Names of Lord Shiva and their significance

Names of Lord Shiva and their significance



  • Rudra—As the concluder of creation, Lord Shiva is known as Rudra—because then he
has to assume a ruthless and angry form. The word ‘Rudra’ means anger and
wrathfulness. [Refer Sharav Upanishad, verse no. 10.]

  • Mritunjaya—Shiva is called ‘Mritunjaya’ because he has conquered or vanquished death.

[Refer Atharva Veda’s Tripura Tapini Upanishad, Canto 4, verse no. 1.]

  • Yajaamahe—Shiva is called ‘Yajaamahe’ because he represents the basic or fundamental

Truth and Authority of creation that we offer our obeisance to. The word ‘Yajan’ means
worship and honour, and ‘Mahe’ means me. So, with the combined word ‘Yajan’ and
‘Mahe’ we invoke the essential Tattwa or the basic Truth that forms the fundamental
cosmic Reality and the ultimate force that is behind all aspects of this creation. Shiva
represents the Absolute Truth and Reality known as the universal cosmic Consciousness
of creation that is the only thing that is true, eternal, constant and steady in this otherwise
transient and false world. [Refer Atharva Veda’s Tripura Tapini Upanishad, Canto 4,
verse no. 2.]

  • Aghor—Shiva is also called ‘Aghor’, meaning the most fierce, terrible, formidable and an

unconventional form of the Supreme Being who has an odd and mysterious existence.
[Refer: Atharva Veda’s Pashupat Brahm Upanishad, Purva Kanda/Canto 1, verse no. 10.]

  • Sugandhim—Shiva is called ‘Sugandhim’ because of an aura of divinity, holiness, purity,

spirituality and majesty that effuses from him and radiates in all the directions in an
invisible form like the sweet fragrance of a beautiful flower. The word ‘Sugandha’ means
good fragrance or a sweet and pleasant aroma. Lord Shiva is omnipresent and an
omniscient Lord; his auspiticious glories, magnificence and eclectic virtues are well
known and famous in all the directions of this creation; the Lord radiates a divine hallo
wherever he is present and worshipped, and it is as invigorating and spiritually
rejuvenating as the fragrance or aroma of a divine flower. Hence, the term ‘Sugandham’
is used for him. [The word ‘Sugandha’ means pleasant fragrance, sweet and attractive
aroma, an enchanting scent.] [Refer Atharva Veda’s Tripura Tapini Upanishad, Canto 4,
verse no. 3.]

  • Pushti-vardhan—Lord Shiva is honoured by the word ‘Pushti-vardhan’ because he

creates all the worlds, sustains them, protects them, nourishes them, makes them health,
helps in their growth and development, and enhances their glories and importance by
living in all of them uniformly as he is all-pervading, all-including and all-encompassing.
Hence, he is honoured by the epithet ‘Pushti-vardhan’. [Refer Atharva Veda’s Tripura
Tapini Upanishad, Canto 4, verse no. 4.]

  • Urwaaruk-miv Bandhanaan-mrityor-mukshi-yeti—Lord Shiva is called ‘Urwaaruk-miv

Bandhanaan-mrityor-mukshi-yeti’. Just like the musk-melon is firmly attached to its
stalk, a creature is also sternly clasped in the shackle of death. When he breaks free from
this vicious grip of the cycle of birth and death, he finds Mukti or final liberation and
deliverance. [Lord Shiva is the most enlightened of the Gods in the pantheon. This is why
he is the patron deity of ascetics and hermits. He can liberate the creature from the cycle of birth and death. He is depicted in the Purans as having his terrestrial abode in the holy
city of Kashi where he gives Mukti to the dying man who is brought for cremation on the
banks of the holy river Ganges.] [Refer Atharva Veda’s Tripura Tapini Upanishad, Canto
4, verse no. 5.]

  • Mamritaat—Lord Shiva is called ‘Mamritaat’ because the worshipper attains the elixir of

life that gives him eternity and imperishability. He becomes one like Lord Rudra himself.
[Refer Atharva Veda’s Tripura Tapini Upanishad, Canto 4, verse no. 6.]

