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Sri Dakshinamurthy iconography and some other questions: Part One

I am doing a doctorate on Sri Dakshinamurthy. It will be helpful if you can answer the following questions:

Why Dakshinamurthi facing South direction?

Are there any specialties in south direction suggested in Agamas and in Shilpa Sastras?

Can you tell me the types of ‘ chadamudi ‘(Hair Types?)

Why there are such different types of Dakshinamurthi in South Indian temples?

 In North India, we can’t see the Dakshinamurthi idol… Why it is so?

 In your sixth chapter, I saw a Dakshinamurthi photo. It is very different. Can you tell me from where it is?

Please also say abbot iconography.  Thanks]


Dear SD, Thank you for asking specific questions. I notice, all your questions pertain to the depiction of the Sri Dakshinamurthy image. Let’s therefore, for the present, confine our discussion to the various iconographic forms and representations of Sri Dakshinamurthy. I am not sure I know the right answers to all your questions. Let me try.

Before attempting to answer your questions let’s briefly talk about the general features and characteristics of the various forms of Sri Dakshinamurthy image. This might help the discussion to follow.

1. The Principle

1.1. Sri Dakshinamurthy is regarded as an aspect of Shiva, as the universal teacher. He is the young and radiant Adi-Guru, Para-Guru , the Supreme Guru, imparting knowledge that liberates. He is the very personification of spiritual wisdom and eminence; and one who is immersed in Self. His teaching is through the subtlest form of speech- para vak – beyond the range of the physical ear, abiding in silence; the sort of silence that envelops within itself all other forms of expressions. It is the silence that underlines the limitations of rational knowledge, futilities of the blind alleys of metaphysical queries and the frailty hollowness of words. His teaching transcends speech and thought; it is experience. His listeners are learned and wise; ripe in intuitional understanding. The Guru’s language of silence dispels the doubts, the confusion and uncertainties in the minds of those around sitting in silence.

चित्रं वटतरोर्मूले वृद्धाः शिष्याः गुरुर्युवा | गुरोस्तु मौनं व्याख्यानं शिष्यास्तु च्चिन्नसंशयाः ||

1.2. The vata vruksha under which the Guru sits symbolizes   creation as also the expanding universe , which regenerates itself. The tree known as Akshya vruksha with its unique growth pattern also represents the eternal principle, the Dharma. (Vata derived from vat means: to expand, to surround and to encompass). It is meant to suggest that Sri Dakshinamurthy who sits under the vata tree presides over the cyclic processes of srishti (creation), sthiti (preservation), samhara (absorption or gathering up), tirobhava (suppression) and anugraha (revealing true knowledge).

[ Please click here   for Sri Dakshinamurthy Stotram , in Sanskrit with English translation ]


2. Iconography

2.1. The iconographic descriptions of Sri Dakshinamurthy are not uniform. Each of the major texts – Amsumadbheda, Karanagama, Kamikagama, Shilparatna and others – carries varying descriptions of the features, postures and ayudhas of Sri Dakshinamurthy. In addition, there are several versions of his aspects and attributes. The following, in brief, is a summary position of Sri Dakshinamurthy- iconography.

2.2. Sri Dakshinamurthy is depicted as a young person with serene, tranquil and pleasing countenance; seated in a secluded spot in the Himalayas, under a banyan tree (vata vrksha), upon a throne or a rock or an elevated platform (adhastad vata-vrkshasya sailad urdhvam) covered with tiger-skin (vyagara charmoparish that tu) or deer-skin (kurangasana) – Nigrodhanta nivasinam Para-Gurum dhyayami 

Sri Dakshinamurthy who is kevala murti (single or not accompanied by another deity or a consort) is always depicted singly.

Dakshinamurti Nanjangud Dakshinamurti 2 Nanjangudu

He is usually depicted with four arms. In his upper right hand, he holds a rosary (aksha-maala) in kapittha-mudra, as if counting beads of japa-mala; or a snake (sarpa: symbol of tantric knowledge) or both. Sometimes , he is also shown holding a drum (damaru) with a snake coiling around it. The damaru, the srishti (creation) aspect of Shiva, represents the primeval sound and rhythm from which the universe emerges; and, into which it dissolves before re-emerging. The snake coiling around the damaru,  symbolizes Kaala (time); it could either be the beginning or the end of time . 

Mudra- Pustaka – Vanhi  – Nagavila sadbdum  – prasannam  mukta-hara  vibhushitam  – Shashikala bhasvat  Kiritojjvalam |

In his upper-left-hand, he holds a flaming torch (Agni) symbolizing enlightenment or illumination, removing the darkness of ignorance. It also stands for his samhara (absorption or gathering back the created existence) aspect.

His lower-left-hand resting on his left knee (the back of the hand touching the knee) gestures varada-mudra bestowing a boon (varadam vamahastam ); and, it also holds a bunch of kusha grass or a palm-leaf manuscript symbolizing scriptural knowledge.

The lower right-hand is depicted in a number of ways; and, the position of its palm , its fingers/gesture often defines the nature of a particular form of Sri Dakshinamurthy.  The lower-right-hand :

:- (a) either gestures grace (his anugraha aspect) or assurance (abhaya-mudra); or

:- (b) gestures jnana-mudra (thumb and middle/index finger meet each other and touch the  heart  (jnana  mudram hrdi sthane); or

:-  (c) it faces inwards (abhyantara mukham karma)  as in the temple at Ilambyankottur (conveying that knowledge comes from within); or

:-  (d) is held in chin-mudra (the index finger of his right hand is bent and touching the tip of his thumb – the other three fingers are stretched up) indicating identity of the Absolute and the individual; or

:- (e) is held in Vykhyana-mudra (similar to chin-mudra)- butfacing the viewer as if imparting a teaching , while  seated in a relaxed position; and so on

Chin mudra

A rare depiction of Jnana-mudra at Ilambyankottur; And the other to the right is chin mudra [ and its next is vyakhyana mudra (Pallava sculpture)

2.3. Sri Dakshinamurthy is most usually depicted in a seated posture (aasana); and at times in standing (sthanaka), as in his Veena-dhara variation (holding a veena). But, he is not depicted in reclining (shayana) postures.

While seated in Virasana, his right leg is stretched down (lambaka padam); and, is stamping upon (samharaka) the dwarf (apasmarapurusha: representing ignorance and delusion) — (apasmaroparishthat tu lamba-pada-talam nyaset). This suppression (nirodha) of ignorance is described as the tirobhava aspect of Sri Dakshinamurti.

And, his left foot bent at the knee is resting on his right knee or thigh (sayanam padakam or kunchita-paada).

His sitting posture is relaxed; his body position and carriage is free from bends and rigidity. His general aspect is calm  (prasannam) and meditative.

Sri dakshinamurthy

2.4. His luxuriant hair of matted locks  (jatabhara, jatabhandha, jatamandala or jatamakuta) , said to represent his sthithi (preservation) aspect, is adorned and enriched with jewelry, the crescent moon, a snake and bunches of wild flowers such as durdhura (dhatura).

The mass of the jatas is either disheveled or held together by a snake or a band (patta-bandha); and, is  arranged in conical shapes to resemble a bright crown (Kiritojjvalam).

In the middle of jatabhara, resides a small smiling face of the Ganga. Curly hair locks fall onto his shoulders and upper arms. On his forehead, he bears a vertical urna (third eye).

It is said ; dhurdhura (dhatura – belonging to Solanaceae family) and other forest-flowers as well as the cobra must be positioned over the right of his head ; the skull and moon over the left ; and , Ganga in the middle.

Sri Dakshinamurthy is modestly adorned with rudraksha-mala; garlands of wild flowers; flowers above his ears (karna avathamsam). The yagnopavita (sacred cord) runs across his chest, which is adorned with sandal-paste, garlands and pearl necklaces (mukta-hara  vibhushitam). He is ornamented with kati-bandha jewelled waist band; naga-bandha armlets; anklets with little bells;  bracelets ; kirti-mukha earring in his right ear and conch- shell earrings (shankha-patra) or an open circular earring (karnavali or vrutta-abharana) in his left earlobe.

The Shipa text Shilpa-ratna suggests that Sri Dakshinamurthy must be adorned with five emblems (pancha mudra) : the gem on the forehead (mani) ;  the ear rings (kundala); the necklaces (kanthika) ; the bracelets on arms and legs (ruchaka) ; and, the girdle (mekhala) .

These ornaments are said to symbolize : spiritual power (virya) ; forbearance (kshanti ) ; generosity (daana) ; moral virtue (shila ) ; and wisdom  (jnana ) .

2.5. The nature of Sri Dakshinamurthy is sattva, pure, blissful , bright and serene (shantha).

His complexion is radiant like a clear crystal (shuddha spatikopama); or the pure silvery white pearl (spatika-rajatha-varna mauktikeem); or soothingly bright as the jasmine flower or the moon (kundendu dhavala prabha ; Shashikala bhasvath) . He is also described as glowing like gold (hema prabha) or dark (shyamabha) . Some Tantric texts describe his complexion as white as milk (kshira-gaura) or snow-white (Kailasadri-nibha), absorbed in self (bhava shuddha).

His countenance is free from even the slightest  traces of disturbance (klesha vargitam). A soothing and gentle smile lights up his expression.

His steady gaze  is fixed upon the tip of his nose (nasagra drshti yuk)  or on the tip of his toes (padagre drhsti patam). His eyes must be slightly open (kimchid unmiltair netraih), as in contemplation (yoga dhyana-anusarinam).

He is dressed in white upper  garments (sittottariya) and yajnopavita (sita-upavita). His lower garment is of tiger skin (vyagra charmambara) or silk (divyambara) , held in place by a serpent.



( please click here for Sri Dakshinamurthy Upanishad)

2.6. The great teacher-god is surrounded by many animals, particularly the deer and the Nandi bull. The Rishis eager to absorb the Guru’s teaching are at his feet.

Their numbers and names are mentioned differently in different texts. For instance

  • Karanagama mentions four Rishis : Agasthya, Pulasthya, Vishwamitra and Angoras.
  • The  Kamikagama mentions seven Rishis :  Kaushika, Kashyapa, Bharadwaja, Atri, Gautama and two others.
  • And, the Amsumad-bhedagama mentions seven Rishis as Narada, Vashista, Jamadagni, Bhrighu, Bharadwaja, Sanaka, and Agasthya.

The texts also mention that the number of sages depicted could either  be one , two or even three

  • (esham ekam dvayam vapi trayam vaparsvayor nyaseth).

The aged sages must all be shown with matted hair coiled up (jata bhara); dressed in white; and, wearing rudraksha maala . Their height is prescribed not to reach above the chest of Sri Dakshinamurthi.


3.1. The aforesaid are the general features in depiction of Sri Dakshinamurthy.

In specific illustrations, he could be depicted as either sitting or as standing ; sitting either in virasana or otherwise on a rock or on an elevated seat covered by deer-skin or tiger-skin; either with the legs resting or not resting on the apasmara; he could sit either under the banyan tree or not; his complexion could be fair or golden or red or dark; he could either be surrounded or not surrounded by the rishis.

There are also variations in the details of his gestures (mudra), the ayudhas he holds and their positions (some  versions depict holding a kamandalu water pot or mriga deer or snake noose or a baton like danda or an axe in one of his hands).

There are no strict scriptural prescriptions in these regard.

These details also vary with the disposition or the particular aspect of Sri Dakshinamurthy that is depicted. Some details are revised as a function of the period (Pallava, Chola or later times) and the region (South or North).

4. Variations

4.1. Sri Dakshinamurthy forms are immensely diversified; there are number of versions of his form. Apart from his spiritual eminence, Sri Dakshinamurthy is regarded a Master in Music, in Tantra and in Yoga. The various styles and forms of his depiction are basically related to one or more of these attributes.

Sri Dakshinamurthy representations are grouped under four broad categories that delineate his aspects and attributes:

as a teacher of music and arts (veenadhara Dakshinamurthy);

as the supreme yogi who teaches practice of the control of body and mind for realization of the self (Yoga Dakshinamurthy);

as the Guru who bestows jnana (jnana or medha Dakshinamurthy) revealing the knowledge that liberates;

and, as the master of rhetoric expounding the scriptures (vyakyana-Dakshinamurthi).

Of the four forms, the latter two are more frequently represented. The combinations of two or more aspects are also not rare.

Dakshinamurthi Veena

5. Veena-dhara

5.1. The Vinadhara or veena-dhara or Gaana Dakshinamurthi in extremely handsome   form  is depicted in two variations; in sitting (aasana) posture and in standing (sthanaka) posture. There are many bronze images of Vinadhara in the Chola period; but, sculptural representations and stone images were not many during the early Pallava period. But, in the later periods it seems to have captured the imagination of poets and saint-singers.

The images in the standing posture generally belong to the early Pallava period. The saint poet Appar , a contemporary of the Pallava king Mahendravarman I (600 – 630 CE) , sang “He (Shiva) stands wearing the sweet smelling vibhuthi; holding a veena”. Similarly, Sundarar (8th century) , the last of the Shaiva Nayanmars , describes Shiva “with matted hair hanging down, wearing  yajnopavitha he holds a veena in which he is proficient”.

Dakshinamurthi Veenadhara

The images in sitting posture appear to be later variations.  

In the sitting (aasana) posture, the youthful, charming figure of Sri Dakshinamurthy, with broad shoulders and tapering torso, is sitting with the left leg drawn up and resting on the seat in utkutika posture.

  • His upper body is slightly slanting towards the left, balancing the veena held gracefully across his chest.
  • The lower-left hand supports the instrument; and, is facing upward (vama hastam katakam urdhva vaktram);
  • while the lower-right hand is tenderly placed on the frets as if plucking the strings (katakam dakshina hastam adhomukham);
  • The hand gestures (mudra) are half-open, slanting and tending to extend gracefully (kataka mudra).
  • At times, he is shown holding in his upper hands a deer and an axe. (Amsumadbheda and Karanagama).
  • The gaze of the god is settled on the instrument ; and, he appears absorbed in music.

 The rest of the features are similar to that of vyakhyana-murthy.

The illustrations of this variation can be seen in the 7th century Pallava architecture Dharmaraja Ratha at Mamallapuram; Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram and in Shiva temple at Tiruvaikavur near Kumbakonam.

  Dakshinamurti veena  Kapaleeshwarar_Gopurum

5.2. In the standing posture the gestures of the image suggest as if it is holding the veena. The instrument as such may not always be depicted or in some cases it could even be missing. The Chola bronzes are the best illustrations of the sthanaka Vinadhara –murthy (Tiruppur Ambiyan temple).

      Vinadhara-Dakshinamurti , Lalgudi  

5.3. Shri Sivaramamurti, former Director, National Museum, New Delhi, in his work Kalugumalai and Early Pandyan Rock-cut Shrines, describes two forms of Sri Dakshinamurthy, one playing the veena and the other the mridanga, sculpted on the vimana of the Sri Murugan temple of Pandya period at Kazhugumalai near Tirunelveli. Sri Dakshinamurthy playing on a drum (mridanga) is called Pushkara Dakshinamurthy, the Master of instruments.

6. Yoga-murthy


6.1. Sri Dakshinamurthy, the supreme yogi, is often depicted as Yoga-murthy (Yoga Dakshinamurthy). He is shown sitting in utkutikaasana with both the legs drawn up (uddhrtam janvagram) crossing each other from the root of the thigh , heels touching each other (anyonya-baddha – pashnikam)  and held in position by a band, yoga-patta, passing round the waist and the fore-legs, a little below the knee.

Dakshinamurthi Yoga

In the classic versions of Yoga-murti , with four arms.  his front arms are stretched out resting freely on the knees (as in yoga Nrusimha); while the back arms hold a rosary (aksha mala) and a water pot (kamandalu).

His hair is arranged as jata-mandala woven into circular form and held together by a band or a snake and adorned with crescent moon and flowers.

The complexion of Yoga Sri Dakshinamurthy is variously described either as fair or red or golden;  but his throat is dark in color (nila griva).

The image is modestly ornamented; and with snakes and snake-like ornaments

Dakshinamurti Nanjangud

[E.g. Temples of Ilambayam Kottur Dakshinamoorthy; Elimiankottur near Kadabathur; and Shiva temple at Nanjangud near Mysore].

In another form  , as described in Amsumad-bheda-agama :

  • the right leg hangs down from the seat while the left leg is folded vertically with the foot placed on the seat and knee facing upward (lambayed dakshinam padam , vamam utkutikasanam) ;
  • The folded leg is held in position by a band , which goes round the body (sambaddhya yoga pattena deham , yoga pattikaya-baddhya).
  • In this form , the left hand is stretched out resting on the left knee (parasarya vama hastam tu vama-janupari sthitham).

Dakshinamurthi    yoga-dakshinamurti.jpg2

There are some other variations of the Yoga Dakshinamurthy. For instance; the following , from the Avur and the Tiruvengavasal (Pudukkottai) temples, show Sri Dakshinamurthy in relaxed posture, holding an antelope, rosary and  kamandalu (water-pot).

The text Uttara-kamika prescribes that the Yoga-murthi must be  facing south , seated in shade, on a tiger-skin spread upon an auspicious  bejeweled throne (rathna simhasane shubhe), under a banyan tree (tan mula dakshine chhaya-nishannah ratnopa-shobhite pithe vygra-charmottara-chhade) . The tree must be shown resplendent with fruits , flowers and crowded by many kinds of birds.

7. Jnana (jnana or medha Dakshinamurthy)

7.1. Medha denotes intellectual brilliance, vigour and vitality. It is the faculty that refers to the brightness of the mind (Buddhi prakasham); the radiance (prabha) of understanding (medha) and wisdom (prajna); as also the power of learning (vidvath shakthi) and the consummate skill in use of language (vak patuthvam). 

Sri Medha Dakshinamurthy is worshiped as the luminous teacher who ignites intelligence (dhi), memory (smruthi), steadfastness (dhruthi) ; and , in general the intellectual ability and acumen. These virtues are of great merit; and, equip the aspirant with the skill and capability to deal with and to gain insight into the world of existence perceived by the senses.

Vairagya taila samurne, bhakti varti samanvite | prabodha purneti gyapti deepam vilokayet ||

With non-attachment (Vairagya) as the oil; the guileless devotion (Bhakthi) as the wick, the light of pure knowledge glows forth.  

7.2. Jnana , in this context, refers to para-vidya the higher knowledge as compared to apara-vidya the lower knowledge of scriptures, including the Vedas. It is not an activity of the senses or of the intellect (buddhi); but , it is the total perception (drishti or darshana) of all reality. It is the sort of knowledge that leads to the understanding of the problems of being and becoming; to cross over all sorrows (shokasya param trayathi); and, to realize one’s true identity (atma-vidya). It is the knowledge that liberates. It is the content-less intuitional understanding and experience.

yan mauna vyakhyaya  maunipatalam kshana matra taha | maha mauna padam yaati sa hi me parama gatihi

It is explained; it is called jnana or knowledge merely because there is no term to describe the absence of subject-object, knower- knowing distinctions. It is the immediate and non – indirect perception (sakshat aparoksha), self-luminous consciousness (sva-praksha). The expression jnana in the context of Sri Dakshinamurthy is therefore more suggestive than denotative.

7.3. The representations of Medha and Jnana aspects of Sri Dakshinamurthy have got mixed up.

In either case, he is characterized by the jnana-mudra and chin-mudra (described earlier), as also by the scriptures or the Kusha grass he holds. His other ayudhas such as the rosary (akshamala) with a snake  and Agni the torch of illumination; as also his firmly stamping on the apasmara-purusha symbol of ignorance and delusion, amplify his main attributes.

In these depictions, his face is serene, tranquil and smiling.  He is portrayed as embodiment of bliss, immersed in deep meditation with his eyes half-closed (ardha nimila-aksha). Yet, there is eloquence in his being; and there is purity around him.

The Medha-Jnana Sri Dakshinamurthy is composed of bliss, intelligence and existence.

 (Sri Dakshinamurthy at Karuveli temple – by courtesy of  Smt. Ushasuryamani)

7.4. There are number of shrines of Medha Sri Dakshinamurthy; too many to be listed here. Just to mention a few, the better known shrines are located in: temples of Sri Arunachaleshwara, Tiruvannamalai; Sri Kaalahasteeswara, Sri Kaalahasti; and Srikanteshwara temple, Nanjangudu.

dakshinamurti wallat Arunachaleshwara

8. Vyakhyana-murti

8.1. Sri Dakshinamurthy  as Vyakhyana-murti or Dharma-vyakhyana-murti  the teacher of Brahma-vidya is  sitting in absolute comfort (Sukhaseena) fully relaxed assuming veerasana is expounding, interpreting the scriptures. He is sitting on a throne (vyakhya pithe nishannam ) or on white-lotus-seat (sitambuja stham ) or  on a circular padmasana (or kamalasana), the symbol of the sacred syllable OM.  The shade of the banyan tree under which he is sitting is interpreted as Maya, illusion. And , the bull standing nearby is Dharma, the eternal law.

His right leg is hanging below the seat (lambaka padam) while the left one bent at the knee is placed across over the right thigh (sayanam padakam or kunchita-paada). His right foot may or may not rest on the back of the apasmara-purusha. He is depicted with three eyes and four arms. The mass of his hair may be let loose hanging around his ears (jatabhara) or held together by an ornate band (lalata patta). The kesha-vinyasa, the hair-do, is adorned with flowers, crescent moon, a snake and small tinkling bells.

