By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Pitha, PITha, Pitha
Pīṭha literally means ‘seat’.
In a general sense, it means a thing upon which one sits. However, in a technical sense, it indicates the pedestal of an icon.
The shape and the size of a pīṭha depend upon the style of the temple such as nāgara, vesara or drāviḍa and also the posture of the image. It is square for a seated image. It can be rectangular or circular or even oval, if the image is in the sthānaka pose.
The height of the image may be 12 aṅgulas or just 7. In the case of Śivaliṅgas, it should be 4 or 5 times the diameter of the cylindrical shaft. Iconographical works describe pīthas of several designs such as bhadrapīṭha or padmapīṭha which give enough scope to the sculptor to exhibit his skills. The word pīṭha is sometimes used to indicate a Śaktipīṭha, a place of pilgrimage connected with Śakti or Mother-goddess. If it is used as a suffix, it gives different meanings. For example:
- Balipīṭha - sacrificial altar
- Śāradāpitha - the monastic center of Advaita Vedānta at Śṛṅgerī, Karnataka
- Seated image is called āsīna.
- Sthānaka means standing.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore