Panchamugeeshwarar temple is a small temple in the temple city of Kancheepuram. It is a very old temple and many stories are associated with this temple in the puranas. After Kasi this is the only temple named as Panchmugeeswarar. It is also connected with Ashtaveeratanam. Pnchamugeeswarar means swamy has Panchamugam (5 faces) denotes – Padaithal, Kathal, Azhithal, Akkal and Annaithal. It also denotes Panchabootham (Water, Air, Fire, Land and Sky).
Panchamukhi or Panchamukha Shiva, also known as Panchanana Shiva, is an image or idol of Lord Shiva with five faces. As five is the sacred number for Lord Shiva, five mantras and syllables represent him. These five mantras also signify the five heads of Shiva. Each head has a particular name and specific Shakti (power) is associated with it. Puranas describe these five aspects of Shiva as the five elements, the five senses, the five organs of perception, and the five organs of action.
Panchamukha, the rising Shiva grows in all directions. The names of Panchamukhi Shiva and the Shakti or power associated with them:
1. Ishana Shiva, also known as Sadashiva, is associated with Anugraha Shakti (power of blessing) As I evolve He rises too within me. The self, Atma lingam is at the core – Isana*. Isana is the root of the self, the core that holds all the energy within. The power of Isana is to reveal the energy of the self, this is the power of enlightenment, this is space, this is consciousness, this is Shiva within me.
2. Tatpurusha, also known as Maheshwara, is associated with Thoridhana Shakti (power of concealment) To its east rises Tatpurusha, that which I am, “Tat Tvam Asi”. My being rises, awakens to the world, awakens to consciousness. This is the expression of the supreme soul, of Atman that rises and is the life within us, the very presence of Iswara, He is Surya the rays of life. He is the prana I breathe, He is light, He is air.
3. Aghora, also referred to as Rudra, is associated with Samhara Shakti (power of dissolution) To the south rises Aghora, the fire, the flames of life, the raw heat and beauty of Rudra in his fiery presence. He signifies life, he signifies dissolution or re-absorption, he signifies the end. He signifies the equilibrium that lies beyond birth and death, he signifies eternal bliss in the living fire of Shiva Rudra*.
4. Vamadeva, also termed as Vishnu, is associated with Stithi Shakti (power of sustenance) To the north rises Vamadeva. Vamadeva is the beauty of the self, the poetry and the aesthetics that makes us. Vamadeva is the epitome of all the grace that we have, the presence of our beautiful nature for the world to behold. Vamadeva is the personification of love, representing the feminine form of Shiva, warmth that makes us want to take care of what we create. Vamadeva represents the Vishnu* aspect of preservation within us. It represents sustenance with life giving waters.
5. Sadyojata, also named as Brahma, is associated with Srishti shakti (power of creation) To the west rises Sadyojata, the power to create. This is the power to multiply beyond the self. This is the universal power of creation where the miracle of life is visible to us. I am alive, I am the self, I can create, I am represented by Sadayojata, I am the earth that flourishes with life, I am Brahma* the creator. (Space)
Panchamukha Shiva Linga is a powerful symbolism, a reflection of a great reality that encompasses all supreme deities. This form represents the Universe and all its creation, its life and itself as a whole in all directions.