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Dvarapalas

Dvarapalas 

As I am trying to study Hinduism Could I ask you another question? It is about ‘Dwarapal’.

I know only that they are security guard in Hindu temples, and every Divinity has his/her own Dwarapal. Vishnu, Shiva, Devi and others have those personal Dwarapals. I have seen them, made of stone, in temples in India. But I cannot find any additional information about Dwarapals in Google

Are there any texts about Dwarapals? What kind of beings they are, who they are by nature, what is their role in Hinduism or in worship of Deity? 

Best regards

.

Western Malwa -6th century

 1.1. Dear Atma Raga, Thank you. I am glad you asked the question. It is rather an unusual question, but an interesting one. Let me try.

1.2. Dvarapalas are regular features of a major Hindu or Buddhist temple complex. They are the formidable looking ‘gate-keepers’ and guards in service of the presiding deity of the temple. They are the servants and the protectors of their masters. They are typically envisioned as huge and robust warriors. The pairs of Dvarapalas are most usually placed at the entrance to the temple and also at the door way to sanctum (garbha-griha). As you mentioned, each god or goddess has his or her own set of Dvarapalas.

2.1. Dvarapalas are classified as parivara-devathas, meaning that Dvarapalas are semi-divine beings of a minor class who form the entourage of the main deity they serve. The Shilpa Sastra texts that deal with temple architecture (devalaya-vastu) after describing the temple layout, structure and other aspects  with particular reference to the attributes and disposition of the deity to be installed in the temple , do make a  mention of the nature and appearances of the Dvarapalas to be placed at different locations in the temple complex. There are in addition, numerous Dhyana-slokas, or word-pictures in verse that present graphic details of the form, substance and attribute of the deity and his or her attendants. These verses are meant for contemplation and guidance of the Shilpi, the sculptor. I do not know if there are any texts that deal exclusively with the depiction of the Dvarapalas. They form a detail of the larger picture.

2.2. Since Dvarapalas are parivara-devathas, their appearance, attributes etc have to be in accordance with that of their Master, the principal deity that resides in the sanctum. Therefore their costume, weapons, insignia or emblems are indicative of the powers, virtues and magnificence of the presiding deity. Their appearances and stance herald the nature and disposition of the main deity; and also the affiliation of the temple- such as Shiva, Vishnu, and Devi etc.

3.1. Accordingly, the Dvarapalas in a Vishnu temple are rather placid looking; modestly dressed and ornamented.  They are adorned with the signs and emblems of Vishnu such as the tilaka on their fore heads and urdhvapundra (Nama) on their faces, arms, chest etc.. They carry in their upper hands the conch (shankha) and   discus (chakra); and in the lower hands, the mace (gada) and a noose (pasha, coil of rope). They stand erect, cross-legged leaning on their mace as if they are resting. The gestures of their fingers and the look in their eyes caution one to behave properly in the presence of the divinity. The nature and appearance of the Dvarapalas of Vishnu are described in the Agama texts: Isvara Samhita and Pushkara Samhita.

 

Bhadra                                  Subhadra          

3.2. Similarly, the Dvarapalas in a Shiva temple take after Virabhadra, the ferocious aspect of Shiva. They look fierce with bulging eyes, protruding curved sharp canine teeth, horns (at times); and with their threatening stance and fearsome weapons. They have thick mustaches, bushy eyebrows and  hairy abdomen.  They wear the emblems of Shiva, such as the stripes of ash, animal hides, long flowing unkempt hair etc. They carry a trident, mace, broad-sword and a noose. They look ferocious, gesture ominously and stand planting firmly a foot on the mace. The features of the Dvarapalas of Shiva are described in the latter part (uttarardha) ofKashyapa Shilpa Sastra.

 

3.3. In the Shaktha tradition where the distinctions between the gross and subtle forms are marked and sharp, the Dvarapalas of the female deities who represent the grosser elements of nature are fearsome looking females, modeled after the ferocious aspect of their Mother deity. They carry cutlasses and tridents; wear garlands of skull; and sport wild unkempt hair. Quite often they are portrayed with flashy eyes, long protruding teeth and tongue spread out of the open mouth. The Dvarapalas of the Devi are pictured in Kalika Puranam.’

In the Dakshina-chara School (the right handed method) of Sri Vidya tradition the guarding deities are the physical (sthula) representations of certain symbolic concepts. For instance, the outermost enclosure (avarana) of Sri Chakra, named Bhupura Chakra – the earth stretch, has four gates (dvara). The Eastern gate is the way of the mantras; the Southern gate is the way of devotion or bhakti; the Western gate is for the performance of rites and rituals, or karma-kanda.; and the Northern gate is the way of wisdom, or Jnana. The Mudra devathas, the standard bearers, the approach to the divinities and carrying seals of authority, guard those entrances. They resemble in appearance the auspicious form of the Mother Goddess and carry weapons such as bow, arrows, goad and noose.

4.1. As regards the general features of all Dvarapalas placed in the temples, they are well built, muscular, broad shouldered, very tall and sporting fearsome moustaches. Each is endowed with four arms.  They are elaborately adorned with Kirita (headgear), Bhuja –kirti (shoulder ornaments), karna-kundala (hanging earrings). They are always soldier-like and larger than life; but they can hardly be called very terrifying. The Dvarapala are not provided with halos or garlands. They always carry weapons; and are always depicted as standing guard. Dvarapalas are always in pair or in even numbers. The Agama texts recommend four pairs of Dvarapalas, each pair to guard a cardinal direction.

The Dvarapala images are usually scaled in  saptha  (seven)  tala  or nava (nine) tala measure.   They are made either with two or four arms.

dvarapala brihadisvara bw

4.2. The Dvarapalas, in each case, are in some way associated with their main deity through a legend detailed in a Purana. The Dvarapalas of major deities such as Vishnu or Shiva have recognizable names and specified positions. In the Agamas they are termed Ganeshvara, the chief of the horde.

For instance the four pairs of Dvarapalas of Vishnu are (i) Chanda and Prachanda ;( ii) Dhatru and Vidhatru; (iii) Jaya and Vijaya; and (iv) Bhardra and Subhadra. The first named in each pair stands to the right of the doorway; and the other to the left.

Similarly, the Dvarapalas of Shiva are (i) Nandi and Mahakala (to the East) ;( ii) Herambha and Bhringi (to the South); (iii) Durmukha and Pandura (to the West) and(iv) Sita and Asita (to the North).

The Brahma too is said have four sets of Dvarapalas facing four directions: Satya-Dharma; Priyodbhava – Yajna; Vijaya – Yajnabhadra; and, Sarvakamada – Vibhava.

The Dvarapalas of Skanda are named as Sudeha and Sumukha. They are said to be Brahmin brothers; but , are depicted with four arms.

The four doors of Ganapathi temple are guarded by four sets of Dvarapalas : Avijna – Vijnaraja (East ) ; Suvakthra – Balavan (South ) ; Gajakarna – Gokarna (West ) ; and , Susoumya (Soumya ) – Shubadayaka (Abhaya ) on the North.  They are titled as Ashta-Prathihari (retinue of eight guards). All of them are short statured having cruel looks and carrying fearsome weapons.

Along with the Dvarapalas their subordinates are depicted in minor relief at on the base of the images.

4.3. The pairs of Dvarapalas guarding the temple and placed in its exterior (at the entrances) are larger in size and more ferocious or threatening in appearance , with a “dare not enter” look to their faces and gestures , perhaps to keep away the evil influences. The Dvarapalas flanking the doorway to the sanctum are comparatively modest.

The Dwarapalas in the Hoysala temples are particularly graceful with ornate jewellery to suit the delicately carved interiors; gently holding lotuses as if inviting the devotee to God’s home.

5.1. The historical development in the depictions of Dvarapalas is quite interesting.  The Dvarapalas in the Pallava temples were made fierce. But, the Dvarapalas of the Chola temples are truly awesome intended to strike terror in the hearts of the wicked. They are massive towering up on the walls, snarling you down with sharp oversized fangs, riding on the Yali (mythical beast) making one feel tiny and submissive.   However ,  by the time of Vijayanagar (15-16th century) the Dvarapalas grew a shade smaller but muscular and more ornate; they didn’t appear to lean on a mace or a lance- like weapon but stood tall or cross-legged.

5.2. But the artistic excellence in depicting the Dvarapalas reached its zenith in the Hoysala architecture. Their intricate patterns, adornments are chiselled like a jewel, with extreme care.  They are magnificent works of art in their own right.

6.1. Most of the Dvarapala images are sculpted according to the Agama prescriptions. But the shilpis do tend to improvise and avail artistic liberties. Sometimes, Shilpis the temple architects employed massive Dwarapalas at the entrances to symbolically emphasize the grandeur, majesty and magnificence of the Lord residing in the temple.

For instance, the Dwarapalas at the Brihadeshwara temple of Thanjavur are massive. But, what is more interesting is theme the sculptures devised to drive home the message. The entire Dvarapala panel is basically related to the image of the elephant, the largest land-animal, depicted within its frame; and you have to work back to gain an estimate of the size and power of the Dvarapala.

At the bottom of the panel is the image of an elephant which is being swallowed by a serpent which in turn is coiled around the mace held in the hands of the Dvarapala. The serpent looks quite tiny in comparison to the mace on which the Dvarapala has planted his foot. The mace looks like a toy in the hands of the Dvarapala. You can work-back the size and power of the Dvarapala, staring from the elephant.

The Dvarapalas in turn look modest in comparison to the temple and its tower. The Lord who has in his service such gigantic gatekeepers and who resides in such a magnificent temple must truly be mighty and powerful, true to his name Brihadishwara.

 

**

[A note about Kshetrapalas:

While the Dvarapalas guard the doors of their deities, the Kshetrapala, on the other hand, guards the entire temple –complex. The Kshetrapalas have broader functions; and , in hierarchy placed higher than Dvarapalas.

The Kshetrapala are the protectors of a settlement, a village, a field or a temple. Kshetra literally means a field or specifically a field of activity (In a broader sense the body is the Kshetra the field; and the one who resides in it as the Antaryamin is kshetrajna).

 Kshetrapalas are basically the folk guardian deities who are very popular in village cults.  They are entrusted with the task of safe guarding a Kshetra (a village, a field or a temple) against dangers coming from all the eight spatial directions. In the villages of South India Kshetrapalas are placed in small temples or in open spaces outside of the village..Sometimes in the village open- courtyards blocks of stone are designated and worshipped as Kshetrapala. They are offered worship on occasions of important community celebrations.

In a major temple complex, particularly of Shiva, the Kshetrapala is provided a small shrine on the North-East side within the temple courtyard for safeguarding the temple. Worship is offered to Kshetrapala prior to important rituals, praying for efficient and safe conclusion of that ritual. The Kshetrapala on the other hand have broader functions.

Kshetrapalas are installed and worshipped in Jain and Buddhist traditions also

Buddhist Kshetrapala

The Kshetrapalas are identified with Bhairava the terrible aspect of Shiva; as also with the ferocious looking Veerabhadra the son of Shiva. . According to one legend Siva created Kshetrapala along with others to organize the army of Kali when she went to fight the demon Daruka.

In the Sri Vishvanatha temple at Kasi, the Kshetrapala there also performs the function of Dvarapala, to guard the Lord against impure elements.

When Kshetrapala attends to Mahakala, the Lord of death who resides in the burning Ghats, it is said, Kshetrapala wearing a skull cup, holding a chopper, rides a black bear.

When the Kshetrapala are depicted in images, they are generally:  awe inspiring, terrifying, huge, three eyed, untidy, wielding a number of weapons and usually accompanied by dogs .]

Sources and references

I gratefully acknowledge the line drawings and notes from Brahmiya Chitra Karma Sastram by Dr.G.Gnanananda

The other pictures are courtesy of Internet.

 Gangaikondacholapuram by Dr .R. Nagaswamy

http://tamilartsacademy.com/books/gcpuram/chapter06.html

Indian Temples and Iconography

http://indiatemple.blogspot.com/2005/07/gatekeeper-dvarapalas-in-temple.html

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2012 in Temple Architecture

 

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The Legacy of Chitrasutra – Seven – Brihadishvara

[This is the Seventh article in the series.

This article and its companion posts may be treated as an extension of the series I posted on the  Art of Painting in Ancient India .

The present article looks at the surviving Chola murals (earlyeleventh -century) at the magnificenttemple of Brihadishvara, Thanjavur (Tamil Nadu.)  This temple is a jewel among the Indian temples; and is the best of the Chola temples.

A brief mention is also made of the paintings of the Nayak period (17th century)

In the next article we shall look at the Paintings at the historic temple of Pampa Virupaksha at Hampi (Karnataka) , which belongs to the Vijayanagara School of art. ]

Continued from the Legacy of Chitrasutra – Six – Sri Kailasanatha of Kanchipuram

23. The Big Temple

The greatest of Chola emperors Rajaraja-I (985 A.D – 1012 A.D) the son of Sundara Chola (Parantaka-II) and Vanavanmaha  Devi, built a magnificent temple dedicated to Lord Shiva at Rajarajeshwaram near the head of the Cauvery Delta; and called their Lord as Rajarajesvara udaiya Paramasami (The Great God who resides at Rajarajeshwaram).

Thanjavur Brihadishwara3

Rajaraja also affectionately addressed his god as Peruvudaiyar (the great lord or the great master); and, his temple as Peruvudaiyar-kovil. The epigraphic evidences suggest that Rajaraja commenced his temple building project in the 19th year of his reign and completed it successfully on the 257th day in the 25th year of his reign (c.1010 AD). 

Tanjore temple by Capt. Trapaud - 1788.

Watercolour of the Brihadishvara temple at Thanjavur with a tank in the foreground, by  Col. Elisha Trapaud (1750-1828), c.1785.

Thanjavur pagoda

Pagoda at Thanjavur,  – 1797 Coloured etching by William Hodges

Thanjavur pagoda.3 jpg

 Thomas and William Daniell’s ‘Oriental Scenery’-1798

Thanjavur pagoda.2 jpg

Pagoda at Tanjore – 1809- from Salt’s ‘Twenty Four Views ‘

In the early eighth century, the Rājasiheśvara (Kailāsanātha) temple at Kancipuram was probably the largest structural temple complex; with the highest Vimāna thus far built anywhere in India. It was successfully completed in just a matter of six years;  a remarkable feat; especially when you consider that   the hard granite stones that went into the construction of the huge temple were not found anywhere nears the project site.

Tanjore temple William Daniell 1798

by William Daniel -1798

The central temple located in the western part of a large rectangular Prākāra (walled enclosure), which is encircled by more than 50 Devakulikās (subsidiary shrines).The surface of these sub shrines as well as the spaces between them are carved with hundreds of sculptures, all related to Śhaiva iconography, thus assembling the largest pantheon of Śhivamūrtis perhaps ever created in India. Also the temple’s main body (Vimāna) with originally at least seven Parivāra shrines built against its outer walls is carved all over with different forms of Shiva.

The layout of the temple follows a very precise and well-planned concept.  The outer walls of the two-storied vimāna, Ardhamatapa and Mukhamatapa are embellished with niches all containing Shiva-mūrtis; whereas the niches of the first storey show different forms of Shiva, with a Tripurāntaka placed in the northern niche inside the Ardhamatapa facing east. All the 32 niches of the second storey are exclusively filled with images of Tripurāntaka. Thus, there are, in all, 33 life-size standing stone sculptures of Tripurāntaka, the largest number of a single Mūrti   ever installed as niche figures on the walls of a single temple.

The whole central temple (Vimāna-chariot of the gods”) at Tanjavur with its overwhelming presence of Tripurāntaka images could be regarded as symbolically depicting Lord Tripurāntaka’s chariot.

23.2. The inscriptions at the temple indicate that Rajarajesvaram was exclusively a royal temple conceived, designed, and managed by the Emperor himself. The Big – Temple was, in a way, an expression of the devotion as well as the power and grandeur of Rajaraja Chola. It also became a benchmark in the south Indian architecture, highlighting the maturity and technical excellence achieved by the Chola architects and sculptures.

Tanjore temple

23.3. The crowning glory of the temple is the staggering cupola of the Vimana comprising two huge, sculpted, granite blocks weighing 40 tonnes each. The engineering skills and the expertise that mounted  these huge stones atop the fourteen story  high tower structure, standing  over 216 feet tall organized by pilasters that break up the facade of the base creating spaces for niches and windows in between,   must have been way ahead of their times. Legend says that the stone was brought from Sarapallam (scaffold-hollow), four miles north-east of the city, using a specially designed ramp. The basement of the structure which supports the tower is 96 feet square. The architects and engineers attribute the stability of the massive temple to its pyramidal structure, more robust than the complex curvilinear profiles of other styles.

brihadisvaraornate-gopuram-tower-of-the-main-entrance

23.4. In course of time (17th to 19th centuries) the territory came under the rule of the Maratha Nayak rulers .They added various shrines and Gopuras within the temple complex. During their time, the temple came to be known as Brihadisvaram; and its presiding deity as Brihadisvara. The temple-city came to be known as Thanjavur. In Tamil, the temple is the Thanjai Periya- kovil (the Big-temple of Thanjavur).

brihadeshwara dwaja

24. The Paintings

24.1. During the reign of King Vijaya Raghava Nayak (1645-1673), the restoration and improvement works were undertaken in the temple. Due to constant exposure to smoke and soot from the lamps and burning of camphor in the sanctum over a period of centuries, certain parts of the Chola paintings on the circumbulatory passage walls had been badly damaged. The artists of the Nayak period tried to set it right, as they thought it fit; and decided to replace the old paintings with paintings of their own. They went on to paint their pictures over the thousand year old Chola murals; covering the old murals completely. The modern day scholars could not help remark that the artists of the Nayaks’ rather overdid their task.

24.2. How the underlying Chola   murals again saw the light of the day after incarceration of about four hundred years, is an interesting story. It is said that, during the year 1930, while late Professor S.K. Govindasamy of Annamalai University was inspecting the walls of the six-foot wide dim lit  ambulatory (pradakshina patha) around the sanctum of the Brihadisvara, he noticed that the painted surfaces on the walls on either side of the ambulatory had,  at places, crumbled exposing some exquisite ancient paintings. He examined it further; and was thrilled when he discovered that the paintings hidden underneath the Nayak paintings were the thousand-year-old murals of the time of Rajaraja Chola. Professor S.K. Govindasamy published his findings in the Journal of the Annamalai University, Vol. II, 1933. Thereafter, attempts were made to bring to light the Chola murals; and at the same time to preserve the paintings of the Nayak period.

         The passage

24.3. The Department of Archaeology has done a remarkable conservation of scientifically cleaning the exposed portions revealing the excellence of the Chola paintings and at the same time retaining intact the upper layer on which the Nayak paintings are drawn. It is said that during the 1980s, the chemical branch of the ASI came out with a unique `de-stucco’ process to remove the upper layer of Nayak paintings and display the same on fiberglass boards. For a report on that, please check:

http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/fr/2003/02/28/stories/2003022801300600.htm
http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2410/stories/20070601000106500.htm

[ Incidentally, etched on the  Gopuram  of the Brihadeshvara temple , there is a figure of a man wearing a hat and a coat. There is no clear explanation about who this person was; and, how he came to be illustrated on the temple Gopuram. ]

Brihadesvara Tanjore man with a hat

25. The Chola panels

25.1. The magnificent temple of Brihadisvara at Thanjavur is a splendorous jewel of Indian temple art and architecture.

The original Chola paintings, so far brought to surface, are mainly in the corridors of the ambulatory around the sanctum. They are on the South, North and Western walls of the sanctum.

The Maratha Nayak paintings (18-19th century) are on the ceiling of the adjoining great-hall (maha-mantapa); on the west and north walls of another pavilion (tiruchchurru-maaligai); and on the walls of the mantapa in front of the Subramanian shrine.

( For the paintings of the Nayaks’ period : please see the Appendix posted as Part 8 )

25.2. The themes depicted in the panels so far exposed (1,200 sq ft) are : Shiva as Dakshinamurthy; the story of Sundarar; Rajaraja and his three queens worshipping Nataraja at Chidambaram; Tripurantaka; the marriage of Shiva and Parvathi; Rajaraja worshipping the Linga to be enshrined in the temple; and Ravana at Kailasa mountain.

Sadly, none of these is panels is complete. The figures too are not very clear; and it is difficult to make out the details. But for the efforts of ASI these ancient wall-paintings would have been totally lost.

Let’s take a brief look at some those panels.

25.3. The Dakshinamurthy panel

The Dakshinamurthi panel is rather huge and occupies almost the entire  space  on the southern wall. It is often cited as an example for lucidity and display of imagination in Chola paintings. It depicts Shiva as Dakshinamurthi under a banyan tree.

However, the figure of Dakshinamurthy is barely visible. The panel is very rich in details; it is populated with sages, Bhirava as dog, playful monkeys and birds such as peacocks, swans and owls.

There is a stillness of body and reverence on the face of the sages worshipping Dakshinamurthi, in contrast to the vivacious animals. Flying apsaras and gandharvas (celestial beings)complete the scene .But as a cobra enters the picture; there is a sudden change in the scenery. A monkey rushes away while another stares at the new entrant. Another, on a faraway branch, is not yet aware of the danger. A few sensitive swans flutter their wings in fear. The owls do not react as the whole thing happens in daylight. A peacock bends his long neck to watch. A squirrel, unmindful of all this, happily bites into a nut. Below the tree is a herd of elephants; one ferociously breaks a branch and another runs uphill with its trunk coiled around the branch. Another one calmly enjoys the peaceful surroundings.

The other panels are fragmentary but they, too, contain some marvellously drawn figures, bearing testimony to the skilful brushwork of the Chola artists.

25.4. There are also the graceful pictures of the Apsaras.

25.5. Saint Sundaramurti Nayanar

The panel on the west wall depicts the episodes in the life of Saint Sundaramurti Nayanar. In this panel the scenes of Sundara’s wedding are depicted in detail. These include scenes of Lord Shiva appearing in the guise of an old man clutching a document proving his claim over the bridegroom Sundara, an angry Sundara in a white coat , examination of the document by the villagers assembled there, and Sundara appealing to the mercy of Shiva etc.

  

25.6. The scene of Indra (the king of gods)   worshipping the Linga is on the opposite wall.

25.7. The next panel in northwest corner is the scene of four disciples who are now

identified as disciples (Kuravars: Sanka, Sananda, Sanathana, and Sanathkumara) of Sri Dakshinamurthy. Two figures among them were earlier assumed to be that of Rajaraja standing behind his Guru, Karuvurdevar, portraying a sense of humility. Now, the scholars seem to doubt that plausible explanation.

25.8. Tripuranthaka theme of Shiva raiding a chariot like a warrior, going into a war fully armed and wielding a bow, followed by an army of his supporters was a favourite of the Cholas. The Brihadisvara too has a panel dedicated to Tripurantaka. It must have once been a magnificent and awe inspiring painting, bringing to life the power, glory and the grandeur of the imperial Cholas and their Lord. It is said that Shiva in the mural had a twin expression: the ferociousness in the eye and the sweet smile on the lips. The daemons too have been depicted in detail. The panel, sadly, has not survived in its entirety.

The demon with his consort on the Tripurantaka panel.

25.9. There is a picture of Ravana at Kailasa the snow-abode of Shiva; labouring hard to destabilize mountain peak.

26.Prof. C. Sivaramamurthy , a scholar and art historian of great distinction, described the Chola frescoes of the Thanjavur Big Temple as a masterpiece of Chola art, distinguished by power, grandeur, rhythm and composition, and unparalleled by any other contemporary painting. What is significant about the Chola paintings of Thanjavur is that there is great emotion in all the faces, whether it is the compassion of the guru counselling Rajaraja, or a contemplative rishi, a devout queen, an animated dancer or an angry Shiva.

26.1. Those who have examined the Chola paintings closely have observed that even while depicting a sombre theme of devotion, the artist does not neglect the mundane aspects. The bedecked royal ladies continue to chatter among themselves, in spite of their being in a holy place. In contrast, the common ladies and elders seem absorbed in the performance.

 

26.2. According to Prof. C. Sivaramamurthy, “If expression has to be taken as the criterion, by which a great art has to be judged, it is here in abundance in these Chola paintings. The sentiment of heroism – vira rasa– is clearly seen in Tripurantaka’s face and form; the figures and attitude of the Rakshasas (demons) … wailing tear-stained faces of their women… suggest an emotion of pity – karuna– and terror – raudra; Siva as Dakshinamurthy… is the mirror of peace – shanta; the hands… of the dancer suggests the spirit of wonder – adbhuta… the ganas (Shiva’s followers) in comic attitude represent hasya. The commingling of emotions is complete in this which is a jumble ofvira, raudraand karuna” (Paintings of South India).

 

27. The Chola artists of the Brihadisvara murals were the inheritors of the hoary tradition of Chitrasutra. They preserved and practiced the concepts and the techniques of the Chitrasutra. The delineation of lines, use of colours and shades, arrangement of the figures on the canvass and treatment of the subject strongly resemble the murals of Ajanta. Its figures are alive with rhythm and movement.

 

The saints, kings and queens are celebrated in their idealized forms; the emphasis was on the ideal person behind the human lineaments rather than on their physical likeness. They figures of humans, animals, birds and vegetation always seem to suggest to something beyond the obvious. Its gods and goddesses too are full of virtue, vitality and grace; and have a universal appeal. They not merely stimulate the senses but also ignite the imagination of the viewer and set the viewer free from the confines of place, time and ego (self).The Chola murals of Brihadisvara have that magical quality, which brings out the essence of life and the grace that permeate the whole of existence.

[ I gratefully acknowledge the corrections and improvements suggested by Shri Vijay Kumar the creator of the delightfully articulate website on Shilpa and other related subjects :  http://www.poetryinstone.in ] 

For the paintings of the Nayaks’ period : please see the Appendix posted as Part 8

And
Next

The Vijayanagar period paintings on the ceilings of the Sri Pampa Virupaksha temple, Hampi (Karnataka)

 

References and Sources:

The Big Temple

http://www.thanjavur.com/bragathe.htm

http://www.thebigtemple.com/emperor_rajaraja.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chola_art

The Great God of Rajarajeshwaram

http://www.whatisindia.com/opinion/2006/03/wis20060331_the_great_god_of_rajeshwaram.html

Restoration of Chola paintings by ASI

http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/fr/2003/02/28/stories/2003022801300600.htm

http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2410/stories/20070601000106500.htm

http://www.thebigtemple.com/frescos.html

http://www.hindu.com/2005/12/24/stories/2005122406380400.htm

A.A.S.A.I: Paintings Preservation

http://conserveheritage.org/paintingpreservation.html

Legends across panels by Nandtha Krishna

http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/thscrip/print.pl?file=2004061300370200.htm&date=2004/06/13/&prd=mag&

The Swami as photographer

http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/mp/2005/06/20/stories/2005062000400500.htm

Tanjavur Paintings in Koviloor, Sittannavasal, Panamalai, Tanjavur Early Chola Paintings;

Photographed  by C. Nachiappan (Koviloor Swamy), Kalakshetra Publications.

http://saigan.com/heritage/articles/cholamrl.html 

https://www.academia.edu/27054217/2016__Three_Royal_Temple_Foundations_in_South_India_Tripurantaka_Imagery_as_a_Statement_of_Political_Power email_work_card=view-paper

ALL IMAGES ARE FROM INTERNET

 

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Temple Architecture – Devalaya Vastu – Part Nine (9 of 9)

Some norms adopted in the Shipla shastra

I. Determination of cardinal points (Dik nirnaya)

In Sanskrit, the root, ma, stands for that which gives existence to a thing, gives it a reality in our world; and demonstrates the relation between things. The term matir, for mother is derived from that root ma.There is a close relation in the Indian thought, between measurement (maa_na) and creation.Measurement separates and differentiates the elements of the world and provides them an identity or a recognizable standard form. Perhaps the first act of measurement in our universe was the breaking of the barrier between time and timelessness; and, it surely saved our existence from perpetual chaos.

Maana not merely measures the elements of space and time, but also governs the standard of ones conduct in life.

It is said that the ritual of measurement performed at the commencement of the temple building or of a Vedic altar is a re-enactment of creation of the world. The importance accorded to precise orientation and precise measurements in the construction of the temple reveals the symbolism involved in the act. The Sanskrit term, vimana, referred to the temple signifies a ‘well-measured’ or “well-proportioned” structure. The standard texts on temple architecture carry extensive discussions on the systems of proportional measurements and the techniques employed for determining true cardinal points.

The ancient text Shathapatha Brahmana repeatedly refers to the term prachee meaning the correct East-West line. Ascertaining the exact cardinal points and drawing the East-West line (prachee) was one of the primary concerns of the ancients. It was considered essential to align any auspicious structure say, yupa, the sacrificial altar; a mantapa, the pavilion; or a temple, along the prachee.

prācī hi devānāṃ digatho udañcamudīcī hi manuṣyāṇāṃ / dik amaṅgulibhireva yoyupyeranna kāṣṭhairdārubhirvā itaraṃ śavaṃ vyṛṣanti / nettathā karavāma yathetaraṃ śavamiti tasmādaṅgulibhireva yoyupyeranna/ kāṣṭhairyadā hotā sūktavākamāha – Sa.pa, Br. 1.8.3.[18]

The Sulaba Sutras of Bhodayana and Kathyayana too describe methods to determine true cardinal points.

The Yajna altar of the Vedic times, which was reconstructed each year around the time of vernal equinox, carried a rich symbolism. The altar built of five layers, represented the five seasons, five elements and five directions. The altar was surrounded by a wall of 360 bricks representing 360 days of the year. The fired bricks symbolized the elements of fire, earth, and water. The akasha   provided space and air by breathing upon the bricks of the altar and bringing them to life.

The Shilpa Shastra texts, such as Kashyapa Shilpa sutraVastu Vidya; Vishwakarma Vastu Shastra; Shilpa Rathnam; Ishana Shiva Guru Doctrine and Manasara etc   too discuss elaborately the instruments and the methods employed to determine true directions.

The instrument that the texts talk about in this regard is the Sanku Yantra or the gnomon. The gnomon is probably mankind’s oldest astronomical device.  The Sanku in its simplest form is a piece of sharp edged, smooth surfaced  pole made of wood or other material, firmly  erected perpendicular to a leveled ground rendered “as smooth as a mirror“, The method uses the movement of the Sun and the shadows it casts . And, it is often described as the Indian Circle Method.

The Sanku (gnomon) or its variations were used by all ancient civilizations for determining the east-west direction and also for knowing time. The Indian astronomers also used it for the determination of the solstices, the equinoxes and the geographical latitudes. For instance, Brahmagupta described a conical gnomon, the staff (yasti) of which represented the radius of the celestial sphere and was used for determination of the position of heavenly bodies, and also for terrestrial surveying. The Sawai Jai Singh’s Observatories at Ujjain includes a Sanku Yantra. (Please check:

http://www.engr.mun.ca/~asharan/JAI_SINGH/index.html )

Sanku Yantra at Ujjain

Sundial-at-Jantar-Mantar-in-Jaipur

For the limited purpose of our discussion, let us confine to the Sanku discussed in the texts of Shilpa Shastras and its use for determining the cardinal points. Each text of the Shilpa Shastra  recommends its own set of specifications for the height and girth of the gnomon; the material or the wood to be used for making the gnomon; the mode of embedding the gnomon into the earth; the type of ropes and the pegs to be used; and the measurements to be taken etc. Some of the salient recommendations of only four of Shilpa texts are briefly tabulated under.

Temple Architecture part 9 corrections2

Before drawing the plans and designs for a temple, the orientation of the site has to be established properly. The best way to go about it is to commence the exercise at a time when the sun is in the northern part of the sky, and on a day when there are no sunspots disfiguring its visible surface.

Before erecting the Sanku pole, it is essential that the ground is rendered absolutely clean, smooth and flat. The Mayamata and Manasara describe what is called as “water method” to ensure an even and a flat surfaced ground. The selected ground, in a square shape, is leveled and enclosed by a frame of bricks; and is filled with water. Then, with the aid of a measuring rod the height of water at different points are checked to ensure that the water column is of same height throughout. After it is dried out the uneven surfaces, wrinkles and blotches are corrected and evened out by suitably increasing/decreasing the level at selected points.

The Vastu Vidya Shilpa text suggests an improvement over the above method. After the leveling by water-method has been carried out, it recommends the use of a device called avanatha constructed out of three wodden strips of equal length (25 inches each).An equilateral triangle constructed out of the three wodden strips is placed at different points on the prepared ground. If the pendulum (plumb line) suspended from the apex of the triangle stayserect at all test-points; it means that the pegs stand at equal height. If not, suitale corrections have to be carried out, until it is required. Finally, after the ground has been dried, cleaned and fine-leveled, it again is checked by the avanatha.

The Sanku has to be erected in the mid region of the prepared ground. The ritual of erecting the Sanku is called Sanku_sthapana. The sanku is made of either ivory or the seasoned kadira (hard) wood which does not bend in the heat of the sun. Its surface should be smooth, perfectly circular and without irregularities; and pointed at one end.

The total length of the sanku would normally be 18 inches; of which six inches would be under the ground level. The effective height of sanku, above ground, would normally be 12 inches. The Manasara text however recommends 24 inches as the best (uttama) and 18 inches as next-best (madhyama) height of the Sanku. The girth of the Sanku at its bottom should range between two inches to six inches. Its top-end should be pointed; but it should not be too thin; else it might be difficult to mark its shadow on the ground, especially during the evenings. The diameters at the top and bottom should be proportionate to their length.

The Sanku should be fixed firmly and it should stand perpendicular to the ground. With the base of the Sanku as the centre, a circle should be described around the sanku, having a radius equal to twice the height of the Sanku. It is argued that the radius of that circle should not be too long; nor should it be too short. In either case of extreme, it would be difficult to obtain correct readings, especially during the evenings. Most texts recommend that the radius should be twice the height of the Sanku.

[There is some confusion here. Some texts say the diameter (vyasa) should be twice the height of the Sanku. While some other texts say that the radius (trigya) should be twice the height of the Sanku. But all texts say that the radius should not be less than the height of the Sanku. I have, in the interest of uniformity, adopted here the radius as equal to twice the height of the Sanku.]

The Shilpa texts such as Shilpa DipikaRaja_vallabha and Kunda _siddhi recommend a unique method to ensure that the Sanku is standing perpendicular to the ground. They suggest that in case the height of the Sanku is 12 inches, a circle should be described with the base of Sanku as the centre and with a radius of 16 inches. This in effect forms a right angled triangle , with the radius as the base of the triangle (16 inches), the Sanku as its height (12 inches); and the string(rajju) connecting the top of the Sanku to the point of intersection of the base of the triangle with the circle forming the hypotenuse. If the sanku stands absolutely perpendicular then the string (hypotenuse) should measure exactly 20 inches. This exercise was based on the theory of Brahmagupta (6thcentury AD) otherwise known as the Pythagorean Theorem.

Now, having completed the preliminary work — of leveling and smoothening the ground; erecting the sanku ; and drawing a circle , round its base, with a radius equal to twice  its height — you proceed with the task of  determining the cardinal points with the help of gnomon. It is recommended that the first reading is taken at sunrise during a month when the solar path is towards the north (uttarayana) during a bright fortnight when sunrise is clear, when there are no spots in the solar disc and when the sun is in the asterism of the appropriate fortnight.

As the sun rises in the morning, you keep observing the sanku’s shadow. When the shadow of the top of the Sanku just falls on the circle, mark the point. By evening, when the shadow of the sanku gets longer, you again mark the point where the shadow intersects the circle.Connect the two points with a straight line. This line points directly East-West. This East-West line is called prachee. A line perpendicular to the E-W line is the north-south direction.

In this method, as the sun rises in the east, the shadow points west. Then, as the day advances, the shadow first swings to the north and then to the east, as the sun travels to west.The problem with this method is that the shadows are shorter in the summer than in the winter, because the earth is tilted toward the sun in summer and away from the sun in the winter. Another issue is that the sun moves most rapidly at the equinoxes. And, therefore the points marked on the circle indicate   only approximately correct directions.

An improvement over this method is the drawing of circles with these East and West points as centres. The radius of the circles is the distance between those East and West points. The intersection of these circles creates a fish shaped figure. A line drawn between the points where the two circles intersect indicate the geographic North-South.

  

***

In Uttarayana Punyakala or Makara Sankranti, Sun in his entourage, after touching the southernmost tip of his path (23.5 degrees or Circle of Tropic of Capricorn – Makara Sankranti Vritta), he reverses his movement from travelling in southern direction and from that day onwards he starts travelling in the Northern direction for next six months, from Makara up to Mithuna signs, till he reaches northernmost tip of his path (23.5 degrees or Circle of Tropic of Cancer – Karkataka Sankranti Vritta). From that point, which termed as Dakshinayana Punya Kala, again he starts travelling in Southern direction, again for another six months, from Kataka up to Dhanu signs, till he reaches the circle of tropic of Capricorn. Utarayana can also be explained as the progress of the Sun to the north of equator – The Summer solstice. Dakshinayana is the progress of Sun to the south of the equator – The winter half of the year.

In a period of six months as the sun moves from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Tropic of Cancer his position shifts by 47 degrees. That is, the sun’s position shifts by about 8 degrees in each month. Accordingly, the sun shadow on the ground too shifts gradually during this period. Theoretically, the Indian circle method leads to the error up to 8′ in the time near spring and autumn equinox (March and September). If the East-West line (prachee) has to be fixed accurately, the readings taken earlier need to be fine-tuned. The Shiva Guru Doctrine suggests the following method in this regard.

The shadow points of the Sanku intersecting the circle drawn around it should be marked everyday both in the morning. Over a period of time these markings form a curvaceous line or an arc. Further, when the shadow of the Sanku is within the circle, three points have to be marked three circles should be drawn with these three points as the centre. The points of intersections of these circles should be marked. Let us name these points as A-a; and B-b. When the lines joining A-a  and B-b are joined and extended backwards they converge in the point N, as shown in the following diagram. A line drawn at 90 degrees to the line indicating North would be the East-West line.

***

As the sun rises and sets at shifting points on the horizon, the vertical gnomon casts its shadow in different directions on different days of the year, while the length of shadow also varies from day to day through the year.

The shadow of the sun will on any given day of the year follow a curved path from west towards east. From spring equinox to autumn equinox the path will curve towards south. From autumn equinox to spring equinox (yellow area above) the curving is northerly.

The amount by which the sun changes its declination during the day decreases as the sun moves away from equinox, and on the days of solstice the change is zero.

Shilpa Shastras caution that the points marked out on the ground based on the shadows cast by the sanku do not therefore indicate the true cardinal points. The readings need to be suitably corrected depending on the movement of the sun.

The texts suggest that the East- West line should be established with adjustments- by reduction- of the following numbers of digits for each ten day period of each month. There, again, is no uniformity in this regard. The corrections suggested by each text are different. Please see the following table for the month -wise corrections suggested by two major texts.

Temple Architecture part 9 corrections

After carrying out the corrections, you plot the readings and draw the lines and arcs. The final drawing will look as under.

The East-West line is named Brahma Sutra; The North-South line is named Yama Sutra; and, the Diagonal lines are named Karna Rekhas. The entire exercise is called Dik parchheda or Prachee sadhana, which is achieving the true cardinal points.

Guided by the stars

The practice of determining the directions, based on the position of stars is rather ancient. TheKathyayaneeya sulba sutra mentions that the true East can be determined with reference to the position of the pairs of stars: Chiita and Swathi;Shravana  and Prathi  shravana;Krutthika and Prathi krutthika; and Pushya and Punarvasu , when they are 86 inches above the horizon. The text however does not detail the method to be employed. There is no description, either, of Prathi Shravana and Prathi Krutthika stars.

The Shilpa texts –Kathyayaneeya sulba sutra, Raja Vallabha and Shilpa deepika– mention that the line connecting the polar star (dhruva) and the two stars of the Ursa Major (Saptha Rishi mandala) , when extended would point to North.

***

A few points need to be mentioned by way of clarification.

The exercises described were undertaken to find the geographic North Pole which is the pole about which the Earth seems to spin. They were not talking about the Magnetic North Pole.

The Magnetic North Pole is currently wandering at a few kilometers per year through the far north of Canada, while the Geographic North Pole is in the Arctic..

The methods which we discussed so far were being followed by the Shiplis until about the 17thcentury .Thereafter, with the introduction of magnetic compasses, the ancient methods were given up. Now everyone goes by the compass to ascertain the directions. Yet, many feel that determining the geographic north, as the ancient did, is a superior method.

Incidentally, the diagram, based on the Sanku method, for positioning the yupa, the sacrificial altar, looked as shown below.

****

II. Four Types of Architects

The ancients mention four types of architects – the Sthapati, Sutragrahin, Vardhaki and Takshaka.

The Sthapati is the chief architect or master builderempowered to plan, design and direct the construction from the beginning to the end. He is well-qualified in Shastras and the Vedas. He is pictured as a cultured, decent man free from vices. He has the ability to direct his team. 

The Sutragrahin is the supervisor and is said to be normally the Sthapati’s son or disciple. He is also well-qualified in the Vedas and Sastras. He is an expert draftsman or Rekhagna, who directs the rest of the work force. His job is to see that all building parts are aligned correctly. He should be able to give instructions to the other craftsmen.

The Vardhaki is the painter and has made a special study of it. He is also well-versed in the Vedas. Vardhaki joins together the building elements shaped by Taksaka.

Taksaka is the craftsman who cuts and shapes the building elements. The Takshaka is also the master carpenter who is responsible for all the intricate wood work including doors, windows, pillars etc.

These four classes are considered the representations of Viswakarma, Maya, Manu and Twasta, the sons of Brahma, the creator.

Acharya is the learned preceptor who gives the yajamana (one who sponsors the temple project) the necessary advice and guidance in selecting the proper site, the sthapati and other silpins. The sthapati, yajamana and the ahcarya form the trinity of vastusthapana (construction); they are compared to Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra .

 ****

III .Building Materials used in temple architecture

The building materials that are prominently used in temple construction are the stone, the bricks and the wood (apart from earth which we discussed separately in the earlier part of this series). The Shilpa texts describe in detail the nature of these materials and the criteria for their selection, for various purposes. Let us take a quick look at these three materials.

Kedareshvara_temple_Balligavi

A.Stones

The stones are the major ingredients in temple construction. One cannot think of a temple constructed without using stones. It is therefore natural that the Shilpa texts discuss the stones quite elaborately.

Porch of Parvati's Temple at Chillambram - 1847

The following, in brief, is the summarized observations and recommendations of some shilpa texts.

