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Ëgamic Treatment of Mah¡bh£tas

In Relation to Ma¸·alas and Arts

S.P. Sabarathinam

The two great master-scriptures which deal with the science of space snd forms are the Ëgamas and the álpa-á¡stras, corroborative and correspondent to each other. However, we can deduce an element of difference between these two scriptural streams. While the áilpa works set forth the details concerned with structural forms alone, not disowning the concept of mathematical space and time, the Ëgamic scriptures copiously deal with both the conceptual and structural forms based on the concepts of space and time.

According to the broader classification of the forms, as found in the áaiv¡gamas, there are two kinds of forms, one conceptual and the other structural or sculptural. The conceptual forms are strictly meant for the purpose of meditation and intuition alone. They are not subjected to iconographisation.[1] Most of the forms whose  lineaments are described in the á¡kta Ëgamas and in the Ëgamas pertaining to the Spanda or Trika system are conceptual alone. The Tantrar¡ja Tantra specifically states that the forms of Nity¡ Dev¢s and of other Deities except that of ár¢ Lalit¡ or R¡jar¡je¿var¢ or Bhuvane¿var¢ should not be sculpted and installed. These forms are to be mentally visualized or contemplated based on the respective ghy¡na ¿lokas. Even in the áaiv¡gamas we have this kind of restriction.  The V¡tul¡gama sates:

kartr¡dikaÆ catur¸¡Æ tu sth¡panaÆ na k¡rayet

                                                         V¡yulË, I.118

The forms of kart¤ s¡d¡khyam, m£rti s¡d¡khyam, am£rti s¡d¡khyam and ¿iva s¡d¡khyam are not to be sculpted and installed. These four s¡d¡khyas are to be meditated upon by the sages and the yogins. To this point we shall refer again in the sequel

áiva's Conceptual Forms


There are two kinds of conceptual form pertaining to Lord áiva- one is known as adhvan-m£rti and the other is known as aÀ¶a-m£rti. The concept of adhvan is common to South Indian áaivism, Kashmir áaivism and á¡ktism. In a distorted pattern. this concept figures in some of the P¡µcar¡tra texts also.[2] To dwell upon the philosophical significance and import, of the concept of adhvan is to go beyond the scope of the present paper and therefore only relevant and important details concerned with the mah¡bh£tas are presented and discussed here.

Mantra, pada, var¸a, bhvvana, tattva and kal¡ are the six kinds of adhvan which constitute the cosmic-cum-amophic body of Lord áiva.[3] In His adhvan form, Lord áiva assumes Var¸¡dhvan as His skin; pad¡dhvan as His head; tattv¡dhvan as His heart; bhuvan¡dhvan as His body-hairs; mantr¡dhvan as His blood, semen, marrow, bone, etc. and kal¡dhvan as His entire limbs. The Maku¶¡gama states:

var¸¡dhv¡ ca pad¡dhv¡ ca tattv¡dhv¡ bhuvan¡dhvakaÅ I

mantr¡dhv¡ ca kal¡dhv¡ca s¡d¡khyasya svar£pakam II

adv¡sth¡nakramaÆ vakÀye vi¿eÀ¡ttu mahe¿vara I

var¸¡dhv¡ tu tvag¡dh¡raÅ, pad¡dhv¡ ca ¿irastatha II

tattv¡dhv¡ h¤dayaÆ cauva bhuvan¡dhv¡ tu romakam I

mant¡dhv¡ rudhir¡raÅ ¿uklamajj¡sthi r£pakam II

kal¡dhv¡ caiva saev¡´gaÆ ittaÆ s¡d¡khyar£pakam II

                                               Maku¶Ë, II.620-23

This cosnlic-cum-alllorphic form is the very basis of temple rituals. Of these six adhvans, kal¡dhvan is the foremost and dominating one because all other adhvan     remain, included and pervaded by this kal¡dhvan.Kal¡dhvan is constituted of five kal¡s; tattv¡dhvan comprises thirty-six principles; bhuvan¡dhvan consists of two hundred and twenty-four bhuvanas; var¸¡dhvan consists of fifty-one letters; pad¡dhvan consists of eighty-one words of esoteric significance; and mantradhvan consists of eleven mantras, specifically known saÆhit¡mantras. The gross elements (mah¡bh£tas) are characterized by these adhvans and this characterization establishes the correspondence between the gross elements and the adhvan form of Lord áiva. All the ritualistic activities concerned with the adhvan form have their direct interaction with the gross elements.

An understanding of kal¡dhvan is essential in order to comprehend the significance of   aÀ¶a-m£rti form of Lord áiva. Niv¤tti, pratiÀ¶h¡, vidy¡¿¡nti and á¡ntyat¢ta are the five kal¡s, each one pervaded by the succeeding one. á¡ntyat¢ta kal¡ remains unpervaded and ultimate and it is known as primal space (param¡k¡¿a) which gives rise to the emergence of ¿abda papaµca and artha prapancha. Each kal¡ includes in itself the constituents of other adhvans as has been shown pictorially (see the diagram1).


Lord áiva manifests Himself in the form of earth, water, fire, air, space, sun, moon and individual self. Since earth, water, fire, air and spce are the last five principles in the metaphysical scheme of áaivism and since sun and moon are also considered to be the resultant products of the taijasca aspect, of certain tattvas, it becomes obvious that the aÀ¶a-m£rti form is directly related to tattv¡dhvan.

Conceptual Form  

Adhavan form

AÀ¶a-m£rti form

















(The self, being one of the eight forms of áiva, realizes and attains its inherent áivahood or áivatva through the methodic and effective contemplation of adhvan-form and aÀ¶a-m£rti form)

Characteristics of the Gross Elements

All things are the purposeful modifications of the pure and impeccable áiva. The term ¿iva itself denotes absolute and unsullied purity. The V¡tul¡gama states (1.20):

¿uddhatv¡t ¿ivam ityuktam

Since all things are to be realized as the modifications of Pure Being, the presence of inertness in the worldly objects and creations is made to vanish during the course of visualizing them through the process of contemplation and synthesis. The scriptures train our mind to look at the worldly objects not as endowed with inertness but as supercharged with divinities.

The Ch¡ndogya UpaniÀad (VI.4.4) teaches us how to look at the sun as composed of three primal forms: "Whatever red form the sun has, it is the form of heat, whatever is white, it is the form of water and whatever is dark, it is the form of earth. Thus vanishes the quality of the sun from the sun, the modification being only a name arising from common parlance, while the truth is, that it is of only three forms." " They knew that whatever appeared unintelligible is a combination of just these three divinities (of fire, water and earth)." (VI.4.7)

Keeping this view in mind, let us now proceed to know the characteristics of the gross elements as set forth in the Ëgamas. Each gross element has a particular form, pertinent. symbol and colour. Each gross element is potentialized by a particular letter, activized by a deity and controlled by a supreme Lord.[4]

Gross Elements         




Potentia listing


Activising deity






Gold or yellow





Half- moon















six dots

black/ smoky







pure crystal





Each gross element is related to each one of the five kal¡s as shown here under:

Earth related to Niv¤tti Kal¡

Water related to PratiÀ¶¡ Kal¡

Fire related to Vidy¡ Kal¡

Air related to á¡nti Kal¡

Space related to á¡ntyat¢ta Kal¡

It should be noted here that earth itself is not niv¤tti Kal¡ (as some of the modern scholars of áiva áiddh¡nta have explained). The gross elements are not to be equated or identified with paµca-kal¡s. The gross elements are functioning regularly as pervaded and induced by paµca-kal¡s.

Concordance and Discordance between the Gross Elements

In the process of purification of the body characterized by the five gross elements, one has to realize the concordance, discordance and neutralism existing between the gross elements. These three modes are denoted by the terms mitratva, v¤ddhatva and madhyastha, respectively.

The nature of concordance exists (i) between earth and water and (ii) between fire and air.

The nature of discordance exists (i) between earth and air, and (ii) between water and fire.

The nature of neither concordance nor discordance exists (i) between earth and fire, and (ii) between water and air.

The only element left out in this analysis is space. Since the space (bh£t¡k¡¿a) is the principle of accomodation and since it gives room for the movement and existence of all objects, space is in concodance(mitra svabh¡va) with the other elements.

ár¢ Nirmalama¸i De¿ika, the celebrated commentator on the D¢kÀ¡ Vidhi (kriy¡madyotik¡) of Aghorasivacarya explains this theory of concordance and discordance thus:

bh£mipavanayoÅ jal¡nnalayo¿ca eÀ¡Æ catur¸¡Æ b¡dhya-b¡dhaka

bh¡vena parasparam avasthiteÅ ¿atrut¡ I bh£mijalayoÅ pavana-

nalay¿ca anyony¡Æ poÀkatv¡n mitravaÆ I jalapavanayoÅ ksitya-

gnyo¿caparasparaÆ na ¿atrutvabh¡vamiti madhasthvameÀ¡Æ I

¡k¡¿asya tu v¡riv¡yu¿ikhikÀit¢n¡Æ avak¡¿ad¡yatvena mitratvamiti II


Pervasion of the Gross Elements through AÀ¶a-m£rti

In his conceptual form known as AÀ¶a-m£rti, Lord áiva assumes different forms and names.[5]

P¤thi¢-m£rti is known as áarva

Jala-m£rti is known as Bhava

Vahni-m£rti is known as Pa¿upati

V¡yu-m£rti is known as Ì¿¡na

Ëk¡¿a-m£rti is known as Bh¢ma

Candra-m£rti is known as Mah¡deva

S£rya-m£rti is known as Rudra

Yajam¡na-m£rti is known as Ugra

The gross elements are elevated to the higher realms of metaphysical principles by áarva Pa¿upati, Ì¿¡na and Bh¢ma.[6]

36  tattvas

1.   p¤thiv¢

2.   ap

3.   tejas

4.   v¡yu

5. ¡k¡¿a

6. gandha,

7.    rasa

8.    r£pa

9.  spar¿a

10 . ¿abda

11.  upastha

12.  p¡yu

13 .P¡da

14.  p¡¸i

15.  v¡k

16.  n¡s¡

17.  jihv¡                 a¿udha m¡y¡

18.  cakÀu            or

19.  tvak                 a¿uddh¡dhvan

20.  ¿rotra

21.  manas

22.  aha´k¡ra

23.  buddhi

24.  prak¤ti

25.  puruÀa             mi¿ra m¡y¡

26.  r¡ga            or



(2) Water-elevated by Bhava up to kal¡



28. kal¡  

29. niyati  

30. k¡la

mi¿ra m¡y¡  



(3) Fire-elevate by Pa¿upati up to ¿udha vidy¡

31. m¡y¡  

32. ¿uddha vidy¡.  

mi¿ra m¡y¡

(4) Air-elevated by Ì¿¡na up to ¿ivatattva

33. ¢¿varatattva


  ¿uddha m¡y¡




(5)  Space-elevted by Bh¢ma up to ¿ivatattva

34. s¡ktitattva 

35. ¿aktitattva  

36. ¿ivatattva  

The individual self, though it is bodily confined to impure m¡y¡, is capable of being in touch with the principles of mixed and pure planes only through the grace of Lord áiva, who manifests Himself as áarva, Bhva, Pa¿upati, Ì¿¡na and Bh¢ma correspondent to earth, water, fire, air and space rcspectively.

Gross Elements and Letters (m¡t¤k¡-akÀara)

It has already been stated that each gross element gets potentialized by a parcular letter. Apart from this, the V¡tul¡gama provides an interesting classification of m¡t¤k¡-akÀaras in relation to the five gross element.[7]

1 . Letters belonging to p¤thivi varga (earth)

     kÀa, la, ha, sa, Àa, ¿a, va, la, ,ra, ya                     (10)

2 . Letters belonging to jala varga (water)

     ma, bha, ba, pha, pa, na, dha, da, tha, ta            (10)

3 . Letters belonging to vahni varga (fire)

     ¸a, ·ha, ·a, ¶ha, ¶a, µa, jha, ja, cha, ca                (10)

4 . Letters belonging to v¡yu varga (air)