  • Ishaan/Ishan—Lord Shiva is called ‘Ishan’ because he is the greatest, the most wise and

exalted amongst the Gods in this creation. He is the Isha or the Supreme Lord of creation,
and a symbol of cosmic authority and power of the Supreme Being. Hence, he is known
as Ishan—the symbol, the icon or the emblem of the Supreme Being known as Brahm.
This term Ishan has been defined in Atharvashir Upanishad of Atharva Veda
tradition, in its Kandika 4 as follows—“Why is he (Brahm in the form of Rudra) known
as ‘Ishan’ (literally meaning the ‘Lord’ and his ‘insignia or authority’)? It is because he
(Rudra) has full control over all the Gods and their powers and authority. Ishan signifies
the Lord’s overriding authority and complete control over all the aspects of creation that
are individually controlled by these Gods who actually act on behalf of Rudra
representing the dynamic form of Brahm. These Gods are nothing but the different forces
of Nature personified.
It is you who controls this entire creation as Indra, the king of Gods as well as the
organs of the creature’s body over which these Gods rule. That is also why you are called
‘Ishan’.”
According to Ram Purva Tapini Upanishad of Atharva Veda, Canto 4, verse no.
38-39, Ishan is one of the ten Dikpaals/Digpaals or the custodians of the celestial world.
He takes care of the ‘Ishan Kone’ or the North-East direction. His weapon is ‘Shul’ or a
sharp spear or lancet or a trident.
Maheshwar/Maha-deva—References: (i) Atharva Veda = Sharav Upanishad, verse no.
34; Atharvashir Upanishad, Kandika 4; Bhasma Jabal Upanishad, Canto 2, paragraph no.
1.
Lord Shiva is considered as the most exalted and wisest amongst the Gods, and is
therefore honoured with the epithet Maha Deva or the Great God, and Maheshwar or the
Great Ishwar as he is regarded as the supreme Lord of the entire creation. [Refer: Atharva
Veda’s Atharvashir Upanishad, Kandika 4; and Bhasma Jabal Upanishad, Canto 2,
paragraph no. 1.]
The Sharav Upanishad of the Atharva Veda, verse no. 34, says that Shiva is
Maheshwar as he is the Lord who provides Mukti or liberation and deliverance to the
creature from the formidable snare that traps the latter in this gross world, helping the
creature to break free from the tormenting cycle of birth and death which is very difficult
to break free from.
In his form as the liberator of the soul of the creature by destroying the latter’s
gross external body and freeing the soul, he is known as Sharav. Shiva had assumed this
form to liberate Lord Vishnu from the horrible body of Nrisingh (half man and half lion).
[Refer Sharav Upanishad, verse no. 6-8.]

  • Maheshwar’ or ‘Maha-Deva’ are both names of Lord Shiva. The term

‘Maheshwar’ means the ‘Great Ishwar or Lord’, while the term ‘Maha-deva’ means the
‘Great God’. Obviously, they both mean the same.
However, the term ‘Maheshwar’ has been defined independently in Atharvashir
Upanishad of Atharva Veda tradition, in its Kandika 4 as follows—“Why are you (Rudra
as a manifestation of Brahm) called ‘Maheshwar’ (literally meaning ‘the great Lord’)? It
is because you show your benevolence and grace upon those devotees who worship you
selflessly in order to attain Gyan or true knowledge. [As the greatest teacher and preacher
in creation, it is you who can only give the knowledge of Truth. This knowledge is
known only to you. Hence, you are great amongst even the Gods who are supposed to be
wiser and more knowledgeable than ordinary mortals.] It is you who empowers the
faculty of speech to speak and express this Truth. You have forsaken all sorts of
delusions and overcome all ignorance, and instead remain steady and unwavering in the
knowledge of Truth that you have acquired. You are self realised and most wise and
enlightened. This gives you immense fame and honour; it establishes you as the greatest
enlightened one in creation. This is why you are called Maheshwar.
 This is how the divine characters and virtues of Rudra have been outlined here in
this Upanishad.”
In the Bhasma Jabal Upanishad of the Atharva Veda tradition, Canto 2, paragraph
no. 1, Lord Shiva has been addressed as Maha-deva, and it explains why it is so as
follows—“Since he is extremely enlightened, self-realised and Brahm-realised, he stays
in the fourth state of Turiya. [This is the transcendental state of existence in which the
ascetic lives in a state of trance. He is so deeply submerged in meditation and
contemplation that he is not even aware of his body and what it does, and therefore there
is no question of his being aware of the surrounding material world and its temptations.
Hence, he is free from all corruptions and delusions that mire an ordinary soul.]
This fourth state is a representative of the Supreme Being who is beyond the
Trinity Gods known as Brahma the creator, Vishnu the sustainer, and Rudra the
concluder. Hence, the Lord who stays in this eclectic and sublime state of Consciousness
is known as ‘Maha-Dev’, the great Lord. [This fact has been expressly emphasized in the
Pashupat Upanishad, Purva Kand, verse no. 10, which is the nineteenth Upanishad of the
Atharva Veda.]
The Bhasma Jabal Upanishad gives the Tarak Mantra of Lord Shiva as ‘OM Namaha
Maha-devaaye’ in paragraph no. 4 of the same Canto 2.

