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Principal Features of a Hindu Temple Complex

Principal Features of a Hindu Temple Complex


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Principal Features of a Hindu Temple Complex - History

Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, Tamil Naidu, India (photo: Jorge Royan, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Imagine approaching a temple complex where you are greeted by a soaring gateway more than fifteen stories tall, covered in 1500 brightly painted sculptures of divine and demonic figures. It’s overwhelming and disorienting, but it is just a taste of what awaits the pilgrim or sightseer at the Meenakshi Temple in the town of Madurai in southern India. With its numerous towers and its warren of associated sacred spaces, it embodies the active continuation of an ancient set of religious and artistic traditions in southern India.

Today, approximately 20,000 people per day visit the Meenakshi Temple’s almost 700,000 square feet of space, including the two principal sanctuaries and dozens of shrines of varying sizes. Bordered by high walls and gateways, it is a bewildering collection of indoor and outdoor spaces: small, cramped shrines, vast halls, low and high ceilings, darkness, light. hustle and bustle, quiet spaces, and chaos. All told, it contains around 30,000 sculptures.

Founded by a god and ruled by a divine couple

Madurai, India (underlying view © 2018 Google maps)

Many sacred sites and structures in India have mythical origins, and the city of Madurai near the southern tip of the subcontinent in Tamil Nadu state is no exception. According to tradition, more than 3500 years ago the god Indra installed a small tower over a naturally formed stone lingam as a sign of devotion to Shiva, one of the primary deities in the vast Hindu pantheon. (Typically considered the god of destruction, Shiva’s characteristics also include creation and virility.) Other gods followed Indra’s lead and began to worship there. Soon a human devotee witnessed the miraculous scene of gods worshipping at the lingam and notified the local king, Kulashekhara Pandya, who built a temple at the site.

The story of the figure of Meenakshi is also legendary. It describes a Pandya king, Malayadhvaja, who hoped for a son and heir. He carefully performed a fire ceremony requesting that the gods fulfill this wish. Instead, he was granted a daughter, Meenakshi, who was born with three breasts. The gods told the king not to worry, but to raise Meenakshi as a brave warrior, just as he would a son, and that when she grew up and met her true love, her third breast would disappear. Meenakshi proved herself gifted in battle, conquering armies in all directions. When she sought to attack the north, however, she was confronted by the god Shiva, who dwells on Mount Kailasha, deep in the Himalayas. Upon seeing him, one of her breasts fell off and the prophecy was realized.

Kumaraguruparar, a great seventeenth-century Tamil poet and devotee of Shiva, described this moment:

When you saw Shiva on the battlefield,
your third curving breast disappeared.
You bowed to him shyly and were amazed to see
that suddenly you had only two breasts.

Your heart was filled only with him.
You looked at him sweetly
with a nectar-like side glance, and felt shy. [1]

Another principal god in the Hindu pantheon, Vishnu (in the guise of Meenakshi’s brother), presided over the wedding of Shiva and Meenakshi, and the divine couple made their home in Madurai, where they ruled (and continue to symbolically rule) as queen and king.

Vishnu presiding over the marriage of Shiva and Meenakshi, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (photo: Richard Mortel, CC BY 2.0)

Temple complex plan

The earliest temple at Madurai was likely constructed in the 7th century C.E., but the temple complex we experience today is largely the work of the Nayak dynasty in the 16th and 17th centuries. They enlarged the complex and redesigned the surrounding streets in accordance with the sacred tradition of the Vastu Shastra (Hindu texts prescribing the form, proportions, measurements, ground plan, and layout of architecture).

Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, India (photo: Richard Mortel, CC BY 2.0)

The Meenakshi Temple is a prime example of Dravidian architecture—a style of Hindu architecture common in the southern states of India. Characteristics of Dravidian architecture often include covered porches on temples, tall entry gate towers on two or more sides, many-pillared halls, and a water tank or reservoir for ritual bathing.

Two principal sanctuaries (accessible only by Hindus) sit at the center of the temple complex: one dedicated to Meenakshi (who is considered a manifestation of the goddess Parvati), and another dedicated to Sundareshwara or “Beautiful Lord” (a form of the god Shiva). A gold finial , visible only from a high vantage point, caps each of these sanctuaries. Fronting each sanctuary is a mandapa (a pillared, porch-like structure) that pilgrims pass through as they make their way to the garbagriha (the innermost sacred areas of the sanctuary).

Each Friday evening, sculpted figures of Meenakshi and Sundareshwara are placed upon a swing in the temple and gently rocked in imitation of a romantic interlude, and each spring they are celebrated in a massive multi-day festival.

Golden Lily Tank, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (photo: YashiWong, CC BY-SA 3.0)

At the south end of the complex is the Golden Lily Tank, which is used by believers for ritual bathing before they enter the sanctuaries of Meenakshi and Sundareshwara. The northeast corner of the complex is occupied by the Thousand Pillar Hall, a vast, ornate mandapa. Although there are actually only 985 pillars, the effect is impressive, with most of the stone pillars carved in high or low relief depicting gods, demons, and divine animals. Originally this space was likely used for religious dancing and musical performances as well as a place to gain an audience with the king. Today the Thousand Pillar Hall functions primarily as a museum, with exhibitions of bronze sculptures, paintings, and objects from the temple’s history.

Thousand Pillar Hall, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (photo: Brad Coy, CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Gopuras

Gopura, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (photo: Jorge Royan, CC BY-SA 3.0)

We now return to the most noticeable feature of the complex—the massive towers, or gopuras, which are actually entry gates, marked on the plan above as black rectangles. Some visitors to the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai mistake the gopuras for the sacred temples and shrines themselves. The word gopura may be derived from the Tamil words ko meaning “king,” and puram meaning “exterior or gateway” or from the Sanskrit gomeaning “cow” and puram meaning “town.” Here, there are fourteen gopuras roughly oriented to the cardinal directions and flanking either the temple of Meenakshi or Sundareshwara, or the entire walled compound. They generally increase in height as one moves further away from the center of the complex, as the outermost sections were continually added to by a succession of rulers, who commissioned ever grander towers as a sign of their power and devotion. The gopurasact as symbolic markers for the sacred space into which they lead and most are covered with a profusion of brightly painted stucco figures representing gods and demons.

The tallest gopura rises to approximately 170 feet and contains more than 1500 figures that are repaired and repainted every twelve years. This multitude of brightly-colored figures excites some visitors and repels others. It is likely that most Hindu temples (just like their ancient Greek and Egyptian counterparts) were painted in vibrant hues, and many are still today.

Gopura sculptures, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (photo: Jorge Royan, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The heart of Madurai

Bazaar inside the Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (photo: Richard Mortel, CC BY 2.0)

The Meenakshi Temple is in many ways a microcosm of the earthly and spiritual characteristics of Hindu India. It is bustling, crowded, and filled with people from all walks of life. As is true for many Hindu temples, one can find many small shops throughout the Meenakshi temple complex, selling fruits and flowers for offerings, guidebooks, small votive sculptures, jewelry, commemorative t-shirts, and other souvenirs.

The temple’s shrines, pillars, sculptures, and paintings are populated with a dazzling quantity of divine beings who engage in various activities, can manifest in multiple guises and places simultaneously, and are subject to dissolution and rebirth. On the famous gopuras, figures of gods and goddesses are repeated as though reincarnated many times over as they rise towards the heavens, symbolically preventing the defilements of the everyday world from polluting the sacred spaces within.

The Meenakshi Temple is the physical center of the city of Madurai as well as its economic, mythical, and spiritual heart. Its importance radiates outward from the central shines through Madurai to the entire Tamil-speaking region in south India, and beyond.

Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (photo: Ashwin Kumar, CC BY-SA 2.0)

[1] Kumaraguruparar, “Meenakshiammai Pillaittamai,” translated by Kausalya Hart, in Project Madurai (University of California, Berkeley, 2011)[2] The targeted dismantling and re-use of important structures was a common practice in India both as a practical matter and as a means of expressing a change in royal authority.

Additional resources:

A.L. Basham, The Wonder That Was India (New York: Grove Press, 1959), page 76.

Diana Eck, India: A Sacred Geography (NY: Three Rivers Press, 2012).

William P. Harman, The Sacred Marriage of a Hindu Goddess (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1992).


The meaning and significance a Hindu Temple

A Hindu temple is sacred field (kshetra) in which God is established, just as he is established in the field of Nature. It is a miniature universe, the playground of God’s leela where devotees have an opportunity to envision him, interact with him and serve him with love and devotion. It is a field of human creation in the creation of God, which reflects the essential beliefs, values, way of life and ideals of Hindu Dharma both in its form and function. Symbolically it represents alike the cosmos and the human body, as described in the following verse

Sikharam sheershamithyaahuh garbhageham galam tathaa. Mantamapam kukshirithyahuh praakaaram jaanujanghayoh. Gopuram paadamithyaahuh dhvajo jeevassamuchyathe.

It is said that the Sikhara is the deity’s head, the sanctum is his neck, the mantapa is the stomach, the prakara constitutes his legs, the gopuram represents his feet, and the dhwaja the seat of his prana.

The temple building represents the body of the deity or the materiality or Nature (Prakriti), while the deity in the sanctum of the temple represents its soul or the Supreme Self. The other deities, associate divinities, emanations and manifestations represent the pantheon. The tall gopurams which rise from the ground up represent the aspiring nature of human devotion and the connecting link between the earth and the heaven and between humans and gods. The gateway through which you enter is the gateway to heaven. Since thousands of devotees congregate at the temples and unite their minds in the contemplation of God, the temples are also vast energy centers. By contemplating upon deities, we also create their replicas in our subtle words and given them a life of their own.

In the basic layout of a temple one can see the basic design of God’s creation and the planes of existence. For example, in classical Hindu temples which are found in different parts of India, one can see four distinct zones or sphere extending from the center. The outermost layer is the zone of demonic influence (paisachika pada), where the impurities of the mortal world exist and people spend their lives in the pursuit of selfish desires, performing selfish actions and rarely remembering God.

The next layer is called the zone of humans (manushya pada) where devotees are drawn to the thoughts of God and circumambulate temple with their minds fixed in him. The third zone is the zone of gods (deva pada) where the influence of the deity is felt much stronger. Here, the devotees enter the deity’s inner circle and see the splendor of his creation in the images, carvings and paintings which adorn the walls and pillars of the temple. The fourth zone is the zone of Brahma (Brahma pada), which constitute the sanctum sanctorum and where the deity resides with his consort and his entourage. A part of the Brahma pada, above or behind the deity is usually kept empty without any decorations or ornamentation to signify the unmanifested Brahman, who is without qualifies, name and form.

One can also see the reflection of the material world in the construction of a standard Hindu temple. The outer walls of the temples and the gateway towers contain numerous images and statues, representing the diversity, color and noise of the external world. However, as one progresses from the temple gates into the inner sanctum one can see increasing evidence of austerity, simplicity and tranquility as the walls and pillars begin to appear with less ornamentation, imagery and decoration. In the sanctum, they completely disappear, allowing the devotees to worship the deity with total concentration. The same is true with our lives. We experience restlessness when we engage our minds with the diversity of the external world, but when we withdraw into the deepest core of consciousness we experience peace.

A standard Hindu temple is built on a large square, which is divisible into a grid of 64 or 81 mathematically measured squares. The number is usually constant, while in rare cases the shape may change from square to a circle, rectangle or triangle. Devotees pass through the four zones, witnessing the towers, wall reliefs, carvings, paintings pillars and sculpture of the temple and its architecture as they go by, before they enter the sanctum sanctorum to offer their prayers and respects to the chief deity.

The four zones represent the four worlds namely the underworld, the earth, the mid-region and the heaven of gods while the empty space in the sanctum represents the highest abode of Brahman (Parandhama). In the microcosm, they represent the impure world, the physical body, the mind, intelligence and the invisible, divine Self. The also represent the four manifestations of Brahman namely the Viraj (the projected, material world), Hiranyagarbha (the Cosmic Soul), Isvara (the Manifested Brahman) and the Unmanifested (Nirguna) Brahman. Although outwardly they may appear to be different, they are but projections of the God and permeated by God. Thus, each temple denotes the unity as well as the diversity of God’s creation.

Hindu temples are primarily places of worship. The deities in the temples are usually worshipped daily, except in rare cases where due to lack of patronage or adequate finances worship may be restricted to a few days in a week or month. In large temples, the chief deity and associate deities are worshipped and made ritual offerings from morning until the midnight, giving them rest for a few hours, during the day and night when the sanctum remains closed. The day is divided into different periods, and in each period the deity is accorded royal treatment and given utmost attention and devotion.

For all practical purposes, the temple serves as the living abode of God, where he is treated like a king and given all the privileges that are due to a king. In the morning, he is woken up with music and prayers, given a bath, decorated and served with food. During the whole day, as the devotees keep visiting, the priests perform various rituals on behalf of the devotees and keep the deity in a pleasant mood. The devotional activities continue until late into the might. On festival days and auspicious occasions, he is worshipped with different rituals and offerings and occasionally taken out in processions.

The temple is a concrete representation of the highest values and beliefs of Hinduism and the Hindu Way of Life as found in the ancient scriptures. It exemplifies how life revolves around God, with God as its source, center and circumference, and reminds us of his constant presence amidst us and the need to worship him and declare our faith to him. It is made of the same elements and tattvas, with which God creates all the worlds and beings, and where all the five senses find an opportunity to interact with the manifestations of God and facilitate the purification of the mind and body. Just as the worlds of God, you can see in it a fine amalgamation of the material and spiritual aspects of our existence. The ambiance of the temple helps the devotees find a temporary distraction from the mundane aspects of their lives and reflect upon their relationship with God and practice Dharma.

Hindu temples also provide people with opportunities to transcend their selfishness and participate in social and philanthropic activities, religious congregations, festivities, music and dance programs, and spiritual debates and discussions. Going to the temple in itself may become a ritual and require prior preparation, especially if it is located in a faraway place and involves a long journey. In popular temples, which are visited by thousands of devotees every day, people wait for hours in long queues before they have an opportunity to see the deity. During that time, most of them engage their mind in the contemplation of God, with eager and expectant minds to see him in full splendor.

