Sunday, 12 April 2020

The Amazing Zodiacal Pillars (Rashi Stambhas) - Vidyashankara Temple - Sringeri - Chikmagalur

The Vidyashankara temple at Sringeri is a magnificent architecture, beautifully built entirely out of carved stone in around 1338 CE, in the memory of Guru Vidyashankara, by Vidyaranya who headed the Sringeri Sharada peetha from 1331 CE to 1386 CE and played an important role in establishing the glorious Vijayanagara Empire. It was built with the aid of the Vijayanagara rulers, combining the Hoysala, Chalukya, and Dravida styles. The niches in the temple have a number of sculptures from Hindu mythology. It is a unique monument built entirely of stone combining both Hoysala (Chalukya) and Dravidian architectural styles. The structure stands on a high plinth and commands an extensive view from the hills and their slopes all round. It is more or less a rectangle with apsidal east-west ends.

Vidyashankara Temple
Vidyashankara Temple
The Vidyashankara temple in Sringeri near the Sharada Peetham is one of the highlights of this place. Sringeri is the site of one of the original Advaitha mathas established by Adi Shankara himself. It has a continuing tradition and recorded history from the eighth century. Sri Adi Shankara’s disciple Sureshwarachrya was the first head of this matha. The Sringeri Matha’s continued lineage is traceable through various records. Two of the most famous pontiffs of this matha are Vidya Shankara or Vidyathirtha and his disciple Vidyaranya. Vidyaranya is a legendary figure in the history of Karnataka, and also South India. His period saw the beginning of Muslim incursions into the south. Vidyaranya was instrumental in helping the brothers Harihara and Bukka establish the Vijayanagara Empire, which served as a fortress for defending Hindu traditions and temples against the tidal wave of Muslim invaders from the North. Vidyaranya it is believed influenced the brothers Harihara and Bukka to have a temple constructed over the Samadhi of his Guru, Vidyathirtha. This temple is known as Vidyashankara Temple.

Vidyashankara Temple
Vidyashankara Temple
Vidyashankara Temple
Vidyashankara Temple
The temple architecture is also an exhibition of the astronomical expertise of medieval south Indian temple builders. The main temple hall features 12 pillars designated for the 12 signs of the zodiac. Windows and doors along the temple walls are arranged such that equinoxes sunrise views reach the deity. The northern and southern gates enable the sunrise view from the hall during solstices. Standing on a richly sculpted plinth, this temple has six doorways. Twelve pillars surrounding the mandapa with figures of the twelve signs of the zodiac. They are constructed in such an ingenious way that the rays of the sun fall on each pillar in the chronological order of the twelve months of the Hindu calendar. Each column is topped by a Yali with a rolling stone ball in its mouth. The outer walls feature relief sculptures of various scenes from the puranas (Hindu mythology), with animals like lions, elephants and horses all around the bottom. The rear side of the temple features the Dashavatara (Ten avataras or incarnations of Lord Vishnu).

Sun Rays Touching One Of The 12 Zodiac Pillars
Sun Rays Touching One Of The 12 Zodiac Pillars
The twelve pillars in the Vidyashankar temple are popularly known as Rashistambhas (zodiacal Pillars). Symbols of the twelve divisions of the zodiac are engraved on these pillars. It is said that the design of the pillars involved certain astronomical concepts like the first rays of the rising sun fall on specific pillars with the zodiacal symbol on the pillar corresponding to the position of the sun. The twelve zodiacal pillars (called raashi-stambhas) inside the temple hall, on which are carved the twelve signs of the zodiac, are arranged in such a way that rays from the rising sun fall on each of them, in the order of the twelve zodiac. For example, if the Sun is now located in the constellation Capricorn (Makara Raashi), then the rays fall on the pillar with the Capricorn symbol.

Temple Timings:

Morning Timings : 07:00 AM to 01:00 PM
Evening Timings : 05:00 PM to 08:30 PM
On Special Occasions timings might differ.

Temple Location:

Sringeri also called Sri Kshetra Shringeri is a hill town and Taluk headquarters located in Chikkamagaluru district in the state of Karnataka, It is the site of the first maṭha (Sringeri Sharada Peetham) established by Adi Shankara, Hindu theologian and exponent of the Advaita Vedanta philosophy, in the 8th century CE It is located on the banks of the river Tunga. Sringeri, a hugely important pilgrimage spot, is connected through bus routes to most places in Karnataka. The city of Mangalore is also nearby, and buses and trains can be taken to Mangalore and you can reach Sringeri from there. There are a good number of buses that ply to Sringeri from Mangalore, Udupi, Chikmagalur, etc. Hiring a cab or some 4 wheeler is a good option, as you can easily cover other nearby places of attractions worth visiting. Sringeri is about 87 kms from Chikkamagalur town, 108 kms from Mangalore (via Karkala), 81 kms from Udupi (via Agumbe route), and about 95 kms from Udupi via Karkala route.

Temple Address & Contact Details:

Vidyashankara Temple,
Chickmagalur district,
Pin Code : 577 139.
Phone : 8265 250123 ; 8265 250594 ; 8265 250192

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