Dharmachakra Symbol
| |

Dharmachakra Symbol – History And Meaning

The dharmachakra or wheel of dharma is a major symbol of Buddhism. However, it is also employed in other Indian religions such as Hinduism and Jainism. 

The dharma wheel or dharmachakra, is the “wheel of law.” It is an ancient symbol revered by Buddhists as it symbolizes their faith, denoting the Buddha’s first sermon in a deer park at Sarnath, in Uttar Pradesh, India. It is said that after his enlightenment, the Buddha started his teachings there, setting the Buddhist law or dharma in motion. 

Dharmachakra (Wheel of Dharma) Symbol – History And Meaning

If you want to learn more about the Dharmachakra (Wheel of Dharma) symbol, read on to find out the meaning, history, and significance of this Buddhist symbol.

Dharmachakra (Wheel of Dharma) History

Dharmachakra history

Considered one of the auspicious signs or “ashtamangala” in Hinduism and Buddhism, the pre-Buddhist dharmachakra was often used to symbolize both faiths. From the earliest period of Indian Buddhism to the present, the wheel of dharma was frequently used as a decoration in Buddhist temples, statues, and inscriptions.

Wheel/chakra symbols are among the most ancient in all Indian history. It has been noted that a wheel symbol is often seen in artifacts from the Indus Valley civilization, especially on various seals. 

Buddhism and Hinduism share the concept of a great king being linked with turning the “wheel of dharma.” Two kings of the Hindu solar and lunar dynasties are referred to as wheel-turning kings or chakravartins.

Siddhartha Gautama, who became the Buddha, was said to have been a “mahapurisa” or a great man, who could have chosen to become a wheel-turning king himself. But as we know it, he chose to become a Buddha, a wheel-turning sage, which is the spiritual counterpart to such a king.

The Buddha is said to have “turned”  the dharma wheel on his first sermon, signifying a great and revolutionary change with universal consequences. All these significant things created by one exceptional human being!

The dharma wheel symbol also points to the central Indian idea of “dharma,” a term referring to eternal cosmic law and universal moral order. This is the very teaching and path presented and developed by the Buddha. The dharmachakra has been used to represent the Buddha’s dharma since.

Dharmachakra (Wheel of Dharma) Symbol

Dharmachakra Symbol

The dharma wheel is described as a chariot’s wheel that consists of the hub, the rim, and the spokes. These three elements of the dharma wheel is depicted in various ways. The hub may be an empty circle or another wheel, as well as a yin-yang symbol, or perhaps three shapes swirling together. There are many variations of the dharmachakra, but they are usually depicted as having 8 spokes and are gold in color.

The different number of spokes may denote different aspects of the Buddha’s teaching (dharma). For example, the 8-spoked dharmachakra represents the Noble Eight-fold Path, and the hub, rim, and spokes symbolize the three trainings (sila, prajña and samadhi). Dharma wheels with rare four spokes represent the Four Noble Truths. 

The dharmachakra symbol is often paired with the trishula (trident), triratna (the triple jewel), or chatra (parasol). The wheel of dharma is also sometimes depicted alongside animals such as deer. A number of monasteries feature the dharma wheel with two deer gazing at the wheel. The Buddha himself is also often depicted as sitting on a dais, flanked by a couple of deer in a kneeling position. 

In Buddhism, the turning motion of a wheel is also used to represent the cyclical nature of life. This is known as the “bhavacakra” (wheel of life) or “samsara chakra.” Buddhists believe that through the practice of the Buddhist path, this wheel of suffering can be reversed or “turned.” 

Dharmachakra (Wheel of Dharma) Symbol Meaning

Dharmachakra symbol meaning

In Buddhism, dharma is the path to attaining enlightenment and reaching Nirvana.

The Sanskrit word dharma is derived from the root dhṛ, translated as “to hold, maintain, or keep.” Dharma means “what is established or firm,” thus, “law.” It came from the older Vedic Sanskrit n-stem dharman-, which is literally translated as “bearer, supporter.” 

Dharmachakra or wheel of dharma is the wheel of law. It is one of the most important and sacred Buddhist symbols as it represents Buddha’s teachings. 

Similar Posts


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *