Nidrā

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Nidra, NidrA, Nidraa


Historical Account of Nidrā

One of the purāṇic stories reveal that Rāma gave the boon to Nidrā, the goddess of sleep, after she left Kumbhakarṇa, who was killed by Rāma, to reside in the hearts of those evil persons who try to listen to Rāmānāma or the purāṇas and in lazy students not interested in the acquisition of knowledge.

Nidrā as per Prādhānikarahasya

The Prādhānikarahasya[1] is a supplementary text of the Devimāhātmya. It describes Nidrā as a goddess and an aspect of Mahākālī. Iconographical works show her as a lady reclining on a couch. Some texts like the Lakṣmitantra state that Nidrā is one of the four consorts of Viṣṇu. The other three are Lakṣmī, Prīti and Vidyā.

Nidrā as per Patañjali

Patañjali[2] defines nidrā[3] as the vṛtti or the modification of mind dependent on tamas,[4] which is responsible for the absence of the waking[5] and the dream[6] states. It is actually deep dreamless sleep that is indicated here.

Nidrā as per Māndukyakārikā

The Māndukyakārikā[7] considers sleep called ‘laya’ as one of the four obstacles to samādhi. The Suśrutasamhitā[8] says that the hṛdayapuṇḍarīka[9] closes and hangs upside down during sleep.

Nidrā as per Other Scriptures

Other texts picture her as the wife of Kālāgnirudra, an aspect of Rudra or Śiva.

Aspects of Nidrā

The word ‘nidrā’ is most commonly interpreted as ‘sleep’. It has two aspects:

  1. Svapna means dreams.
  2. Suṣupti means dreamless sleep or deep sleep.

Signficance of Nidrā

Nidrā is needed for the health of the body. When the three dhatus, basic humors of the body, are in a state of equilibrium, good health is attained. Sound sleep at the right time is an aid to good health. Good sleep is denied to those who are stricken with poverty or disease or to the immoral persons. It comes easily to healthy persons and who are pure in heart. Yogic works describe that sleep over-­takes a person when his mind enters the medhyānāḍī, one of the several nāḍīs in the human body.

References

  1. Prādhānikarahasya 10
  2. He lived in 200 B. C.
  3. Yogasutras 1.10
  4. Tamas means darkness or ignorance.
  5. Waking means jāgrat state.
  6. Dream means svapna.
  7. Māndukyakārikā 3.44, 45
  8. Sārīrasthāna 4.32
  9. Hṛdayapuṇḍarīka means heart-lotus.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore