Dhwaja Stambha
Pillars play an important role in both Hinduism and our ancient history. Kirti Stambhas were erected by Kings to commemorate their famous victories. 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.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.
           
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.

Dhwaja Stambha - Flag Hoisting First Day
Dhvaja Stambha Arunachaleswarar Temple
Dhvaja Stambha Arunachaleswarar Temple
A permanent Dhvaja Stambha is believed to be a later addition to the Hindu Temple. Initially, it was temporary and was primarily used to indicate the beginning of a festival or other auspicious days and occasions. Whatever its history may be, the Pancharatra scripture states that a Temple without a Dhvaja cannot be said to be a Temple!

Bali Pitha
Bali Pitha
Dhvaja Stambha, or Flag Staff, which is an important feature of the Temple, is located in front of the Siva Sannidhi. A Dhvaja Stambha usually represents the prosperity and pride of a Temple. But some texts suggest that the bottom of a flag post symbolizes Shiva, middle portion Brahma and the top portion Vishnu.

Today, Dhvaja Stambhas are permanent and in the case of Arunachaleswarar Temple it is plated with a precious metal. The top portion of the flag staff has three horizontal perches or three branches pointing towards the Sanctum Sanctorum. It symbolizes righteousness, reputation and propriety or the Trimurtis – Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva.

At the base of the Flag Staff is located the Bali Pitha (sacrificial altar for one’s malas, sins). One who hoists the Dhvaja (flag) aloft a Hindu Temple attains a divine body and enjoys the company of gods." So declares the treatise Deeparnava.

Ornate Vinayaka at base of Dhvaja Stambha
Ornate Vinayaka at base of Dhvaja Stambha
There is a widespread belief that the Dhvaja Stambha gives an idea to a devotee from a long distance about the idol installed in the Temple and about the Vahana or Vehicle used by the deity. It is hoisted when there is an auspicious ceremony or festival in the Temple.

Symbolically, hoisting the flag suggests setting out to conquer, and a devotee comes to the Temple to conquer his ego and gain control over the baser nature with the help of the Supreme Being. The Sanskrit word for the flag is ‘Dhvaja’ and it means whatever is raised. In the religious sense, whatever raises man to a higher level of understanding and activity is a ‘Dhvaja.’ The flag also suggests hope and desire to overcome ignorance. The Temple visit invigorates the devotee, recharging him with strength and bravery to face the hardships of daily life knowing full well that in the ultimate those who have surrendered to the will of God find victory.
Dhwaja Stambha - Hoisting Ceremony
Dhwaja Stambha - Hoisting Ceremony

The Dhvaja which suggests the victory of good over evil is a symbol of victory and superior wealth. It signifies commanding respect, patriotism and kingship. The Kings of old in order to exhibit their Lordship over their kingdom and proclaim their continuing rulership would hoist a flag above their battlements or palace.

God is seen as the King of Kings, an Emperor above all emperors. He is the Supreme Power, not just on earth but in the entire universe; which is, after all, His creation. The Hindu mind thus thinks it only befitting that tribute be paid to this all powerful Master - the Dhvaja is thus sent aloft. If an ordinary citizen pays tribute to his king and receives favour, why the surprise when a devotee pays tribute to his King!
Dhwaja Stambha Flag Hoisting
Dhwaja Stambha Flag Hoisting
 Sometimes the flag or banner hoisted in the Temple acts as a message board and gives an idea about the deity worshipped in the temple. It also suggests which particular incarnation or manifestation of the God is given importance in the temple. An interesting minor function of the Dhvaja is its use as a warning. Just as a city without the king's flag is a city 'without owner', a mandir without a Dhvaja is open to harassment by evil elements. The Dhvaja warns, "Beware, your entry is prohibited!"


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