Śiva as Dakṣiṇāmūrti

Śiva as Dakṣiṇāmūrti (the exemplary ascetic) sits in lalitāsana on a tiger skin with his right foot placed on the back of the Apasmara purusha. He carries in his upper right hand the ḍamaru, in his upper left the triśūla, in his lower right the rudrākṣamāla and in his lower left the kapāla (skull cup). Dakṣinamūrti is flanked by two yogis, their hands in anjali mudra, listening attentively to his words. The knees of both sages are held in place by a yogapaṭṭa. The Apasmara puruṣa is of dark complexion, with protruding fangs, and armed with sword and shield. Andhra Pradesh, circa 1820; British Museum

The temple of the God
who sat under the tall banyan tree,
and graciously taught the four ancient Sages
the enlightened way
by discoursing on the essence of the four true Vedas,
is Milalai, where parrots in groves flowing with honey,
hearing the sound or famed pundits
daily reciting the sacred texts,
explain the meaning of the chant.


The four ṛsis on the mountain represent Sanaka, Sananda, Sanatana and Sanatkumara, the four sons Brahma. In order to expound the mysteries of the Vedas to these four ṛṣis, the god Śiva is said to have assumed the form of Dakṣiṇāmūrti. This story of the great teacher expounding the Dharma under the banyan tree has also an esoteric significance, explained in the Dakṣiṇāmūrti Upaniṣad. According to the explanation given there, ‘Dakṣiṇa’ is Jñana or knowledge’ and it is in front of the Lord, and therefore He is called Dakṣiṇāmūrti. The ‘apasmara’ is the personification of ignorance which the Lord crushes below him. The manuscript in His hand is the embodiment of the wisdom illuminating our soul. The akamala is the concrete form of the tattoos and Dakṣiṇāmūrti form is the Absolute bliss. The banyan tree, with its shade, represents māya. His seat, the ‘kamalāsana’ or the lotus seat is the symbol of the sacred syllable ‘Om’. The bull represents Dharma. Dakṣiṇāmūrti is found seated on the bull in the Vallalar temple at Mayiladuthurai where where we find an utsava mūrti form for Him.


  1. The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram by M. A. Dorai Rangaswamy
  2. Poems to Siva by Indira Vishwanathan Peterson


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