Sunday, November 25, 2012


A Mandapam (hall) with 1000 pillars is the grand architechtural treasure of many south Indian temples. In some cases it can be as big as the one with literally miles of corridors like the grand 1000 pillar hall at Ramanathaswami temple at Rameshwaram (known as the longest corridor in the world) and some as concise and precise as the one of the Hanamkonda Temple of Lord Shiva at Warangal, where the pilgrim is surprised that it can contain 1000 pillars. (A portion containing 400 pillars was recently dismantled by the temple mandapams have elaborately and exquisitely carved pillars, like the one at Sri Ranganatha Temple at Srirangam, where the pillars are more than 20 feet high.
Then there are Jain temples in Karnataka with 1000 pillars as in the temple at Moodbidri. Strangely enough, as at present, the most famous temple in South India, namely that of Lord Balaji in Tirupati has no 1000 pillar hall, the Architectural Survey of India, having dismantled it few years ago due to unsafe conditions. It is a great surprise that the Balaji Temple, with the maximum number of pilgrims in India and with a revenue of Rs. 1,700 crore per annum, could not repair its grand 1000 pillar hall. It appears that some of the temple trustees, felt that instead of the 1000 pillar hall, the space could be used for a wide courtyard (Prakaram), which could be utilised for commercial purpose!
The  Thousand Pillar Temple in Hyderabad is a specimen with the Kakatiyan form of architecture in the 12th century. This temple with its ruins lies near the Hanamkonda-Warangal highway, abut 150 kms from Hyderabad. you can get a first hand view of the dynasty's taste for sculpture in Veyyi Stambhala Gudi or 1000 pillar Temple. It has a catchy and apt name. Are there thousand pillars? Yes there are - of many varieties and sizes; some of them are even part of others! Enter the temple, you will see four magnificent pillars supporting the natya mandapam (dance floor), each richly carved with exquisite designs. A pillar has multiple designs, 2 cms to about 30 cms, on the perimeter of circular pillar. They used designs of jewellery of the age. Chains, bangles, rings, crowns and Kakatiya Dynasty's symbol. Kalisam (ceremonial vessel). can be seen one after another on each pillar. The design also had flowers finely carved. So fine, the sculptures have carved gap between petals. A guide showed us such gaps by inserting a tiny stick into those holes. "This is how fine Kakatiya's sculptures are."
The Aiyaram Kaal Mandapam or 1000 pillar hall of Meenakshi temple at Madurai is of very high sculptural importance as it contains 985 (instead of 1000) magnificently carved pillars and maintained by the ASI. These pillars have been so arranged that from whatever angle one looks from within, the pillars look in rows. The 1000 pillar hall is supposed to have been built by Arya Natha Mudaliyar, the PM of the first Nayaka of Madurai (1559-1600 AD). An equestrian stature of the Mudaliyar flanks one side of the steps leading to the mandapam. each pillar is sculptured and is a monument of the Dravidian art. There is a temple art museum in this hall where you can see icons, photographs, drawings, etc, exhibiting the temple's history. Just outside this mandapam, towards the west, are the musical pillars. Each pillar when stuck, produces a different musical note. About an hour from the city of Mangalore, is Moodbidri, which has been an embodiment of some of the architectural wonders of jainism. Here is the world's unique and maginficent Jain Temple, the thousand pillar  basadi, which is located in the man city, and which lends particular enchantment to the city of Moodbidri. The temple was contructed in 3 stages. In its first stage in 1430 AD, the main building, which forms the first main part of the temple, houses the idol of Chandranatha Swamy (Thirtankara, who is the temple deity) was constructed. In the second stage which began in 1451 AD, the Bhairadevi Mandapa, which is the second main part of the temple, was constructed. The third stage of construction began in 1462 AD, when Nagala Devi, wife of King Bhairava, who was a Jain ruler, decided to constructManasthambha memorial pillar, which constitutes the third main part of the temple. Tribhuvana Tilaka Chudamani, Chaityalaya and Hosa Basadi are the other names of the 1000 pillar Basadi. Out of the huge temple only 1/3rd is allowed to be seen non-Jains. Non-Jains are not allowed to enter the first and second floors of the temple.
The famous Shri Shiva Nataraja temple at Chidambaram Tamil Nadu, is also called Shri Sabhanayaka Temple. In the fourth prakara (a large passage surrounding the sanctrum) there is raja sabha (royal hall), also called 1000 pillar Hall which symbolises the yogic chakra of thousand pillared lotus or Sahasraram at the crown of the head and is a seat where the sould unites with God. This chakra is represented as a 1000-petalled lotus. Meditating by concentrating at the sahasraram chakra is said to lead to a state of union with the divine force and is the pinnacle of yogic practice. The hall is open only on festive days.
At the Sri Ranganath Swamy Temple at Sri Rangam (the largest temple in India) the Hall of 1000 pillars (actually 953) is a fine example of planned theatre-like structure. The 1000-pillared hall made of granite was constructed in the Vijayanagara period (1336-1565) on the site of the old temple. The pillars consist of sculptures of horses with riders on their backs trampling with their hoofs upon the heads of tigers. In addition to these famous shrines, there are lesser known temples in South India with 1000 pillar halls. Built during various eras in Indian history, these temples are grand examples of stone art in India.


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