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Learning Sanskrit - Sacred Mantra-s: Hūm̐ (Hum)

Varmabījamantra or Armor-Bījamantra (Śaiva-Praṇava)


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1) The sound Anunāsika (demilune plus dot in the original Sanskrit character above) is a nasal resonance which should be pronounced by keeping the mouth open always, feeling that the sound goes up from the palate up to the crown of the head. If you were to close your mouth at the end of its utterance, that ascension to the summit of the head would be impossible. It sounds like ng approximately.

2) Pronunciation 1 is a good document to start your pronunciation learning.

3) First of all, there is a measure unit called mātrā or the time gap needed to pronounce a short vowel (e.g. a). Short vowels (a, i, u, ṛ, ḷ) last 1 mātrā, while long vowels (ā, ī, ū, ṝ) and diphthongs (e, ai, o, au) last 2 mātrā-s. In turn, Anusvāra and Visarga last 1/2 mātrā. Anunāsika (final resonance indicated by demilune and dot in the above Sanskrit character) also lasts 1/2 mātrā and thus it should not be protracted. Granted, these measurements cannot be followed to the letter the whole time, but one should always attempt to follow them as closely as possible.

4) If you want the Mantra to have a more powerful effect on you, firstly repeat it with the physical tongue, and then with the mental tongue (i.e. repeat it in your mind). If you were to mentally repeat it once while inhaling and once while exhaling, the energy contained in that Mantra would spread much more quickly across your system.

5) Here you will find a complete explanation of the nature, characteristics, etc. of a Mantra.

6) Mental repetition of a Mantra is always more powerful that gross utterance performed by the physical tongue, as the mental tongue is subtler. However, it is usually good to start your practice with some gross utterance before entering the mental one.

7) To repeat a Mantra while one beholds its form, that is, the Sanskrit characters forming it, is extremely auspicious. Therefore, repeat the Mantra while beholding its form and then close your eyes and keep repeating it mentally.

Transliteration IAST (International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration) huum
ITRANS (commonly used online) hU.N 
HARVARD-KYOTO (also commonly used online) hU.m

The celebrated Varadātantra explains the meanings of each of the letters forming this Bījamantra in its sixth chapter:

ह शिवः कथितो देवि ऊ भैरव इहोच्यते।
परार्थो नाद शब्दस्तु बिन्दुर्दुःखहरार्थकः।
वर्मबीजत्रयो ह्यत्र कथितस्तव यत्नत॥

Ha śivaḥ kathito devi ū bhairava ihocyate|
Parārtho nādo śabdastu bindurduḥkhaharārthakaḥ|
Varmabījatrayo hyatra kathitastava yatnataḥ||

Oh goddess (devi), (the letter) "ha" (ha) is said to be (kathitaḥ) Śiva (śivaḥ), (while the vowel) "ū" (ū) is said to be (ucyate) Bhairava (bhairavaḥ) here (iha). The sound (śabdaḥ) nāda or half-moon (nādaḥ) signifies (arthaḥ) Para or Highest (arthaḥ) certainly (tu), (and) bindu or dot (binduḥ) means (arthakaḥ) destroyer (hara) of pain (duḥkha). Here (atra) the three (letters) (trayas) (forming) the armor (varma) seed-mantra (bīja) are spoken (kathitaḥ) to You (tava) diligently and with effort (yatnatas) indeed (hi)||


  1. The Tantra-s (revealed scriptures, see Tantricism for more information) are presented as a dialogue between Śiva and Śakti. Pretty generally, Śiva acts as the spiritual preceptor or guru, and Śakti as his disciple or śiṣyā. Varadātantra is no exception to the rule.
  2. Śiva is the Supreme Lord, obviously, as this is a Tantric scripture and not a Vedic one.
  3. "Bhairava" literally means "frightful, terrible, etc.". This appellative is an epithet of the Supreme Lord, of course, as the One manifesting, maintaining and dissolving the whole universe.
  4. "Para" is the Highest Self, i.e. Śiva.
  5. Anunāsika (half-moon and dot) is also known as Nādabindu, being "nāda" the half-moon and "bindu" the dot. Read Meditation 6 for more information about Nādabindu, please.
  6. Even though you can see that the letters forming the seed-mantra are: "h", "ū" and Anunāsika (half-moon and dot), the consonants in the Sanskrit alphabet have an appended "a". What is the reason? Because "a" is Śiva, the Supreme Self, and without Him all consonants are barren, as it were, that is, they have no power at all. Thus, Śiva describes the original consonant including "a" in the stanza, i.e. "ha" despite it appears without "a" in the seed-mantra itself.
  7. Śiva tells Śakti in this stanza that this armor-seed-mantra (a mantra for protection) is being spoken to Her diligently and with effort. In short, even though Śiva is the deity of the Bījamantra, it is repeated in honor of His Śakti or Power. Quite a mystery, isn't it?
  8. This seed-mantra is Śaivapraṇava, i.e. the main one out of those whose deity is Śiva.
  9. Bīja-s or seed-mantra-s are always monosyllabic.

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