     ´a, gha, ga, kha, ka, aÅ, aÆ, au, o, ai,                  (10)

5. Le!ters belonging to vyogm varga

    e, ½, ½, ¤, £, u, ¢, i, ¡, a                                            (11)

The vowels are shared by the gross elements as follows:


aÅ, aÆ, au



o,  ai, e,


«, ½, ¼, ¼


£, u, ¢


i, ¡, a

Irrespective of these classifications, the V¡tul¡gam patiates the supremacy of the letter ha and of the space over the other letters and elements.[8] That is why the sound of ha gets associated with most of the mantras during the ritualistic processes. The science of space, as dealt with in the áaiv¡gamas has not yet been accorded due attention and diligent study.

Gross Elements and the Forms of S¡d¡khya

Mention has already been made about four forms of s¡d¡khya. S¡d¡khya is the name applied to Lord áiva when he assumes the state of adhik¡ra at the plane called s¡d¡khya, the third principle in the process of evolution.[9] Owing to his boundless compassion towards the bound souls, Lord áiva gradually comes down to the lower planes of evolution and assumes various forms corresponding to the nature of the planes (See the diagram 2).

(i) At the point of implosion, par¡sakti, also known as ¿¡ntyat¢ta, the primal energy inseparable from áiva, releases one-tenth of her force or power and this force assumes the form known as, áiva S¡d¡khya. This form is very subtle, flashing forth like a lightning in the sky. It presents itself as the most effulgent form. This form is the source of all tattvas, (tattv¡n¡m akhil¡yam).

(ii) Ëdi¿akti, also known as ¿¡nti, who manifests as one-thousandth part of Par¡¿akti, releases one-tenth of her force and this force assumes the form known as Am£rti S¡d¡khya. This is in the form of li´ga with an effulgence of one crore of suns (s£rya). This linga form is also known as jyotistambha divya linga and m£lastambha.

(iii) Icch¡sakti, also known as vidy¡, who manifests as one-thousandth part of Ëdi¿akti, releases one-tenth of her force and this force assumes the form known as M£rti S¡d¡khya. Only at this stage, áiva assumes a form endowed with one face, three eyes, four hands and feet.

(iv) Jµ¡na¿akti, also known as niv¤tti, who manifests herself as one-thousandth part of icch¡¿akti, releases one-tenth of her force and this force and this force assumes the form known as Kart¤ S¡d¡khya. At lhis stage, áiva's  form becomes endowed with four faces, twelve eyes, eight arms and two feet.

(v) Kriy¡¿akti, also known as nivertti, who manifests herself as one-thousandth part of jµ¡na¿akti releases one-tenth of her force and this force assumes the form known as Karma S¡d¡khya. Only at this stage áiva, manifests Himself in Sad¡¿iva form having five faces, ten arms and two feet. Only this Karma á¡d¡khya is to be represented as the combination of li´ga and p¢¶ha.

Having explained in detail all these manifestations, the V¡tul¡gama succinctly states (1.67-69):

li´ga p¢¶hak¡re¸a karma s¡d¡hkhya lakÀa¸am

n¡daÆ l´gam iti jµeyaÆ bindup¢¶hamud¡h¤tam

n¡dabinduyutaÆ r£paÆ li´g¡k¡ram iti sm¤tam

catv¡ri kart¤ r£p¡¸i kevalaÆ n¡dam¢ritam

The li´ga form typifies the principle of causal and primal sound and the p¢¶ha typifies the principle bindu, the point of cosmic evolution and involution. áivali´ga is the structural forms of the combination of n¡da and bindu. The four forms of kart¤, m£rti, am£rti and áiva s¡d¡khyas are representative of n¡da principle only. (They are not associated with the p¢¶ha portion; they are not to be iconographized).

