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Suvarna Vihar temple of Nabadwip, West Bengal and the story of Musical pillars

Dr. A K Chatterjee is a seasoned writer with more than 330 blogs in English and Bengali and 10 books mostly on travel, trekking and temples.

The main gate of Suvarna Vihar temple

The main gate of Suvarna Vihar temple

Suvarna Vihar temple

This medium sized “Mutt” or temple is situated in Swarupgunj area near Nabadwip, West Bengal, India and was founded by famous Vaishnavite saint Shri Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakura . It is a branch of Shri Chaitanya Mutt of Mayapur, West Bengal, and structurally it is like many other similar temples.

There is a beautiful arched gate at the entrance with figures of two lions and the mythological characters of Jay and Vijay, the guards of the abode of Lord Narayana in heaven on either side of the gate, which has three small but beautiful towers atop the arch spanning the entrance.

Inside, there is a big garden with several flowering trees and some fruit trees, of which one jackfruit tree with a large number of fruits hanging from the main trunk and branches of the tree easily catches the attention of a visitor.

The main temple has a big flat-roofed hall in front and a “Nabaratna” (nine-spired) type of sanctum behind. Inside the sanctum there are three sets of “Murti” or idols of Lord Krishna with his divine consort Radha as well as of Shri Chaitanya Deva, the 15th century Vaishnavite saint who is considered by the Vaishnavites as an Avatar of Lord Krishna and Shrimati Radha.

He is also considered as the combined form of Shri Rama, Shri Krishna and himself as manifested in his 6-armed ("Shadabhuja") form.

Of these idols, the small ones were worshiped by Shri Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami himself. The bigger ones were established in 2005 AD along with renovation work of the temple.

The main gate with Jai an Vijai and the lions

The main gate with Jai an Vijai and the lions

The "Nabaratna" (nine-spired) top of the sanctum; Suvarna Vihar Mutt

The "Nabaratna" (nine-spired) top of the sanctum; Suvarna Vihar Mutt

The Jackfruit tree with the fruits

The Jackfruit tree with the fruits

The "Murti"-s in the sanctum; Shri Chaitanya Deva, Lord Krishna and Shrimati Radha

The "Murti"-s in the sanctum; Shri Chaitanya Deva, Lord Krishna and Shrimati Radha

The legend

There is an interesting legend associated with this temple. It is said that at this place there was an ancient stone temple built by the king Suvarna Sen who ruled in Satya Yuga, the first of the four great era as described in Hindu scriptures. Actually, the modern name of the temple ("Suvarna" Vihar) is derived from the name of King Suvarna Sen.

King Suvarna Sen was an ardent devotee of Lord Narayana, and he established the temple to worship the Lord. Legends go that Lord Narayana was very pleased with King Suvarna’s devotion, and blessed him with a boon that the king would get a “Darshan” (visual contact) of the lord and his consort Goddess Lakshmi in the 4th Hindu Era “Kali Yuga” when the Lord would come as his avatar Shri Chaitanya Deva.

It is believed that King Suvarna was born in the present era (in 15th century) as Buddhimanta Khan and he bore all the expenses of Shri Chaitanya’s wedding with Vishnupriya Devi, considered as an Avatar of Goddess Lakshmi.


It is also said that Buddhimanta Khan was blessed with "Mukti" (salvation) after having a "Darshan" of Shri Chaitanya Deva and Vishnupriya Devi.

Suvarna Vihar Mutt

Suvarna Vihar Mutt

Suvarna Vihar Mutt from another angle

Suvarna Vihar Mutt from another angle

The stone pillar with musical property

In front of the temple there are five small tower-like structures, each with a sacred Basil tree. Together these structures are called “Pancha Tulsi Mancha” (“Pancha” means five and “Tulsi” is the vernacular name of the holy Basil or Ocimum tenuiflorum).

Just beside this “Pancha Tulsi Mancha” there are few broken stone structures lying on the ground. These are known as the broken remnants of the ancient stone temple built by King Suvarna Sen in Satya Yuga.

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One of the structures which looks like a broken piece of a stone pillar has a peculiar property. If one taps at one end of this stone pillar with a coin, another person can hear a distinct metallic musical note by pressing ear on the pillar at the other end. It is as if the sounds are emanating from the stone pillar itself. This peculiar property of the broken stone pillar reminds strongly of the famous “Musical Pillars” that can be seen in many ancient temples of South India.

