Sunday 25 September 2022

'NamaH Shivaya' VS 'Shivaya Namaha' : Difference And Significance

 The variations within the Panchakshari have opened forums over the net, catalysing debates and discussions on the significance of these variations and their usage.

Origin of the 5-syllabled mantra

 The mantra ' NamaH Shivaya' finds place in the 5th chapter of the 4th khanda of the Taittiriya Samhita of Yajur Veda. This portion is commonly referred to as the Rudra Prashna or Shri Rudram. It is a very powerful portion of the Vedas and is recited in all established Shaiva temples.


Image: The 6th line from the 8th Anuvaka of Rudra prashna reveals the mantra

Video: Recitation of Rudra Prashna by my Student Smt. Kanagulla

When Shivacharyas Started Using 'Shivaya Namaha'

 At one point in time, the mantra was altered so it becomes 'Om Shivaya Namaha' instead of ' Om NamaH Shivaya' as revealed by the Vedas. This is why the experts and teachers of Shaiva Agama always use ' Shivaya Namaha' and not ' NamaH Shivaya'. The reason for this will be explained now.

Origin of Vedas

 The Vedas hold their own dimension in the hierarchy of ancient scriptures. The Vedas were not composed. They are referred to as apaurusHeya ( not of human origin ). The Universe is made up of vibrations. Vibration equates to sound energy. It is sound that gives the entire cosmos its geometry. Sound is the skeleton that gives Universe its body. 

 The ancient sages and rishis who walked the Earth were engaged in deep penance which enabled them to gain access to the infinite knowledge and truths of the Cosmos. They were able to download these truths in the form of sounds ( mantras ) that they received and envisioned.

 The collection of these mantras is what we refer to as the Vedas. As such, the mantras denote the very blueprint of the cosmos. The Vedas are learned and realised through recitation. As the rishis realised through these mantras, the same sound formulae must be replicated for one to realise the truths conveyed by the Vedas.

 Therefore, the Vedas have strict rules pertaining to their recitation, out of which the svara ( intonation ) is of prime importance.

The Svara of Panchakshari 

 As the Panchakshari is from the Vedas, the very utterance of 'NamaH Shivaya' is bound to a particular svara. We cannot add our own rhythm and tune to it. Hence, Shivacharyas resorted to the usage of Panchakshari as ' Shivaya Namaha'. Shaivites add relevant beejas like Haam with the Panchakshari as well.

Om Haam Shivaaya Namaha

Om Haam Haum Shivaaya Namaha...

 The effect or purpose of the mantra remains undisturbed. In simpler words, we are simply avoiding the svara complexity when reciting the mantra.

The Flaw

 The Panchakshari is generally believed to be only present in the Rudra Prashna. It actually appears in other parts of the Vedas too! Here is the surprise: it actually appears as ' Shivaya Namaha' also! 'Shivaya Namaha' comes in the Taittiriya Aranyakam of the Yajur Veda.


Video: Recitation of Anuvakas 16-25, 10th Prashna of Taittiriya Aranyaka, Yajur Veda by my student Robinson. You can find the verse ' Shivaya namaha' here.

Very few Shaivites are aware of this.

Hence, in reality, both ' NamaH Shivaya' and 'Shivaya Namaha' are indeed from the Vedas. Both have their svaras.

Altering Mantras Preserves Influence of Svaras

 For the sake of an argument, let us pretend that 'Shivaya Namaha' does not exist in the Vedas. That does not act as a criteria for one to use 'Shivaya Namaha' without svaras.

 Traditionally, the Vedas were learnt and mastered through 11 ways. In these 11 methods, the words of the mantras are strung and recited in a complex sequence. For example, let us look at GhanapathaH - the most complex method among the 11 styles:

The sequence would be 1 2 2 1 1 2 3 3.

Taking the Gayatri Mantra as an example: 

' tat (1) savitur (2) varenyam (3)  bhargo (4)  devasya (5) ....'

So if we recite it in Ghanam , the most complex among the 11 methods, it would sound something like : 

' tat (1) savitur (2) savitur (2) tat (1) tat (1) savitur (2) varenyam (3) varenyam (3) ... and so forth..

Image: A portion of rudram in Ghanam mode. Here, when the words are strung in a particular pattern, we do recite 'shivaya namaha' as well.. ( represented as shivaya namo in script. namaH becomes namo under a grammar rule )

Video: 8th Anuvaka of Rudra Prashna in Ghanam mode by my student Shravanthi and me. 

In A Nutshell

 Om NamaH Shivaya or Shivaya namaha; they both carry the same potential and significance. There is no difference between them.

 Today, those who have their hearts closer to Vedas use Om NamaH Shivaya while those into Shaiva Agamas use Om Shivaya NamaH.

 Personally, I stand by the stance that we are permitted to take a mantra from the Vedas and use it without adherence to the given svara. To me, the svaras matter if we recite a verse in its whole and not to a few words from a particular verse or stanza.

Also Read:

(1) 11 Ways Of Reciting Vedas

1 comment:

  1. Good to know this bit. Love your work. Dr Pillai advocates both forms and additionally shares that the sequence 'Shivay Namah' works better if the purpose is to prioritise enlightenment and health benefits.