By Swami Harshananda
Īśāna literally means ‘One who rules’.
Īśāna, an Apect of Śiva
Śiva, the third deity of the Trinity, has several aspects. As Pañcānana, he is represented as a five-faced god, out of which īśāna is the first face turned towards the Zenith. This demeanor is the highest aspect. It is also called ‘Sadāśiva’. On the physical plane he represents the power that rules over ākāśa or ether, the sky. On the spiritual plane he is the deity that grants mokṣa or liberation.
Īśāna, a Dikpālaka
Īśāna is also the name of one of the eight dikpālakas, the guardian-deities of the quarters. Shielding the north-east direction is assigned to him.
Īśāna, a Rudra
He is also classed among the eleven Rudras of the Vedic pantheon representing the principles of prāṇa or life-force. Sometimes, the Rudras are also listed as eight. Īśāna is one of them. Actually all these are different names of Śiva. Works represent him as Śiva in the human form with four hands. He holds the trident and rides the bull. Īśānī is his consort. She is the same as Pārvatī.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore