In which all scriptures (Vedas, Tantras, Agamas, etc.) is the science of mantra and the types of mantras mentioned?

To be specific, the answer can be on the lines of following sub-questions:

  1. Where are the types of mantras like vAcika, upAnSu and mAnsika mentioned? In which scripture?
  2. Are there any other classification of mantras other than the above three? If so, what and where is it mentioned?
  • Hello! you are asking many questions under one post. These questions stand as distinct questions and split your questions as different questions. Ask only one question per post. Also scientific speculation and asking for scientific reasons is off-topic for the site. Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 2:00
  • @Sarvabhouma Its just one main question "sources for the science of mantra". Just to elaborate what i mean by "science" i have elaborated sub-questions i.e. the answer can be on these lines. I am not at all asking anything about scientific explanation for mantras just the sources where this science is delineated not sure which line of the question gave u the impression that i am asking an explanation.
    – Prakash K
    Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 2:18
  • Yes, that one main question is "too broad" to address in a single answer. Questions (3) (4) and (5) can be asked as different questions as they require detail explanation separately. Again (4) contain sub questions and they can also be splitted into separate questions. It is better to ask them as different questions. Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 2:23
  • @Sarvabhauma ok fair will move 3 and 4 out. Thanks.
    – Prakash K
    Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 2:27
  • 1
    Yes tantras do deal with these subjects and many texts deal.with types and classification. If you want extensive discussion you can visit agama chat room. Meanwhile you can wait for answers to be posted and as suggested its better not to combine too many questions. Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 0:41

2 Answers 2


Mantras (मन्त्र) means “mystical formula” or a ritual formula used in worship , meditation , Yajnas (Sacrifices ) , devotion etc. in Vedic or Tantric practices and is associated or is of some deity or group of deities. Mantras are used throughout vedic and puranic literature.

Vayu Purana is giving us the definition of mantra as -

मन्त्राणां कल्पन चैव विधिद्रु विधिदृष्टेषु कर्मसु |
मन्त्रो मन्त्रयतेर्धातोर्ब्राह्मणो ब्रह्मणोSवनात् || Chapter 59.141||

The utility of the mantras or vedic hymns is in the prescribed rites through injunctions . The word Mantra is derived from the root mantra (Meaning to whisper) and the word Brahmana gets derived from the act of Preservation of Brahman i.e. vedic lore.

The types of Mantras and their science is in Detail discussed in Agni Purana - Book 3 - Chapter 293 - Different Kind of Mantras and their nomenclature.

According to Agni Purana mantras are of differnt types like - Male , Female & Neuter ( Gender) and 1) Mala Mantras 2) Bija Mantras 3) Arvak-Mantras 4) Soumya Mantras 5) Agneya' Mantras 6) Ari Mantras 7) Siddha Mantras 8) Sadhya Mantras 9) Susiddha Mantras 10) Pranav Mantra.

Below are the verses mentioning them.

विंशत्यर्णाधिका मन्त्रा मालामन्त्राः स्मृता द्विज ।। 293.1 ।।

O Brahmin ! Th mystic formulas containing more than twenty letters are known to be Mala Mantras .

दशाक्षराधिका मन्त्रास्तदर्वाग्वीजसंज्ञिताः ।
वार्द्धक्ये सिद्धिदा ह्येते मालामन्त्रास्तु यौवने ।। 293.2 ।।

The Mystic formulas having more than ten letters ( and less than twenty) are Arvagbija-s.

स्त्रीपुंनपुसकत्वेन त्रिधाः स्युर्मन्त्रजातयः ।। 293.3 ।।

The other formulas belonging to the group of mantras are of three kinds such as feminine , masculine and neuter.

आग्नेयमन्त्रः सौम्यः स्यात्प्रायशोऽन्ते नमोऽन्वितः । सौम्यमन्त्रस्तथाग्नेयः फट्‌कारेणान्ततो युतः ।। 293.7 ।।

Mantras are also classified as agneya (fiery) and saumya (pleasing) .

वीजाद् द्वित्रिगुणान्मन्त्रान्मालामन्त्रे जपक्रिया ।। 293.24 ।।

The mantras containing letters twice or thrice the bija mantras should be repeated like a Mala Mantra.

" Om ॐ " the basic bija mantra is also described , its said that a single letter mantra (Pranava) is to be chanted million times.

दशलक्षजपादेकवर्णो मन्त्रः प्रसिध्यति ।। 293.23b ।।

A mantra consisting single letter bears fruit after repetition for for Ten lakh (a million) times.

Science of Mantras discussed in Agni Purana.

Agni purana is also mentioning about how to chant mantras , in which way they are to be chanted and various techinical things associeated with them , the number of times they should be chanted , what should we do while chanting etc.

8 A mantra would not accomplish (the result) if it is either asleep or awakened. The sleeping state (of a mantra ) is when there is powerful (breath through the nostrils and waking state when the breath ) flows through the right (nostril).