The fifth s¡d¡khya, namely, karma s¡d¡khya is installed and consecrated in the sanctum, sanctorum of a temple. Karma s¡d¡khya which also becomes known as áad¡¿iva m£rti is endowed with five faces - Ì¿¡na, TatpuruÀa, Aghora, V¡madeva and Sadyoj¡ta, each one associated with particular form, colour and function.[10] 0f these, Sadyoj¡ta, facing west is directly related to niv¤tti kal¡ and indirectly related to the sphere earth (p¤thiv¢ ma¸·ala); V¡madeva facing north is directly related to pratiÀ¶th¡ kal¡ and indirectly related to the realm of water; Aghora facing south is directly related to vidy¡ kal¡ and indirectly related to the realm of fire; TatpuruÀa facing east is directly related to ¿¡nti kal¡ and indirectly related to the realm of air; and Ì¿¡na facing upwards is directly related to ¿¡ntyat¢ta kala and indirectly related  to the ma¸¶ala of space.

The B¤hajj¡b¡lopaniÀad states that p¤thiv¢ from sadyoj¡ta and niv¤tti kal¡ arises from p¤thiv¢ and all other gross elements water, fire, air, and space, having evolved from V¡ma, Aghora, TatpuruÀa and Ì¿¡na, give rise to pratiÀ¶h¡, vidy¡, ¿¡nti and ¿¡ntyat¢ta respectively.[11](I.10.15)

This concept may seem to be discordant with the Ëgamic theory of paµcakal¡ and paµcabh£ta. But in reality, there does not prevail any contradiction between these theories. What the B¤hajj¡b¡lopaniÀad sets forth is the theory of bimba and pratibimba. This is explained as follows:  

No. Primal source Primary emnation

Secondary emanation

Reflected emanation

Cosmic cow (product of reflection

1 Sadyoj¡ta Niv¤tti 





Kapila Var¸a

2 V¡madeva PratiÀ¶h¡ Udaka (Water) PratiÀ¶h¡


(K¤À¸a Var¸a)

3 Aghora   Vidy¡  





Rakta Var¸a) 

4 TatpuruÀa   á¡nti





(áveta Var¸a)  

5 Ì¿¡na   á¡ntyat¢ta





(Citra Var¸a)  

The five cosmic cows symbolize purification, nourishment and totality of divinities. The ultimate source for these emanations is karma s¡s¡khya or Sad¡¿iva.

In the process of manifestation, Lord áiva appears himself as Mahe¿vara as one-thousandth part of karma s¡d¡khya and according to the needs and necessities, Mahe¿vara assumes twenty-five forms known as Mhe¿vara m£rtis.[12]

Gross Elements under the Context of Rituals


In the ritualistic process of ¿iv¡rcana, Lord Siva is invoked and installed on a mystic pedestal known as ¿iv¡asana which itself is constituted of five asanas known as anant¡sana, siÆh¡sana, yog¡sana, padm¡sana and vimal¡sana. Each ¡sana, with an attributed form represents a gross element.[13]




Element represented





















(i)  In the process of invocation (¡v¡hana) Lord áiva is contemplated as seated on Yog¡sana.

(ii) In the process of holy bath (abhiÀeka) he is konkmplated as seated on siÆh¡sna.

(iii) In the process of offering of flowers (arcana) he is meditated upon as seated on                    padm¡sana.

(iv) In the process of offerings (naivedya) he is meditated upon as seated on vimal¡sana.

(v) In the process of praising singing and dancing, he is contemplated upon as seated on anant¡sana.[14]

Bassically, each asana is composed of a tattva or a group of tattvas and on the whole ¿iv¡sana is nothing but a mystic pedestal composed of thirty-six principles (tattvas). The p¢¶ha part of ¿ivali´ga is to be indentified wih ¿iv¡sana.[15]


When an image is duly istalled in a temple, it is imputed with lthe consmic force through the process of ny¡sa.  The five gross elements are identified with the lower portion of the image.


Every construction is to strictly based on v¡stu puruÀa-ma¸·ala. Longevity, auspiciousness, strength and beauty could be accomplished to any construction only through v¡stuma¸·ala. Satish Grover seems too harsh in commenting that in the V¡stu¿¡stras there is much that is deliberate esoteric mumbo-jumbo.[16]  He has utterly failed to realize the intrinsic validity and significance of the vastu puruÀa-ma¸·ala, the confluence of cosmic forces.

