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Sri Dakshinamurthy is the depiction of Lord Shiva which illustrates Him as the supreme cosmic teacher (Adi Guru) and is a facet of the Lord as the guru who enlightens one with jnana (knowledge) that elevates and enriches. The Dakshinamurthy form of Lord Shiva extols Him as the Supreme Teacher of yoga, knowledge and even music. The rich treasures of knowledge in the Shastras become accessible when He appears as Sri Dakshinamurthy.
Sri Dakshinamurthy is believed to teach through para vak, which is a divine speech form inaudible to worldly ears and resides in the recesses of silence. Ordinary expressions are not needed to grasp the teachings of Sri Dakshinamurthy who explains the true meaning of Brahmaan naturally. His disciples are old Rishis and sages. He imparts the greatest awareness, understanding and comprehension.
The meaning of Dakshinamurthy also is 'the one who is facing the south (dakshi?a) direction'. He sits under the auspicious vata vruksha facing the south direction to give knowledge. Sri Dakshinamurthy guides the cyclical courses of srishti (creation), sthiti (preservation), samhara (amalgamation), tirobhava (suppress on) and anugraha (revealing true knowledge). As we know, Indian tradition and culture revere the teacher or Guru much like God. Sri Dakshinamurthy is also worshipped as the ultimate Guru who truly illuminates the world with cosmic knowledge that lights the soul.
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The iconographic descriptions of the great teacher Lor are not consistent; a rich treasure of artistic expressions underlines His depiction that also conveys meanings at various levels. Every Shiva temple carries the stone image of Dakshinamurthy facing south. Apparently, Sri Dakshinamurthy is the only Hindu deity who faces the south direction. Major texts like Amsumadbheda, Karanagama, Kamikagama, Shilparatna and others depict Sri Dakshinamurthy differently.
Sri Dakshinamurthy is commonly illustrated in a seated posture and occasionally in standing position (while holding His veena, the musical instrument He plays proficiently). When He is shown seated, His right leg is stretched down, resting upon a dwarfish demon (apasmara who stands for lack of knowledge and illumination). The place He sits on is covered by deer skin or tiger skin. His left foot is bent at the knee and rests on his right knee or thigh. He has an expression of meditative serenity on His face as the Rishis look towards Him for the light of knowledge.
Sri Dakshinamurthy wears Rudraksha beads mala and simple embellishments like garlands of flowers, sacred cord resting on His chest with sandal-paste, garlands and necklaces adorning it. Sri Dakshinamurthy has a pure disposition of sattva. His complexion is bright and glows brightly. He is deeply immersed in self (bhava shuddha) with a gentle smile on His divine face.
When Sri Dakshinamurthy is mostly depicted as Jnana Dakshinamurti, His right hand is in the Gnana Mudra (symbolising knowledge and wisdom). Several layers of intricate symbolism can be observed and interpreted when He assumes the Jnana Mudra. A popular interpretation of the Jnana Mudra is that His thumb represents the God, the index finger represents the man and the other three fingers stand for three inborn impurities that afflict man viz. egotism, delusion and bad deeds performed in past births. Since the three fingers are separate the index finger (man), we learn from the Teacher Lord that we can detach ourselves from impurities and reach God. Sri Dakshinamurthy may also appear as Veenadhara Dakshinamurthy (Sri Dakshinamurthy holding a Veena), Rishabharooda Dakshinamurthy (seated on Rishabha, the Bull) or in some other variations.
Not many temples are dedicated to Sri Dakshinamurthy, but He remains an important form of Lord Shiva. Invoking Him is akin to paying obeisance to knowledge, wisdom and perceiving the path of true enlightenment.
Chanting the Sri Dakshinamurthy Gayatri Mantra is one way of revering Him. So powerful and auspicious the Sri Dakshinamurthy stotram is that it is believed that the one who understands it and chants it devotedly is freed of bondages and realizes truth.
The Sri Dakshinamurthy Gayatri Mantra:
Om dakshinamurthy Vidmahe
Tanno Dhishaha Prachodayat