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God of Wisdom
Dakshinamurti sculpture on the southern entrance of the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai.

Dakshinamurti (Sanskrit: दक्षिणामूर्ति, romanizedDakṣiṇāmūrti)[1] is an aspect of the Hindu god Shiva as a guru (teacher). He is regarded to be the personification of the supreme or the ultimate awareness, understanding, and knowledge.[2] Dakshinamurti represents Shiva as a teacher of yoga, music, and wisdom, offering an exposition of the Shastras.[3] He is worshipped as the god of wisdom and meditation.[4]


Dakshinamurti literally means 'one who is facing south (dakṣiṇa)' in Sanskrit. According to another school of thought 'Dakshinya' means Karuna in Sanskrit or kindness (benevolence). So this manifestation of Shiva is a benevolent teacher who accords wisdom to seekers of salvation. [5] In most of the Shiva temples, the stone image of Dakshinamurti is installed, facing south, on the southern circumambulatory path around the sanctum sanctorum.


Dakshinamurti, 16th century, Musée Guimet (museum), Paris.

In his aspect as Jnana Dakshinamurti, Shiva is generally shown with four arms. He is depicted seated under a banyan tree, facing the south. Shiva is seated upon a deer-throne and surrounded by sages who are receiving his instruction.[6] He is shown as seated with his right foot on mythical apasmara (a demon which in Hindu mythology, is the personification of ignorance) and his left foot lies folded on his lap. Wild animals are sometimes depicted surrounding him. In his upper arms, he holds a snake or rosary or both in one hand and a flame in the other; while in his lower right hand is shown in vyakhyanamudra, his lower left hand holds a bundle of kusha grass or the scriptures. The index finger of his right hand is bent and touches the tip of his thumb. The other three fingers are stretched apart. This symbolic hand gesture or mudra is the Gnana Mudra (or Jnana Mudra or Jana Mudra), a symbol of knowledge and wisdom. Sometimes, this hand is in the Abhaya Mudra, a posture of assurance and blessing. In Melakadambur the statue of the Dakshinamurti appears seated on a bull under a banyan tree with a hole extending from one ear to the other.[7][8]

Dakshinamurti is portrayed as a powerful form brimming with ever-flowing bliss and supreme joy while being in the yogic state of abstract meditation. Variations of this iconic representation include Veenadhara Dakshinamurti (holding a Veena) and Rishabharudha Dakshinamurti (mounted on a Rishabha - the bull).


Worshipers at Dakshinamurti temple at Brihadeeswarar temple

Indian tradition accords a special reverence to the guru or the spiritual teacher. Dakshinamurti is regarded as the ultimate guru, the embodiment of knowledge and the destroyer of ignorance (as represented by the demon being crushed under the feet of the deity). The Jnana Mudra is interpreted in this way:- The thumb denotes the god and the index finger denotes the man. The other three fingers stand for the three congenital impurities of man viz. arrogance, illusion and bad deeds of the past births. When man detaches himself from these impurities, he reaches God. Another interpretation is that the other three fingers denote the three states of life: Jagruti (Fully awake through senses and mind), Swapna (Sleep state - When the mind is awake) and Sushupti (True-self - When the senses and mind go into soul - Atma). The Abhaya Mudra, a gesture with the hand lifted above thigh with palm facing out, fingers pointing, is interpreted as his grace upon his students. The rosary or the snake signifies tantric knowledge. The fire represents illumination, removing the darkness of ignorance.


The Gopuram of Kapaleeshwarar temple, Chennai depicts two sculptures of Dakshinamurti: one playing the veena, another in a meditative state.

Even though the icon of Dakshinamurti is installed in every Shiva temple, there are only a few temples where Dakshinamurti is the chief deity.

