The Famous Five – II


Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore


Further asserting His penchant for five, the number of weapons the Lord holds in His beautiful hands is again five. The Panchaayudhaas, as they are known, serve not only as weapons, but also as adornments. Though five principal weapons are often mentioned, the number of armaments the Lord sports is innumerable, as laid down by Sri Ramanuja in the Saranagati Gadyam Shankha Chakra Gadaa Asi Saarngaadi asankheya kalyaana divya aayudha!. And though His hands are normally four, the Lord makes suitable adjustments for holding these five weapons!

A question arises here – whenever and wherever we see Him, the Lord always appears holding these weapons, apparently not putting them down even for a minute. Even seasoned warriors carry arms only when they go to war or apprehend some danger. No one normally sports a gun night and day, not even the most hardened of terrorists. This being so, why should the Lord, who is a peaceable person, be always seen in the company of His arms, so much so that they appear inseparable from Him?

We find the answer to this intriguing question in the following couplet of Poorvacharyas

Paatu pranata rakshaayaam vilambam asahan iva
sadaa Panchaayudhee bibhrat sa na: Sri Ranganaayaka:

Protection of devotees being His avowed objective, the Lord is unable to tolerate even a second?s delay in rushing to their rescue. Like the fire service men who are always fully geared up to respond to calls for assistance, the Lord too does not want to lay down His arms even for a second, lest it result in that much delay in mounting the rescue mission. Further, the very sight of an Emperuman who is always fully armed provides a great feeling of assurance to devotees that in case of distress, divine assistance would not be delayed even for a second.

We are able to understand the role of the Chakram, Gada, Sword and Bow in destroying enemies?but how could the Shankham be of any assistance in this regard? Can a mere conch have the power to confound enemies? The Bhagavat Gita tells us that the Cosmic Conch Paanchajanyam is no less deadly when dealing with the Lord?s opponents. The blowing of the conch results in the emission of a stentorian sound which fills the enemies? hearts with fear and makes them drop down meekly, with nary a shot fired Sa ghosho Dhaartaraashtraanaam hridayaani vyadaarayat.

Five Acts to be dedicated

It is again in the Bhagavat Gita that the Lord tells us to dedicate to Him the following five acts of ours:

1. All our actions, in whatever field and for whatever purpose
2. All that we eat and drink
3. All acts of worship – pooja, homas, yagyas and the like
4. All acts of charity and
5. All acts of penance and meditation

Yat karoshi yat asnaasi yat juhoshi dadaasi yat
Yat tapasyasi Kounteya! Tat kuru madarpanam

Such dedication of action to the Lord is stipulated so that we do not develop attachment in the fruits for which these are performed.

The Five-hooded Snake

If the number of weapons that the Lord holds is five, so is the number of hoods and mouths of the strange snake that He lies on and which serves Him in various forms as an umbrella when He travels, a magnificent throne when He sits, a fabulous footwear protecting the divine feet when the Lord walks, a boat transporting Him amidst seas, a glowing torch lighting up His way always and as a soft, spotless and supple bed, when He lies down in Yoga nidraa.

Who says that Adisesha has only five heads and hoods? Is he not reputed to sport a thousand (ina tutti ani phanam aayirangal aarnda aravarasa perum sodi Anantan – இனத்துத்தி அணி பணம் ஆயிரங்கள் ஆர்ந்த அரவரச பெரும் சோதி அனந்தன்) Well, though Sesha does have a thousand heads, he appears to sport just five on normal occasions, as can be inferred from Sri Nammazhwar’s quip Iyvaai aravanai mel Aazhi Perumaanaar and that of Sri Tirumangai Mannan Mukkan naal tol iy vaai aravodu. Lakshmana, enraged due to the inaction of Sugreeva in searching for Sri Mythily, resembled a five-headed serpent, says Sri Valmiki too Sva tejo visha sanghaata: panchaasya iva pannaga:

The Five Glorious Gates

According to the Cchandogyopanishad, there are five gates to the Lord?s abode and each of these gates is guarded by a Brahmapurusha of considerable accomplishment Te vaa ete pancha Bramapurushaa: svargasya dvaarapaa: The Kaataka Prasnam too confirms that Svarga lokam has five entry points Taa vaa etaa: pancha svargasya lokasya dvaara:. However, the guards at these doors differ from those stated in the Upanishad Kaatakam tells us symbolically that the first door is guarded by Penance (Tapas), the second by Shraddha, the third by Satyam, the fourth by the Mind and the last by Charanam.
(In the aforesaid texts, the words Svargam and Moksham have been used interchangeably, according to commentators).


And we have the Paancharaatram, one of the two Vaishnava Agamas, dealing with temple architecture, worship, rituals, etc. And what is the association of these manuals of worship with the Number 5? Explanations abound and the following are some of them:

1. Paancharaatram is called so because it was imparted by the Lord to five deities over a period of five nights.

2. As it deals with the Pancha kaala prakriyaa or the functional division of the day into five parts and what is to be done in each of them, it is known as Paancharaatram.

3. Five sages Saandilya, Aupagaayana, Maunjyaayana, Kausika and Bharadvaaja, who were the incarnations of the five weapons of the Lord, propitiated the Lord, who imparted to them the divine wisdom of Paancharaatra in five nights.

4. The Paancharaatra system provides a philosophical basis for the five forms of the Lord, viz., Param, Vyooham, Vibhavam, Antaryaami and Arccha.

