Saturday, August 1, 2009

Dhwaj (or) Dhvaja Stambha - Flag mast - Lightning Arrestor

Hello everyone,

Stambhas (pillars) play an important role in both Hinduism and our ancient history. Kirti Stambhas were erected by Kings to commemorate their famous victories. The most famous one among them is the Vijay Stambha in Chittor, Rajasthan (shown below).

Literally translated into "Tower of Victory", it was made by Rana Kumbha to celebrate his victory over the combined forces of Malwa and Gujarat led by Mahmud Khilji in 1442.

The other variety of Stambha is the Dhwaja Stambha, which is a very common feature in most of the Indian temples. It is a tall post-like structure, which is referred to as the flag-mast of the deity of the temple. The Dhwaja Stambha is different from the Kirti Stambha, as it is characteristically thinner. Also, it is made of metal or has a metal covering rather than the former, which is made predominantly of stone.

During festivities, the Dhwaja Stambha is decorated with different types of flags to commemorate and celebrate that particular event. The Dhvaja Stambha is present in a straight line from the deity, just before the Vahana of the deity, which is also in the same axial line.

It is referred to as being a medium for the Heavens to be connected to the earth, which would refer to it being a spiritual connector between us earthlings and the supreme being, God, above.

But can this explanation have a deeper significance? Now what could be the reason behind constructing a metal pillar in the precincts of the temple? I believe that the Dhavaja Stambha is basically an ancient lightning arrestor. The principle of the arrestor is pretty simple, which can be understood from the below figure:

Whenever lightning strikes, the metal arrestor, placed such that it is the highest point of the region, induces the charge to conduct through it. The Arrestor then conducts the heavy electrical impulse directly to ground, thus preventing the building from getting damaged.

It can be noticed that the top of the Dhwaja Stambha is the highest point of the temple, and thus, whenever lightning would strike, the temple would be saved from the devastating damage that could have been caused. This is what could be meant from the explanation that it connects "Heaven to earth" (i.e.) it conducts the charges from the clouds above during lightning to earth or ground, which is the electrical term for a no-potential area.

It's really wonderful how our ancient Indian Hindus have incorporated this principle in order to safeguard the most important place of their social setting, the temples.

Till next time,

- Nikhil Mundra
1st August 2009



KMK said...

I have always wanted to know the reason behind all the things we (Hindu) do. Most of the time fascinating stories doesn’t interest me much as I cannot understand the real meaning behind it. The story with the scientific explanation is simply superb. Thanks Nikhil for sharing your knowledge through this blog.

Nikhil Mundra said...

Hello Ms.Hemu,

Thank you very much for appreciating the content of my blog. Please keep coming back for more such informative posts and the secrets behind our age-old traditions,

Nikhil Mundra
9th August 2009

Guru said...

nice one nikil, i like your imagination a.k.a knowledge

Santhosh said...


Thanks for thy explanation and your service to help people understand our culture, customs.

I would like to add one more aspect to your explanation.

In olden days, dhwaja stamba is the tallest structure in the village, taller than any buildings. So, it will safeguard the whole village from lightning. It's also referred to as power center.

I personally believe there are scientific, medical, practical reasons for everything we do in our religion. I refer to our religion as walk of life. Most of the knowlege is not passed around for generations, but the rituals are followed through. If we explain to people why we do the rituals, I think most people will perform it wholeheartedly and with love and passion.

So, my gratitude to you for helping others.

hindu blog said...

It's scrumptious post and also image. I liked it.

Anonymous said...

But in south indian temples, the height of the dwajastambas are always less than the temple towers(gopuram).

sabkon wells said...

hey. well said nikhil. Most people don't try to get behind the stories about indian mythology and architecture to know the reason and scientific facts on basis of which they were formulated.Its really a great explanation for towers and stambhas near important historical buildings.. Do keep exploring such mysteries, will be always looking up for updates on here.

Lightning Arrestors

Raku said...

Hi Nikhil,

Thanks for your wonderful explanation about the Dwaja Stambha. But I really feel it is not the exact thing you explained. For one who wants to know the reason behind why the Hindus built this Dwaja Stambha in front of any temples should know about the base of the Hindu Engineering (Architecture).

*A small question for you:
If at all the Dwaja Stambha is used just as a Lightning Arrestor, then this present day there are many Lightning Arrestors we see in the world. Then why is the Hindu Dwaja Stambha is unique, important, different form others and why do we give much importance to it but not others. *

I can tell the exact reason for this here but it may take long for one to understand.

If anyone really think about knowing the real reason behind this please let me know so that I can forward the exact documents (ancient) with all the measurements and the reasons which I collected. It's all my 8yrs of struggle towards the subject.