When circumambulating a temple or an idol (i.e. perform pradakshinam), we do so clockwise. Now, it's obvious that we need to have everybody circumambulating in the same direction, or else people would run into each other. But why do we specifically do so in a clockwise direction? Is there a scriptural basis for this, or is it merely traditional?
(I assume clockwise circumambulation is a universal practice; if not, please correct me.)
This reference says We cannot draw a circle without a centre point. The Lord is the
centre, source and essence of our lives. Recognising Him as the focal
point in our lives, we go about doing our daily chores. This is the
significance of pradakshina. Also every point on the circumference of
a circle is equidistant from the centre. This means that wherever or
whoever we may be, we are equally close to the Lord.
His grace flows towards us without partiality.
Doing it in clockwise direction keeps the almighty to our right hand side so symbolically we have given prominent position to them, as a token of respect, devotion & love.
You may find wiki article here. This and this also have good information.
Q 1.But why do we specifically do so in a clockwise direction?
This is because, 'Pra-Dakshina' means 'standing to the right (DAKSHINA) side of the Deity
प्रदक्षिण a. 1 Being placed or standing on the right, moving to the right; प्रदक्षिणार्चिर्हविरग्निराददे R.3.14 (sanskritdictionary.com).
If one moves around a deity keeping Him or Her always in the right side, he or she must move around CLOCKWISE.
Q 2.I assume clockwise circumambulation is a universal practice; if not, please correct me.
Yes, there are variations in the scriptural injunctions regarding 'pradakshina' in the sense that all pradakshinas advised are NOT circular. For example, according to the YAmala-Vachana,
trikoNAkArakam devi shakeh kuryAt pradakshiNam/ardhachandram maheshasya pristhatascha samiritam// meaning : For doing pradakshina of a Shakti (Goddess) form, walk forming a triangle is advised. For doing pradakshina of Lord Shiva, half-circular movement on the back side of the deity is advised.
From the vaishnava verbal tradition: turning to the right decreases material desires, turning to the left increases them. Religious practitioners want more freedom, so they always circumambulate clockwise to turn to the right.
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