The pillar is a firm vertical/ upright support for the superstructure. Also known as columns or orders these are the basic structural units of a superstructure, which help in supporting the building to withstand the entire horizontal load. In ancient India, pillars were made with intricate precision and details as highly ornamented and decorated elements. Pillars were not merely decorated elements but were also erected to signify victories or honor the death of a great personality. Can you imagine that these ordinary pillars could be used as a musical instrument? Can you imagine a pillar hanging from the ceiling? Here are some examples of mysterious pillars of Ancient India and their facts which will amaze you. Read on further to get your mind blown.
Hanging Pillar – Veerbhadra Temple, Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh, India
The Veerbhadra temple is situated in the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh in Lepakshi of the Anantpur district. Dating back to the 16th century this temple was constructed in the Vijayanagara Empire by Veeranna and Virupana. The temple is dedicated to the avatar of Lord Shiva – Veerbhadra. It took 45 years for the temple construction to be completed. Designed in the Dravidian style of architecture it has 70 pillars, which act as the base of this temple.
What’s more astonishing is that out of these 70 pillars one of the pillars does not touch the ground and is practically hanging from the ceiling. This might not sound as something extraordinary but the whole structure is made out of solid granite stone, which is known for its extremely heavy and tough characteristics. It is believed if someone passes a cloth underneath this pillar gains prosperity in life. In 1902, Britishers were also surprised by the hanging pillar and tried to move it, this caused one of the ends of the pillar to touch the ground. Unfortunately, this also developed cracks in the rest of the 69 pillars indicating that the hanging pillar serves as a balancing column for the entire structure. Nobody knows how this pillar has managed to hang like this for more than 400 years and how was it made.
Apart from this, the temple contains world-famous murals, paintings, and art sculptures. The world’s biggest Naga Linga is situated here along with several pillars carved out as idols in the temple complex. The temple is said to be the most preserved ancient temple to this date and is a fine example of Vijayanagara art and carvings. Highly detailed sculpting can be seen in every part of the temple and suggest that sculpting in that era must have been very advanced and would have often experimented with new techniques.
Musical Pillars – Vithala Temple, Hampi, Karnataka, India
Musical pillars, is it even real? Is it possible? Well yes, you read it correctly; there are pillars that can produce music. Identified as UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Vithala Temple situated in Hampi, Karnataka is internationally famous for its 56 musical pillars.
What’s more intriguing is how are these sounds are created in the pillar? So, if you tap your fingers on these thin pillars located inside the great altar of the temple, musical tones are generated.
These pillars are not hollow and are made out of granite stones with varying shapes, sizes, and lengths. These musical pillars are different from one another. They can produce a variety of tunes ranging from the seven musical notes (Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do) to a set range of many musical instruments like Tabla, Veena, Jaltarang, Mridang, Ghatam, Damru, Shankh, Ghanta, and Kerala Mridangum, etc.
It is believed that during prayers when devotees would sing, the artisans would tap on these pillars to create a musical. There are three types of stones used in this temple – male, female, and neutral. The male stones would create deep and heavy sound, which would travel long distances similar to the frequency of a bell. The female stones were used to create soft sounds and the neutral stones would create sounds that were imperative to both male and female stones like that of an echo.
It has been estimated that the artisans must have selected these stones based on the sound they would generate by tapping on to them. Later they were chiseled and hammered accordingly to replicate the sound of an instrument or a musical note. They were further tuned by aligning its diameter, length, and surface. Another interesting fact is that these pillars not just musical but also helped in creating vibrations in other pillars as well. The other pillars then created sounds and musical effects. Yet again, the Britishers got to know about these musical pillars and got curious. Therefore, to investigate this mystery, they took away one pillar to study it but could not understand how it was made and how it could generate tunes.
Even in today’s technology-driven era often, errors are made and perfection is still hard to achieve, these architectural wonders were made based on mere calculations that were so accurate and perfect that they still withstand time and technology. Imagine when even today we can’t even replicate these architectural marvels they thought of making such a structure where one pillar would hang from the ceiling to balance the whole structure and pillars that could create music by only using chisels and hammers. These ancient wonders are so ahead of their times that they still leave us amazed.