Tamas; 8 Definition(s)


Tamas means something in Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Dharmashastra (religious law)

Tamas (तमस्).—One of the three guṇas, representing the quality of ignorance. These three qualities are to be seen as all-pervading and interpenetrating all beings. The Sanskrit word tamas is a technical term used throughout Dharmaśāstra literature such as the Manusmṛti.

According to the Manusmṛti XII.29: “What is mixed with stupefaction, undiscernible, of the nature of sensual objects, incapable of being reasoned about and uncognisable,—one should recognise as ‘tamas’”.

According to the Manusmṛti XII.33: “Avarice, drowsiness, irresolution, cruelty, disbelief, bad character, habit of begging, and inattentiveness are the characteristics of the quality of ‘tamas’”.

According to the Manusmṛti XII.35: “When, having done, or doing, or going to do a certain act, a man happen to feel ashamed,—every such act should be understood by the learned to be characterised by the quality of ‘tamas’”.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Dharma-śāstra
Dharmashastra book cover
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Dharmashastra (धर्मशास्त्र, dharmaśāstra) contains the instructions (shastra) regarding religious conduct of livelihood (dharma), ceremonies, jurisprudence (study of law) and more. It is categorized as smriti, an important and authoritative selection of books dealing with the Hindu lifestyle.

Samkhya (school of philosophy)

1) Tamas (तमस्, “indifference”).—In the Sāṃkhya school of philosophy, tamas (darkness) is one of the three guṇas (or qualities), the other two being rajas (passion and activity) and sattva (purity, goodness). Tamas is the template for inertia or resistance to action. It has also been translated from Sanskrit as “indifference”.

2) Tamas (तमस्, “dullness”) is the first type of viparyaya (ignorance), according to the Sāṃkhya theory of evolution. Viparyaya refers to a category of pratyayasarga (intellectual products), which represents the first of two types of sarga (products) that come into being during tattvapariṇāma (elemental manifestations), which in turn, evolve out of the two types of pariṇāma (change, modification).

(Source): Wisdom Library: Sāṃkhya philosophy
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Samkhya (सांख्य, Sāṃkhya) is a dualistic school of Hindu philosophy (astika) and is closeley related to the Yoga school. Samkhya philosophy accepts three pramanas (‘proofs’) only as valid means of gaining knowledge. Another important concept is their theory of evolution, revolving around prakriti (matter) and purusha (consciousness).

Vyakarana (Sanskrit grammar)

Tamas (तमस्).—One of the three elements constituting all objects. The other two are sattva and rajas and the state of evenness of the three elements is neuterness.

(Source): Shodhganga: Vaiyākaraṇabhūṣaṇasāra: a critical study
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Vyakarana (व्याकरण, vyākaraṇa) refers to Sanskrit grammar and represents one of the six additional sciences (vedanga) to be studied along with the Vedas. Vyakarana concerns itself with the rules of Sanskrit grammar and linguistic analysis in order to establish the correct context of words and sentences.

Jyotisha (astronomy and astrology)

Tamas (तमस्).—Section of Earth's shadow cone at the Moon's distance. Note: Tamas is a Sanskrit technical term used in ancient Indian sciences such as Astronomy, Mathematics and Geometry.

(Source): Wikibooks (hi): Sanskrit Technical Terms
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Jyotiṣa (ज्योतिष, jyotisha or jyotish) basically refers to ‘astronomy’ or “Vedic astrology” and represents one of the six additional sciences to be studied along with the Vedas. Jyotiṣa concerns itself with the study and prediction of the movements of celestial bodies, in order to calculate the auspicious time for rituals and ceremonies.


1) Tamas (तमस्).—A hell.

2) Tamas (तमस्).—One of the three qualities of the soul. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are the three qualities. It is through the union of these three qualities that the inner soul enters the life of all animate and inanimate objects. The attributes of Tamas are greed, sleep, bravery, cruelty disbelief in god, bad habits, begging and indifference. It is because of the action of tamoguṇa that one becomes a prey to lust. It is the worst result of tāmasic activities that people are born as inanimate objects, worms, insects, fishes, serpents, tortoises, cows and deer. As a better result of Tāmasic activities people are born as elephants, horses, Śūdras, barbarous people, lions, tigers and hogs. It is the good result of tāmasic deeds that produce pilgrims, good castes, egoistic people, demons and devils. (Chapter 2, Manusmṛti).

(Source): archive.org: Puranic Encyclopaedia
Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

General definition (in Hinduism)

Tamas is commonly associated with inertia, darkness, insensitivity. Souls who are more tamasic are considered imbued in darkness and take the longest to reach liberation.

(Source): WikiPedia: Hinduism

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Tamas (तमस्, “darkness”) according to the 2nd-century Tattvārthasūtra 5.24.—“Sound (śabda), union (bandha), fineness (saukṣmya), grossness (sthaulya), shape (saṃsthāna), division (bheda), darkness (tamas or andhakāra), image (chāya or chāyā), warm light (sunshine) (ātapa) and cool light (moonlight) (udyota) also (are forms of matter)”.

What is the meaning of darkness (tamas or andhakāra)? It is the opposite of light or absence of light.

(Source): Encyclopedia of Jainism: Tattvartha Sutra 5: The category of the non-living
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Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

Relevant definitions

Search found 170 related definition(s) that might help you understand this better. Below you will find the 15 most relevant articles:

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Tamogu (तमोगु).—an epithet of Rāhu. Derivable forms: tamoguḥ (तमोगुः).Tamogu is a Sanskrit comp...
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