The stones collected from open source such as mountain or hill are stronger and more durable as compared to those dug out of earth. Similarly, the stones or boulders dug out from the coastal areas are considered weak, as they could be eroded by the chemicals and the salt content of the sea. They are not considered fit to bear heavy loads. The reason for preferring the stones from hills or mountains could be that they are well seasoned by constant exposure to the vagaries of weather; and are unaffected by salts and other chemicals.

Stone should be free from lines, patches, blotches, blots and cracks or other faults. The white lines or patches in a black or other coloured stone are acceptable. But, black lines or black patches in white or other coloured stones are not acceptable at all. The explanation given is, the white lines, the patches of quartz, strengthen the rock structure; while black lines of baser materials weaken the stones. The traces of chlorite or olivine cause green or black patches and weaken the stones; therefore, such stones are not recommended for temple construction. The Vishnu Darmottara Purana talks in great detail about the faults in the rocks and the methods to test the rocks.

Stones such as marble, steatite, khondalite, sandstone, basalt etc are not fit for carving a diety. They are not recommended in load bearing areas, either. They could be used in other areas, if needed.

Akshardham2

Colour

As regards their colour, the stones are of four basic colours: white, red, yellow and black. Some of them could be tainted with traces of other colours. Stones of white colour are regarded the best for temple construction. The next in the order of preference are the red, yellow and black coloured stones. . It is preferable to use uniformly the stones of the same colour.

The Kashyapa Shilpa mentions seven categories of white stones: white as milk, as the conch, as jasmine, as moon, as pearl, as alum and as the kundapushpa (a variety of jasmine).The white stones with traces of blue or slight brown or bee-like black lines are considered good for temple construction.

The red coloured stones are of five types: Red as red hibiscus flower (japa kusuma), as kinsuka(bright red), as the indragopa insect, as parijatha flower, as the blood of a rabbit, and as pomegranate flower.

The yellow colour of the stones is of two types: yellow as the Banduka flower, and as koranti flower.

The black of the stones comes in ten colours: black as the pupil of the eye, as mascara, blue lotus, as bee, as the neck of peacock, as kapila cow, as urd gram etc.

“Age”

The stones are also classified according to their “age”-: child (baala), youthful (taruna) and the old (vriddha).

If a stone when tapped gives out a faint sound or the sound is as that of mud, or of half burnt brick; such stones are classified as baala– the child; to mean raw or immature. The baala stones are not fit for making idols or for bearing loads.

If a stone when struck produces the sound resembling the ring of a bell and if such sound resonates for quite a while, such a stone is classified as taruna youthful. Such stone should have a cold touch and a soft feel. If the stones emanate fragrance it is much better. The taruna– the youthful – stones are fit for carving images and for crucial areas of temple.

An old, the vriddha, stone does not give out any sound and has a dry appearance.It gives the touch and feel of a frog or a fish. It might have many holes or might be in a state of decay. Such old and spent stones are not fit for making images or for load bearing areas.

“Gender”

Stones are also classified according to their “gender”. Those stones which give bronze sound at the hammer   weight are called “male’. Those which give brass sound are called “female’. And, those that do not produce any sound are called genderless (neuter).

A hollow stone may be taken as pregnant and hence should be discarded. When smeared with a paste, overnight, it changes its colour. Shilpa Ratna describes dozens of such pates Some stones are said to carry poisonous effects. These stones too should be tested by application a paste; and should not be used.

It is suggested that male stones are used for carving male deities; female stones are used for carving female deities; and the neuter stones are used for other constructions. Further it is said, the male stones could also be used for construction of sikhara (tower) and stone walls; the female stone could be used for structures above foundations; and the neuter stones could be used for foundations.

Male stones are big, round or polygonal, are of a singular shape and uniform colour; they are weighty and give out sparks when hammered. When dug out, its apex will be towards north. If the apex is inclined towards north or west facing, the rock is considered inauspicious. Highly compact rocks like dolerites, bronzites, proxenites and peridoties as well as lamprophyres are regarded male rocks.

A female rock is of medium weight , square or octagonal, thick at root and thin near the apex, cold to touch, soft to feel and on being struck gives out sonorous notes like that of a mridanga (drum).

A neuter gender stone is one that doesn’t give any sound on being struck and narrow towards its bottom and triangular on its upper side ; and such stones may be used only for the foundation.

aihole

  seventh century temple at Aihole, Karnataka

[ About Chisels and carving – Khanitra-pancakam srestharn -excerpts from Pride of India: A Glimpse Into India’s Scientific Heritage

Five types of chisels are good. The different varieties are lanji (biting), langali (plough like), grdhradanti (like vulture teeth), sucimukha (needle tipped) and vajra (diamond like). All are made up of steel and each one of two types is narrow and broad.

Men beat the chisel on the long mallet, with the short mallet people use for breaking stone. All instruments are sharpened, dipped in cow’s urine and then smeared with ingida (asafetida) oil and whetted in leather.

Bhedastu lafiji, Iangali, grdhradantI, suclmukha, vajra iti, sarve ayasa dvividha bhavanti ksinah prasastasca, musaladharubhe musaladandena khanitrarh ghatayanti prayojayanti silabhedane tat I Sarvastrani tiksnani, gavarnbuputitani I Tatah ingidalepitani carrnasanitani ca I

Sculptors apply a softening mixture. Shell-solvent, Kustharasa, sea salt and the powder of the bark of the ukatsa tree are thus the four fluids for the softening of stones. With this plan, after immersing the chisel for 10 days, sculptors use the chisel in sacrificial rites and also dig with ease.

Silpakarah pralepayanti dravakarasam II Sankhadravakustharasa -saindhavakharpara- ukatsavalkalacurnena sahitarh siladravanartha- mevam rasacatustayarn anena mantrena dasaharnardanante vaitane khanitrarh prayojayanti khananarnacaranti bhadrena sthapakah II]

**

[ The following are some prescriptions on preparation and mixing of the mortar

There should be 5 parts extract of beans, nine and eight parts molasses (thick treacle that drains from sugar ) and curd or coagulated by acid (respectively). Clarified butter (ghee) 2 parts, 7 parts milk, hide (extract) 6 parts.

Pancamsarn masayusarn syannavastarnsarn gudarn dadhi II Ajyam dvyarnsam tu saptarnsarn kslram carma sadarnsakam 

There should be 10 parts of myrobalan*. Coconut two parts, honey one part. Three parts plantain are desired.

Traiphalarh dasabhagarn syannalikerarn yugarnsakam II Ksaudrame karnsakam  tryarnsarn kadallphalamisyate

In the powder (thus) obtained, 1/10th lime should be added. Larger quantity than others of molasses, curd and milk is best

Labdhe curne dasarnse tu yufijItavyarh subandhanam II Sarvesamadhikarn sastarn gudarn ca dadhi dugdhakam

In two parts of lime, (add) karaka, honey, clarified butter, plantain, coconut and bean. When dry (add) water, milk, curd, myrobalan along with molasses gradually.

Curna dvyarnsam karalarn madhu ghrta kadall narikeram ca masarn Suktestoyarn ca dugdharh dadhigudasahitarn traiphalarh tat krarnena I

Now in the powder (thus) obtained, grow one in hundred parts. It (the compound) is said by leading thinkers who know the technology as rocklike.

Labdhe curne satarnsesmsakamidamadhuna canuvrddhirn prakuryadetad bandharh drsatsadrsamiti kathitarh     tantravidbhirrnunindraih II]

Pillars pillars rajasthan

Coming back to the issue of acoustics in the stones, the Shilpis   displayed a remarkable skill and ingenuity in crafting “musical “pillars, which when struck at right points produce sonorous octaves. One can see such pillars in the Vijaya Vittala temple at Hampi; Meenakshi temple at Madurai; and at Sundarehwara temple at Trichendur. There might be such “musical” in other temples too. Usually such pillars are of granite and charnockites; and of different girths and volumes to produce the right octaves.

[ As regards the assembling Pillars Starnbha-sandhayah ,following are a few excerpts from Pride of India: A Glimpse Into India’s Scientific Heritage

Assembly of Pillars: It is said that there are five types of assemblies suitable for pillars; these are Mesayuddha, Trikhanda, Saubhadra, Ardhapani and Mahavrtta.

Mesayuddharn trikhandam ca saubhadram cardhapanikam I Mahavrttarn ca paficaite stambhanam sandhayah smrtah II

When there is a central tenon* (projection at the end of a piece of wood etc., with a width) a third (that of the pillar) and a length twice or two and half time its width, this is Mesayuddha (mortise – A hole to receive a tenon ,and tenon) assembly

Svavyasakarnamadhyardhadvigunam va tadayatam I Tryarnsaikam madhyarnasikham mesayuddharn prakIrtitam II)

In the Trikhanda assembly, there are three mortises and three tenons arranged as a Swastika, The assembly called Saubhadra comprises four peripheral tenons.

Svastyakararn trikhandarn syat satriciili trikhandakarn I Parsve catuhsikhopetam saubhadramiti sarnjfiitam II

An assembly is called Ardhapani (scarf joint) when half the lower and half the upper pieces are cut to size according to the thickness chosen (for the pillar)

Ardham chitva tu mule Sgre canyonyabhinivesanat I Ardhapaniriti prokto grhitaghanamanatah

When there is a semicircular section tenon at the centre, the assembly is called Mahavrtta, the well advised man employs this for circular section pillars

Ardhavrttasikharn madhye tanmahavrttarnucyate I Vrttakrtisu padesu prayunjita vicaksanah II

The assembling of (the different parts of) a pillar should be done below the middle and any assembling done above will be a source of accident; (however) the assembly which brings together the bell-capital and the abacus gives the certainty of success. When a stone pillar, with its decoration, (is to be assembled) this should be done according to the specific case.

Stambhanam starnbhadairghyardhadadhah sandhanamacaret I Stambhamadhyordhvasandhisced vipadamaspadam sad a II Kumbhamandyadisarnyuktam sandhanam sam pad am padam I Salankare silastarnbhe yathayogam tathacaret II

It should be known that the assembling of the vertical pieces is done according to the disposition of the different parts of the tree; if the bottom is above and the top is below, all chance of success is lost

Sthitasya padapasyangapravrttivasato viduh / Urdhvamulamadhascagram sarvasampadvinasanam II ]

Ramanathaswamy Temple

B.Bricks (Ishtaka)

Bricks have been in use for thousands of years in construction of yupa the sacrificial altars and Chaithyas the early temples of the Vedic ages. Shathapatha Brahmana  as also Shilpa Rathna describes the methods for moulding and burning the bricks. The Sulba sutras and Manasara detail the dimensions of the bricks of various sizes in relation to the sacrificial altars constructed for various purposes. The remnants of the Indus valley civilization too amply demonstrate the extensive use of bricks in construction of buildings and other structures.

During the later ages, the bricks were used in the temple structures mainly for erecting Gopuras the temple towers and Vimanas the domes over the sanctum.

As per the descriptions given in Manasara the bricks were made in various sizes; the size of the bricks varying from 7 inches to 26 or even  to 31 inches in length. The length of the bricks were 1 ¼, 1 ½, 1 ¾ or 2 times the width .The height of the brick was ½ its width or equal to the width. Thus, bricks of different sizes, shapes, and types were made. The composition, shape and baking of a brick depended upon the use to which it was put.

Interestingly, the bricks with straight and linier edges were called male bricks; while those with a broad front side and a narrower back side or those of curved shape were called female bricks. The bricks in concave shape were called neuter bricks. The male bricks could be used in the construction of the prasada, the sanctum. The female bricks were used for the sanctum of female deities. The neuter bricks were generally not used in temple construction; but were used for lining the walls of the well.

According to Shukla Yajurveda Samhita, bricks were made from thoroughly mixed and pulverized earth and other ingredients. The earth was strengthened by mixing goat hair, fine sand, iron flake or filings and powdered stone. Earth was also mixed with ‘raal oil’, etc. and thoroughly beaten and blended in order to increase the strength of the material by enhancing the cohesion of the earth particles. Triphala concoction is said to render the earth, white ants (termite) and microbe proof.

[ Maya-mata and other Shilpa–texts give details about brick-making (Istaka-sangrahanam).  Following are a few excerpts from Pride of India: A Glimpse Into India’s Scientific Heritage

Salty, off-white, black and smooth, red and granulated, these are the four kinds of clay

Usaram pandurarn krsnacikkanarn tarnrapullakarn II Mrdascatasrastasveva grhniyat tamrapullakam I

Clay suitable for making bricks and tiles must be free from gravel, pebbles, roots and bones and must be soft to touch.

Asarkarasmarnulasthilostarn satanuvalukam II Ekavamam sukhasparsamistarn lostestakadisu

Then fill the clods of clay in knee-deep water; then having mixed, pound with the feet forty times repeatedly

Mrt-khandarn purayedagre janudaghne jale tatah u Alodya mardayet padbhyarn catvarirnsat punah punah 

After soaking the clay in the sap of fig, kadamba, mango, abhaya and aksha and also in the water of myrobalan for three months, pound it

Ksiradrumakadarnbamrabhayaksa – tvagjalairapi II Triphalambubhirasiktva mardayenmasamatrakam  

These (bricks) are in four, five, six and eight unit (widths) and twice that in length. Their depth in the middle and in the two ends (is) one fourth or one-third the width. Again these bricks should normally be dried and baked.

Catus-pancas adast abhi rmatrai staddhidvigul)ayatai:lll Vyasardhardhatribhagaikatlvra madhye parespare I Istaka bahusah sosyah samadagdhah punasca tah II

According to the experts, only after one, two, three or four months, again throwing (the baked bricks) in water, and extracting (them) from the water with effort, (will put the brick to use)

Eka –dvi- tri-catur-masarnatitya  -iva vicaksanah I Jale praksipya yatnena jala duddhrtya tat punah II)  ]

*

Brick lying was done with the aid of molds; and, the bricks were burnt in enclosed kilns. The works like Shilpa Ratna and Vastuvidya explain that the brick moulds were baked for 24 hours in a fire of firewood.

Bricks black in color or half baked or broken or defective otherwise were rejected. The bricks should be well burnt and be of uniform color.

According to Shulba Sutra, bricks measuring 22.8 X 11.4X 5.7 cms were used in construction of walls. The Bodhayana Sulaba sutra specifies the arrangement of bricks, while constructing a wall. The brick should be directed in a dextral and laevo order. The brick ends should not be piled one over the other. The joints of the brick in each third row of brick may fall over the brick of the first row; this is the ‘Malla Lila’ style of fixing the brick, based on the arrangement of the joints of the brick.

The bricks having a smooth surface are not to be set one above the other, but are to be fixed in straight line and the wall should be of an equal thickness all over. The corners of the walls should be on the ratio of 5: 3: 4 and at right angle to each other. According to the Sumrangana Sutradhara, the square of the diagonal of the wall should be equal to the sum total of the square of the width of the wall.

It is said that the altar constructed for major sacrifices, bricks of about 200 types were used, depending upon the size and shape of the altar.

[For the details of the different types of altars and their measurements; the type and the number of bricks needed for each type of altar and their arrangement : please check here for section 5.2.1 and onward  of  the excellent research paper produced by Dr. Sreelatha.]

C.Wood

doors of temple

Wood has limited use in traditional temple structure of medieval times. Its application is mainly for carving doors, erecting Dwajasthamba  the flag posts and for other utilities such as platforms, stands etc. But, in rare cases (as in Sri Jagannath temple at Puri or at Sri Marikamba temple in Sirsi) the principal idol dhruva bhera is made of wood. The most extensive use of the wood is of course in the construction of the Ratha the temple chariot. In rare cases as in Puri a new chariot is created each year.

Shatapatha Brahmana a Vedic text of about 1500 BC or earlier makes repeated references to wood and its applications. During its time the temples and the images were mostly made of wood (kasta shilpa). The text mentions a certain Takshaka as a highly skilled artist who carved wood. It names a number of trees the wood from which was used for various purposes. For instance Shaala (teak) and Kadira a type of hard wood was used for carving images, pillars, gnomon (sanku) and other durables. Certain other trees are also mentioned as being suitable for pillaras, posts etc: Khadi, Shaal, Stambak, Shinshipa, Aajkarni, Kshirani, Dhanvan, Pishit, Dhanwalan, Pindi, Simpa, Rahjadan, and Tinduka.

Trees such as Nibaka (Neem), Panasa (jackfruit), Asana, Sirish, Kaal, Timish, Likuch, Panas, Saptaparni, wood are said to be best for roofing work.

Coconut, Kramuk, Bamboo, Kitki, Oudumbara (silk cotton etc. wood is suited for hut constructions, ribs and rafters etc.

However use of certain trees considered holy or godlike was not recommended in temple construction. The trees such as Ashwattha (Peepal), Vata, Nagrodha (banyan), Chandana (sandalwood), Kadamba, Badari, Shami, Bilva, Parijatha, kinsuka, and Bakula, were   some such sacred and godlike trees.

Chandana, Kadira, Saptaparni, Satwak, etc. were used for engraving and carving artwork.

-temple-main-door

The southern text Shilpa Rathnam states that the wood from the following is not suited for temple construction.;

Trees from a place of public resort, trees from a village or from the precincts of a temple, trees that have been burnt, trees in which are birds’ nests, trees growing on anthills, trees in which are honeycombs, trees fruiting out of season, trees supporting creepers, trees in which maggots dwell, trees growing close to tanks or wells, trees planted in the earth but reared by constant watering, trees broken by elephants, trees blown down by the wind, trees in burning-grounds, in forsaken places, or in places which had been paraclieris, withered trees, trees in which snakes live, trees in places where there are hobgoblins, devils, or corpses, trees that have fallen down of themselves, – these are all bad trees and to be avoided.

Age

The lifetime of a tree was regarded as 103 years. The trees under the age of 16 were Baala – child trees; and those above 50 years of age were Vriddha– trees in their old age. The trees between the age of 16 and 50 years were regarded most suitable for construction of temple and homes.

Tall trees of uniform girth without knot and holes, in their youth, grown on dense hilly regions   are most suited for construction of pillars. The trees that are white under the bark are in the best category; followed by those having red, yellow and dark interiors; in that order. The juicy or milky trees are preferable.

Gender

The trees that are round from the root to its apex, give a gentle fragrance, are deep rooted, are solid and temperate may be taken as masculine trees, yielding male wood.

The feminine trees have slender roots and are thick at apical part, but a much thicker middle part with no fragrance or odor in the wood.

The wood should be straight and without any knot, crevice or cavity. The structure built by joining such male and female wood last for centuries

Neuter Trees

Slender and long in the middle of the trunk and having a thick head, is a genderless tree. While the male trees serve for pillars; female trees for wall-plates, beams, and capitals; the hermaphrodite trees serve for cross-joists, joists, and rafters.

Agastya Samhita has described the wood that is to be used in a chariot, boat or an aircraft. A youthful and healthy tree should be cut and its bark removed, thereafter, it should be cut in squares after which are to be transported to the workshop where these pieces should be stored upon spread out sand in an orderly manner for 3 to 8 months for seasoning. The root and apex sides must be marked because in pillars the root side is to be kept down and apex part up.

As far as possible, only one type of wood may be used for one particular construction. The use of more than tree types of wood in a construction is not recommended.

It is said the ISI standard A-883-1957 regarding a wooden items is based on the specification s mentioned in the ancient Indian Texts

Precautions in the selection of the building materials:

No used building material should be used.

Stolen and renovated material should never be purchased.

Materials confiscated by the King should not be used.

The wood culled from the trees cut down in a cremation ground; temple, ashram or shrine should not be utilized.

temple-door-in-singapore

IV.Ayaadi Shadvarga

Ayadi _shadvarga is a matrix of architecture and astrological calculations.  According to Samarangana Sutradhara Ayaadi-shadvarga is a set of six criteria: Aaya, Vyaya, Amsha, Nakshatra, Yoni and Vara-tithi, which are applied to certain dimensions of the building and its astrological associations. The purpose of the exercise is to ascertain the longevity of the house as also the suitability to its owner. These norms are applied to temples too.

The term Aaya could be taken to mean increase or plus or profit; Vyaya – decrease or minus or  loss; Nakshatra,- star of the day; Yoni – source or the orientation of the building; Vara- day of the week; and Tithi – the day in lunar calendar for construction of building and performing invocation of Vastu Purusha..

The area of the structure is divided by certain factors assigned to each element of the Aayadi Shadvarga; and the suitability or longevity of the building is ascertained from the reminder so obtained.

For instance, if the plinth area of the house is divided by 8; and the remainder is either 1 or3 or 5, then these are called Garuda garbhaSimha garbha and Rishabha garbha, which are auspicious. Hence the plinth area of the building should be manipulated or altered to arrive at an   auspicious reminder.

The rule is also applied to ascertain the longevity of the building. According to this method the total area should be divided by 100 and if the reminder is more than 45, it is good and if it is more than 60 it is very good. For instance, if the length of the house 11 meters, and the width 5 meters, then its area is 11 X 5 = 55 sq.mts. Multiply the area by 27 (Nakshatra factor) , 55 X 27 = 1485. Divide the product 1485 by 100. The remainder is 85,-which indicates the projected longevity of the house. Since the reminder is more than 60, .it is a very healthy result.

There is another method for arriving at the Aayadi value. The result is categorized in to eight types of Aayas. According to this method, the area (length X breadth) is multiplied by 9; and divided by 8. The reminders 1 to 8 are interpreted as good or bad, as indicated in the following table.

Aaya

Symbolizing

Reminder

Interpretation

Dhwajaya

Money

01

 Good. Brings wealth
Dhumraya

Smoke

02 

Not good. ill heath of the head of the family and spouse.
Simhaya

Lion

03

 Very Good. Victory over enemies; health ,wealth and prosperity.
Shwnaya

Dog

04

Bad. Ill health and bad omens.
Vrishabhaya

Bull

05

Good. wealth and fortune.
Kharaya

Donkey

06

Very bad. Head of family will turn a vagabond; premature death in family.
Gajaya

Elephant

07

Good. Life of head of family and members brightens; improvement in heath and wealth.
Kakaya

Crow

08

Very bad. Sorrow to family; and no peace.

[For more on Ayadi calculations; pleaase check

Ayadi calculations 

http://www.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Content&sd=Articles&ArticleID=666

http://www.vastu-design.com/seminar/14a.php]

Manasara says

When there is more merit than demerit, there is no defect in it; but if the demerit is more than the merit, it would be all defective.”

navamallika

References:

Vastu Darsha  by Dr. G Gnanananda.

Orienting From the Centre  by Michael S. Schneider

www.geomancy.org/…/summer/orienting/index.html

Cosmogony and the Elements… by John McKim Malville

http://www.ignca.nic.in/ps_05005.htm

Vastu Interiors

http://www.gkindia.com/vastu/vastubuilding1.htm

 
22 Comments

Posted by on September 10, 2012 in Temple Architecture

 

Tags: ,

Temple Architecture – Devalaya Vastu – Part eight (8 of 9)

Iconometry

The ancient Indian art of sculpture, Shilpa Shastra, developed its own norms of measures and proportions. It is a complex system of iconometry that defies rigid definitions .It is called Talamana paddathi, the system of measurements by Tala, the palm of hand (from the tip of the middle finger to the wrist). It plays a central role in the creation of temple icons and images.

Iconometry (the doctrine about proportions) was an integral part of the Murti shilpa, creation of the idols.

As explained in the earlier part of this post, the Dhyana shlokas, the contemplative hymns, delineate the spiritual quality of each deity and its forms and attributes, the lakshanas. The Dhyana Slokas also provide the details of the flexions – slight, triple, or extreme bends; the details of the number of arms and faces that endow a super-human quality to the idol; and also the descriptions of its ayudhas the weapons, the ornaments etc. They also specify whether the image should be dynamic or static, seated or standing; and they also detail the hand gestures and poses.

But, it is the elaborate rules of the traditional iconometry that guide the practicing Shilpi in sculpturing the image and realizing his vision. These rules specify thevarious standards to be adopted for ensuring a harmonious creation endowed with well proportioned height, length, width and girth. These rules also govern the relative proportions of various physical features – of each class and each type of the deities.

The standards of iconometry are of immense use for other reasons, as well. For instance, the iconometry of an image helps the sculptures of a later period in restoration work; in checking which of the known canons of iconometry were followed by the sculptors; in deducing which methods of sculpting were employed; and in hypothesizing how many sculptors were involved in executing the work. It also helps the art historians in dating sculptures; and the art students in studying the iconometric values of different Schools, across different periods and regions; and to ascertain the variations within a given set of stipulated proportions.

Two systems of iconometry seem to have existed; and both were called taalamana.

In the first system, the tala, measured by the length of the palm (from the wrist to the tip of the middle finer) of the shilpi or the yajamana, the one who sponsors the project, is taken as an absolute unit of measurement (and the image-face is made equal to that length). That tala is subdivided into twelve angulas; and such an angula becomes a fixed-length. In practice, the angula (literally ‘finger’) is a finger’s width and measures one quarter of the width of the shilpi’s fist (as explained in the earlier posts). The value of the angula so derived becomes a fixed length (manangulam). And, all other measurements of the image are in terms of that unit.

The second is the system of derived proportions (deha labdh angulam). Let me explain. The stone or the block of wood selected for carving is divided into a number of equal parts. In case the selected piece is divided into ten equal parts, the division is known as dasatala (ten face-lengths) or in case it is divided in to nine equal parts then the division is known as navatala (nine face-lengths) and so on.

The shilpa shastra normally employ such divisions on a scale of one (eka tala) to ten (dasa tala).Each tala is subdivided in to 12 angulas. For instance, if the intended height of the image is nine tala (which is regarded the standard height for images of certain deities and celestial beings), the texts mention that the selected piece of material should be divided into 108“Its own angulas “.The expression “its own angula” is explained thus: divide the total length of the selected stone or wooden piece, which will cover the entire height of the idol from head to foot, into 108 equal parts. One of the parts would then be its own angula.

There are obvious differences between the two systems. The manangulam system relies on a fixed set of measurements; while the deha labdh angulam is a system based on derived proportions. In the former system, the measurements are related to the size of the palm of the shilpi; and if the image is navatala, it would mean that the height of the image is nine times the size of the tala or the palm of shilpi; and the size of the image-face is one tala or one-ninth of the total height of the image.

In the second method, the unit of measurement is derived from the divisions marked on the stone piece. If the image is said to be navatala, it means that the height of the image is 108 times “its own angula”. This system is more flexible.

In Shilpa Shastra, the multiplicity and relative sizes take precedence over the absolute specific sizes of the units. Therefore, the proportions of the head-trunk-arms-legs of the image; and the finer specifications of nose, nail, ears and their shapes are always discussed in terms of their proportions and in relations to the other organs and particularly to that of the size of the face. Similar logic is extended to panels where more than one variety of images have to be accommodated harmoniously.

Dr. Gift Siromoney and his team who have carried out remarkable Iconometric studies based on measurements made by anthropometric instruments says:

“ In  Indian art the important figures in a group are often represented as taller figures and inferior beings are represented as smaller figures. To such smaller figures a lower tala is often prescribed. However, if both the larger and the smaller figures were to represent deities of equal rank (say Siva and Vishnu) then strictly speaking they should be made in the same proportion, or in other words in the same tala”.

http://www.cmi.ac.in/gift/Iconometry/icon_pallavasculpture.htm

I think this needs some explanation .Let us assume that three types of figures of three different statuses are to be depicted on the same panel. The sculptor, in such a case, would adopt the image of mid-status, as the standard; and relate the proportions of the other two images to that of the standard image. Those two images would then have to be made in different sizes; but in same proportions as that of the standard image. Assuming that the standard image was made by adopting the nava tala, the image would then have a height of 108 angulas, the angulas being “its own angulas”. The image with least status, among the three, would be made to a shorter height, say, of 96 angulas; but by borrowing the angula value from the image of the standard size. Similarly, the image with the best status, among the three, would be made to a greater height, say, of 120 angulas; but here again the angula value is borrowed from the image of the standard size.

In the two cases, other than the standard one, the basic unit of measure is not “its own angula”; but it is a unit borrowed from the standard Image. In other words, the proportions of these two images are derived from that of a third image. Such instances, perhaps, explain the need for adopting the second system; the flexible system of derived proportions.

