Type of Musical Pillars
Musical Pillars are broadly classified into two types. They are the beating or tapping pillars and the blowing pillars. The former is known to produce musical sound when tapped, while the latter produce musical sound in a different way, i.e. by blowing air in the holes like wind instruments. Characteristically, these pillars are 3 to 7 feet long. The musical sound produced will be similar to the sounds of bronze metals and gem stones. Some also produce the echo effect. It is important to note that special stones were selected and used for the construction of the pillars to produce the specific type of metallic sound. Different idols are associated with different sounds. More specifically, sounds of the bronze metals are associated with the female idols, whereas sounds of gem stones are associated with the male idols of the temples. It is at the time of pujas that they are played by Oothuvars along with musical instruments of the temple.
Wind instrument pillars can be shaped differently as round, amla shaped, square, rectangular, octagon or polygonal. These pillars have similar diagonal or diameter. They will be evident in black or gray or white or slightly yellowish in colour. Blowing air in the holes of these pillars would produce musical sound similar to that of shangu (also known as conch) or yeakalam (also known as horn).
Some musical pillars were even designed in a way to not only produce sounds but also cause adjacent pillars to vibrate in resonance. This phenomenon would also produce harmonics and musical effect. This becomes possible when each pillar creates a different scale of sound. Such musical pillars are classified into four types Sruthisthamba , Ganasthamba, Layasthamba, Pradharasana sthamba. The Sruthisthamba is known to have been used along with shangu and yeakalum during the pujas.
South Indian Temples with Musical Pillars
South Indian Temples are supported on musical pillars. In fact, some of the temples in South India are famous for their musical pillars. Some such noteworthy temples are Tadapatri Temple, Sri Vijaya VittalaTemple, Nellaiappar Temple, Suseeendrum Temple, Shenbagarama Nallur, Alvarthiru Nagari Temple, Thanumalayan Temple, Shenpakanallur Perumal Temple, Madurai Meenakshi Ammal Temple, Shenbaga Nallur Temple, Kumbakkonam Adi Kumbeswarar Temple and Thaadikombu Temple. Alakarkovil, Alvarthirunagari, Kalakadu, Kuttralam, Senpaghanalur, Tadpatri, Thadikombu, Tirupati, Thiruvananthapuram, Tirunelveli, Hampi, Tenkasi and Lepakshi are in places in south India where temples with musical pillars can be found.
The Tadapatri Temple is known to have the kinds of pillars, which can be tapped separately or collectively to produce musical ragas.
Sri Vijaya VittalaTemple
Vijaya VittalaTemple located in Hampi has about 56 musical pillars. Krishna Devaraya is credited with the establishment of this temple. The multi angled pillars produce Indian classical key notes, when tapped gently. They are therefore popularly known as ‘SaReGaMa Pillars’.
Nellaiappar Temple located in the small town of Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, has a central pillar that produces musical vibrations along with other pillars. This pillar is surrounded by small cylindrical pillars of varying girth. A total of 48 such small cylindrical pillars exist in the temple. It is when the central pillar is tapped that the vibrating sounds, more specifically the classical Indian sound waves are heard from the surrounding 48 pillars. They are made by single stone. Each one produces a different sound or suram.
Suseeendrum Temple has 4 central musical pillars opposite to the Bhairavar Mandapam. They are surrounded by a number of smaller pillars. Each pillar is shaped octagonal at the top and square at the bottom. The sounds produced in this temple by these pillars are reminiscent of the sound produced by the Nellaiappar Temple pillars.
Shenbagarama Nallur located near Nanguneri in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu has rounded pillars of similar diameter, colour and size. Just as air is blown into conch or horn, when blown into the holes of these pillars, the Aum sound is consequently produced.
Alvarthiru Nagari Temple
Alvar Thirunagari Temple has been provided with both tapping pillar and blow pillars in a place called Vasanta Mandapam. It is the tapping pillar which produces the 7 swaras. The blowing pillars are provided with two holes on both their sides. Different music is produced from different holes, when blowed. Sounds similar to that of shangu and yakalam are produced when two people blow them from both ends alternatively. This temple is known for the Nathaswaram, which is made using stone.
Thanumalayan Temple is located in Suchibrum in Tamil Nadu. This temple has 24 pillars in its northern side in two clusters, whereas a single cluster of 33 pillars are evident in the southern side. They are made using a single piece of rock. They produce saptha swarnagal or the seven key notes in Indian classical music.
Shenpakanallur Perumal Temple
The pillars of Shenpakanallur Perumal Temple are located towards the South-West of Garba graha. They have tubular holes on both their sides. The pillars are provided with a number of folds, which are assumed to be the reason behind the production of different sounds. Although one side of the pillars appears smaller than the other side, they have same diameter throughout.
Madurai Meenakshi Ammal Temple
Madurai Meenakshi Ammal Temple is known to have 5 melodious pillars. They are located in the Mottai Gopuram and produce ragas namely, ‘Navaroj Kurunji’.
Shenbaga Nallur Temple
Shenbaga Nallur temple has artistic carvings on its musical pillars.
Kumbakkonam Adi Kumbeswarar Temple
Kumbakkonam Adi Kumbeswarar Temple is famous for two nathaswarams. They are made of stone and will be evident on Saraswathi Pooja in kollu.
Thaadikombu Temple is known for the pillars producing Vedic sound.
It is important to note that many architects today are attempting to produce the musical pillars by meticulously analyzing the structures and conducting extensive research on them. But such elaborate pillars are not known to be produced on a big scale.
Indian Regional Temples
South Indian Temples
North Indian Temples
West India Temples
East India Temples