Musical Pillars Of Hampi

India is famous for its intricate craftsmanship in temples that brings in a beautiful fusion of belief, science, and art. Stone antiquities from South India have been the source of awe and mystery for centuries. Let’s find out the story behind one such temple that sings for its audience.
Mystical sculptures of Hampi; Image Source: Earth is Mysterious

Mystical sculptures of Hampi; Image Source: Earth is Mysterious

The story of Hampi started long back when Parvati strengthened her resolve to marry the lonely ascetic Shiva. Parvati’s strict penance to gain Shiva’s love and attention worried her parents, but she was headstrong to pursue her desire to become Shiva’s wife. On the other hand, Shiva was lost in his yogic meditation, heedless of his happenings. But Parvati did not lose her hope and requested the gods to help her with the mission. Lord Indra came to her rescue and sent the God of Love, Kamadeva. The Kama ascended to earth and shot an arrow of love at Shiva. Irritated at his actions, Shiva opened his third eye and burnt the Kama to ashes.

However, Parvati still did not lose her hope and adopted Shiva’s ascetic lifestyle and engaged in asceticism and tapasya. Shiva finally paid attention to her and disguised himself as a human. He warned Parvati that Shiva had his weaknesses and personality problems and that he might accept Parvati as his wife. Parvati refused to listen to him and continued with her resolve. After seeing her determination and love for him, Shiva’s heart melted, and he finally accepted Parvati as her wife. Also, Kamadeva was brought back to life after Shiva and Parvati’s marriage.

According to Sthala Purana, Parvati was also known by the name of Pampa, and it is said that she pursued her yogini lifestyle on Hemakuta Hill, which is now a part of Hampi. Hampi is also known by the name of Pampakshetra, derived from Parvati’s alternate name Pampa. Shiva is also known by the name of Pampapati (husband of Parvati).

Later on, the Sanskrit word Pampa was merged with the Kannada word Hampa and the place where Shiva and Parvati met came to be known as Hampi.

Apart from these beautiful legends, Hampi also consists of many numerous beautiful stone structures, including the stone chariot, the Goddess’s shrine in the northwest, the 100-pillared hall in the southwest, the Kalyana Mantapa (the ceremonial marriage hall) in the southeast, and the pillared cloisters all around the enclosure wall.

Out of all these attractions at Hampi, the Vittala Temple is considered the most famous one of all because of its Sa, Re, Ga, Ma pillars. Yes, you heard it right. That’s what the musical pillars of Hampi are called.

Ancient in structure, the Vittala temple is well-known for its intricate craftsmanship and unique architectural style. Situated in the northeastern part of Hampi near the banks of Tungabhadra, it is difficult not to be affected by its breathtakingly beautiful artistry showcased on the stones. Vittala Temple is one of Hampi's main reasons for finding its deserved place on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

According to some scholars, the temple’s construction began in the 16th century. At the same time, some other books state that the construction began under the rule of Devaraya II and continued till the destruction of the city in 1565. Mainly dedicated to Vitthala, an avatar of Lord Krishna, the temple's inscriptions include the names of all the male and female sponsors who donated generously to build the temple.

The temple has three unique structures including a garbhagriha, an ardhamandapa, and a mahamandapa. While there are numerous things about this temple that are pretty unique and different, today, we would focus on the fifty-six pillared Ranga Mantapa, the temple's main hall.

One of the most common questions asked about these pillars is whether there is a scientific basis to the musical notes that comes from them? Did the architects accidentally build them, or were they engineered differently?

All fifty-six pillars are known as monoliths, which means they are carved out of a single stone. Each pillar again has multiple columns embedded in it with intricate structures on them, and when these columns are struck with wood or stone, they emit different sounds. It is said that an elaborate festival was celebrated, dancers were invited to the Ranga Mantapa, and they danced to the tunes of these musical pillars.

When one enters the premises of Hampi, the serene landscape offers the person a breathtaking view of uniquely-shaped boulders stacked upon each other, forming an indecipherable shape. These very rocks were used as the building materials for the pillars, lintels, and roofs of the Vittala temple. Upon careful examination of these rocks by Prof. Sharda Srinivasan’s team from the National Institute of Advanced Sciences, they found that they are known as Pink Porphyritic granite, which has some specific mineral components.

Upon magnified examination, they also found that the cross-sections of the rock have a high amount of orthoclase or pink feldspar and cleavage plain at the correct angles with a monolithic structure. Thus, it was deciphered that the crystalline structure of these minerals has natural resonant properties, contributing to the melodies emitted from these pillars.

All these pillars are pretty different from each other. Made from different materials, these pillars make different sounds and have varying structures. The first set of pillars is known as the Saptaswara pillars, as they emit the seven introductory notes of the Indian musical scale. The next set of pillars is called tala player. These rhombus-shaped pillars resemble the high-pitch sound of cymbals, or Nattuvangam, played during classical Bharatanatyam performances. Another pillar set resembles the sound of a drum and thus is called a Mridangam pillar.

Lastly, there is a pillar with a sculpture of a classical dancer. It is said that this sculpture is of Chinnamma Devi, Krishnadevaraya’s wife. It is believed that she was a great patron of the arts, and she also constructed one of the entrance towers to the temple. Some say that she was the inspiration behind the construction of the stunning Ranga Mandapa and the musical pillars of Vittala Temple.

As camera-wielding visitors, we frequently overlook other architectural details. Many, like these musical cornerstones, haven't received as much attention. Interestingly, the feature appears to be unique to a small number of these South Indian temples, making them an even more cherished component of Indian architecture and well worth seeing in person.

Mystical sculptures of Hampi; Image Source: Earth is Mysterious

Mystical sculptures of Hampi; Image Source: Earth is Mysterious

A love story that started in Hampi; Image Source: Pinterest

A love story that started in Hampi; Image Source: Pinterest


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