Over a period of time, the two systems got mixed up ; and in some texts it became rather difficult to make out , which system the text was actually referring to. The confusion got compounded with both the systems carrying the same title, talamana paddathi. The practicing Shilpis do therefore have to check carefully whether the specifications mentioned in a given text belong to the first system or to the second system. In case they belong to the first system, the image- face length will have to be 12 fixed-angulas; irrespective of its total height.

Despite the differences, there are certain features common to both the systems. The first is, the face – length, in either case, is divided in to three equal parts: the fore-head, nose and nose-to-chin. Secondly, the pubis (base of the male organ) is the midpoint of the height of a nude figure. In other words, the distance from the sole of the feet to the pubis is equal to the distance from the pubis to the topknot. Thirdly, the celestial beings are assigned a higher tala compared to human figures. And, fourthly, children are represented in a lower tala like the chatusra tala (four tala). The face length will be comparatively large for children and dwarfs.

The Indian system makes use of the fact that persons with disproportionately larger faces appear short and those with smaller faces appear tall. Dwarf figures were therefore made by adopting the four “taala” system where the total height is only four times the face length. This demonstrated that the figures of different sizes can be made while following the same set of proportions.  For instance, the height of a nine tala image might be the same as that of a tentala image; but, the ten tala image with its smaller face-size looks taller than the nine tala image.

iconometric proportions of Buddha

As mentioned earlier, the shilpa shastra normally employs a method of division of the image-body, on a scale of one (eka tala) to ten (dasa tala). Each tala is divided in to 12 angulas. There are variations within each type of tala. That is, each type of tala is sub-divided into three sub-types: The standard or the mean height is the madhyama tala; while the extended height is Uttama tala. The diminished height is adhama tala. Accordingly,   along with the height, certain other dimensions of the latter two images are duly modulated, depending on the nature and the status of the image; and the importance assigned to it in the overall context of the theme of the sculpture.

For instance, the madhyama navatala (standard length of nine-face lengths) is normally used for images of celestial beings such as Yakshas, Apsaras and Vidhyadharas. Here, the height of the image would be nine talas (with each tala divided in to 12 angulas) or a total height of 108 angulas. And, the face length – from the chin up to the root of the hair on the forehead – would be 12 angulas or one tala. The length from throat to navel would be two tala; from navel to top of knee would be three tala; from the lower knee to ankle would be two tala making a total of eight tala. One tala is distributed equally between the heights of foot, knee, the neck and topknot. The nava tala thus has a total of nine tala units, in height (108 angulas).

 

 [From Matsya -puranam,  Pratima -nirmana -varnanam,– making of the idols

The worship of idols made of gold, silver, copper, gems, stone, wood, metal, or alloys with iron, copper, brass, and bronze is praised.

Sauvarni rajati vapi tamri ratnamayi tatha  / SailI darumayi capi lohasadhamayi tatha II

Ritika dhatuyukta va tamra-karmsya-rnayi tatha I Subhadarumayi vapi devatarca prasasyate II

Make idols in nine Tala ( with each Tala divided into 12 angulas) , starting with the face of one  Tala. The neck should be 4 angula (fingers) wide; then the chest one Tala. Below that, the beautiful navel famous for its depth and expansiveness of a finger width should be made with one Tala.

Pratima-mukha-manena navabhagan prakalpayet I Catur-angula bhavedgriva bhagena hrdayarn punah II

Nabhistas-madadhah karya bhagenaikena sobhana I Nimnatve vistaratve ca angulam parikirtitarn II

Build the parts below the navel in one Tala. The thigh and the knee come in 2 Tala in four fingers width. The legs are done in two Tala, the feet in 4 fingers (angula) width. Similarly, the crown is of 14 (angulas) fingers, as is well known.

Nabhir-adhastatha-medham bhagen-ekena kalpayet I Dvi-bhage-anayatavuru januni caturangule II

Janghe dvibhage vikhyati padau ca caturangulaih Caturdasa angulas tad van maulirasya  prakirtitah II   ]

The texts also mention that the images of the devas such as the eight Vasus, the eight Dikpalas and the eight Vidyeshwarsa are to be depicted in Uttama navatala. Whereas, the images of Rakshasas, Siddhas, Gandharvas and the pitris are to be depicted in adhama navatala.

In such cases, the images in uttama nava tala type are rendered four angulas taller and the images in the adhama nava tala type are rendered four angulas shorter. The said four angulas are to be distributed, evenly, between the heights of the foot, the kneecap, the neck and the topknot. These two variations are in effect, the deviations from the standard values of the image.

It is said that The uttama dasatala is built on the values of navatala ( regarded purest in terms of the proportions) by systematically adding one angula to each section of navatala ;  the thighs and legs being , as usual, twice the height of the “heart” etc. The uttama dasatala aims to project the majesty of the higher divinities.

***

There is no uniformity among the various Shilpa texts. Some texts describe a system of one to twelve talas. There is even a mention of a twenty-one tala image of Bhirava; but that measure is hardly in use.

Some texts mention that human figures and gods at rest, or while involved in some pleasant activity, should measure ten talas. And, when performing heroic deeds, their height increases to twelve talas. Further, in their fearsome aspect, they even grow to fourteen talas.

But, the Shilpis in South India do not, generally, go beyond ten talas (dasatala).Thus, in effect, only ten types of divisions from the eka tala (single tala) to dasa tala (ten tala) are in use. These ten talas correspond to 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, 84, 96, 108 and 120 angulas, in sequence. The series is built by adding 12 angulas for each successive tala.

These talas have their three variations, as state earlier. The standard or the mean height is the madhyama tala; while the extended height is Uttama tala; and the diminished height is adhama tala.

Uttama dasatala(124) and nine other talas – by Shilpi Shri Siddalinga Swamy

As per the norms that are commonly in use, the animals and birds are depicted in four or less talas. For instance, tortoise and fish are depicted in one tala; crocodile and rabbit in two tala; and the dwarfs, the kinnaras , the birds and the vahanas of the deities are depicted in three or four talas.

Humans and demigods are depicted in five to eight talas; Vamana an incarnation of Vishnu in seven talas.

The relative height of goddesses is eight or nine talas, while children are six talas high. The consorts of the deities and minor goddesses are depicted in eight talas.

The talas from nine to twelve are meant for images of deities. But, again, there is no unanimity among the texts in this regard. Nine tala (nine face-lengths) is largely taken as the height of certain gods and celestial beings.

According to some texts, the Uttama dasatala is applied to major deities like Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Rama, Buddha and Jina; so that they might look tall and majestic.

The madhyama dasatala is applied to the images of Lakshmi, Saraswathi, Uma and other major. The rest are depicted in Adhama dasatala, in accordance with the importance assigned to them.

The extra ordinary deities like Trivikrama or Narasimha or the huge demons are at times depicted in twelve talas.

Out of the ten varieties of talas mentioned above, four varieties are in wider use. The iconometry of these talas are briefly indicated in the following table.

Vertical proportions of four main types of Images

(Figures in angulas)

Type of the image/Particulars 7* Tala 8 Tala 9 Tala 10 Tala
Face 12 12 12 13
Neck 03 04 04 05
Neck to the horizontal line connecting the nipples(heart) 09 10 12 13
From there to navel(belly, udara) 09 10 12 13
From navel to genitals(lower belly, vasti) 09 10 12 13
Thigh 18 21 24 26
Knee 03 04 04 05
Leg 18 21 24 26
Foot 03 04 04 05
         
Total height in angulas 84 96 108 120

(One Tala = 12 angulas)

[I am also referring to Brahmiya Chitra Karma Shastram (translated admirably into Kannada by the renowned scholar Dr. Gnananda) a rare text of the Vaishnava Agama dated around fifth or sixth century. The text divided into four major divisions (adhikarana), twenty-three chapters has in total about 1115 verses (sloka).The third Adhikarana of the text titled Maanadhikarana Kaanda (chapters 16,17 and 18 of a total of 357 verses). This Adhikarana provides various types of units of measurements and proportions of dasatala and Uttama dasatala image .It specifies with precision the measure and proportion of the gatra of each body part.

Let’s, for instance, take the measures and proportions given in  the text in relation to Uttama Dasatala of 120 + 4 managulam. That is, the height of the proposed image is divided equally into 120 mana-angulas and providing for another four additional angulas distributed at different body-parts for corrections/ extensions at joints etc. A standard unit of a mana-angula is reckoned according to the following table:

Paramanu is the least and incredibly tiniest unit. And, it is described as:”when the sun’s rays pass through a close knit lattice (jaala) the minute breadth of a beam of light (anu-gatra) is Paramanu”. Human eye, of course, cannot make out a Paramanu.

8 Paramanu=one anu

8 anu = one renu (a speck of dust)

8 renu= one romagra or valagra (tip of a single brand of hair)

8 romagra = one likhya (it is not clear what it is; perhaps the egg of la very small insect)

8 likhya = One Yuka (a minute insect, perhaps)

8 likhya = One yuva (a standard grain of barley)

And

8 yuva = one mana-angula.

(In practice, an angula is taken as 1/12 of a tala. A tala in Dasatala is one-tenth (1 / 10) of the image height or the length from tip of the middle finger to the wrist of Shilpi’s or the Yajamana’ palm. The subdivisions of a Tala follow the above table.)

To take a specific aspect ,let’s say the length of a figure from its shoulder to the tip of the middle figure ,  the Sarvatala Vibhagaha – the chapter 18 of the text details the measurements of  fingers, figure joints, nails etc, among others.

According to that, the total length from shoulder point to the tip of the middle figure is taken as 63a 4y (63 ½ a). The length is accounted in this manner: arm= 27a + elbow= 2a + forearm = 21a + outer hasta-tala (from wrist to beginning or knuckle of middle finger) = 7a + middle figure =6a, 4y (6 ½ a).]

**

Stella KramrischDr. Stella Kramrisch explains in her Hindu Temple: the rules are that the proportions of the trunk are the same in all the four types. The distance from the root of the neck to the genitals is divided in to three equal parts, in each case:  neck-heart; heart-navel; and navel-genitals. The length of the thigh and that of the leg are twice as long as each of the three earlier mentioned sections. Further, the knee and the foot are of equal height. The actual lengths of these lengths might vary, but their proportions are maintained. As regards the size of the face, it is 12 angulas (except in the case of dasatala).

Sometimes, the height that is not included in the texts is added to the image by enhancing the height of the parts above its hair, starting from its forehead. Such height, at times, is quite considerable. Because, the gods of higher hierarchy are adorned with elaborate crowns in order to emphasize and enhance their majesty and grandeur. The height of the crown might often exceed the height of the face. The head together with the crown atop would form one sculptural unit. The elaborately crowned gods thus exceed the proportions of the human body and standout with a super natural appearance.

Apart from defining the relative height of the various gods, the tala also serves as a module for all representations of each separate figure. In addition to the norms concerning the height, there are extensive specifications for horizontal measurements such as the width of the shoulders, the waist, the head, the neck, the nose, the distance between the eyes, and so on. This is also the case with the measurements for depth; such as the distance between the back of the head and the tip of the nose, the back and the nipples, etcetera. There are measurements for the figure in the frontal position, in profile or in three-quarter profile. For such measurements, a central axis line or a plumb line is used, brahmasutra, which runs from the crown of the head through the navel to between the heels.

The position of the body (standing, reclining, seated, dancing, and so on), of the arms and legs, also plays an important role in the iconographic determination of the images. (please see the earlier part of this post)

design rangoli

[ As mentioned earlier, there is no uniformity across the various systems.  In various treatises various scales of Taala, proportion for iconometry were mentioned.

And, one of such one of the systems has units of measurements for common usage consisting of Yava (size of the barley grain); Angula (digit-width of a finger) equivalent to eight Yava; Vitasti is the standard Taala unit measuring a palm span equivalent to twelve Angulas; Hasta (cubit) equivalent to twenty-four Angulas; Danda (a stick) equivalent to four Hastas; Rajju (a rope) equivalent to four Dandas.

The system has micro level units of measurements, Anu (atom), Renu (a speck of dust) equivalent to eight Anus, Valagra (tip of a hair) equivalent to eight Renus, Liksha (?) equivalent to eight Valagras; and, Yuka (louse) equivalent to eight Likshas. Yava is supposed to be equivalent to eight Yuka.

The system also has macro level units for measuring long distances, Krosh equivalent to five hundred Dandas; Goruta equivalent to two thousand Dandas; and Yojana equivalent to eight thousand Dandas.]

design rangoli

[ Sri Abanindranth Tagore  (7 August 1871 – 5 December 1951) in his famous work ‘Some notes on Indian Artistic Anatomy”; translated into English and published by the Indian Society of Oriental Art, during 1914; describes a parallel system of Tala-mana , according to Sukranitisara and Brihatsamhita. He says:

Sukranitisara, another text, recognizes five different classes of images: — Nara (human); Krura (terrible); Asura (demoniac); Bala (infantile); and, Kumara (juvenile). Each of these five classes or sets of images (murtis) is assigned a particular scale/proportion (Tala-mana):

 Nara murti = ten Talas; Krura murti = twelve Talas; Asura murti = sixteen Talas; Bala murti = five Talas; and, Kumara murti = six Talas.

Here, a Tala is defined as: a quarter of the width of the artist’s own fist is called an Angula or finger’s width. And, twelve such Angulas make one Tala.

The Nara or Dasha (ten)Tala measure is recommended for deities or heroic persons, such as: Nara-narayana, Rama, Krishna, Indra, Bhargava, and, Arjuna, etc.

The Krura or Dwadasha (twelve) Tala measure is for figures who represent destructive tendencies;   such as :  Chandi, Bhairava, Narasimha, Hayagriva, and, Varaha etc.

The Asura or Sodasha (sixteen) Tala measure is to be used for  depicting demoniacal figures like; Hiranyakasipu, Hiranyakasha, Ravana,  Kumbhakarna,   Shumbha, Nishumbha, Mahisha, and, Raktabija, etc.

The Bala or Pancha (five) Tala measure is to be used for representing all types of infants, such as : Bala-Krishna, Infant-Rama, Gopalas etc.

And, the Kumara, or Shat (six) Talas, for the period of childhood, past infancy, before the approach of youth;  such as  Bala-gowri, Uma, Vamana, Krishnasaksh, etc..

Besides these given measures there is another measure current in Indian iconography which is known as the Uttama Nava-tala. In this type of images, the whole figure is divided into nine equal parts which are called Talas. A quarter of a Tala is called an Amsa or Unit. Thus, there being four Amsas to each Tala, the length of the whole figure from tip to toe is 9 Talas or 36 Amsas.

The heights or vertical lengths of the various parts of a figure made according to this, Talas are  : middle of forehead to chin = 1 Tala; collar-bone to chest = 1 Tala; chest to navel =1 Tala; , navel to hips = 1 Tala;  hips to knees = 2 Talas; knees to insteps = 2 Talas;  forehead to crown of the head = 1 Amsa;  neck = 1 Amsa;  knee-caps = 1 Amsa;  feet = 1 Amsa.

The widths or horizontal measures are as follows: Head = 1 Tala, neck = 2 1/2 Amsas; shoulder to shoulder = 3 Talas;  chest=  6 Amsas;  waist = 5 Amsas;  hips = 2 Talas;  knees =  2 Amsas; , ankles = 1 Amsa;  feet = 5 Amsas.

The hands and their parts are as follows:  Lengths: shoulders to elbows = 2 Talas, elbows to wrists = 6 Amsas; palms = 1 Tala. The widths  near armpits = 2 Amsas; elbows = I 1/2 Amsas; wrists = 1 Amsa.

The face of the figure is divided into three equal portions:  middle of forehead to middle of pupils; pupils to tip of the nose; and, from tip of the nose to chin.

According to Sukranitisara, the proportions of a Nava-tala figure should be as follows:

From the crown of the head to the lower fringe of hair = 3 Angulas in width; forehead = 4 Angulas ;  nose =  4 Angulas ; from tip of nose to chin = 4 Angulas; and , neck = 4 Angulas  in height;  eye-brows =  4 Angulas  long and half an Angula  in width; eyes = 3 Angulas  in length and two in width ; pupils = one third the size of the eyes ; ears =  4 Angulas in height and 3 in width.  Thus, the height of the ears is made equal to the length of the eye-brows.

Palms = 7 Angulas long’ the middle finger = 6 Angulas; the thumb = 3 Angulas, extending to the first phalanx of the index finger.

The thumb has two joints or sections only-, while the other fingers have three each. The ring finger is smaller than the middle finger by half a section; and, the little finger smaller than the ring finger by one section, while the index finger is one section short of the middle.

The feet should be 14 Angulas long; the big toe= 2 Angulas; the first toe = 2 ½ or 2 Angulas; the middle toe = 1 1/2 Angula; the third toe = l ½  Angula ; and , the little toe = l ½  Angula

Female figures are usually’ made about one Amsa shorter than males.

The proportions of child-figures should be as follows:—

The trunk, from the collar-bones below, should be 4 ½ times the size of the head. Thus the portion of the body, between the neck and the thighs is twice and the rest 2 1/2 times the size of the head. The length of the hands should be twice that of the face or the feet.

Children have short necks and comparatively bigheads; for the growth of the head, with increase of age, is much slower than that of the rest of the body.

bar3

In this context, Sri Abanindranth Tagore quotes Prof. Ordhendra Coomar Gangoly (1881-1974), popularly known as O.C. Ganguly , one of the foremost authorities on Indian Art. 

O C Ganguly

The Talas given here do not exhaust the various measures current in Indian sculpture.  In the 4th chapter of the Sukraniti Sara as also in the chapter on Pratima lakshana of the Brihat Samhita measurements are given for the average human body according to which the average male figure is stated to be eight times the face which is represented by one Tala.

Any height for a human ‘male, which is less than the eighth measure is conceived in the Sukraniti-sara as dwarfish or below the average.

The average human female figure is given as of the seventh measure (Sapta-Tala).

The average infant figure is laid down as of the fifth measure (Pancha-tala).

The measures higher than the Asta Tala are reserved for the images of gods ;, demons, Rakshasas and other super-human beings.

Thus the image of the goddess according to the Sukranitisara is always in the ninth measure (Nava Tala smrita Devi).That of the Rakshasas   is the tenth measure.

The South Indian manuscripts however differ a little from the Sukraniti-sara and other works in respect of the rules for the measure of the deities.

But; except in the case of the image of Ganesha and Krishna, all the measures given for the images of the deities are higher than the Asta-tala , the average human measure, the higher measurements suggesting a relatively ‘heroic’ type.

In the South Indian manuscripts, each measure is again divided into three different classes e.g. the Uttama (best) Madhyamā [medium) and the Adhama (lowest). Thus the Uttama Dasa-tala is represented by 124 Angulas or parts; the Madhyamā-dasa-tala by 120 parts; and, the Adhama-dasa-tala by 116 parts. 

Special injunctions are laid down for constructing particular images in a measure specially reserved for them.

design rangoli

The noted Scholar Vinod Vidwans , in his  Expressing with grey cells: Indian perspectives on new media arts, writes :

Every culture has its set of norms for defining beauty based on the tradition, religious beliefs, as well as indigenous evolved notions of beauty. These norms have an impact on people’s behavior and artistic expression. Traditional Indian artists have developed elaborate system of measurements and proportions. Once the conceptual framework for desired entity – an image, sculpture, or architectural monument – is designed or pre-visualized (of course, treatises lay down the process of visualization by emphasizing the importance of contemplation and meditation), artists were supposed to employ the Taala and Maana measurements for bringing the image into expected scale of proportion for actual manifestation.

Since Maana is a system of proportions, there were several distinct sets of measurements. Maana is measurement along the vertical axes, Pramana is along the horizontal axes, Parimaana is around the circumference, Unmaana is along the transverse planes and depths, and Upamaana stands for proportions between negative spaces, i.e., space between the parts .

The purpose of Taala-Maana system was to provide standardization that will eventually lead to harmonious creations. The Taala-Maana measurements laid down in the treatises are supposed to be aesthetic proportions for visual composition. Indian tradition has evolved a unique calculus of aesthetic proportions applicable across plastic and performing arts.

The Taala-Maana system is applicable to performing arts of music, dance, and theater where units of measurements are interpreted in terms of time. The same Taala unit is interpreted in the context of dance as a relative proportion in terms of number of hand spans between the feet in a particular posture or the length of a step, and, with reference to music, it is the unit of a rhythmic cycle, a temporal unit .

The Taala-Maana system is in no sense a prescriptive system; in fact, it is a descriptive system, a calculus of aesthetics that lays down the canons of beauty allowing individual artists to freely explore the beauty of forms with all its possible variations. These canons were never a hindrance to artistic creativity. No two temples or sculptures are the replicas of each other, though they are based on these same canons. Taala-Maana system is a conceptual and perceptual standard of aesthetics, an essence of a long Indian tradition and collective wisdom. The system is sufficiently complex and evolved over a period of time.

The idea of Taala-Maana stands for the integration and manifestation of inner structure, rhythm, and vital energy of the work of art. Artistic vision is scaled to human sense of proportion leading a way towards abstraction and idealized designs that reveal archetype quest for form and meaning. The ultimate objective of any artistic expression is to evoke a unique kind of aesthetic experience. To achieve this artists construct an imaginative world that is meaningful.

A performing artist creates an imaginary world using the artistic devices of language, poetic phrases, dialogues, rhyming words, beautiful hand gestures, and body postures. In arts like painting, sculpture, and architecture, artists use the visual language of shapes, forms, colors, texture, positive and negative spaces to create meaningful reality. In both cases, the languages of creative expression require a grammar of aesthetics.

Normally, this grammar is implicitly present and followed by artists intuitively. Otherwise artists have their own explicit grammar or canons for the language of artistic expression based on certain mathematical ratios or proportions. Any artistic creation has a definite structure in space and time. These canons or grammar provide mathematical foundations to create beautiful and meaningful structures. Mathematics is a study of quantifiable abstract concepts and their structure, order, and relations. Its results are applicable to the real world as well as imaginary worlds.

design rangoli

Dr . Gift Siromoney and his team of researchers applied computer analysis methods to study a large sample of South Indian sculptures; those included the sculptures of the Pallava, Chola, and Pandya and Chera periods. It is said that anthropometric instruments were used for the analysis of facial proportions of the carvings; cluster analysis was used for collating the sculptures into groups that contain very similar features.

The team came up with the conclusion that there existed two systems of proportions which had run into each other. The average values of the facial proportions of the sculptures that were studied were at variance with the proportions prescribed in the canonical texts.

The sculpture seemed to have enjoyed a certain degree of artistic freedom within the framework of the Shilpa texts. The shilpis innovated or improvised their working methods for creation of well proportioned images.

Please visit Dr. Siromoney’s home page and other study reports:

http://www.cmi.ac.in/gift/Iconometry.htm

                                 

Next post

Norms in temple architecture

References:

Cannons of Icometry by Dr. Gift Siromoney

http://www.cmi.ac.in/gift/Iconometry/icon_southindian.htm

http://www.cmi.ac.in/gift/Iconometry/icon_pallavasculpture.htm

Hindu iconology by Pandit Sri Rama Ramanuja Achari

www.australiancouncilofhinduclergy.com

Line drawings

By Shilpi Sri Siddalinga Swamy,

Dr. Jnananada

And from Shilpa Soundarya

Other images are from internet 

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2012 in Temple Architecture

 

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Temple Architecture – Devalaya Vastu – Part seven (7 of 9)

Iconography continued

For the purpose of this post let us confine the discussion to the Dhruva bera images.

The Dhruva bera, iconically, is classified according to its posture; which depicts its attributes, its dispensation or attitude or Bhava. The Shipa Shastras mention four basic postures of the idols. They are the Sthanaka (standing), Aasana (seated), Shayana (reclining) and Yanaka (relating to deities like Hanuman or Garuda who serve as the ride for other deities). Each of these postures has its sub classifications.

A. Sthanaka

tribanga1

The Sthanaka posture ( standing posture) of the image will be in accordance with its nature (sattvic, rajas or tamasic) and its attitude of benevolence or otherwise. That expression of benevolence, grace or the other attitude depicted on the face of the image is enhanced by the manner and style of its stance. The standing postures are named Bhanga, which involves appropriate stance, position and bent of the neck (greeva), shoulder (bhuja), waist (kati), knees (janu) and feet (paada).

The images of Gods and Goddesses are invariably depicted as standing upon a Lotus-throne (Padma-pita)

lotus throne lotus throne2

The basic styles of the standing postures are five in number. They are, briefly:

The Samabhanga or Samapada is standing erect, with the head, the neck and the torsos in a line; and, radiating peace, fulfillment and benediction. In this type the right and left of the figure are disposed symmetrically, the Sutra or plumb line passing, through the navel, from the crown of the head to a point midway between the heels. In other words, the figure, whether it is seated or is standing, is poised firmly on both legs without inclining in any way to right or to left.  The images of the Buddha, Jina, Venkateshwara and Vishnu are generally made to follow this scheme of rigid vertical symmetry. The disposition or attitudes of the limbs and organs on either side are made exactly similar, except that the Mudra or symbolical posing of the fingers is different, depending upon the disposition of the deity.

The Abhanga is a stance with only a slight bent of head or waist, or with a hand on the waist  as in the case of Dakshinamurthy, In an Abhanga posture, the plumb line or the centre line, from the crown of the head to a point midway between the heels, passes slightly to the right of the navel. In other words, the upper half of the figure is made to incline slightly towards its right side, that is, to the left side of the artist or the reverse. The figures of Bodhisattva, Dakshinamurthy, Velayuda or Vatu, the boy Subrahmanya; as also the images of sages are given such slight inclinations. The hips of an Abhanga, figure are displaced from their normal position about one Amsa towards the right side of the image, the left side of the artist, or the reverse.

Dvibhanga is a posture with a bend at the waist, while the parts from waist to the head and from waist to feet are otherwise in samabhangha, as in the case of Sri Rama holding a bow, Shiva or bracket images of damsels.

Tribhanga is when the body is in three distinct delicate and graceful bends – at the neck, the shoulder and the waist, as in the case of female deities, Krishna dancing on Kalinga serpent and Ganapathi in dancing poses. This is essentially a classic dance pose.

In these figures, the centre line passes through the left (or right) pupil, the middle of the chest, the left (or right) of the navel, down to the heels. Thus the figure is inclined in a zigzag or curve like the stems of a lotus or like an ascending flame. The lower limbs, from the hips to the feet, are displaced to the right (or left) of the figure, the trunk between the hips and neck, to the left (or right), while the head leans towards the right (or left). Images of goddesses belonging to this Tri-bhanga type have their heads inclined to the right (the left of the artist), while gods always lean theirs to the left (the right of the artist), so that when placed together the god and the goddess appear leaning towards each other.

In other words, when the male and female images are properly placed in pairs,—the female to the left of the male—, they appear like two full-blown lotuses bending to seek one another. This is the usual attitude of all Yugala (twin) figures, or of divine couples. This bending attitude, or the seeking poise of the male and female figure may however be occasionally – reversed, so that the figures lean away from each other, the male assuming the female Bhanga and the female assuming the pose of a male figure;  thus , suggesting lovers’ quarrels, and  mutual disagreements, etc.

Figures like that of  Vishnu or Shiva , which are flanked by  two attendant figures, are usually made a compound of the Sama bhanga and Tri bhanga types, the figure of the deity  being placed rigidly upright in the middle , without inclining one way or the other towards either of the attendant deities. The attending figures, which usually are female  deities,  assume Tri bhanga posture, with their heads inclined inwards towards the principal figure. The figures on either side are exactly similar in poise, except that one is a reverse or reflex of the other. This is a necessary; as otherwise one of the figures would lean away from the central figure, and, would spoil the balance and harmony of the whole composition. A Tri bhanga figure has its head and hips displaced about one Amsa to the right or left of the centre line

The Atibhanga is a dynamic posture, which actually is an accentuated form of the Tri bhanga; the sweep of the Tri bhanga curve being considerably enhanced. The upper portion of the body above the hips or the limbs below are thrown to right or left, backwards or forwards, like a tree caught in a storm.

And, Athi-bhanga is the one with several twists in the body and arms. This bhanga brings out anger and ferociousness as in the case of Durga slaying the demon; and Ugra Nrusimha slaying and tearing apart the demon; or to bring out wonder and amazement (adbhuta) as in the case of Trivikrama; or fearsome or grotesque attitudes as in the case of sculptures of Kailasanath temple, Kanchipuram

This type is usually seen in such representations as Shiva’s dance of destruction and fighting gods and demons, and is specially  adapted to the portrayal of violent action, of the impetus of the Tandava and the dance of the Devi  in her aggressive aspect  etc.

