Deepa stambha: What does it signify? - a brief note and Hindu temples

stone monument of Deepa Stambha,

A pillar or column often referred to as a  stambha (tower) may be  of few types and here we're concerned about the  Deepa Stambha of the Hindu temples.   The mythological and religious connotation is the Deepa stambha not only refers to  a link between the  sky (heaven) and earth but also God Shiva who -represents one of the Pancha Boothas- Agni, the other being water, earth sky and air.   A reference is made in  the Atharva Veda, ''a celestial stambha as being  an infinite scaffold, which supports the cosmos and material creation''.

As the name implies Deep Jyoti Stambh  (Deep  meaning deepam or light, Jyoti meaning “light,” and Stambha implies “a column”) or Deepa Stambha is a  tall column of pillar or post for diyaoil lamp. It comes in different shapes and sizes and of different heights.  Most commonly placed at the entrance of the Hindu temple inside the compound wall,  the Deepa Stambha with many  small receptacles for oil and wick   from top to bottom  will be illuminated  on festive days or on important occasions.  Across India one can see such Deepa stambha. mention may be made of Maharashtra, Goa and Kerala states. 

 Though the use of oil lamps has been around in Hinduism for centuries, many of us are not aware why oil lamps are being used in Hindu temples  and homes. Oil lamp has been part of traditional Hindu worship across India.  Apart from providing an  ambience of energy and positivity, it is symbolic of knowledge and removal of ignorance and negativity in the environment. Knowledge removes ignorance, so does light that removes darkness. Light is also a symbol of plenty and prosperity where there is no room for negativity. 

The light is  more a symbol of divinity than other aspects, hence oil lamps are kept in sanctified places like temples, particularly in the sanctum - garbagriha or puja rooms in homes to keep the ambiance in energetic and positive mode. The Hindu festivals of Deepavali and Thiru  Karthikai Deepam are linked to fire (Agni). At one of the Pancha Boothasthalas in Tamil  Nadu at Thiruvannamalai God Shiva (Arunachaleswarar) symbolizes  a ''huge column of Agni touching heaven and earth.'' He is alsoman embodiment of “Knowledge  and Wisdom” (chaitanya).  This is the reason why we  keep  oil lamps lit during all important and auspicious occasions like Wedding, Grihapravesam, Seemandham (Valaikappu), temple rituals, puja, etc.  

The following are temples where one can see Deepa stambha or Vilakku Stand: 

Stone lamp stand (Kal Vilakku).  Kerala

Guruvayoor temple Vilakku stand.

Deepa stamha or Vilakku Stand, Guruvayoor temple, Kerala

Vaikom Mahadeva  temple, Kerala. Deepa stands.

Khandoba temple, Jejuri, Pune Dist.

Khandoba, Jejurt, MH.

Above images:  Commonly called  Khandoba,  Martanda Bhairava,  or Malhar Temple, Jejuri, MH, it  is about 39 km from Pune city.  The worship of   Martanda Bhairava,  a Hindu  deity  common in the states of Maharashtra and North Karnataka.    A form of God Shiva for countless families in the Deccan region, he is the family deity -  most popular Kuladevataparticularly for select warrior farming castes, Here the illumination Deepa Stampha is a common feature on festive days. 
Kolhapur Mahalaxmi temple with Deepa Stambhas,

Deepa stambha of Ancient Mahalaxmi Temple , Kolhapur 

Deepastambha  of Ancient Mahalaxmi Temple ,

Above image: Mahalakshmi Temple (also known as Ambabai Mandir) of Kolhapur, MH dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, consort of God Vishnu is a popular Hindu temple in this part. It has been a custom for many devotees to visit Tirumala Venkateswara Temple, Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple and Padmavathi Temple,near Thirupati  as a yatra (pilgrimage) to get salvation - Moksha.  Though its origin may go back to 634 CE Karnadeva in 634 CE, the architecture of this temple is that of  the Chalukya empire  who had built it   in the 7th century.  
Mahalsa Narayani temple,

Above image: Goddess Mahalsa Narayani is believed to be the female avatar of Lord Vishnu.  Goddess Mahalsa. Often simply referred to as Narayani, she is a slayer of  demon Rahu. In this fierce avatar, she is referred to as Rahu-matthani or Rahu's slayer.
The temple  is marked by a 40 feet high Samai, an ornamental lamp pole that has 21 rings hosting 150 wicks each, tapering in shape up to its height. A Dyandeepa or a lamp of wisdom and one of the tallest deepa stambha or lamp tower are installed next to it. The lamp artefacts require an industrial grade sliding ladder mounted on a stand with wheels to light up. This deepa stambha is illuminated on festive or special days. 

Harsidhhi Temple, Ujjain

Above image; Deepa stambha at Harsiddhi Temple, Ujjain:  Harsiddhi is an aspect of Hindu goddess  Durga widely worshipped in states like   Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, adjoining Maharashtra


Shantadurga temple of north  Goa

Above image:  The  Shantadurga temple of north  Goa, one of the largest and oldest Hindu temples in this region is in the foothill of Kavlem village in Ponda area of Goa and the goddess took this form to pacify  and maintain peace between God Shiva and Vishnu. The deepa stambha, as in other temple, is entirely lit on festival days like Zatra  that  falls in the month of Pausha Shuddha Navami. 


Manguesh temple in  Mangeshi Village

Above image: Shri Manguesh temple in  Mangeshi Village in Priol, Ponda taluk of , Goa is yet another interesting temple  and the deity is the family deity or kula devta of  Goud Saraswat Brahman. The seven story deepa stambbha is an attractive one and is visible all around this qiet place....,_Kolhapur