Dakshinamurthy Shiva sculpture on the southern entrance of the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai.
AffiliationShiva (Shaivism)
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Dakshinamurthy (IAST: Dakṣiṇāmūrti)[1] is an aspect of the Hindu god Shiva as a guru (teacher) of all types of knowledge. This aspect of Shiva, as the original guru, is his personification as the supreme or the ultimate awareness, understanding and knowledge.[2] This form represents Shiva as a teacher of yoga, music and wisdom, and giving exposition on the shastras.[3] He is worshipped as the god of wisdom, complete and rewarding meditation.[4] As per Hindu scriptures, if a person doesn't have a guru, they can consider and worship Dakshinamurthy as their guru. Eventually they will be blessed with a self-realised human guru, if they are worthy.


Lord Dakshinamurti sitting under a Banyan tree.
Lord Dakshinamurti sitting under a Banyan tree.

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 Siva temples, the stone image of Dakshinamurthy is installed, facing south, on the southern circumambulatory path around the sanctum sanctorum. Perhaps, of all Hindu Gods, he is the only one sitting facing south. The great seer Ramana Maharshi, has said in letter 89: one meaning of Dakshina is efficient; another meaning is ‘in the heart on the right side of the body’; Amurthy ’means Formlessness' . "Dakshinamurthy Stotra" in Sanskrit, means the "Shapelessness situated on the right side".


Dakshinamurti, 16th century, Musée Guimet (museum), Paris.
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, according to Hindu mythology, is the personification of ignorance) and his left foot lies folded on his lap. Sometimes even the wild animals, are depicted to surround Shiva. 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 touching 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 Dakshinamurthy appears seated on a bull under a banyan tree with a hole extending from one ear to the other.[7][8]

Dakshinamurthy 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 Dakshinamurthy (holding a Veena) and Rishabharooda Dakshinamurthy (mounted on a Rishabha - the bull).


Worshipers at Dakshinamurthy temple at Brihadeeswarar temple
Worshipers at Dakshinamurthy temple at Brihadeeswarar temple

Indian tradition accords a special reverence to the Guru or the spiritual teacher. Dakshinamurthy, in the Hindu system of beliefs is regarded as the ultimate Guru - the embodiment of knowledge and the personification 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.

Impact on Indian Life

The fifth day of the week, Thursday is associated with the planet Jupiter and is referred to as Guru (Guruvar or Guruvaaram). Thursdays are considered auspicious to start any educational endeavours. It is on Thursdays that special worship services are offered to Dakshinamurthy in many Saivite temples. Some temple traditions hold full moon nights, particularly the night of the Guru Purnima as the appropriate time for worship services to Dakshinamurthy.


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

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

Mantras and hymns

There are many mantras dedicated to Lord Dakshinamurthy. Lord Dakshinamurthy is prayed to for protection and overall well being as well as for success in education.[15]

Dakshinamurthy Gayatri Mantra

Om Vrishabha-dhvajaaya Vidmahe
Ghruni-Hasthaaa Dheemahi
Thanno Dakshinamoorthy Prachodayaath

ॐ वृषभध्वजाय विद्महे घृणिहस्ताय धीमहि | तन्नो दक्षिणामूर्ति प्रचोदयात् ||

DakShinamoorthy Stótram by Adi Shankārachārya is a laudatory hymn for this form of Siva.

om namah pranavarthāya shuddhājnanaikāmoortaye ! nirmālaya prashāntaya dakshiNāmūrtayé namah !! chidghanaya maheshāya vatamūlanivasiné  ! omkāravāchyarūpāya dakShināmūrtayé namah !! Guravey sarvalokanaam bhiShajé bhavaroginam ! Nidhaye sarvavidyanaam dakShinamūrtayé namah !!

The Complete Stotram



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: -


  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. "New Dimensions of Dakṣiṇāmūrti: with Special Reference to Vijayanagara-Nāyaka Art". Heritage: Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies in Archaeology.
  8. ^ Rajarajan, R.K.K. "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. ^ Sadhguru (22 February 2017). "Yogeshwar: A Heartless Yogi".
  10. ^ "PM Narendra Modi to unveil first 112 feet Shiva idol at Isha Foundation". The Indian Express. 24 February 2017.
  11. ^ a b Sadhguru. "The first Guru is born". The Times of India.
  12. ^ "Dakshinamurthi Temple : Dakshinamurthi Temple Details | Dakshinamurthi- Pattamangalam | Tamilnadu Temple | தட்சிணாமூர்த்தி".
  13. ^ "Pattamangalam Guru Temple | Pattamangalam Guru Bhagavan Temple Timings".
  14. ^ "Yoga&Meditation".
  15. ^ "Dakshinamurthy Gayatri Mantra". 23 June 2014.