Of late, many Hindu temples are becoming increasingly commercial, which is an unfortunate development since it creates a wedge between gods and humans and prevent the less-privileged sections of society from making frequent visits to such temples. It may also erode their faith as they may see the rich receiving special favors and privileged treatment. It is also true that Hindu temples thrive because of the vast amounts of charitable money they receive from the rich and their loyal patronage.


Contents

There are hardly any remains of Hindu temples before the Gupta dynasty in the 4th century CE no doubt there were earlier structures in timber-based architecture. The rock-cut Udayagiri Caves are among the most important early sites, built with royal sponsorship, recorded by inscriptions, and with impressive sculpture. [8] The earliest preserved Hindu temples are simple cell-like stone temples, some rock-cut and others structural, as at Temple 17 at Sanchi. [9] By the 6th or 7th century, these evolved into high shikhara stone superstructures. However, there is inscriptional evidence such as the ancient Gangadhara inscription from about 424, states Meister, that towering temples existed before this time and these were possibly made from more perishable material. These temples have not survived. [9] [10]

Examples of early major North Indian temples that have survived after the Udayagiri Caves in Madhya Pradesh include those at Tigawa, [11] Deogarh, Parvati Temple, Nachna (465), [10] Bhitargaon, the largest Gupta brick temple to survive, [12] Lakshman Brick Temple, Sirpur (600-625 CE) Rajiv Lochan temple, Rajim (7th-century). [13] Gop Temple in Gujarat (c. 550 or later) is an oddity, with no surviving close comparator. [14]

No pre-7th century CE South Indian style stone temples have survived. Examples of early major South Indian temples that have survived, some in ruins, include the diverse styles at Mahabalipuram, from the 7th and 8th centuries. However, according to Meister, the Mahabalipuram temples are "monolithic models of a variety of formal structures all of which already can be said to typify a developed "Dravida" (South Indian) order". They suggest a tradition and a knowledge base existed in South India by the time of the early Chalukya and Pallava era when these were built. Other examples are found in Aihole and Pattadakal. [13] [15]

By about the 7th century most main features of the Hindu temple were established along with theoretical texts on temple architecture and building methods. [16] From between about the 7th and 13th centuries a large number of temples and their ruins have survived (though far fewer than once existed). Many regional styles developed, very often following political divisions, as large temples were typically built with royal patronage. In the north, Muslim invasions from the 11th century onwards reduced the building of temples, and saw the loss of many existing ones. [16] The south also witnessed Hindu-Muslim conflict that affected the temples, but the region was relatively less affected than the north. [17] In late 14th century, the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire came to power and controlled much of South India. During this period, the distinctive very tall gopuram gatehouse, (actually a late development, from the 12th century or later), was typically added to older large temples. [16]

South-East Asian Hindu temples Edit

Possibly the oldest Hindu temples in South East Asia dates back to 2nd century BC from the Oc Eo culture of Mekong Delta from southern Vietnam. They were probably dedicated to a sun god, Shiva and Vishnu. The temple were constructed using granite blocks and bricks, one with a small stepped pond. [18]

The cultural sphere often called Greater India extended into South-East Asia. The earliest evidence trace to Sanskrit stone inscriptions found on the islands and the mainland Southeast Asia is Võ Cạnh inscription dated to 2nd or 3rd century AD in Vietnam or in Cambodia between 4th and 5th-century CE. [19] [note 1] Prior to the 14th-century local versions of Hindu temples were built in Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. These developed several national traditions, and often mixed Hinduism and Buddhism. Theravada Buddhism prevailed in many parts of the South-East Asia, except Malaysia and Indonesia where Islam displaced them both. [21] [22]

Hindu temples in South-East Asia developed their own distinct versions, mostly based on Indian architectural models, both North Indian and South Indian styles. [23] However, the Southeast Asian temple architecture styles are different and there is no known single temple in India that can be the source of the Southeast Asian temples. According to Michell, it is as if the Southeast Asian architects learned from "the theoretical prescriptions about temple building" from Indian texts, but never saw one. They reassembled the elements with their own creative interpretations. The Hindu temples found in Southeast Asia are more conservative and far more strongly link the Mount Meru-related cosmological elements of Indian thought than the Hindu temples found in the subcontinent. [23] Additionally, unlike the Indian temples, the sacred architecture in Southeast Asia associated the ruler (devaraja) with the divine, with the temple serving as a memorial to the king as much as being house of gods. [23] Notable examples of Southeast Asian Hindu temple architecture are the Shivaist Prambanan Trimurti temple compound in Java, Indonesia (9th century), [24] and the Vishnuite Angkor Wat in Cambodia (12th century). [25]

A Hindu temple is a symmetry-driven structure, with many variations, on a square grid of padas, depicting perfect geometric shapes such as circles and squares. [6] [2] Susan Lewandowski states that the underlying principle in a Hindu temple is built around the belief that all things are one, everything is connected. A temple, states Lewandowski, "replicates again and again the Hindu beliefs in the parts mirroring, and at the same time being, the universal whole" like an "organism of repeating cells". [26] : 68, 71 The pilgrim is welcomed through mathematically structured spaces, a network of art, pillars with carvings and statues that display and celebrate the four important and necessary principles of human life—the pursuit of artha (prosperity, wealth), the pursuit of kama (desire), the pursuit of dharma (virtues, ethical life) and the pursuit of moksha (release, self-knowledge). [27] [28]

At the centre of the temple, typically below and sometimes above or next to the deity, is mere hollow space with no decoration, symbolically representing Purusa, the Supreme Principle, the sacred Universal, one without form, which is present everywhere, connects everything, and is the essence of everyone. A Hindu temple is meant to encourage reflection, facilitate purification of one's mind, and trigger the process of inner realization within the devotee. [2] The specific process is left to the devotee's school of belief. The primary deity of different Hindu temples varies to reflect this spiritual spectrum.

The site Edit

The appropriate site for a Mandir, suggest ancient Sanskrit texts, is near water and gardens, where lotus and flowers bloom, where swans, ducks and other birds are heard, where animals rest without fear of injury or harm. [2] These harmonious places were recommended in these texts with the explanation that such are the places where gods play, and thus the best site for Hindu temples. [2] [26]

While major Hindu mandirs are recommended at sangams (confluence of rivers), river banks, lakes and seashore, the Brhat Samhita and Puranas suggest temples may also be built where a natural source of water is not present. Here too, they recommend that a pond be built preferably in front or to the left of the temple with water gardens. If water is neither present naturally nor by design, water is symbolically present at the consecration of temple or the deity. Temples may also be built, suggests Visnudharmottara in Part III of Chapter 93, [29] inside caves and carved stones, on hill tops affording peaceful views, mountain slopes overlooking beautiful valleys, inside forests and hermitages, next to gardens, or at the head of a town street.

In practice most temples are built as part of a village or town. [30] Some sites such as the capitals of kingdoms and those considered particularly favourable in terms of sacred geography had numerous temples. Many ancient capitals vanished and the surviving temples are now found in a rural landscape often these are the best-preserved examples of older styles. Aihole, Badami, Pattadakal and Gangaikonda Cholapuram are examples. [30]

The plan Edit

The design, especially the floor plan, of the part of a Hindu temple around the sanctum or shrine follows a geometrical design called vastu-purusha-mandala. The name is a composite Sanskrit word with three of the most important components of the plan. Mandala means circle, Purusha is universal essence at the core of Hindu tradition, while Vastu means the dwelling structure. [31] Vastupurushamandala is a yantra. [32] The design lays out a Hindu temple in a symmetrical, self-repeating structure derived from central beliefs, myths, cardinality and mathematical principles. [6]

The four cardinal directions help create the axis of a Hindu temple, around which is formed a perfect square in the space available. The circle of mandala circumscribes the square. The square is considered divine for its perfection and as a symbolic product of knowledge and human thought, while circle is considered earthly, human and observed in everyday life (moon, sun, horizon, water drop, rainbow). Each supports the other. [2] The square is divided into perfect square grids. In large temples, this is often a 8x8 or 64 grid structure. In ceremonial temple superstructures, this is an 81 sub-square grid. The squares are called ‘‘padas’’. [6] [33] The square is symbolic and has Vedic origins from fire altar, Agni. The alignment along cardinal direction, similarly is an extension of Vedic rituals of three fires. This symbolism is also found among Greek and other ancient civilizations, through the gnomon. In Hindu temple manuals, design plans are described with 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64, 81 up to 1024 squares 1 pada is considered the simplest plan, as a seat for a hermit or devotee to sit and meditate on, do yoga, or make offerings with Vedic fire in front. The second design of 4 padas has a symbolic central core at the diagonal intersection, and is also a meditative layout. The 9 pada design has a sacred surrounded centre, and is the template for the smallest temple. Older Hindu temple vastumandalas may use the 9 through 49 pada series, but 64 is considered the most sacred geometric grid in Hindu temples. It is also called Manduka, Bhekapada or Ajira in various ancient Sanskrit texts. Each pada is conceptually assigned to a symbolic element, sometimes in the form of a deity or to a spirit or apasara. The central square(s) of the 64 is dedicated to the Brahman (not to be confused with Brahmin), and are called Brahma padas. [2]

In a Hindu temple's structure of symmetry and concentric squares, each concentric layer has significance. The outermost layer, Paisachika padas, signify aspects of Asuras and evil the next inner concentric layer is Manusha padas signifying human life while Devika padas signify aspects of Devas and good. The Manusha padas typically houses the ambulatory. [2] The devotees, as they walk around in clockwise fashion through this ambulatory to complete Parikrama (or Pradakshina), walk between good on inner side and evil on the outer side. In smaller temples, the Paisachika pada is not part of the temple superstructure, but may be on the boundary of the temple or just symbolically represented.

The Paisachika padas, Manusha padas and Devika padas surround Brahma padas, which signifies creative energy and serves as the location for temple's primary idol for darsana. Finally at the very centre of Brahma padas is Garbhagruha(Garbha- Centre, gruha- house literally the centre of the house) (Purusa Space), signifying Universal Principle present in everything and everyone. [2] The spire of a Hindu temple, called Shikhara in north India and Vimana in south India, is perfectly aligned above the Brahma pada(s).


The Meenakshi Temple at Madurai

Imagine approaching a temple complex where you are greeted by a soaring gateway more than fifteen stories tall, covered in 1500 brightly painted sculptures of divine and demonic figures. It’s overwhelming and disorienting, but it is just a taste of what awaits the pilgrim or sightseer at the Meenakshi Temple in the town of Madurai in southern India. With its numerous towers and its warren of associated sacred spaces, it embodies the active continuation of an ancient set of religious and artistic traditions in southern India.

Today, approximately 20,000 people per day visit the Meenakshi Temple’s almost 700,000 square feet of space, including the two principal sanctuaries and dozens of shrines of varying sizes. Bordered by high walls and gateways, it is a bewildering collection of indoor and outdoor spaces: small, cramped shrines, vast halls, low and high ceilings, darkness, light, hustle and bustle, quiet spaces, and chaos. All told, it contains around 30,000 sculptures.

Founded by a god and ruled by a divine couple

Madurai, India (underlying view © 2018 Google maps)

Many sacred sites and structures in India have mythical origins, and the city of Madurai near the southern tip of the subcontinent in Tamil Nadu state is no exception. According to tradition, more than 3500 years ago the god Indra installed a small tower over a naturally formed stone lingam as a sign of devotion to Shiva, one of the primary deities in the vast Hindu pantheon. (Typically considered the god of destruction, Shiva’s characteristics also include creation and virility.) Other gods followed Indra’s lead and began to worship there. Soon a human devotee witnessed the miraculous scene of gods worshipping at the lingam and notified the local king, Kulashekhara Pandya, who built a temple at the site.

The story of the figure of Meenakshi is also legendary. It describes a Pandya king, Malayadhvaja, who hoped for a son and heir. He carefully performed a fire ceremony requesting that the gods fulfill this wish. Instead, he was granted a daughter, Meenakshi, who was born with three breasts. The gods told the king not to worry, but to raise Meenakshi as a brave warrior, just as he would a son, and that when she grew up and met her true love, her third breast would disappear. Meenakshi proved herself gifted in battle, conquering armies in all directions. When she sought to attack the north, however, she was confronted by the god Shiva, who dwells on Mount Kailasha, deep in the Himalayas. Upon seeing him, one of her breasts fell off and the prophecy was realized.

Kumaraguruparar, a great seventeenth-century Tamil poet and devotee of Shiva, described this moment:

When you saw Shiva on the battlefield,
your third curving breast disappeared.
You bowed to him shyly and were amazed to see
that suddenly you had only two breasts.

Your heart was filled only with him.
You looked at him sweetly
with a nectar-like side glance, and felt shy. [1]

Another principal god in the Hindu pantheon, Vishnu (in the guise of Meenakshi’s brother), presided over the wedding of Shiva and Meenakshi, and the divine couple made their home in Madurai, where they ruled (and continue to symbolically rule) as queen and king.

Vishnu presiding over the marriage of Shiva and Meenakshi, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (photo: Richard Mortel, CC BY 2.0)

Temple complex plan

The earliest temple at Madurai was likely constructed in the seventh century C.E., but t he temple complex we experience today is largely the work of the Nayak dynasty in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They enlarged the complex and redesigned the surrounding streets in accordance with the sacred tradition of the Vastu Shastra (Hindu texts prescribing the form, proportions, measurements, ground plan, and layout of architecture).

Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, India (photo: Richard Mortel, CC BY 2.0)

The Meenakshi Temple is a prime example of Dravidian architecture—a style of Hindu architecture common in the southern states of India. Characteristics of Dravidian architecture often include covered porches on temples, tall entry gate towers on two or more sides, many-pillared halls, and a water tank or reservoir for ritual bathing.

Two principal sanctuaries (accessible only by Hindus) sit at the center of the temple complex: one dedicated to Meenakshi (who is considered a manifestation of the goddess Parvati), and another dedicated to Sundareshwara or “Beautiful Lord” (a form of the god Shiva). A gold finial , visible only from a high vantage point, caps each of these sanctuaries. Fronting each sanctuary is a mandapa (a pillared, porch-like structure) that pilgrims pass through as they make their way to the garbagriha (the innermost sacred areas of the sanctuary).

Each Friday evening, sculpted figures of Meenakshi and Sundareshwara are placed upon a swing in the temple and gently rocked in imitation of a romantic interlude, and each spring they are celebrated in a massive multi-day festival.

Golden Lily Tank, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (photo: YashiWong, CC BY-SA 3.0)

At the south end of the complex is the Golden Lily Tank, which is used by believers for ritual bathing before they enter the sanctuaries o f Meenakshi and Sundareshwara. The northeast corner of the complex is occupied by the Thousand Pillar Hall, a vast, ornate mandapa. Although there are actually only 985 pillars, the effect is impressive, with most of the stone pillars carved in high or low relief depicting gods, demons, and divine animals. Originally this space was likely used for religious dancing and musical performances as well as a place to gain an audience with the king. Today the Thousand Pillar Hall functions primarily as a museum, with exhibitions of bronze sculptures, paintings, and objects from the temple’s history.

Thousand Pillar Hall, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (photo: Brad Coy, CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Gopuras

Gopura, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (photo: Jorge Royan, CC BY-SA 3.0)

We now return to the most noticeable feature of the complex—the massive towers, or gopuras , which are actually entry gates, marked on the plan above as black rectangles. Some visitors to the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai mistake the gopuras for the sacred temples and shrines themselves. The word gopura may be derived from the Tamil words ko meaning “king,” and puram meaning “exterior or gateway” or from the Sanskrit go meaning “cow” and puram meaning “town.” Here, there are fourteen gopuras roughly oriented to the cardinal directions and flanking either the temple of Meenakshi or Sundareshwara, or the entire walled compound. They generally increase in height as one moves further away from the center of the complex, as the outermost sections were continually added to by a succession of rulers, who commissioned ever grander towers as a sign of their power and devotion. The gopuras act as symbolic markers for the sacred space into which they lead and most are covered with a profusion of brightly painted stucco figures representing gods and demons.

The tallest gopura rises to approximately 170 feet and contains more than 1500 figures that are repaired and repainted every twelve years. This multitude of brightly-colored figures excites some visitors and repels others. It is likely that most Hindu temples (just like their ancient Greek and Egyptian counterparts) were painted in vibrant hues, and many are still today.

Gopura sculptures, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (photo: Jorge Royan, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The heart of Madurai

Bazaar inside the Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (photo: Richard Mortel, CC BY 2.0)

The Meenakshi Temple is in many ways a microcosm of the earthly and spiritual characteristics of Hindu India. It is bustling, crowded, and filled with people from all walks of life. As is true for many Hindu temples, one can find many small shops throughout the Meenakshi temple complex, selling fruits and flowers for offerings, guidebooks, small votive sculptures, jewelry, commemorative t-shirts, and other souvenirs.

The temple’s shrines, pillars, sculptures, and paintings are populated with a dazzling quantity of divine beings who engage in various activities, can manifest in multiple guises and places simultaneously, and are subject to dissolution and rebirth. On the famous gopuras, figures of gods and goddesses are repeated as though reincarnated many times over as they rise towards the heavens, symbolically preventing the defilements of the everyday world from polluting the sacred spaces within.

The Meenakshi Temple is the physical center of the city of Madurai as well as its economic, mythical, and spiritual heart. Its importance radiates outward from the central shines through Madurai to the entire Tamil-speaking region in south India, and beyond.

Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (photo: Ashwin Kumar, CC BY-SA 2.0)

[2] The targeted dismantling and re-use of important structures was a common practice in India both as a practical matter and as a means of expressing a change in royal authority.

Additional resources:

A.L. Basham, The Wonder That Was India (New York: Grove Press, 1959), page 76.

Diana Eck, India: A Sacred Geography (NY: Three Rivers Press, 2012).

William P. Harman, The Sacred Marriage of a Hindu Goddess (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1992).


Contents

A Hindu temple reflects a synthesis of arts, the ideals of dharma, beliefs, values, and the way of life cherished under Hinduism. It is a link between man, deities, and the Universal Purusa in a sacred space. [19] It represents the triple-knowledge (trayi-vidya) of the Vedic vision by mapping the relationships between the cosmos (brahmanda) and the cell (pinda) by a unique plan that is based on astronomical numbers. [20] Subhash Kak sees the temple form and its iconography to be a natural expansion of Vedic ideology related to recursion, change and equivalence. [21]

In ancient Indian texts, a temple is a place for Tirtha – pilgrimage. [3] It is a sacred site whose ambience and design attempts to symbolically condense the ideal tenets of Hindu way of life. [19] All the cosmic elements that create and sustain life are present in a Hindu temple – from fire to water, from images of nature to deities, from the feminine to the masculine, from the fleeting sounds and incense smells to the eternal nothingness yet universality at the core of the temple.

Susan Lewandowski states [9] that the underlying principle in a Hindu temple is built around the belief that all things are one, everything is connected. The pilgrim is welcomed through 64-grid or 81-grid mathematically structured spaces, a network of art, pillars with carvings and statues that display and celebrate the four important and necessary principles of human life – the pursuit of artha (prosperity, wealth), the pursuit of kama (pleasure, sex), the pursuit of dharma (virtues, ethical life) and the pursuit of moksha (release, self-knowledge). [22] [23] At the center of the temple, typically below and sometimes above or next to the deity, is mere hollow space with no decoration, symbolically representing Purusa, the Supreme Principle, the sacred Universal, one without form, which is present everywhere, connects everything, and is the essence of everyone. A Hindu temple is meant to encourage reflection, facilitate purification of one's mind, and trigger the process of inner realization within the devotee. [3] The specific process is left to the devotee's school of belief. The primary deity of different Hindu temples varies to reflect this spiritual spectrum. [24] [25]

In Hindu tradition, there is no dividing line between the secular and the lonely sacred. [9] In the same spirit, Hindu temples are not just sacred spaces, they are also secular spaces. Their meaning and purpose have extended beyond spiritual life to social rituals and daily life, offering thus a social meaning. Some temples have served as a venue to mark festivals, to celebrate arts through dance and music, to get married or commemorate marriages, [26] commemorate the birth of a child, other significant life events, or mark the death of a loved one. In political and economic life, Hindu temples have served as a venue for the succession within dynasties and landmarks around which economic activity thrived. [27]

Almost all Hindu temples take two forms: a house or a palace. A house-themed temple is a simple shelter which serves as a deity's home. The temple is a place where the devotee visits, just like he or she would visit a friend or relative. The use of moveable and immoveable images is mentioned by Pāṇini. In Bhakti school of Hinduism, temples are venues for puja, which is a hospitality ritual, where the deity is honored, and where devotee calls upon, attends to and connects with the deity. In other schools of Hinduism, the person may simply perform jap, or meditation, or yoga, or introspection in his or her temple. Palace-themed temples often incorporate more elaborate and monumental architecture. [28]

Site Edit

The appropriate site for a temple, suggest ancient Sanskrit texts, is near water and gardens, where lotus and flowers bloom, where swans, ducks and other birds are heard, where animals rest without fear of injury or harm. [3] These harmonious places were recommended in these texts with the explanation that such are the places where gods play, and thus the best site for Hindu temples. [3] [9]

The gods always play where lakes are,
where the sun’s rays are warded off by umbrellas of lotus leaf clusters,
and where clear waterpaths are made by swans
whose breasts toss the white lotus hither and thither,
where swans, ducks, curleys and paddy birds are heard,
and animals rest nearby in the shade of Nicula trees on the river banks.

The gods always play where rivers have for their braclets
the sound of curleys and the voice of swans for their speech,
water as their garment, carps for their zone,
the flowering trees on their banks as earrings,
the confluence of rivers as their hips,
raised sand banks as breasts and plumage of swans their mantle.

The gods always play where groves are near, rivers, mountains and springs, and in towns with pleasure gardens.

While major Hindu temples are recommended at sangams (confluence of rivers), river banks, lakes and seashore, Brhat Samhita and Puranas suggest temples may also be built where a natural source of water is not present. Here too, they recommend that a pond be built preferably in front or to the left of the temple with water gardens. If water is neither present naturally nor by design, water is symbolically present at the consecration of temple or the deity. Temples may also be built, suggests Visnudharmottara in Part III of Chapter 93, [30] inside caves and carved stones, on hill tops affording peaceful views, mountain slopes overlooking beautiful valleys, inside forests and hermitages, next to gardens, or at the head of a town street.

Manuals Edit

Ancient builders of Hindu temples created manuals of architecture, called Vastu-Sastra (literally "science" of dwelling vas-tu is a composite Sanskrit word vas means "reside", tu means "you") these contain Vastu-Vidya (literally, knowledge of dwelling) [31] and Sastra meaning system or knowledge in Sanskrit. There exist many Vastu-Sastras on the art of building temples, such as one by Thakkura Pheru, describing where and how temples should be built. [32] [33] By the 6th century AD, Sanskrit manuals for in India. [34] Vastu-Sastra manuals included chapters on home construction, town planning, [31] and how efficient villages, towns and kingdoms integrated temples, water bodies and gardens within them to achieve harmony with nature. [35] [36] While it is unclear, states Barnett, [37] as to whether these temple and town planning texts were theoretical studies and if or when they were properly implemented in practice, the manuals suggest that town planning and Hindu temples were conceived as ideals of art and integral part of Hindu social and spiritual life. [31]

The Silpa Prakasa of Odisha, authored by Ramacandra Bhattaraka Kaulacara in the ninth or tenth centuries AD, is another Sanskrit treatise on Temple Architecture. [39] Silpa Prakasa describes the geometric principles in every aspect of the temple and symbolism such as 16 emotions of human beings carved as 16 types of female figures. These styles were perfected in Hindu temples prevalent in eastern states of India. Other ancient texts found expand these architectural principles, suggesting that different parts of India developed, invented and added their own interpretations. For example, in Saurastra tradition of temple building found in western states of India, the feminine form, expressions and emotions are depicted in 32 types of Nataka-stri compared to 16 types described in Silpa Prakasa. [39] Silpa Prakasa provides brief introduction to 12 types of Hindu temples. Other texts, such as Pancaratra Prasada Prasadhana compiled by Daniel Smith [40] and Silpa Ratnakara compiled by Narmada Sankara [41] provide a more extensive list of Hindu temple types.

Ancient Sanskrit manuals for temple construction discovered in Rajasthan, in northwestern region of India, include Sutradhara Mandana's Prasadamandana (literally, manual for planning and building a temple). [42] Manasara, a text of South Indian origin, estimated to be in circulation by the 7th century AD, is a guidebook on South Indian temple design and construction. [9] [43] Isanasivagurudeva paddhati is another Sanskrit text from the 9th century describing the art of temple building in India in south and central India. [44] [45] In north India, Brihat-samhita by Varāhamihira is the widely cited ancient Sanskrit manual from 6th century describing the design and construction of Nagara style of Hindu temples. [38] [46] [47]

The plan Edit

A Hindu temple design follows a geometrical design called vastu-purusha-mandala. The name is a composite Sanskrit word with three of the most important components of the plan. Mandala means circle, Purusha is universal essence at the core of Hindu tradition, while Vastu means the dwelling structure. [48] Vastupurushamandala is a yantra. [32] The design lays out a Hindu temple in a symmetrical, self-repeating structure derived from central beliefs, myths, cardinality and mathematical principles.

The four cardinal directions help create the axis of a Hindu temple, around which is formed a perfect square in the space available. The circle of mandala circumscribes the square. The square is considered divine for its perfection and as a symbolic product of knowledge and human thought, while circle is considered earthly, human and observed in everyday life (moon, sun, horizon, water drop, rainbow). Each supports the other. [3] The square is divided into perfect 64 (or in some cases 81) sub-squares called padas. [38] [49] Each pada is conceptually assigned to a symbolic element, sometimes in the form of a deity. The central square(s) of the 64 or 81 grid is dedicated to the Brahman (not to be confused with Brahmin), and are called Brahma padas.

The 49 grid design is called Sthandila and of great importance in creative expressions of Hindu temples in South India, particularly in ‘‘Prakaras’’. [50] The symmetric Vastu-purusa-mandala grids are sometimes combined to form a temple superstructure with two or more attached squares. [51] The temples face sunrise, and the entrance for the devotee is typically this east side. The mandala pada facing sunrise is dedicated to Surya deity (Sun). The Surya pada is flanked by the padas of Satya (Truth) deity on one side and Indra (king of gods) deity on other. The east and north faces of most temples feature a mix of gods and demi-gods while west and south feature demons and demi-gods related to the underworld. [52] This vastu purusha mandala plan and symbolism is systematically seen in ancient Hindu temples on Indian subcontinent as well as those in southeast Asia, with regional creativity and variations. [53] [54]

Beneath the mandala’s central square(s) is the space for the formless shapeless all pervasive all connecting Universal Spirit, the highest reality, the purusha. [55] This space is sometimes referred to as garbha-griya (literally womb house) – a small, perfect square, windowless, enclosed space without ornamentation that represents universal essence. [48] In or near this space is typically a murti (idol). This is the main deity idol, and this varies with each temple. Often it is this idol that gives the temple a local name, such as Visnu temple, Krishna temple, Rama temple, Narayana temple, Siva temple, Lakshmi temple, Ganesha temple, Durga temple, Hanuman temple, Surya temple, and others. [19] It is this garbha-griya which devotees seek for ‘‘darsana’’ (literally, a sight of knowledge, [56] or vision [48] ).

