakshas

1. For worldly benefits

  • To fulfill impossible tasks: The opening of the rudraksha should be kept facing the right, that is southwards. This activates the sun channel (surya nadi) of the individual.
  • Mohini kama [one out of the types of black magic from among the shatkarmas (six actions) including jaranmaran, etc.]: Here one has to control the frequencies of the individual facing oneself. Hence the opening of the rudraksha is kept facing him. As a result, the frequencies emitted from the rudraksha trap the individual opposite it.

2. As a remedy during illness: To cite an example how a rudraksha can be used in various ways to control blood pressure is given below.

  • Water should be poured over a rudraksha and then that water should be consumed.
  • The rudraksha should be tied around the neck or on the waist above the navel at the site of the saman vital energy.
  • Bathing for twenty-one days wearing a rudraksha around the neck such that its opening faces the right. This is an excellent remedy for any kind of illness. However before that for sometime the opening of the rudraksha should be kept facing the left so as to gradually increase the ability of the patient to absorb frequencies.
  • A rudraksha is placed with its opening facing the left under the pillow of a bedridden patient. Once the patient becomes ambulatory it is placed with its opening facing the right.
  • One continues to get the benefit even if one adorns a rudraksha for a few days and then removes it. Even after the death of this person the one who keeps his ashes is benefitted.
  • Partaking of the holy ash of a rudraksha.

G. The deities, benefits, special characteristics and uses in illnesses depending on the number of openings

Most people feel that the number of its openings is equivalent to the complete lines on it. However this is not so. The number of openings correspond to the number of distinct elevations on the openings. The older the tree the more are the openings in the rudrakshas that it yields.

Openings Deity Benefit Uses in an
1 Shiva Cleansing of all sins including
killing Brahmans, material
success, Liberation (Mukti),
the supernatural power of
speech, oratory (winning over
an audience), victory over an
energy, etc.
Thrombosis, urinary
stones, respiratory
2* Shiva-Parvati
Cleansing of sins arising from
killing cows
Diseases of the
stomach, liver and
urinary bladder.
3 Agni (deity
of fire)
Benefits like the dakshinavart
conch, splendour, hypnotising
(Vashikaran), acquisition of
knowledge, activation of
kundalini (spiritual energy),
cleansing of sins arising from
slaying of Brahmans and
Remedy over the
defects of the three
humours vata (wind),
pitta (bile) and kapha
(phlegm), purification
of channels (nadis).
4 Lord Brahma Knowledge, happiness and
acquisition of wealth, cleansing
of sins arising from killing living
Diseases of the ear,
throat and the
hastijivha nadi
5** Kalagni Acquisition of Righteousness
(Dharma), wealth, desire and
the Final Liberation (Moksha);
cleansing of sins created by
eating the forbidden, adultery
and sins acquired from birth,
prevention of premature death
Diseases of the
vertebral column,
overcoming obstacles
at the site of the
Manipur and Anahat
6 Ganesh Cleansing of sins arising from
killing human beings,
knowledge and happiness,
supernatural powers,
overcoming a crisis.
7. Saptarushis /
Cleansing of sins accrued by
stealing gold, success, money,
Purification of sperms,
increase in semen,
flow of oja (precursor
of divine energy
8. Batukbhairav Cleansing sins arising from
speaking falsely, longevity and
Liberation after death.
Diseases of the nervous
system, prostate and
gall bladder
9. (Nava) Durga
/ Bhairav
Cleansing of all sins, fame,
happiness, progeny, becoming
rid even of the fear of time
Diseases of the brain,
10. Guardian
deities of the
ten directions
Elimination of suffering due to
nine planets, spirits, Vetals,
Brahmarakshasas, serpents,
etc., protection from black
magic, averting untimely death
Fear of an
apparition (feeling that
someone is standing
beside one).
11. The eleven
Acquisition of happiness,
protection of husband,
longevity, acquisition of
wifehood, acquisition of son,
Excess of saman and
pran vital energies.
12. Vishnu, the
twelve suns
Cleansing of sins arising from
killing cows or man, stealing
gold etc., eliminating unhappiness
such as poverty, infertility, etc.,
absence of fear of robbers and
fire, happiness
Disorders of the eye,
base of the nose, the
jyotishmati (seventh)
13. Indra Supernatural powers, acquisition
of progeny, happiness,
elimination of sins, decrease in
sexual desire, and increase in
nadibandha and faith
Psychiatric illnesses
14. Hanuman Cleansing of all sins, acquisition
of progeny, health
Increase in secretions
of the eighth (Vishnu)
15*** Gouri-Shankar
Happiness Maintaining an even
flow of 108
frequencies in the
body into a facour-
able manner.
16       Channelising the 360
disease causing frequ-
encies in the body
evenly and directing
them towards the 108
17   The rudrakshas are tied to the
waist. As a result, the saman
vital energy is affected and it
facilitates the attainment of the
superconscious state (samadhi)
18    A fragrant odour facilitates one
to enter the superconscious state
19   Facilitates one to travel along the
path of zero stress nature
20   If one sits in a posture compres-
sing the thighs then it facilitates
movement towards the Karma
region (lok)
21 Shiva Male principle, adorning them on
the head, around the waist, in the
neck, under the thighs etc.
Conversation with demigods
(yakshas), celestial singers
(gandharvas) and fairies. Contact
with Lord Yama (deity of death).

* The rudraksha has one white and one blackish side.
** Available everywhere. A minimum of three are worn.
*** Rudrakshas stuck to one another. Such a rudraksha is not worn, but is worshipped.

2.8 The technique of using it

One side of a rudraksha has crests (openings). Sama frequencies are emitted by them. Hence the opening of a rudraksha should face the left of the one wearing it. As a result, sattva frequencies are expelled to his left and the moon channel (Chandra nadi) is activated. This makes the person’s temperament pleasing.


What do the horizontal stripes of ash on forehead of Lord Shiva represent?

Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva


1. Origin and meaning

A. The word Shiva (शिव) has been derived by reversing the letters of the word vash (वश्‌). Vash means to enlighten; thus the one who enlightens is Shiva. Shiva is absolute, self-radiant. He remains radiant and also illuminates the universe.

B. He is the auspicious and prosperity-bestowing principle.

2. Some other Names

2.1 Shankar

In ‘शं करोति इति शंकर: ।’ sham (शं) means welfare and karoti (करोति) is the doer. Thus the one who is responsible for one’s welfare is Shankar.

2.2 Mahankaleshvar

The presiding deity [Kshetrapaldev (guardian deity of the territory)] of the entire universe is Kalpurush (one who is beyond time) meaning Mahakal (Mahankal). Hence He is also named Mahankaleshvar.

2.3 Mahadev

At the time of creation and activity of the universe basically there are three thoughts – absolute purity, absolute knowledge and absolute spiritual practice. The deity who possesses all these three attributes is referred to as the deity of all deities, Mahadev.

2.4 Bhalachandra

Bhal (भाल) means the forehead. The one who adorns the moon (chandra) on His forehead is Bhalachandra (भालचंद्र). Ganapati, the son of Shiva also has Bhalachandra as one of His Names.

2.5 Karpurgour

Shiva’s complexion is white akin to that of camphor (karpur). Hence the Name Karpurgour.

2.6 Stenapati

Sten (स्‍तेन) means a thief. Stenapati (स्‍तेनपति) thus means the caretaker of thieves. In ancient times temples of Shiva were located on the outskirts of the village. They were the hide-outs of robbers. It was here that robbers distributed their share of stolen booty amongst themselves and even left one share for Lord Shiva!

2.7 Pingalaksha

The words pingal (पिंगल) and aksha (अक्ष) make up the word Pingalaksha (पिंगलाक्ष). The bird named pingal, a type of owl, is able to perceive the past, present and future. Since Lord Shiva has the same quality He is referred to as Pingalaksha.

2.8 Nilkantha and Ashutosh

 Refer points ‘C’ and ‘D’.

3. Special features

God created the universe from the five deities (principles) – Prajapati, Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu and Minakshi. These deities possess all the characteristics of God besides their own special features. According to the Shaiva sect Lord Shiva in the nirbij superconscious state (samadhi) is Shiva’s unmanifest form, that is in other words The Supreme God. According to them Shiva in meditation is God and the one dancing or playing a game of dice with Parvati is the Great Illusion (Maya). [Among the Vaishnavites Sheshashayi (Vishnu resting on the serpent Shesh as His couch) or Anantashayani Vishnu is Vishnu’s unmanifest form, that is The Supreme God. Their devotee loving Vishnu is God and the one with Lakshmi is the Great Illusion.] The characteristics vary with the form. The features of God are given in ‘Science of Spirituality : Vol. 7 – Supreme God, God, Incarnations and Deities’. The other special features of Shiva are enlisted below.

3.1 Physical features

A. Ganga

Just as the sun is the focal point of the solar system and the soul that of the body, the focal point of divine consciousness (chaitanya) in every object and pure particles (pavitrakas) is ga-aun. The flow from which ga-aun originates is gan (गं) gaha (ग:) – Ganga (गंगा). Ga-aun flows from Shiva’s head. This itself is called the descent of the Ganga from Shiva’s head.

The cohesion of ga-aun constitutes gans (attendants). According to the science of Yoga, gan represents the eight demigods (ashtavasu) or the eight guardian deities (dikpal) of the eight directions (dishas). The origin of the guardian deities is also ga-aun. The guardian deities comprise of the angles of the directions from which ga-aun flows. One goes towards God and grows through the medium of directions alone. Ganapati is the presiding deity of various ga-aun; hence He is called ‘Ganapati’, the master of pure particles.

Since the river Ganga has a fraction of the principle of the spiritual Ganga no matter however much polluted it becomes, its purity is perpetually retained. Hence if compared to any other water in the world the water from the Ganga is the most pure. This is realised not only by those who can perceive from the subtle dimension but also by scientific researchers. More information on the Ganga is given in ‘Science of Spirituality : Vol. 9B – Shakti (Divine Energy)’.

