The Panchanana Aspects and Forms of Shiva

Panchanana Shiva or Sada Shiva

Panchanana Shiva

Summary: This essay describes the fivefold functions, aspects and forms of Shiva as represented in the Panchanana (pancanana) or Panchamukha Shiva

Shiva occupies a prominent place in Hinduism. He is one of the Trimurthis, or the three highest manifestations of Brahman. As the destroyer, in his function as Time (Kala) or Death, he represents the disintegration and dispersing mode of Tamas. However, in Shaivism, Shiva occupies the highest place and represents purity and auspiciousness (shivam). As Brahman (Mahesvara) himself, and Lord of the Universe (Isvara), he performs five functions.

The five functions of Shiva

The five functions of Shiva as the Supreme Lord of the universe are as stated below.

Creation, Srishti: He creates all the worlds and beings, manifesting himself as the individual souls or pure consciousness in the bodies and in the materiality of all existence.

Preservation, Sthithi: As preserver, Shiva is responsible for the continuation of all the worlds and beings. In the body he is the sustaining power of breath (praneswara) and the digestive power of fire (jatharagni). He is the source of all food and water for gods and beings.

Concealment, Tirobhava: As the concealer, Shiva casts the net of delusion (maya) upon the whole creation and keeps the beings deluded, so that the order and regularity of the worlds are not disrupted. Because of his deluding power (maya-shakti) beings cannot perceive him or realize their own essential nature, which remains suppressed or hidden behind a veil of impurities.

Revelation, Anugraha: As the revealer of truth, source of knowledge, and grace, Shiva is responsible for the liberation of beings. None can achieve liberation without his grace. In Shaivism individual effort and good karma are important, but the grace of Shiva is even more important to achieve liberation, for which the path of knowledge is the prescribed method.

Destruction, Laya or Samhara: At the end of each cycle of creation, Shiva withdraws all worlds and beings into himself and goes into a temporary restful mode. As Death and lord of destruction, he is also responsible for the renewal of life and rebirth of beings.

Panchanana Shiva

The five functions of Shiva are represented in the panchanana (pancanana) or the fivefold aspect of Shiva. In the iconography, he is depicted as the five faced deity (pancha muka Shiva), each face representing one of his five functions. The fivefold aspect of Shiva also represents the fivefold aspect of creation, the five bodies (kosas) in the human beings, five breaths, five directions, five elements, five senses, five colors, five energies, five divisions of time, and five human races. Significance of the panchanana form of Shiva is explained in the Linga Purana. A reference to it is also found in the Mahabharata. The five aspects of Shiva as represented in the five faced deity are described below.

Ishana, the Lord: He is Brahma, the lord of creation and represents the mind power (chit-shakti), the element earth (or air according to some), the ritual knowledge of the Vedas, and the manifesting power of the mind. Among the senses, he represents the sense of touch and among the organs of the body, hands. In the iconography he represents upward looking face. His color is copper. In individual images, he is depicted along with a She-goat, holding in his hands the Vedas, the elephant hook, a noose, hatchet, skull, drum, rosary, trident, one hand showing the gestures of protection (abhaya) and another that of offering boons (varada).

Tat-Purusha, the Cosmic Being: He is Vishnu, the lord of preservation, cosmic egg (Hiranyagarbha), the enjoyer, nourisher, and the chief priest of the cosmic sacrifice who represents bliss (ananda shakti), the rising sun, liberating knowledge, the material abundance (Sri Siva tattva), and the element of water. Among the sense organs he is the sense of smell, and in the bodily organs, the anus. In the iconography he represents the eastward face and golden color. In individual images he is shown with three eyes and four faces, wearing yellow garments, and standing in the company of Gayathri.

Vamadeva, the Concealer: He is the suppressor who conceals Tatpurusha behind a veil of delusion. He is the opposite (tirobhava) of Tatpurusha, who is described as west faced, evening sun, and the left-hand (vama) deity. His color is red. In the body he represents egoism (anava), the power of action (kriya-shakti), and the element of air. Among the senses he is the sense of sight, and in the bodily organs, the feet. In individual images he is shown as red or lotus colored, adorned with red ornaments, with four hands, one holding a rosary and the second a hatchet. The third and the fourth show the gestures of offering protection (abhaya), and granting boons (varada) respectively.

Sadyojata, the Revealer: He is Sada Shiva, the eternal being, who manifests spontaneously (sad yojata), and who is described as the granter of grace, leader of delight (nanda) and enjoyment (sunanda). He represents the power of liberating knowledge (jnana shakti), and the element of space. In the body he represents the mind, the sense of taste, and according to some the sex organ. His color is white, the color sattva, or purity. In the panchanana form he represents the northern face. In the individual images he is shown as white colored, holding the Vedas and rosary in two hands and the other two showing the gestures of offering protection (abhaya), and granting boons (varada) respectively.

Rudra, the Destroyer: He is also known Aghora (the non-fearful one), who is battle-ready, and who is mentioned in the Vedas as the howler and father of the war gods Maruts and Rudras. His main function is destruction (samhara). He represents the element fire, the power of desire (iccha-shakti), the punitive power of the law (dharma), the power of discrimination (buddhi), the sense of hearing, and the organ of speech. All these faculties are used in dispensing justice and enforcing the law as the lord of Dharma. His color is black or dark red. In the panchanana form he represents the southern face. In individual images he is shown as a fierce god with four faces and nine hands, holding ax, shield, elephant hook, noose, spear, skull, drum and rosary respectively.

The fivefold aspect of Shiva plays an important role in our lives, minds and bodies, and in our spiritual transformation. The five functions of Shiva are responsible for our existence, continuation, transformation, purification and liberation. Therefore, contemplation upon the five forms will have a beneficial effect.

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