--> Skip to main content

Gana Stambhas – Musical Stone Pillars In Hindu Temples

Gana stambhas are musical stone pillars found in Hindu temples in South India especially in Tamil Nadu. There are also rare temple with musical stone pillars in Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Musical pillars in Hindu temples show how architecture could be combined with requirements of music.

Musical Stone Pillars In Hindu Temples - Size - Stone - Musical Notes - Raga

Musical stone pillars are made of ferrous granite stone and they support the roof like ordinary pillars. But their unique feature is that they are capable of producing musical notes (swaras) when tapped.

The cluster of pillars chiseled out of a huge block of resonant stone is played upon with two sticks, with a hard striking knob at the both ends. The performers stand on opposite sides and play on the pillars.

The tonic notes emanating from the pillars resemble the notes of the jalatharangam (sound produced from cups containing water).

The pillars are of various artistic shapes: cylindrical, square, octagonal, fluted and twisted.
When a pillar is struck one can feel and hear a sympathetic vibration from the opposite pillar, graduated to the same pitch.

The height of these musical pillars range from 4 feet to 7 feet. The notes produced by them correspond to the scales of ragas like Shankarabharanam, Harikamboji and Kharaharapriya.

Famous Hindu Temples With Musical Stone Pillars

The temples at Pampaputi, Chandeshwari and Vithala at Hampi and the temples at Lepakshi, Tadpatri, Madurai, Alagar Kovil, Alwarthirunagari, Tirunelveli, Kalakkad, Suchindram and Thiruvananthapuram contain splendid specimens of musical stone pillars.

The three musical stone pillars at the corners of the mandapam of the deity Sundaravalli in Thadikombu near Dindigul give the correct notes of the Vedic chant : udatta, anudatta, and svarita. Vedic hymns were recited to the accompaniment of music from these pillars.

In the temple at Darasuram, near Kumbakonam, the stone steps of the bali pitha give musical notes.

In the temple at Simhachalam in Andhra Pradesh, notes are heard from the stone foliage work on the top of the pillars.

There are also musical pillars used for Shruti Stambha (drone accompaniments) and tala stambha (rhythmic accompaniments).