B. Moon

Shiva adorns the chandra (moon) on His forehead. The words chandramas (चंद्रमस्‌) – chandrama (चंद्रमा) – chandra have been derived from the three words cha (च), Indra (इंद्र) and [muhu (मु:)] mas (मस्‌) which mean the state of cohesion. This means blending with something along with Indra. (Indra’s frequencies are superior to those of other deities.) The chandrama has absorbed frequencies from Prajapati, Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu and Minakshi and imparts them to others along with Indra. The frequencies arising from Prajapati, Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu and Minakshi blend with each other and produce a number of groups of frequencies. Prajapati, Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu and Minakshi are unmanifest (nirgun); but Their frequencies contain the three components (gunas). The point where the three frequencies that is affection (mamata), mercifulness (kshamashilata) and motherly love (vatsalya) originate is referred to as the chandra (moon). Thus one can conclude that chandrama (the moon principle) is that state in which the three attributes of affection, mercifulness and motherly love are present. This is not the moon that we see in the sky. The moon in the sky contains a component of this chandra (moon).


Alhadyati iti chandraha (आल्‍हादयति इति चंद्र: ।)’ is the only definition of the chandra (moon) described in all the texts giving the origin of words. (All other words have varied descriptions regarding their origin in different texts.)

C. The third eye

  • Shiva’s left eye is the first eye, the right eye is the second and the verticle one in the subtle form, just above the midpoint of the eyebrows is the third one. The upper eye is a representation of the combined energy of both the right and left eyes. It is also the greatest seat (mahapith) of extrasensory energy and is endowed with names such as Jyotirmath, Vyaspith, etc.
  • Chandra, Arka and Vaishvanar are the three eyes of Lord Shankar. Arka is the sun from the ajanaj region while Vaishvanar is the sun from the karmadev region. Therefore Shankar can view everywhere in the universe. (Information on the ajanaj and karmadev regions is given in ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 25 – Composition of the Universe’.)
  • Shankar is three-eyed means He can perceive events in the past, present and future as well.
  • According to the science of Yoga the third eye means the Sushumna channel (nadi).

D. The serpent (nag)

  • One of the Names of Lord Shankar is Bhujangapatihari (भुजंगपतिहारी). Bhujang (भुजंग) means a serpent or pure particles (pavitrakas), pati (पति), the nurturer and hari (हारी), the one with a garland around His neck. Bhujangapatihari thus means the one who nurtures pure particles and wears them like a garland. Various serpents represent groups of pure particles. Though externally they appear like serpents, internally they are a kind of ladders. To make spiritual progress one has to climb up holding onto the tail of the serpent.

    Shankar adorns serpents at nine sites on His body – one on the head, one around the neck, one on each arm, one on each wrist, one around the waist and one on each thigh. This implies that His body is comprised of pure particles or that serpents of pure particles play all over the body of Lord Shiva who is universal in nature.

  • The serpent is also considered as Shiva’s weapon. The nine serpents from the universe are also referred to as ‘Navanarayan’. The Navanaths have originated from these nine serpents. Information on Navanarayan and Navanaths is given in ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 12 – Vishnu, point – Some other Names’.
  • Kartikeya, Jotiba, Ravalnath and Sabbu are deities in the form of serpents.
  • A serpent is connected with all deities in some way or the other.
  • A female serpent (nagin) is present in the body. It is called the kundalini (spiritual energy). [Refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 38 – Path of Activation of Spiritual Energy (Kundaliniyoga)’]. Five serpents wander in the body as five inner vital energies. One does not possess the other four serpents in the body. However they can be acquired through spiritual progress.
  • The serpent is a representation of the God (Purush) principle. He is the deity who endows progeny.

E. Holy ash (bhasma)

Bhu (भू) – bhava (भव) means to take birth. As (अस्‌) – asma (अस्‍म) – ashma (अश्‍म) means ash. That which takes birth and blends with ash is called bhasma (भस्‍म). Bhasma is the ash of the one who is born. Shma (श्‍म) [sma (स्‍म)] means ash and shru (शृ) – shan (शन्‌) means scattered. So, the place where ash is scattered is the smashan (स्‍मशान), that is the crematorium. The earth is born from fire (the sun). All beings on the earth arise from and merge into its fire. The skull of man is associated with memories (smruti) of the earth. From outer space the shape of the earth resembles a skull. Ash contains the following three types of memories (smruti) from the time before birth to that after it.

  • Yadnyasmruti: Memories of sacrificial fires (yadnyas) in the ajanaj region (lok) and the regions beyond it. (Refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 25 – Composition of the Universe’.)
  • Parthivsmruti: Memories of death which are full of agony and sorrow, with reference to the earth and the seven nether regions.
  • Tanmaysmruti: Memories of sacrifice (austerities) in context with the regions from the earth to the northern (Shiva) region and the southern (dakshin) region.

The three horizontal stripes of ash on the forehead of Lord Shankar represent these three memories. Ash projects the desires of a person. This shows how harmful desires are. The dhananjay vital energy of every dead being made up of the absolute earth element (pruthvi) surrounds the ash. (The universe has the mahadhananjay vital energy.) When a person is reborn this dhananjay vital energy re-enters the body. The frequencies emitted by ash are mostly a result of a painful death. The ash says, ‘Let go of ignorance. The physical body is not real. The happiness derived from it is fake. Do not get trapped in it’. Human ash is applied to a jyotirlinga. Pure ash is called holy ash (bhasma). Just as holy ash is an essential ingredient in ritualistic worship so also it plays a very important role in the Shaiva sect. It is considered as the semen of Lord Shiva. Special significance is given to the holy ash from the fireplace (agnikunda) of the Brahmans who perform the ritual of Agnihotra. The ash obtained after cremation of a corpse amidst chanting of mantras is called human ash (chitabhasma). Lord Shiva loves human ash. In Varanasi, the deity Vishveshvar is always smeared with human ash. Holy ash is of three kinds, namely shantikar, pushtikar and kamad. It cleanses sins. The Jabalshruti also quotes that it is also beneficial in acquiring knowledge of Brahman.

Vibhuti is another synonym for holy ash. It is used in tantra, mantra, black magic, etc. to guard the directions or as self-protection. The holy ash is invoked with mantrâs and is then applied to the forehead of the child or the sick person. Ashes (bhasma) of various kinds such as of iron, gold, pearl, diamond, etc. is used in Ayurveda. These are highly efficacious. However this is not revealed to people as it may frighten them.

F. Rudraksha

Shiva adorns chains of rudraksha beads around the knotted bun of hair on His head, the neck, arms, wrists and waist.

G. Garment and the seat of tiger skin

The tiger (raja and tama components) is a symbol of cruelty. Shiva slayed such a tiger (that is destroyed the raja-tama) and made a seat from its skin.

3.2 Spiritual characteristics

A. The one performing severe austerities and the great yogi: Shiva is the only deity chanting The Lord’s Name continuously. He is always seated in a bandha or a mudra. His temperature rises due to heat generated by performing severe austerities; hence He uses the Ganga, the moon and serpents which endow a cooling effect and lives on the snow-capped Kailas mountain.

B. Short tempered: If Shiva stops His chanting by Himself He remains calm. However if someone disturbs His chanting [e.g. as was done by Madan (the deity of love)], the radiance generated by spiritual practice is suddenly expelled and since the person in front of Him cannot tolerate it, that individual is destroyed. This itself is referred to as ‘reducing to ashes by Shankar’s opening of the third eye’. The troublemaker is 100% distressed while Shiva is only 0.01% distressed. Because of this distress Shiva’s nadibandha stops but the posture is retained. Then Shiva performs the bandha once again.

C. The one who is willing to undergo any distress for the sake of imparting happiness to others: The poison generated during the churning of the celestial ocean (samudramanthan) was burning the entire world but no deity came forward to accept it. At that time Shiva drank that poison and saved the world from destruction. Ingestion of the poison turned His neck blackish-blue and He came to be known as Nilkantha (नीलकंठ); nil (नीळ) means blue and kantha (कंठ) means the neck.

D. The one who is easily appeased (Ashutosh)

E. The one willing to bestow any boon when appeased: Once when Shiva was pleased with Ravan not only did He gift him His wife but also His divine phallus (atmalinga) (soul). [Ravan himself wanted to become Shiva with that divine phallus.]

F. The one who has both deities and demons as His worshippers: Neither did demons like Banasur, Ravan, etc. worship Vishnu nor did Vishnu bestow boons upon any demon. However they worshipped Shiva who blessed them with a boon. Often He as well as other deities were in trouble because of these boons. Finally each time Vishnu would find a solution to these situations.

G. Master of the spirits: Since Shiva is the master of spirits, worshippers of Shiva are generally not possessed by them.

H. One possessing contrasting characteristics (acceptance and repulsion) simultaneously: He has the potential to create and bring about dissolution, also the combination of serenity-angrer, the moon (tranquility) – the third eye (radiance which reduces to ashes), sattvik (sattva predominant) – tamasik (tama predominant) temperaments, etc.

4. Mission

4.1 Creation of the universe

Shiva-Parvati are called ‘जगत: पितरो’, the parents of the world.

  • Fifty-two sounds (letters), that is nadabijas or bijamantras were generated from the fifty-two notes emitted by Shankar’s small hourglass shaped drum (Damaru) from which the universe was created. Nad (नद) – nad (नाद) is the process of flowing continuously. The sound ‘da (द), da (द), dam (दम्‌)’ meaning ‘ददामि त्‍वं (I am giving you)’ was generated from these bijas of sound. It was as though Shiva assured the universe ‘I bestow you with spiritual knowledge, purity and penance’.
  • Since Shiva is urdhvaretas He can create the universe with a mere resolve (sankalpa).

4.2 Jagadguru

‘ज्ञानं इच्‍छेत्‌ सदाशिवात्‌ । मोक्षं इच्‍छेत्‌ जनार्दनात्‌ ।’, means one should worship Shiva for spiritual knowledge and Janardan (Vishnu) for the Final Liberation (Moksha).

4.3 The one leading to the state beyond the three components (trigunatit)

Shankar destroys all the three components of Prakruti – sattva, raja and tama, that is ignorance simultaneously.

4.4 Mission according to the time (kal)

Period Name Form / Mission
1. Vedic period Rudra (the one who
makes one cry)
Fearful form
2. Post-Vedic period Shiva Mild form
3. Puranic period
    (0 to 1000 A.D.)
Mahesh The deity responsible for
dissolution in the trinity
of Brahma, Vishnu and
4. Post-Puranic period
    (after 1000 A.D.)
Mahadev (the deity
of all deities)
The creator, sustainer
and destroyer


Why are trifoliate bel leaves offered to Lord Shiva with their stalks facing oneself?



1. Where should one sit during ritualistic worship?

Generally worshippers and seekers in a Shankar’s temple do not sit such that the deity’s frequencies directly fall on their bodies because this can be distressing. There is generally a tortoise built in the front of the temple. No one sits in between the deity’s idol and the tortoise, thus automatically no one sits exactly opposite the deity. In the same way, worshippers instead of sitting exactly opposite the flow from the shalunka (base of the linga), sit on its sides.

Sitting position for ritualistic worship

1 to 7 – Seekers should sit here during ritualistic worship
8 – One should not sit here.

2. Ritualistic worship of the pindi

Only cold water and bel is offered to Lord Shankar’s pindi. Neither is it bathed with milk and the five nectars (panchamrut), nor offered turmeric, vermilion (kumkum) or white consecrated rice (akshata). Milk and clarified butter (ghee) symbolise sustenance while turmeric is an underground stem and represents fertility of the soil, that is creation. Vermilion is prepared from turmeric. Since Lord Shankar is the deity of dissolution substances such as milk, vermilion and turmeric are not used in His worship. Holy ash (bhasma) on the contrary symbolises dissolution and is thus used. However in the fourteenth century the Shaivites too incorporated the usage of the five nectars, bathing with milk, etc. as was done by the Vaishnavites. Here, milk is believed to symbolise energy.

2.1 Holy ash (bhasma)

After removing the dried bel leaves (nirmalya) and bathing, either only three horizontal stripes are drawn on the visible side of the pindi (divine phallus) or a circle is drawn in the middle of the stripes. This is referred to as Shiva’s eye (Shivaksha).

2.2 Bel

A pindi contains two types of pure particles (pavitrakas) from both – the ahat sound (that produced by the falling of water onto its surface) and the anahat (subtle) sound. To absorb the three pure particles, that is the two pure particles as well as those in the bel leaves which are offered upon the pindi, trifoliate bel is offered to Lord Shiva. Tender bel leaves can unite ahat (language of sound) and anahat (language of light) sounds. The leaves should be offered with their stalks facing oneself and the leaf should be placed upside down on the pindi. The motive behind this is to attract the combined energy of the three leaves towards oneself. The combined energy of these three pure particles facilitates the reduction of the three components (trigunas). Bel is not offered upon the shalunka, but to the eye of Shiva on it. The kayakalpa from the Ayurveda discusses the importance of partaking juice of three leaves. Ayurveda refers to the fruit of the bel as the fruit of nectar (amrutphal). There is no disease which cannot be cured with bel. If some medicine is not available then bel should be used. However it is contraindicated in pregnancy as it can lead to fetal death.

2.3 The stream of water

Since Shiva and Shakti (Divine Energy) are combined together in the pindi a tremendous amount of radiance is generated. To prevent radiance from having adverse effects on the particles of the pindi and also on its worshippers, a continuous stream of water is made to fall upon the pindi. This stream of water generates the sound of Om (a symbol of the unmanifest Brahman) of a low note. Similarly when a continuous stream of mantras falls upon an embodied soul it opens the kalpinda [the body (pinda) which has crossed the limits of time (kal) is called kalpinda] of the embodied soul. This indicates that one can go upto the unmanifest Brahman.

Stream of water

3. Worship of the shalunka (base of the linga)

3.1 Holy ash

Seekers draw three horizontal stripes on the shalunka at the seven sites, indicated for worship as given in the figure under point ‘Where should one sit during ritualistic worship?’. A circle is drawn over these stripes and white flowers are offered. The circle represents the divine birth passage. It is called Shiva’s eye (Shivaksha) or the third eye of Shiva (yogi).

3.2 White flowers and food grains

An offering of rice (white in colour), rarely wheat and white flowers is made to Shiva’s eye. White represents purity. Then bel leaves with their stalks facing towards oneself should be offered. (In the usual ritualistic worship leaves are offered before the flowers. As described above, the bel leaves facilitate the attraction of combined energy towards the seeker). Foodgrains soaked in water are also offered to Shiva’s eye. They represent fertility. The energies emitted by the soaked foodgrains, holy ash and bel leaves revolve around the form of the shalunka.

4. Some special features of ritualistic worship (puja) of Lord Shiva

(Based on pages 61 and 62 of the book ‘Shastra Ase Sangate’. A critical review by the compilers.)

  • A. ‘In the ritualistic worship of Lord Shiva neither is the conch worshipped nor is its water used to bathe Lord Shiva. If a banalinga is a part of the five fold family of deities (panchayatan) then one may sprinkle the banalinga with water from the conch. However a banalinga with a pindi (divine phallus) of Lord Mahadev should not be bathed with this water. Since the feminine principle in the form of the shalunka (base of the linga) is present in the pindi, there is no need to sprinkle water from the conch which also has a feminine principle. A banalinga however does not possess a shalunka; hence it is bathed with water from a conch. During ritualistic worship of Mahadev in a temple, worship of the conch (shankhapuja) is not performed. Blowing of the conch before the ritual of waving lit lamps (arti) is allowed and is normally done during the arti. The sound of a conch not only brings about pranayam but also alleviates distress caused by spirits, black magic, etc. in the vicinity where it is heard.
  • B. Tulsi (basil) leaves are not offered to Lord Shiva. However tulsi leaves offered to a shaligram or an idol of Lord Vishnu may be offered as Shiva is a devotee of Vishnu and He loves tulsi offered to Lord Vishnu.
  • C. It is said that on the eighth day (ashtami) of the dark fortnight of the Hindu lunar month of Jyeshtha, Lord Shankar and on the fourteenth day (chaturdashi), Revati is ritualistically worshipped with blue flowers. On that day blue colour has the ability to absorb the Shiva principle as much as the green bel leaves. Based on the same principle kevada (a type of fragrant flower) is offered to Shiva during the ritual of conclusion (udyapan) of the vowed religious observance of Mahashivaratri.
  • D. Bel leaves, white flowers and holy sacrament of food (naivedya) offered to a pindi of Lord Shiva are not accepted as they can induce detachment which an average individual does not desire.
  • E. People belonging to various sects such as Shaiva, Kapalik, Gosavi, Virashaiva, etc. use various lingas – earthen (parthivlinga), lingas in a silver box donned around the neck (kanthasthalinga), lingas of crystal glass (sphatiklinga), banalingas, a five stringed linga (panchasutri), stone lingas (pashanlinga), etc.

5. Circumambulations

Circumambulations of Shiva are like the half-moon. The channel which runs northwards towards the moon (som) from the shalunka (base of the linga) till the boundary of the temple is called the somsutra. When circumambulating one should begin on the left hand side and continue till the channel of the shalunka from where the water offered during the ritualistic bathing (abhishek) flows. Without crossing it one should complete a circumambulation by moving in the reverse direction upto the other side of the channel (srot). This rule applies only if the Shivalinga is installed or created by man; it does not apply to a svayambhu or a chala linga (kept in the house). The flow of a shalunka is not crossed as it is the flow of energy. When crossing it the legs are pulled apart. As a result formation of semen and the five internal vital energies (vayu) are adversely affected. There is an obstruction in the devadatta and dhananjay vital energies. However these ill effects do not occur if while crossing it the body is contracted, that is the channels (nadis) are contracted. Rationalists feel that the channel of the linga is not crossed because while doing so the dirt on one’s feet contaminates the water there. If this water is consumed by devotees as holy water (tirtha) it could result in illness !

6. Ritualistic worship with liquids (abhishek)

Lord Shiva loves being worshipped with liquids. The linga is constantly kept wet by sprinkling liquids as the divine birth passage of the Primal mother is always wet and consequently is the linga. Shiva is offerred abhishek by reciting a hymn from the Yajurveda called Rudra. It is of two types namakar (namak) and chamakar (chamak). In namakar the word ‘namaha’ while in chamakar the word ‘chamaha’ appears more frequently. This abhishek is performed reciting the Rudradhyay eleven times. Eleven rounds (avartans) of the Rudradhyay constitute one ekadashani. Eleven ekadashanis make up one laghurudra and eleven laghurudras make up one maharudra. Finally eleven maharudras constitute one atirudra.

7. Chanting the Name of Shiva

Namaha Shivaya (नम: शिवाय)’ is Lord Shiva’s five lettered (panchakshari) mantra. In a subdivision of the Yajurveda the Rudradhyay begins with these words. The mantra is taken from here. When it is prefixed with the sacred syllable (pranav) Om, it becomes ‘Om namaha Shivaya (ॐ नम: शिवाय)’, the six lettered (shadakshari) mantra. The spiritual meaning of each letter of the five lettered mantra is as follows:

n (न)       = The foremost deity of all the regions (lokas)
m (म)      = The bestower of supreme spiritual knowledge
                   (dnyan) and destroyer of the greatest sins
Shi (शि) = Benevolent, serene and responsible for the
                   initiation by Lord Shiva
va (वा)  = The representation of a bull as the vehicle and
                   the Vasuki and Vamangi Energies (Shakti)
y (य)       = The auspicious abode of Supreme Bliss and
                   Lord Shiva.

Hence obeisance (namaskar) to these five letters.

The above five letters also have a co-relation with the tandav dance of Nataraj Shiva which is as follows:
n    = The hand beholding fire (agni)
m   = The foot pressing the demon Mulayak
Shi = The hand holding a small hour glass shaped drum
va  = The outstretched hand
y    = The hand bestowing protection

These five letters are also said to be indicative of God (Ishvar), Divine Energy (Shakti), the soul principle (atma), the unmanifest one (antardhan) and vanquishing of sins respectively.’

7.1 Usage of Om in the chanting of Shiva’s Name

For creation of the manifest (sagun), the Great Illusion from the unmanifest (nirgun) Brahman tremendous energy is required. Such energy is generated by Om. Hence, chanting of Om by one whose spiritual level is not adequate to do so can cause physical distress such as hyperacidity, a rise in the body temperature, etc. or psychological distress like restlessness.

The frequencies created from Om generate a lot of energy (heat) in the body. This does not affect the male reproductive organs as they lie outside the body cavity. However, in case of women this heat can affect the reproductive organs as they lie within the abdominal cavity. Thus women may experience distress. They may suffer from excessive menstrual flow, amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, infertility, etc. Hence, it is advisable for women not to prefix Om to the Name unless otherwise recommended by the Guru; for example they may chant ‘namaha Shivaya’ instead of ‘Om namaha Shivaya’. Otherwise they should use Shri as a prefix.

