Dwajasthambam also known as Kodimaram is a flagstaff that is commonly seen in the Hindu temples across South India and Srilanka.
It is normally seen in between the Gopuram and the Maha Mandapa (Main hall) of the temple and is usually accompanied by balipeetam and vahana of the concern deity of the temple.
Why do temples need Dwajasthambam?
Temple construction is based upon the description present in the Agamic scriptures just like the Vastu Shastra and Shilpa Shastra.
Agamas give clear cut rules about the rituals of the god, planning of the temple like where should be Antaralayam, Mukha Mandapa, Ardha Mandapa, Information about Circumambulation area (Pradakshina) and many more.
They also give a clear point of having Dwajasthambam in the temple. So, the temples that were built considering the Agamaic rules usually have a Dwajasthambam.
Differences in Dwajasthambam
Dwajastambham differs basing up on the main deity of that temple and also the Agamas they follow ( Shaiva and Vaishnava)
In the case of Shivate temples one can observe the trident or the statue of the Nandi on the top of the flagstaff. In Vaishnavaite temple it is Chakra (Sudarshana) or the statue of hanuman depending upon the diety.
However, it is not the same in all the conditions. Sometimes you may not observe any sign on the top of the flagstaff.
Structure and Construction
Dwajasthambam is a long pillar-like structure commonly seen with three horizontal perches arranged on its top. These perches point towards the Garbhagriha and have tiny bells attached to them that can make pleasant sounds when the wind blows.
These three interconnected horizontal perches are called Mekhala or Mekalai.
Every Dwajasthambam may not look the same as mentioned above. As some may have only a single perch or may not have any. Instead, they may also end with a small platform for placing a deepam (earthen lamp). But the most found one is with the three horizontal perches.
The base of the flagstaff is seated on a large square shaped structure with a row of lotus petals arranged circularly on its top. Kodimarams also have deities sculptured on the four sides near to its base.
All the parts of the Kodimaram are usually covered with copper, silver, or gold sheets.
Height, Shape, and Materials Used
Several rules are mentioned in the Agamas regarding the preparation, rituals, and installation of Kodimaram.
Normally, Dwajastambam’s are made of wood. However, those made up of stone can also be used. But the point to be noted is they must be of a single origin. Stone dwajasthambams are vividly used in some areas of Telangana and Karnataka.
All the parts of the wood Kodimaram’s are usually covered with copper, silver, or gold sheets.
A strong, large and long tree that can withstand for many years like teak are selected and are prepared into flagstaffs following several rituals as mentioned in Agamas. Coming to the stone dwajasthambam, they should be hard without any cracks or veins.
The shape of Dwajastambam can be round, square, hexagonal, and even octagonal.
Dwajastambam’s can be of any size that fits like a flagstaff and there is no clear restriction about the height. But many believe that height is important and it should be at least equal to the sikara.
A clear distance between the dwajasthambam and the main deity in the garbhalayam should be maintained. In a way where even if it falls it should not touch the garbhalayam especially the idol of the deity.
Significance of Dwajasthambam
Like the Moola Virat (Main Idol of the deity) and the Utsava Vigrahas (Idols used in temple festivals), several other things in the temple are very important for worship as they are considered as the places where the god’s power is more concentrated.
One such is the Dwajasthambam. That is why whenever we go to the temple we normally offer prayers to it and enter the main sanctum of the temple.
Immense importance is given to the dwajastambas in Shaiva scriptures. They say that offering prayers or contributing for planting a dwajastambha or even just seeing itself gives punya.
In temples that follow shodasopachara puja or the 16 upacharas, most of them are also offered to the Dwajasthambam along with the main deity.
Dwajasthambam is required for the temples which carry out Utsavas(Festivals) and if a temple doesn’t have a dwajasthambam, utsavas are not conducted.
It is also used to raise the Aakasa deepam into the air during the month of Karthika or Karthigai.
Dwajastambam plays a key role during temple festivals. They are started by the ritual of dwajarohanam in which a flag will be hoisted on the dwajasthambham as an indication that festivals were started and also to invite the heavenly gods.
The flag raised contains the sacred symbol of the vahana of the concern diety like Nandi in Shiva Temples, Mayura in Murugan temple, Mooshika in Ganesh temples, and Garuda in Vaisnava temples along with some other symbols like sun, moon, trident, and shank.
Customs to be followed
Worship of dwajasthambam is a must before entering the mandaps and Sanctorum sanctum. One should touch the dwastambam and do namaskar before entering the mahamandapa.
If you can’t touch, you can pray in your heart and do a namaskara. If possible men should perform a sastanga namaskara and for women panchanga namaskara.
While performing the pradakshina (Circumambulation) one should even include the vahana, balipeetam and dwajastambam areas too. All the due respect that we pay before the main diety must also be given to the dwajastambam.