Sadāśiva, the ever-auspicious Śiva; east Bengal, 11th century

Sadāśiva (सदाशिव) refers to a form of Śiva, one of the epithets of Rudra.
The Śaiva āgamas consider Sadāśiva as the highest Supreme being, beyond the comprehension of anyone — subtle, luminous and all-pervading. Sadāśiva appears with five faces: Īśāana, Tatpurusha, Aghora, Vāmadeva and Sadyojāta collectively represent the Pañcha-brahmas and are regarded to be emanations from the nishkala Śiva (the formless, unmanifested Param-brahma). The Śaivaites regard the five heads as symbolizing the soul, the material world, the Buddhi, ahamkāra and the mind.

A Bronze Figure of Sadāśiva; South India, 16th Century: The five-headed ten-armed deity seated in lalitāsana, his principal hands in abhaya and varada mudras and holding a trident, sword, chopper, axe, cobra, noose, bell and fire in his remaining radiating arms; with four of his heads facing the cardinal directions and the uppermost crowned by a crescent moon and the head of Ganga. Made of bronze of high copper content

The worship of Sadāśiva was particularly popular during the Pāla and Sena periods in Bengal. The Sena kings were Parama-Śaiva, and hence, propagated Śaivism during their reign in Bengal. Several copper-plate grants of the Sena kings bear the figure of Sadāśiva on their seals, called ‘Sadāśiva-mudra’ and ‘Sadāśivamudrāya-mudrayitvā’ in inscriptions.

This deity is sitting cross legged in a padmāsana on a double lotus pedestal, with a bull depicted in front. He has four visible heads facing the four directions and 10 hands holding trident, vajra, sword, axe and abhayamudrā on the right and snake, pāśa, bell, fire and a weapon called aṅkuśa on the left.

Sadāśiva, with ten arms seated in padmāsana on the pericarp of double petaled blooming lotus pedestal. Bangarh, Dinajpur, West Bengal 12th Century

After the Muslim conquest of Bihar and Bengal in the first half of the 13th century, the local sculptor/artists migrated to Nepal and influenced their existing art and iconography, making this depiction common in Nepali bronzes.

Sadāśiva being worshipped Punjab Hills, c. 1830

“Lord Śiva is not unknowable entirely. He can be known by devotees who have no other refuge though he is unknowable through thousands of Vedic passages without devotion. So says the great Vedic passage. Sadāśiva shall be known through his own blessings by mental tranquility and supreme vision without aberrations and distractions.” Śivapurāṇa

Source: Iconography of Sadāśiva by B. N. Sharma


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