Tag Archives: Why Soth Dakshinamurti

Sri Dakshinamurthy iconography and some other questions: Part Two

Continued from Part One

Let’s now come to the questions you framed.

Why Dakshinamurthi facing South direction?

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

‘Kuragasanam’ is one of the type of Asanas?

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?



 A. Why Dakshinamurthi facing South direction?

1.1. The direction towards which a temple-deity faces depends upon its disposition and attributes. It also is according to this triple orientation – towards the Sun, towards the center, towards man. The majority of the preserved temples do face the east, but it is not necessary that they physically must. The other directions could be described as being east. To the tantrics that have some obscure symbolism about Sunrise in the east, the directions of south, west and north each have relative value or significance. In Tantra, any direction may notionally be taken to represent east.

1.2. Most temples face east, because it is believed that the doorway of the sanctum facing east is best (uttamottama – most auspicious); west is next best (uttama); even south is permissible (madhyama); and to the north it is inferior (adhamam), not desirable. (Vimanarchana – kalpa patala 3)

2.1. As regards Sri Dakshinamurthy, as you mentioned, he most usually faces the South (except perhaps in few cases such as in the temple at Tiru Anjaikkalam in Kerala where Sri Dakshinamurthy faces east). The south-orientation of Sri Dakshinamurthy appears to be based on the notion that he is seated in the Himalayas looking towards the land-mass where the aspirants reside; that is towards south.

2.2. Another way of understanding it is; Suta –samhita describes the five faces or five aspects of Shiva which are turned towards four cardinal directions and the space above, as: on the West: Sadyojata (representing earth, and pervading ego); on the North: Vamadeva (water and manas); on the South: Aghora (fire and Buddhi); on the East: Tatpurusha (air and maya); and above all: Isana (akasha and soul).

The South face of Shiva is Aghora . It is to your right-hand-side (Dakshina) as you stand facing the Linga of Shiva. Aghora (that which is not dreadful) is the benevolent, benign face of Shiva; and it is directly related to Vidya (the knowledge that liberates) and then to fire (illumination) according to Vatulagama (1.67-69).

Aghora the benevolent is predominantly of sattva nature with minimal of rajas and tamas. It is a state of pure being and energy. It is pure knowledge (para-vidya); and, Sri Dakshinamurthy represents that knowledge.

Sri Dakshinamurthy who corresponds to Aghora the south aspect of Shiva is therefore represented facing south.

3.1. Another, perhaps more plausible, reason could be the one that has to do with the nature and disposition of Sri Dakshinamurthy.

According to the Padma-samhita (kriya-pada 2, 33-34) the door of the sanctum facing east is productive of happiness; the door facing the west enhances health and nourishment; the door facing north brings wealth and prosperity; and the sanctum door facing south makes for liberation.


Since Sri Dakshinamurthy, the Adi-Guru, teaches knowledge (jnana-karaka) that liberates (mokshadam) it seems appropriate he faces south, according to Padma samhita.

B. Why Dakshinamurthy?

4.1. It is mentioned repeatedly that he is called Dakshinamurthy because he is facing south.And also because the deity is placed in the southern quarter of the temple .Some say ; the name of the deity may have been derived because of this practice.  However, there are few other explanations too.

4.2. According to Tantra tradition in which Sri Dakshinamurthy is a revered Guru of the Kadi (samaya) School, the term Dakshina means a woman and refers to the feminine principle, which can create, unfold and manifest. When Dakshina assumes a form along with Shiva it results in Dakshinamurthy, an androgynous aspect of Shiva. The Tantra tradition Dakshinachara regards and worships Sri Dakshinamurthy as Ardha-nari.

(The Dakshinayana is  regarded as the Ayana (half year) of the Devi, the Mother Goddess, the life giving  feminine phase of the Earth. It  begins with pouring monsoon rains beating down the heat and ushering in cool relief . It is the rejuvenating season   when all creatures and vegetation  come to life and thrive )

4.3. The great seer Sri Ramana Maharishi who perhaps is closest to Sri Dakshinamurthy in his ideals and in his teaching methods, explained the term as Dakshina + Amurthy, meaning a formless entity, one which is capable but is without form.

दक्षिणः सृष्टि स्थित्यन्त विरचना निपुणश्चासौ परमार्थत अमूर्तिश्च आकारविशेषरहितः |

Dakshina refers to He, who is competent to create, sustain, and dissolve this Universe; and, who, however, in reality, in his Absolute state, is A-murthy i.e. formless.

