The meaning of Samkara and Shankara:
The word "samkara" or "sankara" is a
combination of two words: "sam"+"kara".
"Sam" means good and "kara" means doer and
therefore "samkara" means doer of good deeds.
According to another interpretation, "sam" means the
"sam" of "samadhi" or the state of complete
self absorption or self realization. According to this
interpretation, the word "samkara" means the cause of
union or self realization.
The word "sam" also means harmony, as in the word
"sam/veda" or "sama/veda". Of all the Vedas,
Samaveda contains the most musical hymns and are actually sung
according to a set melody.
Probably for this reason, Lord Krishna declared in the
Bhagavad gita that of all the Vedas He would be found in the
Samaveda, signifying the harmony and melody hidden in the hymns.
If we go by this meaning, the word "samkara" means
creator of harmony or music. Indeed Lord Siva is very much the
master of sounds and music as symbolized by the dhamru he
There is no true equivalent to the Sanskrit letter
"sa" of the word "samkara" in English. The
nearest rendering of it is "Sha". In practice Lord Siva
is pronounced as "Shankara" or "Shankar" not
"Samkara" or "Samkar"
If we take the word as "Shankara" instead of
"samkara", we come across two more interpretations. The
word "Shankara" is a combination of two words, namely
"shanka" and "hara". "Shanka" means
doubt and "hara" means destroyer. Thus the word
"Shankara" means, He who destroys or defeats doubt.
Shankara destroys the animal nature in man, which is
represented by the tamasic and rajasic qualities. These two
qualities are primarily responsible for his lower nature, his
egoistic disbeliefs and profound ignorance. By destroying these
qualities and thereby our lower nature, Siva establishes the
conditions conducive to the emergence of divine nature in
It is interesting to note that in the Hindu mythology, most of
the demons, such as Ravana of the Ramayana, Surapathma or
Bhasmasur and many others, were great devotees of Siva, who
despite of their excessive wickedness, showed immense faith in
These stories tend to suggest that only Siva can transform
such individuals, who are characterized by excessive rajas and
tamas, through His immense powers. The moral of these stories is
that if you have excessive rajas and tamas in you, should
invariably worship Lord Siva in order to overcome these