Shaivite iconography recognizes many different traditional forms of the Lord. The Shiva Lingam is the primary form for worship and is found everywhere, in almost all temples of Shiva. The Shiva Lingam is referred to as the aniconic form because it depicts the supreme Formless Form (arupa-rupa). In addition, 25 common iconic forms (murtis) are described as prominent in Saiva Siddhanta, although many more are recognized (see previous post: Forms of Shiva). In general, anthropomorphic representations are called Maheshvara murtis, whereas the Shiva Lingam, the aniconic form, is called Sadashiva murti.
The Maheshvara murtis are sub-divided by two sets of classifications. The first classification divides the murtis into fierce (ugra) or benevolent (anugraha) images. The second classification divides the murtis into bhoga, yoga and vira. The bhoga forms are represented with Shakti, whereas in the yoga and vira forms Shakti is not specifically depicted, but is implicit. Note that all the bhoga and most of the yoga forms are also anugraha forms.
25 Maheshvara Murtis
|Name||Grouping I||Grouping II|
Panchanana Shiva – the five faces and the five Shaktis
In addition to the above twenty-five, there is yet another important but rare anthropomorphic form – the five-faced (Panchanana) Shiva – which is considered not a Maheshvara Murti, but a Sadashiva Murti like the Shiva Lingam. Per Shaivite theology, Shiva realized in the five faces is revealed as the Lord and Master of all the categories of existence (tattvas), which have classically been described and divided into groups of fives. The sum totality of all groups of five categories is the manifest universe (prapancha). Revealed in the five faces, Shiva is realized as the essence of all prapancha (prapancha-sara).
Each of the five faces of Shiva has a proper name, and an associated Shakti, which collectively describe the Panchakritya (five divine acts) of Shiva, i.e. creation, sustenance, dissolution, concealment and revealment.
Name of Face Associated Shakti Ishana (Sadashiva) Anugraha Shakti (Power of Revealment) Tatpurusha (Maheshvara) Tirodhana Shakti (Power of Concealment) Aghora (Rudra) Samhara Shakti (Power of Dissolution) Vamadeva (Vishnu) Stithi Shakti (Power of Sustenance) Sadyojata (Brahmā) Sristhi Shakti (Power of Creation)
The basic idea is that the Supreme Lord (Parameshvara) ever creates the world, sustains it, and dissolves it when the time is ripe. Moreover, He has concealed Himself within the fabric of manifest existence, and becomes revealed to us as such when we have matured enough.
Aum Namah Shivaya.
Anbe Sivamayam Satyame Parasivam.
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Related Post: Forms of Shiva