Manisha Panchakam


Manisha Panchakam is a set of five verses (slokas)[1] composed by Shri Adi Shankaracharya,[2] the Hindu philosopher. It is said that in these five verses Shankara brings out the essence of Advaita Vedanta.

It is believed that Shankara wrote the Manisha Panchakam at Varanasi (Kashi/Benaras), the ancient sacred city of India, and the home to the famous Kashi Visvanatha temple.

According to the legend, Adi Shankaraachaarya, was on his way to the temple after finishing his bath. Suddenly he saw a chandaala (an outcaste) and his four dogs on the way, and gestured to him to keep a distance, as per the custom in those days. The outcaste then asked him some questions which form the substance of two verses which are a prelude to the main work.Among the questions asked, the significant one was like this-“Whether My body should give way to you or my Soul?”. On hearing these questions, Sri Shankara assumed (realized) that the person before him was no ordinary person but Lord Shiva himself, and the dogs, the four Vedas. Shankara replies to these questions in five verses. These five verses have been collectively given the name ‘Maneeshaapanchakam’. The word ‘maneeshaa’, meaning ‘conviction’ appears in the last line in all the five verses.

Manisha Panchakam conveys the message that once a person has attained Self-knowledge, considerations such as his caste are totally irrelevant.


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