Ashtadikpalakas: The Guardians of the 8 Directions

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This article by Anviti Sohla

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There are a myriad of elements that are associated with deities according to Hinduism beliefs. While the Navagrahas rule the nine planets, the Ashtadikpalakas rule the 8 directions. The Ashtadikpalakas are revered not only in the Hindu religion but in other faiths too like Vajrayana Buddhism and Jainism. Ashta means eight, Dik means directions, and Palaka means guardian. Therefore, Ashta-Dikpalakas are the deities who rule and protect the 8 directions. There are 8 Hindu Gods who are the guardians of these directions.


Lord Kubera presides over the North direction while Lord Yama guards the South, Lord Indra protects the East direction and the West direction is protected by Lord Varuna, Lord Isana rules over the North-East direction, Lord Agni presides over the South-East direction, while Lord Vayu guards the North-West direction, Nirrti is the guardian of the South-West direction.

As per Hinduism beliefs, The Ashtadikpalakas ensure that order prevails in their respective directions and that their residents are protected. They are considered to be the guardians of these directions. They are depicted usually on the ceiling of the main Mandapa of temples. They are also depicted on the walls of temples. For instance, sculptures of the 8 Hindu deities are carved on the walls of Khajuraho temples.


They are also symbolically represented as 8 elephants standing in 8 directions. 

Vastu Shastra which is the Hindu science of construction, design, and placement of things is also based on the Ashtadikpalakas ruling over the 8 directions. The science focuses on important aspects like the layout of buildings like houses and offices, the location of buildings, the placement of things, etc, so that there is a smooth and uninterrupted flow of energies and to attract the blessings of Ashtadikpalakas. For instance, business establishments should face North because that is the direction guarded by Lord Kuber and it will bring success to the business.

The Southern direction is associated with our departed ancestors, so all offerings are made to them by facing the South direction.

As per Hinduism beliefs, by invoking the blessings of these Hindu Gods who are the rulers of the 8 directions one can succeed in life. Each of these Hindu deities has a specific mount, is associated with a particular natural element, and they also bear a particular weapon.


East - This direction is guarded by Lord Indra who is the God of Rain and Thunder which is essential for sustaining life on earth and his vahana is a majestic white elephant named Airavata. His weapon is a Vajra or a thunderbolt.


West -  This direction is ruled by Lord Varun who is the Water deity and his vahana is a Makara or a crocodile. He is the God of all water bodies. He bears a pasa or a noose as his weapon.


North - This direction is protected by Lord Kuber who is the God of wealth and prosperity. Praying to Lord Kuber blesses one with financial gains. His vahana is a nara or man and he is depicted as bearing a mace or a gada.


South - The guardian of this direction is Lord Yama who is the God of death and his vahana is a buffalo. His weapon is a danda or a staff and he represents justice.


South East - This direction is ruled by Lord Agni who is the God of Fire. It is through the sacred fire that we make offerings to Gods and Goddesses during rituals. His vahana is a ram and he bears a spear as his weapon. 


North West - This direction is ruled by Lord Vayu who is the God of Wind and his weapon is a goad or Ankusa. His vahana is a stag.


South West - The protector of this direction is Nirrti who is considered to be a Rakshasa and has a sword or a khadga as a weapon.


North East - The ruler of this direction is Lord Isana who bears a trident or a trishula and his vahana is a bull. He is considered an aspect of Lord Shiva who is a part of the holy trinity of the Hindu Gods.


Wrapping Up - 

The Ashtadikpalakas are the 8 Vedic Hindu Gods who are said to rule and preside over the 8 directions of the physical space. They are associated with various elements and are depicted bearing many attributes. It is the existence of these Hindu deities in the 8 directions that gave rise to the science of Vastu Shastra which is the Hindu science of construction and design. Certain rules are followed while constructing and placing things to seek the blessings of these deities.

The concept of the Ashtadikpalakas is proof of one of the many Hinduism beliefs that God is everywhere and resides in all directions. Hence, it proves the omnipresence of God.


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