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ship's wheel with eight spokes represents the Noble Eightfold Path
The Dharmachakra represents the Noble Eightfold Path.

The dharmachakra (also known as the wheel of dharma) is one of the eight auspicious symbols in Buddhism.[1]. It has represented the Buddhist dharma, Gautama Buddha's teaching and walking of the path to Nirvana, since the time of early Buddhism.[2][note 1] It is also connected to the Noble Eightfold Path.


Ten Indus glyphs from the northern gate of Dholavira.

The wheel is also the main attribute of Vishnu, the Vedic god of preservation.[3] Madhavan and Parpola note Chakra sign appears frequently in Indus Valley civilization , on several seals.[4] Notably, in a sequence of ten signs on the Dholavira signboard, four are the chakra.[5]


Common Dharmachakra symbols consist of either 8 or 24 spokes.

Unicode Symbol: ☸ (U+2638: Wheel Of Dharma)


Worshipers under 24 spokes of the Buddhist Ashoka Chakra.

The Dharmachakra is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism.[6][note 2] It is one of the oldest known Buddhist symbols found in Indian art, appearing with the first surviving post-Indus Valley Civilization Indian iconography in the time of the Buddhist king Ashoka.[2][2][note 1]

The Buddha is said to have set the dhammacakka in motion when he delivered his first sermon,[7] which is described in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. The wheel itself depicts ideas about the cycle of saṃsāra[citation needed] and furthermore the Noble Eightfold Path.

Buddhism adopted the wheel as the main symbol of the chakravartin "wheel-turner", the ideal king[7] or "universal monarch",[3][7] symbolising the ability to cut through all obstacles and illusions.[3]

According to Harrison, the symbolism of "the wheel of the law" and the order of Nature is also visible in the Tibetan prayer wheels. The moving wheels symbolize the movement of cosmic order (ṛta).[8]



  1. 1.0 1.1 Grünwedel e.a.:"The wheel (dharmachakra) as already mentioned, was adopted by Buddha's disciples as the symbol of his doctrine, and combined with other symbols—a trident placed above it, etc.—stands for him on the sculptures of the Asoka period."[2]
  2. Goetz: "dharmachakra, symbol of the Buddhist faith".[6]


  1. "Buddhist Symbols". Ancient-symbols.com. Retrieved 22 June 2018. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Grünwedel 1901, p. 67.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Beer 2003, p. 14.
  4. The Ancient Indus Valley: New Perspectives By Jane McIntosh. Page :377
  5. The Ancient Indus Valley: New Perspectives By Jane McIntosh. Page :377
  6. 6.0 6.1 Goetz 1964, p. 52.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Pal 1986, p. 42.
  8. Harrison & 2010 (1912), p. 526.


Further reading

  • Dorothy C. Donath (1971). Buddhism for the West: Theravāda, Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna; a comprehensive review of Buddhist history, philosophy, and teachings from the time of the Buddha to the present day. Julian Press. ISBN 0-07-017533-0. 

External links

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