Lord Skanda-Murugan

Synopsis: "Skanda in Hindu Temple Architecture"

Dr. Raju Poundurai

Undoubtedly, the idea of raising columns must be the most primitive architectural technique. This tradition had existed before the time of Asoka and it is evident from the Rupnath rock edict. It shows that an Asokan column stood invariably like an axis mundi in front of the Buddhist stupas. Practically all the religious institutions subscribed to the idea of raising columns symbolising the cosmic tree which connects the three cosmic zones.

Much more significant in this context is the occurrence of the garuda-dhvaja, taladhvaja and makara-dhvaja as early the second century BC from Besnagar. A conch shell design from Nagarjunakonda bears the Chakra capital of the 3rd century and its description gives the name of the god as Athabhuja Samisa. It is clear that the ancient tradition associated with erecting single standing pillars is considered as a great tradition and it is symbolized the cosmic tree. Hence, one can easily infer that the erecting pillar is an abstract form of a god or a symbolic architectural form.

In this connection, an architectural form of the Skanda kanta or Skanta tun (pillar) has been taken for this study. According to Manasara, Skanda is personified as a different architectural and iconographical form and it iss taken into account as one of the forms of the five pillar types of the Hindu temple. Cankam literature speaks about kantu and memorial stone and they are also discussed here. The present study highlights the significance of kantu in the South Indian Hindu temple architectural design.