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The ‘Shiva’ name is said to be the ‘Gem of all Life’ (JIva-ratnaM). Literally ‘Shiva’ means auspicious. The Lord is so full of Love that Love itself is said to be Shiva. ‘anbe Shivam’ says the Tamil scriptures. Just the two letters Shi and va when vocalized removes all sins. The five-lettered mantra Om namah-ShivAya has been extolled as representative of the entire Vedas. The five syllables na, ma, Shi, vA and ya represent respectively the five fundamental elements Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space; they are indicative of the five psychic centers of the body starting from the mUlAdhAra upto viSuddhi. The sixth center namely, the AjnA cakra is indicative of OM.

This is only the thin end of the wedge as far as the greatness of the ‘Shiva’ name is concerned. It has an added importance in that it occurs in the Rudram chapter. One of the most thrilling and spiritually satisfying Vedic recitations is that of the Rudra-prashna of Krishna Yajurveda. It is seen in all the 100 branches of the Yajurveda and so it is also called Shata-rudrIyam. It is one of the five scriptural texts chosen by the ancients for constant repetition and meditation. The other four are: V.S., B.G., Purusha-sUktam and the Upanishad of one’s own branch of the Veda. It is also known as Rudropanishad, because the three hundred prostrations to Shiva which constitute the central part of Rudram take one to Ultimate Self-Realisation itself. The theme is that Rudra-Shiva is all pervasive; He is behind and beyond all forms of Divinity; nay, even all forms of human and sub-human beings. The Lord is worshipped as the indwelling presence of the entire universe, including all the high and the low, the good and the bad, the virtuous and the debased. For instance He it is who sports as the Chief of Thieves – ‘taskarANAm pataye namaH’. (Recall B.G. 10-86: dyUtam chalayatAm-asmi. ‘I am the gambling of the fraudulent’). To hear it chanted according to the South Indian style collectively in a full-throated fashion is itself a spiritual flight to heavenly Bliss and beyond. The Jabala Upanishad says, ‘By the repetition of the Shatarudra one gains immortality, for the names of God therein are nectarine’. The Kaivalya Upanishad says; ‘He who recites the ShatarudrIyam is cleansed of all sins as if by fire. He becomes free from the sins of theft, man-slaughter or commission of a prohibited act. He is like one who has taken refuge in the city of Avimukta (Varanasi). By this a man attains that knowledge which destroys the sea of samsAra. Thus knowing he enjoys the fruit of Kaivalya or Bliss’.

The ‘Shiva’ name occurs as the mantra ‘namah-ShivAya’ in the Rudram chapter almost in the center of the middle Veda, namely the yajur-Veda. The latter consists of 7 volumes (kANDas), each of which is divided into several chapters (praSnas). Each praSna is divided into paragraphs (anuvAkas) and each paragraph is counted in terms of subparagraphs (pancASat). Every pancASat contains fifty words or when it is the ending subparagraph of a paragraph, it may contain a few more or a few less. The following statistics will now show that the mantra namah-ShivAya occurs in the middle kANDa, and very near the middle praSna, the middle anuVAka, and the middle pancASat; in fact, amidst a total of around 110,000 words it misses the center of the yajur-Veda by just around a thousand :




kANDas     7;  praSnas     44;  anuvAkas   651; pancASat’s  2198; Words  109287

In the full yajur-Veda

Number elapsed upto the occurrence of namah-ShivAya

kANDas    3 ; praSnas     23;  anuvAkas    340;   pancASats  1115   Words   55769

1.8.5. The greatness of the tryambaka mantra

Tryambakam yajAmahe sugandhiM pushTivardhanaM /

urvArukamiva bandhanAt mRtyor-mukshIya mA-(a)mRtAt //


This MahA-mRtyunjaya-mantra, also known as the tryambaka-mantra occurs in Rgveda VII-59-12 and also in Shukla Yajurveda 3-60. Among all mantras it is rated as a supreme one, next only to the GAyatrI. It is always invariably recited at the end of the Rudram recital from Krishna-Yajurveda, though it is not part of it.

It means: Tryambaka, the three-eyed God we worship, sweet augmentor of prosperity. As from its stem a cucumber, may I be freed from bonds of death, but not from Immortality. (The cucumber, releasing itself from its stalk effortlessly is one of the happiest metaphors in the Vedas.)


The sun, the moon and Fire are the three illuminations that constitute the three eyes of Rudra. The third eye (of Fire) is situated on his forehead; it is the spiritual eye which he opened for destroying Manmatha. Very rarely does he cause it to open. Tamil literature has a story of Nakkirar, the leading poet of the Tamil Sangam period, who was the victim of the opening of the third eye on one occasion, but of course was later pardoned by the Lord.


‘May I be freed from bonds of death’. This can be interpreted in more than one way. ‘Let me have full length of life and not be a victim of untimely death’. ‘Let me not die of any violent accident like fire, drowning or murder’. ‘Let me not die bedridden, of a wasting and protracted illness’. In fact a standard prayer at the end of daily pUjA is for a painless and easy death (anAyAsa-maraNam). Philosophically, coming back to samsAra by being born again is also a death in the absolute sense. So let me not come back to samsAra. All these meanings are legitimate.



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