Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ashtamurti

अष्टमूर्ति

O Lord! Bhava, Sharva, Rudra, Pashupati, Ugra, Mahadeva, Bhima, and Ishana - these eight names of Yours are each treated in detail in the Vedas. To You, most beloved Lord Shankara, of resplendent form, I offer salutations.
~Shiva Mahimna Stotra, Verse 28

Lord Shiva is called Ashtamurti because He is of eight (ashta) forms (murtis). The eight forms of Shiva are:

1. Sharva
2. Bhava
3. Rudra
4. Ugra
5. Bhima
6. Pashupati
7. Ishana
8. Mahadeva

Sharva rules over the earth
Bhava rules over the water
Rudra rules over the fire
Ugra rules over the wind
Bhima rules over space
Pashupati rules over the soul
Ishana rules over the sun
Mahadeva rules over the moon

The earth, water, fire, wind, space, sun, moon and the Kshetrajna (knower of the field, i.e. soul) are the eight manifest forms of Shiva. This interpretation, per the Shiva Purana, implies that Shiva is the Knower and the known. Recall from a previous entry entitled Shivam, a verse from the Tirumantiram also spoke of Shiva manifesting as the eight (Note: sometimes the eighth entity is listed as the asterisms, but more often the eighth is the soul.)

The eight forms may also be viewed as the guardians of the eight terrestrial directions:

Sharva rules over the east
Bhava rules over the northeast
Rudra rules over the north
Ugra rules over the northwest
Bhima rules over the west
Pashupati rules over the southwest
Ishana rules over the south
Mahadeva over the southeast

Shiva is the center, and His eight forms are the eight directions. He is both the Pervader and the pervaded.

Some mantras to the eight forms of Shiva from a Shiva puja:

OM I offer this fragrance and flower to Sharva, the Earth form (East)
OM I offer this fragrance and flower to Bhava, the Water form (NE)
OM I offer this fragrance and flower to Rudra, the Fire form (N)
OM I offer this fragrance and flower to Ugra, the Air form (NW)
OM I offer this fragrance and flower to Bhima, the Ether form (W)
OM I offer this fragrance and flower to Pashupati, the Hidden form (SW)
OM I offer this fragrance and flower to Ishana, the Sun form (S)
OM I offer this fragrance and flower to Mahadeva, the Moon form (SE)

Extrapolating the number eight and the eight as Guardians of directions, we also see the same theme with the eight Bhairavas (fearful forms):

Asitanga Bhairava rules over the east
Samhara Bhairava rules over the northeast
Bhishana Bhairava rules over the north
Kapali Bhairava rules over the northwest
Unmatta Bhairava rules over the west
Krodhana Bhairava rules over the southwest
Chanda Bhairava rules over the south
Ruru Bhairava rules over the southeast

Mahakala Bhairava is the center, and His eight forms are the eight directions. Mahakala Bhairava is Shiva Himself, and the eight Bhairavas are the eight forms (Ashtamurtis) of Shiva in the Tantric scheme.

The eight forms of Shiva show, using ancient schemes of the eight existent entities, that Shiva is the manifest Divine. Thus, the Ashtamurtis together represent Shiva’s universal form (Vishvarupa).

|| नमः शिवाय ||

© Agnideva, 2007

Read the chapter on Ashtamurtis from Shiva Purana

Related post: Ashtamurti II

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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Sandro Heckler

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