4.4. It is also said; Dakshina refers to Buddhi (intellect), the vision which has the capacity to perceive Brahman (Akhandaakara Vritti) in His non-dual or formless state (A-murthy). Thus, the Brahmavadins  refer to Dakshinamurthy as that Buddhi in each of us – (Dakshinamurthy Upanishad– Verse 31)

शेमुषी दक्षिणा प्रोक्ता सा यस्याभीक्षणे मुखम् ।दक्षिणाभिमुखः प्रोक्तः शिवोऽसौ ब्रह्मवादिभिः ||

4.5. He is called Dakshinamurthy because of his boundless compassion (Dakshinya) towards all creation.

4.6.Dakshina , it is said , also means favourable (anukula ) to the devotee.

4.7. Dakshina is also interpreted as grace. Sri Dakshinamurthy is regarded the very embodiment of grace . It is explained that ‘grace’ (anugraha) is an act of unbound compassion releasing the individual from the coils of samsara. As Guru, he is the sublime ideal of spiritual wisdom adorned with grace towards all aspirants. And, only through his grace can one attain liberation.

4.7. And, It is also mentioned that the term ‘daksha’ denotes one who is capable, skilful or an expert. Daksha also signifies the intelligent or competent. Dakshinamurthy is the Daksha, the Master in music, arts and in all that is accomplished artistically; an exponent, an authority on scriptural learning; an adept in Tantra-vidya; a supreme Yogi; and, a teacher beyond compare who teaches the true knowledge that liberates.

4.8. Sri Shankara, in his Dakshinamurthi Stotra, offers salutations to Sri Dakshinamurti,  the abode of all wisdom; the Supreme Guru; the teacher of all the worlds; and, the healer of all the ills of existence

निधये सर्वविद्यानां भिषजे भवरोगिणाम्  गुरवे सर्वलोकानां दक्षिणामूर्तये नमः


C. Are there any specialities in south direction suggested in Agamas and in Shilpa Sastras?

5.1. Orientation is an essential aspect of the yajna and construction of the yajna vedi, the temples, the towns and buildings. Meticulous care is taken to ensure location of those constructions exactly along the desired axis (Prachi). That was because of the belief that each direction was complimented by the attributes associated with the gods who presided over it. The directions were therefore of much significance to the Vedic people.

5.2. The traditional texts describe the arrangement and attribute of the Dikpalas the Regents who preside over directions. This arrangement is generally followed in the Tantra texts as also in astrology, architectures and Vastu. The classification is briefly as under:

Indra the king of Devas, the Lord of the heavens dwells in the East, which represents power and courage.

Yama the protector of the Law (Dharma raja), guardian of the ancestors and the king of the Dead dwells in the South, which represents justice and the care of the ancestors.

Varuna the protector of rta the cosmic law; guardian of rites; lord of destiny and the lord of water element dwells in the West, which represents knowledge.

And, Kubera the king of Yakshas and the lord of riches dwells in the North, which represents an upper position and wealth.


5.3. Since we are talking about the south direction in particular, let’s take a look at it.

In the context of the yajna, the Southern gate is reckoned as the way of the ancestors the pitris; and, the offerings to the departed ancestors are always submitted facing South.

Yama is the Regent and protector of the South. Yama the lord of death is depicted as the embodiment of righteousness, the Dharma;   and he is the king of justice, the Dharma raja. He judges the dead; but, he is amenable to pity and reason, as it happened in the case of Savitri and Pramadvara* in the Mahabharata. 

savitri-yama-1  pramadvara

[* Pramadvara (pramadaam varaa, the best among the most beautiful) was the daughter of Menaka, the Apsara (celestial nymph) and Viswavasu, the king of Gandharvas. Since Pramadvara was abandoned by her parents, Rishi Sthulakesa raised the most delightful little girl with great care and love. Later in her life, just on the eve of her wedding with her beloved Ruru (son of hermit Pramati and damsel Ghritachi) Pramadvara  died suddenly , bitten by a snake. Ruru, the heartbroken bridegroom,  in deep sorrow and bewailing appeals to gods (Devas) to restore his Love Pramadvara  to life. Yama, the Dharmaraja, moved by pity and sympathizing with the plight of Ruru agrees to bring Pramadvara back to life; but, on condition that Ruru should  gift half of his remaining lifespan (Ayu) to her.  Ruru readily agrees to Yama’s rider with alacrity; Pramadvara comes back to life; and, immediately marries Ruru without losing time. The happy parents later beget a son Sunaka. And, his son   Saunaka, later,  as the chief of the Rshis,  performed a very long Yajna in the Naimisha forest (Naimisaranya). Saunaka is the one who heard the recitations of Mahabharata and   Srimad Bhagavata   from Suta and his son Ugrashravas. Saunaka, in turn, narrated these epics.  Saunaka is credited with monumental works, such as the Anukramanis ( a sort of Vedic Index) , Brhaddevata (which narrates  the legends of the Vedic gods ) and Rg Vidhana  (which explains each rk in the context  of the Srauta and Gruhya Sutras)]

