Saturday, August 1, 2009
Dhwaj (or) Dhvaja Stambha - Flag mast - Lightning Arrestor
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