8. Shiva Gayatri

तत्‍पुरुषाय विद्महे । महादेवाय धीमहि । तन्‍नो रुद्र: प्रचोदयात्‌ ।।

Meaning: We are quite familiar with that Supreme Being (Mahadev). We meditate on that Mahadev. May that Rudra inspire our intellect benevolently.

9. Shiva’s temple

Its characteristics are as given below.

  • A. It is said that ‘Shiva is the deity of married couples as He is accompanied by the Divine Energy (शक्‍त्‍यासहित: शंभु:)’. Shiva without Divine Energy (Shakti) becomes a corpse (shava). Since other deities are solitary there is less radiance generated in their idols. As a result, tranquility is experienced in their temples. However in Shiva’s temple since radiance is generated in greater proportions one experiences energy.
  • B. Other deities are absent only in Shiva’s temple. In temples of all other deities there are small temples of other deities; they are referred to as the deities of the family.
  • C. A non-Brahman priest (gurav): A Brahman is not supposed to remove the dried flowers, etc. used in worship (nirmalya) in a Shiva’s temple. Hence non-Brahman priests look after a Shiva’s temple and bhopes look after a temple of Parvati. Just as Brahmans who perform religious rites like ritualistic worship, marriage, etc. do not take a meal during an offering made to ancestors (pindadan), so also they do not remove the dried flowers, etc. on Shiva’s pindi.
  • D. Brahmans consecrate Shiva by ritualistic worship with liquids (abhishek) amidst chanting of Vedic mantras but do not partake of the food (naivedya) offered to Him. Brahmans who perform ritualistic worship also do not make an offering to ancestors.


What is the concept of Final Liberation as per the Pashupat sect?


1. Pashupat

Lakulish is the founder of this sect. He established this sect in the 2nd century B.C.

1.1 Siddhant

In the Shaiva doctrine pashu, pash and pati are considered the three basic classes (trivarga). These also form the basis of the Pashupat doctrine. Shankaracharya has given five doctrines, that is meanings of the Pashupat sect. They are : 1. action (karya), 2. cause (pati), 3. spiritual discipline (yoga), 4. observance of directives (charya) and 5. end of sorrow.

A. Action: All that which is devoid of energy of its own, that is dependent on another is an action. It is of the following three types – vidya, kala and pashu.

1. Vidya: This is an attitude of pashu (the embodied soul). It is further classified as follows.

  • Bodhasvabhava

    1. Manifest: The vidya which permits realisation, which becomes manifest through the sense organs is referred to as the subconscious mind (chitta), because the manifestation or non-manifestation of an object which materialises due to this energy imparting realisation is actually realised by the subconscious mind.

    2. Unmanifest

  • Abodhasvabhava: This vidya decides the regulations by which the embodied souls have to abide. Embodied souls try to behave righteously and avoid unrighteous behaviour due to these regulations.

2. Kala (nescience): This being within the control of divine consciousness is itself devoid of divine consciousness.

  • Kala in the form of action: Five elements such as the earth and five attributes such as the form have been elucidated in kala in the form of action.
  • Kala in the form of cause: The thirteen types of kalas in the form of cause are the five sense organs, five motor organs, intellect, ego and mind.

3. Pashu (embodied soul): The embodied soul which on evolvement always remains dependent on material objects is called an animal (pashu). Becoming an animal means becoming dependent. Animals are further classified as sanjan (सांजन) and niranjan (निरंजन). Sanjan [(स + अंजन) darkness)] means full of ignorance and niranjan means devoid of all ignorance. The former ignorant embodied soul is concerned with the body and kalas while the latter which is pure is not.

B. Cause (the sustainer): The principle which is responsible for creation, sustenance and dissolution and which bestows favours upon the world is called the cause. The sustainer is the one who possesses both the energies of spiritual knowledge and action.

C. Spiritual discipline: The spiritual practice which unites the soul and The Lord through the medium of the subconscious mind is called yoga.

D. Observance of directives (विधि): Righteous seekers refer to worldly transactions as observance of directives or established customs. The types of observances are enlisted below.

1. Vowed religious observances: Bathing with holy ash (bhasma), sleeping on holy ash, following restrictions (upahar), chanting, circumambulation are all vowed religious observances. In this context Bhagvan Lakulish has said, ‘One should bathe with holy ash thrice and sleep on it’. There are six types of restrictions (upahar) hasit, gita, nrutya, hudukkar, namaskar and japa. Hasit means uttering ‘h h h h’ loudly moving the neck and lips. Gita is singing the glory of Maheshvar’s attributes according to the norms of classical music. Co-ordinated hand and body movements embellished with facial expressions is nrutya (dance). Hudukkar is creating a sound like the snorting of a bull by touching the tongue to the palate. Rituals performed after a bath such as partaking of food obtained by asking for alms, partaking of leftover food of the deity, using dried flowers (nirmalya) from the idol worshipped as a blessed sacrament (prasad), donning lingas, etc. are complementary to the rituals of the first stage.

2. Doors

  • Krathan: Pretence of a man who is actually awake that he is asleep
  • Spandan: Moving the parts of the body as if one has developed gaseous distension
  • Mandan: Walking as if crippled
  • Shrungaran: Indulging in sexual play imagining that one is sexually aroused by the sight of a lady
  • Avitkaran: Performing actions worthy of criticism by others, like a man without any reasoning between right and wrong (vivek)
  • Avitadbhashan: Speaking antagonistically and meaninglessly.

E. End of sorrow: This is the intense reduction of sorrow. This itself is referred to as the ultimate of the four pursuits (parampurushartha) or the Final Liberation (Moksha). As given above only after the destruction of the five types of ignorance – knowledge of the Great Illusion, unrighteousness, purpose of divine energy, bondage with the Great Illusion (Maya) and being embodied (pashu) by performing yoga or observance of regulations one acquires the Final Liberation in the form of intense reduction of sorrow. Surrendering to Lord Shiva wholeheartedly is also a remedy for Final Liberation. The belief behind it is that these types of ignorance are destroyed and the embodied soul attains the Final Liberation with the blessings of Lord Pashupati.


  • Anatmak Final Liberation: Severe reduction of unhappiness
  • Satmak Final Liberation: Attainment of the divine attributes of spiritual knowledge (dnyan) and action (karma).

1.2 Special features

  • A. In other doctrines the elimination of sorrow is termed as the Final Liberation but in this doctrine realisation of The Supreme God is also termed as the Final Liberation.
  • B. Principle: The Supreme Soul (Parmatma) and the embodied soul doing spiritual practice (jivatma) are eternal and separate objects. The world, Nature exists because of the Great Illusion (Maya). In the liberated state the embodied soul is able to shed (detach itself) ignorance and weakness and becomes embodied to acquire infinite spiritual knowledge and energy of action (kriyashakti) and thus by the grace of God becomes the great master of the attendants (gans) as Mahadev. (Pashupatsutra 1.38)
  • C. Dr. Bhandarkar has severely criticized this extremist Shaiva sect. In his opinion their paths in the pursuit of realisation of God were artificial and misleading. The deity Rudra-Shiva belonged to the forests and open uninhabitated places. Temples of Lord Shiva were conventionally established away from civilization. The devotees too used to be unrighteous, corrupt and uncultured. This opinion of Dr.Bhandarkar seems to be true to a large extent as these people never seemed to be bothered about protection and growth of the society. They could not conceive that feelings such as auspiciousness and purity develop peace and stability in civic life as they always remained aloof from social interaction. Consequently in the subsequent period, this sect which remained away from society and violated societal norms was outcast by society and new sects came into being accepting only broadminded concepts and behaviour. Although their practices attracted social criticism one must admit that they had reached a state beyond social criticism with the help of these practices.

1.3 Risks

Followers of the Pashupat sect adopted the dualistic philosophy, that is believed in many manifestations of The Lord. The result of such a dualistic philosophy can be that man can get entrapped in spiritual practice with a materialistic viewpoint. When one accepts a distinction between the Supreme Soul (Parmatma) and the embodied soul (jivatma) one does not feel greatly inclined to cross the chasm of happiness and sorrow between them. In the very concept that the ultimate end of sorrow itself is the Final Liberation (Moksha), is incorporated the duality of happiness and sorrow. Transgressing both these states itself is the true concept of the Final Liberation.

1.4 Comparison between Pashupat and some other Shaiva sects

  Pashupat Some other Shaiva
1. What is the
    concept of the
    Final Liberation
End of unhappiness
and attainment of The
Supreme God,
attainment of The
Supreme Energy and
end of unhappiness
End of unhappiness or
attainment of the Final
Liberation (Kaivalya)
2. Origin of the
The mission is perpe-
tual, e.g. the embodied
From the Great
Illusion (asat)
3. Causes of the
Absent. Maheshvar
carries out His mission
The cause requires an
auxillary cause for the
fulfillment of causation
4. Result of
   spiritual practice
Samip Mukti (no
Attainment of heaven
(hence there is rebirth)

1.5 The divine weapon (pashupatastra)

‘The trident in Lord Shiva’s hand is called the divine weapon. It is said that this weapon has the form of fire and is capable of annihilating the entire universe.

Arjun prayed for this weapon to Shankar who imparted him with it. At that time Lord Mahadev said ‘I am bestowing upon you My weapon, pashupat which is very dear to Me. You are capable of sporting, wielding and withdrawing it. However Partha, do not use it on anyone irresponsibly. Should you happen to use it on one who is weak, it shall destroy the entire universe. The one who sports this can destroy his enemy with a mere glance, mental energy, speech or bow and arrow.’

2. Kapalik, Kalamukh and Aghor

‘An ancient Shaiva sect like the Pashupat, Kapaliks are followers of the Path of Distressing Energy (Vammarg), are fearsome by temparament and worship Lord Shiva. Kapali means Lord Shiva who sports a skull. His devotees are known as Kapaliks. They too use skull bones and partake of wine, meat etc. through it. Slaying man, partaking of meat and blood and residing in the crematorium are special characteristics of the Kapaliks. In the Shiva Puran they are termed as those practising the Mahavrat. The Mahavrat includes such aghori acts as eating in human skulls, sitting in the crematorium, applying ash from burnt corpses, etc. Kapaliks are worshippers of harsh deities such as Mahabhairav and Chamunda. In the spiritual practice of sahajvajrayans, company of women is essential. Similarly the Kapaliks too consider the company of women to be very essential. There is not much difference between the Kapaliks and Kalamukhs. At the most one may say that the Kalamukhs are harsher than the Kapaliks.’

