Hindu Mantras

Om Namah Shivaya — Ancient Mantra from the Yajurveda

The mantra Om Namah Shivaya is one of the most beloved and ancient Hindu mantras. It comes from part of a Hindu prayer, the Shri Rudram Chamakam, which is found in the second oldest of the vedic texts, the Yajurveda.

Om Namah Shivaya — Ancient Mantra from the Rig VedaOm Namah Shivaya is one of the most beloved and ancient Hindu mantras. It comes from part of a Hindu prayer, the Shri Rudram Chamakam, which is found in the second oldest of the vedic texts, the Yajurveda. It is a hymn to Shiva, the deity of destruction and transformation, and it is said that chanting this mantra helps to get rid of internal imperfections, limitations, and sins. It is also a mantra that elevates the psyche and awakens higher states of consciousness.

There is no exact way to capture and translate the meaning of this mantra into English. It is a salutation to Shiva, meaning “I bow to Shiva.” It is also seen as a salutation to the divine (i.e. “I bow to God”). Apparently according to author Elizabeth Gilbert, it can also mean “I honor the divinity within myself.” Another common translation is, “May the greatest that can be in this world be created within myself, within others, and within the world.”

The mantra’s mystical or more esoteric meaning is multi-leveled and quite complex. Om Namah Shivaya is a panchaskara mantra, meaning it’s made up of five syllables or literally the five holy letters (na – mah – shi – vaa – ya). It is preceded by Om or Aum, which is said to be the sacred primordial sound. The five holy vowels are the seed sounds of the five elements of creation—earth, water, fire, air, and ether—and as one chants it, one is working through the process of creation in reverse, hence perhaps the mantra’s reputed power of destroying manifestations of sin and imperfections. Another interesting interpretation is that these five syllables represent aspects of a person within the different dimensions, beginning and culminating in “Om,” the sacred primordial sound that is a symbol of the eternal divine.

Chanting Om Namah Shivaya should be practiced in a calm, relaxed, and gently focused state, in mindfulness that the mantra is a salutation to the divine forces of life.

Here are videos demonstrating two different ways to pronounce this mantra:

Research for this post contributed by Justin Norris, Vida Norris, Jordan Resnick, and Jenny Resnick.

35 Comments

  • Thanks for sharing your experience with this mantra Rev. Hamblin. I am familiar with the version of it by Sheila Chandra and can relate to your experience of feeling a strong vibration in the heart centre when listenng to particular music. I have also felt a strong energy in areas of the heart and third eye with this and other mantras – it’s a very calming experience.

  • The first time I sang this chant was when I listened to the song by Sheila Chandra…the song was “Om Namaha Shiva.” I felt the vibration in my chest, @ the heart center. Naturally, I wanted to continue this practice since that happened. It still sends chills through my entire body.

  • Hi. I was practicing this wonderful mantras from a long time. I had mystical personal experience after chanted this mantra 108 times repeatedly one month early morning 3-4am. i waa choice this particular time for mantra meditation according to verdic advice . I was going through a hard times with lot of pain and disappointment. So many difficulty i faced after lost my business. There was a negative energy made my life hard. I totally lost my inner stability and peace. Then luckily i got a inner message for chant the aum namah shiva mantra. I was started practice. After few weeks , i felt my hardship is getting move and new doors are opened for get rid off my debts .internal calmness stabilized in me. I had a peacefulness .i felt negative energy is vanishing like a smoke . Still i am practicing the mantra eveyday in early morning 3-4am..this is a most powerful protected mantra from bad influence of planets .karma is a main course of each of every suffering in life , physical pain.illness , unhappiness .hard life.disappointment ,lack of need..practicing through this mantra some how possible to escape from bad karma.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience Udaya – glad you made it out of negativity and into the Light.

      I also found that practicing spiritual exercises, including mantras, is especially important in difficult times, because it provides us with the inner clarity that we need to take the right decisions, or get inner guidance. Also by not feeding negativity/low states, but instead turning to the Light within, I believe we are earning spiritual help.

      Wishing you all the strength!

  • I have practiced this mantra last night before sleeping and I had some very revealing dreams that gives me much hope to carry on applying the teachings of inner transformation.

  • I’ve practiced this mantra every day this week and it feels very nice. I can feel the vibration within the chakras and it gets stronger with each day’s practice. My mind got clearer and clearer during the practice. Today, as the vibration got deeper, the candle flickered faster.. I’ve never experience this before so I opened my eyes and it stopped flickering and went back the to normal slow and calm burn. I closed my eyes and continue chanting and later as I got into a deeper stage, it flickered fast again.. It happened 3 times total. Wonder if there’s meaning to it? But overall, it’s very nice to chant this mantra..I will keep doing this and see..

  • I chanted this mantra for a very long time now – along with other prayers. Then I started to ask myself why are there so many different prayers and symbols of god. however, I continued to chant and pray every morning faithfully questioning even more! One morning, I heard this voice, call me what you may, but I heard a distinct voice, and a kind of a laughter “God you are seeking is within you”! It is an experience I will forever cherish. I have no question in my mind that what we are seeking is within ourselves and we have to be true to our inner self to find what we are looking for. “God is within us”. Whatever name you choose to use, the divinity is right there inside our own being!

    • Sounds like a nice experience, thank you for sharing Sandy! Looks like you were very inspired by the mantra and the question you had in mind, which brought strength to your efforts! I find this kind of dedication and enthusiasm very important when trying a practice in order to achieve results. Wishing you many more successes and spiritual insights.

    • Very nice Sandy, thanks for sharing.

      Those moments in the morning just before waking up fully are wonderful to experience such things. Wishing you the best in your search as well!

    • Nowadays,I am chanting a mantra always.. but I didnt have any experience yet.. rather i get stressed due to chanting continuously.

      • Don’t chant for too long if its unpleasant. Go with what feels good and natural.

        I find it helpful to start my chanting from a good inward state of mind, and to explore the mantra by being devoted and concentrated in what I am doing and in every sound. It makes it easier to focus and to not be distracted.

        Its a lovely mantra to chant.

      • Hey Nikhil,

        In my opinion chanting excessively is not the way how to use mantras and wouldn’t recommend it.

        Although mantras used properly can have great benefits. But when we do too much of something like this (or even listening to a song for too long) pushing ourselves beyond what our body is comfortable with we can drain our emotional energy and also our mind, and like you say we can feel stressed, emotionally tired etc. This is not the desirable result to get from a mantra.

        I know of the wish to experience something mystical. 🙂 ! What are you looking to experience Nikhil if I may ask? Maybe someone has some helpful tips.

        Take care!

      • Hey Nikhil,

        I agree with what Olga and Karim have said – try to find the amount of time that is right for you and don’t push it over this. Personally I find I need to build up to things – when exploring something new or trying to get my practices back to a good momentum when they’ve slipped – if I push myself with a force that doesn’t feel good then the practice has an adverse effect, the opposite of how it should be.

        Try to relax well before the mantra, let your body feel calm and comfortable, and spend a bit of time maybe just focusing on your breath and letting your mind calm down. You can also ask for help from spiritual forces. You can imagine that you are calling them with the mantra. Perhaps just do ten minutes, even set a little timer, and stop after that. Ending the practice on a good note and feeling will mean you will feel drawn again to doing it again, rather that starting to have negative associations and frustrations with it. These emotions are surely a barrier to higher feelings coming to you.

        Good luck – a big part of getting to these mystical states is learning how to break through the inner barriers we have. It takes time, patience and persistent exploration! Keep us posted : – )

  • When I hear this mantra I feel full of love. For me, being enveloped in this mantra is a very warm, loving and emotional place to be. Probably the only time I’ve ever had a “spiritual” experience. Deva Premal sings a particularly beautiful version of it that leaves me feeling like everything is going to be OK 🙂

  • Hi guys.i practice on namah shivay from my childhood.I love lord Shiva.i want to tell you that it is not a mantra it is maha mantra which nullifies all negative effects of bad planets and it gives peace of mind highly and makes you more conscious.it connects you with very higher energies.if fulfills your all desires.any mantra cannot compare with this.so keep chanting regularly and see results.it will fulfills all your wishes in short time.thanks.avoid more mantras because many people try many mantras one after another.it is best.thanks

  • Great mantra guys I really like both of these versions and really look forward to exploring them in a more profound way, thanks

  • ITS THE MANTRA FOR THE UNIVERSE. GOD LISTENS TO THIS MANTRA FOR TRANSFORMING OUR LIVES. ANOTHER MANTRA WOULD BE OM SAMBO SIVA SAMBO.

  • || – AUM – ||

    || – Na – Mah – Shi – Vaa – Ya – ||
    || – Ya – Na – Vaa – Shi – Mah – ||
    || – Mah – Vaa – Ya – Na – Shi – ||
    || – Shi – Ya – Na – Mah – Vaa – ||
    || – Vaa – Shi – Mah – Ya – Na – ||

  • I love both versions of this mantra.

    I read on the Belsebuub site that Geraldine used this mantra to help her through physical pain while not being able to sleep. Since I’m experiencing a similar situation, I’ve decided to try her advise.

    Thanks again to the team for all your great work.

    • Hi John,
      Yes, it did 🙂
      And during other times, it really help me to overcome some difficult state – it brought me a lot of peace each time I chanted it, and calmed down my pains. Overall, it feels very soothing and peace bringing.
      What has your experience been like so far with it?

      • Hello Geraldine,

        I love chanting to these mantras, especially in the morning with my little Beau. Both of us enjoy them quite a lot and Beau is able to sit so quietly absorbing every moment. The overall experience with my son is very special and I hope that these magical experiences with him will continue to guide him on his own spiritual journey.

        I’ve also used these mantras at night when I can’t sleep from physical pain and like yourself these mantras have been very soothing allowing me to peacefully fall asleep.

  • I really enjoyed exploring this mantra. It seemed to resonate very deeply and draw you in. Interestingly, when thoughts did surface they seemed related to some of the most fundamental defects I face, they were exposed very openly and I was quickly able to separate and return to the mantra. I’m very interested to explore further the mantras connection to our limitations and sins as you mentioned. Thanks

  • This is quite an amazing mantra. The first time I tried it, I felt a stillness of the mind that’s hard to explain but was a very solid stillness. It brought a sense of concentration from within that is hard to explain but interesting to experience.

    I’d like to actually explore this mantra further. I’ll check back to see if anyone else has had other experiences with it.

    • Hi Layla, I also felt this mantra brought about a serene focus. I enjoyed this mantra so much, we tried it together experimentally, making the way we chanted spontaneous, fresh and free, although it was not a perfect performance it was a really beautiful experience for me and I felt a strange and precious connection to the mantra which was very uplifting and different. It was amazing to chant it with musical instruments and perceive the stillness and feelings it brought out.

  • My experience with this mantra was very nice, and I am sure if I explored it further I would gain a lot more insight about it than my initial try. What struck me the most about the entire experience was not so much how the mantra itself went (even though that can definitely have a big impact), it was more the fact that I was introduced to a practice that was new to me, and I was able to explore it in an objective and personal way and gain my own insights and experience from it. It seems like such a simple gift, but it gave me much spiritual inspiration, and felt like true spiritual freedom in a way.

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