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In Hinduism, we do Namaskar to the God statues in the temples as a symbol of belief, respect, and worship. In addition, we also do Sashtang Namaskar.

What exactly is Sashtang Namaskar, and why must one do it?

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  • according to panchratra whether ladies can do sashtang dandvat pranam
    – user2808
    Apr 17, 2015 at 6:18
  • It's definitely a submission but it provides the person/devata whom we are doing this pranam, to look at our spinal cord. Spinal cord is the source of our projection upward and by doing this, all blessings allow it to repair/upgrade or help to reach a higher plane. I do not have any reference doc. for it. Think on this topic, answer will come from within.
    – user5082
    Mar 14, 2016 at 9:20
  • 8 parts of your body must touch the floor 1.forehead 2.nose 3.right hand 4.left hand 5.right knee 6.left knee 7.right feet 8.left feet Mar 14, 2017 at 16:46

4 Answers 4

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What is Sashtang namaskar or dandvat?

Sashtang namaskar or dandvat is a symbol of complete submission that reminds devotees to respect God.

Devotees perform sashtang dandvat pranam by lying fully prostrate on the floor with their arms stretched out towards the Idols.

Eight specific parts of the body should touch the floor:

  1. thighs

  2. feet

  3. hands

  4. chest

  5. mind

  6. head

  7. speech

  8. eyes

Why we must do it?

All of our karmas are performed through mind, body, or speech, and every karma in life should be offered to God.

Reference

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Ashtanga is "eight limbs". SAshtanga is "with eight limbs". So, prostration which is done by involving the eight particular limbs of body is called the ShAshtanga Namaskara.

Here is the formal definition from Viswa SAra Tantram :

PadbhyAm KarAbhyAm JAnubhyAmurasA SirasA DrisA VachasA ManasA Chaiva PranAmohashtAnga Iritaha |

..................

A prostration which is done by employing the following eight limbs is called the Ashtanga pranam - Two feet, two hands, two knees, chest, head, two eyes, speech ( Vakya) and mind.

When performed the shastanga pranam will look something like this:

enter image description here

Similarly, there is a panchanga pranam which involves 5 limbs instead of 8.

BAhuBhyAnchaiva JAnubhyAm SirasA VachasA DrisA PanchAngohayam PranAmaha SyAt PujAsu Prvaravimau |

..............

The prostration which is done by involving the following five limbs is called the panchanga pranam. Both these prostrations are prescribed during pujas- Two hands, two knees, head, speech and mind

When done the panchanga pranam will look something like this:

enter image description here

In such kind of prostrations we offer God all our senses along with the mind. So, they signify a total, all-round surrender to God.

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What is Sāṣṭānga Namaskāra​?

This part of the answer is as per the Kālikā Purāṇa, one of the 18 Upa-Purāṇas.

To perform a sāṣṭānga daṇḍavat namaskāra​, one must perform the daṇḍa namaskāra first:

Quoting from Chapter 66 - Mudrā-kathanam, Kālikā Purāṇa

षट्षष्टितमोऽध्यायः - मुद्राकथनम्

॥ दण्डनमस्कार ॥

त्यक्त्वा स्वमासनस्थानं पश्चाद दर्गानमस्कतिः ।
प्रदक्षिणं विना यातु निपत्य भुवि दण्डवत् ।
दण्ड इत्युच्यते देवैः सर्वदेवौघमोददः ॥ १५ ॥

अपना आसनस्थान छोड़ने के पश्चात् पृथ्वी पर दण्ड की भाँति गिरकर बिना प्रदक्षिणा किये जो दुर्गा (देवी) को प्रणाम किया जाता है । उसे देवताओं द्वारा दण्ड कहा जाता है तथा वह सभी देवताओं के समूह को प्रसन्नताप्रदान करने वाला कहा जाता है ॥१५॥

English Translation of the original Hindi translation by Self

Leaving one's sitting posture, one must lay down on earth, hands in the 'Namaskāra mudrā'. Such a pose is known called "daṇḍa" by divinities and thus, as such, this pose is capable of propitiating all the deities.

  • Then the (S)āṣṭānga Namaskāra is similar to the daṇḍa with few additions, as follows:

॥ अष्टाङ्गनमस्कार ॥

पूर्ववद् दण्डवद् भूमौ निपत्य हृदयेन तु ।
चिबुकेन मुखेनाथ नासया हनुकेन च ॥ १६ ॥
ब्रह्मरन्प्रेण कर्णाभ्यां यद्भूमिस्पर्शनं क्रमात् ।
स चाष्टाङ्ग इति प्रोक्तो नमस्कारो मनीषिभिः ॥ १७ ॥

पहले की भाँति दण्ड के समान पृथ्वी पर गिरकर, हृदय, ठुढी, मुख, दाढ़ी, नाक, ब्रह्मरन्ध्र और दोनों कानों से क्रमश: जो भूमि का स्पर्श किया जाता है, उस नमस्कार को मनीषियों द्वारा अष्टाङ्गनमस्कार कहा गया है ॥ १६-१७ ॥

Holding the previous 'daṇḍa pose', laying flat on stomach - (1). the chest, (2). chin, (3). face (mouth-eyes), (4). beards (throat), (6). nose, (7). head, and (8). the two ears - all these Eight parts/limbs must touch the Earth, and such a namaskāra​ have been called by the learned sages as the 'āṣṭānga-namaskāra​'.


And since it is done 'with the help of (स)' the 'eight parts of body (अष्ट+अंग)', in the posture of a 'daṇḍa', therefore it is called sāṣṭāṃga praṇāma (साष्टांग प्रणाम), or, sāṣṭānga daṇḍavat namaskāra​ (साष्टान्ग दण्डवत् नमस्कार​).





Why do we do it?

To show our unequivocal faith, devotion and belief in the deity to whom we are prostrating before.

As Bhagavān Śiva himself says in the Śiva Purāṇa -

Chapter 23 - Description of the Power of Devotion, Section 2.2 - Rudra-saṃhitā (2): Satī-khaṇḍa

मंत्रोच्चारणध्यानाभ्यां मनसा वचसा क्रमात् । यदष्टांगेन भूस्पर्शं तद्वै वंदनमुच्यते ॥ ३१ ॥ मंगलामंगलं यद्यत्करोतीतीश्वरो हि मे । सर्वं तन्मंगलायेति विश्वासः सख्यलक्षणम् ॥ ३२ ॥ कृत्वा देहादिकं तस्य प्रीत्यै सर्वं तदर्पणम् । निर्वाहाय च शून्यत्वं यत्तदात्मसमर्पणम् ॥ ३३ ॥ नवांगानीति मद्भक्तेर्भुक्तिमुक्तिप्रदानि च । मम प्रियाणि चातीव ज्ञानोत्पत्तिकराणि च ॥ ३४ ॥

  1. Meditating in the mind, repeating the mantras and touching the ground with eight limbs is called saluting.

  2. The belief—“Whatever god bestows on me, good or bad, is for my welfare”—is the characteristic sign of friendliness.

  3. Dedicating everything, the body and other possessions, for the propitiation of the godhead and retaining nothing for oneself is called dedication.

  4. These nine adjuncts to the devotion to me, cause perfect knowledge, bestow wordly pleasures and salvation and are pleasing to me (Śiva).

Śrīmad Bhagavad-Gītā 4.24 also glorify prostrations for similar reasons.

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this chapter of skanda purana describes namaskar (prostration):

26. After performing it (Kīrtana) for a Muhūrta (48 minutes) and circumambulating the deity, he should prostrate himself like a staff, slightly transversal to the South, on the ground.

27. A man should prostrate himself touching the ground with eight parts of the body (viz. two hands, two fed, two knees, chest and head) or five parts of his body (viz. two hands, two feet and head); but a woman should pay obeisance with only the five parts of her body and never otherwise.

28. The prostration is called Aṣṭāṅga (‘eight-limbed’) when it is performed with two feet, two hands, two knees, chest, head, sight, speech and mind.

29. The prostration is called Pañcāṅga (‘five-limbed’) when it is performed with two hands, mind, (bending down of) head, speech and sight. In the performance of worship these two types of prostrations are superior.

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