His expression is benign and compassionate. Unlike as in his Jnana version, Sri Dakshinamurthy, as Vyakhyana murti, is not immersed in meditation; here, he is in wakeful (jagrat) state with his eyes fully open.

His left hand in varada-mudra also holds a text of the scriptures; and his right hand gesticulates, in vyakhyana-mudra, as if he is speaking, explaining, teaching or imparting a discourse. The thumb and the index finger of his right hand are joined while the three other fingers are pointed upward; and the palm is facing the viewer. His upper right hand holds the aksha-mala (representing tattvas) while his upper left hand holds Agni (torch of fire) or sarpa (snake) or a lotus or nilotpala flower.

The great teacher is surrounded by Rishis sitting at his feet, eager to learn. The Dharma Vyakhyana-murti is the supreme teacher, the Guru incarnate; most auspicious and readily accessible to eager aspiring learners.

sri Dakshinamurti

Most of the temples in South India depict combinations of Vyakhyana-murti and Medha Dakshinamurthy.

9. Other variations

9.1. As mentioned earlier, the forms and representations of Sri Dakshinamurthy image are immensely diversified ; there are various forms ; many in number.  Kashyapa Shilpa (76.5) mentions a variety with eight hands (ashta-hastham-athapi va ). But, most are, in effect, combinations of any of the four main aspects discussed above. Some of those variations are fairly well known; while many others are rather obscure or specialized forms. Let’s briefly see some of them.

Sri Vidya – Dakshinamurthy

9.2. Sri Dakshinamurthy is a revered seer of the kadi (samaya) matha school of Sri Vidya tradition. Samaya is centred on knowledge (jnana) which is the realization of the identity of Shiva and Shakthi: Shiva becomes Kameshwara and Kameshwari becomes Shiva. Their names too get intertwined. For instance,  Shiva and Shivaa; Tripura and Tripuraa; Bhava and Bhavani; Shambu and Shambhavi; Rudra and Rudrani ; and Sundara and Sundari etc. Therefore, Sri Dakshinamurthy, in this tradition, is worshiped as a combination of Shiva and Shakthi. Nama number 725 of Sri Lalitha Sahasaranama describes Sri Lalitha Parameshwari as Sri Daksinamurti-rupini.


Sri Dakshinamurthy, here, is depicted as a Master of Tantra. He has a very heavy jata-bhara, dishevelled and flowing down his shoulders, almost covering the ears. A patra-kundala is worn in the left ear, while there is none on the right. Snakes symbols of Tantra are prominently displayed: coiled loosely around the thighs, with its hooded head on the right; and in the jata-bhara; as also coiled on the damaru drum.

Ardhanari – Dakshinamurthy

9.3. It is explained; the term Dakshina, literally means a woman; and,  it refers to the feminine principle, which can create, unfold and manifest. When Dakshina assumes a form, it results in Dakshinamurthi, an androgynous, variety of Shiva’s form. Sri Dakshinamurthi, as ardha-nari, as Kameshwara and Kameshwari is regarded the principle deity of the Kadi School. The ardha-nari depictions can be seen in some temples; for instance, in the Sivanandeswarar temple in Thirupanthurai, (Tanjore) and in the Thirupulivanam, temple near Chennai

Rishabharudha Dakshinamurthy

9.4. The form of Sri Dakshinamurthy either riding the bull (vrishabha) or standing beside the bull leaning against it with his right elbow placed on the bull’s head or neck is quite popular.

Sri Dakshinamurthy with four arms and three eyes, looks peaceful and pleased (prasanna).

His hair is tied up in the shape of a tall crown (baddha-veni-kirita).

There are number of temples depicting Sri Dakshinamurthy in this aspect ; for instance: in the Vathanyewara (Vallalar) temple, Sri Dakshinamurthy is seated on Nandi; and in Tirunallavanur temple, Sri Dakshinamurthy is portrayed in a standing posture, holding scriptures in the left hand while his right elbow is resting on the Nandi.


Lagudi or Lakuti Dakshinamurthy

A form of Sri Dakshinamurthy holding a cudgel (lagudi or lakuti)  is Lakuti Dakshinamurthy . He is described as of golden complexion , seated under  a Nigrodha tree in  virasana ; decorated by eight serpents (ashta bhogi vilasad bhushanam) ; clothed in tiger skin (vyaghra tvak pata) ; and , holding a cludgel (lagudi or latuki ) . He is surrounded by sages waiting on him .

Samba Dakshinamurthy 

Dakshinamurti Dampathya NanjanguduDakshinamurti Samba

Samba Dakshinamurthy is an unusual form seated alongside  Parvathi who is dark in complexion (shyama) , holding a blue lotus (utpala) and lovingly embracing Dakshinamurthy (vamaropari sthitham giri-sutam anyonya-alinganam) . 

Samba Dakshinamurthy is described as holding a book in the hand that embraces Parvathi;  and in the other two hands he holds a pot filled with nectar (kumbham sudha puritam) , a rosary made of pearls (makthakshamala) , while the other hand gestures wisdom (mudram jnana mayim).

This form depicted along with Parvathi is most unusual; because, Sri Dakshinamurthy is invariably depicted as kevala murthi.

10. Some more variations

Dakshinamurti Samhara NanjanguduDakshinamurti Veena Nanjangudu

10.1. A variety of other depictions are sporadically mentioned. But the iconographic features of these variations are unclear. These forms are perhaps worshiped for specific purposes ; say for attaining health, wealth or knowledge. The following are some of such forms:

  • Samhara Dakshinamurthy (vyakhyam-samhara-samjnam) ;
  •  Lakshmi Dakshinamurthy ;
  • Veera Dakshinamurthy ;
  • Sakti Dakshinamurthy ;
  • Kala Dakshinamurthy ;
  • Apasmara Nivartaka Dakshinamurthy ;
  • Moola Dakshinamurthy;
  •  Shudder Dakshinamurthy ;
  • Vaagisha Dakshinamurthy ;
  • Hamsa Dakshinamurthy;
  •  Chidambaram Dakshinamurthy ;
  • Vira Vijaya Dakshinamurthy;
  • Kirthi Dakshinamurthy;
  • Brahma Dakshinamurthy ;
  • Sakthi Dakshinamurthy;
  • Siddha Dakshinamurthy ;
  • Srividya Dakshinamurthy etc.

Dakshinamurti Vyakhyana NanjanguduDakshimurti Yoga Nanjangudu

There is also a hideous form of Dakshinamurthy . I could not however secure its authentic scriptural reference (Can anyone please help?)


Sri Dakshinamurthy as Linga

10.2. Sri Dakshinamurthy is also represented and worshiped in the Linga form. For instance, the Mahakal Jyotirlinga, cream in color and facing South, in the ancient temple of Mahakaleshwar at Ujjain (Avanthika) is revered as Sri Dakshinamurthy.

Mahakaleshwar Ujjain Pashupathinath Katmandu

In Sri Pashupatinath Temple at Kathmandu, the South face of Shiva Linga is regarded as his anugraha (grace) or jnana aspect and worshipped as Sri Dakshinamurthy.


Similarly, the Linga in the five hundred year old cave temple of Sri Gavi Gangadhareshwara in Bangalore is  considered  Dakshinamurthy-swarupam .

Gavi Gangadhareshwara Bangalore Alamgudi Kumbakonam

And, in the Vaikom Mahadeva temple in kerala and in the Alangudi (Kumbakonam) too, the deity enshrined in the form of Shiva Linga is worshipped as Sri Dakshinamurthy.


10.3. Sri Dakshinamurthy is also represented in the form of Salagrama. The Dakshina-murti-Salagrama has the shape of a conch, but is black in color.

Dakshinamurti Salagrama


10.4. Sri Dakshinamurthy Yantra


Sri Dakshinamurthy Yantra eight petaled lotus, on the portal of which are visualized Brahma, Sarasvathi, Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanathkumara, Shuka, Vyasa and Ganapathi. Sri Dakshinamurthy, in this form, is the originator of the world (jagatam adya) and represents the absolute principle (avyaya). Dakshinamurthy upasana forms an important aspect in Sri Vidya tradition. Here; he is the Adi Guru of  its  Samaya School  .

Upasana of the Dakshinamurthy involves purva-anga and uttara-anga mantras.

