Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Eight Directions and their Guardians

These mythological eight elephants, Ashtadiggajas, are symbols of strength and they support earth from eight directions hence they are called ashta(eight)-dig(directioms)-gajas (elephants). According to the myth, the Sama-veda-mantras made emerge them from the piece of cosmic egg held in the right hand of Brahma. They were (A)iravatham, Pundarikan, Vamanan, Kumudan, Anchanan, Pushpadantan, Sarvabhauman, and Supradikan. Directions are: North, South, East and West, North East, South East, North West and South West.
 In hinduism, Aṣṭa-Dikpāla is a group of eight deities-guardians of eight directions. Ashtadikpala ruling the eight sides are:
Kubera : for North (Uttara) Om Sham Kuberaya Namah
Yama : for South (Dakshina) Om Mam Yamaya Namah
Indra : for East (Pūrva) Om Lam Indraya Namah
Varuna : for West (Paścima) Om Vam Varunaya Namah
Isana (Shiva) : for North-East (Īśānya) Om Ham Isanaya Namah
Agni : South-East (Āgneya) Om Ram Agnaye Namah
Vayu : North-West (Vāyavya) Om Yam Vayuve Namah
Nirrti (sometimes Raksasa) : South-West (Nairṛti) Om Ksam Raksasaya Namah
 Also, the four principal directions are associated with four Vedas: Rg Veda with East, Yajur Veda with South, Atharva Veda with West and Saama Veda with North.

 In general, all traditional cultures give special importance to directions and number Eight seems to have similar meaning. Spiritually, Eight is the goal of the initiate, having gone through the seven stages. Eight is Infinity - Paradise regained. Eight is solidarity as the first cube and it denotes perfection by virtue of it's six surfaces. There are eight winds and intermediate directions of space. Eight represents the pairs of opposites. The octagon is the beginning of the transformation of the square into a circle and vice versa.
On the summit of Mount Meru, is the vast city of Lord Brahma, known as Brahmapuri. Surrounding Brahmapuri are 8 cities - the one of Lord Indra and of seven other Devatas.Around Brahmapuri are eight cities, the seats of the eight Vedic gods who are also known as Ashtadikpala, rulers of the eight directions of space.
In hinduism, the principle of the eight directions has different variations depending on the main deity but remains unchanged essentially. See, for example, Bhairava’s Eight . Or Sri Ashtalakshmi. In Shaivism, the holy hill Arunachala is surrounded by eight lingams (Ashta Lingams) each residing in one of the eight directions of the four cardinal points (South – Yama, West – Varuna, North – Kubera, and East – Indra) and four intercardinal points (South East – Agni, South West – Niruthi, North West – Vayu and North East – Esanaya). These eight lingams are symmetrically placed at each geographical direction, the ashtadik, oriented from the mountain of Arunachala.  The deities too have a special connection with Shiva and have been consecrated at each spot.

I really like the theme of directions in the world's cultures, and I will expand this theme later. The most important thing is that the concept of Ashtadikpalas symbolically denotes that God is everywhere and in every direction of space.

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