Above the vastu-purusha-mandala is a superstructure with a dome called Shikhara in north India, and Vimana in south India, that stretches towards the sky. [48] Sometimes, in makeshift temples, the dome may be replaced with symbolic bamboo with few leaves at the top. The vertical dimension's cupola or dome is designed as a pyramid, conical or other mountain-like shape, once again using principle of concentric circles and squares (see below). [3] Scholars suggest that this shape is inspired by cosmic mountain of Meru or Himalayan Kailasa, the abode of gods according to Vedic mythology. [48]

In larger temples, the central space typically is surrounded by an ambulatory for the devotee to walk around and ritually circumambulate the Purusa, the universal essence. [3] Often this space is visually decorated with carvings, paintings or images meant to inspire the devotee. In some temples, these images may be stories from Hindu Epics, in others they may be Vedic tales about right and wrong or virtues and vice, in some they may be idols of minor or regional deities. The pillars, walls and ceilings typically also have highly ornate carvings or images of the four just and necessary pursuits of life – kama, artha, dharma and moksa. This walk around is called pradakshina. [48]

Large temples also have pillared halls called mandapa. One on the east side, serves as the waiting room for pilgrims and devotees. The mandapa may be a separate structure in older temples, but in newer temples this space is integrated into the temple superstructure. Mega temple sites have a main temple surrounded by smaller temples and shrines, but these are still arranged by principles of symmetry, grids and mathematical precision. An important principle found in the layout of Hindu temples is mirroring and repeating fractal-like design structure, [58] each unique yet also repeating the central common principle, one which Susan Lewandowski refers to as "an organism of repeating cells". [27]

The ancient texts on Hindu temple design, the Vastupurusamandala and Vastu Sastras, do not limit themselves to the design of a Hindu temple. [59] They describe the temple as a holistic part of its community, and lay out various principles and a diversity of alternate designs for home, village and city layout along with the temple, gardens, water bodies and nature. [3] [35]

Exceptions to the square grid principle

Predominant number of Hindu temples exhibit the perfect square grid principle. [60] However, there are some exceptions. For example, the Telika Mandir in Gwalior, built in the 8th century AD is not a square but is a rectangle in 2:3 proportion. Further, the temple explores a number of structures and shrines in 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 2:5, 3:5 and 4:5 ratios. These ratios are exact, suggesting the architect intended to use these harmonic ratios, and the rectangle pattern was not a mistake, nor an arbitrary approximation. Other examples of non-square harmonic ratios are found at Naresar temple site of Madhya Pradesh and Nakti-Mata temple near Jaipur, Rajasthan. Michael Meister suggests that these exceptions mean the ancient Sanskrit manuals for temple building were guidelines, and Hinduism permitted its artisans flexibility in expression and aesthetic independence. [38]

The symbolism Edit

A Hindu temple is a symbolic reconstruction of the universe and universal principles that make everything in it function. [61] [62] The temples reflect Hindu philosophy and its diverse views on cosmos and Truths. [58] [63]

Hinduism has no traditional ecclesiastical order, no centralized religious authorities, no governing body, no prophet(s) nor any binding holy book Hindus can choose to be polytheistic, pantheistic, monistic, or atheistic. [64] Within this diffuse and open structure, spirituality in Hindu philosophy is an individual experience, and referred to as kṣaitrajña (Sanskrit: क्षैत्रज्ञ) [65] ). It defines spiritual practice as one's journey towards moksha, awareness of self, the discovery of higher truths, true nature of reality, and a consciousness that is liberated and content. [66] [67] A Hindu temple reflects these core beliefs. The central core of almost all Hindu temples is not a large communal space the temple is designed for the individual, a couple or a family – a small, private space where he or she experiences darsana.

Darsana is itself a symbolic word. In ancient Hindu scripts, darsana is the name of six methods or alternate viewpoints of understanding Truth. [68] These are Nyaya, Vaisesika, Sankhya, Yoga, Mimamsa and Vedanta – each of which flowered into their own schools of Hinduism, each of which are considered valid, alternate paths to understanding Truth and realizing Self in the Hindu way of life.

From names to forms, from images to stories carved into the walls of a temple, symbolism is everywhere in a Hindu temple. Life principles such as the pursuit of joy, sex, connection and emotional pleasure (kama) are fused into mystical, erotic and architectural forms in Hindu temples. These motifs and principles of human life are part of the sacred texts of Hindu, such as its Upanishads the temples express these same principles in a different form, through art and spaces. For example, Brihadaranyaka Upanisad at 4.3.21, recites:

In the embrace of his beloved a man forgets the whole world,
everything both within and without
in the same way, he who embraces the Self,
knows neither within nor without.

The architecture of Hindu temples is also symbolic. The whole structure fuses the daily life and it surroundings with the divine concepts, through a structure that is open yet raised on a terrace, transitioning from the secular towards the sacred, [70] inviting the visitor inwards towards the Brahma pada and temple's central core, as well as lifting him upwards into a symbolic space marked by its spire (shikhara, vimana). The ancient temples had grand intricately carved entrances but no doors, and lacked a boundary wall. In most cultures, suggests Edmund Leach, [70] a boundary and gateway separates the secular and the sacred, and this gateway door is grand. In Hindu tradition, this is discarded in favor of an open and diffusive architecture, where the secular world was not separated from the sacred, but transitioned and flowed into the sacred. [71] The Hindu temple has structural walls, which were patterned usually within the 64 grid, or other geometric layouts. Yet the layout was open on all sides, except for the core space which had just one opening for darsana. The temple space is laid out in a series of courts (mandappas). The outermost regions may incorporate the negative and suffering side of life with symbolism of evil, asuras and rakshashas (demons) but in small temples this layer is dispensed with. When present, this outer region diffuse into the next inner layer that bridges as human space, followed by another inner Devika padas space and symbolic arts incorporating the positive and joyful side of life about the good and the gods. This divine space then concentrically diffuses inwards and lifts the guest to the core of the temple, where resides the main idol as well as the space for the Purusa and ideas held to be most sacred principles in Hindu tradition. The symbolism in the arts and temples of Hinduism, suggests Edmund Leach, is similar to those in Christianity and other major religions of the world. [72]

The teams that built Hindu temples Edit

Indian texts call the craftsmen and builders of temples as ‘‘Silpin’’ (Sanskrit: शिल्पिन् [73] ), derived from ‘‘Silpa’’. [74] One of earliest mentions of Sanskrit word Silpa is in Atharvaveda, from about 1000 BC, which scholars have translated as any work of art. [75] Other scholars suggest that the word Silpa has no direct one word translation in English, nor does the word ‘‘Silpin’’. Silpa, explains Stella Kramrisch, [44] is a multicolored word and incorporates art, skill, craft, ingenuity, imagination, form, expression and inventiveness of any art or craft. Similarly a Shilpin, notes Kramrisch, is a complex Sanskrit word, describing any person who embodies art, science, culture, skill, rhythm and employs creative principles to produce any divine form of expression. Silpins who built Hindu temples, as well as the art works and sculpture within them, were considered by the ancient Sanskrit texts to deploy arts whose number are unlimited, Kala (techniques) that were 64 in number, [76] and Vidya (science) that were of 32 types. [44]

The Hindu manuals of temple construction describe the education, characteristics of good artists and architects. The general education of a Hindu Shilpin in ancient India included Lekha or Lipi (alphabet, reading and writing), Rupa (drawing and geometry), Ganana (arithmetic). These were imparted from age 5 to 12. The advanced students would continue in higher stages of Shilpa Sastra studies till the age of 25. [77] [78] Apart from specialist technical competence, the manuals suggest that best Silpins for building a Hindu temple are those who know the essence of Vedas and Agamas, consider themselves as students, keep well verse with principles of traditional sciences and mathematics, painting and geography. [32] Further they are kind, free from jealousy, righteous, have their sense under control, of happy disposition, and ardent in everything they do. [44]

According to Silparatna, a Hindu temple project would start with a Yajamana (patron), and include a Sthapaka (guru, spiritual guide and architect-priest), a Sthapati (architect) who would design the building, a Sutragrahin (surveyor), and many Vardhakins (workers, masons, painters, plasterers, overseers) and Taksakas (sculptors). [32] [46] While the temple is under construction, all those working on the temple were revered and considered sacerdotal by the patron as well as others witnessing the construction. [74] Further, it was a tradition that all tools and materials used in temple building and all creative work had the sanction of a sacrament. [32] For example, if a carpenter or sculptor needed to fell a tree or cut a rock from a hill, he would propitiate the tree or rock with prayers, seeking forgiveness for cutting it from its surroundings, and explaining his intent and purpose. The axe used to cut the tree would be anointed with butter to minimize the hurt to the tree. [44] Even in modern times, in some parts of India such as Odisha, Visvakarma Puja is a ritual festival every year where the craftsmen and artists worship their arts, tools and materials. [79]

Hindu temples served as nuclei of important social, economic, artistic and intellectual functions in ancient and medieval India. [80] [81] Burton Stein states that South Indian temples managed regional development function, such as irrigation projects, land reclamation, post-disaster relief and recovery. These activities were paid for by the donations (melvarum) they collected from devotees. [11] According to James Heitzman, these donations came from a wide spectrum of the Indian society, ranging from kings, queens, officials in the kingdom to merchants, priests and shepherds. [82] Temples also managed lands endowed to it by its devotees upon their death. They would provide employment to the poorest. [83] Some temples had large treasury, with gold and silver coins, and these temples served as banks. [84]

Hindu temples over time became wealthy from grants and donations from royal patrons as well as private individuals. Major temples became employers and patrons of economic activity. They sponsored land reclamation and infrastructure improvements, states Michell, including building facilities such as water tanks, irrigation canals and new roads. [85] A very detailed early record from 1101 lists over 600 employees (excluding the priests) of the Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur, still one of the largest temples in Tamil Nadu. Most worked part-time and received the use of temple farmland as reward. [85] For those thus employed by the temple, according to Michell, "some gratuitous services were usually considered obligatory, such as dragging the temple chariots on festival occasions and helping when a large building project was undertaken". [85] Temples also acted as refuge during times of political unrest and danger. [85]

In contemporary times, the process of building a Hindu temple by emigrants and diasporas from South Asia has also served as a process of building a community, a social venue to network, reduce prejudice and seek civil rights together. [86]

Library of manuscripts Edit

John Guy and Jorrit Britschgi state Hindu temples served as centers where ancient manuscripts were routinely used for learning and where the texts were copied when they wore out. [87] In South India, temples and associated mutts served custodial functions, and a large number of manuscripts on Hindu philosophy, poetry, grammar and other subjects were written, multiplied and preserved inside the temples. [88] Archaeological and epigraphical evidence indicates existence of libraries called Sarasvati-bhandara, dated possibly to early 12th-century and employing librarians, attached to Hindu temples. [89]

Palm-leaf manuscripts called lontar in dedicated stone libraries have been discovered by archaeologists at Hindu temples in Bali Indonesia and in 10th century Cambodian temples such as Angkor Wat and Banteay Srei. [90]

Temple schools Edit

Inscriptions from the 4th century AD suggest the existence of schools around Hindu temples, called Ghatikas or Mathas, where the Vedas were studied. [91] In south India, 9th century Vedic schools attached to Hindu temples were called Calai or Salai, and these provided free boarding and lodging to students and scholars. [92] [93] The temples linked to Bhakti movement in the early 2nd millennium, were dominated by non-Brahmins. [94] These assumed many educational functions, including the exposition, recitation and public discourses of Sanskrit and Vedic texts. [94] Some temple schools offered wide range of studies, ranging from Hindu scriptures to Buddhist texts, grammar, philosophy, martial arts, music and painting. [80] [95] By the 8th century, Hindu temples also served as the social venue for tests, debates, team competition and Vedic recitals called Anyonyam. [80] [95]

Hospitals, community kitchen, monasteries Edit

According to Kenneth G. Zysk – a professor specializing in Indology and ancient medicine, Hindu mathas and temples had by the 10th-century attached medical care along with their religious and educational roles. [96] This is evidenced by various inscriptions found in Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere. An inscription dated to about AD 930 states the provision of a physician to two matha to care for the sick and destitute. Another inscription dated to 1069 at a Vishnu temple in Tamil Nadu describes a hospital attached to the temple, listing the nurses, physicians, medicines and beds for patients. Similarly, a stone inscription in Andhra Pradesh dated to about 1262 mentions the provision of a prasutishala (maternity house), vaidya (physician), an arogyashala (health house) and a viprasattra (hospice, kitchen) with the religious center where people from all social backgrounds could be fed and cared for. [96] [97] According to Zysk, both Buddhist monasteries and Hindu religious centers provided facilities to care for the sick and needy in the 1st millennium, but with the destruction of Buddhist centers after the 12th century, the Hindu religious institutions assumed these social responsibilities. [96] According to George Michell, Hindu temples in South India were active charity centers and they provided free meal for wayfarers, pilgrims and devotees, as well as boarding facilities for students and hospitals for the sick. [98]

The 15th and 16th century Hindu temples at Hampi featured storage spaces (temple granary, kottara), water tanks and kitchens. [99] [100] [101] Many major pilgrimage sites have featured dharmashalas since early times. These were attached to Hindu temples, particularly in South India, providing a bed and meal to pilgrims. They relied on any voluntary donation the visitor may leave and to land grants from local rulers. [102] Some temples have operated their kitchens on daily basis to serve the visitor and the needy, while others during major community gatherings or festivals. Examples include the major kitchens run by Hindu temples in Udupi (Karnataka), Puri (Odisha) and Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh). The tradition of sharing food in smaller temple is typically called prasada. [102] [103]

Hindu temples are found in diverse locations each incorporating different methods of construction and styles:

  • Mountain [57] temples such as Masrur
  • Cave [104] temples such as Chandrabhaga, Chalukya [105] and Ellora
  • Step well temple compounds such as the Mata Bhavani, Ankol Mata and Huccimallugudi. [106]
  • Forest [104] temples such as Kasaun and Kusama [107]
  • River bank and sea shore temples such as Somnath.

In arid western parts of India, such as Rajasthan and Gujarat, Hindu communities built large walk in wells that served as the only source of water in dry months but also served as social meeting places and carried religious significance. These monuments went down into earth towards subterranean water, up to seven storey, and were part of a temple complex. [108] These vav (literally, stepwells) had intricate art reliefs on the walls, with numerous idols and images of Hindu deities, water spirits and erotic symbolism. The step wells were named after Hindu deities for example, Mata Bhavani's Stepwell, Ankol Mata Vav, Sikotari Vav and others. [108] The temple ranged from being small single pada (cell) structure to large nearby complexes. These stepwells and their temple compounds have been variously dated from late 1st millennium BC through 11th century AD. Of these, Rani ki vav, with hundreds of art reliefs including many of Vishnu deity avatars, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. [109]

The Indian rock-cut architecture evolved in Maharashtran temple style in the 1st millennium AD. The temples are carved from a single piece of rock as a complete temple or carved in a cave to look like the interior of a temple. Ellora Temple is an example of the former, while The Elephanta Caves are representative of the latter style. [110] [ citation needed ] The Elephanta Caves consist of two groups of caves—the first is a large group of five Hindu caves and the second is a smaller group of two Buddhist caves. The Hindu caves contain rock-cut stone sculptures, representing the Shaiva Hindu sect, dedicated to the god Shiva. [110]

A typical, ancient Hindu temple has a profusion of arts – from paintings to sculpture, from symbolic icons to engravings, from thoughtful layout of space to fusion of mathematical principles with Hindu sense of time and cardinality.

Ancient Sanskrit texts classify idols and images in number of ways. For example, one method of classification is the dimensionality of completion: [111]

  • Chitra: images that are three-dimensional and completely formed
  • Chitrardha: images that are engraved in half relief
  • Chitrabhasa: images that are two-dimensional such as paintings on walls and cloth

Another way of classification is by the expressive state of the image:

  • Raudra or Dugra: are images that were meant to terrify, induce fear. These typically have wide, circular eyes, carry weapons, have skulls and bones as adornment. These idols were worshiped by soldiers before going to war, or by people in times of distress or terrors. Raudra deity temples were not set up inside villages or towns, but invariably outside and in remote areas of a kingdom. [111]
  • Shanta and saumya: are images that were pacific, peaceful and expressive of love, compassion, kindness and other virtues in Hindu pantheon. These images would carry symbolic icons of peace, knowledge, music, wealth, flowers, sensuality among other things. In ancient India, these temples were predominant inside villages and towns. [111]

A Hindu temple may or may not include an idol or images, but larger temples usually do. Personal Hindu temples at home or a hermitage may have a pada for yoga or meditation, but be devoid of anthropomorphic representations of god. Nature or others arts may surround him or her. To a Hindu yogin, states Gopinath Rao, [111] one who has realised Self and the Universal Principle within himself, there is no need for any temple or divine image for worship. However, for those who have yet to reach this height of realization, various symbolic manifestations through images, idols and icons as well as mental modes of worship are offered as one of the spiritual paths in the Hindu way of life. This belief is repeated in ancient Hindu scriptures. For example, the Jabaladarshana Upanishad states: [111]

शिवमात्मनि पश्यन्ति प्रतिमासु न योगिनः |
अज्ञानं भावनार्थाय प्रतिमाः परिकल्पिताः || ५९ ||
- जाबालदर्शनोपनिषत्

A yogin perceives god (Siva) within himself,
images are for those who have not reached this knowledge.

A number of ancient Indian texts suggest the prevalence of idols, temples and shrines in Indian subcontinent for thousands of years. For example, the temples of the Koshala kingdom are mentioned in the Valmiki Ramayana [113] (various recent scholars' estimates for the earliest stage of the text range from the 7th to 4th centuries BCE, with later stages extending up to the 3rd century CE) [114] The 5th century BC text, Astadhyayi, mentions male deity arcas (images/idols) of Agni, Indra, Varuna, Rudra, Mrda, Pusa, Surya, and Soma being worshipped, as well as the worship of arcas of female goddesses such as Indrani, Varunani, Usa, Bhavani, Prthivi and Vrsakapayi. [115] The 2nd Century BC "Mahabhasya" of Patanjali extensively describes temples of Dhanapati (deity of wealth and finance, Kubera), as well as temples of Rama and Kesava, wherein the worship included dance, music and extensive rituals. The Mahabhasya also describes the rituals for Krsna, Visnu and Siva. An image recovered from Mathura in north India has been dated to the 2nd century BC. [115] Kautilya's Arthashastra from 4th Century BC describes a city of temples, each enshrining various Vedic and Puranic deities. All three of these sources have common names, describe common rituals, symbolism and significance possibly suggesting that the idea of idols, temples and shrines passed from one generation to next, in ancient India, at least from the 4th century BC. [115] The oldest temples, suggest scholars, were built of brick and wood. Stone became the preferred material of construction later. [116] [117]

Early Jain and Buddhist literature, along with Kautilya's Arthashastra, describe structures, embellishments and designs of these temples – all with motifs and deities currently prevalent in Hinduism. Bas-reliefs and idols have been found from 2nd to 3rd Century, but none of the temple structures have survived. Scholars [115] theorize that those ancient temples of India, later referred to as Hindu temples, were modeled after domestic structure – a house or a palace. Beyond shrines, nature was revered, in forms such as trees, rivers, and stupas, before the time of Buddha and Vardhamana Mahavira. As Jainism and Buddhism branched off from the religious tradition later to be called Hinduism, the ideas, designs and plans of ancient Vedic and Upanishad era shrines were adopted and evolved, likely from the competitive development of temples and arts in Jainism and Buddhism. Ancient reliefs found so far, states Michael Meister, [115] suggest five basic shrine designs and combinations thereof in 1st millennium BC:

  1. A raised platform with or without a symbol
  2. A raised platform under an umbrella
  3. A raised platform under a tree
  4. A raised platform enclosed with a railing
  5. A raised platform inside a pillared pavilion

Many of these ancient shrines were roofless, some had toranas and roof.

From the 1st century BC through 3rd Century AD, the evidence and details about ancient temples increases. The ancient literature refers to these temples as Pasada (or Prasada), stana, mahasthana, devalaya, devagrha, devakula, devakulika, ayatana and harmya. [115] The entrance of the temple is referred to as dvarakosthaka in these ancient texts notes Meister, [115] the temple hall is described as sabha or ayagasabha, pillars were called kumbhaka, while vedika referred to the structures at the boundary of a temple.

The 5th-century Ladkhan Shiva Temple, in the Aihole Hindu-Jain-Buddhist temple site, in Karnataka.

Plan of 5th-century temples in Eran, Madhya Pradesh.

The early 6th-century Dashavatara Temple in the Deogarh complex has a simple, one-cell plan.

1880 sketch of the 9-square floorplan of the same temple (not to scale or complete). For better drawings: [118]

Layout of Cave 3 temple of the 6th-century Chalukyan-style Badami cave temples

Plan of the 6th-century main-cave temple at Elephanta.

The Elephanta main cave is thought to follow this mandala design. [119]

A 7th century Chalukyan-style temple ceiling, also in Aihole.

Rani ki vav is an 11th-century stepwell, built by the Chaulukya dynasty, located in Patan. The stepwell remains well-preserved, but is partly silted over.

With the start of Gupta dynasty in the 4th century, Hindu temples flourished in innovation, design, scope, form, use of stone and new materials as well as symbolic synthesis of culture and dharmic principles with artistic expression. [120] [121] It is this period that is credited with the ideas of garbhagrha for Purusa, mandapa for sheltering the devotees and rituals in progress, as well as symbolic motifs relating to dharma, karma, kama, artha and moksha. Temple superstructures were built from stone, brick and wide range of materials. Entrance ways, walls and pillars were intricately carved, while parts of temple were decorated with gold, silver and jewels. Visnu, Siva and other deities were placed in Hindu temples, while Buddhists and Jains built their own temples, often side by side with Hindus. [122]

The 4th through 6th century marked the flowering of Vidharbha style, whose accomplishments survive in central India as Ajanta caves, Pavnar, Mandhal and Mahesvar. In the Malaprabha river basin, South India, this period is credited with some of the earliest stone temples of the region: the Badami Chalukya temples are dated to the 5th century by some scholars, [123] and the 6th by some others. [124]

Over 6th and 7th centuries, temple designs were further refined during Maurya dynasty, evidence of which survives today at Ellora and in the Elephanta cave temples.

It is the 5th through 7th century AD when outer design and appearances of Hindu temples in north India and south India began to widely diverge. [125] Nevertheless, the forms, theme, symbolism and central ideas in the grid design remained same, before and after, pan-India as innovations were adopted to give distinctly different visual expressions.

The Western Chalukya architecture of the 11th- & 12th-century Tungabhadra region of modern central Karnataka includes many temples. Step-wells are consist of a shaft dug to the water table, with steps descending to the water while they were built for secular purposes, some are also decorated as temples, or serve as a temple tank.

During the 5th to 11th century, Hindu temples flourished outside Indian subcontinent, such as in Cambodia, Viet Nam, Malaysia and Indonesia. In Cambodia, Khmer architecture favoured the Temple mountain style famously used in Angkor Wat, with a prang spire over the sanctum cell. Indonesian candi developed regional forms. In what is modern south and central Viet Nam, Champa architecture built brick temples.

Destruction, conversion, and rebuilding Many Hindu temples have been destroyed, some, after rebuilding, several times. Deliberate temple destruction usually had religious motives. Richard Eaton has listed 80 campaigns of Hindu temple site destruction stretching over centuries, particularly from the 12th through the 18th century. [126] Others temples have served as non-Hindu places of worship, either after conversion or simultaneously with Hindu use.

In the 12th-16th century, during Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent and South Asia, Hindu temples, along with the temples of Buddhists and Jains, intermittently became targets of armies from Persian, Central Asian, and Indian sultanates. Idols were broken up and damaged, spires and pillars were torn down, and temples were looted of their treasury. Some temples were converted into mosques, or parts used to build mosques. [127] There exist both Indian and Muslim traditions of religious toleration. Muslim rulers led campaigns of temple destruction and forbade repairs to damaged temples, following the Muslim traditions. The Delhi Sultanate destroyed a large number of temples Sikandar the Iconoclast, Sultan of Kashmir, was also known for his intolerance. [128]

The 16th- and 19th-century Goa Inquisition destroyed hundreds of Hindu temples. All Hindu temples in Portuguese colonies in India were destroyed, according to a 1569 letter in the Portuguese royal archives. [129] Temples were not converted into churches. [ citation needed ] Religious conflict and desecrations of places of worship continued during the British colonial era. [130] Historian Sita Ram Goel's book "What happened to Hindu Temples" lists over 2000 sites where temples have been destroyed and mosques have been built over them. Some historians suggest that around 30,000 temples were destroyed by Islamic rulers between 1200 and 1800 AD. Destruction of Hindu temple sites was comparatively less in the southern parts of India, such as in Tamil Nadu. Cave-style Hindu temples that were carved inside a rock, hidden and rediscovered centuries later, such as the Kailasha Temple, have also preferentially survived. Many are now UNESCO world heritage sites. [131] [ better source needed ]

In India, the Place of Worship (Special Provisions) Act was enacted in 1991 which prohibited the conversion of any religious site from the religion to which it was dedicated on 15 August 1947. [132] [133] [134]

The Somnath Temple in Gujarat was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt. Here it is shown in 1869, after having been ruined by order of Aurangzeb in 1665. These ruins were demolished and the temple rebuilt in the 1950s.

The Kashi Vishwanath Temple was destroyed by the army of Qutb-ud-din Aibak in 1194 CE. Since then, it has been demolished twice (in the 1400s, and 1669 CE) and rebuilt four times (in the 1200s, twice in the 1500s under Akbar, and in the 1800s). Shown is the current 1800s temple, with the white domes and minaret of the co-located 1600s Gyanvapi Mosque in the background. The tonne of gold for the temple roof was donated by Ranjit Singh in 1835. [135] [136]

An 1832 reconstruction of the 1500s temple Akbar funded. James Prinsep based the reconstruction on the foundations of the Gyanvapi Mosque. Many Hindu temples were rebuilt as mosques between 12th and 18th century AD.

Ruins of the Martand Sun Temple after being destroyed on the orders of the Sultan of Kashmir, Sikandar the Iconoclast, in the early 15th century, with demolition lasting a year.

In the 14th century, the armies of Delhi Sultanate, led by Malik Kafur, plundered the Meenakshi Temple and looted it of its valuables it was rebuilt and expanded in the 16th century.

Kakatiya Kala Thoranam (the Warangal Gate) built in the 12th century by the Kakatiya dynasty the Warangal Fort temple complex was destroyed in the 1300s by the Delhi Sultanate. [137]

Artistic rendition of the Kirtistambh, a surviving portion of the 10-11th century Rudra Mahalaya Temple. The temple was partly destroyed by the Sultan of Delhi, Alauddin Khalji, in 1296 AD, with part converted into a mosque and further parts destroyed by Ahmed Shah I in the fifteenth century.

Exterior wall reliefs at Hoysaleswara Temple. The temple was twice sacked and plundered by the Delhi Sultanate in the early 14th century, and abandoned in the mid 14th century. [138]

The 12th-century Mahadev Temple is the only Kadamba-period temple building to survive the Goa Inquisition.

The customs and etiquette varies across India. Devotees in major temples may bring in symbolic offerings for the puja. This includes fruits, flowers, sweets and other symbols of the bounty of the natural world. Temples in India are usually surrounded with small shops selling these offerings.

When inside the temple, devotees keep both hands folded (namaste mudra). The inner sanctuary, where the murtis reside, is known as the garbhagriha. It symbolizes the birthplace of the universe, the meeting place of the gods and mankind, and the threshold between the transcendental and the phenomenal worlds. [139] It is in this inner shrine that devotees seek a darsana of, where they offer prayers. Devotees may or may not be able to personally present their offerings at the feet of the deity. In most large Indian temples, only the pujaris (priest) are allowed to enter into the main sanctum. [140]

Temple management staff typically announce the hours of operation, including timings for special pujas. These timings and nature of special puja vary from temple to temple. Additionally, there may be specially allotted times for devotees to perform circumambulations (or pradakshina) around the temple. [140]

Visitors and worshipers to large Hindu temples may be required to deposit their shoes and other footwear before entering. Where this is expected, the temples provide an area and help staff to store footwear. Dress codes vary. It is customary in temples in Kerala, for men to remove shirts and to cover pants and shorts with a traditional cloth known as a Vasthiram. [141] In Java and Bali (Indonesia), before one enters the most sacred parts of a Hindu temple, shirts are required as well as Sarong around one's waist. [142] At many other locations, this formality is unnecessary.

Nagara Architecture of North Indian temples Edit

North Indian temples are referred to as Nagara style of temple architecture. [143] They have sanctum sanctorum where the deity is present, open on one side from where the devotee obtains darśana. There may or may not be many more surrounding corridors, halls, etc. However, there will be space for devotees to go around the temple in clockwise fashion circumambulation. In North Indian temples, the tallest towers are built over the sanctum sanctorum in which the deity is installed. [144]

The north India Nagara style of temple designs often deploy fractal-theme, where smaller parts of the temple are themselves images or geometric re-arrangement of the large temple, a concept that later inspired French and Russian architecture such as the matryoshka principle. One difference is the scope and cardinality, where Hindu temple structures deploy this principle in every dimension with garbhgriya as the primary locus, and each pada as well as zones serving as additional centers of loci. This makes a Nagara Hindu temple architecture symbolically a perennial expression of movement and time, of centrifugal growth fused with the idea of unity in everything. [143]

Temples in West Bengal Edit

In West Bengal, the Bengali terra cotta temple architecture is found. Due to lack of suitable stone in the alluvial soil locally available, the temple makers had to resort to other materials instead of stone. This gave rise to using terracotta as a medium for temple construction. Terracotta exteriors with rich carvings are a unique feature of Bengali temples. The town of Vishnupur in West Bengal is renowned for this type of architecture. There is also a popular style of building known as Navaratna (nine-towered) or Pancharatna (five-towered). An example of Navaratna style is the Dakshineswar Kali Temple. [145]

Temples in Odisha Edit

Odisha temple architecture is known as Kalinga architecture, [146] classifies the spire into three parts, the Bāḍa (lower limb), the Ganḍi (body) and the Cuḷa/Mastaka (head). Each part is decorated in a different manner. Kalinga architecture is a style which flourished in Kalinga, the name for kingdom that included ancient Odisha. It includes three styles: Rekha Deula, Pidha Deula and Khakhara Deula. [147] The former two are associated with Vishnu, Surya and Shiva temples while the third is mainly associated with Chamunda and Durga temples. The Rekha Deula and Khakhara Deula houses the sanctum sanctorum while the Pidha Deula style includes space for outer dancing and offering halls.

Temples of Goa and other Konkani temples Edit

The temple architecture of Goa is quite unique. As Portuguese colonial hegemony increased, Goan Hindu temples became the rallying point to local resistance. [148] Many these temples are not more than 500 years old, and are a unique blend of original Goan temple architecture, Dravidian, Nagar and Hemadpanthi temple styles with some British and Portuguese architectural influences. Goan temples were built using sedimentary rocks, wood, limestone and clay tiles, and copper sheets were used for the roofs. These temples were decorated with mural art called as Kavi kala or ocher art. The interiors have murals and wood carvings depicting scenes from the Hindu mythology.

South Indian and Sri Lankan temples Edit

South Indian temples have a large gopuram, a monumental tower, usually ornate, at the entrance of the temple. This forms a prominent feature of Koils, Hindu temples of the Dravidian style. [149] They are topped by the kalasam, a bulbous stone finial. They function as gateways through the walls that surround the temple complex. [150] The gopuram's origins can be traced back to early structures of the Tamil kings Pallavas and by the twelfth century, under the Pandya rulers, these gateways became a dominant feature of a temple's outer appearance, eventually overshadowing the inner sanctuary which became obscured from view by the gopuram's colossal size. [151] It also dominated the inner sanctum in amount of ornamentation. Often a shrine has more than one gopuram. [152] They also appear in architecture outside India, especially Khmer architecture, as at Angkor Wat. A koil may have multiple gopurams, typically constructed into multiple walls in tiers around the main shrine. The temple's walls are typically square with the outer most wall having gopuras. The sanctum sanctorum and its towering roof (the central deity's shrine) are also called the vimanam. [153] The inner sanctum has restricted access with only priests allowed beyond a certain point.

Temples in Kerala Edit

Temples in Kerala have a different architectural style (keeping the same essence of Vastu), especially due to climatic differences Kerala have with other parts of India with larger rainfall. The temple roof is mostly tiled and is sloped and the walls are often square, the innermost shrine being entirely enclosed in another four walls to which only the pujari (priest) enters. The walls are decorated with either mural paintings or rock sculptures which many times are emphasised on Dwarapalakas.

Temples in Tamil Nadu Edit

Temple construction reached its peak during rule of Pallavas. They built various temples around Kancheepuram, and Narasimhavarman II built the Shore Temple in Mamallapuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Pandyas rule created temples such as the Meenakshi Amman Temple at Madurai and Nellaiappar Temple at Tirunelveli. [154] The Cholas were prolific temple builders right from the times of the first medieval king Vijayalaya Chola. The Chola temples include Nataraja temple at Chidambaram, the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple at Srirangam, the Brihadeeshwarar temple at Tanjore, Brihadeeshwarar temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram and the Airavatesvarar Temple of Darasuram which are among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Nayaks of Madurai reconstructed some of the well-known temples in Tamil Nadu such as the Meenakshi Temple. [9]

Temples in Nepal Edit

Pashupatinath temple is one of the important temples of Hindu religion which is situated in Kathmandu, Nepal. [155] It is built in a pagoda style and is surrounded by hundreds of temples and buildings built by kings. The temples top is made from pure gold.

Khmer Temples Edit

Angkor Wat was built as a Hindu temple by King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yasodharapura (Khmer, present-day Angkor), the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum. Breaking from the Shaiva tradition of previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu. The Spire in Khmer Hindu temple is called Giri (mountain) and symbolizes the residence of gods just like Meru does in Bali Hindu mythology and Ku (Guha) does in Burmese Hindu mythology. [156]

Angkor Wat is just one of numerous Hindu temples in Cambodia, most of them in ruins. Hundreds of Hindu temples are scattered from Siem Reap to Sambor Prei Kuk in central Cambodian region. [157]

Temples in Indonesia Edit

Ancient Hindu temples in Indonesia are called Candi (read: chandi). Prior to the rise of Islam, between the 5th to 15th century Dharmic faiths (Hinduism and Buddhism) were the majority in Indonesian archipelago, especially in Java and Sumatra. As the result numerous Hindu temples, locally known as candi, constructed and dominated the landscape of Java. According to local beliefs, Java valley had thousands of Hindu temples which co-existed with Buddhist temples, most of which were buried in massive eruption of Mount Merapi in 1006 AD. [158] [159]

Between 1100 and 1500 additional Hindu temples were built, but abandoned by Hindus and Buddhists as Islam spread in Java circa 15th to 16th century. In last 200 years, some of these have been rediscovered mostly by farmers while preparing their lands for crops. Most of these ancient temples were rediscovered and reconstructed between 19th to 20th century, and treated as the important archaeological findings and also as tourist attraction, but not as the house of worship. Hindu temples of ancient Java bear resemblances with temples of South Indian style. The largest of these is the 9th century Javanese Hindu temple, Prambanan in Yogyakarta, now a UNESCO world heritage site. It was designed as three concentric squares and has 224 temples. The inner square contains 16 temples dedicated to major Hindu deities, of which Shiva temple is the largest. [160] The temple has extensive wall reliefs and carvings illustrating the stories from the Hindu epic Ramayana. [161]

In Bali, the Hindu temple is known as "Pura", which is designed as an open-air worship place in a walled compound. The compound walls have a series of intricately decorated gates without doors for the devotee to enter. The design, plan and layout of the holy pura follows a square layout. [162] [163]

Majority of Hindu temples in Java were dedicated to Shiva, who Javanese Hindus considered as the God who commands the energy to destroy, recombine and recreate the cycle of life. Small temples were often dedicated to Shiva and his family (wife Durga, son Ganesha). Larger temple complexes include temples for Vishnu and Brahma, but the most majestic, sophisticated and central temple was dedicated to Shiva. The 732 AD Canggal inscription found in Southern Central Java, written in Indonesian Sanskrit script, eulogizes Shiva, calling him God par-excellence.

Temples in Vietnam Edit

There are a number of Hindu temple clusters built by the Champa Kingdoms along the coast of Vietnam, with some on UNESCO world heritage site list. [164] Examples include Mỹ Sơn – a cluster of 70 temples with earliest dated to be from the 4th century AD and dedicated to Siva, while others are dedicated to Hindu deities Krishna, Vishnu and others. These temples, internally and with respect to each other, are also built on the Hindu perfect square grid concept. Other sites in Vietnam with Hindu temples include Phan Rang with the Cham temple Po Klong Garai. [165]

Temples in Thailand Edit

Thailand has many notable Hindu temples including: the Sri Mariammam temple in Bangkok, the Devasathan, the Erawan Shrine, Prasat Muang Tam, Sdok Kok Thom and Phanom Rung. Most of the newer Hindu temples are of South Indian origin and were built by Tamil migrant communities. However, Thailand has many historic indigenous Hindu temples such as Phanom Rung. Although most indigenous Hindu temples are ruins, a few such as Devasathan in Bangkok are actively used.

Temples outside Asia Edit

Many members of the diaspora from the Indian subcontinent have established Hindu temples outside India as a means of preserving and celebrating cultural and spiritual heritage abroad. Describing the hundreds of temples that can be found throughout the United States, scholar Gail M. Harley observes, "The temples serve as central locations where Hindus can come together to worship during holy festivals and socialize with other Hindus. Temples in America reflect the colorful kaleidoscopic aspects contained in Hinduism while unifying people who are disbursed throughout the American landscape." [166] Numerous temples in North America and Europe have gained particular prominence and acclaim, many of which were built by the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha. The Ganesh temple of Hindu Temple Society of North America, in Flushing, Queens, New York City, is the oldest Hindu temple in the Western Hemisphere, and its canteen feeds 4,000 people a week, with as many as 10,000 during the Diwali (Deepavali) festival. [167]

Swaminarayan Akshardham in Robbinsville, New Jersey, U.S., is the largest Hindu temple in the Western hemisphere. [168]

The Archaeological Survey of India has control of most ancient temples of archaeological importance in India. In India, day-to-day activities of a temple is managed by a temple board committee that administers its finances, management, and events. Since independence, the autonomy of individual Hindu religious denominations to manage their own affairs with respect to temples of their own denomination has been severely eroded and the state governments have taken control of major Hindu temples in some countries however, in others, such as the United States, private temple management autonomy has been preserved.

In Sanskrit, the liturgical language of Hinduism, the word mandira means "house" (Sanskrit: मन्दिर ). Ancient Sanskrit texts use many words for temple, such as matha, vayuna, kirti, kesapaksha, devavasatha, vihara, suravasa, surakula, devatayatana, amaragara, devakula, devagrha, devabhavana, devakulika, and niketana. [169] Regionally, they are also known as prasada, vimana, kshetra, gudi, ambalam, punyakshetram, deval, deula, devasthanam, kovil, candi, pura, and wat.

The following are the other names by which a Hindu temple is referred to in India:

  • Devasthana (ದೇವಸ್ಥಾನ) in Kannada
  • Deul/Doul/Dewaaloy in Assamese and in Bengali
  • Deval/Raul/Mandir (मंदिर) in Marathi
  • Devro/Mindar in Rajasthani
  • Deula (ଦେଉଳ) or Mandira(ମନ୍ଦିର) in Odia and Gudi in Kosali Odia
  • Gudi (గుడి), Devalayam (దేవాలయం), Devasthanam (దేవస్థానము), Kovela (కోవెల), Kshetralayam (క్షేత్రాలయం), Punyakshetram (పుణ్యక్షేత్రం), or Punyakshetralayam (పుణ్యక్షేత్రాలయం), Mandiramu (మందిరము) in Telugu

[ check quotation syntax ] * Kovil or kō-vill (கோவில்) and occasionally Aalayam (ஆலயம்) in Tamil the Tamil word Kovil means "residence of God" [170]

  • Kshetram (ക്ഷേത്രം), Ambalam (അമ്പലം), Kovil (കോവിൽ), Devasthanam (ദേവസ്ഥാനം) or Devalayam (ദേവാലയം) in Malayalam
  • Mandir (मंदिर) in Hindi, Nepali, Kashmiri, Marathi, Punjabi (ਮੰਦਰ), Gujarati (મંદિર), and Urdu (مندر) [171]
  • Mondir (মন্দির) in Bengali

In Southeast Asia temples known as:

  • Candi in Indonesia, especially in Javanese, Malay and Indonesian, used both for Hindu or Buddhist temples.
  • Pura in Hindu majority island of Bali, Indonesia.
  • Wat in Cambodia and Thailand, also applied to both Hindu and Buddhist temples.

Some lands, including Varanasi, Puri, Kanchipuram, Dwarka, Amarnath, Kedarnath, Somnath, Mathura and Rameswara, are considered holy in Hinduism. They are called kṣétra (Sanskrit: क्षेत्र [172] ). A kṣétra has many temples, including one or more major ones. These temples and its location attracts pilgrimage called tirtha (or tirthayatra). [173]


Tuljapur Temple Rare Facts – Architecture – Maths – History – Festival

Mother Goddess Tulja Bhavani, lovingly referred as Bhavani Aai, is a powerful manifestation of Mother Goddess Shakti and consort of Lord Shiva. Tuljapur is located in Osmanabad District. It is about 25 km from Osmanabad town and 50 km from Solapur city.
She is the kuldaivat (family deity) of many families in Maharashtra and numerous other regions in India. Tulja Bhavani is one among the 51 shakti Peethas of India.

Tuljapur Temple History

Bhavani Aai is considered the Mother Goddess of Maharashtra and is held in high esteem.

The main murti or vigraha worshipped in the temple was installed by Adi Shankaracharya. The region was an important center of Shakti worship from time immemorial. It is also an important Tantric center mentioned in numerous Tantric texts. The shrine is also mentioned in the Skanda Purana.

The current temple was constructed during the 12th century AD.

Shivaji Maharaj was a great devotee of Bhavani and visited the temple many times for inspiration. He even installed her vigraha at Pratapgad for daily worship. She is the family deity of the Royal Bhosale family.

It is firmly believed that Goddess Bhavani of Tuljapur presented Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj with a sword to fight against the oppressors of Dharma.

The Vigraha Of Goddess Tulja Bhavani Which Is Movable

The vigraha or murti of Goddess Tulja Bhawani is swayambhu (self evolved). Goddess Bhavani is worshipped in the form of a three-foot high granite image, with eight arms holding weapons, bearing the head of the slain demon Mahishasura. Bhavani Aai is also known as Tulaja, Turaja, Tvarita and Amba.

The main murti (idol) of Goddess Bhavani is not fixed but moveable. In majority of other temples the vigraha is fixed or static.

The installation ceremony of the murti was done by Adi Shankaracharya on Sri Yantra.