Purva-anga mantra addressed to  : Guru, Ganapati, Durga, Kshetrapala, Saraswathi :

Guruuganapatirdurga kshetrapalah saraswathi / Etah sridakshinamurtheh purvamantradhidevataah

Uttara-anga mantra  addressed to  : Bala, Devi Shadakshari, Svarna Akarshana Bhairava and  Mrita Sanjivani :

Balashadakshari devyah svarnaakarshana bhairavah
Mritasanjivani chaiva mahamrityunjah tatah
Ete panchamahamantra uttaranga mahesatum

The slokas for worship of  the yantra are

Om Namo Bhagavathe Dakshinaamoorthaye|
Mahyam Medhaam Pragnyaam Prayachas Swaha||

Gurave Sarva LokaaNaam Bishaje BavaRogiNaam|
Nidhaye Sarva Vidhyaanaam Dakshinaa Moorthaye Namaha||

Vrushabath Vajaaya VidhMahe Kruni Hastaaya DheeMahee-
Thanno Guru: Prachodayaath||

ApraMeyathva ya theedha Nirmala Nyaana Moorthaye|
Manogi raam Vidhooraaya Dakshinaa Moorthaye Namaha||

Dakshinamurti sculpture

11. Temples

11.1. As it has been pointed out,the temples where Dakshinamurthy is the chief deity are small in number. The Agamas mention twenty – five lila-murtis (Lila generally is playful, active) forms of Shiva. One of the more important of these is Sri Dakshinamurti. Generally, in Chola temples- both of Shiva and Vishnu- a niche in the south wall of the central shrine holds the image of Sri Dakshinamurthy. In all those temples the idol of Sri Dakshinamurthy is either carved on the wall; on the pillars ; or placed in a niche or in a small shrine. Many temple towers too carry various versions of Sri Dakshinamurthy image.

11.2. For some reason, the processional or festival images (utsava-murti) of Sri Dakshinamurthy in bronze or alloy do not appear to be in vogue, except perhaps in the temple at Alangudi near Kumbakonam.

12. Guru Poornima

12.1. Guru Poornima the full-moon day, which occurs in the month of Ashadha, marks the celebration of the Supreme Guru who taught through eloquent silence. Each year, the aspirants celebrate the day of the Adi-Guru with gratefulness, devotion and reverence.

13. Sri Dakshinamurthy and Avalokitesvara

13.1.Avalokitesvara holds a prominent position among the Bodhisattva-s. His infinite compassion extends  to all sentient beings ; his nature is universal, since it encompasses the entire universe. These two fundamental aspects: the boundless  compassionate and the universal character are said to be common to Avalokitesvara  and Sri Dakshinamurthy. 

Further, many scholars point out similarities even in the representations of Sri Dakshinamurthy and Avalokitesvara Padmapani. There is also a view that each tradition influenced the other.

It is said; by about the fifth century, the Dakshinamurthy tradition was strongly established in the Madurai region. The Potiyil Mountains in the same region was also the cradle of the Avalokitesvara cult.

The scholars have pointed out that the images of Sri Dakshinamurthy of the early Pallava period were depicted holding lotus flowers in their hands. The images carved on the walls or placed in the niche of the Sri Kailasanatha temple of Kancipuram and in the temple at Tirusalvar as also in some other temples of that period support the view.

In the later period- the Chola- the lotus was replaced by Agni (fire) that illuminates; but the fire seemed to have a ‘stem’. That change might have been caused by the growing influence of the Vedic tradition in the South. The argument is that in the early period, the Dakshinamurthy iconography was influenced by the Buddhist tradition.

dakshinamurthy with lotusdakshinamurthyavalokitesvara

with Lotus                 holding Agni              Avalokitesvara

13.2. There is another view too. It is pointed out that the sculptures of Avalokitesvara and Dakshinamurthy- both of Pallava period and both in the region of Potiyil Mountains – are adorned with yajnopavitha and the sandal-paste mark between the eyebrows. It is said; these images in turn influenced the Avalokitesvara bronzes of Sri Lanka (8th century). It is argued, in this case, the Buddhist sculptures, which were smaller in number in South India were influenced by the Hindu iconography.

[Please check the following links for more : ]

 13.3. Both the parties to the argument seemed to have overlooked that in the Indian context , the art and idioms of art expressions were at once Hindu, Buddhist and Jain, for the style was a function of the region and of the times and not of religion. The Indian art that rendered religious themes shared a common pool of expressions and symbols.

 Let’s talk of your questions in the next part.


References and sources

Elements of Hindu iconography, vol. 2, by T. A. Gopinatha Rao

Elements of Indian Art  by SP Gupta and SP Asthana

Indian temple Traditions  by Prof SK Ramachandra Rao ]

Pictures are by courtesy of internet


Posted by on October 3, 2012 in Dakshinamurthy


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