The actual name of Qutub Minar is Dhwaja Sthambha or Vishnu Sthambha or Meru Sthambha. In this part of the series, we shall understand the meaning of Sthambha and its significance in Hindu temple.
What is a Sthambha or Dhwaja Sthambha?
In Sanskrit, “Dhwaja” translates to flag, emblem, insignia or seal and “Sthambha” translates to staff or pole.
Dhwaja Sthambha is a vertically erected high column, a flagstaff or a pillar consecrated at the entrance of the temple. We can find these Sthambhas in all major Hindu temples across India, Nepal, Tibet and Southeast Asia. These Pillars are built to honor the presiding deity Vishnu. Therefore, such pillars are also called Vishnu Sthambha.
Brahmotsavam – Brahma’s Utsavam
Sthambha is also a place where annual festive celebrations (Utsavam) called Brahmotsavam take place under the aegis of Vedic scholars, priests, and pontiffs. The word “Brahmotsavam” simply translates to “Brahma’s Utsavam or festival.” The prayers, ceremonies, and rituals are conducted as per Agama Shastras. It is believed that Lord Brahma was the first preceptor of the festive celebrations honoring Lord Vishnu and the Tirumala.
Brahmotsavams the most popular festival celebrated at the famous Tirupati Balaji Shrine. Usually, there is also a carved statue or special mention of Chaturmukha or four faced Brahma on most of the temples’ Dhwaja and Garuda pillars honoring Lord Brahma. These pillars are erected and housed at temples around the world.
There is a total of 106 ancient temples across India and Nepal dedicated to Lord Vishnu and His nine avatars called Divya Desams. The most striking similarity across these temples is the presence of the Dhwaja Sthambhas and Garuda Sthambhas at the main entrance! The pillar or Sthambha is inscribed with Holy Scriptures in Sanskrit, Tamil, Pali, Brahmi, etc.
Consecration of the Sthambha
The consecration of the Sthambha is a major event of religious significance to Hindus. Metal plates made of gold, silver, and various other metals including copper, with geometric mandalas, lotus flower motifs with inscriptions, mantras and numeric called yantras are laid underneath the Sthambas foundation. This then followed by the ceremonial chanting of Vedic Mantras, Yajnas, and incantations before consecration. The actual Sthambha is also covered with metal coated using Panchaloha (5 metals), gold, silver, iron copper, and lead, or could be made out of stone as well. This revered stone or metallic pillar is also known as Vishnu Sthambh or pillar.
Significance of the position of the Sthambha
Scientifically and architecturally the pivotal placement of Dhwaja Sthambha acts as a lightning arrestor that conducts heavy electrical impulse directly to the ground thus prevents any damage to the temple construction. The Dhwaja Sthambha was placed at an axial point outside the temple facing the idol placed inside the Garbha-Ghruh or sanctum sanctorum.
The pillar or Sthambha also acted as a sundial by casting its shadow to study various mathematical, astronomical, astrological concepts and climatic changes at different times of the day and the year. For example, summer and winter solstices, vernal, spring and autumn equinoxes, etc.
The Dhwaja Sthambh is also known as the Meru Sthambh as Meru in Sanskrit means “sun.”
Even in today’s day and age, in any newly constructed temple, Sthambhas are engraved with Holy Scriptures in Sanskrit or Tamil Dravida. The establishing and consecrating Dhwaja Sthambam is followed to this present day as per the norms laid down by the Vedic Agama Shastras.