Ashta Dig Gajas and Ashta Dik Paalakas

Brahma –the creator- thought of breathing life in to his work; he took the cosmic egg (Hiranya-garbha) in his hands and split it in to two halves; held one half in each of his hands and began blowing life in to it! During this process the whole universe shook in utter turmoil. The seven great sages known as ‘Saptarshis’- responsible for the existence of the earth- were shaken by these developments and they chanted ‘Sama-veda mantras’. Mantras or hymns are holy- scriptures; if chanted in the prescribed tune; they are capable of doing miracles (Sama-mantras are most powerful hymns to be applied only at most critical occasions).

The effect of Sama-veda-mantras made eight male elephants emerge from the piece of cosmic egg held in the right hand of Brahma. They were (A)iravatham, Pundarikan, Vamanan, Kumudan, Anchanan, Pushpadantan, Sarvabhauman, and Supradikan

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These eight elephants are symbols of strength and they support earth from eight directions hence they are called ‘Ashta-dig-gajas’ or elephants supporting the eight directions. The first one; Iravatham is the legendary white elephant; the proud possession of Indra –the chief of all demigods- who rules heaven.

Asta means Eight, Dik ; Dik means Directions; they are :
North, South, East and West, North East, South East, North West and South West.

And during the process of Creation, where did these directions originate from? From the Lord’s ears, says the Purusha Sooktam—“Padbhyaam Bhoomi: disha: shrotraat”.

Incidentally, the four principal directions are associated with four Vedas—Rg Veda with East, Yajur Veda with South, Atharva Veda with West and Saama Veda with North. This we learn from the Kaataka Prasnam—“Richaam praachee mahatee dik uchyate, Dakshinaam aahu: Yajushaam apaaraam, Atharvanaam Angirasaam Prateechee, Saamnaam udeechee mahatee dik uchyate
Eight Dikpaalakaas and their vahanas

These eight directions are guarded by eight deities known as the Ashta Dik Paalakaas.
Gods ruling the eight sides are –

Indra, (East) Airavata – the white elephant. Sometimes Indira is depicted as sitting on a horse named Ucchaisravas.

Agni (Southeast), on Mesha (the male goat).

Yama (South ) on Mahisha (the male buffalo).

Nirriti (Varuna (West), Makara (the crocodile).

North West – Vayu on Mruga (the spotted deer).

Southwest), on Ashwa (horse).

Kubera (North) on Nara (Man)

Eesaana (Northeast) on Vrishbha (bull)

However, according to the Manu Smriti, they are—

1. Soma
2. Agni (the male goat).
3. Arka
4. Anila
5. Indra
6. Kubera
7. Varuna and
8. Yama. (the male buffalo).

The Manusmriti tells us that the King is the personification of these eight deities—
“Soma Agni Arka Anila Indraanaam Vitta Ap patayo: Yamasya cha
Ashtaanaam Lokapaalaanaam vapu: dhaarayate Nripa:”