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Svapushpa – Sulphur In Hindu Scriptures – Symbolism

Sulphur is referred to as Svapushpa in Hindu scriptures. In Hindu alchemy symbolism, mercury is regarded as semen of Shiva, the potent masculine energy, and complementary to it is svapushpa or sulphur, as the feminine principle. The union of these two is a figurative way, represents the sublime Shiva – Shakti. In chemical terms, it would mean mercuric sulphide or rasalingam, which is supposed to have powers of conferring immortality on the physical body, if consumed by one according to certain dietary regimen and certain yogic practices. Mercuric sulphide in its naturally occurring form is known as cinnabar, which was regarded as the alchemical supremo by the Chinese – a seed-idea which stimulated Indian alchemical endeavours.

In the tantric text, Matrkabhedatantram, Shiva tells his consort, Devi, that mercury is his seed (beeja), sulphur, her own creative principle (svapushpa) and that the rasalingam is to be prepared with these two and shaped into a phallic linga form. This is a tantric imagery depicting a male-female union at the divine level in tune with the tantric goal o communion with the noblest which is non-dual. Rasalingam was a source of benign influence for alchemists and was ceremoniously positioned towards the east in their laboratories.

Even though sulphur was conceived to be associated with the female deity, its purification was carried out with meticulous care. For this purpose, sulphur was melted along with cow’s ghee and strained through a cloth. It was re-melted along with some plant juices, and poured into milk in drops, repeating this process a hundred times. The combination of purified mercury and sulphur was symbolic of tantric monistic experience.