  • Only one of the twelve Jyotirlingas is Dakshinamurti, the Mahakaleshwar in Ujjain. Being the only Dakshinmurthy Jyotirlinga, It holds special importance for Shaivites as a site of learning.
  • Sree Dakshinamurti Temple at Sukapuram, Edappal, Ponnani Taluk, Malappuram District, Kerala. Pratishtha was done by Suka Maharshi. It is estimated to be 1500 years old.
  • Sree Medha Dakshinamurti Temple in gujrathipeta, Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh.
  • Sree Medha Dakshina Murthy Temple, Sri Neelakanteswara Swamy Temple Complex, Makavaram, Kuddigam village, Srikakulam District, Andhra Pradesh, consecrated in June 2022
  • Thiruvairanikulam Dakshinamurthy Temple, located to the southern side of the famous Thiruvairanikulam Mahadeva Temple on the bank of Periyar river, in Vellarapally village in Ernakulam district. It is famous as the only temple in Kerala where Dakshinamurthy has an idol in human form. Formerly under ruins for around two centuries, it was renovated in 2019.
  • The deity at the famous Shiva temple in Vaikom town in Kottayam district of Kerala is worshipped as Dakshinamurti in the morning, Kirathamurthy in the afternoon and as Umamaheshwara in the evening.
  • Ettumanoor Mahadevar Temple in Kerala, where the deity enshrined in the form of a Shivalingam is considered as Dakshinamurti
  • Alangudi, Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu
  • Sree Dakshinamurti Temple at Pattamangalam village, in Sivagangai District, Tamil Nadu. It is estimated that this temple is nearly 500 years old.[9][10]
  • In the Sivanandeswarar temple in Thirupanthurai, Tanjore, Tamil Nadu, He is depicted in the Ardhanari form.
  • In Thirupulivanam, we can find Dakshinamurti in the form of Ardhanariswara. This temple is on the Uthiramerur-Kanchipuram road, 5 km from Uthiramerur, near Chennai.
  • In March 2007, a big temple of Dakshinamurti (the first in Maharashtra) was created in the Shrutisagar Ashram, about 30 km from Pune
  • Pragya Dakshinamoorthy at Chibavananda Ashram in Theni, western Tamil Nadu
  • In Suchindram Thanumalaya temple (5 km from Nagercoil, Kanyakumari Dist.), contrary to tradition, Dakshinamurti is worshipped instead of Ganesh/Vinayaka. Ganesha statue comes last in the worship line.
  • In Thiruvotriyur, Chennai a dedicated temple to Dakshinamurti exists. It is unique as the deity faces north and is aptly called Vadagurusthalam (the guru's place of north).
  • The oldest Dakshnimurthy temple is situated in Poonthottam village in Thiruvarur, Tamil Nadu. It is estimated that this temple is nearly 1000 years old and the idol of the deity was fixed on the day of mahakumbamela that took place 1000 years ago
  • Dakshinamurti temple at Vellave near Taliparambu (Kannur District, Kerala), This is a swayambhoo temple (self evolved) of Dakshinamurthi. This temple is situated 4 km away from the famous Rajarajeshwara Temple, Taliparamba
  • Panaickal Sree Dakshinamurti temple at Kadakkarappally, Cherthala Thaluk in Alappuzha District, Kerala
  • Since 2002, Mauritius has seen its one and only Dakshinamurti Temple located on the east coast at Palmar on the Indian Ocean, in the compound of Arsha Vidya Ashram. The deity has occupied a place in the Ashram since 1994 but in 2002, a temple was built according to the rules of shahastra nama to give an altar to the Lord.
  • One of the temples in the United States dedicated to Dakshinamurti is located at Arsha Vidya Gurukulam Archived 2014-07-19 at the Wayback Machine in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania.
  • Adiyogi  – The Abode of Yoga is a 30,000 square foot space located at the Isha Institute of Inner-sciences, Tennessee, USA. It houses a 21 feet statue of Adiyogi Shiva (which is seen as representation of Dakshinamurti[11]), along with a Shivalinga.
  • Gurusthalam at Thiruvallur, Tamil Nad Shree Yoga Gnana Dhakshanamoorthy Peetam
  • A 112 feet, South-facing Adiyogi Shiva statue (Adiyogi  – The Source of Yoga) along with a linga called "Yogeshwar Linga". It is located at the Isha Yoga Center in Coimbatore, India. The South-facing Adiyogi is seen as a representation of Dakshinamurti, and is considered the Adi Guru or the first Guru.
  • Thrikkapeleswaram Dakshinamurthi temple located in Niranam, Kadapra, Pathanamthitta dist, Kerala is one of the oldest Dakshinamurthi temple.


Many mantras are dedicated to Dakshinamurti.

Dakshinamurti Gayatri Mantra

Om Vṛṣabhadhvajaya Vidmahe
Dhyānahastaya Dhīmahi
Tanno Dakṣiṇāmūrti Pracodayat

The Dakshinamurti Stotra by Adi Shankara is a laudatory hymn dedicated to this form of Shiva.

oṃ maunavyākhyā prakaṭita parabrahmatatvaṃ yuvānaṃ
varśiṣṭhānte vasad ṛṣigaṇair āvṛtaṃ brahmaniṣṭhaiḥ
ācāryendraṃ karakalita cinmudram ānandamūrtiṃ
svātmarāmaṃ muditavadanaṃ dakṣiṇāmūrtimīḍe

I salute Śrī Dakṣiṇāmūrti, the Young Guru, who teaches the knowledge of Brahman through silence, who is surrounded by disciples, who are themselves ṛṣis and scholars in the Vedas. (I worship Śrī Dakṣiṇāmūrti), who is the teacher of teachers, whose hand is held in the sign of knowledge (cin-mudrā), whose nature is fullness, who reveals in himself, and who is ever silent.[12]


Yoga Dakshinamurti is an aspect of Shiva as a guru (teacher) of yoga.


In his aspect as Yoga Dakshinamurti, Shiva is generally represented in any of the two styles described as under: -

He is represented sitting in padmasana (lotus position) posture, engrossed in dhyana (meditation). He is shown as having four arms. His four arms are depicted in different ways. In the upper right hand he holds his trident (trishula); he carries a bowl of human skull in his upper left hand; the lower right hand is shown in chinmudra; and the lower left hand is raised to his chest.

In another representation, he is shown as sitting under a banyan tree. His one leg rests on the ground, while the other is on his thigh, with the help of a Yogapatta. His four arms are shown in different ways. He carries an akshamala in his upper right hand; the upper left hand is shown as carrying fire; the lower right hand is depicted in dhyanamudra and the lower left hand is shown in abhayamudra (gesture of fearlessness). Below his seat, two deer are shown kneeling, and a cobra wound around his right arm looks towards him.


  1. ^ For iconographic description of the Dakṣiṇāmūrti form, see: Sivaramamurti (1976), p. 47.
  2. ^ Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend (ISBN 0-500-51088-1) by Anna Dallapiccola
  3. ^ For description of the form as representing teaching functions, see: Kramrisch, p. 472.
  4. ^ Magick of the Gods and Goddesses: Invoking the Power of the Ancient Gods By D. J. Conway p.284
  5. ^ Shiva to Shankara: Decoding the Phallic Symbol By Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik p.139
  6. ^ For the deer-throne and the audience of sages as Dakṣiṇāmūrti, see: Chakravarti, p. 155.
  7. ^ Rajarajan, R.K.K. (January 2019). "New Dimensions of Dakṣiṇāmūrti: with Special Reference to Vijayanagara-Nāyaka Art". Heritage: Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies in Archaeology.
  8. ^ Rajarajan, R.K.K. (2011). "Dakṣiṇamūrti on vimānas of Viṣṇu Temples in the Far South". South Asian Studies. 27 (2): 131–144. doi:10.1080/02666030.2011.614413. S2CID 194022781.
  9. ^ "Dakshinamurthi Temple : Dakshinamurthi Temple Details | Dakshinamurthi- Pattamangalam | Tamilnadu Temple | தட்சிணாமூர்த்தி".
  10. ^ "Pattamangalam Guru Temple | Pattamangalam Guru Bhagavan Temple Timings".
  11. ^ Sadhguru. "The first Guru is born". The Times of India.
  12. ^ "Dakshinamurthy Stotram in Sanskrit, English with Meaning". Shlokam. Retrieved 2022-11-25.

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