  • Shambhu—He is known as Shambhu as he is the one who remains uniform, unruffled and

calm even under adverse situations. Shambhu is one who exists or is established in an
enlightened state of highest consciousness (i.e. is ‘Bhu’) that is marked by perfect self
control, complete neutrality, absolute tranquility, serenity, peacefulness and blissfulness.
Since Lord Shiva possesses all these grand auspicious virtues, he is called ‘Shambhu’.
Refer: Atharvashikha Upanishad of the Atharva Veda tradition, Kandika 3.
This Upanishad declares that Shambhu is the highest deity to be worshipped and
adored, and he represents the fifth state of consciousness that is called the Turiyateet, and
to the fourth aspect of the ethereal word OM—i.e. when the word has been said fully and
the mouth closes. The first letter of OM is A and it represents Brahma the creator, the second letter U represents Vishnu the sustainer and protector of creation, the third letter
M represents Rudra the annihilator and one of the names of Shiva, and the three and half
letter called the ‘Ardha Matra’ represented by the horizontal ‘S’ mark attached to the
symbol of OM on its side represents Ishan, one of the names of Shiva and the God who is
the ruler of all other Gods. Finally, the fourth complete Matra symbolised by the dot on
the top is Shambhu or Lord Shiva. This Shambhu or Shiva is Brahm in its best and most
pristine form.
Lord Shiva is called Shambhu because he possesses the highest knowledge of the
‘truth and the Consciousness’ known as Brahm, and being self-realised he is a personified
form of Brahm. Therefore, Shambhu is the supreme transcendental Lord of creation who
surpasses all earlier states of existence such as the Jagrat or waking state, the Swapna or
dreaming state, the Shshupta or deep sleep state and the Turiya or post-Sushupta state to
permanently live in the Turiyateet state of perpetual bliss and tranquility.
The Atharva Veda’s Bhasma Jabal Upanishad, Canto 2, paragraph no. 18 says
that Lord Shiva who is known as Shambhu is also known as Pashupaat and Maha-deva.

  • Laya-kaari—Lord Shiva brings about an end to delusions, and establish oneness and