20-21a A mantra should be imparted by the preceptor . When it is accomplished the perceptor should repeat it a thousand times. A mantra that has been heard accidentally , or got by fraudulent means , or by force or written on a leaf or (got) in the form of gatha (a verse) ,would not bear any fruit.

21b-23a One who practises a mantra by means of several acts such as repetition , oblation , worship and the like attains success by little practice.

28 The muttering of a mantra is ten times more meritorious than their loud repetition . Repetition with the tongue (within the mouth) is hundred times ( meritorious ) , The mental (repetition) is known to be thousand times (more meritorious) .

29 one should begin the repetition of the mantra facing the east or looking downwards. All the mantras should begin with Pranava (The syllable Om ) . One should restrain from conversing and eat the prescribed food.

24b-25 A mantra should be repeated a hundred and eight or a thousand times if the number of their repetition has not been specified. It is known that the number of libations and anointments is in general a tenth part of the number of repetition.

And the Mantras of vedic samhitas i.e. Mantras of Rig Veda are called as Rik , Yajur Veda as - Yajus and Samaveda as Saman mantras. Besides there are Shanti Mantras , Gayatri Mantras , Navagraha Mantras.

According to some sources there are Twenty Four types of mantras some of which are as follows.

Dhyana Mantras—meditation mantras used to mentally invoke the Lord's transcendental form, abode, and pastimes. Dhyana Slokas describe the deity and help the devotee to bring the deity in his/her mind and proceed with meditation.

Here are different Dhyana Mantras from Vedanta Spiritual Library.

Bija Mantras—A bija mantra, also known as a seed mantra, is a one-syllable sound used in meditation or yoga practice. Here Yogapedia explains Bija Mantras. Besides Om as described above the other Bija Mantras are - Krim , Shrim , Hrim , Hum , Lam , Vam ,Ram , Yam , Ham , Sham .

Here Yogapedia is explaining Bija Mantras.

Shanti Mantras - Shanti mantras are found in Upanishads. they are meant for creating peace in surroundings or in ones personal life . They are used in making our mind peaceful and calm .They are also believed to remove obstacles for the task being started.

  • I will add the description of all the mantras with little explanation soon from scripture. There are some other types of mantras too and all are not covered by above answer. Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 8:24
  • Thank you. This is good, will help a lot. Waiting for more as per your comment before i can mark this is as an answer
    – Prakash K
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 12:42
  • 'Rama Raksha Stotra Mantra' is also a mantra. Don't know it is in which category. Does somebody know it?
    – Vineet
    Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 4:05
  • @Vineet Yes , Ramraksha is More like a stotra than pure mantra ,of course Ram Nama is mentioned in that , but Rama Naam is Japa or Mala mantra. Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 7:53
  • @Vineet - chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/79220/swiftpushkar-and-vineet Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 8:12

In which all scriptures (Vedas, Tantras, Agamas, etc.) is the science of mantra and the types of mantras mentioned?

The science of Mantras, Purascharana and allied stuffs are extensively dealt with in the Tantras. Tantras or Agamas deal with the subject more exhaustively than any other scriptures do.

That's primarily because, discussing the science of Mantras, is among the signs of Tantras (Tantra Lakshanas).

For example, as per ViswasAra Tantram, there are seven signs of a Tantric scripture:

Creation, dissolution, prescribed methods for deity worship, the practice of all Mantras and related science, Purashcharana, proper ways of performing the Shatkarmas, description of seven kinds of DhyAna Yoga - The wise calls a scripture, which is endowed with such seven signs, an Agama.

Where are the types of mantras like vAcika, upAnSu and mAnsika mentioned? In which scripture?

First of all, these three are not types of Mantras. They are just the three ways of doing Mantra Japa.

Secondly, as already shown in this answer, the Tantras, Puranas, Smritis all talk about those classifications. So, there are many such scriptures.

Are there any other classification of mantras other than the above three? If so, what and where is it mentioned?

Yes there are. Like, in general, the Mantras where deities are male, are called Mantras. Whereas, where the deity is female, the Mantra is called a VidyA.

Apart from that, Mantras are divided into three basic group - 1. Masculine (Pum Mantra or Purusha Mantra) 2. Feminine (Stri Mantra) and 3. Neuter (Napumska Mantra).

For example, the ViswasAra Tantram states:

MantrAh pumdaivata jneyA vidyA stridaivatA smritA |
PummantrA humphatantAh syudvithantAh syuh striyo matAh ||
Napumsaka namohantAh syurituktA manavastridhA|

The Mantra of which deity is male is called a Mantra whereas it's called a Vidya if the deity is female. Masculine Mantras are those which end with Hum and Phat. Feminine Mantras are those that end with SwAhA. and Mantras that end with Namaha are called Neuter Mantras.

So, Mantras that end with Namaha are neuter in gender, those which end with SwAhA are feminine and so on.

Similarly, Lord Shiva says:

MantrAh purushadevAh syurvidyAh stridevatA priye |
MantrAh pumso humparantAh prAne charati dakshine ||
PravudhyeantehagnijAyAntA vidyAh stri devatAh priye |
VAme prAne pravudhyante namohantAh syurnapumsakAh ||
NAdidvayagate prAne sarve vodham prajAnti cha |

O beloved, the Mantra dedicated to a male deity is called Mantra and the one dedicated to a female deity is called a VidyA. Hum and Phat are found at the ends of Masculine Mantras. When PrAna VAyu is predominately flowing in the PingalA (right nostril or NAdi) then the masculine Mantras are energised. At the ends of feminine Mantras SwAha is present. When the PrAna VAyu is predominantly flowing the IdA NAdi (the left channel) at those times the feminine Mantras are energised. At the end of a neuter Mantra, Namaha is present. All Mantras are energised, when the the PrAna VAyu is eqaully flowing both the nostrils/Nadis.

KulArnava Tantram 16.41

Apart, from that there are Agneya and Sowmya Mantras.

ShAntike manavah sowmyA bhuyishthenduamritAksharAh |
SwAhAntAh syurviyatprAyAshchAgneyAh krurakarmasu ||

The use of Sowmya Mantras are precise in ShAnti Karmas. In these Mantras, the letter Sa and Va are predominately present and they will end with SwAhA. In Agneya Mantras, on the other hand, Ham and similar Beejas are often found and they are used in Krura Karmas (i.e in AbhichAra).

KulArnava Tantram 16.42

Now, these classifications, mentioned above, are also found in Puranas. For example in the NArada PurAna.

Quoting from the book "Essence of NArada PurAna":

The basic forms of Mantras are of ‘Stree’ (Feminine), Purusha (Masculine) and Napumsak (Neuter). The Stree Mantras end up with ‘tha’or ‘swaha’; Purusha Mantras end up with ‘Hum’ and ‘Phut’; those Mantras end up with ‘Namah’ are used in Napumsak Mantras. The various Mantras are utilised in the context of six ‘Karmas’ deeds) viz. ‘Shanti’ (Peaceful purposes), ‘Vashya’ (subjugation), ‘Stambhana’ (paralizing), ‘Dwesha’ (creating hatred), ‘Ucchhanana (uprooting) and ‘Marana’ (death-related).

Where-ever Pranavaanta (ending with the word OM) and ‘maatras or ‘consonants like ‘repha’or ‘raakaar’ as also the word ‘Swaahaa’are involved, these expressions are Agni-Sambandhi or related to ‘Agni Karyas’ such as oblations to Fire and these are for‘Sowmya’or peaceful (benevolent) purposes; the other Karmas (deeds) are invariably malefic. When the Soma sambandhi Mantras are used, these ‘Agnishomatmatmak’ or Fire- oblation oriented and are uttered to awaken Devas. Such Mantras are used along with control of breathing through ‘Ida’ and Pingala Nadis’ (viz. left and right nostrils).

Moreover, depending on a particular disciple's compatibility with a particular Mantra, Mantras are of many kinds like - Siddha-Siddha, SiddhasAdhya, Siddhasusiddha, Siddha-Ari. Similarly, there are SAdhya-SAdhya, SAdhyasiddha and etc.

These classifications are based on several tests prescribed in the Tantras, which judge, whether a particular Mantra is suitable to be given to a particular disciple or not. So, these are not really general categories of Mantras as they vary with persons.

The names of few such tests, which the Guru has to perform before initiation, are based on several Chakras like - KulAkula Chakra, Rini-Dhwani Chakra, RAshi Chakra, Nakshtra Chakra, Akadama Chakra, Akathaha Chakras etc. These tests are conducted based upon the first letter of the disciple's name and it's relation to the first letter of the concerned Mantra.

One deeply interested in knowing the science of Mantra should thus ideally study the Tantras. Whatever I have stated here is not even 1% of that.

Related reading: What is a Mantra?

  • 1
    Thank you. This is really good. Can you provide exact reference to there are seven signs of a Tantric scripture and also reference to Siddha-Siddha, SiddhasAdhya, Siddhasusiddha, Siddha-Ari.? Thank you once again for compiling this.
    – Prakash K
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 7:05
  • The reference to seven signs is Viswasara Tantram as stated. I know other references for the signs as well. Will try to update when time permits (these days i'm quite busy). For Siddha, Sadhya etc the reference is Kularnava Tantram only. Besides, other Tantras also shed light on the topic. Will try to add verses on what the outcomes of chanting some of these Mantras are. @PrakashK
    – Rickross
    Commented Jun 29, 2018 at 5:23
  • By reference i meant the chapter/verse in that tantra, so that i can locate it.
    – Prakash K
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 14:34
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    Ok but I am not sure from where u'll find Viswasara Tantram online. Tantras are most difficult to find online when compared to some other scriptures. @PrakashK And regarding Sidhha, Sadhya etc ref is Kularnava Tantram. I have this book so I can easily give the verse-chapter nos.
    – Rickross
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 5:33

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