Tuesday 26 July 2022

Panchasana - The 5 Dimensional Throne of God

In my previous article, I wrote about how the entire śaiva āgama is encapsulated into three components: āsanam, mūrti and mūlam. In this article, we are looking at the āsanam ( seat of the lord ).  In śaivism, there are two types of āsana puja:

(1) ṣaḍḍuttāsana pūja:

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

(2) Pañcāsana Pūja

It is also called 'cirāsana pūja'. This is done to deities who are immobile. For example, a deity invoked into a kalasha, a liṅga, 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 Pañcāsana Pūja.

Pañcāsana Pūja

So why 5 ? The 5 āsana-s ( seat ) represent the 5 elements. There are five asanas namely anantāsana, simhāsana, yogāsana, padmāsana and vimalāsana.

In the śaiva āgama prayoga candrika, there is an elaborate collection of dhyāna śloka for every asana, which we recite and meditate upon. There are actually several dhyāna śloka-s for each āsana.

Kūrma śīla

Image: Kūrma śīla in a Jain temple for Munisuvrat, the 20th Tīrthaṅkara or enlightened master as per Jainism.

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


The first plane above the Kūrma śīla. This represents the Pṛthivī tattva ( earth element ). As you can refer to the image above, Ananteśa sits, surrounded by the aṣṭa nāga (8 sacred nagas ), aṣṭa gaja ( 8 sacred elephants ) and aṣṭa parvata (8 sacred mountains ) 

So in the āsana puja, we invoke, crystallize and offer worship to all these entities in accordance with their respective directions.


Simhāsana represents the water element. This āsana is with four legs namely dharma, jñāna, vairāgya, and aiśvaryā. We also have four gaps between the legs, which are adharma, ajñāna, avairāgya and anaiśvaryā. These are also worshiped!

Simhāsana represents the three guṇa-s of rajas, tamas and sattva and these are also worshiped.


Yogāsana  represents the fire element and lies above simhāsana. The Yogāsana represents the four yugas namely Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvāpara Yuga and Kali Yuga. This is represented by four sitting yogis.

In Yogāsana, we also worship several deities and entities namely Niyati, Kālā, Kalāyi and Keśava

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

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


When we worship padmāsana which represents the wind element, we worship different parts of the lotus, like the bulb, seeds, sprouts, stems, thorns, bud, branches and stamen.

तप्तचामीकराभासां पञ्चाशत् बीजगर्भिताम्।
केसराणां चतुःषष्ट्या कर्णिकां पूजयेत् ततः॥

taptacāmīkarābhāsāṃ pañcāśat bījagarbhitām।
kesarāṇāṃ catuḥṣaṣṭyā karṇikāṃ pūjayet tataḥ॥

meaning: The central part of the flower shines like molten gold, contains fifty seeds, and has sixty-four stamens. We worship this central part and the seeds..

We first worship the bija ( seeds ), followed by the karṇika ( 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 śakti of a particular manifestation of the Vamadeva aspect of Sadāśiva, as revealed in the Taittirīya āraṇyakam of Yajur Veda. We have a total of 9 shaktis ( navashakti )

Petal A: śakti of Vāmadeva

Petal B: śakti of Jyeṣṭha

Petal c: śakti of Rudra

Petal D: śakti of Kāla

Petal E : śakti of Kalavikaraṇa

Petal F: śakti of Balavikaraṇa

Petal G: śakti of Balapramathana

Petal H: śakti of Sarvabhūtadamana

central bud: śakti of Manonmana

The śakti-s manifesting on the petals depends on the deity for Whom we are offering the Puja. For example, Lord Viṣṇu will have the aṣṭalakṣmi-s as His śakti-s, presiding over the lotuses and bud.


Vimalāsana is not a physical āsana and it represents ākaśa 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 āsana stands for.

Here, we worship various Maṇḍala-s ( spaces ) namely the Sūryamaṇḍala, Somamaṇḍala, Vahnimaṇḍala and śaktimaṇḍala. Every Maṇḍala is ruled by a particular deity namely Brahma, Viṣṇu, Rudra and īśvara respectively.

The last 'śaktimaṇḍala' gives important insight on this concept of Pañcāsana.

We have a few verses in śaiva paddhati:

(1) शक्त्यादि शक्त्यन्तम् आसनम् अभ्यर्चेत्

śaktyādi śaktyantam āsanam abhyarcet

(2) आधर शक्त्यादि कुटिला शक्त्यन्तम् 

ādhara śaktyādi kuṭilā śaktyantam 

The śaktimaṇḍala is also called the Kuṭila śakti. This refers to the energy on which the Lord sits. This is the śakti on which the śiva asana exists. This is the last component of the highest asana. The Pañcāsana rests on Adhara Shakti and is skied with Kuṭila śakti

We refer to the Pañcāsana with the verse śaktyādi śaktyantam āsanam which means the āsana begins with śakti and ends with śakti. With śakti as the base, Lord śiva lands. We create the body of Lord śiva on this, which comes under the component of 'mūrti' ( remember that śaivāgama-s can be capsuled into 3 components, namely āsanam ( seat ) , mūrti ( form ) and mūlam ( 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 ( āsana ) for the cosmic consciousness to take a body and then see the matter going back into its pure energy form.

क्षित्यादि कुटिलाप्रान्त मेवं व्याप्तिकमासनम्।
शक्तौ शिवासनं ध्यायेत् सूर्य्कोटिसमप्रभम्॥

kṣityādi kuṭilāprānta mevaṃ vyāptikamāsanam।
śaktau śivāsanaṃ dhyāyet sūryakoṭisamaprabham॥

If we look at the Pañcāsana, it begins with the most gross dimension and ends with the most subtle element. It begins with the earth element ( most gross ), followed by water, fire, wind and ether with is increasing in subtleness ( less gross )

The more gross ( matter ) an element, the more perceivable it is in respect to our senses.

Ether can be perceived only in the form of sounds. Wind can be perceived as sound and touch. Fire by sound, touch and form. Water by sound, touch, form and taste. Earth can be perceived with sound, touch, form and smell.

The body of Lord śiva is made up of mantras and we use mantras and nyāsa ( touch ) to form the Vidyā deha ( body of mantras ) of Lord śiva on the āsana.

Model for Pañcāsana

A model of Pañcāsana in Bedong, Kedah, Malaysia.

Image: A Pañcāsana model, used for pūja. The deity or kalaśa is placed at the summit. You can see a 
Prabhāvali there. The model above accurately displays the five asanas resting on Kūrma śīla, enabling one to appreciate the description as per Tantra.

Image: Another rare Pañcāsana 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 Pañcāsana if you lack a structure.

In fact, in Maḍura ṃīnakṣi temple, they literally place a banana on white rice and conduct the Pañcāsana Pūja with kalaśa. 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 Samāvasara model, similar to the concept of Pañcāsana I found in a Jain temple.

Image: āsana pūja as per the Vaiṣṇavite Madhva tradition


Though the principles are universal, the pūja itself has minor variations according to different paddhati-s. This article is based oSomaśambhupaddhati  

Read More:

(1) Asanam, Murti, Mulam Maketh Shaiva Tantra

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