(Last Updated on : 12/01/2009)
South India is well known for its temples and the rare and interesting stone sculptures of it. Most of these sculptures are found in mainly Tamil Nadu. These are made of granite architectural elements such as stairways and pillars that produce resonant sounds or music when struck. Hence these are called musical sculptures.
In a village named Kodumbalur, which lies 25 miles from the town of Pudukkottai in Tamil Nadu, one of the earliest extant examples of such a musical sculpture was recovered. This belongs to the early 10th century AD. This musical sculpture of South India is a grayish stone sculpture is a standing Goddess, probably Parvati, the spouse of God Siva. This sculpture can now be seen within a mini museum in the vicinity of a Siva temple called Muvarkovil ('triple-shrine') in Kodumbalur. The sweet sounds of different frequencies can be heard if the different parts of the sculpture like the head, shoulders or hands are tapped with anything. One hand of this musical sculpture was broken due to frequent tapping by the visitors.
One more musical sculpture of South India can be found at Darasuram near Kumbakonam, which is also in Tamil Nadu. This is a granite stairway leading to the balipeetam (sacrificial altar) right in front of the present gopuram (entrance tower) of the Airavateshvara temple. The stairway is edged by a solid granite dwarf wall or parapet wall or 'railing wall'. This temple along with the stairway was built by the Medieval Chola ruler Rajaraja II (1146-76 A.D.). Various musical notes emit from the steps and the railing wall of the stairway if they were tapped smoothly with a small rounded smooth stone. It is believed that each step of it produced one of the seven basic notes (i.e. saa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha and nee) of classical South Indian Carnatic music. But now, the tones have distorted due to excessive tapping and walking on them.