By Swami Harshananda
Dakṣiṇāmurti literally means ‘form facing south’. Dakṣiṇāmurti is one of the benign forms of Śiva that is described in the purāṇas and the āgamas. Since he was facing south (dakṣiṇa = south) while teaching the sages in a secluded spot in the Himālayas, he came to be known as Dakṣiṇāmurti. Sometimes the word ‘dakṣiṇā’ is interpreted as jñāna, knowledge or wisdom, in which he represents the very personification of knowledge and wisdom.
Iconographical Representation of Dakṣiṇāmurti
The iconographical representation shows him as follows:
- He is shown with three eyes, four arms and two legs.
- He is seated under the banyān tree.
- Two hands (the front right and the front left) are showing jñānamudrā and varadamudrā. These are the postures of imparting knowledge and giving gifts respectively.
- In the other two hands, the back ones, he is holding the akṣamālā (rosary) and agni (fire) or a serpent.
- Sometimes he is pictured as playing on a Vīṇā or lute.
- Other texts portray him as holding a paraśu (axe) and harmī (ante-lope) instead of the rosary and fire.
- One of the legs is trampling upon the apasmārapuruṣa (cretinous person) signifying ignorance.
- The tāntrik works describe him as white in complexion.
- He may also be shown as surrounded by several ṛṣis or sages eager to learn spiritual wisdom from him.
Forms of Dakṣiṇāmurti
Several forms of Dakṣiṇāmurti are also described in the tāntrik works. Some of them are:
Iconographically speaking, each one of these is sculptured in a different manner.
Worship Significance of Dakṣiṇāmurti
His worship may involve elaborate rituals. His yantra (magical diagram) is a lotus with eight petals on which the deities Brahmā, Sarasvatī, Gaṇapati and some sages are inscribed.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore