I know that Shiva, Durga, Vishnu, Surya and Ganesha are counted as manifestations of Nirguna brahman. Or in other way when nirguna brahman is seen through lens of maya, it is seen in 5 different ways. What I fail to make sense of is how come Vishnu is there in the list, but his wife is missing. Similarly, how same saguna brahman Shiva, Durga, Ganesha are related as husband , wife, son and then instead of another son Karthikeya we have Surya as fifth. I am also not able to make sense of the number 5 and one family having 3 saguna brahman. The thing is since all are manifestations of Nirguna brahman, there should be no hierarchy between each of them.

I am not interested in Adi Shankaracharya's views because I already asked a similar question before. There may be different advaitic sects each with their own variations. This question is for those who believe nirguna brahman & saguna brahman seen in 5 ways depending on the person's nature.

Can some explain logically how it is possible?

  • 5 = pancha bootha... Feb 1, 2019 at 5:37
  • @AkshayS yes please write answer. I am OK with logical answers also.
    – user16895
    Feb 1, 2019 at 5:40
  • I am finding reference with respect to your particular question!! So takes time! Feb 1, 2019 at 5:41
  • 2
    Indra is only nirguna brahma. Though he failed to prove that.
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Feb 1, 2019 at 6:22
  • Dear Uday Krishna, Aditya hrudayam is an interpolation in the Valmiki Ramayana. It is not present in the Baroda critical edition of Ramayana.
    – user16581
    Feb 1, 2019 at 8:33

3 Answers 3


Since this question is about nirguNa brahman, I will answer this from the perspective of advaita. There is nothing special about the number five. Sri Shankara says in his Brahmasutra bhashya, that the supreme Lord can assume any form to bless his devotees. (BSB 1.1.20, see the quote below). There is no evidence from Sri Shankara's authentic works that he thinks there are only five forms of brahman.


With a beard bright as gold,' &c., cannot refer to the highest Lord, we reply that the highest Lord also may, when he pleases, assume a bodily shape formed of Mâyâ, in order to gratify thereby his devout worshippers. Thus Smriti also says, 'That thou seest me, O Nârada, is the Mâyâ emitted by me; do not then look on me as endowed with the qualities of all beings.'

Incidentally, the smriti in the above quote is Mahabharata, where Lord Narayana shows his cosmic form (vishwa roopa) to Narada.

  • I think this 5 forms belief comes from the link people gave to him on Panchayatana puja.
    – Ambi
    Feb 1, 2019 at 6:36
  • 2
    Dear Ambi, I have not come across any place in Sri Shankara bhashyas where he recommends panchayatana puja.
    – user16581
    Feb 1, 2019 at 6:39
  • I agree. That's why I said that it was people who linked it to him. In fact, I have actually asked a question on that same topic and answered it as well. hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/31724/16773. You can take a look if interested. I am still studying more stuff on that topic.
    – Ambi
    Feb 1, 2019 at 6:43
  • You can reply to a specific user by writing @ before username. Like @LazyLubber :-)
    – user6981
    Feb 1, 2019 at 9:48

According to Swami Nischalananda Saraswati, the Present Shankacharya of Puri, Nirguna Brahman is manifested in five forms to perform five basic activities:

  1. He creates as Hiranyagarva or Surya,

  2. Preserves as Vishnu,

  3. Destroys as Shiva,

  4. Graces or makes anugraha as Ganesha and

  5. Punishes or makes nigraha as Shakti.

Please see the video इष्टदेवको कैसे पहचाने (Ishtadev ko kaise pahechhane) on youtube published by the Govardhan Math.

I found this sound quite reasonable. But please remember that each form is the Saguna Brahman Himself or Herself and so having ALL the powers to protect His or Her devotees and fulfill all the desires of him or her and giving Mukti.

According to the Mantrayogasamhita, there are five basic elements. Shiva is the Adhiswara of Kshititatwa, Ganesha of Jalatattwa, Shakti of Tejastattwa, Surya of Maruttattwa and Vishnu of Vyomatattwa.(Deekshasaara, Amita, published by the Mahamilan Math).

Regarding your question on the relationships among the deities as found in the Puranas, Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath provides the answer in M-karbaba(Omkarnath Rachanavali, vol 7, page 70). He says, to understand the Puranas, we have to understand three types of languages: Laukiki Bhasa (Worldly language),Kavyiki Bhasha (Poetic Language) and Samadhi Bhasha (Spiritual Language). Its only in the Samadhi language, the spiritual meanings are expressed whichnare understood by the yogis only. So to the yogis alone, different tattwas of the Same God and the real meanings of the Sastras are clear.

  • Dear Partha, Brahma is usually termed as creator.
    – user16581
    Feb 1, 2019 at 8:36
  • @LazyLubberni have mentioned nothing on my known.And Brahma and Hiranyagarva are same from the viewpoints of vedanta so far as i know,
    – user17294
    Feb 1, 2019 at 8:45
  • Thats fine. Brahma is same as hiranyagarbha. But how did he become surya?
    – user16581
    Feb 1, 2019 at 8:46
  • @LazyLubber The symbol of creation is Surya. The Sunnwe see is a material form of that spiritual entity so far as i know.
    – user17294
    Feb 1, 2019 at 8:48
  • @LazyLubber and i think Shankaracharyya has the authority to say regarding these.
    – user17294
    Feb 1, 2019 at 8:49

It is called as Panchayatana puja, established by Adi Shankaracharya.

It was believed that at the time of Adi Shankaracharya India is divided in multiple Saguna Puja (with different deities) was happening and most energy was misspent in arguing between them about whcih is true / greater /....

So Adi Shankaracharya had established this Panchayatana Puja to Get all closer and tried to stop the fights/arguments majorly between Shaiv (who believes that Shiv is greater) and Vaishnav (who believes that Vishnu is greater). We can see its success today as in India we don't see any much fights between Shaiv and Vaishnav in last many years (I may say centuries). At that time there is a big part who believes in different Mataji, Ganesh and Natural resources like sun, rivers, mountains, etc. So Adi Shankaracharya had established a Panchayatan Puja with taking common deities and unite all into Sanatan Dharma. He had taken a Shiv, Vishnu, Ganesh to unite Shaiv & Vaishnav ; taken a Durga as a symbol of all Mataji ; taken a Surya as a symbol of all natural resources. And thus unite all different people into Sanatan Dharma so that people can think forward than just fighting between different deities. Adi Shankaracharya had also told that Saguna Upasana is the first step for Nirguna Upasana so this is important for achieving the height in Adhyatma.

This is just my thoughts.. Forgive if anything wrong and appreciate if you can guide how to correct.. Thanks.

  • the problem of your interpretation is : there are matrikas mentioned by sankaracharyya whom He mentioned inferior to Saguna Brahma.So all were not included in devi.similarly Vinayaka was considered inferior but Ganesha was treated as one of Panchadevatas.
    – user17294
    Feb 1, 2019 at 17:32
  • so i think His understanding was different from what u mean
    – user17294
    Feb 1, 2019 at 17:33

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