Pancha Kaala Prakriyaa

Incidentally, the five duties enjoined on us during various parts of the day, collectively known as the Pancha Kaala Prakriyaa, are:

a) Abhigamanam: After finishing the morning duties, we should go to the Perumal Sannidhi at home, offer the Lord flowers and fruits, recite the Sriranga Gadyam and perform Saranagati at His lotus feet with the Dvaya Mantram, for the unhindered performance of the day?s service to the Lord.

b) Upaadaanam: This refers to the collection of materials required for the Lord’s worship, like Tulasi, darbham, samit, flowers, provisions required for the Lord’s breakfast, etc.

c) Ijyaa: This is the time for the elaborate worship of Emperuman through Tiruvaaraadhanam, with Mantraasanam, Snaanaasanam, Alankaaraasanam, Bhojyaasanam, Punar Mantraasanam and Paryankaasanam.

d) Swaadhyaayam: After partaking of Bhagavat prasaadam, we should perform japam of mantras like the Dvaadasaaksharam, engage in paaraayanam of Srimad Ramayanam and other scriptures. After that, till the evening is the time for attending to domestic duties.

e) Yogam: This is the time for sleep. However, before the goddess of sleep embraces us, we should mentally recite the Vaikuntta Gadyam, Bhagavat Dhyaana Sopaanam, etc., all of which enable us to focus our thoughts on the extremely beautiful form and features of the Lord. With His magnificent form etched in our mind, with thoughts of His auspicious attributes regaling our intellect, we should slowly drift off to sleep.

We talked about collection of flowers, Tulasi, etc. for the Lord?s worship. There are again five ways of gathering these, each one of them successively less desirable than the following one?

1. Ideally, the flowers, fruits and Tulasi leaves used for Tiruvaaraadhanam should be grown by us in our own garden, with our own effort. We may remember the kainkaryams of Sri Periyaazhwar, Sri Tondaradippodi Azhwar, et al, in this regard.

2. Not everyone is blessed with the conveniences required for the above method. In such a case, we can gather these from gardens, public places or forests where they have grown by themselves.

3. Next in the order of acceptability are those we buy from the vendors or market. Since there is no guarantee of purity in respect of bought items, offering these to the Lord ranks rather low on the list.

4. Sometimes others bring us flowers, fruits, etc. from their gardens. Though these can be used for worship, they can never equal those grown by us. Shastras tell us that the fruits of worship with items obtained from others would really reach only the latter.

5. The last on the list is items which we seek and obtain from others. These are to be used only if nothing else is available.

Here is a slokam from Tulasi Maahaatmyam, which lays down the order of acceptability of flowers and fruits?

Sva prayatna kreetam shastam, madhyamam vanyam uchyate
Adhamam tu kraya kreetam yaachitam tu adhamaadhamam

This is not to dishearten those using flowers, etc. (in Tiruvaaraadhanam) which are bought, but only to point out the desirability of using flowers grown through our own effort, which are that much dearer to the Lord?s heart.

If what is described above represents the functional division of the day into five parts, there is one more chronological division, which is found in the Dharma Shaastras

1. Praata: kaalam
2. Sangava Kaalam
3. Madhyaahnam
4. Aparaahnam and
5. Saayamkaalam

Pancha Samskaaram

If the Lord has such great affinity for Five, we find that the means to attain Him are also based on this magic numeral 5.

Every Sri Vaishnava is supposed, upon Upanayanam, to pay obeisance to an Acharya and undergo the following five processes, which are cumulatively known as Pancha Samskaaram;

1.Taapam: The Acharya imprints on the shoulders of the sishya the signs of the divine discus and the cosmic conch, purifying him physically and cleansing him of sin. Those who do not undergo this process can not attain the Lord, says the Taittireeya Aaranyakam Atapta tanoo: na tadaamo asnute.

2.Pundram: With the twelve names of Emperuman, the Acharya adorns the sishya’s body at twelve places with oordhva pundram (Tiruman and Sreechoornam).

3.Mantropadesam: The three esoteric formulations (or the Rahasya Trayam) viz., Ashtaaksharam, Dvayam and Charamaslokam, are imparted to the ardent disciple at this juncture, representing the greatest treasure that can ever be acquired by anyone.

4.Naamakaranam: Whatever name the disciple was known by till this ritual, he becomes thereafter a Raamanuja Daasa, becoming an adherent of the great and glorious tradition that has Sri Ramanuja as its fountainhead, proudly carrying the appellation of a sworn servant of Ramanuja and of his followers.

5.Yagyam: The Acharya then instructs the sishya in the worship of Sriman Narayana, through the process known as Tiru Aaraadhanam.

These five processes represent a giant leap in the life of a Srivaishnava, transforming him from a mere nobody into a blessed Bhaagavata, his life thenceforth dedicated to the ceaseless service of the Lord and His devotees. Hence, for ascending to the pinnacle of Paradise, the Pancha Samskaaras —represent the first significant steps the aspiring entrant to Sri Vaikunttam should take.

And when we think of ritualistic worship of the Lord in the form of Tiruvaaraadhanam (forming the fifth item of Pancha Samskaaram), we find, to our total lack of surprise, that five vessels are used in the same, popularly known as Pancha Paatram meant for offering the Lord Arghyam, Paadyam, Aachamaneeyam, Snaaneeyam/Paaneeyam and Sarvaarttha Toyam.

To be Continued

Srimate SriLakshmiNrisimha divya paduka sevaka SrivanSatakopa Sri Narayana Yatindra Mahadesikaya nama:
dasan, sadagopan

Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore


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