Yama is also an adept in Atma-vidya, the knowledge of Self.In the katha Upanishad, Yama, explains to boy Nachiketa: “that knowing which, everything else becomes known?”

yama 3

Sri Dakshinamurthy too was an adept in Atma-vidya. (I am not suggesting a connection).

D. Kuragasanam’ is one of the types of Asanas?

6.1. The Shilpa texts (Ahirbudhnya samhita and others) together describe as many as twenty asanas or sitting postures. They also describe about eleven types of seats or pedestals, also termed as asanas, on which the iconic representations are lodged.

The Kuragasana you mentioned is in fact Kurangasana. It merely refers to the fact that Sri Dakshinamurthy is seated on a throne or pedestal or a seat covered with deer-skin. Kuranga, in Sanskrit, refers to Indian antelope. In Poet Jayadeva’s celestial poem Gita Govinda, Sri Radha covered in the fragrance of Kasturi (deer’s fat or musk) is described as kuranga madena . And, in the Sharada Bhujanga stotra  , Goddess Sharada is described as one who rides a deer (kuranga). Please click here for Sanskrit -English Dictionary , (page 65) where Kuranga is explained as a musk deer.

E. Can you tell me the types of ‘ Chadamudi ‘(Hair Types?)

7.1. Providing elaborate, graceful and attractive hairstyles (Kesha vinyasa or kesha-alankara), which besides enhancing the beauty of the sculpture would also bring out the status, the nature and the attribute of the subject, received a great deal of attention. This was one area along with ornamentation (alamkara) where the shilpis could give wings to their imagination and enterprise; and exhibit originality. Some Shipa texts carry a chapter usually titled Mauli lakshanam, but there is no comprehensive list of hair styles. Some names are not supported by illustrations; and therefore we do not know what those style-names imply. And in some cases the names of the headgears (kirita or mukuta) have got mixed up with the names of hair styles.


The following are some of those Kesha – vinyasas, so far as I know .This is not exhaustive.

(1) Jata-mukuta: A hair-do; hair arranged in long braids and then tied around. It is raised into conical form resembling a crown. The height of the jata-mukuta would be about 1 ½ times the length of the face. (Shiva, Brahma)

  hair Jatamakuta2Jatamakuta

(2) Jata-bhara: long strands of hair let lose flowing down on to the shoulders, around the ears. It could be either neatly combed stylishly and decoratively; or be just dishevelled.(Shiva , Dakshinamurthy)

Jatabhara jata

(3) Jata-mandala: Long strands of thick hair woven into three braids are wound in circular forms and held behind on the neck like a disc or a fan. Its other variation is: some braids are let flowing on to shoulder and back. (Shiva)

jata mandala  sarpanaulisapamauli20002

(4) Sarpa-mauli: Thick strands of hair are woven (pigtailed) to look like snakes; and, tied up and arranged turban-like. The hair-do would look like a turban made of snakes.(Shiva)

(5) Jata-bandha: Strands of hair made rope-like are wound into ball-shape or spindle-like and placed atop the head. (Rishis, Devas, Narada)

jata bandhaJatabhanda

(6) Vikirna-Jata-bandha: Strands of hair made rope-like are spread out to flow on the back, on the shoulders. When the person dances or spins around, the hair- do spreads and whirls in the air. (Nataraja)

(7) Agni-kesha: strands of hair either loose or pigtailed spread out horizontally like the tongues of a spreading flame. (Agni, shakthi, aggressive characters)


(8) Kesha –Bandha: The strands of hair are neatly combed and arranged into various conical forms of a series of diminishing tiers and placed in position by tying up the arrangement securely. There are varieties of decorative and stylish hair arrangements under this category. In most cases the conical hair-do is arranged to look like a mounted crown and decorated with ornaments. There are countless variations. (Devis and Queens).