uniformity in creation by removing or eliminating or dissolving (‘Laya’) the artificial
distinction in the various states of Consciousness (such as the Jagrat, Swapna, Sushupta,
Turiya) that are caused by ignorance of the reality and its attendent delusions.
Pashupati/Pashupaat—References: (i) Atharva Veda = Bhasma Jabal Upanishad, Canto
2, paragraph no. 8, 18; Sharav Upanishad, verse no. 14; Pashupat Brahm Upanishad,
Purva Kanda/Canto 1, verse nos. verse nos. 10-11, 29, 32; Uttar Kand/Canto 2, verse no.
7. (ii) Sam Veda = Jabalu-panishad, verse nos. 11-18.
Shiva is called Pashupati or Pashupaat because he is the Lord of lowly living
beings who have animal-like instincts—i.e. those who are engrossed in pursuing the urge
for self-gratification and pleasures of the sense objects of this gross world without
realizing that they getting sucked in the vortex of endless miseries and being pulled away
from peace and happiness.
The Bhasma Jabal Upanishad of the Atharva Veda tradition, Canto 2, paragraph
no. 8 explains the meaning of this term as follows—“Anyone who knows and
understands these eclectic virtues of my (Shiva’s) divine cosmic form (as Brahm, the
Supreme Being) is freed from the fetters that shackle him to this material world like an
animal held in captivity.
I (Shiva) am known as ‘Pashupaat’—one who liberates animals from their
shackles; it also means freeing a living being from his animal-like lowly instincts that
demean the exalted nature of his Atma. [Here, the ‘animal’ refers to the Jiva, the living
being or the creature, and the ‘shackle’ to (i) the never ending cycle of birth and death,
(ii) to the numerous temptations of this mundane artificial and deluding material world of
sense objects, and (iii) to the evil and lowly natural instincts that may exist in the Jiva that
would undermine the holiness and divinity of his Atma. The Lord ensures that such lowly
traits in his character are eliminated for good so that the creature can find liberation and
deliverance, or emancipation and salvation.] [8]”
The Sharav Upanishad of Atharva Veda, verse no. 14 says—“All the Gods are
like animals in front of him. That is, all the Gods are under his overall command and depend upon him for their survival and protection. That is why the Lord is honoured by
the epithet ‘Pashupatinath’ or the Lord of animals.’
Refer also Jabalu-panishad of Sam Veda tradition, verse nos. 11-18.
Ahankar, or pride and ego, makes a man no less than an animal. This is stressed in
Jabalu-panishad of Sam Veda tradition, verse nos. 11-18, and Sharav Upanishad of
Atharva Veda, verse no. 14 which stresses that ‘Isha’, or the Lord Shiva who is regarded
as the supreme Lord of creation, had to become a ‘Pashupati’, Lord of animals, just
because he is the undisputed Lord of all the creatures, and those creatures who have lost
wisdom and a sense of righteousness, those who are overcome with Ahankar, are no
better than animals.
When the ‘Ahankar’ is eliminated or symbolically reduced to ashes, the creature
becomes an ‘Ish’ from a ‘Pashupati’; in other words he has become a purified creature in
the place of an animal-like creature. This transformation or metamorphosis—from an
animal to a non-animal or from an animal-like creature to a wise and erudite person—is
tantamount to acquiring truthful knowledge and become spiritually wise and enlightened.
 The Lord is especially honoured by the epithet of ‘Pashupati’ because an
enlightened worshipper targets all his spiritual endeavours towards attaining high levels
of purity and holiness that entails that he first controls his basic animal-like natural
instincts; he is expected to have completely exercised total self-restraint on his sense
organs. Brahm is not sitting somewhere in the sky, but the Lord resides inside one’s own
inner-self as his Atma. This Atma is the Lord of the creature. So when a worshipper pays
his obeisance to ‘Pashupati Parmatma’ he is actually honouring the Atma which has
learnt to practice exemplary self-control over animal-like instincts, characters, qualities
and behaviour.
  • Tripurari/Tripu-raari—Refer (i) Atharva Veda = Sharav Upanishad, verse no. 14.
The Sharav Upanishad of Atharva Veda, verse no. 14 describes that Lord Shiva is
also known as the slayer of the demon Tirpurasur. Hence, Shiva or Rudra is also called
Tripurari. This is because of the following legend associated with the Lord. Tarakaasur
was the son of Vajraanga and his consort Varaangi. He had done severe Tapa (austerity
and penance) as a result of which the creator Brahma had granted him several boons
which had made him invincible. He was killed by Lord Subramanya, the son of Shiva and
Parvati. He had three sons—Taaraaksha, Kamlaaksha and Vidyunmaali. They had also
pleased Brahma and by his blessings built three great cities, collectively called ‘Tripura’.
These cities were made of gold, silver and iron. When they became a nuisance for the
Gods, Shiva destroyed these three cities and the demons with one arrow. These three
demon brothers are collectively called Tripuraasur. Therefore he got the name of
Tripurari—one who destroyed the three enemy cities.
Kamari/Kaamaari—Lord Shiva is also known as Kaamaari or Kamari, literally the one
who had reduced to ashes the pride of Kaamdeo, the God of passions and lust. The Lord
had vanquished the haughtiness and arrogance of this God of passions and his belief that
he is invincible and infallible. This fact has been stated in the Sharav Upanishad of the
Atharva Veda, verse no. 15, which says that Lord Shiva had subdued even the God of
Death known as Yam and the God of passions known as Kamdeo cupid. Hence, he is
known as ‘Kamari/Kaamaari’—the Lord who had killed or conquered Kaam, the negative quality of having passions, lust, yearnings and longings; the desire for gratification of the
natural carnal instincts in a living being; longing for sensual pleasures.
The legend associated with this event is briefly as follows—“Once when Shiva
was in deep meditative trance and was teased by Kamdeo, the God of passions, at the
behest of Gods who had wanted Shiva to marry and produce a male child who would kill
the demons, he felt so annoyed by Kamdeo’s impertinence that he opened this third eye
to burn him down.”
The story of Shiva subduing Yam has been narrated in the Purans as follows—
“Shiva had trounced Yam, the God of death, to save his devotee Maarkandeya. Sage
Maarkandey was the son of sage Maarkandu. He was a great devotee of Lord Shiva, the
patron God of death, so much so that when death approached him personified as Kaal
when the sage was yet quite young because destiny had it that he would die still when
young, he clung to the Shiva Lingam (the image of Shiva) with the greatest of devotion,
surrender and urgency that comes with one facing certain death. Lord Shiva appeared and
prevented Yam, the God of death from tying him in his snare and taking him away. The
Lord blessed him with a virtual eternal life, blessing him that he would live for another
14 Kalpas (1 Kalpa = 1 day of Brahma or roughly 4.32 billion human years). His
magnum opus is the ‘Maarkandey Puran’. He had also edited and abridged the
Manusmriti, the code of life and conduct as laid by the first human named Manu to
regulate society and act as a constitution and manual for ready reference for the
forthcoming human race, into eight thousand verses, and passed it to sage Bhargava. His
reference comes in the Mahabaharat epic when he approaches the Pandavas and taught
them the principles of Dharma (code of righteousness, auspiciousness, probity, propriety
and nobility). He was the one who had enlightened Yudisthira that Krishna was an
incarnation of Lord Vishnu (Vanapurva, 189). In the same Mahabharat, he preaches the
celestial sage Narad the laws of Dharma (Anushaasan-purva, 50-62).”
Parmeshwar—The word means the Supreme Ishwar or the Supreme Lord. Lord Shiva is
addressed with this honourable epithet in the Atharva Veda’s Bhasma Jabal Upanishad,
Canto 1, paragraph no. 3.

  • Trinetrum/Trinetra/Trilaksha/Lalaataksha

Refer (i) Atharva Veda = Bhasma Jabal Upanishad, Canto 1, paragraph no. 6; and Canto
2, paragraph no. 21; Sharav Upanishad, verse nos. 10, 14; Tripura Tapini Upanishad,
Canto 4, verse nos. 1-2; (ii) Krishna Yajur Veda = Yogtattva Upanishad, verse no. 93.
The word Trinetra means the Lord who has three eyes, two conventional eyes and one
rare eye of wisdom located in the center of the forehead, between the eyebrows and just
above the root of the nose. Hence, Lord Shiva is also known as Lord Trinetrum. [‘Tri’ =
three; ‘Netra’ = eyes; ‘Laksha’ = to see.]
The location of the third eye in the center of the forehead has given Shiva the
name of Lalaataskha. [‘Lalaat’ = forehead.]

The third eye is not some physical eye but a subtle eye symbolising the Lord’s high level
of enlightenment and wisdom. This burning of the evil world by opening of the third eye
of Shiva is a metaphoric way of saying that a creature can use his eyes of wisdom, erudition, knowledge and enlightenment to overcome all delusions and misconceptions
about the truth and reality, along with all mischief as well as negativity and evil
tendencies in this world. The ‘burning’ is elimination of such negativity and perversions.
 According to Yoga philosophy, an ascetic focuses his Pran or vital winds at this
spot in the forehead where he experiences enlightenment and the nectar of bliss dripping
from it. By the way, Shiva is regarded as the patron God of all ascetics precisely for this
reason.
 There is a legendary story associated with this third eye. Once, Parvati, his divine
consort, had closed his two eyes, and as a result the world was plunged in darkness. To
save the world from this all-encompassing darkness, Shiva willed a third eye between the
two eyebrows. This eye spouted fire with its accompanying heat and light. So, the
celestial sun can be regarded as a symbol of this third eye.
Once when Shiva was in deep meditative trance and was teased by Kamdeo, the
God of passions, at the behest of Gods who had wanted Shiva to marry and produce a
male child who would kill the demons, he felt so annoyed by Kamdeo’s temerity and
impertinence that he opened this third eye to burn him down.
 According to the Atharva Veda’s Bhasma Jabal Upanishad, Canto 2, paragraph
no. 21, the three eyes of Shiva or Rudra stand for the Sun, the Moon and the Fire. These
three entities are regarded as the eternal sources of light in this creation. The Sun and the
Fire provide the heat and energy so essential for sustenance of life besides being an
eternal source of light, while the Moon is regarded as the pitcher of Amrit, the elixir of
bliss and the soothing nectar that neutralises the scorching effects of the Sun and the Fire.
The third eye, as has been noted above, stands for the excellent level of wisdom,
erudition, knowledge, enlightenment and omniscience that the Lord possesses.
The Sharav Upanishad of the Atharva Veda, verse nos. 10 and 14 says as
follows—
“Verse no. 10= We bow reverentially and pay our obeisance to the great Lord
known as Rudra who can burn to ashes the entire world by the fierce spurt of fire
emanating from the third eye located in his forehead1
, and is so gracious that he re-creates
it once again after punishing it (for its sins and misdeeds by reducing it to ashes), and
then offers it his protection (10).
“Verse no. 14 = We bow reverentially and pay our obeisance to the great Lord
known as Rudra whose three eyes are the Sun, the Moon and the Fire (representing
eternal sources of light, life, energy, warmth and heat) (14).”
From the metaphysical perspective, his two eyes are the conventional eyes, and
his third symbolises his deep insight and great wisdom and enlightenment. Shiva
personifies the fire element which also has a symbolic significance. The fire is known to
burn all impurities present in gold when it is put into it, thereby purifying the metal.
Similarly, fire is used in blast furnaces to extract iron from its ore. Fire has the inherent
ability to reduce to ashes all filth and garbage, which is a metaphoric way of saying that a
person who has worshipped this element in the form of Shiva is supposed to have burnt
all his faults, blemishes and shortcomings that taint his character and soul, thereby
purifying his inner self. The ash is indicative of total renunciation and detachment from
