Relief of devotees circumambulating a stupa

Circumambulation 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 practised in Buddhism.[2] In Islam, circumambulation is performed around the Kaaba in Mecca[1], in a counter-clockwise direction. In Judaism and Christianity,while not an act of worship, one has the circumambulation of Jericho by the Israelites in the Book of Joshua. In the Catholic Church, a priest sometimes circumambulates an altar while censing it with a thurible. At some Catholic shrines it is also a tradition to circumambulate around the cult object of the place, usually relics of a saint or an image of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. Often this is performed three times, as a reference to the Trinity.



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.


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]


Tawaf (طواف) is one of the Islamic rituals of pilgrimage. During the Hajj and Umrah, Muslims are to circumambulate the Kaaba (most sacred site in Islam) seven times, in a counterclockwise direction.[5] The circling is believed to demonstrate the unity of the believers in the worship of the One God, as they move in harmony together around the Kaaba, while supplicating to Allah.

Also the Kaaba is the most circumambulated structure in this world. The Kaaba is constantly circumambulated by pilgrims at all times except for the time of prayers, when small birds and angels are said to circumambulate the Kaaba.

Zen Buddhism

In Zen Buddhism kinhin is the walking meditation that is practiced between long periods of the sitting meditation known as zazen. Practitioners walk clockwise around a room while holding their hands in shashu, with one hand closed in a fist, while the other hand grasps or covers the fist. During walking meditation each step is taken after each full breath.


Bahá'ís perform circumambulation of both the Shrines of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh during their pilgrimage to Haifa and Bahjí, in Israel. While circumambulating, observance of these Manifestations of God is done in complete silence and also performed on holy days such as the birth and ascension of Bahá'u'lláh as well as the birth and martyrdom of the Báb. [6]

See also


  1. ^ a b 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. 
  5. ^ World Faiths, teach yourself - Islam by Ruqaiyyah Maqsood. ISBN 0-340-60901-X page 76
  6. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • circumambulation — ● circumambulation nom féminin Pratique magico religieuse qui consiste à faire le tour d un emplacement, d un objet, d une personne …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Circumambulation — Croquis expliquant le tawaf et saʿīy entre entre Safâ et Marwah. La circumambulation consiste à tourner autour d un symbole ou à l intérieur de celui ci. C est un rite que l on retrouve dans de nombreuses religions. Sommaire 1 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • circumambulation — circumambulate ► VERB formal ▪ walk all the way round. DERIVATIVES circumambulation noun …   English terms dictionary

  • Circumambulation — Circumambulate Cir cum*am bu*late, v. t. [L. circumambulatus, p. p. of circumambulare to walk around; circum + ambulare. See {Ambulate}.] To walk round about. {Cir cum*am bu*la tion}, n. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • circumambulation — noun see circumambulate …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • circumambulation — See circumambulate. * * * …   Universalium

  • circumambulation — noun /ˌsɝ.kəmˌæm.bjuˈleɪ.ʃən/ The act of walking around something in a circle, especially for a ritual purpose. See Also: circumambulate …   Wiktionary

  • circumambulation — n. act of walking around, act of going around something …   English contemporary dictionary

  • circumambulation — cir·cum·ambulation …   English syllables

  • circumambulation — noun see circumambulate …   Useful english dictionary

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