The Shiva Purana (English translation)

by J. L. Shastri | 1970 | 616,585 words

This page relates “five faces of shiva (pancanana)” as found in the Shiva-purana, which, in Hinduism, represents one of the eighteen Mahapuranas. This work eulogizes Lord Shiva as the supreme deity, besides topics such as cosmology and philosophy. It is written in Sanskrit and claims to be a redaction of an original text consisting of 100,000 metrical verses.

Appendix 1 - The five faces of Śiva (pañcānana)

Extracted from Vidyeśvara-saṃhitā, chapter 1:

Note: the following is extracted from the first chapter of the Vidyeśvara-saṃhitā (the Doubt of the Sages):

“I meditate on Śiva, the lord of Ambikā (Pārvatī), auspicious from the beginning to the end, having no parallel, the noble lord, the unaging and the undying, the lord of Ātmans, the five-faced and the dispeller of the five powerful sins.”

Pañcānana: In Hindu Mythology God Śiva has five faces. Pāśupata teachers had developed a special doctrine of Pañca-Brahma in which they ascribed five faces to Śiva symbolising the five elements (Liṅga. 2. 14. 1. 33., ŚP 1. 10. 1-9). It is stated that Śiva has the form of twenty-five tattvas symbolised by his five faces as follows:

N. of faces Mūrtis Jñānendriyas Karmendriyas Tanmātras Bhūtas
1. Īśāna Kṣetrajña puruṣa Śravaṇa Vāk Śabda Ākāśa
2. Tat-Purusa Prakrti Tvacā Pāni Sparśa Vāyu
3. Aghora or Agni Buddhi Cakṣu Pāda Rūpa Agni
4. Vāmadeva Ahaṅkāra Jihvā Pāyu Rasa Jala
5. Sadyojāta Manastattva Ghrāṇa Upastha Gandha Pṛthivī


Thus the whole scheme of creation is explained by the doctrine of Pañca-Brahma. The great statue of Śiva in the Elephanta caves represents the Pañca-Brahma form which is also known as Maheśamūrti in which the frontal view depicts three heads only, the fourth one on the back is concealed from view and the fifth one on the top dropped out as the symbol of invisible Ākāśa or Avyakta Prakṛti: See V. S. Agrawal: Matsya PurāṇaA Study PP. 51-52,

Extracted from Śatarudra-saṃhitā, chapter 1:

Note: the following is extracted from the first chapter of the Śatarudra-saṃhitā (the five incarnations of the supreme Brahman):

“40. The five famous forms of Maheśa are thus named Īśāna, Puruṣa, Aghora, Vāma and Brahman.”

The five forms of Śiva viz Īśāna, Tatpuruṣa, Aghora, Vāmadeva and Sadyojāta are creative. They ara symbolical of the scheme of creation evolved out of twenty-five constituents viz. five gross and five subtle elements, five organs of action and five of knowledge, besides mind, ego, intellect, nature and the individual soul. Each form stands in relation to a particular element or organ as follows.

Name Form Organ of action Organ of knowledge Subtle elements Gross elements
Īśāna soul cars speech sound ether
Tatpuruṣa nature skin hand touch wind
Aghora intellect eye feet form fire
Vāmadeva ego tongue anus taste water
Sadyojāta mind nose organ of generation smell earth