the world of materialism, because it is indicative of a renunciate way of life and
symbolically stands for burning of everything into the fire pit. That is why Lord Shiva has been called the patron God of ascetics, hermits and Sanyasis who worship the fire
element only.
Besides these points, Shiva is the God assigned the task of concluding the world
which necessitates his being closely associated with the ‘fire element’ in the sense that he
must be as unrelenting, merciless, powerful and ferocious as the latter in order to
conclude this creation inspite of all the odds. He must reduce everything to ashes just like
the fire does. And it is from this ash that the new creation would emerge in due course.
Herein lie the magic of creation and its chief Lord, Brahm, the Supreme Being—the fact
that a new creation rises from ashes!
To quote Yogtattva Upanishad, verse no. 93—“This (i.e. the fire element is the
symbolic abode of Lord Rudra or Shiva. [That is, he symbolises the fire element.] One
should meditate upon this Lord who has three eyes, who is the one renowned for granting
boons (to his followers and devotees, and in the presence case to the ascetic), who is as
splendorous, illuminated and radiant as a sun which has just risen, and who has the ash of
the fire sacrifice smeared all over his body (just like an ascetic, indicating that he is their
great icon and patron deity of ascetics) (93).”
Trayambak—The word Trayambak means the Lord who has a most unconventional form
with one extra eyes oddly placed in the forehead. Lord Shiva’s behaviour and general
bearing are also most unconventional and odd because he is at once an incarnation of the
eclectic virtues of peace, renunciation, detachment, tranqulity and blissful, and at another
moment he becomes personified form of anger and wrath. On the one hand his cosmic
form is the Supreme Being, the Greatest amongst the Gods (‘Maha-deva’), and in another
form he is a gross Lingam (Shiva’s gross symbol made of stone). In one instance is is lost
in meditation and contemplation, being completely detached from the outside world, and
in another instance he is said to have a family consiting of his divine consort Parvati or
Uma, the divine Mother, and sons known as Ganesh and Kartikeya. Hence, he is called
Tryambak—the ‘odd one’.
 The word also means ‘the Lord of the three (‘Traya’ = 3) worlds’ consisting of the
heavens, the earth and the hell; the cosmos, the terrestrial world, and the nether world.
The Lord’s Mantra is given in the Tripura Tapini Upanishad of the Atharva Veda
tradition, Canto 4 is entirely devoted to Lord Trayambak. It describes the meaning of this
word and the Mantras dedicated to Lord Trayambak in great detail. This Trayambak
Mantra is given in paragraph nos. 1-6, and it is ‘Trayambakam Yajaamahe Sugandhim
Pushti-vardhan Urwaaruk-miv Bandhanaan-mrityor-mukshi-yeti Mamritaat’.
Lord Triyambak’s name appears in the following Upanishads—
(i) Atharva Veda’s Bhasma Jabal Upanishad, Canto 1, paragraph no. 6 which
says that his Mantra should be said when the worshipper applies the sacred Bhasma (ash
of the fire sacrifice) on his body from the toe to the head.
(ii) The Tripura Tapini Upanishad of the Atharva Veda tradition, Canto 4 is
entirely devoted to Lord Trayambak. It describes the meaning of this word and the
Mantras dedicated to Lord Trayambak in great detail. This Trayambak Mantra is given in
paragraph nos. 1-6, and it is ‘Trayambakam Yajaamahe Sugandhim Pushti-vardhan
Urwaaruk-miv Bandhanaan-mrityor-mukshi-yeti Mamritaat’.
Let us see what it says—
“Paragraph no. 1 = The Gods asked the Lord (Shiva), ‘Oh Lord! You have expounded for
us the best Gayatri Mantra dedicated to the Goddess Tripura. The hymn ‘Jatvedas’ etc.
incorporates in it the eight esoteric knowledge of Tripura. Ascetics find liberation and
deliverance from the shackle of death by honouring the Goddess with this Gayatri Mantra
along with these eight forms of esoteric knowledge pertaining to her.
 Now, please preach us the knowledge called ‘Mrityun-jay’—literally the
knowledge which helps one to conquer death itself.’
 Hearing this combined request of all the Gods, the Lord (Shiva) revealed the most
potential and acclaimed ‘Mritunjay’ knowledge of Lord ‘Trayambak1
’ (the three-eyed
God of the three worlds) that was encrypted in the form of ‘Anushtup Chanda2
’. [1].
[Note—1

  • Trayambak—Refer Canto 1, paragraph no. 2.

2
The Anushtup Chanda— The Anushtup Chanda is a verse with 4 lines, each line
having 8 letters = total 32 letters. It was first conceived by an ancient sage named
Anustuv, hence it bears his name.]
“Paragraph no. 2 = What is etymology of the term ‘Trayambak’? The Lord is called
‘Trayambak’ because he is the Lord of the three worlds. [These are the terrestrial, the
heavenly and nether worlds. It also means the past world, the present world and the future
world.]
 Why is he ‘Yajaamahe’? It is because the word ‘Yajan’ means worship and
honour. So, with the combined word ‘Yajan’ and ‘Mahe’ we invoke the essential Tattwa
or the basic Truth that forms the fundamental element in creation. [By extension, Lord
Trayambak refers to the supreme transcendental Consciousness known as Brahm.]
 The Beej Mantra ‘Kum/Kam’ that follows the word ‘Trayamb’ indicates victory
over death.
 Hence, the phrase ‘Trayambakam Yajaamahe’ is used to offer worship and
honour the Lord of the three worlds. [2].
“Paragraph no. 3 = Why is the word ‘Sugandhim’ used to worship him? The Lord is
famous in all the directions, his auspicious glories and magnificent virtues are known
everywhere, and they have a divine hallo around them which is as invigorating and
spiritually rejuvenating as the fragrance or aroma of a divine flower. Hence, the term is
used for him. [The word ‘Sugandha’ means pleasant fragrance, sweet and attractive
aroma, an enchanting scent.] [3].
“Paragraph no. 4 = Why is the term ‘Pushti-vardhan’ used to honour him? It is because
he creates all the worlds, sustains them, protects them, nourishes them, makes them
health, helps in their growth and development, and enhances their glories and importance
by living in all of them uniformly as he is all-pervading, all-including and all-
encompassing. Hence, he is honoured by the epithet ‘Pushti-vardhan’. [4].
“Paragraph no. 5 = Why is he called ‘Urwaaruk-miv Bandhanaan-mrityor-mukshi-yeti’.
Just like the musk-melon is firmly attached to its stalk, a creature is also sternly clasped
in the shackle of death. When he breaks free from this vicious grip of the cycle of birth
and death, he finds Mukti or final liberation and deliverance. [Lord Shiva is the most
enlightened of the Gods in the pantheon. This is why he is the patron deity of ascetics and
hermits. He can liberate the creature from the cycle of birth and death. He is depicted in the Purans as having his terrestrial abode in the holy city of Kashi where he gives Mukti
to the dying man who is brought for cremation on the banks of the holy river Ganges.]
[5].
“Paragraph no. 6 = Why is the word ‘Mamritaat’ used during his worship? It is because
the worshipper attains the elixir of life that gives him eternity and imperishability. He
becomes one like Lord Rudra himself. [6].”
Neelkantha—‘The Lord with a purple or blue-tinged throat’. Lord Shiva is known as
‘Neelkanth’ because he had drunk the horrible poison called Halaahal which emerged as
a scorching froth at the time of churning of the ocean by the Gods and the Demons in
search of Amrit or the ambrosia of life and eternity. The legend goes that Lord Shiva had
drunk the fierce poison that emerged at the time of churning of the celestial ocean in the
beginning of creation by the Gods and the Demons in search of Amrit, the nectar of
eternity and bliss. As soon as this boiling poison came out, there was the fear of the entire
creation being scalded by its heat and ferocity. So Lord Shiva took the name of Lord Ram
and gulped it in one mouthful. But the Lord knew that if this poison entered his abdomen
the whole creation will be annihilated nevertheless as it resided in his abdomen. This
shows that Lord Shiva is none but the supreme Brahm in whose body the entire creation
resides like the embryo lives in its mother’s womb. Hence, the merciful Lord kept the
poison in his throat, giving it a purple colour. [Refer: (i) Sharav Upanishad, verse nos. 11,
16. (ii) Mahabharat, Adi Parva, Canto 18. In its verse no. 18 it is stated that—(a) Lord
