Directions have great significance in Hinduism, especially Vastu Shastra, the ancient and traditional India
n science of architecture. For instance, when we perform certain rituals, we have to sit facing a certain direction. When we buy a house, the house or front gate has to face a particular direction.
This is because Vastu Shastra says when we follow these rules, it can lead to success, happiness, peace, good health, and prosperity. Hindus are also required to offer salutations to the Guardians of the 8 Directions or Ashtadikpalas and invoke them before performing any rituals. Talk To The Best Vastu Consultant In India for all you vastu related queries.
'Ashta' denotes '8', 'dik' denotes 'directions', and 'palas' denotes 'rulers'. A particular deity rules each direction or quarter, and he is also its chief guardian. These entities make sure that there is order in the universe and protect the inhabitants.
The four cardinal directions form the axis on which a temple is built are the four cardinal directions. These form the basis of temple architecture. The eight directions, guarded by the eight guardians, or Ashta Dikpalas, lead from them. The sculptors of the Khajuraho temples have taken great care to carve the Ashta Dikpalas on both the inside and outside walls. They guard the temple and also keep an eye on us when we circumambulate the shrine, thereby protecting us by their presence. The Ashta Vasus, celestial beings which represent natural phenomena, augment them. Taken together, they represent the idea of the temple as a cosmos, containing within it all the aspects of nature, both on earth and in space.
The 8 Guardians of the Directions
Indra, the king of the Gods, is the deity who guards the East direction. Indra is one of the major deities in the Vedas. He is also the deity of lightning, thunder, and rain. Depictions of him show him holding his Vajra (thunderbolt) and riding his mount, the white elephant, Airavata. The East is an auspicious direction, as the sun rises in the east.
The God of Fire, Agni, is the deity who guards the Southeast direction. Agni, too, is one of the major deities mentioned in the Vedas. It is Agni who accepts our offerings on behalf of the gods when we perform sacrificial rituals. He is among the oldest gods and has a mustache and a beard. He has a big stomach and a portly figure, as he consumes everything. The ram is his vahana or vehicle.
Yama, the Lord of death, is the one who guards the Southern direction. He rides a buffalo and holds a noose in his hands as well as a staff or danda. Sometimes, he is also seen with a bird in his hand or sitting perched on his shoulder. It is either be a pigeon or a crow, as both are his messengers.
Nritti is the deity who guards the Southwest direction. The name Nritti is derived from “na-rti”, meaning ‘absence of rules’. Thus, Nritti is someone who is wild and does not care to follow any rules. Some claim that Nritti is a goddess, and Nritta is a form of Rudra or Shiva. At Khajuraho, Nritti is shown as a nude man, with a snake and a sword in his hands, and a man lying by his side or beneath him. Nritti is the Goddess of poverty and has a black complexion. So people avoid wearing black attire during auspicious occasions. She has to be kept at a distance. If a ritual is performed without hygiene and proper care, it is likely to attract her, and one may not benefit from the ritual in any way.
The God of water, Varuna, is the guardian of the Western direction. He is depicted with a crocodile, which is his vahana or vehicle. He holds a lotus stalk and a noose in his hands.
The God of wind, Vayu, is the guardian of the Northwest direction. His vahana is the antelope, and he holds a cloth in two of his arms, which flies behind him, depicting air.
Kubera, the God of wealth, is also the guardian of the North direction. Kubera is a Yaksha, a semi-divine entity closely associated with the earth and its treasures. He is depicted as a dwarf with a potbelly, holding a purse with money and a club/mace in his hand. In some early sculptures, he has a mongoose over his shoulder, and sometimes he is seen with an elephant. Pots are also shown by his side.
Ishana is the deity who guards the Northeast direction. He is a form of Lord Shiva and is one of his five aspects. He resembles Shiva, save for the fact that one of his hands is in varada mudra, a benevolent pose.
In most ancient temples, the Ashta Dikpalas are placed on the walls in a way that corresponds to their directions. Thus, Indra will be on the eastern wall of the temple, Agni on the southeast wall, or corner, etc. They are seen facing the direction which they represent.
People often perform Ashta Dikpalaka Homam to protect their land or any ongoing construction from all 8 directions. The Homam is believed to please the Dikpalas, who will offer protection from malefic influences and enemies that could attack them from any direction. It can also bestow peace, wealth, and prosperity.