Relief of devotees circumambulating a stupa

Circumambulation (Arabic: tawaf (طواف); Sanskrit: pradakshina; Tibetan: skor ba) is the act of moving around a sacred object.[1]

Circumambulation of temples or deity images is an integral part of Hindu ritual. It is also practiced in Buddhism.[2] In Islam, circumambulation is performed around the Kaaba in Mecca[1], in a counter-clockwise direction. In Christianity, the circumambulation of Jericho in the Book of Joshua, while not an act of worship, is the inspiration for combining it with the circling of the Kaaba in Chrislam. In the Catholic Church, a priest sometimes circumambulates an altar while censing it with a thurible.

In many Hindu temples, the temple structure reflects the symbolism of the Hindu association of the spiritual transition from daily life to spiritual perfection as a journey through stages. Ambulatory passageways for circumambulation are present through which worshipers move in a clockwise direction, starting at the sanctuary doorway and moving inward toward the inner sanctum where the deity is enshrined. This is a translation of the spiritual concept of transition through levels in life into bodily movements by the worshipers as they move inwardly through ambulatory halls to the most sacred centre of spiritual energy of the deity.[3] Circumambulation is done in a clockwise direction and in an odd rather than even number of times. Circumbulatory walking around the shrine, by keeping time, is a common form of Hindu prayer. The circumbulary pathway made of stone around the shrine is called the Pradakshina path.[4]


The Bönpo in the Northern Hemisphere traditionally circumambulate (generally) in a counter-clockwise or widdershin direction, that is a direction that runs counter to the apparent movement of the Sun.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Bowker, John (1999). The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 224. ISBN 0198662424. 
  2. Circumambulation
  3. Michell, George (1988). The Hindu Temple. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press. p. 66. ISBN 0226532305. 
  4. "Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent - glossary". Retrieved 2007-01-10. 

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