By Swami Harshananda
Pañcānana literally means ‘the Five-faced One.
Origin & Significance of Pañcānana
Comparable to the vyuhas or emanations of Lord Viṣṇu, is the Pañcānana form of Lord Śiva. Pañcānana or the five-faced one represents the five aspects of Śiva vis-a-vis the created universe. The five faces are respectively īśāna, Tat-puruṣa, Aghora, Vāmadeva and Sadyojāta. The face īśāna turned towards the zenith, represents the highest aspect and is also called Sadāśiva. On the physical plane, it represents the power that rules over ether or sky and on the spiritual plane, it is the deity that grants Mokṣa or liberation. Tatpuruṣa facing east, stands for the power that rules over air and represents the forces of darkness and obscuration on the spiritual plane. Aghora, facing south and ruling over the element fire, stands for the power that absorbs and renovates the universe. Vāmadeva facing north, ruling over the element water, is responsible for preservation. Sadyojāta, facing west represents the power that creates.
Iconographical Representation of Pañcānana
Iconographical works describe Pañcānana as five-faced and ten-armed. He has fifteen eyes. Seated on a bull he wears an elephant’s hide round his waist and a tiger’s skin as the upper garment. He has an immense body and matted hair dressed up as a tall crown. He holds in his hands the following objects:
- Śakti - a weapon
- Khaṭvāṅga - a magical wand
- Triśula - trident
- Akṣamālā - rosary
- Abhayamudrā - gesture of protection
- Varadamudrā - gesture of bestowal of boons
- A fruit
- A snake
- Damaru - hand-drum
- Utpala flower
Sinners can get their sins absolved by worshiping this aspect of Śiva.
- Pañcānana means Śiva.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore