Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Panchasana - The 5 Dimensional Throne of God | Shaiva Agamas

In my previous article, I wrote about how the entire Shaiva Agama is encapsulated into three components: asanam, murti and mulam. In this article, we are looking at the asanam ( seat of the lord ).  In Shaivism, there are two types of asana puja:

(1) Shaddhutasana Puja:

It is also called 'charasana puja'. This is done to deities who are mobile, who move. For example, utsava deities who are carried around during a procession.

(2) Panchasana Puja

It is also called 'chirasana puja'. This is done to deities who are immobile. For example, a deity invoked into a kalasha, a Shiva Linga, or Agni in a homa. These deities are not 'moved'. Since most of the worship is done to fixed, immobile deities, we will look into the Panchasana Puja.

Panchasana Puja

So why 5 ? The 5 asanas ( seat ) represent the 5 elements. There are five asanas namely anantasana, simhasana, yogasana, padmasana and vimalasana.

In the Shiva Agama Prayoga Chandrika, there is an elaborate collection of dhyana shlokas for every asana, which we recite and meditate upon. There are actually several dhyana shlokas for each asana.

Kurma Shila

Image: Kurma Shila in a Jain temple for Munishwara ( Munisuvrat, the 20th Tirthankar or enlightened master as per Jainism ).

All the 5 asanas rest here. The tortoise is the base energy ( adhara shakti ) upon which all the 5 asanas rest upon. North Indian temples use the tortoise a lot. I believe it is for the same purpose - to represent adhara shakti.

Anantasana


The first plane above Kurma Shila. This represents the Prithvi tattva ( earth element ). As you can refer to the image above, Anantesha sits, surrounded by the 8 sacred nagas, 8 sacred elephants and 8 sacred mountains.

So in the asana puja, we offer worship to all these entities in accordance with their respective directions.

Simhasana


Simhasana represents the water element. This asana is with four legs namely dharma, jnana, vairagya, and aishvarya. We also have four gaps between the legs, which are adharma, ajnana, avairagya and anaishvarya. These are also worshiped!

Simhasana represents the three gunas of rajas, tamas and sattva and these are also worshiped.

Yogasana


Yogasana  represents the fire element and lies above simhasana. The Yogasana represents the four yugas namely Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga and Kali Yuga. This is represented by four sitting yogis.

In Yogasana, we also worship several deities and entities namely niyati, kala, kalayi and Keshava ( Vishnu ).

We also worship adhacchadana and urdhvacchadana. What do these refer to?

Now visualize the yogasana as a three-dimensional structure. You will have an upper and lower 'lid'. Chadana means 'lid'. So, adha-chadana means lower lid and urdhva-chadana means upper lid. You can visualize these two lids sandwiching the yogasana, so as to say. We offer worship to these lids also.

Padmasana


When we worship padmasana which represents the wind element, we worship different parts of the lotus, like the pericarp, the stalk, petiole etc.

We first worship the bija ( seeds ), followed by the karnika ( the yellow part at the middle of flower ) and then the 8 petals of the lotus. Throughout the puja, we are to visualize a white lotus and not a pink one.

Every petal is presided by the shakti of a particular manifestation of the Vamadeva aspect of Lord Shiva, as revealed in the Taittiriya Aranyakam of Yajur Veda. We have a total of 9 shaktis ( navashakti )


Petal A: Shakti of Vamadeva

Petal B: Shakti of Jyeshtha

Petal c: Shakti of Rudra

Petal D: Shakti of Kala

Petal E : Shakti of Kalavikarana

Petal F: Shakti of Balavikarana

Petal G: Shakti of Balapramathana

Petal H: Shakti of Sarvabhutadamana

central bud: Shakti of Manonmana

The Shaktis manifesting on the petals depends on the deity for Whom we are offering the Puja. For example, Lord Vishnu will have ashtalakshmi as His shaktis, presiding over the lotuses and bud.

Vimalasana


Vimalasana is not a physical asana and it represents akasha tattva ( ether element). It is an outward pointing circle which rests on the lotus. 'Malam' means impurity. 'Amalam' means purity. 'Vimalam' means beyond purity and impurity - which this asana stands for.

Here, we worship various Mandalas ( spaces ) namely the Suryamandala, Somamandala, Vahnimandala and Shaktimandala. Every Mandala is ruled by a particular deity.

The last 'Shaktimandala' gives important insight on this concept of Panchasana.

We have a few verses in Shaiva Paddhati:

(1) शक्त्यादि शक्त्यन्तम् आसनम् अभ्यर्चेत्

śaktyādi śaktyantam āsanam abhyarcet

(2) आधर शक्त्यादि कुटिला शक्त्यन्तम् 

ādhara śaktyādi kuṭilā śaktyantam 

The Shakti Mandala is also called the Kutila Shakti. This refers to the energy on which Lord Shiva sits. This is the shakti on which Shiva asana exists. This is the last component of the highest asana. The Panchasana rests on Adhara Shakti and is skied with Kutila Shakti.

We refer to the Panchasana with the verse śaktyādi śaktyantam āsanam ( shakti aadi shakti antam asanam...) which means the asana begins with shakti and ends with Shakti. With the shakti as the base, Lord Shiva lands. We create the body of Lord Shiva on this, which comes under the component of 'murti' ( remember that Shaiva Agamas can be capsuled into 3 components, namely asanam ( seat ) , murti ( form ) and mulam ( root ).

When we say the seat of the Lord begins with energy and ends with energy, it reminds us of the mass-energy equivalence E=mc^2. We condense pure energy into matter ( asana ) for the cosmic consciousness to take a body and then see the matter going back into its pure energy form.

The body of Lord Shiva is made up of mantras and we use mantras and nyasa ( touch ) to form the Vidya deha ( body of mantras ) of Lord Shiva on the Asana.

Model for Panchasana


Image: A Panchasana model, used for puja. The deity or kalasha is placed at the summit. You can see a prabhavali there. The model above accurately displays the five asanas resting on Kurma Shila, enabling one to appreciate the description as per Shaiva Agamas.


Image: Another rare Panchasana model.

What If We Don't Have A Physical Model?

You would not have seen the intricate structure above in most temples, despite rituals going on there. Actually, even many grand temples do not have this structure. You can always visualize the Panchasana if you lack a structure.

In fact, in Madurai Meenakshi temple, they literally place a banana on white rice and conduct the Panchasana Puja with Kalasha. Nothing else. The utmost importance in a ritual is your visualization, pronunciation of mantras and bhava, besides the qualification of the person conducting the ritual.


Image: A Samavasarana model, similar to the concept of Panchasana I found in a Jain temple when I was venturing Jainism.

Image: Asana Puja as per the Vaishnavite Madhwa tradition


Read More:

(1) Asanam, Murti, Mulam Maketh Shaiva Tantra



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