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Paµcabh£tas in áaiva Ritual  

With Special Reference to Bh£ta¿uddhi

S.S. Janaki

The correspondence between the microcosm and the macrocosm worked out and utilized for esoteric and spiritual purposes is much prevalent in the áaivite system, as in others. These ideas ranging from the gross to the subtle and the supreme aspects and levels are pointed out and explained in the concept of a (i) áiva temple with its different parts like gopura, vim¡na, dhvajastambha, and garbhag¤ha; (ii) the ¿ivali´ga; (iii) the rituals; and (iv) the human being. There is a fund of information on the subject that can be gleaned through the áaiva Ëgamic texts, Pur¡¸as and Stotras. Some highlights of such correlations from the viewpoint of five elements are now presented mainly as given in the Kriy¡kramadyotik¡ (K.K.D.) of Aghora¿iv¡c¡rya (also called the Aghora¿iv¡c¡rya Paddhati) written in twelfth century and commented by Nirmalama¸i De¿ika from Tiruv¡r£r; this is an authentic text followed by Saivites in Tamil Nadu even now.

Before taking up the topic of the correlation from the viewpoint of five elements at different levels between the human being and ¿ivali´ga, it should be noted that some Pur¡¸ic texts consider even the many holy kÀetras in different parts of India as corresponding to cakras like m£l¡dh¡ra, sv¡dhiÀ¶h¡na and ¡jµ¡ or the five elements. Thus according to the S£ta SaÆhita (jµ¡yoga kha¸·a, 11.50-I) the basical m£l¡dh¡ra cakra near the naval region is Kamal¡ya or Tiruv¡r¡r in Tanjore District (¡dh¡raÅ, kamal¡yaÅ), an¡hata at, the heart is Chidambaram (cidambaram ca h¤nadhye), and the ¡jµ¡ between the eye-rows is v¡r¡¸as¢ (v¡r¡¸as¢ ca mah¡pr¡jµa bhtuvor ghr¡¸asya madhyame). The principle behind such a description is that the temples in kÀetras in different parts of India symbolize and concretize certain up&an~s or vidyris mentioned in the up¡niÀads, local Sthalapur¡¸as and reiterated in the verses, songs of devotees like Ëlw¡rs, N¡yanm¡rs, Ty¡gar¡ja and Muttusw¡m¢ D¢kÀita.

Again, following the same principle, the five elements are traditionally considered as being geographically represented in five important temples in Tamil Nadu. Thus 'earth' is associated with K¡µc¢, 'water' with Tiruv¡naikovil, 'fire' with Tiruva¸¸¡malai, 'wind' with K¡lahasti and 'ether' with Chidambaram. The P¤thiv¢li´ga at K¡µc¢ is Lord Ek¡mre¿vara for worshipping whom Goddess K¡m¡ks¢ is said to have carved out a li´ga out of mud. The apli´ga is ár¢ Jambuke¿vara at Tiruv¡naikkovil near Trichinopoly; here the li´ga is found always in the water. The jyotirlinga at Tiruva¸¸¡malai in North Arcot district is well-known. This place is considered so holy that even the very thought of Tiruva¸¸amal¡¢ is supposed to lead definitely to salvation (smara¸¡d kaivalyapradam, as said by Muttusw¡m¢ D¢kÀta). The v¡y£´ga is Lord K¡lahast¢¿vara at K¡lahasti, approximately 150 km from Madras on way to Tirupati. It is said that out of the two lamps in the sanctum sanctorum in this temple, the upper one seems to flicker as if under the influence of wind.

We saw above that the whole of India was thought of as a macro representation of the all-pervasive Supreme and five or six centres therein were recognized as the cakras in His body. In a smaller compass five temples in Tamil Nadu were seen as corresponding to the five elements. In a still narrower conceptualization in the very precincts of the Ty¡gar¡jasw¡m¢ temple at Tiruv¡r£r, there are five li´gas said to represent the five elements. They are respectively ár¢valm¢kali´ga, H¡¶hake¿vara, Siddh¢¿vara, Siddhi¿vara and Ënande¿vara.

 From these rather vague traditional ideas we can now move on to the integral association of the five elements in the matrix of áaivite concepts of ritualistic action (kriy¡) like the daily p£j¡ the significance of which could be understood through the Agamic philosophy (jµ¡na vidy¡ tattva). The áaiva Ëgamas impress upon the necessity of a áaivite to be conversant with both kriy¡ and jµ¡na aspects so that he can reach the highest goal of obtaining equality with áiva (¿ivattva). The fact is that the individual to be liberated (pa¿u) from the worldly bondage as constituted of five elements, is seen as parallel with lord Siva (pati) as represented in the ¿ivalinga, in more than one way.

