Guardians of the directions

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Dikpala, Cham civilization, Mỹ Sơn,Vietnam 10th century. (l-r) Nairṛta, Agni, Varuna, Indra (front), Kubera and Isan (back row)

The Guardians of the Directions (Sanskrit: दिक्पाल, Dikpāla) are the deities who rule the specific directions of space according to Hinduism and Vajrayāna Buddhism—especially Kālacakra. As a group of eight deities, they are called Aṣṭa-Dikpāla (अष्ट-दिक्पाल), literally meaning guardians of eight directions. They are often augmented with two extra deities for the ten directions (the two extra directions being zenith and nadir), when they are known as the Daśa-dikpāla. In Hinduism it is traditional to represent their images on the walls and ceilings of Hindu temples. Ancient Java and Bali Hinduism recognize Nava-Dikpāla, literally meaning guardians of nine directions, that consist of eight directions with one addition in the center. The nine guardian gods of directions is called Dewata Nawa Sanga (Nine guardian devata), the diagram of these guardian gods of directions is featured in Surya Majapahit, the emblem of Majapahit empire.

There are strong similarities between the concept of the guardians of the directions and the lore surrounding the Chinese four symbols, four ancestral spirits who are responsible for four of the cardinal directions (North, South, East, and West).

Names and attributes[edit]

The names of the Dikpālas vary slightly, but generally include the following:

Name Direction Mantra Weapon Consort Graha (Planet) Guardian Mātṛkā
Kubera North Oṃ Śaṃ Kuberāya Namaḥ Gadā (mace) Kuberajāyā Budha (Mercury) Kumārī
Yama South Oṃ Maṃ Yamāya Namaḥ Daṇḍa (staff) Yami Maṅgala (Mars) Varahi
Indra East Oṃ Laṃ Indrāya Namaḥ Vajra (thunderbolt) Śacī Sūrya (Sun) Aindri
Varuṇa West Oṃ Vaṃ Varuṇāya Namaḥ Pāśa (noose) Nalani Śani (Saturn) Varuṇī
Īśāna Northeast Oṃ Haṃ Īśānāya Namaḥ Triśūla (trident) Pārvatī Bṛhaspati (Jupiter) Māheśvarī
Agni Southeast Oṃ Raṃ Agnaye Namaḥ Śakti (Spear) Svāhā Śukra (Venus) Meṣavāhinī
Vāyu Northwest Oṃ Yaṃ Vāyuve Namaḥ Aṅkuśa (goad) Bhāratī Candra (Moon) Mṛgavāhinī
Nirṛti (sometimes Rakṣasa) Southwest Oṃ Kṣaṃ Rakṣasāya Namaḥ Khaḍga (sword) Khaḍgī Rāhu (North Lunar Node) Khaḍgadhāriṇī
Brahmā Zenith Oṃ Hriṃ Brahmaṇe Namaḥ Padma (lotus) Sarasvatī Ketu (South Lunar Node) Brahmāni
Viṣṇu Nadir Oṃ Kliṃ Viṣṇave Namaḥ Cakra (discus) Lakṣmī Lagna Vaiṣṇavī

Directions in Hindu tradition[edit]

Directions in Hindu tradition are called as Diśā, or Dik. There are four primary directions and a total of 10 directions.

English Sanskrit
East Pūrva, Prācī, Prāk
West Paścima, Pratīcī, Aparā
North Uttara, Udīcī
South Dakṣīṇa, Avāchi
North-East Īśānya
South-East Āgneya
North-West Vāyavya
South-West Nairṛti
Zenith Ūrdhvā
Nadir Adho

Lokapālas[edit]

Brahma, Lord of the Zenith (center) with (from left) Varuna, Kubera, Yama and Indra.

In Hinduism the Guardians of the eight cardinal directions are called the Lokapālas (लोकपाल) or Ashta Dikpalakas. They are:

References[edit]

  • The Gods of the Directions in Ancient India. Origin and Early Development in Art and Literature (until c. 1000 A.D.), Berlin: Dietrich Reimer 2001 (ISBN 3-496-02713-4) by Corinna Wessels-Mevissen

See also[edit]