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Dwarapalakas in Hindu Temples

Dwarapalakas are sculptural representations of gatekeepers at the entrance of Hindu temples. Dwarapalaka resemble bhutas, or demons, with two big hands. They hold a mace or gada in one hand. They have protruding canine teeth.

Sometimes Dwarapalakas have four arms and they hold symbols associated with Shiva or Vishnu.

There are also female Dwarapalakas – they usually guard the entrance of shrines dedicated to Mother Goddess.

Some of the names of Dwarapalakas are Chanda, Prachanda, Jaya, Vijaya, Harabhadra and Subhadra.

Jaya and Viaya were the guards in Vaikunta. Due to curse, they were born on earth as demons.

The guards may be positioned in the second, third or fifth doorway that opens into the shrine.

In standing posture, the right leg of dwarapalakas is shown as placed straight on a pedestal, while the left one is slightly bent. Some of the other postures include:
  • With legs and back partly turned to the front.
  • Hands resting on the thigh which is bent in the shape of a plough
  • Both hands supporting the gates of a temple.
Description and stories of Dwarapalakas are found in Brahmanda Purana, Valmiki Ramayana and other Puranas.

The main role of the Dwarapalakas is keep Adharma out of the shrine.

Symbolically, a devotee has to overcome fear before entering the sanctum sanctorum of a temple. Dwarapalaka in the fierce form represent fear. One has to cross it to reach Supreme Truth.