Tattvas : Elements of the Universe

by Gargi Harjai November 08, 2021

Tattvas : elements of the universe

According to Hindu mythology, Tattva are elements that form the universe, they are parts of human experience. Tattva is a Sanskrit word, meaning ‘principle’, ‘reality’, or ‘truth’.

Tattvas are also conceived as parts of deities in some traditions. There are different numbers of tattvas in different philosophies, the Samkhya philosophy recognizes 25 tattvas, while Shaivism recognizes 36 tattvas.

In Samkhya philosophy, there are two eternal realities of the universe, namely Purusha and Prakriti. Purusha is the center of consciousness, while Prakriti is the source of material existence.

All twenty-five tattvas of Samkhya philosophy are a part of prakriti, a source of creation in the world. The first tattva is seen as pure potential that successfully evolves into other twenty-four tattvas.

In Shaivism Philosophy, the tattvas are not only limited to material existence, but are also inclusive of consciousness.

There are a total of thirty-six tattvas in Shaivism, which are further divided into three groups, namely shuddha, ashuddha and shuddha-ashuddha tattvas.

- Shuddh tattvas- There are five Shuddha/ pure tattvas, also known as tattvas of universal experience.

- Shuddha-Ashuddha tattvas – There are seven shuddha- ashuddha/ pure-impure tattvas, these are tattvas of limited individual experiences.

- Ashuddha tattvas – There are a total of twenty-four ashuddha/ impure tattvas, most of them are part of Prakriti, or material existence.

Gargi Harjai
Gargi Harjai


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