The "Pancha Tulsi Mancha" with the main temple in the background; Suvarna Vihar temple

The "Pancha Tulsi Mancha" with the main temple in the background; Suvarna Vihar temple

The "Pancha Tulsi Mancha"; Suvarna Vihar

The "Pancha Tulsi Mancha"; Suvarna Vihar

Tulsi (Holy Basil) plant

Tulsi (Holy Basil) plant

SrijitKrishna Bramhachari, one of the priests with the broken stone pillars; Suvarna Vihar

SrijitKrishna Bramhachari, one of the priests with the broken stone pillars; Suvarna Vihar

The ancient stone pillars; Suvarna Vihar

The ancient stone pillars; Suvarna Vihar

Hearing the musical sound; Suvarna Vihar

Hearing the musical sound; Suvarna Vihar

Musical pillars

In many temples of South India especially in the state of Tamil Nadu, pillars made of stone are found which when tapped or struck produce musical sound, even the pure musical notes in some cases. These pillars are called “Musical pillars” or “Sa-Re-Ga-Ma” pillars, the latter being the notes used in Indian music.

Some of the temples where these Musical pillars are found are :

  1. Vijaya Vittala temple of Hampi, Karnataka;
  2. Meenakshi Sundareshwarar temple of Madurai, TN
  3. Airavateshwara temple of Darasuram (about 35 km from Thajavur, TN)
  4. Nellaiappar-Kanthimati Ambal temple of Tirunelveli, TN
  5. Shri Sthanumalayan temple of Suchindram near Nagewecoil, TN
  6. Adinathar temple of Alwartirunagari, TN.

These temples are of the Chola (300 BCE to 13th century CE), the Pandya (3rd century BCE to 17th century CE) and the Chera (2nd century BCE to 12th century CE) era.

Temples of Hampi; Karnataka 1

Temples of Hampi; Karnataka 1

Temples of Hampi; Karnataka 2

Temples of Hampi; Karnataka 2

One of the Gopurams of Meenakshi Amman temple; Madurai, Tamil Nadu

One of the Gopurams of Meenakshi Amman temple; Madurai, Tamil Nadu

Lord Shiva with his consort Goddess Parvati on Nandi the Bull;  Meenakshi Amman temple; Madurai, Tamil Nadu

Lord Shiva with his consort Goddess Parvati on Nandi the Bull; Meenakshi Amman temple; Madurai, Tamil Nadu

Inside Nellaiappar temple; Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu

Inside Nellaiappar temple; Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu

Musical Stone

As per “Shilpa Shastra”, the ancient Indian Scripture on Architecture and Handicrafts, stones are of three types depending on their colour and sound they produce when tapped – Masculine, Feminine and Neuter. Masculine or Male stones produce the tinkle of Bronze bells, the Female stones produce the tinkle of Brass and the Neuter stones produce a dull sound.

The Male and the Female stones are to be used to make “Murti” (idols) of gods and goddesses respectively, and the Neuter stones should be used to produce pedestals or ornaments.

However, the Musical pillars of the temples in South India are usually made from stones like Granite or Charnockite.

Discussion

The pillar in Suvarna Vihar strongly reminds one of the Musical Pillars of the Southern temples. Is it possible that the same technology was behind the construction of the pillar at this remote area of West Bengal? Or, was it carried from South India?

Logically, the second option is impractical, so can be ruled out. So, we’re left with the first option. Is it really a broken piece of a Musical pillar of a once-grand temple? If so, then there was some connection between the technologies prevailing in South India and the ancient Bengal.

Incidentally, Shri Chaitanya Deva travelled widely in South India and was revered in the South too as a great saint. So, is it possible that the technology of constructing musical pillars accompanied him from South India to Bengal?

Shri Chaitanya Deva; Suvarna Vihar

Shri Chaitanya Deva; Suvarna Vihar

Shri Chaitanya Deva in his 6-armed form known as "Shadabhuja Gauranga"; from a temple in Mayapur

Shri Chaitanya Deva in his 6-armed form known as "Shadabhuja Gauranga"; from a temple in Mayapur

Conclusion

Whatever the real nature of the “musical” pillar of the Suvarna Vihar may be, it is really intriguing. Probably experts can give proper opinion on it.

References

  1. Different internet sites including Wikipedia.
  2. A Guide book from ISKCON, Mayapur.
  3. Personal conversation with priests of Suvarna Vihar Mutt.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Dr A K Chatterjee

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