Four great kings

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The four great kings. From left to right: Vaiśravaṇa, Virūḍhaka, Dhṛtarāṣṭra, and Virūpākṣa in Beijing, China.
The four great kings, Burma.

Four great kings (Skt. Caturmahārāja; T. rgyal po chen po bzhi), a.k.a., "four great heavenly kings," are four devas (or gods) of the sensory realm (kamadhatu) that reside with their retinues in the "heaven of the four great kings" (cāturmahārājakāyika), which is the lowest of the six deva realms of the kāmadhātu.[1]

Each deva watches over one cardinal direction of the world. They are said to "serve as protectors of the dharma and of sentient beings who are devoted to the dharma".[1]

The four great kings are:

  1. Dhritarashtra (T. Yulkhor Sung), 'Defender of the Area' in the east;
  2. Virudhaka (T. Pak Kyepo), 'Noble Birth' in the south;
  3. Virupaksha, 'Dreadful Eye' in the west; and
  4. Vaishravana, 'Son of He who has Heard Many Things' in the north.

Etymology

The Sanskrit term Caturmahārāja consists of three words:

  • catur means "four"
  • mahā means "great"
  • rāja means "king"

Hence, "four great kings."

Title variants

The four kings are also referred to as:

  • Caturmahārājikādeva, literally "four great heavenly kings." (Deva means "divinity," "god," etc.)

In Chinese mythology, they are known collectively as:

In English, they are also referred to as the:

  • "four gardian kings"[2]
  • "four great gardian kings"[3]

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. Caturmahārāja.
  2. Internet-icon.svg rgyal po chen po bzhi, Christian-Steinert Dictionary
  3. Internet-icon.svg rnam thos sras, Christian-Steinert Dictionary

Sources

Further reading