Essays About Shaivism

History, Philosophy, Beliefs and Practices of Shaivism,

Daskhinamurthy - the World Teacher


Dakshinamurti literally means one who is facing south (dakṣiṇa). It also means the Lord of compassion. According to Hindu texts, the direction of south or the southern sphere is ruled by the Lord of death. Although the vedic texts refer the deity as Yama, the epithet is also used to described Shiva in his role as the destroyer. However as Dakshinamurthy, what Siva destroy is not death but ignorance. Hence in this form he is said to be the granter of knowledge, wisdom, awareness and enlightenment and is described as the world teacher who imparts the knowledge of yoga, music, arts and religious scriptures.

In his aspect as Jnana Dakshinamurti, Shiva is generally shown with four arms. He is depicted as seated under a banyan tree, facing the south, upon a deer-throne and surrounded by sages who receive his instruction, with his right foot on mythical apasmara (the demon of ignorance) and his left foot lies folded on his lap. Sometimes he is also shown surrounded by wild animals. In one of his upper arms, he holds a snake or rosary or both and in the other a flame. His lower right hand shows vyakhyanamudra, while 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, while 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. Dakshinamurthy is portrayed as being in the yogic state of abstract meditation - and as a powerful form brimming with ever flowing bliss and supreme joy. Variations of this iconic representation include Veenadhara Dakshinamurthy (holding a Veena), Rishabharooda Dakshinamurthy (mounted on a Rishabha - the bull) etc. This aspect of Shiva is also assciated with Thursday, which is known in Hindi as Guruvar.

Even though the idol of Dakshinamurthy is installed in every Shiva temple, there are only a few temples where Dakshinamurthy is the chief deity. Only one of the twelve Jyotirlingas is Dakshinmurthy, The Mahakaleshwar in Ujjain. Being the only Dakshinmurthy Jyotirlinga, It holds special importance for Shaivites as a site of learning.

Other notable temples are the Vaikom Mahadevar temple in Kerala, where the deity enshrined in the form of a Shivalingam is considered as Dakshinamurthy, and Alangudi (Kumbakonam) in Tamil Nadu. In the Sivanandeswarar temple in Thirupanthurai, (Tanjore) Tamil Nadu, He is depicted in the Ardhanari form. In Thirupulivanam, we can find Dakshinamurthy in the form of Ardhanariswara. This temple is on the Uthiramerur-Kanchipuram road, 5 km from Uthiramerur, near Chennai. [1] In March 2007, a big temple of Lord Dakshinamurty (the first in Maharashtra) was created in the Shrutisagar Ashram, about 30 km from Pune.Dakshinamurthy Ashtakam by Adi Shankaracharya is a laudatory hymn for this form of Siva.


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