Nirvana Shatakam-Celebrating the Spirit of SHIVOHAM

  • Article explains the role of Shivoham in making us celebrate Shivaratri in a deeper way.

Since time immemorial, the major quest in the Sanatan Culture has been about one’s true identity. Who am I?, is the core question and the fundamental pursuit, of our great Seers who have pondered over it and with the help of their intense Tap/Sadhana, have tried to explore some divine truths regarding this enquiry of self.


Unraveling the ultimate reality, shrouded in ignorance has been the bedrock of our Upanishads. Here the seekers have always been aware of their limitedness and so desperately urge their Gurus to assist in transcendence and bless them with true knowledge. As the prayer in these texts says:


असतोमा सद्गमय ।

तमसोमा ज्योतिर् गमय

मृत्योर्मामृतं गमय

ॐ शान्ति शान्ति शान्तिः ।।


“From ignorance, lead me to truth;

From darkness, lead me to light;

From death, lead me to immortality

Om peace, peace, peace.”


Among the innumerable ways to reach to the quintessential knowledge, Advaita Vedanta holds prominence. It considers the Supreme Brahman, the infinite, omnipresent, omnipotent, incorporeal, impersonal, transcendent reality, the divine basis of all the creatures present in the cosmos. This SAT, CHIT, ANAND Brahman is the eternal and unified concept of the soul, which is beyond space, matter and time. Though formless and attribute less, the Pure Consciousness is an auspicious reality which can simply be described in a single word SHIVOHAM/I am Shiva.


The Upanishads speak of Peace as Self. Everything arises, exists and dissolves in Peace or Bliss. Bliss is the very nature of the Self but as a dark cloud hides the effulgence of the Sun, similarly the mind due to the ignorance hides the Bliss.


If an earnest seeker is interested in realizing this Blissful Pure Awareness which is beyond the bondage of nature, Advaita Vedanta provides a Nectar of Self Knowledge. The great Sage of this Non-Dualism Adi Shanakracharya has, through his umpteen verses, bestowed upon all of us the divine elixir of ultimate Jnana.

One such beautiful composition is Nirvana Shatakam/Atma Shatakam”, consisting of six stanzas or verses. The story behind this Stotra goes like this.

It is said that when wandering near the river Narmada Adi Shankara was seeking to find his Guru, he encountered the great Sage Govind Bhagwat Pada, who appeared as the embodiment of Upanishdic description, drashtisthirayasya vina nirodhat, - Yogi is one whose vision is effortlessly steady.

The mere glance of the Guru made Shankar highly amazed. The serenity of the presence of great mystic in front of him made Shankar feel the divine awareness/ Shivoham. As a result when the  Guru asked him, “Who are you?”, he answered with these mantras, known as Nirvan Shatakam, eliminates what we are not and finally identifies himself with nothing else than Shiva (Shivoham, Shivoham). Veritably, the song is a quintessential demonstration of the ultimate Knowledge that Shankaracharya possessed even before being taught by the Guru. Govindpada gets impressed with the display of such great wisdom by a young boy blesses him and accepts him as his disciple.

The verses thus become the crux of ultimate reality and mellifluously creates an ambience of transcendence to its listener. Nirvana Shatakam is extraordinarily profound and gives a new horizon to the overall conception of the philosophy of Non-Dualism and makes Shiva its epitome.

It is called Nirvana Shatakam because its six stanzas, one by one, unravel the real Self by affiliating it with ‘Shivoham’ and reminding us of our oneness with the absolute, the transcendent, the ultimate reality-the truth, the state of Moksha or Nirvana.