Aghor (अघोर) is derived from a (अ) and ghoraha (घोर:) which means ‘one who has no worries (ghor) at all’. These generally undertake spiritual practice in the crematorium; hence they are also known as smashan (crematorium) aghoris.

3. The Shaiva sect according to the Agam scriptures

3.1 History

The Agam scriptures are the origin of the doctrines of the ancient Shaiva sect. The total number of Agam scriptures is considered to be twenty-eight. In South India this Shaiva sect according to the Agam was widely preached. The Shaivites of the Agam school of thought were different from the Shaivites professing faith in the Vedas and the Upanishads. In their view Vedic scriptures did not have significance. They claim that the twenty-eight Agam scriptures described by Lord Mahadev are more sacred than the Vedas which are deemed to have originated from the very breath of Lord Brahma. The Shiva whom they worship is the five faced one with the Names Sadyojat, Vamdev, Aghor, Tatpurush and Ishan. The Agam scriptures have originated from these five faces. Probably all the Agam texts have been written in the ninth century. One should remember that the followers of the Agam philosophy have incorporated many a mantra and rituals of worship from the followers of the Vedas.

3.2 Doctrines

The Shaiva doctrine describes four parts and three substances. The four parts are spiritual knowledge (vidya), actions (kriya), spiritual discipline (yoga) and behaviour (charya) and the three substances are the master (pati), the animal (pashu) and the bondages (pash). The section on spiritual knowledge (vidyapad) describes the master, animal and the bondages as well as mantras and their importance.

A. Pad (chapter) 1 – Vidyapad

  • Master: The master refers to Shiva. Shiva creates destiny as well as the objects of pleasure or pain according to the destiny of the embodied soul. Thus His energy of creation is dependent on the actions of human beings. The Divine Energy (Shakti) has five mantras commencing with Ishan to conceptualise the parts of The Supreme God. These five mantras represent His five energies and His five different forms. With the help of these He performs functions such as creation, sustenance, dissolution, enveloping with the Great Illusion (tirobhav) and initiation (anugraha).
  • Animal: An animal refers to the embodied soul doing spiritual practice. Although the embodied soul acquires the nature of Shiva yet it does not become independent but remains in the company of the ever free Shiva. There are three types of animals.

    1. Those with a tendency to acquire spiritual knowledge (vidnyankal): Those who have nullified the impressions of their past deeds with the help of spiritual knowledge and yoga and have detached themselves from all the transitions (kalas) and those in whom only ignorance (mala) persists.

    2. Those with a tendency for dissolution (pralayakal): Those whose attitudes (kalas) are destroyed with dissolution of the universe. These seekers are liberated from action (karma) and ignorance.

    3. Those with all tendencies (sakal) : One bound with ignorance, action and the Great Illusion (Maya).

  • The noose (pash): The four types of nooses are ignorance, action, the Great Illusion (Maya) and the binding energy (rodhashakti).

    1. Ignorance: That which covers the spiritual knowledge of the soul and the energy of action akin to the husk of grain is called ignorance.

    2. Action: That which an individual performs with desire for results is termed as an action. Both Righteousness (Dharma) as well as unrighteousness are included in it. Actions have been continuing like seeds and their sprouts since times immemorial.

    3. The Great Illusion: This is an energy in which the entire creation dissolves at the time of dissolution of the universe and is recreated it at the time of creation of the universe.

    4. The binding energy (rodhashakti): This is an energy of Shiva. It is present in the other three nooses and obscures the true nature of the animal. Hence it too is considered as a noose. Since it is the energy of speech it performs its functions and is responsible for naming of objects.

B. Pad (chapter) 2 – Kriyapad

In this are included perfection of mantras, the ritual of sandhya, ritualistic worship (puja), chanting (japa), offering oblations through the fire (havan), routine actions for the acquisition of permanent Bliss, ritualistic bathing (abhishek) of the teacher and seekers and the ritual of initiation for spiritual upliftment and attainment of The Supreme God by the seeker. Namaha Shivaya is the five lettered mantra used in their ritualistic worship. In this sect primarily those renouncing the world would be granted initiation. Prior to obtaining such an initiation he had to acquire the grace of the female deity (devi). This initiation by the female deity is itself the transfer of energy (shaktipat).

C. Pad (chapter) 3 – Yogapad

In this, 36 principles, their presiding deities, the presiding deities of various regions (lokas), the embodied soul doing spiritual practice (jivatma), the Supreme Soul, the Divine Energy (Shakti), the creator of the universe, the Great Illusion (Maya and Mahamaya) are described. It also includes supernatural powers for the worldly person such as acquiring a subtle, miniature form, pranayam, introversion (pratyahar), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyan) and the superconscious state (samadhi) as well as the description of the states of the chakras commencing from the Muladhar or the navel.

D. Pad (chapter) 4 – Charyapad

Here austerities, purificatory ceremonies, the nature of a Shivalinga and its installation, a visible linga of Uma and Maheshvar, Ganapati, Skanda, Nandi, a japamala (rosary) and the ritual for ancestors (shraddha) are described. It is seen that behaviour contributing to the actions described in the Kriyapad are complemented in this Charyapad. Actions which are forbidden are described here as follows.

  • Partaking of an offering of food (prasad) of other deities
  • Criticising the rituals done with expectation (sakam karmas) described in the Shaiva philosophy, enjoying The Lord’s creation, animal sacrifices, etc.

4. Shuddha Shaivites

In South India another sect known as the Shuddha Shaivites was established in the later period. ‘Qualified non-duality (Vishishtadvait) ’ maybe described as the special characteristic of this sect. This is also said to be due to the influence of the philosophies propounded by Ramanujacharya and Yamunacharya. The ‘Vayaviya Sanhita’ a part of the Shiva Puran is the principal holy text of this sect. Just as Vaishnav teachers came to the fore deriving inspiration from the devotional poetry of Alvars and propounded the Vaishnav sect and philosophy so also, the Shaiva teachers (naynars) of the south granting prominence to the hymns of devotees like Namtara, etc. began to propagate the doctrines of their sect.


Why are Shiva and Divine Energy (Shakti) considered as inseparable?



1. Kashmiri Shaivites [non-duality between Shiva and Energy (Shakti)]

In the period when the Shaiva saints and scholars from South India were advocating the Shaiva philosophy and were preaching the doctrines from the Darshan, a centre for worship of Shiva was established in Kashmir in India. The tradition of this ‘Kashmiri Shaiva sect’ was based on the philosophy of non-duality. According to the Shivasutras this Darshan came to be known as ‘Pratyabhidnyadarshan’, ‘Sanvittantra’, ‘Spandashastra’, ‘Shambhavadvaitdarshan’ or ‘Trimakdarshan’. Around the year 854 Kallatacharya wrote a book named ‘Spandakarika’. This text has three chapters known as ‘Nishpanda’ and fifty-two stanzas in all.

The Kashmiri Shaiva sect is further subdivided into two branches namely – science of vibrations (spandashastra) and science of suprasensorial knowledge (pratyabhidnyashastra). The proponents of the former were ‘Vasugupta’ and his disciple ‘Kallat’ whereas that of the latter was‘Somanand’.

1.1 Science of vibrations (spandashastra)

Followers of this school of thought propound that any creator or material cause is not required for creation of the universe. Followers of the Vedanta consider The Lord as the Creator but followers of the science of vibrations do not. Further they deny the existence of the Great Illusion (Maya) which is responsible for the illusion. In short, they do not believe in the doctrine of Shri Shankaracharya that the ‘world is false’. According to them The Lord is independent. He creates all objects according to His energy of volition (ichchashakti). He projects the entire universe in such a way as if it were distinct from Him but the reality is otherwise. Just as inspite of reflection of a person’s face in a mirror the mirror remains unaffected so also The Lord remains unchanged although the universe is manifested in Him. Hence The Lord is not the cause of creation of the universe. In short, The Lord creates the universe without any motive. Just as a siddhayogi can materialise various objects without the assistance of any external object, solely with the help of concentrated energy of volition so also does Shiva manifest the entire movable and unmovable (animate and inanimate) creation with the prowess of His divine energy of volition. Lord Maheshvar manifests in the form of infinite embodied souls. Thus according to this doctrine the embodied soul doing spiritual practice is indistinct from the Supreme Soul but due to the presence of ignorance (mala) he does not experience this non-duality. This ignorance is of three types.

  • A. Anav ignorance (mala): Considering the body to be the soul is termed as anav ignorance. When an embodied soul, out of ignorance, forgetting its free and all pervading nature regards itself to be incomplete and considers the gross body, which is in reality not the soul, to be the soul and confines itself in such a state of bondage it is described as anav ignorance.
  • B. Active ignorance (karya mala): When out of influence of the antahkaran the motor organs become active, that ignorance is known as active ignorance. For example the ego which is responsible for performing good and bad deeds leading to happiness and unhappiness.
  • C. Illusory ignorance (mayay mala): When ignorance remains in the body created from the Great Illusion it is referred to as illusory ignorance.

The principle of sound is responsible for activating all these types of ignorance. Sound is the prime energy of Shiva that leads to the generation of speech. Worldly activities occur with the help of speech, that is why ignorance is generated from this principle of sound and the embodied soul doing spiritual practice (jivatma) begins to consider itself as distinct from the Supreme Soul. Along with this energy other energies such as Amba, Vama, Roudri, Jyeshtha, etc. are also associated with Shiva. Through the energy acquired from meditation when the subconscious mind gets a manifestation of the energy of the Supreme Soul, the embodied soul becomes rid of ignorance (mala) and the subconscious mind develops the thoughtless (nirvikalpa) state. Thus the embodied soul becomes liberated and itself becomes the Supreme Soul. This vision itself is termed as Bhairav because He Himself grants His own vision.

1.2 Science of suprasensorial knowledge (pratyabhidnyashastra)

The branch of the Kashmiri Shaiva sect established by ‘Somanand’ in the tenth century is famous as suprasensorial knowledge. The name of their holy text is ‘Shivadrushti’. His disciple Udayakar wrote this main holy text of this sect.