The rituals are performed either at home in a special p£j¡ room or at the temple. In either case the entire ritual domain is to be transformed into a suitably pure condition. Of such purifications five are important. They are -the purification of the self (¡tm¡) of the place sth¡na), of the mantras, of the li´ga and of the substances (dravya) to be offered. In this paper we are concerned only with the ¡tma¿uddhi, as dealt with in K.K.D. Its procedural details are mainly the following:

1. Sitting in a comfortable posture the áaivite protects the place of worship by creating a wall with astra (OÆ haÅ astr¡ya phaÅ) and kavaca (OÆ haiÆ kavac¡ya huÆ) mantras around it.

2.  He first imposes the five brahm¡´ga mantras on the five fingers  in both the hands:

Thumb - oÆ hoÆ ¢¿¡na-m£rdh¡ya namaÅ

Pointed - oÆ heÆ tatpuruÀa-vaktr¡iya namaÅ

Middle- oÆ huÆ aghora-h¤day¡ya namaÅ

Ring - oÆ him v¡madeva-guh¡ya namaÅ

Little - oÆ haÆ sadyoj¡ta-m£rtaye namaÅ

By the imposition of the above mantras related to five faces of Siva and his five limbs, on to the five fingers in both the hands, the hands are now transformed into áiva (¿iv¢kara¸a). They become capable of performing all subsequent rites. (See Fig. I)

3. To engender ¿ivattva in the subtle and gross bodies of the áaivite bh£ta¿uddhi is to be performed. In order to do this he imagines that the suÀumn¡, starting as two branches from the toes and continuing as such till the m£l¡dh¡ra, combines as a, single channel till the brahmarandhra. At the regions of heart, throat, forehead, etc. the suÀumn¡ runs parallel with i·¡ on the left pi´gal¡ on the right, both of them going till the nostril. From heart onwards the suÀumn¡ is to be specially conceived as a long tubular column and with a lotus-bud turned down. Inside and outside of suÀumn¡ is to be visualized as the supreme ku¸·alin¢ ¿akti presiding over the subtle ethereal region and spilling flows of nectar. The blazing ¿ikh¡ b¢ja of h£Æ is to be imagined as located between the ¿akti and suÀumn¡. Under these circumstances p£raka and kumbhaka are to be practised, concentrating on hum syllable at the level of consciousness. At this point the pr¡¸a as v¡yu moves upward till the dv¡da¿¡nta level outside. Thus the impure v¡yu is thrown out. Incidentally by the repeated pronunciation of huÆ pha¶ the knots at the lotus-cakras at the heart, throat, inside the cheek, between the eye-brows and brahmarandhra, are said to be opened out.

Nirmalamani`s commentary Prabh¡ adds a critical note here that the respective lotuses at heart, throat, etc. that were originally only buds turned inward, blossom fully due to p£raka. They are then restrained by kumbhaka and ultimately become upturned by the up-going v¡yu.

Now the inner Supreme Being is meditated upon as located in the subtle body in the heart-lotus and dazzlingly brilliant. The mantra 'oÆ h£Æ haÆ h¡Æ ¡tmane namaÅ' is recited with the necessary inhaling, collecting and exhaling of air. The saÆh¡ra mudr¡ of the right hand is also shown as moving from muladhara to the vacant space above the head, showing the free upward movement of the ¡tm¡ (in the form of n¡da) along with ku¸·alin¡ smoothly through the respective cakras and uniting finally with Siva at the dv¡da¿¡nta level (K.K.D., p. 57). (See Fig. II)

He meditates that his soul, now embodied in the syllable haÆ and located on the crown of the syllable h£Æ is separated from the subtle body and transmuted into bindu, becoming subtle, unitary and free of all defects. This sort of visualization is to be understood from the arrangement of the ¡tma mantra as follows:

oÆ h£Æ h¡Æ haÆ h¡Æ h¡Æ ¡tmane namaÅ

In thee above string of mantra-syllables the central haÆ stands for ¡tman It is encased (sampu¶ita) first by h£Æ on either side, h¡Æ being the h¤daya syllable; it is further emboxed between the outer two ¿ikh¡ syllables, h£Æ..

