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]

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

Name Direction Mantra Weapon Consort Graha (Planet) Guardian
Kubera North Oṃ Śaṃ Kuberāya Namaḥ Gada (mace) Bhadrā Budha (Mercury) Ila
Yama South Oṃ Maṃ Yamāya Namaḥ Pasam (Ropes) Urmila Maṅgala (Mars) Mangalaa
Indra East Oṃ Laṃ Indrāya Namaḥ Vajra (thunderbolt) Śacī Surya (Sun) Suryā
Varuṇa West Oṃ Vaṃ Varuṇāya Namaḥ Pāśa (noose) Varuni Śani (Saturn) Shaninī
Ishana Northeast Oṃ Haṃ Īśānāya Namaḥ Triśūla (trident) Ishani (form of parvati) Brahspati (Jupiter) Taraka
Agni Southeast Om Aam Agniaaya Namah Danda(Staff) Svaha Shukra(Venus) Shukrā
Vāyu Northwest Oṃ Yaṃ Vāyave Namaḥ Ankusha (goad) Lehari Chandra (Moon) Chandrikā
Nirrti (form of Parvati) Southwest Oṃ Kṣaṃ Rakṣasāya Namaḥ Khaḍga (sword) Shiva Rahu Shivani
Brahmā Zenith Oṃ Hriṃ Brahmaṇe Namaḥ Padma (lotus) Sarasvatī Ketu Brahmani
Viṣṇu Nadir Oṃ Kliṃ Viṣṇave Namaḥ Chakra (discus) Lakṣmī Lagna [[Vaishnavi (deity)|Va

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


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

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]

  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]

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

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") — called Dewata Nawa Sanga in ancient Java and Bali Hinduism[edit]

The diagram of Surya Majapahit shows the arrangements of Hindu deities each resided in main cardinal points.
  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. ^ A Thousand Petalled Lotus: Jain Temples of Rajasthan : Architecture & Iconography, Issue 42 of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts Series,, Sehdev Kumar, Abhinav Publications, 2001 p. 17
  2. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam (ed.). India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 71.