The philosophy of this sect as regards the embodied soul doing spiritual practice and the Supreme Soul is similar to that of the science of vibrations. In this sub-sect the knowledge that ‘He is Him’ is termed as science of suprasensorial knowledge. In the Shvetashvatar and some other Upanishads is a quote which means that when He (the Supreme Soul) manifests, all objects manifest. All objects are illuminated by His light alone. Thus our energy of knowledge is in reality that of The Lord and every object is realised by us through this illuminating energy. Since we possess knowledge and are active, we are in reality subtle parts of The Lord; but there is no way limiting this subtle portion. Hence one should consider that ‘I am The Lord’. However in our present state we do not realise the nature of The Lord, His knowledge and the Bliss enjoyed through Him. Hence one does not realise that ‘I myself am The Lord’; but basically we are The Lord itself. A young lady falls deeply in love with a young man hearing about his qualities but when she happens to meet him not realising who he is she views him as an ordinary individual and does not feel happy. However when she is told that this is the same person towards whose qualities she was attracted, she feels elated and surrenders unto him. The state of the embodied soul undertaking spiritual practice (jivatma) and the Supreme Soul (Parmatma) is the same. Though the embodied soul is unaware of the Bliss in the state of of Godliness it is still The Lord Himself. It does not realise The Lord because it is ignorant of the fact that it possesses all the qualities of The Lord. The Guru grants that soul the realisation of this divinity within itself. As a result the embodied soul gets drowned in the ocean of immense Bliss. According to the science of vibrations (spandashastra), when the mind acquires a manifestation of Bhairav (Lord) in the state of meditation, ignorance (mala) is destroyed and Bliss of non-duality is experienced. However according to the science of suprasensorial knowledge (pratyabhidnyashastra) the sole path of acquisition of Bliss of non-duality is to experience The Supreme God within oneself.

According to Kashmiri Shaivites as well as those of the school of suprasensorial knowledge the blending of Shiva and Divine Energy (Shakti) that is Kameshvar and Kameshvari is the supreme principle of non-duality. The nature of the soul being divine consciousness (chaitanya) it is present in all living beings in an unmanifest form. That itself is defined as Parasamvit, The Supreme God (Parameshvar) or Shiva. The Shiva principle present in every embodied soul is itself the soul principle. The Supreme God is believed to have two parts – that constituting the universe and that beyond the universe. Although the universal form of The Supreme God is present in every object yet through the part beyond the universe, He is detached from all of them. The nature of this soul remains obscure due to ignorance. This ignorance is a consequence of Shiva’s wish. After enlightenment, the duality between the embodied soul (jiva) and The Supreme God (Shiva) disappears.

The supreme principle that is ‘Shiva along with Divine Energy (Shakti)’ is the ultimate truth. Divine Energy is not distinct from Shiva but is present in Him. Her external active form is sometimes gross or subtle and at other times manifest or unmanifest. The cycle of the universe is maintained by Her subtle or magnified form. Although Shiva is the support of the subtle body and the universe, without Divine Energy which is in the form of ‘i’ in Shiva, He is as good as a corpse (shava). Shiva along with Divine Energy creates everything. Just as moonlight cannot be separated from the moon so also Shiva’s Energy cannot be distinct from Him. When She manifests in the universal form, in reality Shiva alone is the creator, sustainer and annihilator and when She is unmanifest Shiva is in a state of self-radiant non-duality. Divine Energy itself is considered as the Creator of the universe ‘(चीति:स्‍वतन्‍या विश्वसिद्धि हेतु:)’ meaning the Energy self-generated through the spiritual practice is the aim of each and every attainment. She is a state of Absolute Consciousness. Despite being inseparable from Shiva She is the basic cause for creation of the universe. Her independence is the principle of vital energy. The totally radiant Supreme Soul (Parmatma) inspite of remaining in its original state sometimes manifests its infinite forms or its forms undergo dissolution due to this independent Energy. It is due to the divine sport of this Divine Energy that despite being one He appears to manifest in infinite forms. Shiva’s nature is one of the light of knowledge whereas Divine Energy is of the nature of ego. Shiva is full of divine consciousness whereas Divine Energy is responsible for generation of ego. Basically Shiva and Energy are of the nature of Absolute Consciousness and Bliss.

When The Supreme God wishes to create the universe He transforms Himself into two forms – Shiva and Divine Energy (Shakti). Shiva is of the nature of the light of knowledge while Divine Energy is of the nature of thought. At the creation of the universe this Divine Energy enlightens the universe whereas at the time of dissolution the same Energy assumes the destroyer aspect. This Divine Energy is also known as Absolute Consciousness (Chit), divine consciousness (chaitanya), freedom (svatantrya), doership (kartrutva) and energy of vibration (spanda). Consciousness (prama) exists as ‘I’ (aham) and ‘It’ (idam). The former represents Shiva and the latter, the Divine Energy (Shakti). One can experience the radiance of knowledge that is the soul principle through intellect and in the enlightened state can one get the idea of the thought. Just as one cannot see one’s face without a mirror, so also without intellect one cannot realise the true nature of the radiance of knowledge, the soul. The shava (corpse) is disfigured and neither perceives any sensation nor consciousness. Similarly without Divine Energy, that is the intellect one cannot realise the soul. Infusion of the energy of life into a dead body induces divine consciousness in it. Similarly without Divine Energy that is the energy of life, Shiva, the soul principle will appear like a shava (corpse). Thus Shiva and Divine Energy are two sides of the same coin and are therefore inseparable.

‘The Shaivites considered that Shiva without Shakti to be but a corpse. In some fearsome Shaiva sects the form of Divine Energy, the deity is depicted as dancing on Shiva’s chest laying Him down on the ground.’

For the Shaivas (worshippers of Shiva) Purush means Lord Shiva and Prakruti means Divine Energy. However unlike the followers of the concept of Brahman the Shaivites do not consider Energy to be the Great Illusion (Maya) and hence as illusory since the very pervasiveness of Shiva Himself is this movable and unmovable (animate and inanimate) creation. How can that be unreal? Based on this concept their path of establishing communion with The Supreme God present in this movable and unmovable creation based on spiritual love appears to be entirely derived from devotion. Although yoga, penance and meditation are special features of the spiritual practice of the Shaivites yet undoubtedly devotion unto Lord Shiva has been accorded the prime seat in the populace.

2. The Nath sect

‘This is a yoga dominant Shaiva sect. It was founded around 900-1000 A.D. Its philosophy is similar to that of the Kashmiri Shaivas. The followers of this sect attribute importance to the spiritual practice of yoga and consider Shiva to be the foremost Master (Adinath).

‘Since the Supreme Guru and the deity of worship of this sect is the first Master (Adinath) Shiva, this sect is known as the Nath sect. Acquisition of the universal nature of Nath, that is of the Shiva principle itself is the ultimate aim of the followers of this sect. That is why they prefix the title nath to their names. As this sect is yoga dominant and also since acquisition of the state of a perfected one (siddhavastha) or of avadhut (avadhutavastha) is the aim of this sect it is also known as the Yoga, Siddha and Avadhut sect.

Gorakshanath is the founder of this sect. Holy texts written by Gorakshanath are the principal holy texts of this sect. The Guru lineage of this sect is Adinath – Matsyendranath – Gorakshanath. This event occurred in the eleventh or twelfth century A.D.

2.1 Doctrine

The philosophy of the Nath sect is influenced by the Kashmiri Shaiva sect. The concept of the conjoint energy in Shiva-Divine Energy (Shakti) which came to be incorporated in it from the Kashmiri tradition itself and the concept manifested in its perfect and adorable form in Saint Dnyaneshvar’s book Amrutanubhav. Siddhasiddhantapaddhati is a popularly accepted Sanskrut holy text by Gorakshanath. It describes some of the basic doctrines of this sect as given below.

  • A. Shiva along with Divine Energy (Shakti): At the outset Gorakshanath has offered obeisance to Lord Adinath who is accompanied by the Divine Energy. According to Gorakshanath, Adinath Shiva Himself is the ultimate truth, is Self-radiant, Self-conscious, infinite, immortal, beyond the manifest and unmanifest and duality and non-duality. This Shiva principle also comprises of Divine Energy; but this Energy is not distinct from Shiva, She is incorporated in Him. She is responsible for creation, sustenance and dissolution of the universe. The nature of ths Energy is continuous activity which at times extends from the gross to the subtle and at other times from the manifest to the unmanifest. The cycle of the universe continues due to the progress or regression of this Energy. Shiva along with Energy is the support of the embodied soul (pinda) and the universe (Brahmanda).
  • B. The embodied soul and the universe: The second doctrine of this sect is that all that which is in the universe is also present in the embodied soul. Hence knowledge of the embodied soul has acquired special importance in the Goraksha philosophy. Gorakshanath says that the yogi who realises that both the movable (चर) and the unmovable (अचर) are present in the embodied soul, acquires knowledge about the embodied soul. Getting this experience of the divine nectar (amrutanubhav) and becoming immortal by merging into the Omniscient Shiva present in the embodied soul and the universe is the ultimate target of a Nathyogi. This itself is termed as Liberation while still embodied (jivanmukti). According to saints of the Nath sect Liberation is to be first acquired in the perfect (siddha) body and later in the divine body. The perfect or divine body refers to the immortal spiritual body. It is free from the impure Great Illusion (Maya) but is made up of the pure Great Illusion. In this state of the body saints (siddhas) guide other seekers as Gurus. Acquisition of an immortal and a mature body is a primary requirement of a saint as due to this body alone the saint acquires the Supreme Liberation (Para Mukti). This itself is known as perfection of the body (kayasiddhi). The spiritual practice undertaken by saints of the Nath sect to achieve kayasiddhi is known as reverse spiritual practice. This spiritual practice is a yogic practice. These yogic techniques of the Nathyogis convert the downward tendencies of those aspiring to reach the zenith and take the saint to His ultimate state, that is immortality in the perfect body.

    The sun (surya) and moon (chandra) referred to in the Path of Deliberate Rigour (Hathayoga) are the Ida and Pingala channels (nadis) in the body and their union is that of the pran and apan vital energies. According to Gorakshanath this sun and moon have a hidden meaning. The book Siddhasiddhantapaddhati states that the body originates from action, desire, the moon, the sun and fire. Of these the moon symbolises ras (liquor) or Som and the sun represents the fire (agni). Som is that which is experienced while fire is that which experiences it. The semen of a man is composed of fire and the menstrual flow of a woman is generated by the moon. The subtle body is created by the union of these two. Som or the moon is an infinite and immortal principle and remains with Shiva whereas the sun is a finite and mortal principle and resides within Divine Energy (Shakti).

    Spiritual energy (kundalini) lies in a dormant state in the human body and Shiva resides in the Sahasrar chakra in the head. When this dormant energy in the Agni chakra merges with Shiva in the Sahasrar or Shunya chakra, yogis attain a natural state of superconsciousness (sahajsamadhi) which imparts Liberation and Supreme Bliss. This itself is described as the union of the subtle body and the universe (pinda-brahmandaikya or samarasikaran).’

3. The path of spiritual practice of Raseshvar

This sect professes faith in Adinath Shiva and shares some similarities regarding spiritual practice with the body (kayasadhana) with followers of the Nath sect. The spiritual practice of this sect has been described in various holy texts by those perfected (siddha) in rasa such as ‘Rasaratnakar’ by Nagarjun,‘Rasahruday’ by Govindbhagvatpadacharya and ‘Sakarsiddhi’ by Vishnuswami.

अभ्रकस्‍तव बीजं तु मम बीजं तु पारद: ।
अनर्योर्मीलनं देवि मृत्‍युदारिद्य्रनाशनम्‌ ।। – सर्वदर्शनसंग्रह ९:४

Meaning: O deity (Parvati), mica is Your ovum and mercury is My sperm (semen). The union of these two eliminates death and poverty.

Seekers belonging to this sect believe that mercury possesses the potential to bestow the Final Liberation (Moksha) in this birth itself. Hence it is more beneficial to attain the Final Liberation when alive than after death. According to them to attain the Final Liberation the body has to be strong, healthy and fit. Mercury oxide has the potential to impart these benefits to the body. Mercury (para) is described as Raseshvar, one which can take one across (par) the ocean of materialistic life. In this context Shiva says – Consumption of solutions containing mercury makes the body strong and healthy. This facilitates attainment of Self-realisation. If a mixture of mercury and mica is drawn upwards with the help of a particular yantra (device) into the body then a humour (rasa) which can make the body immortal is generated. The three states of mercury are inert, inactive and bound. Inert mercury cures illnesses, inactive mercury bestows longevity and bound mercury imparts the ability to fly. Eight rituals such as svedan, murchan, pavan, nirodhan, maran, etc. have been described with regard to mercury. Saints of the Nath sect had a close association with Raseshvar. It is believed that those belonging to the Raseshvar sect knew the secret of creating gold.

4. Virshaivas (Lingayat)

These Shaivites adorn the (Shiva) linga and hence are known as Lingayats. This sect was founded by Panchacharya and propagated by Basveshvar. Their basic texts are the Basav Puran and the Channabasav Puran. The Gurus of the Lingayats are known as Jangam. Jangam means a worshipper of a chalalinga. This sect has become popular in Karnataka in India.

The non-dual Supreme Brahman manifesting in the form of Absolute Truth (Sat), Absolute Consciousness (Chit) and Bliss (Anand) is itself known as Shiva principle. It is also known as ‘sthal ’. It is the primal causative bija of the creation of the universe consisting of principles such as the Mahat principle. Similarly the visible and invisible creation arising from the union of the Prakruti and Purush principles dissolves into It at the time of dissolution of the universe. Hence it has acquired the name sthal (स्‍थल) by combination of ‘stha (स्‍थ)’ from the primal causative bija and ‘l (ल)’from dissolution (laya). The sthal is of two types namely lingasthal and angasthal. Lingasthal refers to the deity of worship, that is Lord Shiva and angasthal is the embodied soul worshipping Him. (Lingasthal is thus The Lord and angasthal is the devotee.) The union of this is deity of worship, Shiva with that of the worshipping embodied soul is known as the ‘blending of the linganga (linganga samarasya)’.

The lingasthal has three parts – bhavalinga, pranalinga and ishtalinga. They are also named nishkal, sakalnishkal and sakal respectively. Bhavalinga is the Absolute Truth form of Shiva as the Supreme Brahman whereas the pranalinga is the Absolute Consciousness nature and ishtalinga is the Blissful (Anand) form. The bhavalinga is the most supreme principle, the pranalinga is the most subtle and the ishtalinga is its gross manifestation. This triad of lingas gets converted into kala, nada and bindu under the influence of the prayoga, mantra and kriya. Each of these lingas is subdivided into two parts. The six lingas – mahalinga or mahatmyalinga, prasadlinga and prasadhanlinga, chiralinga, Shivalinga, Gurulinga and acharlinga are known as ‘shatsthal’. These six types of lingas get endowed with divine consciousness and assume six forms. They possess six Divine Energies (Shakti). They are named Chitshakti, Parashakti, Ichchashakti, Adishakti, Dnyanshakti and Kriyashakti respectively.

The Divine Energy within Lord Shiva gets transformed into two with Her own wish. The first Energy is named ‘Kala’. She resides with Shiva. The second is named ‘Bhakti’ and She resides within the embodied soul, that is the devotee. This active Energy responsible for leading the embodied soul to Shiva is itself devotion (bhakti). Hence the Lingayats consider intense devotion unto Lord Shiva as the main spiritual practice to attain the Final Liberation (Moksha). The union of the Supreme Soul, Shiva and the embodied soul doing spiritual practice (jivatma) is their ultimate goal.

The principle aim of the angasthal (embodied soul) is devotion. Devotion is of three types – yogang, bhogang and tyagang. Due to yogang there is union of the embodied soul with Lord Shiva. Tyagang helps the embodied soul to realise the impersonal nature of the universe and hence the embodied soul sacrifices it. Bhogang brings about a merger of the embodied soul with Lord Shiva. The ultimate objective of the Virshaivite is permanent union of the embodied soul and Shiva. One can perceive the influence of the Vaishnavite philosophy of qualified non-duality (Vishishtadvait) on their philosophy.

(Based on Panch Upasanapanth. First edition : Shrirama navami, Shake 1901, pages 68-91. Author : Prof. R.R. Gosavi. Publisher : Manohar Y. Joshi. Prasad Publications, 1892, Sadashiv Peth, Pune 411 030.)

5. Shiva and Divine Energy (Shakti)

Shiva Energy
1. Special
Form of yoga*
(Union with God)
Form of spiritual
2. Mission Detachment Towards materialistic
3. Spiritual level Supreme* Superior
4. Asking for offerings Nothing A subordinate type of
deity (Energy) asks
‘Give me such and
such thing to fulfill
such and such task’
5. Annual sacrifice Not offered** Is offered

*   श्रद्धावाँल्‍लभते ज्ञानं तत्‍पर: संयतेन्‍द्रिय: । – श्रीमद्‌भगवद्‌गीता ४:३९

Meaning: Man who is endowed with the qualities of intense faith, is prompt in action and has mastery over his senses acquires spiritual knowledge.

** No sacrifice is offered even to the combined form of Shiva and Divine Energy (Shakti).

|| Om Namaha Shivaya ||

Why are svayambhu pindis situated below the ground level?

Shiv Linga


Shiva’s idol underwent changes, with the passage of time as given below.


1. Form of the phallus

Shankar is referred to as the father of the universe; that is why, at first, the idol used to be in the form of a phallus. It is mostly five faced. The face facing the east is called Vishnu, that facing the west is called Brahma, that facing the south Rudra and that facing the north Shiva. The fifth face points upwards, that is towards spiritual progress.

Inspite of Shiva being the deity of dissolution, one will wonder how the lingas of Shiva having forms such as the phallus, Nandi, divine phallus (linga) and divine birth passage (bhag / yoni), etc. have been created. According to the Shaiva sect, Shiva is the deity of all that is creation, sustenance as well as dissolution. Only in the concept of Trimurti (Datta) is Shiva the deity of dissolution. According to psychology too for most it is easier to worship with regard to creation and sustenance and difficult with regard to dissolution.

2. In the form of an animal

Nandi is the form of Shiva from the Vedic period.

3. In the form of a man

This form was created during the Puranic period. Here Parvati is depicted as seated on Shiva’s lap. It symbolises that Shiva-Parvati [Divine Energy (Shakti) are the parents of the universe. This idol is always white, that is like camphor (karpur) and is named Karpurgour. Shiva being the deity of purity, the idol is white in colour as a representation of this absolute purity. This human form of Shiva possesses the following four symbolic instruments in his hands.

A. The small hourglass shaped drum (damaru): This represents the Brahman in the form of the word (shabda Brahman). Alphabets consisting of the sounds of fifty-two basic letters and the forms of fourteen Maheshvar verses (sutras) have generated from it. Later the universe was created from it.

B. The trident: It represents the following

  • The three components (trigunas)
  • The root of creation, sustenance and dissolution
  • Volition, knowledge and action are the tips of the three prongs of the trident.
  • The yama, surya and prajapati frequencies

C. The noose or the deer: The noose represents the noose of time (kalpash). (The rope in Ganapati’s hand too is the noose of time.) The deer symbolises the four Vedas.

D. The axe: This represents the destruction of ignorance.

3.1 Dakshinamurti

‘The word dakshina represents intellect. “Dakshinamurti” is that form of The Lord the realisation of which one acquires with the help of the right intellect. A legend says that Shiva assumed this form to be able to preach philosophy to His devotees, constantly. The Dakshinamurti idol too exists in four forms – Vinadhar, Yoga, Dnyan and Vyakhyan.

  • The idol of Vinadhar is in an erect posture and has four arms. It teaches the devotees the vina (a stringed instrument), that is meditation upon notes.
  • The idol of Yoga is seated in meditation. It is through this form that the knowledge of yoga is acquired.
  • The idol of Dnyan teaches philosophy.
  • The idol of Vyakhyan teaches other sciences. It is seated in virasan (adamant posture) and depicts the mudras of dnyan, sandarbha and vyakhyan.’

‘In this form Shiva is either in the standing or in the sitting posture. His countenance is pleasant and beautiful. He possesses four arms. Often several animals, serpents, yatis and sages surround this idol. At times Parvati too is close by. Shankaracharya has composed two verses (stotras) of Dakshinamurti.

3.2 Kalyansundarmurti

This idol depicts the wedding ceremony of Shiva and Parvati.’

4. The form of a pindi

The divine birth passage and the divine phallus are the two sex organs responsible for animate creation. Realising this, primitive man worshipped both these organs. The pindi was created by union of the base of the linga (shalunka) representing the divine birth passage and the linga representing the divine phallus. The earth means procreation and Shiva means purity. Although the shalunka has both creation and purity yet the universe was not created from semen but by the resolve (sankalpa) of Lord Shiva. Thus Shiva and Parvati became the parents of the world. Huishka, the son of Kanishka began worship of Shiva’s linga since the second century. The concept of the Shivalinga originated after the union of the Shiva and Shakti (Divine Energy) sects. Shiva cannot do anything without Divine Energy (Shakti) hence the worship of Shakti commenced along with that of Shiva. Shiva’s linga in the form of a pindi represents the energy of effulgence. The modern nuclear reactors too are shaped like the lingas of Shiva.

4.1 Types of pindis

A. Chal and achal: A chal linga is created for a certain ritualistic worship (puja). This is created like an idol of Ganesh made for Ganesh Chaturthi and is then immersed. An achal linga is installed in one place and not moved.

B. With context to the ground

  • 1. Situated below the ground level (svayambhu): This possesses tremendous amount of energy. Hence it is situated below the ground level. If situated above the ground then devotees will not be able to tolerate the energy emitted by it. (The eyes of Lord Balaji of Tirupati are half open to prevent devotees from being affected by the radiance from His eyes.) Worshippers lie down on the ground and inserting their hands inside, worship it. The amount of Shiva principle in it is next to that in the jyotirlingas. These lingas are created with the resolve of Lord Shiva. Later the linga manifests before some devotee and after it is discovered, its worship begins.
  • 2. Situated at the ground level: These are installed by sages or kings. They possess less energy. Devotees are able to endure only that much of energy. Worshippers perform ritualistic worship of the pindi sitting in a hollow beside it.
  • 3. Situated above the ground level: These are installed by devotees collectively. These have the least energy which people can easily tolerate. The worshipper performs its ritualistic worship sitting on the platform constructed beside it.Lingas of type 2 and 3 are referred to as manush lingas. ‘These are called so probably because they are created by man (manushya). They are included in the stable lingas. A manush linga is composed of three parts – the Brahma part, the Vishnu part and the Rudra part. The lowermost part is referred to as Brahma. It is square in shape. The central octagonal part is called Vishnu. Both these parts are buried in the ground. The uppermost round raised portion is called Rudra. This is also known as puja part as all the substances used in ritualistic worship are offered unto it. Holy texts on the science of idols state that the Rudra part should have some lines on it. These are called Brahmasutras. Divine and arshak lingas do not display such lines.’
  • 4. Suspended in air: The pindi of Somnath created from mercury floats in the air at a height of five metres above the ground. Worshippers pass below it. This itself becomes the circumambulation (pradakshina) of the pindi.

4.2 Linga (Divine Phallus)

  • A. linga is a representation of an object or an emotion. The text Medinikosh explains the meaning of this word as follows.
    लिङ्‌गं चिन्‍हेऽनुमाने च साङ्‌ख्‍योक्‍त प्रकृतिरपि ।
    शिवमूर्तिविशेषे च मेहेगेऽपि नपुंसकम्‌ ।।

    Meaning: The word linga is used with reference to a symbol, inference, Prakruti according to the Sankhya philosophy by Sage Kapil, special features of the idols of Shiva and the phallus and is of the neuter gender. However in common usage it infers ‘a representation of Shiva’.

  • B. It is called so because at the time of dissolution (pralay) along with the five cosmic elements the entire world merges into the linga and originates from it again, at the time of creation.
  • C. The mahalinga possesses three eyes. They refer to creation, sustenance and dissolution and to tama (tiryak), raja (visphutit) and sattva (saman) frequencies.

4.3 Shalunka [base of the linga (lingavedi)]

Bhumi (Earth) is the eldest daughter of Daksha Prajapati . Aditi, Uttanpada, Mahi and Shalunka are its forms. The root name of the shalunka is Suvarnashankhini because the sex organs of a woman resemble a conch (and a seashell) in shape. Ritualistic worship of the shalunka implies the worship of the mother deity (matrudevata). The grooves located on the inner aspect of the shalunka are important. Due to them the sattvik (sattva predominant) energy generated in the pindi mostly remains in the pindi and in the central part of the temple (gabhara) while the destructive tama predominant energy constitutes the outflow (srot) from the shalunka.

A. Types of shalunkas based on the circumference

  • 1. A shalunka with a circumference thrice that of the linga is called inferior.
  • 2. A shalunka with a circumference one and a half times that of the linga is called medium.
  • 3. A shalunka with a circumference four times that of the linga is a superior one.

B. Height: The height of a linga should be equivalent to that of its Vishnu part.

C. Shape: It may have 4, 6, 8, 12 or 16 sides but is mostly round.

If the shalunka faces northwards then its shape resembles the figure below. Sperms and golden coloured adhahashayi (the embodied soul (jiva) which enters the foetus) (अध:शायी) (refer ‘Science of Spirituality: Chapter 24 – Creation of the Universe’) as well as neonates resemble it.

4.4 Jyotirlingas

There are twelve jyotirlingas. They materialised in a radiant form. The thirteenth pinda is called kalpinda. The body (pinda) which has crossed the limits of time (kal) is called kalpinda. The twelve jyotirlingas are given below.

Jyotirlinga Site
1. Somnath Prabhasapattan, near Veraval, Sourashtra
2. Mallikarjun Shrishailya, Andhra Pradesh
3. Mahankal Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
4. Omkar /
Omkar, Mandhata, Madhya Pradesh
5. Kedarnath Himalay
6. Bhimashankar Dakini region, taluka Khed, district Pune,
7. Vishveshvar Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
8. Tryambakeshvar Near Nashik, Maharashtra
9. Vaidyanath
Parli, District Bid, Maharashtra or
Vaidyanathdham, Bangal.
10. Nagesh
Darukavan, Oundha, district Parbhani,
Maharashtra or Almoda, Uttar Pradesh
11. Rameshvar Setubandha, near Kanyakumari, Tamilnadu.
12. Ghrushneshvar
Verul, district Aurangabad, Maharashtra.

The twelve jyotirlingas are bodies the heads of which lie at Pashupatinath of Kathamandu. For acquisition of the supernatural power of a rudraksha one should choose the linga with the required quality and energy and worship it by sprinkling with water (abhishek). For example, Mahankal contains tamasi (tama predominant) energy, Nagnath is a form of Hari (Vishnu) and Har (Shiva) and is predominant in sattva and tama components, Tryambakeshvar is composed of the three components (Avadhut) while Somnath is appropriate for alleviating disease.

The meaning of a jyotirlinga

  • The all pervading Brahmatmalinga or all pervading light.
  • In the Taittiriya Upanishad the twelve principles of Brahman, the Great Illusion (Maya), the embodied soul, the mind, intellect, subconscious mind, ego and the five cosmic elements have been referred to as the twelve jyotirlingas.
  • The twelve sections of the Shivalinga.
  • In the summit of a sacrificial fire (yadnya) the shalunka represents the altar (vedi) of the fire and the linga the flame of the fire.
  • A representation of the twelve adityas.
  • The sites of eruption of fire from the dormant state of the volcano.

Since Lord Yama the master of the south is controlled by Shankar, the south is the direction of Lord Shankar. The jyotirlingas (that is the mouths of the shalunkas) face southward direction. Most of the temples do not face the southward direction. When the mouth of the shalunka faces southwards its pinda possesses more energy while the pinda with the mouth of the shalunka facing northwards has less energy.

4.5 Banalingas

These are a type of Shivalingas. A particular kind of pebbles from the bed of the Narmada river is referred to as banalingas. Banasur had created these lingas for ritualistic worship and then left them on the mountain situated on the banks of the Narmada. The Yadnyavalkyasanhita states that along with the water currents these lingas reached the Narmada. Akin to the Narmada banalingas are also found in the rivers Ganga and Yamuna.’ Since banalingas and shaligrams of Lord Vishnu are made of non-porous stone like marble they are both heavy and do not erode easily.

4.6 Lingas according to the era (yug)

Yug Linga Yug Linga
Satya (Krut) Precious stones Dvapar Mercury
Treta Gold Kali Earth

5. The five-faced Shiva

The following table gives information on the Names of the faces in the five-faced Shiva, the associated elements, the direction of the face, special features and their implied meaning.

Name Element Direction Special
Implied meaning of
the special feature
1. Mahadev Pruthvi
East A. Three eyes 

B. Ten arms

Sun, moon and fire 

Ten directions

2. Bhairav Apa (absolute
South A. A mace in
the hand 

B. A citron fruit
in the hand

Shakti (Energy) 

Minute particle or

3. Nandi-
Tej (absolute
West A. A hide in the

B. A trident in
the hand



4. Uma-
(absolute air)
North A. A mirror in
the hand 

B. A lotus in
the hand

Spiritual knowledge 


5. Sadashiv
Gaze towards
the sky
Spiritual progress
common to all
common to all
Jatabhar Brahman Spotted tiger
Chandrakor Opulence Nandi Divine
The Vasuki
Divine wrath

6. The Shivalinga with five faces

Shivalingas with five faces are also found in some places. The Names of the five faces are- Sadyojat, Vamdev, Aghor, Tatpurush and Îshan. The four faces of Lord Brahma represent knowledge of 1. creation, 2. sustenance, 3. dissolution and 4. spiritual experiences. The four faces of Shiva represent the four directions. The fifth face which points skywards is the universal face symbolic of purity and spiritual progress.

7. The three-faced form

If there is a Shivalinga or a Nandi in front of a three faced idol then it is an idol of Shankar and if not it is an idol of Datta.

8. Lingas of the five cosmic elements

South India has the following five lingas of the five cosmic elements : pruthvi (absolute earth) – Shivakanchi, apa (absolute water) – Jambunath, tej (absolute fire) – Arunachalam, vayu (absolute air) – Kalhasti and akash (absolute ether) – Chidambaram.

9. The hundred and eight and the thousand lingas

These lingas are created by vertical and horizontal lines engraved on the Rudra part creating one hundred and eight or a thousand squares respectively.

10. Dharalinga

This is created by drawing 5 to 28 deep vertical grooves on the Vishnu part of the linga. Because of these grooves water from the ritualistic bathing (abhishek) flows down easily.