4. In the next phase the subtle body made up of eight constituents (p£ryaÀ¶aka) namely the five tanm¡tras of ¿abda, spar¿a, r£pa, rasa and gandha, along with buddhi, rnanas and ahaÆk¡ra, is to be purified in order that the ¡tm¡ can be reinstated in it. This is performed by the thirty-six tattvas that constitute the body, visualized as getting back to and merging with their associated sources in the reverse order.

Accordingly. he should visualize earth reabsorbed into odour, water into taste, fire into form, wind into touch, ether into sound and these preceptible qualities (tanm¡tras) into the inert aspect of the ego. He visualizes the active faculties known as mouth, foot, hand, anus, and penis reabsorbed into the animate aspect of the ego, and the faculties of knowledge called ear, skin, eye, tongue, nose, and mind (manas) into the wholesome aspect of the ego. He visualizes the ego reabsorbed into the intellect (buddhi), that into the qualities (gu¸as), and the qualities into prak¤ti. Prak¤ti along with r¡ga and vidy¡ are reabsorbed into kal¡. Then he visualizes puruÀa, kal¡, and niyati, as well as kal¡, reabsorbed into m¡y¡.

He then visualizes ¿uddhavidy¡ reabsorbed into Ì¿vara, that into Sad¡¿iva, that into áakti, that into áiva, and finally that into the undisturbed bindu.

 For the visualization of this ritual it will be useful to refere to the following clarifications of the above process by Nirmalama¸i in his prabh¡:

 Firstly, the subtle body here referred to is to be identified with the thirty-six differentiated tattvas dispersed throughout the body (see Fig .III for the kal¡s and bhutas in the human body and Fig. IV for the tattvas in the ¿ivali´ga).

Secondly, in their differentiated states these tattvas are inherently impure. Tattvas at the lower levels should ultimately be reabsorbed into the two undifferentiated sources, m¡y¡ and mah¡m¡y¡ (or bindu). This purity exists in final absorption.

Thus the áaivite is able to remove a large put of the impurities of the gross body, the bh£ta¿ar¢ra. As explained in the Prabh¡, the bh£ta¿ar¢ra, an invariable assemblage of the five elements; is what constitutes the individual as a human being in this world, associated with name, form, family background, etc. Their purification consists firstly in the formal recognition of their characteristics, shape, nature, presiding divinity, kal¡, ma¸·ala, etc. These details are as follows:
















half -moon








six points

bindu ¿akti













Presiding deity



















Of the five elements ether is all-pervasive and cannot be contained by anything else. Earth and wind, water and fire are opposed to each other in many features. Therefore the gu¸as of earth, for example, like hardness and smell, are considered to have been nullified by conceiving them properly in a yogic-mantric manner so that earth is recognized as though it, has got the nature of wind. (Prabh¡, p. 69)

Similarly water is conceived as having undergone changes so as to be en-dowed with the features of fire. Of course, this bh¡van¡ is possible only by the yogic ways 0f p£raka and upward recaka through suÀumn¡ with the necessary mantra-recitation. For example, in the case p¤thiv¢ the mantra- oÆ hl¡Æ hl¡Æ hl¡Æ hl¡Æ hl¡Æ ni¢ttikal¡yai haÅ huÆ pha¶ relating it to the niv¢tti kal¡ is uttered five times along with the Yogic process, in order to get rid of the five gu¸as of p¤thiv¢, namely gandha, rasa, r£pa, spar¿a, and ¿abda. Only then it is possible to imagine that the element p¤thiv¢ is of the nature of v¡yu. (K.K.D., pp. 57-58)

Each udgh¡ta or upward recaka involves three pr¡¸¡y¡mas. Hence fifteen pr¡¸¡y¡mas are to be performed for p¤thiv¢, twelve, for v¡yu, nine for agni, six  for water and three for ether. (Prabh¡ p. 69)

Now the elements in the body having lost their full capacities, their remnant defects are burnt by the fire emanating from the toes (p¡d¡´guÀ¶hotthitena  agnin¡) and with the recitation of astra mantra.

By these varied methods, the gross and subtle bodies are converted into a mantric build, worthy of containing within their ethereal cavity, the Supreme áiva. The ¡tm¡ in the form of n¡da, that was taken above the head in the  first phase is now brought back to the heart-lotus by p£raka along with the recitation of pra¸ava. It is now reinstated in the form of a dazzling light. Its ablution is performed by the flowing nectar as a result of the vibration caused to NiÀkala áiva. This is shown by the constant recitation of the mantra oÆ hauÆ ¿aktaye vauÀa¶ (K.K.D., pp. 75-76)



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