पञ्चाननं प्रबलपञ्चशीलं सम्भावये मनसिशङ्करमम्बिकेशम्।।
pañcānanaṃ prabalapañcaśīlaṃ saṃbhāvaye manasiśaṇkaramaṃbikeśaṃ)
I meditate on Śiva, the Lord of Aṃbikā, auspicious from the beginning to the end, having no parallel, the Noble Lord, the Unaging and the Undying, the Lord of Ātmans, the Five-Faced and the dispeller of the five powerful sins.
Thus begins the Holy Śiva Mahāpurāṇa. I’ll concentrate a little on the various attributes listed here.
The first is Ādyantamaṅgalaṃ, Auspicious from the Beginning to the End. The most commonly used epithet and name for the Lord is Śiva; which means auspicious. Some of the earliest references of this name comes from the Śvetaśvatāra Upaniṣad.
विश्वस्यैकं परिवेष्टितारं ज्ञात्वा शिवं शान्तिमत्यन्तमेति (Śv Up 4.14)
(viśvasyaikaṃ pariveṣṭitāraṃ jñātvā śivaṃ śāntimatyantameti)
The One Pervader of the Universe, by knowing Him as Śiva (Auspicious) one attains peace forever.
घृतात् परं मण्डमिवातिसूक्ष्मं ज्ञात्वा शिवं सर्वभूतेषु गूढम् (Śv Up 4.16)
(ghṛtāt paraṃ maṇḍamivātisūkṣmaṃ jñātvā śivaṃ sarvabhūteṣu gūḍhaṃ)
The One who is Fine, as cream finer than butter, know Him as Śiva who is hidden in all things.
The Śatarudrīya of the Yajurveda, also mentions multiple times that Rudra is Śiva, or Sadāśiva; the Ever Auspicious.
Ajāta; The Unborn is an attribute that is frequently applied to the Lord. It is certainly to that the Lord of Creation is Himself uncreated. He is also Akula, or without kin or family. He has no family. Let me quote the Thirumuṝai for this:
ஏதவன் ஊர் ஏதவன் பேர் ஆர் உற்றார் ஆர் அயலார், எதவனை பாடும் பரிசேலோர் எம்பாவாய் (TM 8.7.9)
(ēdavaṇ ūr ēdavaṇ pēr ār uṟṟār ār ayalār, ēdavanai pāḍum paricēlōr empāvāy)
Where is His native? What is His name? Who are His kin? Who are not? How do we sing about Him who is thus?
Brahman in the Upaniṣad is defined as Sat; Existence. Sat is defined as that which existed in the past, which exists now, and that which will exist in the future. It is beyond the influence of Time. The Lord has thus, always Existed, having no reason for being born.
Samānabhāvamāryaṃ; Noble unaffected by emotions or rather treats all emotions similarly. Śiva is Sthita, Firm; Sthāṇu, Immovable. Unaffected by adversity, because He is transcendant and is always in a state of Ānanda or Bliss. This is in sharp contrast to the Rudra of the Ṛgvēda, where He is quick to anger. Most early prayers beseech Him to calm down and protect the Noble, to direct His shafts at the enemies of Ṛta. Yet, there is Āśutoṣa, meaning Easily Pleased. Many a beautiful song describes how He is quick to anger but quicker to please. Now this may very well appear as a contradiction to His equipoised nature, however, note His anger is always directed at Adharma or Unrighteousness. Adharma should never be tolerated or given quarter; Dharma hiṃsā tathaiva ca; Violence in the service of Dharma is also Dharma.
Ajā and Amara, Unborn and Deathless is dealt with, so lets go to Ātmadevaṃ, Lord of the Ātman.
देवानां हृदयेभ्यो नमो (YV 16.46)
(devānaṃ hṛdayebhyo namo)
Hail Him who is in the heart of the Gods
This is a typical imagery to denote that Rudra is the indweller of the Gods, He’s the Atman of the Gods, He’s the Self that pervades all. A careful reading of the Śrī Rudra namaka and chamaka praśna would reveal that Rudra is described as everything, from the plants to animals, the noble and the thief. This is to reiterate firmly that He is within everything. He is everything, He is the Ātman.
Pañcānana; Five Faced. Śaivist texts reveal that the Lord has 5 faces
- सद्योजाता (sadyojāta) West
- वामदेव (vāmadeva) North
- अघोर (aghora) South
- तत्पुरुष (tatpuruṣa) East
- ईशान (īśāna) North-east
(Note- The parts in italics are not the meanings, but the directions the faces govern)
This form is very famous:
This soon developed into a more complex iconographic expressions, also known as the aṣṭamūrti form. More regarding this can be found here. (A bit complex if you’re unfamiliar with higher level Hindu concepts)
These are some of the aspects which are found universally in all schools viz. Śaiva, Smārta, Paurāṇika. As worship of Śiva spans from the Indus Valley itself, we can spot the Paśupati seals which show a deity in a Yogic pose, surrounded by various animals. The worship of Śiva spans many thousand years, and there is rich literature, which will be explored in future posts. For now, this verse which begins the Great Purāṇa; which formalised the Śaiva religion, along with the many āgamas; should suffice us in explaining the glories. Lord willing, there will be more, with far more in-depth analysis.
Namaḥ Pārvati Pataye!