sri dakshinamurthy iconography

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a study on shiva dakshinamurthy


Sri Dakshinamurthy Iconography And Some Other Questions: Part One

Sreenivasarao S/Blog/4 yrs ago/31AA+A++Sri Dakshinamurthy iconography and some other questions: Part One[Note Dated 16 Nov 2009 received from SD:Hello Sir..! I am doing a doctorate on Sri Dakshinamurthy.I am asking some questions concerning my thesis. It will be helpful if you can answer the following questions:Why Dakshinamurthi facing South direction?Are there any specialties in south direction suggested in Agamas and in Shilpa Sastras?Can you tell me the types of ' CHADAMUDI '(Hair Types?)Why there are such different types of Dakshinamurthi in South Indian temples?In North India, we cant see the Dakshinamurthi idol... Why it is so?In your sixth chapter, I saw a Dakshinamurthi photo. It is very different. Can you tell me from where it is?Please also say abbot iconography.Thanks]

Dear SD, Thank you for asking specific questions. I notice, all your questions pertain to the depiction of the Sri Dakshinamurthy image. Lets therefore, for the present, confine our discussion to the various iconographic forms and representations of Sri Dakshinamurthy. I am not sure I know the right answers to all your questions. Let me try.Before attempting to answer your questions lets briefly talk about the general features and characteristics of the various forms of Sri Dakshinamurthy image. This might help the discussion to follow.1. The Principle1.1. Sri Dakshinamurthy is regarded an aspect of Shiva as the universal teacher. He is the young and radiant Adi-Guru imparting knowledge that liberates. He is the very personification of spiritual wisdom and eminence; and one who is immersed in Self. His teaching is through the subtlest form of speech-para vak beyond the range of the physical ear, abiding in silence; the sort of silence that envelops within itself all other forms of expressions. It is the silence that underlines the limitations of rational knowledge, futilities of the blind alleys of metaphysical queries and the frailty hollowness of words. His teaching transcends speech and thought; it is experience. His listeners are learned and wise, ripe in intuitional understanding. The Gurus language of silence dispels the doubts, the confusion and uncertainties in the minds of those around sitting in silence.1.2. Thevata vrukshaunder which the Guru sits symbolizes creation as also the expanding universe which regenerates itself. The tree known asakshya vrukshawith its unique growth pattern also represents the eternal principle, the Dharma. (Vataderived fromvatmeans: to expand, to surround and to encompass). It is meant to suggest that Sri Dakshinamurthy who sits under thevatatree presides over the cyclic processes ofsrishti(creation),sthiti(preservation),samhara(absorption or gathering up),tirobhava(suppression) andanugraha(revealing true knowledge).2. Iconography2.1. The iconographic descriptions of Sri Dakshinamurthy are not uniform. Each of the major texts Amsumadbheda,Karanagama,Kamikagama,Shilparatnaand others carries varying descriptions of the features, postures andayudhasof Sri Dakshinamurthy. In addition, there are several versions of his aspects and attributes. The following, in brief, is a summary position of Sri Dakshinamurthy- iconography.2.2. Sri Dakshinamurthy is depicted as a young person with serene, tranquil and pleasing countenance seated in a secluded spot in the Himalayas, under a banyan tree (vata vrksha), upon a throne or a rock or an elevated platform (adhastad vata-vrkshasya sailad urdhvam) covered with tiger-skin (vyagara charmoparish that tu) or deer-skin (kurangasana). Sri Dakshinamurthy who iskevala murti(single or not accompanied by another deity or a consort) is always depicted singly.He is usually depicted with four arms.In his upper right hand he holds a rosary (aksha-maala) inkapittha-mudra, as if counting beads ofjapa-mala, or a snake (sarpa: symbol of tantric knowledge) or both. Sometimes he is also shown holding a drum (damaru)with a snake coiling around it. Thedamaruthesrishti(creation) aspect of Shiva represents the primeval sound and rhythm from which the universe emerges and into which it dissolves before re-emerging. In his upper-left-hand he holds a flaming torch (Agni) symbolizing enlightenment or illumination, removing the darkness of ignorance. It also stands for hissamhara(absorption or gathering back the created existence) aspect. His lower-left-hand resting on his left knee (the back of the hand touching the knee) gesturesvarada-mudrabestowing a boon (varadam vamahastam); and, it also holds a bunch ofkushagrass or a palm-leaf manuscript symbolizing scriptural knowledge. The lower-right-hand gestures grace (hisanugraha aspect) or assurance (abhaya-mudra) orjnana mudra(thumb and middle/index finger meet each other and touch the heart (jnana mudram hrdi sthane); the hand faces inwards (abhyantara mukham karma) as in the temple at Ilambyankottur (conveying that knowledge comes from within) or inchin-mudra(The index finger of his right hand is bent and touching the tip of his thumb. The other three fingers are stretched up) indicating identity of the Absolute and the individual orVykhyana-mudra(similar tochin-mudra) : But,facing the viewer as if imparting a teaching ; seated in a relaxed position.A rare depiction of Jnana-mudra at Ilambyankottur;And the other to the rightis chin mudra[ and its next is vyakhyana mudra (Pallava sculpture)2.3. Sri Dakshinamurthy is most usually depicted in a seated posture (aasana); and at times in standing (sthanaka) as in hisVeena-dharavariation (holding a veena). But, he is not depicted in reclining (shayana) postures. While seated inVirasana,his right leg is stretched down (lambaka padam) and is stamping upon(samharaka)the dwarf (apasmarapurusha: representing ignorance and delusion) -- (apasmaroparishthat tu lamba-pada-talam nyaset). This suppression (nirodha) of ignorance is described as thetirobhavaaspect of Sri Dakshinamurti. And, his left foot bent at the knee is resting on his right knee or thigh (sayanam padakam or kunchita-paada). His sitting posture is relaxed; his body position and carriage is free from bends and rigidity. His general aspect is calm and meditative.2.4. His luxuriant hair of matted locks (jatabhara,jatabhandha,jatamandalaorjatamakuta) , said to represent hissthithi(preservation) aspect, is adorned and enriched with jewellery, the crescent moon, a snake and bunches of wild flowers such asdurdhura(dhatura). The mass of thejatasis either dishevelled or held together by a snake or a band (patta-bandha) and arranged in conical shapes to resemble a crown. In the middle ofjatabhararesides a small smiling face of the Ganga.Curly hair locks fall onto his shoulders and upper arms. On his forehead he bears a verticalurna(third eye).It is said ; dhurdhura (dhatura) and other forest-flowers as well as the cobra must be positioned over the right of his head ; the skull and moon over the left ; and , Ganga in the middle.Sri Dakshinamurthy is modestly adorned withrudraksha-mala; garlands of wild flowers; flowers above his ears (karna avathamsam). Theyagnopavita(sacred cord) runs across his chest which is adorned with sandal-paste, garlands and necklaces. He is ornamented withkati-bandhajewelled waist band;naga-bandhaarmlets; ankletswithlittle bells; bracelets; kirti-mukhaearring in his right ear and conch- shell earrings (shankha-patra) or an open circular earring (karnavali or vrutta-abharana)in his left earlobe.The Shipa textShilpa-ratnasuggests that Sri Dakshinamurthy must be adorned with five emblems (pancha mudra) : the gem on the forehead (mani) ; the ear rings (kundala) ; the necklaces (kanthika) ; the bracelets on arms and legs (ruchaka) ; and , the girdle (mekhala) . These ornaments are said to symbolize : spiritual power (virya) ;forbearance (kshanti) ; generosity (daana) ; moral virtue (shila) ; and wisdom (jnana) .2.5. The nature of Sri Dakshinamurthy issattva,pure, bright and serene (shantha). His complexion is radiant like a clear crystal (shuddha spatikopama) or soothingly bright as the jasmine flower or the moon(kundendu dhavala prabha) . He is also described as glowing like gold (hema prabha) or dark (shyamabha) . Some Tantric texts describe his complexion aswhiteas milk (kshira-gaura) or snow-white (Kailasadri -nibha) absorbed in in self (bhava shuddha ).His countenance is free from even the traces of disturbance (klesha vargitam). A soothing and gentle smile lights up his expression. His steady gaze is fixed upon the tip of his nose (nasagra drshti yuk) or on the tip his toes (padagre drhsti patam). His eyes must be slightly open (kimchid unmiltair netraih) as in contemplation (yoga dhyananusarinam). He is dressed in white upper garments (sittottariya) andyajnopavita(sita-upavita).His lower garment is of tiger skin (vyagra charmambara) or silk (divyambara) .2.6. The great teacher-god is surrounded by many animals particularly the deer and the Nandi bull. Therishiseager to absorb the Gurus teaching are at his feet. Their numbers and names are mentioned differently in different texts. For instance,Karanagamamentions four rishis: Agasthya, Pulasthya, Vishwamitra and Angirasa.Kamikagamamentions sevenrishis:Kaushika, Kashyapa, Bharadwaja, Atri, Gautama and two others. And,Amsumad-bhedagamamentions seven rishis as Narada, Vashista, Jamadagni, Bhrighu, Bharadwaja, Sanaka, and Agasthya. The aged sages must all be shown with matted hair coiled up (jata bhara) dressed in white and wearingrudraksha maala .Their height is prescribed not to reach above the chest of Sri Dakshinamurthi.The texts also mention the number of sages depicted could even be one , two or three(esham ekam dvayam vapi trayam vaparsvayor nyaseth).3.1. The aforesaid are the general features in depiction of Sri Dakshinamurthy. In specific illustrations, he could be depicted as either sitting or as standing; sitting either invirasanaor otherwise on a rock or on an elevated seat cove