The main murti is taken out from the Sri Yantra thrice a year for pradakshina. The pradakshina is also done along with Sri Yantra, Mahadeo and Khanderao.

The temple complex also has shrines of Siddhi Vinayaka, Adi Shakti, Matangi Devi, Dattatreya, Annapurna and Vitthal Rukmini.

Tuljapur Temple Architecture

The location of the temple is very strategic and it is enclosed by hills on three sides and plains covered with wood on the other. The temple is on the western end of the town, and the temple complex may be entered through the mahadwar, on the top of which musician play. There are two main entrances to Tuljapur temple. One is called the Raja Shahaji Mahadwar, and the other as Rajmata Jijau main gate. Going through the Sardar Nimbalkar Pravesh Dwar after the main entrance, there is the temple of Markandeya Rithi to the right.

Inside the temple there are steps going down and on the left is the Kallol Tirth and on the right is the Gomukh Tirth.

Important Tirthas of Tuljapur Temple

Gomukha tirtha is believed to have the waters of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers.

Important Math Associated With Tuljapur Temple

Navratri Festival In Tuljapur Temple

Pilgrims come to Tuljapur to fulfill their vows. Some of the vows include Gondhal or the dance, Dandavat or visiting the Goddess while prostrating oneself on every step from the house to the temple, Bhogi or panchamrut snana for the Goddess, offering saree to the goddess and sada or sprinkling of kumkum all around the courtyard to gain a longer life for one’s husband. Similar other customs exist here for achieving varied objectives.

A special ritual is performed annually after Vijayadashami for which tall bamboos come from Solapur, beds from Bhingar and palkhi from Nagar. The Teli community has the honor of doing this worship.

Some of the other important festivals observed in the temple are Shakambari Navratri (December - January), Makar Sankranti, Ratha Saptami, Gudi Padwa, Shitala Sashti, and Lalita Panchami.


The Temple as the Divine Tree

The symbolism of the seed is taken further. This seed is believed to have sprouted upwards in the form of the temple vimana and branching out in various shoots, leaves and branches, it again coalesces at the top in one kalash, bearing fruit which again contains the seed from which it came, and thus directly above this, outside the temple, over the vimana, another kalash is installed which has the same ‘seed’, which is deposited in the kalash underground.

Here the temple vimana is imagined as a tree. From the seed underground, it sprouts as an upright tree and it merges with the branches of another tree, which is upside down. The branches of both the trees meet in the middle of the vimana. At the top of the vimana is the ‘seed’ of the inverted tree. As S. K. Ramachandra Rao puts it:

“The spot where the ‘womb’ is hidden would be the seat of the icon. The icon represents the sap of the temple-tree, the four walls would indicate the spreading branches all around. The roof resting over the wall is technically called ‘row of doves’ (kapota-pali or simply kapota), after the birds that perch on tree-tops. The sanctum is thus a neat model of the growing tree.” [8]

The seed in the underground holds the seed of supreme consciousness. When this consciousness sprouts, it takes the form of the deity in the garbha-griha. On the other hand, the consciousness from above also descends and meets the consciousness that is rising from below. The ascent of individual consciousness is complemented by the descent of the universal consciousness.

It is a symbolic way of showing the individual consciousness rising up to meet the universal or supreme consciousness. It symbolizes the essence of all Hindu knowledge, that of self-realization, the state of oneness of the devotee with the supreme consciousness. S. K. Ramachandra Rao, commenting upon the ascent and descent of consciousness, says:

“Under the ground it is in a dormant, nebulous condition, and in the sanctum it gets transformed into a world of materiality and activity. In the tower it rises above this world, before it is absorbed in the universal consciousness at the summit of the finial… Man’s approach is one of ascent of matter towards the spirit. But it becomes meaningful only if there is a complementary process of descent the divine spirit must flow down into the material. The finial of the tower symbolizes the dual act of gathering the divine essence from the formless cosmos and communicating it to the main mass of the tower. The essence here acquires a concrete form and then descends into the sanctum, to be focused in the icon.” [9]

This ascent and descent are taking on the vertical axis of the temple, in the garbha-griha and in the vimana that tops it. The devotee that stands in the mandapam, in front of the deity lies on the horizontal axis of the temple. It is his active desire, his deep faith, which lets him partake in the divine ascent and divine descent that is taking place in the garbha-griha.

Through the authority of the shastras the agency of the temple as a Yantra to bring about desired goals through the worship offered by the priest on the behalf of the devotee and through divine grace, the devotee partakes in the ascent of consciousness. Deeply meditated upon, the ascent of the consciousness in the garbha-griha becomes his own ascent.

Ratha, Vitthala Temple, Hampi

“The shrine thus demonstrates the constellation of the human and the divine currents matter moves up and the spirit flows down. The devotee that stands in front of the icon is expected to partake of this transaction. The emanations that proceed from the icon must be picked up by the faith in his heart. Devotion is the transformer. The rituals conducted within the shrine involve these ideas, and attempt to facilitate transformation along the horizontal axis of icon-devotee. The devotee represents active matter and the icon passive spirit. The two are brought together in the creative act of worship.” [10]

This is why darshan holds such importance for a Hindu devotee visiting a temple. More than prayers, more than signing devotional hymns, it is the act of darshan, which is central to a temple visit and which transforms the individual consciousness of the devotee having darshan to higher levels.

The symbolism of the temple vimana as tree is also understood by its etymology. The very Sanskrit word ‘vimana’ has two connotations: “that which is without comparison” and “that which brings about fruit”.


Principal Features of a Hindu Temple Complex - History

The History of Hindu India (Part One) was developed by the editors of Hinduism Today magazine in collaboration with Dr. Shiva Bajpai, Professor Emeritus of History, California State University Northridge. It is intended to provide an authentic presentation of the history of India and Hinduism for use in American 6th grade social study classes, as well as Hindu temple study groups and general presentations on the Hindu religion and history. The documentary is based on the first chapter of the textbook, The History of Hindu India, published in 2011. For more information and for class lesson plans based on the book visit www.hinduismtoday.com/education/. Funded by the Uberoi Foundation, Institute for Curriculum Advancement. May be freely distributed for educational purposes.

Part one covers the following topics: Hindu beliefs, culture, Hndu Scriptures, practices, Saints and Hindu festivals.

Directed and Produced by Sushma Khadepaun. Produced and Narrated by Roger (Raj) Narayan.

See our Hindu History page for links to this movie with other subtitles and printed publications.

Hi. My name is Raj Narayan and Im going to talk about Hindu history, beliefs and culture.

Hinduism is the oldest living religion in the world and the third largest.

More than one billion Hindus live in 150 different countries, mostly in India.

The United States alone is home to over two million Hindus.

To find the distant beginnings of Hinduism we have to go back over 6,000 years.

. to the Sarasvati-Indus region of the Indian subcontinent.

This vast area extends from Sri Lanka in the south to the Himalayan Mountains in the north.

. from the Arabian sea in the west to the Bay of Bengal in the east.

The SarasvatiIndus civilization developed here, eventually becoming the worlds largest and most advanced.

. surpassing even those of Egypt, Mesopotamia and China.

The civilization is named after the areas two great river systems, the Sarasvati and the Indus.

It is called the Vedic culture after the earliest Hindu sacred text.

It is also known as the Harappan culture, after the site of its first discovery in 1920.

This was an urban society centered around many highly organized cities,

some with populations of 80,000, which was rare in those days.

The cities were connected by trade routes, which extended west to Mesopotamia, and east to central Asia.

Five thousand years later archeologists discovered pottery,

all of which hint at what life was like at the source of the civilization that has evolved into modern-day India.

The flat, stone seals have writing on them and images of Deities, ceremonies, symbols, people, plants and animals.

Even though writing was widespread among the people, we have not deciphered it yet.

From these artifacts we learn that certain religious and cultural practices were identical to those followed by Hindus today.

One seal shows a meditating figure that scholars link to Lord Siva,

while others show the lotus posture used today in hatha yoga.

Other discoveries connect the far past with today, including swastikas,

statues of the Mother Goddess,

worship of the Siva Lingam

fire altars that show the ceremonial practice of Vedic people who were also known as Aryans,

and symbolism in the performing arts.

You must be familiar with the traditional greeting namaste.

Here is a small clay statue portraying the same.

And this statue shows a woman with red powder in the part of her hair.

Married women even today observe this same custom.

As the Sarasvati-Indus culture declined when the river dried up around 2,000 bce.,many people migrated to more fertile places.

. in eastern & central India, especially along the river Ganga and also beyond the subcontinent.

The four Vedas, the central holy books of Hinduism, were composed in Sanskrit starting at least 6,000 years ago.

The Rig Veda, the earliest of the four, speaks repeatedly of the Sarasvati .

. describing it as the most mighty of rivers, flowing from the Himalayan mountains to the sea.

Thus, we know that a large part of this sacred text was composed well before 2000 bceby which time the river had dried up.

Vedic hymns praise God, Gods and Goddesses and describe a powerful and spiritual people,

their clans, kings and emperors, fights and battles.

Their sophisticated economy included agriculture, industry, trade, commerce and cattle raising.

Vedas call the country Sapta Sindhu, meaning the Land of Seven Rivers.

The words Hindu and India both come from the Sanskrit word Sindhu, which means river.

These vedic hymns describe a form of fire worship, yajna, performed around a specially-built altar.

Archeologists have unearthed such altars in several Sarasvati-Indus cities.

Hindus still perform fire worship in this form.

Originally, these thousands of hymns were not written down, but memorized.

Even today, there are priests who can chant from memory as many as 10,500 verses, which takes 50 hours.

There are dozens of other sacred texts that Hindus revere,

including the Puranas and the writings of illumined sages.

The epics Ramayana and the Mahabharata are traditional histories of India and storehouses of Hindu heritage.

The Ramayana is the story of Lord Rama, seventh incarnation or avatar of Lord Vishnu, and his divine wife, Sita.

The Mahabharata is the worlds longest epic.

It is about a massive war in ancient India between cousins fighting for the throne of a great kingdom.

A central episode called the Bhagavad Gita is a dialog between commander Arjuna and .

. Lord Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, on the day of the battle.

The Mahabharata remains one of the most widespread scriptures in the world, with its dominant message of justice.

Hindu sacred music, dance, drama and the arts draw heavily on these two literary epics.

By 600 bce, the social, religious and philosophical ideas and practices central to Hinduism today were fully evident.

. having emerged from the Indus-Sarasvati culture, the Vedas, Dravidian culture and the tribal religions.

A distinctive feature of society was the varna or class system.

People were classified into groups with specific occupations.

Parents taught their skills to their children from a young age,

providing a strong grounding in their profession or trade. These groups eventually became hereditary.

and workers (including craftsmen and farmers).

However, this class system did not include the various forest tribes.

It also did not include small communities considered untouchable because their occupations were unclean,

such as the cremation ground chandalas,

This system gave identity to the kinship groups

and gave all citizens a sense of belonging, greater social order and stability.

The socially cohesive contributions of caste continue to play a key role.

. in economic, social and political life, most visibly in marriages and elections.

Life in ancient times was hard work for both men and women.

Women were responsible for running the household,

while men for looking after their craft, farm and family security.

In general, women participated equally in religious ceremonies, festivities and social relationships.

Some of the foremost religious and political leaders in Indias history have been women. Some even composed Vedic hymns.

The period from 1000 bce through the Gupta period, ending in the mid-6th century ce.

. was a time of great scientific and mathematical advancement.

Hindus developed the counting system we use today, including the mathematical concepts of zero and decimals.

Indian astronomers knew that the earth orbits the sun and they calculated the length of a year with amazing precision.

Medicine was so advanced that doctors were performing complex surgeries.

. not equaled in Europe until the 18th century.

India was the foremost supplier of steel to the world.

In 400 ce its foundries created an iron pillar which even stands today and has never rusted.

Modern science cannot equal this feat.

For thousands of years India has been home to one quarter of the human family.

It has been honored as a nation of wealth and wisdom

and, of course, it is famous today as the worlds largest democracy.

Hindu beliefs, practices and saints.

The religion of this land, Hinduism, has always been open-minded and tolerant, with the belief that Truth is one, paths are many.

Thus Hindus respect all other religions.

Hinduism is the only major religion that worships God in both male and female form, as well as with and without any attributes.

The original Sanskrit name for Hinduism is Sanatana Dharma, meaning eternal religion.

Most Hindus believe in a Supreme God,

many Gods and Goddesses, spiritual worlds,

the divinity of the soul, dharma, karma, reincarnation, God Realization and liberation from rebirth.

The Supreme God is known by various names, depending on region and denomination:

Brahman, Bhagavan, Siva, Shakti, Vishnu and more.

He-she is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, immanent, that is, present in all things.

. and transcendentbeyond them as well.

God exists within each person as atman, the divine soul.

God Realization describes the experience of the Divine within oneself.

This profound encounter with God is regarded as the ultimate goal of life.

Hindus teach that every human being can know God personally.

Hindus also worship other divinities.

Each divinity has distinct powers and areas of responsibility.

For example, Lord Ganesha is the Remover of Obstacles,

Sarasvati is the Goddess of Knowledge,

and Hanuman is the God of Service and Devotion.

Each Hindu freely chooses the Deities he or she wishes to worship.

Dharma is a cardinal concept in Hinduism.

It includes righteousness, truth, sacred law, ethics, duty, justice, religion and the laws of nature.

Dharma means, that which upholds.

The dharmic principle of ahimsa, or nonviolence, is important to this day.

Mahatma Gandhi led Indias independence in 1947 using nonviolent means

such as peaceful protests, boycotts, strikes and speeches that aroused the nation to throw off British rule.

He once said, Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind.

It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.

In the 1950s, Martin Luther King, Jr. understood the power of Gandhis methods

and went to India to meet his followers.

He later applied those methods to fight for and win civil rights for Americas black minority.

In the same way, Cesar Chavez won rights for the farm workers of California.

Gandhi also inspired Nelson Mandela in his fight for freedom and racial equality in South Africa.

Today everyone knows about the Hindu concept of karma, the law of cause and effect.

It means that anything a person does, whether good or bad,

will eventually return to him in this or a future life.

A popular way of expressing this is, What goes around, comes around.