queen2queen 1keshabandhakeshabandha4

(9) Shirastraka: strands of hair are neatly combed, made into number of bunches and each tied into number of small knots to look like rows of water-bubbles. The ends of each bunch are tied into small ball-like knots; and arranged on top of the head. (The Buddha)

buddha head buddha-head-drawingbuddha hair

10) Kuntala: Long locks of hair neatly combed, parted three-ways and tied into decorative shapes or ball-like, mounted on top of head either to one side or to the middle of the head. The ball-like arrangement when it is to one side of the head is just over the over the ear .The hair-do is well ornamented. (Andal, Sathyabhama, Balakrishna)

Kuntala40002aKuntala5hair 4

(11) Dhummila: collecting the hair, tying up the bunch into knots of various shapes. Bunched knot is usually placed behind. It is usually as broad as the person’s face; and wound into three or four rounds. (Devis, Queens)

dummila3Dummila 2  dummilaDummila3

(12) Alakacuda: Specially suited for curly hair. It could be used in depictions of children, women or even men. Hair is neatly parted in the middle and made into two bunches one on the right and the other on the left. Then the bunch on the left is brought over to the right; and similarly the bunch on the left is brought to the left. They then are together tied into ball shapes; and held behind or to the side of the head. Tiny wisps of hair are arranged around the face, like bees around a flower. This depiction is extensively used.(women in queens quarters, and other general use)

[Bharata in his Natyashastra (Chapter 21) while dealing with Pravrtti (local manners and costumes) mentions, among other things, : the women representing characters from Avanthika region should be adorned with curly locks; and those from the Gauda-desha with long hair. The Panchala, Magadhi and Dakshinatya are to have only a braid of hair.  The Kerala beauties should be adorned with long curly locks. As regards the Abhira tribal girls, their hair is to be divided into two plaits. The wives of the sages as also those women away from their husbands should be shown with hair braided in single lock.

veṣā abharaṇa saṃyogān gadatastānnibodhata । āvantya yuvatīnāṃ tu śirassā lakakuntalam ॥ 67॥ gauḍīyān āmalakaprāyaṃ saśikhā pāśaveṇikam । ābhīra yuvatīnāṃ tu dviveṇīdhara eva tu ॥ 68॥

The celestial nymphs should be decorated with crest jewels and a coronet on their plaited heads. The Naga women should be distinguished by the insignia of hood on their head. The Vidyadhara girls are to sport lunar discs on the plait of their hair. The Yakshis are marked by their long crest (shikha).\

divyānāṃ naranārīṇāṃ tathaiva ca śikhaṇḍakam । śikhāpuṭaśikhaṇḍaṃ tu muktā bhūyiṣṭh abhūṣaṇam ॥ 56॥ vidyādharīṇāṃ kartavyaḥ śuddho veṣaparicchadaḥ ।
yakṣiṇyo’psaraścaiva karyā ratnavibhūṣaṇāḥ ॥ 57॥


Dr. Rajendra Mittal in his Indo-Aryans Volume I , mentions that the name  Kapardin  indicates one who has matted, braided hair or hair twisted into a bun on top (Kaparda—kapardi). Rudra is often addressed as Kapardin.

And, it seems during the Vedic times, the women had their hair well oiled and combed; and, dressed in braids (Kaparda). And, some  had the practice of weaving braid into four braids, which dangled behind on the back (Rv. X-114-2 ). A woman having four plaits of hair was called Chatush-kapardin.

The men also had their long or short, according to their will. Some men also sported braids or plaits of hair. The Vasistas had long hair, which was coiled on the right (Rv. VII-33-1) ;and, the Vasithas wearing their hair in a plait on the right side were known as Dakshinatas-kaparda.

Dr. Rajendra Mittal , (Indo –Aryans Volume I , page 361)  with reference to the 10th  Century Sculptures of the Bhubaneswar (Orissa) , observes that the beauties of Bhubaneswar were not content merely with quantity  of their naturally endowed hair ; but also they  used artificial stuffing , padding to increase its mass , so as to render different hair-arrangements possible

The arrangements of the hair on the head and their decoration, their modes were virtually limitless.

Hair styles0008 sepia

As regards the styles; in some cases the mass of hair was arranged in gradually receding tiers; some were turned up in fantastic cone, curling and twisting upwards behind the head , and held in position , perhaps with the supports of wires.

And in some, the hair was parted into two streams, left hanging on on either side of the head. And, while in some others, a third palate was added at the top of the crown.

Pearl strings were liberally used as ornaments as also as strings to help the hair-arrangements to to stay in their positions.

There is a very interesting hair-arrangement, where the hair is twisted into six braids in the shape of rays , kept erect either with the application of wax or with the aid of pins or wires.

There were, of course, numerous other fashions in vogue.


