Guardians of the directions

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Parshvanatha Temple, Khajuraho, the southeast corner, with guardians Indra (E) and Agni (SE).
Dikpala, Cham civilization, Mỹ Sơn, Vietnam 10th century. (l-r) Nairṛta, Agni, Varuna, Indra (front), Kubera and Isan (back row)
Ganesha and the eight Dikpalas, currently housed in the British Museum

In Hinduism the Guardians of the Directions (Sanskrit: दिक्पाल, Dikpāla) are the deities who rule the specific directions of space according to Hinduism, Jainism 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. They are also often portrayed in Jain temples, with the exception that Nāga usually takes the place of Vishnu[1] in the nadir. 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).[citation needed]

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
North Uttara, Udīcī
South Dakṣīṇa, Avāchip
East Pūrva, Prācī, Prāk, Aruna
West Paścima, Pratīcī, Aparā
Northeast Īśānya
Southeast Āgneya
Northwest Vāyavya
Southwest Nairṛtya
Zenith Ūrdhvā
Nadir AdhaH


In Hinduism, the guardians of the cardinal directions are called the Lokapālas (लोकपाल), or Dikpalaka. Three main distinctions of Dikpalaka are recognized, being:

Aṣṭa-Dikpāla ("Guardians of Eight Directions")[edit]

The Asta Devas
  1. Kubera (North)
  2. Yama (South)
  3. Indra (East)
  4. Varuṇa (West)
  5. Īśāna (Northeast)
  6. Agni (Southeast)
  7. Vayu (Northwest)
  8. Nirṛti (Southwest)[2][3]

Daśa-Dikpāla ("Guardians of Ten Directions")[edit]

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

Besides the eight guardians, the following are added:

  1. Brahma (Zenith, meaning "the farthest up from the gravitational force")
  2. Vishnu (Nadir, meaning "the direction in which gravity pulls")

Nava-Dikpāla ("Guardians of Nine Directions")[edit]

The diagram of Surya Majapahit shows the arrangements of Hindu deities each resided in main cardinal points.

(Called Dewata Nawa Sanga in ancient Java and Bali Hinduism.)

  1. Shiva (Center)
  2. Vishnu (North)
  3. Brahma (South)
  4. Isvara (East)
  5. Mahadeva (West)
  6. Sambhu (Northeast)
  7. Mahesora (Southeast)
  8. Sangkara (Northwest)
  9. Rudra (Southwest)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kumar (2001), p. 17.
  2. ^ Gopal (1990), p. 71.
  3. ^ Mani (1975), p. 62.


  • Dallapiccola, Anna (2002). Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend. ISBN 0-500-51088-1.
  • Gopal, Madan (1990). Gautam, K. S. (ed.). India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.
  • Kumar, Sehdev (2001). A Thousand Petalled Lotus: Jain Temples of Rajasthan: Architecture & Iconography. Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts Series. Abhinav Publications.
  • Mani, Vettam (1975). Puranic encyclopaedia : a comprehensive dictionary with special reference to the epic and Puranic literature. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
  • Wessels-Mevissen, Corinna (2001). The Gods of the Directions in Ancient India. Origin and Early Development in Art and Literature (until c. 1000 A.D.). Berlin: Dietrich Reimer. ISBN 3-496-02713-4.

External links[edit]

Media related to Guardians of the directions at Wikimedia Commons