Four great kings

From Encyclopedia of Buddhism
Jump to navigation Jump to search
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.


The Sanskrit term Caturmahārāja consists of three words:

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

The four kings are also referred to as Caturmahārājikādeva (Four Great Heavenly Kings):

  • deva means "divinity," "god," etc.

In Chinese mythology, they are known collectively as:


  1. 1.0 1.1 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. Caturmahārāja.


Further reading