मनो बुद्ध्यहंकारचित्तानि नाहम् न च श्रोत्र जिह्वे न च घ्राण नेत्रे
न च व्योम भूमिर् न तेजॊ न वायु: चिदानन्द रूप: शिवोऽहम् शिवॊऽहम् ॥

प्राण संज्ञो वै पञ्चवायु: वा सप्तधातुर् वा पञ्चकोश:
वाक्पाणिपादौ चोपस्थपायू चिदानन्द रूप: शिवोऽहम् शिवॊऽहम्

मे द्वेष रागौ मे लोभ मोहौ मदो नैव मे नैव मात्सर्य भाव:
धर्मो चार्थो कामो ना मोक्ष: चिदानन्द रूप: शिवोऽहम् शिवॊऽहम्

पुण्यं पापं सौख्यं दु:खम् मन्त्रो तीर्थं वेदा: यज्ञा:
अहं भोजनं नैव भोज्यं भोक्ता चिदानन्द रूप: शिवोऽहम् शिवॊऽहम्

मृत्युर् शंका मे जातिभेद: पिता नैव मे नैव माता जन्म
बन्धुर् मित्रं गुरुर्नैव शिष्य: चिदानन्द रूप: शिवोऽहम् शिवॊऽहम्

अहं निर्विकल्पॊ निराकार रूपॊ विभुत्वाच्च सर्वत्र सर्वेन्द्रियाणाम्
न चासंगतं नैव मुक्तिर् न मेय: चिदानन्द रूप: शिवोऽहम् शिवॊऽहम् ॥


I am not the mind, the intellect, the ego or the memory. I am not the ears, the skin, the nose or the eyes.

I am not space, not earth, not fire, water or wind. I am the form of consciousness and bliss.

I am the eternal Shiva.


I am not the breath, nor the five elements. I am not matter, nor the five sheaths of consciousness, nor am I the speech, the hands, or the feet. I am the form of consciousness and bliss.

I am the eternal Shiva.


There is no like or dislike in me, no greed or delusion. I know not pride or jealousy.

I have no duty, no desire for wealth, lust or liberation. I am the form of consciousness and bliss.

I am the eternal Shiva.


No virtue or vice, no pleasure or pain. I need no mantras, no pilgrimage, no scriptures or rituals.

I am not the experienced, nor the experience itself. I am the form of consciousness and bliss.

I am the eternal Shiva.

I have no fear of death, no caste or creed. I have no father, no mother, for I was never born.

I am not a relative, nor a friend, nor a teacher nor a student. I am the form of consciousness and bliss.

I am the eternal Shiva.


I am devoid of duality, my form is formlessness. I exist everywhere, pervading all senses.

I am neither attached, neither free nor captive. I am the form of consciousness and bliss.

I am the eternal Shiva.


Nirvana Shatakam, celebrates this spirit of aiming to become one with the Eternal Shiva (ParaBrahman). It is singing as well as listening and creates reverberations of the Shiva Effect in the ambience, this blissful state helps us get lifted above all mundane entanglements. The infusion of Shiva Tattva in our senses, turns our mind inward and make it concentrate more upon meditation and sensing the consummate Self.


The innermost self, therefore shares the same emotions of Adi Shankar that neither I am mind, intellect, ego, memory, ears, skin, fire, wind, space, earth,  nor I am breath, five elements, speech, the hands or the feet but I am the Everlasting Shiva, free from any duality and pervading everywhere.


The palpable experience, I am Shiva, uncovers the Chidakash, the infinitude of existence and enables one to get the instantaneous recognition of the Self. As the Stotra ensures the initiation of Shankar into Sanyas, similarly it is worthy for us to use it as an underpinning for our spiritual journey. Its lucid style unlocks the profound secrets of the Upanishads as the ocean of wisdom, while recognizing everything pure as Shiva. Nirvana is the stillness of the Samsara so it is the magnificence and glory of Shiva, the Supreme being.                                                               


Hence the festival of Shivratri, gives an opportunity to all of us to rejoice in this energy of Shiva by taking refuge in it, which brings peace and solace to all layers of our consciousness and removes entropy. When the mind, intellect and ego repose in this divine exultation, it calms deep down in the state of tranquility.


So resting in the Shiva Tattva is Shivaratri and Nirvan Shatakam is the finest way to revel in the vitality of Shivoham and feel our subtle existence.



Author is a practicing Sanatani Dharmic Hindu who has obtained M. Phil and Ph. D. in History. She has published articles on a variety of historical, Dharmic and Samskritic aspects.


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