Shiva had drunk the poison while invoking and repeating the holy Mantra, and of course
that Mantra was the holy name of Lord Ram because the Lord is Shiva’s patron deity,
and (b) this is the reason why his throat became dark blue or purple, because he had
retained the poison in his throat instead of gulping it down in his stomach. (iii) The same
fact is endorsed in Tulsidas’ Ram Charit Manas, Baal Kand, Chaupai line no. 8 that
precedes Doha no. 19. (iv) Tulsidas’ Kavitawali, Uttar Kand, verse nos. 157-158 allude to
Lord Shiva drinking the Halaahal poison.]
Nataraj—One of mystical forms of Lord Shiva is known as the ‘Nataraj’ (pronounced as
‘Nut-Raaj’). The word ‘Nat’ means to dance, and ‘Raaj’ means a king or an expert who
knows the secrets of any kind of art. So, when Lord Shiva performs his cosmic dance he
is known as ‘Nataraj’. This mystical form of Lord Shiva is known as the ‘Nataraj’
because it represents the Lord’s cosmic dance that symbolizes both the destruction and
the creation of the universe, and it reveals the cycles of death and birth. Since one dances
only when he is extremely happy and ecstatic, this Nataraj dance of Lord Shiva indicates
that the Lord is extremely blissful and ecstatic in self-realisation. This pose is for the
welfare of the world, and to tell the world how one enjoys total bliss upon self-
realisation. In the pose of Nataraj, the ‘King of Dance Forms’, Shiva is giving darshan
(divine viewing) to his beloved devotees within the abode of Consciousness, which is the
heart of man. In other words, only when one becomes self-realised and experiences the
existence of the pure conscious Atma inside one’s heart, inside one’s inner-self, that he
can dance in ecstasy, lost in bliss and oblivious of the surrounding world.
During this form of cosmic dance that is known as ‘Tandav’ (pronounced as
‘Taan-dav’), Lord Shiva is depicted as having crushed under his feet the demon of ignorance called ‘Apasmara Purusha’. This demon of ignorance is created when the
creature forgets the truth and reality of his true ‘self’ and that of existence as a whole, and
the killing of this demon stands for overcoming ignorance and its attendent delusions.
One hand is stretched across his chest and points towards the uplifted foot, indicating the
release from earthly bondage of the devotee. The fire represents the final destruction of
creation. But since Lord Shiva is the ‘Maha-Dev’, the great God, he is simultaneously
responsible for bringing to an end this creation as well as creating it once again.
 Therefore, this dance of the Nataraj is also an act of creation whereby the Lord
arouses dormant energies and scatters the ashes of the universe in a pattern that will form
the design, the contours and the texture of the ensuing creation.
Sharav—In his form as the liberator of the soul of the creature by destroying the latter’s
gross external body and freeing the soul, he is known as Sharav. Shiva had assumed this
form to liberate Lord Vishnu from the horrible body of Nrisingh (half man and half lion).
[Refer Sharav Upanishad, verse no. 6-8.]

Lord Shiva has many other names also as follows:--


  • 1. Aashutosh—meaning one who fulfills all wishes of his devotees instantly.
  • 2. Bhairav—meaning the Lord of Terror.
  • 3. Bhole-naath—meaning the Lord who is simple-hearted, unpretentious, straight-

forward, honest, sincere, and humble inspite of being the Lord God.

  • 4. Bhu-Dev—meaning the Lord of the earth.
  • 5. Devaa-dhi-dev—meaning the Lord of all the Gods; the supreme God; the primordial

God; the first amongst the Gods; the God who was present before the coming into being
of all the other Gods.

  • 6. Gangaa-dhar—meaning the Lord who holds the mighty river Ganges in the lock of

hairs on his head.

  • 7. Jagdish—meaning the Lord of the world, the universe.
  • 8. Kailash—meaning the Lord who eliminates miseries and torments, restoring peace and

happiness to the creature. It also means the Lord of the sacred mountain with the same
name, viz. Mt. Kailash.


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credit : Ajai Kumar Chhawchharia