Lord Dakshina Murthy
"Om namah pranavarthaya,
Suddha jnanaika moorthaye namah
Nirmalaya prasanthaya,
Sri Dakshinamurthaye namah"

Dakshinamurthy or Jnana Dakshinamurti is an aspect of Shiva as a guru (teacher) of all type of knowledge, particularly the jnana. This aspect of Shiva is his personification as the supreme or the ultimate awareness, understanding and knowledge. This form represents Shiva in his aspect as a teacher of yoga, music, and wisdom, and giving exposition on the shastras. He is worshipped as the god of wisdom, complete and rewarding meditation. This iconographic form for depicting Shiva in Indian art is mostly south Indian in character.

In his aspect as Jnana Dakshinamurti, Shiva is generally shown with four arms. He is depicted seated under a banyan tree, facing the south. Shiva is seated upon a deer-throne and surrounded by sages who are receiving his instruction. He is shown as seated with his right foot on mythical apasmara (a demon which, according to Hindu mythology, is the personification of ignorance) and his left foot lies folded on his lap. Sometimes even the wild animals, are depicted to surround Shiva. In his upper arms, he holds a snake or rosary or both in one hand and a flame in the other; while in his lower right hand is shown in vyakhyanamudra, his lower left hand holds a bundle of kusha grass or the scriptures. The index finger of His right hand is bent and touching the tip of his thumb. The other three fingers are stretched apart. This symbolic hand gesture or Mudra is the Gnana Mudra (or Jnana Mudra or Jana Mudra), a symbol of knowledge and wisdom. Sometimes, this hand is in the Abhaya Mudra, a posture of assurance and blessing. Dakshinamurthy is portrayed as being in the yogic state of abstract meditation - and as a powerful form brimming with ever flowing bliss and supreme joy. Variations of this iconic representation include Veenadhara Dakshinamurthy (holding a Veena), Rishabharooda Dakshinamurthy (mounted on a Rishabha - the bull) etc.

Indian tradition accords a special reverence to the Guru or the teacher. Dakshinamurthy, in the Saivite system of beliefs is regarded as the ultimate Guru - the embodiment of knowledge and the destroyer of ignorance (as represented by the demon being crushed under the feet of the deity). The Jnana Mudra is interpreted in this way:- The thumb denotes the God and the index finger denotes the man. The other three fingers stand for the three congenital impurities of man viz. arrogance, illusion and bad deeds of the past births. When man detaches himself from these impurities, he reaches God. The Abhaya Mudra, a gesture with the hand lifted above thigh with palm facing out, fingers pointing, is interpreted as His grace upon His students. The rosary or the snake signifies Tantric knowledge. The fire represents illumination, removing the darkness of ignorance.

The fifth day of the week, Thursday is associated with the planet Jupiter and is referred to as Guruvar (or Guruvaaram). Thursdays are considered auspicious to start any educational endeavours. It is on Thursdays that special worship services are offered to Dakshinamurthy in many Saivite temples. Some temple traditions hold full moon nights, particularly the night of the Guru Poornima as the appropriate time for worship services to Dakshinamurthy.

The Legend
Once upon a time, the Lord responsible for creation, Lord Brahma, lost interest in the work of creation and thought of taking a life of an ascetic. So thinking, he created Sanaka, Sanatkumara, Sanandana and Sanatsujata, with the intention to hand over his job of creating life to them. In due course they grew up and mastered all branches of knowledge. At this juncture, Brahma decided to hand over his job to his four sons and retire to austerities. Sage Narada came to know of His father's intentions. However knowing that his brothers the Sanakadi Munis were full of dispassion and were fit for being initiated into Brahmavidya or the supreme knowledge of the self, he warned them about their father's intentions beforehand. On hearing these words from Narada, the four brothers who had no intentions to follow the path of action and abandoned home in search of a Guru, without informing their father.

The four brothers proceeded to Vaikuntha, the abode of Lord Vishnu where they observed Lord Vishnu with his consort Lakhmi who was massaging his legs. At this sight, the four brothers thought, "How can this family man bound by the intimate glance of his consort render us any help in learning the supreme knowledge. Look at the splendour of this palace and this city! This is enough. Let us seek the help of Lord Siva". So saying they proceeded in the direction of Mount Kailasa.

Lord Siva who was at Kailasa along with his family, knew about their approaching him and understood their plight. He was sure that they would be disappointed on seeing Him with a family and so taking pity on them, He decided to impart the sublime spiritual knowledge to them. The Lord of infinite compassion left Kailasa and retired assuming the form of a youth seated in Chinmudra under a banyan tree (Va?a Vriksha) on the northern banks of Lake Manasarovara.

When the Sanakadi Munis were on their way, they beheld the young Dakshinamurti. They were at once attracted to him and understood that He alone was the true Sadguru. They approached him, circumambulated Him thrice and prostrated to Him in a manner that befitted a disciple master relation. Then settling at His feet, they began to ask shrewd and pertinent questions about the nature of reality and the means of attaining it. Because of the great compassion and fatherly Love (vatsalya) which He felt for His aged disciples, the primordial master was overjoyed to see their earnestness, wisdom and maturity and gave apt replies to their questions. But as he answered each consecutive question, further doubts arose in their minds and they asked further questions. Thus this questioning and answering continued for one whole year.

Finally, Sri Dakshinamurti understood that if he continued answering their questions, further doubts would arise in the minds of His disciples and their ignorance (aj˝ana) would never end. Therefore, suppressing even the feeling of compassion and fatherly love which was welling up within Him, He merged himself into the Supreme silence, the state of samadhi. Owing to the great maturity which had further ripened owing to their association with Sri Dak?hi?amurti, their master, they too automatically merged into the supreme silence as soon as their master assumed Silence, the true state of the self and all their doubts were cleared.
"Gurave sarva lokaanam,
Bishaje bhava roginaam,
Nidhaye sarva vidyanam,
Sri Dakshinamurthaye namah"

- October 11
- December 09

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