Guardians of the directions

Guardians of the directions
Dikpala, Cham civilization, Mỹ Sơn,Vietnam 10th century. (l-r) Nairṛta, Agni, Varuna, Indra (front), Kubera and Isan (back row)

The Guardians of the Directions (Sanskrit: दिक्पाल, Dikpāla) are the deities who rule the specific directions of space according to Hinduism 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. In ancient Java 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.


Names and attributes

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

Name Direction Mantra Weapon Consort Graha (Planet) Guardian Matrika
Kubera North Oṃ Shaṃ Kuberāya Namaḥ Gadā (mace) Kuberajāyā Budha (Mercury) Kumari
Yama South Oṃ Maṃ Yamāya Namaḥ Daṇḍa(staff) Yami Maṅgala (Mars) Varahi
Indra East Oṃ Laṃ Indrāya Namaḥ Vajra (thunderbolt) Śacī Sūrya (Sun) Aindri
Varuṇa West Oṃ Vaṃ Varuṇāya Namaḥ Pāśa (noose) Nalani Śani (Saturn) Varuni
Īśāna Northeast Oṃ Haṃ Īśānāya Namaḥ Triśūla (trident) Parvati Brihaspati (Jupiter) Māheśvarī
Agni Southeast Oṃ Raṃ Agnaye Namaḥ Śakti(Spear) Svāhā Śukra (Venus) Meshavahini
Vāyu Northwest Oṃ Yaṃ Vayuve Namaḥ Aṅkuśa (goad) Bharati Chandra (Moon) Mrigavahini
Nirṛti (sometimes Rakṣasa) Southwest Oṃ Kṣaṃ Rakṣasāya Namaḥ Khaḍga (sword) Khaḍgī Rāhu (North Lunar Node) Khadagadharini
Viṣṇu Nadir Oṃ Klim Vishnave Namaḥ Chakra (discus) Lakṣmī Lagna Vaishnavi
Brahmā Zenith Oṃ Hriṃ Brahmaṇe Namaḥ Padma (lotus) Sarasvatī Ketu (South Lunar Node) Brahmani

Directions in Hindu tradition

Directions in Hindu tradition are called as Diśa, Disha or Dik. There are four primary directions and a total of 10 directions.

English Sanskrit
East Pūrva, Prāchi, Prāk
West Paścima, Pratīchi, Apara
North Uttara, Udīchi
South Dakshina, Avāchi
North-East Īśānya
South-East Āgneya
North-West Vāyavya
South-West Nairṛti
Zenith Ūrdhva
Nadir Adho


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

In Hinduism the Guardians of the four cardinal directions are called the Lokapālas (लोकपाल). They are:

Images of the Lokapālas are usually placed in pairs at the entrance to tombs. As Guardians they can call upon the spirits of the next world to help them protect the tomb if necessary.


  • The Gods of the Directions in Ancient India. Origin and Early Development in Art and Literature (until c. 1000 A.D.), Berlin: Dietrich Reimer 2001 (ISBN 3-496-02713-4) by Corinna Wessels-Mevissen

See also

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