The Famous Five – V


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What is Strength to a King? Is it mere muscle, brawn and vast armies? No, says Vidura, telling Dhritaraashtra that Strength is of Five kinds?

1. The availability of wise and mature advisers – ‘Amaatya balam’
2. A well-endowed Treasury – ‘Dhana balam’
3. Descent from a distinguished royal family – ‘Aabhijaatyam’
4. Praggyaa Balam or the strength of intellect and
5. Physical strength, as represented by armies and abundance of brawn.

Deities with Five Faces

Gaayatri Devi is said to have five faces, according to the Gaayatryashtakam “Gaayatreem Harivallabhaam trinayanaam panchaananaam”. Interestingly, the mantra is supposed to be divided into five during Japam, with breaks after the Pranavam, the three Vyaahritis and the three parts of the Gaayatri mantra. If Gaayatri japam is done in the prescribed manner, it would rid us of the gravest of sins and if not, prove counterproductive, say Shastras?

“Panchaavasaana Gaayatree pancha paataka naasinee
Panchaavasaana heena tu pancha paataka daayinee”

Another deity often depicted with five faces is Sri Hanumaan. Speaking of Siriya Tiruvadi, let us enjoy a beautiful tribute by Kamban to the Vaanara Veera, with a repeated and effective use of Number Five:

“Anjile ondru pettraan anjile ondrai taavi
anjile ondraar aana aariyarkkaaga egi
anjile ondru pettra anangai kandu
anjile ondrai vaittaan avan nammai alitthu kaappaan”

Though this appears cryptic, it is really simple, and is based on the Five Elements or Pancha Bhootaas. “Anjile ondru pettraan” refers to Hanumaan being the son of Vaayu, one of the five elements. “anjile ondrai taavi” portrays his act of leaping across the skies”(Aakaasam, another of the five elements)”to reach Lanka, in search of Sri Mythily. “anjile ondraar aana Ariyaarkkaaga”-Though the brothers Rama were only four at birth, Rama, in a display of His infinite love and mercy, adopted the lowly hunter Guha as His own brother, saying “Ninnodum iyvar aanom”. It is for this Magnificent Monarch Rama, that Maaruti crossed the ocean to Lanka. “Anjile ondru pettra Anangu” refers to Sita Devi, who is none other than the daughter of Bhoomi Piraatti (another of the Pancha Bhootas). “Anjile ondrai vaitthaan” commemorates Hanuman’s act of setting Lanka on fire (the fifth element).

Shiva is also a deity with Five Faces, we are told by the Sri Venkateswara Suprabhaatha Stotram, which says that all deities including Shiva, Brahma, Shanmukha, Indra, et al crowd the doors of the Tirumala temple, singing the praises of the Lord of Seven Hills”Panchaanana abja bhava Shanmukha Vaasavaadyaa: Trivikramaadi charitam vibudhaa: stuvanti”. These faces of Mahadeva are known as Sadyojaatam, Vaamadevam, Tatpurusham, Aghoram and Eesaanam.

Five in Tiruppaavai

The fifth paasuram of Tiruppaavai eulogizes five forms of the Lord:

2.Mannu Vada Madurai Maindan,
3.Tooya peru neer Yamunai turaivan,
4.Aayar kulatthinil tondrum ani vilakku,
5.Taayai kudal vilakkam seida Damodaran.

The latter half of the paasuram depicts five forms of service or kainkaryam to the Lord:

1. Tooyomaai vandu,
2. Toomalar toovi,
3. Tozhudu,
4. Vaayinaal Paadi,
5. Manatthinaal chintikka.

The close association of Tiruppavai with Number Five is brought out in the verse, “Iyyayndum Iyndum ariyaada maanidarai vaiyyam sumappadum vambu”. When speaking of ten, Sri Nammazhwar too puts it as a multiple of five”Iyndinoodu iyndum vallaar”. The Dvaya Mantram, with its 25 letters, is described by Swami Desikan as five times four plus five “Mukuundan isaittu arul seida iynnaal iyndum”

Five Holy Women

“Pancha kanyaa smaren nityam mahaa paataka naasanam” says the Scripture, telling us to think daily of the glory of five great specimens of womanhood.

“Ahalya Droupati Sita Taara Mandodari tathaa
Pancha kanyaa: smaren nityam mahaa paataka naasanam”

Another grouping of five deities which is supposed to be an instant purifier, is as follows:

“Gaayatreem Tulaseem Gangaam Kaamadhenum Arundhateem
Pancha maatroon smaren nityam mahaa paataka naasanam.”

Speaking of women, here is something to make their hearts burn with envy:

Paying tributes to Aamaruviappan at Terazhundur, Sri Tirumangai Mannan incidentally comments on the beautiful womenfolk of Azhundur. Their hair had five divine characteristics, according to Azhwar:

1. Fragrance (natural and not due to the use of aromatics)
2. Darkness (natural and not owing to application of dyes)
3. Density
4. Silkiness/Suppleness and
5. Sweetness which attracted bees in droves.

It can be noted that all the desirable characteristics of female hair, which women strive today to achieve or at least simulate through the application of shampoos, conditioners, dyes, lotions, potions, etc., were present naturally in the damsels of Azhundur, so much so that bees found their hair more attractive than flowers”Ambaraavum kan madavaar iympaal anayum Azhundur”. Women’s hair is also known as “Iympaal”, as it is tied in five different ways

Bhaktisaara’s Favourite Number

Tirumazhisai Piraan makes much of a play with Number Five. His very first verse of Tirucchandaviruttam begins with “Poo nilaaya iyndumaai”, referring to the five characteristics possessed by the first of elements, viz., Earth. The second verse too has a lot to say about five “Aarum aarum aarumaai, or iyndum iyndum iyndumaai”.

Three groups of five are referred to here.

1. The Pancha Maha Yagyas, of which the Lord is the object of worship

2. The Five Fires which form His body, like other sentient beings and non-sentient objects

3. The Five Aahutis (“Praanaaya svaahaa”, etc.) with which food is offered to His form as the Antaryaami.

Azhwar refers to five more quintets in the third paasuram: “Iyndum Iyndum Iyndumaagi”. The three more groups of five described here are
1. the five elements: Air, Water, Fire, Earth and Atmosphere
2. the five Gnaana Indriyas: Skin, Eyes, Ears, Tongue and Nose
3. the five Karma Indriyas: Speech, hands, legs and the two excretory organs
4. the five Tanmaatrams: Sabda, Sparsa, Roopa, Rasa and Gandha Tanmaatrams
5. the Five Shaktis of the Lord the divine form of Para Vasudeva is said to be of these five shaktis.

The Touch of Five

According to the Vaartthaamaalai, Prapannas should avoid the asociation of five items “Prapannanukku anju sparsam parihaaryam saiva sparsam, Maayaavaada Sparsam, Ekaayaana Sparsam, Upaayaantara Sparsam, Vishayaantara Sparsam”. The prescription for remaining unaffected by the touch of these five is enumerated by the same work, as follows: “Emperumaanudaya sarvasmaat paratvattai anusandhikka saiva sparsam pom: samasta kalyaana gunangalai anusandhikka maayaa vaada sparsam pom: Sriya: Patitvattai ninaikka Ekaayana sparsam arum: Upaaya poorttiyai anusandhikka upaayaantara sparsam arum: Divya mangala vigrahattai anusandhikka vishayaantara sparsam pom”

The Mahabharata catalogues five types of sinners, with whom we should not even converse those who kill Brahmins, those guilty of killing cows, adulterers, those living off women and those who are insincere.


The five letters which form the core, the very essence of the Ashtaakshara mantram are depicted by the Upanishad thus “Naaraayanaaya it panchaaksharaani”. In Saara Sangraham, Swami Desikan tells us the glory of these five letters “Iyndu ezhutttile aparicchinnamaana parama purushaarttha sambandhattai ugandu”.

Another famous mantram of five letters is that relating to Rudra.

Five Ways of Distribution of Wealth

One’s Wealth is to be divided into and spent for five purposes, if we are to lead a comfortable existence here in this world and in the worlds above, says the Bhaagavata Puraanam. The first and foremost item for which wealth is to be allocated is Dharmam or charity. One-fifth is to be spent on earning fame, one-fifth on things of one’s desire, one-fifth on one’s family and friends and the balance one-fifth should be saved for rainy days.

“Dharmaaya yasase kaamaaya svajanaaya cha
Panchadhaa vibhajan vittam ihaamutra cha modate”

Secular Significance

Wikipedia mentions several other reasons for the significance of Number 5.
The Five Pillars of Islam is the term given to the five duties incumbent on every Muslim. These duties are

1. Shahadah (profession of faith),
2. Salah (ritual prayer),
3. Zakat (alms tax),
4. Sawm (fasting during Ramadan), and
5. Hajj (pilgrimage Mecca).

Muslims offer Namaaz or prayer five times a day.

The Bible consists of five principal books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, which are collectively called the Five Books of Moses.

The Japanese names for the days of the week, Tuesday through Saturday, come from the elements of nature, via the identification of the elements with the five planets visible to the naked eye. The Japanese calendar has a five-day weekly cycle that can be still observed in printed mixed calendars combining Western and Japanese systems.
The Olympic Games have five interlocked rings as their symbol, representing the number of inhabited continents represented by the Olympians (counting North And South Americas as one continent).

To remind you of elementary Geography, the Oceans in the world are again Five:the Indian Ocean, the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Artic and the Antartic.

The hand has five fingers:

“Mani bandhaat aakanishttam karasya karabho bahi:
Pancha shaakha: saya: Paani: Tarjanee syaat pradarsinee” (Amarakosham)

Which of these fingers is the greatest? Well, there was an argument among the fingers, as to their relative importance. The thumb said, ‘When the palm is closed, it is I who tower head and shoulders above you people. So I am definitely greater than all of you’. The finger next to the thumb said, ‘People know of things only because I point them out. As I aid in cognition, I am surely the greatest’. The third finger said, ‘I am the tallest of you all and this is itself testimony of my superiority’. The Ring Finger retorted, ‘Does anyone think of adorning any of you with a ring’ I am the automatic choice whenever anyone thinks of a ring. Only the best is rewarded and so am I the greatest’. The Little Finger said, ‘I may not possess any of your superlative features. However, I am extremely contented because whenever the palms fold in obeisance before the Lord, it is I who lead the pack of fingers and stand first in expressing my devotion’.

Buddhism requires its adherents to eschew Five Great Sins:
1. destruction of living creatures
2. stealing from others
3. sexual misconduct
4. incorrect speech and
5.consumption of liquor and other intoxicants.

Well, it would appear that the possibilities of Five are indeed endless, if we scour the scriptures sincerely, we would definitely come up with any number of items involving this great number. As it is, I have had to discard quite a few clues dealing with Five, for fear of too much elaboration, as this piece has already run to 38 pages and more than 10000 words. Because of this, Pancha Tantra, Pancha Sheela, Panchaagni Vidya, Pancha Maha Paatakas, Pancha Dakshina, etc. have all faced the guillotine.

In view of all this, how true is the Upanishadic saying, “Paanktam vaa idam sarvam” (All this is verily made up of Five)!

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

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