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

8.1. We discussed in fair detail the variations in the depictions of Sri Dakshinamurthy image. Well…the aspect of the divinity one chooses to worship depends on one’s needs and aspirations. As you noticed, the Vyakhyana, medha – Jnana versions and their combinations appear to be popular .They are worshipped praying for scriptural knowledge, intelligence and spiritual progress.

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

9.1. I agree, Sri Dakshinamurthy shrines are more in number in the South. But, Sri Dakshinamurthy is worshipped even in the North; and there are some temples dedicated to him. As we already saw, Sri Dakshinamurthy is worshiped in Linga form at the Shiva temples in Kathmandu (Nepal) and in Ujjain. I understand there is an old temple dedicated to Sri Dakshinamurthy in Varodra.

9.2. Shri Dakshinamurti Pitha (Varanasi), with the temple of the deity, is an ancient one. Its history goes back to about the tenth century. The Math is still in active service and the worship continues.

9.3. The Dakshinamurthy tradition was prevalent in Kashmir region too. Abhinavagupta’s teacher (11th century) pleased with his student’s excellence compares him to Sri Dakshinamurthy. Later, Madhuraja Yogin a student of Abhinavagupta reveres his Guru as an incarnation of Sri Dakshinamurthy.” He sits like Dakshinamurti himself as though he has taken an incarnation in Kashmir….May the glorious Dakshinamurti in the form of Abhinava, who is an incarnation of Shrikantha and who has come to Kashmir out of deep compassion, protect us.”

9.4. The noted scholar Shri TA Gopinatha Rao in his book Elements of Hindu iconography (p 273 vol. 2, First edition, 1914) identified a niche figure in the temple of early sixth century at Deogarh MP as Daksinamurti.

9.5. The worship of Sri Dakshinamurthy perhaps travelled along with the Indian traders of 10th– 11th century to Far East. The Phnam Rung Siva temple, Pimay , a Khmer temple complex built during 10th to 13th century in North east Thailand, has a panel depicting Sri Dakshinamurthy in a teaching posture.

9.6. For some reason, the shrines of Sri Dakshinamurthy are not many in North India. I am sorry, I am not aware of its precise reason.

dakshina at Siddheswar temple

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

10.1. I presume, you are referring to the following picture.

dakshinamurti.1 jpg

It is a creation of Shilpi Siddanthi Sri Siddalinga Swamiji of Mysore. He crafted the image in the early stages of career while he about twenty years of age (1903?). I understand the image is located in the caves of the Sri Shambulingeshwara Hills (Chilakawadi Betta) near Chamarajanagar. Sri Dakshinamurthy is depicted seated in Yoga in utkutikasana  with both the legs drawn up on to the seat , bent and crossed  like scissors and held in position by paada-patta or Yoga –patta (as in Yoga Narasimha) which passes round the legs and the body , The four armed figure is holding akshamala in upper-right-hand; veena in upper-left-hand (he is just holding it , but not playing on it ); a palm- leaf text in the lower-left-hand ; and gesturing vyakhyana mudra  in the lower-right –hand. A prabhavali is placed behind the figure of Sri Dakshinamurthy.

It looks different, as you said, because it is a combination of three aspects of Sri Dakshinamurthy: the Yoga-murti, the Vina-dhara and the vyakhyana-murthi. It is Yoga because it is sitting in yogic posture; vina-dhara because it is holding in its back left hand a veena; and it is vyakhyana-murthi because its front right hand is in vyakhyana-mudra, while its front left hand is holding a text.

It is said; the full view of the sculpture reveals that the deity is sitting under a banyan tree; the figures of six Rishis are carved on the lower portion of the pedestal; and Nandi with four arms and human body is standing besides the Rishis.

The sculpture, it appears, was inspired by a similar depiction placed in a niche at the Shiva temple in Nanjangudu .

Dakshinamurti composite Nanjangudu

And , there is a similar illustration in Sritattvanidhi  of Sri Krishnaraja Wodeyar III the then Maharajah of Mysore (1794-1868).

Sri Dakshina murti


I trust this might be of some use to you . Please also check the references/links I provided. I wish you Godspeed in your project and in all your endeavors. Regards.


Sources and references

I gratefully acknowledge the line-drawings Of Kesha –vinyasa, hair styles From the wonderful text Brahmiya chitra karma sastram by Dr. G Gnanananda

Elements of Hindu iconography by TA Gopinatha Rao

Elements of Indian Art by SP Gupta and SP Asthana

Devalaya vastu by  SK Ramachandra Rao

Other picture from Internet.


Posted by on October 3, 2012 in Dakshinamurthy


Tags: , ,