Aum Pancvaktraye Vidmahe Mahadevaye Dhimahi Tanno Rudra Prachodayat.
Aum. Let us meditate on the great Lord with five faces. May that fierce Rudra inspire and illumine our mind and understanding.
Lord Shiva is worshipped as Panchanana Shiva (Shiva with five faces).
The five faces are etched on Shivling or Shivalingam and is known as Panchamukha Shiva Linga – five heads of Shiva carved on Linga.
An important prayer (Stotra) dedicated to Panchanana Shiva is the Shiva Panchanana Stotram. It explains about the glory of the each face of Lord Shiva in the Panchamukha Shivalinga.
As per the prayer, the four faces of Shiva faces four directions and the fifth faces the sky.
In some texts, the fifth face facing the sky is replaced by a face on the southeast direction. Another symbolism suggests that the fifth face is the energy that sustains all and is present everywhere. Most statues do not show the fifth face that is the Ishana face.
Scholars and saints have given numerous interpretations for the five faces. There are also some symbolisms associated with the each faces.
Sadyojat faces west and represents creation
Vamdev faces north and represents sustenance
Aghora faces south and represents dissolution.
Tatpurisha faces east and represent spirituality that has destroyed the ego.
Ishana face in the Shivling is described differently in various texts. In some texts, it is believed to be the face facing the sky and symbolizes purity and destruction of ego. Another interpretation suggests that Ishana is the Self and the energy that holds all the aspects together. In some interpretations, Ishana face is shown as facing Southeast direction and represents Eternal Shiva or Shiva as the Supreme Soul.