Needless to mention that temple construction is based on v¡stuma¸·ala. Y¡ga¿¡l¡s also are constructed at the time of consecration and of other auspicious function based on v¡stuma¸·ala (either ma¸·uka or parama¿¡yi).  These y¡ga¿¡l¡s represents both adhvan form and aÀ¶a-m£rti form of  Lord áiva.

ár¢ Paµc¡kÀara yogin, the author of áaiva-Bh£Àa¸a  states that the term ma¸¶apa itself denotes the presence of five gross elements- ma meaning earth, ¸a meaning water, ¶a meaning fire, pa meaning air and m (mak¡ra and bindu) meaning space.[17] The eight fire-pits constructed inside y¡ga ma¸¶apa represent the eight forms of Lord áiva.

The entire space covered by the y¡ga ma¸¶apa represents the supreme kal¡,namely ¿¡ntyat¢ta, the entrance in the east-¿¡ntikal¡; and the entrance in the south- vidy¡kal¡; the entrance in the west- pratiÀ¶h¡kal¡;and the entrance in the north-niv¤ttikal¡ (Here again,confusion is to be avoided. Bassically, niv¤tti (sadyoj¡ta) is always to be ideated so as to be in the west and pratiÀ¶¡, to be in the north.  Here they are interchanged to effect interaction and interplay between the gross elements).

Since paµca-kal¡s are related to paµca-bh£tas, it becomes evident that the gross element are represented by the y¡ga ma¸¶apa.

Gross Elements and the Fire-pits (ku¸·as)

Inside the y¡ga maa¸¶apa, nine fire-pits are to be constructed along the m¡nuÀapada of the v¡stu ma¸·ala, four in the main directions, four in the intermediate directions and the one (pradh¡na ku¸·a) between east and north-east.

(i) The fire-pit in the form of a square which is in the east represents earth.

(ii) The fire-pit in the form of a circle which is in the west represents water.

(iii) The fire-pit in the form of a yoni which is in the south-east represents fire.

(iv) The fire-pit in the form of a hexagon which is in the north-west represents air.

(v) The fire-pit in the form of an octagonal which is in the north-east rep-resents space.

(Here again, it is to be noticed that the forms related to the gross elements get altered except the element air.)

For other details, see the diagram (4).

Gross Elements and the Ma¸·alas

With an emphasis on certainty, it can rightly be claimed that the most aesthetic aspect of Indian rituals is mandala.  Almost all religious systems of India are employing mandala as a device in their ritualistic activities. In fact, in Bud-dhism, the science of mystic device - mandala- has become the main core.

Being an artistic device, ma¸·ala incorporates in itself all the significant aspects of symbols, sounds, forms, colours and divinities, with a stronghold on metaphysical and ontological principles. The Ëgamas excel all other scriptures with their elaborate and effective details and descriptions of various ma¸·alas. In the Saivagamic group, the Kira¸¡gama is held in high esteem owing to its copious details and directions on the mechanism of ma¸·alas. Besides its separate chapter on ma¸·ala-vidhi it prescribes vaktra-ma¸·ala for the worship of Sarasvat¢ and kala¿a-ma¸·ala for the worship of Lord M¤tyuµjaya, the details of which are not to be seen in any other Ëgama.

Ma¸·ala is an aesthetic and mystic design in which the combination and in-tersection of various forms related to the gross elements and to the deities concerned have their full play. The correspondence of colours, the distribution of letters (m¡t¤k¡-akÀaras) and the esoteric significance enhance the mystic value of ma¸·alas.  Each ma¸·ala has its own principal deity and attendant deities directly or indirectely related to the five gross elements. So the rituals which involve ma¸·ala-p£j¡ are highly efficacious in energizing and sanctifying the environment conditions by the gross elements. Because of such importance, the áaiv¡gamas have specifically set forth the details of ma¸·ala-worship in connection worth monthly festival.

In the month of meÀa (Aprill-May), sarvatpbhadra-ma¸·ala should lbe worshipped.

In the month of b¤Àabha (May-June), svastika-ma¸·ala.

In the month of mithuna (June-July), navan¡bha-ma¤·ala.

In the month of karka¶a (July-August), sarvatobhadra-mandala.

In the month of siÆha (August-September), sv¡yambhuva-ma¸·ala.

In the month of kany¡ (Setember-October), subhadr¡-mandala.

In the month of tul¡ (October-November), gaur¢lat¡-ma¸·ala.

In the month of v¤Àcika (November-December), sarvatobhadra-ma¸·ala.

In the month of dhanu  (December-January), svastika-ma¸·ala.

In the month of makara (January-February), um¡k¡nta-ma¸·ala.

In the month of kumbha (February-March), padma-ma¸·ala.

In the month of m¢na (Maarch-April), svastika-ma¸·ala.

Apart from these, there are numerous ma¸·alas such as anata vijaya ¶a´ka, pr¡k¡ra, lat¡li´ga, etc.

In the Ëgamic texts, it has been declared that square is the basis for both, fire-pits(ku¸·as) and ma¸·alas.

The symbolism and correspondence of colour is the essential aspect of ma¸·ala Ëc¡rya or up¡saka is to be acquainted with the infallible knowledge of colour correspondence. In the science of ma¸·ala, white represents water, k¤ta yuga, sattvagu¸a, buddhi tattva; red represents fire, tret¡ yuga, rajugu¸a, kal¡ tattva; black represents air, dv¡para yuga, tamogu¸a, niyati tattva; yellow (gold) represents earth, kali yuga, ¿uddha vidy¡ tattva; pure crystal represents space, ovynkia tattva and áiva tattva.

For other details of ma¸·ala see the diagram (5).

Gross Elements and Kumbha

Inside the y¡gama¸¶apa, especially at, brahma-sth¡na, the main altar (vedik¡) is to be constructed. At bottom part of vedik¡ and upavedik¡ is to be made. On the surface of the main altar (vedik¡), paddy, rice, sesamum, parched-rice and other grains are to be placed in order.

Once arranged in this pattern, the vedik¡ becomes representative of ¿iv¡sana which includes in itself five ¡sanas as has already been explained.
















The kumbha which is placed on the grains represents Lord áiva.[18]

Gross Elements and Five Causal Sounds

The Ajit¡gama (XX.259) lays down the rule that in the fourth quarter (y¡ma) of the night, the great ¿abdas should be made with ¿a´kha and dundubhi. The K¡ra¸¡gama also enjoins that the five great causal sounds should be made at the termination of night. The five great causal sounds are related to the five gross elements.

Sound born of wooden instruments (d¡ruja)    


Sound born of conch (¿a´kha)


Sound born of metal instruments (lohaja)


Sound born of flute, etc. (vaƿa)


Sound born of songs (geya)


r¡tr¡ntake vi¿eÀe¸a sarvadaivapriy¡rthakam II

kury¡t-paµcamah¡¿adbÆ tato' ¿ubha niv¤ttaye I

d¡rujaÆ p¤thv¢ j¡taÆ ¿aÆkhajaÆ vaÆ¿ajaÆ  II

geyaÆ gaganaj¡taÆ sy¡t paµcaite ¿abda ucyate I


These five causal sounds related to the gross elements are to be sounded to ward off inauspiciousness and to please all the deities.

Gross Elements in Relation to Music and Dance

There are sixteen kinds of upac¡ras offered to the Lord at the end of p£j¡- process These upac¡ras are classified into five in relation to the five gross elements. In the course of these upac¡ras, the fourteenth is geya or music and the fifteenth is dance (n¤tya). These two are related to the space element. Just as there is no greater element than space so also there is no upac¡ra more effective and auspicious than music and dance. The Ëgamic scriptures prescribed particular r¡gas for the particular r¡gas divisions of a day.

In the early morning, songs set on g¡ndh¡ra r¡ga

In the next division, songs set on m¡lava r¡ga

In the midday, songs set on takka r¡ga

In the next division, songs set on kau¿ika

In the evening, songs set on indola

In the night, songs set on paµcama  

These songs should be followed by n¤tya as enjoined in Bharata's N¡¶ya-á¡stra.[19]  The following varieties of n¤tya and their appropriate time and place of performance are mentioned in the Ëgamas.[20]

samap¡ta, bhuja´ga, ma¸·ala, da¸·apada

bhujarigatr¡sa, kunµcita, bhuja´ga lalita.

¡kuµcita, £rdhvap¡da

(from bhuja´ga to £vdhvapada - from east to north east)

Here we see how the Temple rituals give rise to aesthetic and fine arts. Impressed by the early and significant development of ritual behaviour in Greek life, Jane Harrison concludes that art had its origin only in rituals. This theory is equally applicable to Indian Arts also.



The way in which the gross elements have been explained and inter-related in the Ëgamas, seems to be unique and significant. In order to restructure ourselves, we are trained to destructure the gross elements in such a way as to look at them as not, invested with inertness but as invested with divinity and as charged with symbols, colours and sounds. All the ritualistic activities have their direct effect on the gross elements. The study of Ëgamas and áilpa-¿¡stras is sure to award the reader with a sound knowledge of the interaction between the rituals, images and the elements.  


The five lotuses in different colours represents the five elements.


[1] This sort of conceptual form, designed for meditation alone, figures largely in Buddhism also. "Instead of multiplying and projecting Buddha inmges, the goal of the adept is often to 'visualize' them" - W.Randolph Kloetzli, Buddhist Cosmology (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass 1989) p. 107.

[2]  . For example, see the Padma-Savhita and the ár¢ Pra¿na-SaÆhit¡ They postulate

k¡l¡dhvan dealing with time and its fractions, omitting the k¡l¡dhvan.

[3] . There are some references in the vedas to this adhvan concept. "Adhvan¡Æ pataye namo namaÅ" "Path¢n¡Æ pataye namaÅ", etc., occurring in the Rudr¡dhy¡ya of the Yajur-Veda refer to the adhvanm£rti.

[4] See K¡mika Ëgama, IV. 66b-76.

The rationale behind the correspondence between the gross elements and their form, symbol, colour etc., has been explained in my commentary on the u¸mai vilakkam.

[5] . For further details with regard to the descriptions of the forms of áarva, Bhava, see the works PratiÀ¶ha AÀ¶¡da¿a Kriy¡v¡li and the áivali´ga PrtiÀ¶h¡ Vidhi of Aghora¿iv¡c¡rya.

[6] See the Siddh¡nta á¡r¡vl¢, IV.33.

[7] . See the V¡tul¡gama, Ch. 2 and Ch.4.

[8] . Ibid., IV.22-30 for the varied theories of relationship between the gross elements and the letters, proposed in the system of Kashmir áaivism, see Ahhinavagupta's Par¡tr¢k¡vivara¸a.

[9] Laya, bhoga and adhik¡ra are the three states assumed by Lord áiva; the laya state corresponds to ¿ivatattva, bhoga state corresponds to ¿aktitattva and adhik¡ra state corresponds to s¡d¡khya or sad¡¿iva tattva. For Further details see the PauÀkar¡gama, M¤gendr¡gama and Mata´ga P¡rame¿vara Ëgama.

[10] . For other details, descriptions, and significant meanings, see the patipa¶ala of the PauÀkar¡gama and of the M¤gendr¡gama.

[11] The B¤hajj¡lopaniÀad, 1.10-15 and also the PaµcabrahmoniÀad, 5-21.

[12] For further details of 25 forms, see the V¡tul¡gama, 1.122-34.

[13] . Sakal¡gamas¡ra Sa´graha, p. 81.

[14] . K¡ra¸a Ëgama, p£rva, 30.53b-55.

[15] Anant¡sana which is in the form of triangle represents earth. But, we have already seen that earth is represented by a square ma¸·ala. These theories are not to be confused. These are to be understood against the background of esoteric significance.

[16]  Satish Grover, The Architecture of Indian Buddhist and Hindu, New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1980 p. 172.

[17]  See the áaiva-Bh£Àa¸a of Paµc¡kÀara yogi, verse, 192

[18] Ibid., verse, 229.

[19] See the K¡ra¸¡gama, p£rva 31.102b-104a.

[20] See the Mahotsavavidhi of Aghora¿iv¡c¡rya.


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