Reincarnation is the central Indian belief that the soul, atman, is reborn in a new body.

. time and time again, to grow and mature through all the experiences human life has to offer.

Eventually, every soul achieves salvation by realizing its Oneness with God and is no longer reborn.

Hindus do not believe in a Satan or an eternal Hell.

Worship is central to a Hindus life.

So, every Hindu home has a place of worship.

It may be as simple as a shelf with pictures of Deities,

or an entire room dedicated to the familys daily worship.

A worship ceremony called puja, performed elaborately or very simply every day in the temple or in the home shrine.

. invokes the Divine Beings for blessings and happiness.

The puja ceremony includes sacred chanting, bathing the image of the Deity.

. offering food, flowers, incense and other sacred substances, and the waving of lights.

Hindus practice yogic disciplines everyday, called sadhana.

Sitting on the floor, often in a yoga posture, they chant, sing devotional hymns.

. repeat the name of God while counting on beads, or simply meditate in stillness and silence.

The temple is revered as the home of God.

There are millions of temples in India, many quite ancient.

The most important of these mystically designed structures cover hundreds of acres and receive thousands of pilgrims each day.

Every Hindu is expected to pilgrimage to temples and holy places far and wide.

These pilgrimages unify the religion as tens of millions of people travel throughout the subcontinent and interact.

Hinduism has a rich history of sages and saints, both men and women from all castes.

Some of the great saints wrote detailed explanations of the Upanishads and related scriptures.

. such as Adi Shankara in the 8th century ce,

and Vallabhacharya in the 15th.

Others, including Sambandar, Mirabai and Tukaram, expressed their experience of God through devotional songs.

Recent saints include Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Anandamayi Ma, Swaminarayan and Shirdi Sai Baba.

Millions of swamis and other saintly souls make up the spiritual leadership within Hinduism.

Swamis have renounced the world and taken up spiritual life full time.

Special among these are the gurus enlightened men and women who serve as religious teachers.

Some gurus have millions of followers. Others are humble hermits.

Hinduism has no central organization and no single dogma.

No one person or institution is in charge.

Instead, there are thousands of independent guru lineages, spiritual traditions, monastic orders and religious institutions.

Hindus love festivals and enthusiastically celebrate many holy days each year.

The biggest is called Diwali, or Dipavali, the Festival of Lights.

This five-day event, held around the new moon in October or November,

celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness.

Thousands of small lamps, including traditional clay oil lamps, are placed everywhere,

. and fireworks signal hope for mankind.

It is a national holiday in India and in many countries with large Hindu populations.

Barack Obama was the first US President to celebrate Diwali in the White House.

President Barack Obama: I want to wish you all a happy Diwali and a Saal Mubarak.

One special festival, the Kumbha Mela, takes place every three years at four sacred river sites.

The 2013 Kumbha Mela was held at Prayag which is modern day Allahabad, in Northern India.

During the six weeks, 130 million people pilgrimaged there from all across india and the world.

On one day fully 30 million pilgrims were present!

It was the largest human gathering ever held on Earth.

Hinduism has persisted for thousands of years because the dharma, faith and culture.

. have instilled in each Hindu a unique and strong sense of identity, family and spiritual purpose.

It endures because it is a dynamic religion which gives complete freedom of belief and practice, .

accepts that there are many ways to worship God and provides festivals, temples, pilgrimages, gurus and scriptures to illumine the path,

thereby celebrating life itself.

We hope that this documentary has increased your understanding of Hinduism and its history.


The Nagara Style of Hindu Temples

The origin of the Hindu temple is said to be the ancient basic circle of stones within which one cherished holy relics, human or divine. It is the Hindu temple where the contact between man and gods take place and it is also where a man progresses from the world of illusion to knowledge and truth and thus, a temple is not only a place to worship but an object to worship as well (Michell 61-62). A Hindu temple not only shows unique architecture but also symbolizes ideas characteristic in its structure, which are usually related to the common practice of people residing around it. A pilgrimage or visit to a temple is undertaken for the purpose of looking at it (darsana) (Kramrisch 8).

The evolution of Hindu temples occurred over many centuries due to differing views between the rulers of the Indian sub-continent. Emperor Asoka is credited with ordering the construction of the first significant stone structures in India around 3 rd century, BCE. Religious architecture can be tracked back to the Vedic time (1500 – 700 BCE) and practices of temple worship can be traced back to texts from the Puranas and earlier (Michell 63-64). The construction of the temples however was on a small scale back then, which included materials such as timber, baked clay bricks and mud. Caves were naturally the earliest shrines on record and from the 4 th to 7 th century, a classical “golden period” of art and architecture emerged in India. It was this period in which temple building activities grew rapidly all over the country (Singh and Sharma 17). When kings conquered other kingdoms for the purpose of expansion, they reintegrated their thoughts into carvings of antique superstructures. Some stages of architectural patterns still survive to the present day.

A Nagara style temple would generally stand on a high platform (jagati) made of stone bricks, with several mouldings. The identification of the temple with a mountain is specific and the superstructure is known as a “mountain peak” [For more information and visuals, see Michell 69, Fig. 62]. The jagati represents the feet of a man. Over jagati, there is a smaller platform of stones (pitha). Over the pitha, there rises an even smaller platform (adhisthana), which is the base of the superstructure of the temple. The pillars and walls of the temple are raised on the adhisthana (Singh and Sharma 18).

The Nagara style is not native to the mountainous region and some believe it was introduced in the late Gupta period. The Nagara, also known as the sikhara (mountain peak) type, can be divided into three sub-groups: The first is the Phamsana Type . This is the earliest known type of sikhara. It is usually a pyramidal structure divided into seven, nine and eleven tiers. The towering sikhara is crowned by an amalaka, which is a stone disk believed to represent the deity of the temple. A kalasam, a finial from which the temple banner is hung, crowns the amalaka itself. Illustrations of the Phamsana Type can be viewed at the Siva temple at Camunda, the Nrshimha temple at Bharmaur and many others (Singh and Sharma 19). The second is the Latina Type. This type represents most of the stone temples of Nagara style in Himachal Pradesh and is believed to have emerged at the beginning of the 8 th century. The Latina Type temples are curvilinear in nature, following their trademark triratha plan. “The central bands of the superstructure are tall spines of web patterns cast over receding cornices – the creepers (latas) of the Nagara temple’s Latina formula” (Meister 256). An example of this temple would be the Rudranath (Gopinath) temple in Uttrakhand. The third is the Valabhi Type . These temples have a rectangular ground plan, a doorway on one of its longer sides, and a semi-cylindrical sikhara. No Valabhi Types are found in Himachal Pradesh but there are several examples of this type across India. [See Singh and Sharma (2008) for extensive information on the Valabhi Type].

The Nagara style has 2 basic components. The first is garbhagra , a sanctum with only one entrance, in which the image of the main deity is installed (Singh and Sharma 27). “The garbhagrha consists of 4ࡪ = 16 squares, which is equivalent to the Brahmasthana” (Thakur 264). The second component is known as mandapa , a porch in front of the garbhagrha, typically exposed from three sides for the worshippers to assemble for worship. [Refer to Singh and Sharma (2008) for more information on this component of the Nagara style]. Various examples of diverse ideologies of different emperors regarding Nagara temple architecture will be explored in the following cases.

The northern style under the Guptas and their successors (400 CE – 600 CE) portrayed a square sanctuary that connected with a pillared porch. The roof of the sanctuary consisted of horizontal stone slabs and this part lacked a tower. A horizontal molding serves as a cornice on the plain wall surfaces. Uprights that margin the doorway are divided into vertical bands, which continue over the lintel. The porch had columns divided into square, octagonal and sixteen-sided sections with undergrowth centers supporting brackets engraved with pairs of seated animals (Michell 94).

Rock-cut temples were common under the Early Chalukyas, Kalachuris and Rashtrakutas (500 CE – 700 CE). These cave temples contain pillared halls with small chambers cut into the posterior walls. The halls have columnar arrangements, with varieties such as fluted shafts or panels of relief carvings cushion capitals are also employed (Michell 98, Fig. 41). Together with the doorways, these columns display clear northern stylistic characteristics. The brackets of the outer columns of these caves are fashioned to depict amorous couples beneath trees, a motif considered particularly appropriate for the entrance of a temple (Michell 99, Fig. 42). Another variation of the rock-cut temples places the sanctuary in the middle of the columnar hall instead of the posterior wall. The lack of the external access via a flight of steps, sometimes guarded by lions, is characteristic of these caves. The Elephanta cave near Mumbai resembles this type of architecture and one of the main focal points is a three-headed, major sculpture of Lord Siva, also known as the Great Lord, Mahesha (Michell 98-101). Other carved panels nearby are devoted to scenes from the mythology of Siva.

The northern style under the Kalingas and Eastern Gangas (700 CE – 1200 CE) can be seen in some of the Orissan temples such as the Parashurameshvara temple. “The emphasis on the horizontal courses employed in the superstructure of the sanctuary and roof of the adjoining hall is one of their main characteristics. Another key characteristic is the contrast between the vertical profile of the superstructure, curving only at the very top, and the pyramid-like arrangement of hall roof” (Michell 110). In the Vairal Deul temple in Bhubaneshwar, the sanctuary is rectangular and is positioned on a transverse axis to the adjoining hall. The walls of the sanctuary are divided into projections with carved panels, which lead into the lower parts of the superstructure (Michell 111, Fig. 51). As centuries went by, stylistic developments were occurring in the Indian sub-continent. Further stylistic advances may be detected in the Lingaraja temple in Bhubasneshwar (Michell 113, Fig. 53). “The outer walls are divided by a horizontal molding into two registers, as are the tiers of the hall roof, which is surmounted by an inverted bell-shaped fluted form” (Michell 112). This temple was enlarged by the addition of two more halls along the principal axis of the temple to create a sequence of successive interior spaces that was to be copied in later Orissan temples.

The northern style under the Pratiharas and Chandellas (700 CE – 1000 CE) erected several small temples at various sites, which resembled typical northern stylistic features such as a square sanctuary with projecting niches, carved doorways, and towers with curved profile. Distinct stylistic innovations appeared by the 9 th century and one temple built with similar designs is the Telika Mandir at Gwalior (Michell 116, Fig. 57). This temple’s rectangular sanctuary raises the superstructure into a massive dome. The unique expansions on the end of the temple project complex interlocking horseshoe arched designs. These expansions spread onto the horizontal divisions of the tower serving as pediments above the doorways (Michell 116, Fig. 58). When the Chandella kingdom replaced the Pratihara rule, several new temples with unique architectural designs were built in Khajuraho, one of the kingdom’s capital cities. Their tall slender columns characterize the interiors of the Khajuraho temples. Auspicious females support the foliage design that exists on the brackets of these columns. The dome-like ceiling above the central spaces of the porches and halls provides the Khajuraho temples’ chief interest. The ceilings are usually sculptured with cusps that rise in diminishing circles to an overhanging lotus bed. The doorway to this sanctuary is characteristic of a northern manner and the images on the outer walls are floodlit by the lighting from the open balconies (Michell 122, Fig. 63).

The Kandariya Mahadeva Temple at Khajuraho is a classic example of the Nagara temple style produced by the Chandella Dynasty (Khajuraho, India)

The northern style under the Maitrakas and Solankis (700 CE – 1200 CE) erected temples that were small buildings with diminishing stepped mouldings adorned with bold horseshoe arched ‘windows’. The Maitraka rulers built temples near Gujarat after gaining control of the region in the 7 th century. Under the Solanki kings, who took over the Maitrakas, Gujarat developed prolific regional architecture style. The Surya temple at Modhera is widely known for its unique two structures and an artificial tank that resides along the east-west axis (Michell 124, Fig. 64). The hall of this temple has its long side positioned towards the principal emphasis of the temple with its plan spreading outwards in a number of different projections. The balcony slabs have panels with attendant figures carved upon and the brackets of the outer columns of the temple support an overhanging cave (Michel 125, Fig. 65). The temple itself consists of a hall and sanctuary surrounded on three sides by an ambulatory passageway.

The earliest stone Hindu temples in Kashmir and other Himalayan valleys (700 CE – modern period) can be traced back to the 8 th century when Lalitaditya ruled the region. The lower valleys of the Himalayas mark the most northerly extension of Hindu architecture. The Surya temple at Martand was also erected under his patronage. A trilobe arch that frames the doorway is characteristic of the Kashmir style and is well-illustrated in the Siva temple at Pandrethan. The temple has a square sanctuary with entrances on all four sides. A Kashmir characteristic trilobe arch frames the opening. The sloping roof of this temple is divided into two tiers with horseshoe headed ‘windows’. The ceiling of the temple has lotus designs with attendant figures engraved upon (Michell 128, Fig. 67). In the nearby regions of Kulu, Kangra and Chamba, timber and brick buildings dominate the temple forms. Stone is sometimes retained for the doorways and walls of the shrines in these temples. The characteristic northern style can be found in the decoration of the doorframes in these temples.

Two of the earliest surviving brick temples in North India – the Laksmana temple at Sirpur and the Rajivalocana temple at Rajim in south Kosala – preserve superstructures suggestive as much of “Kutina” forms as of the final Latina formula of North Indian Nagara temples (Meister 277, Figs. 21-23). These structures show large single candrasala (“moon-hall”) windows progressing up the central offset of the sikhara and karna-kutas which, while pulled in to the body of the superstructure, have not been absorbed fully into the mass nor condensed beyond recognition. On both temples, these kutas are full miniature structures, presented as small-pillared pavilions with simple superstructures (Meister 288, Figs. 21, 27). In comparison to the Dravidian style, the Indo-European or Nagara style is a curvilinear, beehive shaped tower rather than a pyramid consisting of smaller storeys of smaller pavilions. The base plan itself is usually square in the northern style compared to the pyramidal vimana put on top of the garbhagrha [For information on the Dravidian style, see Michell 127-137].

In modern day India, new temples continue to be erected and older buildings refurbished. Compared to the southern temple style, northern temples are the product of a more discontinuous tradition (Michell 183-184). A temple is a place where one strives for the self-realization, where one finds their true self. It is a place where one may understand their atman/ jiva and possibly, Brahman.


Watch the video: Ο ρόλος της γυναίκας στην Εκκλησία (May 2022).