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Beliefs and Legends >>Shiva

The Five Elements (Pancha Bhuta)


The common thread of thought in the religious beliefs of the Indian subcontinent upholds a single Reality (as in absolute monoism) and holds in reverence each of the several manifestation of the Ultimate Reality in the forms of Gods.  Every form of creation is regarded as nothing other than a manifestation of this supreme reality Ishwara. Every form of creation is manifested as a combination of one or more of the five basic elements  of wind, water, fire, earth and space. (Vayu, jalam, agni, prithvi and Akasha).

Five temples in South India worship Shiva as the personified as  these elements  wind, water, fire, earth and space. These temples are the Shivastalams located at Sri  Kalahasti in Andhra Pradesh, Tiruvanaikkaval near Tiruchirappalli in Tamilnadu, Tiruvannamalai in Tamilnadu, Kanchipuram in Tamilnadu and Chidambaram in Tamilnadu.

The five mantras that constitute Shiva's body are Sadyojaata, Vaamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha and Eesaana. Eesaana is Shiva not visible to the human eye, Sadyojaata is Shiva realized in his basic reality (as in the element earth, in the sense of smell, in the power of procreation and in the mind). The Vishnudharmottara Purana of the 6th century CE assigns a face and an element  to each of the above mantras. (Sadyojaata - earth, Vaamadeva - water, Aghora - fire, Tatpurusha - air and Eesaana - space).

The names of the deified faces with their elements are Mahadeva (earth), Bhairava (fire), Nandi (air), Uma (water) and Sadasiva (space).  Panchamukha lingams have been seen from the 2nd century onwards. The Trimurthi Sadasiva image of Shiva in the Elephanta Caves near Mumbai is a portrayal in stone, of the five faces of Shiva. (See All about Shiva).


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