What is the meaning behind Shiva with 25 heads and 50 hands?

At the temple tower of Sthanunilayam or just Thanumalayan temple Sucheendram Kanyakumari Dist Tamil Nadu, stands Lord Siva depicted with 25 faces and 50 hands, showcasing the exceptional craftsmanship of our ancient sculptors.

The Thanumalayan Temple holds significance for both Shaivaite and Vaishnavite sects of Hinduism. Its name, Stanumalaya, signifies the Trimurtis: "Stanu" representing Siva, "Mal" representing Vishnu, and "Aya" representing Brahma.

One of the sixty-three bodily forms assumed by Siva is designated as Maha-Sadasiva. This formidable and monstrous image is typically crafted from wood or stone, featuring twenty-five heads and fifty hands, as described in the Skanda Puranam. However, in the carved images worshipped by Hindus, it is depicted with twenty-five heads and thirty-two hands. These hands are depicted holding various destructive weapons, including a bow, arrow, sword, mace, discus, conch, goad, rope, trident, spear, axe, and others. The thirty-first hand is shown bestowing blessings and protection.

The five principal heads rising from the neck of the idol represent the five attributes of Siva: creating, preserving, destroying, judging, and rewarding. Each attribute is further subdivided into five separate offices, totaling twenty-five, symbolizing Siva's role in creation and destruction. During creation, Maha-Sadasiva exercises his omnipotence across animate and inanimate creations.

According to Hindu sacred texts, numerous deities, saints, and celestial beings gather to worship Maha-Sadasiva on the holy mountains of Maha-Kailasa, symbolizing the deity's immense reverence. The rituals of adoration and anointing performed for this image are similar to those conducted for preceding idols.

Sadasiva, is the Supreme Being Lord Parashivam in the Mantra marga Siddhanta sect of Shaivism. Sadasiva is the omnipotent, subtle, lumnious absolute. The highest manifestation of almighty who is blessing with Anugraha or grace, the fifth of Panchakritya - "Holy five acts" of Shiva. Sadasiva is usually depicted having five faces and ten hands, is also considered as the one of 25 Maheshwara murtams of Lord Shiva. Sivagamas conclude, Shiva Lingam, especially Mukhalingam, is the another form of Sadasiva

Another variation of Sadasiva later evolved into another form of Shiva known as Mahasadasiva, in which Shiva is depicted with twenty six heads with fifty arms.

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