Narasimha atibanga

The idols in the standing posture, sthanaka, are also classified according to their nature: Dhirodaatha, the sattvic type; dhira lalitha (rajasa) and Dhiroddatha (tamasa).

B. Shayana

Shayana is the idol of the deity in reclining or sleeping position. Only Vishnu and the Buddha images are represented in this position. Apart from this, the baser elements such as the demons  (Apasmara) are shown lying under the feet of Nataraja or the Devi.

Sri Ranganatha or Anantha shayana is the most celebrated form of Vishnu in reclining posture.

Vishnu is represented in three forms of Shayana. In the Yoga shayana posture, Vishnu, with two arms and without his ayudhas, is depicted in yoga nidra, Yogic sleep, contemplating the unfolding of the universe. Vishnu is reclining on the coils of Anantha the serpent who symbolizes time; and Brahma the divinity responsible for creation is seated on the lotus emerging from Vishnu’s navel. The Yoga shayana images are installed in temples located in forest region or in forts on top of hills. Yoga shayana Vishnu symbolizes his creation, shrusti, aspect.

Ranganatha

Bhoga shayana Vishnu is similar but is adorned with four arms, auspicious signs of srivatsa, kausthuba on his chest; and with his usual set of ayudhas. Vishnu’s gaze is fixed on his consorts serving at his feet. He has a very pleasing disposition. The temples of Vishnu in Bhoga shayana form are located in the midst of a populous city or town. Bhoga shayana Vishnu symbolizes his well-being, sthiti, his preservation aspect.

(Line drawing by Shilpi Shri Thippajappa)

The Veera shayana form of Vishnu is adorned with four to eight arms. He is holding his weapons. He is represented as if he is just about to wage a battle. He is surrounded by the rishis, the gandarvas and his entourage including Garuda, his ride. Brahma is as usual seated atop the lotus from Vishnu’s navel. The demons Madhu and Kaitaba are shown at his feet. Veera shayana Vishnu symbolizes his absorption, samhara, aspect.

There is also an unusual form of Vishnu in shayana posture. The Abhicharika shayana does not have the serpent bed or the Brahma. Vishnu is reclining on the floor; he looks emaciated too. Such an inauspicious form of Vishnu is employed in Tantric worship; and it should not be located where people especially where women and children dwell.

C. Aasana

Aasana class is when the deity is in sitting posture. There are several modes and styles of sitting; and among them about eleven or twelve postures of sitting are usually depicted in temple architecture. These are again classified into sattvic, rajasa and tamasa.

4_padmasana6_maharaja_leelasana8_utkudi_asana9_yogasana10_swastik_asana

The images depicting the deity in a peaceful, happy and benevolent disposition; radiating peace and joy; and blessing the devotees are the most common forms of sattvic class of idols in sitting posture. The deity, in such cases, is sitting in padmasana (lotus position) or yoga-asana (yogic posture, as in the case of Yoga Nrusimha or Ayyappa).Dakshinamurthy, the Buddha and Mahaveera being the other well known examples.

Sukhasana is sitting with one leg bent at the knee and across; and the other leg down and almost touching the ground. The deity is in a relaxed position looking happy, peaceful and joyous. Images of Padmapani , Vishnu, Shiva or Devi in Sukhasana are the most common examples.

The images of the deity sitting with its one foot down, almost touching the ground, radiating majesty and authority are the rajasa type of idols in Aasana posture ; Vishnu , Rajarajeshwari , Chandikeshwara (a form of Rudra ) are the  common examples. In some cases, the deity rests  his foot on an asura (demon) lying on the ground, as if displaying authority and power.

The images of goddess Durga, Chamundi, Mahisha mardini and such other forms of the Devi, sitting or mounted on a beast, with her one foot almost touching the ground are the tamasic class of idols in Aasana posture.

D. Nruthya bhanga: The deity is depicted in a classic dancing posture. The images of Krishna dancing on the Kalinga, Nataraja, nruthya Ganapathi and Sarawathi are some of the well known examples of this genre.

E.Yana

In the Yana, the postures of Hanuman, Garuda and Bhuvaraha are depicted.

*****

Icons are further classified according to their disposition; and the purpose for which the icons are worshiped .

1. Yoga mūrti;

yoganarayana

These icons depict the deity in various meditation postures. They are worshiped by the aspirant desiring self-control or Yoga. These icons should be established and consecrated on the banks of rivers, in forests or on top of mountains; and, it should be quite far from human habitation;  the reason being to provide   a peaceful environment in which the aspirant can practice yogic meditation, undisturbed.

2. Bhoga-mūrti:

lakshmi venkateshvara

These icons depict the deity in a pleasant disposition . These forms are well  suited for  temples constructed in towns and places of habitation. These icons are generally worshiped  by all classes of people , praying for health , happiness and prosperity in life. The images of Uma-Maheshvara, Lakshmi-Venkateswara, Radha-Krishna and Lakshmi-Narayana etc. are of this type.

3. Vīra-mūrti:

rama deating ravana

These icons depict the Deity in a heroic posture such as Rama defeating Rāvana or Durga defeating Mahiṣāsura or Śhiva as samhara-murti. This type of icon bestows power and victory over enemies (such as anger, greed, delusion etc.), it can be established either in the town or outside of it.

4. Ugra-mūrti:

ugra narasimha

This is the form which is used for protection against enemies (either real or virtual  in the form of anger, delusion, desire etc.) They are characterized by sharp teeth and a large number of arms carrying various weapons, wide eyes and a flaming halo around the head. This icon may only be set up in the North-eastern corner of the settlement or village. The setting up of an Ugra-murti in the midst of a town or city is prohibited. If it is established then a śānta-mūrti must be placed directly in front of it, or a tank of water should be constructed in front of the temple.

Madura - The Sacred Tank - 1868

The Viśvarūpa, Narasimha, Sudarśana and the Vaṭa-patra-śāyin are of the Vaiṣṇava Ugra type. Gaja-samhāra is an ugra form of Lord Śihva and Kāli dancing on Śiva, and Pratyaṅgira Devī are examples of Ugra Śaktis.

5. Abhicārika-mūrti:

These types of icons are used for the purpose of inflicting death and destruction on one’s enemies or confounding his purposes. This form is only set up far from a town and never in a place of human habitation. (This form is purely theoretical as there are no temples of this type;  and common people  should never  have anything to do with these).

[http://www.srimatham.com/uploads/5/5/4/9/5549439/hindu_iconography_1.pdf ]

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Ayudha

Ayudha generally translates to weapons; but, in shilpa sastra, the term indicates whatever objects the idol holds in his or her hands. The Ayudhas delineate the nature, character and functions associated with the idol. In a way of speaking, they are the symbols of a symbolism. For instance, Saraswathi holds in her hands a book symbolizing the Vedas and learning; a Kamandalu (a water jug) symbolizing smruthi, vedanga and shastras; a rosary symbolizing the cyclical nature of time; and the musical instrument veena symbolizing music and her benevolent nature. All these objects are not weapons in the conventional sense, but the shilpa employs those as symbols to expand and depict and interpret the nature  of the idol and its meaning.

Each of these Ayudhas signifies a certain aspect or it stands for a concept. For instance, the mirror signifies a clear mind and awareness; the flag signifies victory or celebration; the Ankusha (goad) signifies exercising control over senses and baser instincts, Damaru in the hands of shiva signifies creation and origin of sound and learning; and, the scepter signifies authority and rule of law.

The Dhyana slokas associated with each deity specify the Ayudhas to be held in its right or left or upper or lower arms. The Ayudhas held by auspicious deities are in even number.

Apart from the weapons a variety of objects are employed as Ayudhas. These include instruments of various professions (pen, chisel, hammer, plow, sickle etc.), musical instruments (flute, veena, drums, pipes, trumpets etc.), plants and trees (ashvatta, bilva, seedlings of paddy, grass etc) and miscellaneous objects (mirror, bell, book, flag, lamp, vase, umbrella etc.)

*****

Mudra:


Mudra means sign or a seal. It is a symbolic gesture or position usually of hands and fingers. They are commonly used in tantric worship, yoga, dance and music. The Shilpa shastra has however its own use for the mudras ; and it has developed its own set of mudras .There are in general two types of mudras, those with one-hand and those with two-hand. The one handed mudras (asanyuktha orkevala) number about 28; while the two hand mudras (sanyuktha) are about 23.The mudras give an expression and eloquence   to the attributes of the image and to its message.

All these symbols and mudras form the pool of Indian art language. They are commonly employed by the Hindu, Buddhist and Jaina traditions.

1_abaya_hasta2_varad_hasta4_vyakyana_hasta5_susi_hasta5_susi_hasta14_darma_chakra_hasta

According to Tantrasara Vishnu has 19 mudras (shankha, chakra, Gadha, padma etc.), which mean attributes; Shiva has 10 mudras (yoni. Trishula, linga tc.); Ganesha has 7(ankusha, dantha, modaka etc.); Saraswathi has 7(maala, pusthaka, veena, etc.); and Agni has 7 (flames, horns etc,) and so on. The Tantrika also include Jata, Tilaka, Bhasma, Chandana etc.

Mudras are again classified into those that convey a message (sankethica), which are mostly single hand mudras. The next are the vastu rupa mudras which suggest as if the diety is holding in his or her hands some object. And, the third is ayudha grahana , where the diety actually  holds an ayudha.

Among the Sankethica mudras, the better known are the Abhya mudra with right palm fingers pointing upward assuring protection; Varada mudra with the fingers pointing down ward in act of giving; Vyakhna mudra or Chin mudra as if teaching or explaining as in images of Dakshinamurty and the Buddha; Dhyana mudra as if settled in meditation; and, Tarjani mudra or  ala_padma with raised palm conveying happy welcome as in the images of dwarapalakas, the guards at the sanctum.

The common examples of Vastu rupa mudra are those of Saraswathi or Dakshinamurthy with hands in such a position as if the deity is playing on the veena. The other examples are those of Rishba_rudha Shiva as if Shiva is reclining against his ride the bull; of Sri Rama as if he is holding the bow; and  of Shiva as if he  is holding the damaru, a sort of drum (damaru hastha).

Vrishbha-ruda Shiva – as if  reclining against Nandi bull.

The Ayudha mudras are those where the deity actually holds an object such as pasha (rope),ankusha (goad or hook) as in the case of Ganapathi; Danda , a staff in the hands  of Skanda (danda hastha)

*****

In Hindu Iconography, Paada mudras the position of the lower limbs and the feet are as important as the hand gestures (hastha mudras).It is the paada mudra that suggest movement or animation or stillness of the image. The samarangana Sutradhara lists six paada mudras: Vaishnavam (one leg straight and another slightly curved- adidaivatha form of Vishnu); Sampadanam (standing erect with legs joined and body weight distributed evenly); Alidanam (Standing like an archer, with right leg drawn forward); Prathyalidanam (opposite of Alidanam- left foot in front); Ardhasam or Mandalam (one leg is thrown out and the other remains stable – as in Nataraja or Vishakadeva); and there are the legs folded in sitting postures as in Udarabhandam (as in Ganesha) and in paada-patta or Yoga –patta (as in Yoga Nrusimha )

**

Kirita; makuta; and Jata-makuta

The headgear is a distinctive feature of the Indian icons. The head-gears that are commonly mentioned are the Kirita -makutaKaranda-makuta and Jata-makuta. Mansara, the ancient text of Shilpa shastra, classifies these types of head gears under the term makuta or mouli (MansaraMauli-lakshanam: 49; 1-232). The kiritas or the makuta (crown) emphasise the nature (sattva, rajas or tamas) and the nobility of the image.  For all the makuta-s, the width commencing from the bottom should be gradually made lesser and lesser towards the top.

Among these, the Kirita-makuta is an highly ornate  elaborate crown that adorns major gods such as Vishnu and his forms (Narayana) and also emperors (Sarvabhouma).It has the appearance of Taranga-s (waves) and its middle is made into the shape of flowers and adorned with precious stones. The base of the Kirita-makuta should be curved like a crescent (ardha-chandra) just above the forehead. The height of the Kirita-makuta should be two or three times the length of the wearer’s face.

The Karanda-makuta is prescribed for lesser gods and for goddesses when depicted along with their spouse. It is simpler and shallower as compared to Kirita-makuta. The Karanda-makuta is a small conical cornet receding in tier. It  is   shaped like an inverted flowerpot, tapering from the bottom upwards and ending in a bud. The width of a Karanda-makuta at the top should, however, be only one-half or one-third less than that at its base. The female deities such as Saraswathi and Savithri have kesha_bandha or Kuntala type of hair arrangement.

The jata- makuta is suitable according to Mansara for Brahma , Rudra or the Buddha , as also for consorts of Shiva. Jata-makuta,is made up of jata or matted locks, which are twisted into encircling braids of spiral curls and tied into a knot looped at the top. It is held in place by a patta (band); and is adorned with forest flowers and by a number of ornamental discs like the makara-kutapatra-kuta, and the ratna-kuta. In the case of Shiva, the jata-makuta is adorned with a crescent of the moon, a cobra and the Ganga.

The Hoysala School of sculpture in particular adorns its images with elaborate and highly ornate crowns, rich in design.Usually,   highly ornate kirita, makuta adorns images of Vishnu and his aspects. A simpler crown of the Karanda class is meant for lesser deities.

Jataa-makuta, coiled hair mopped on top of head is for the images of Shiva, Brahma, the Buddha and the sages.

Nataraja’s hair is flying in the wind as he swirls in his tandava dance. His hair is prasarith jata, the flying hair.

Agni has a special hairdo called agni_kesha with his hair spreading out like tongues of fire.

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Alankara -ornamentation:

The shilpis took great delight in adorning the image with rich and finely carved ornaments. While the other segments of the carving are regulated by the prescriptions of the Sahastras and the tradition, the Alankara element offers the artists abundant scope to exercise their imagination and to display their ingenuity. Therefore, the amazing varieties, the patterns and the designs of ornaments that one comes across in the Indian sculpture are virtually limitless.

The major deities, both male and female, are adorned with rich ornaments; the minor deties and humans are provided modest ornaments. Often, the ornaments serve as the costume of the image.

The term used for ornamentation is Alankara which encompasses forms of beauty and visual appeal in all forms of Indian art including poetry and music. Alankara is not merely bejeweling but it also implies enhancing the grace and beauty of the image and to enchant and please the eyes of the beholder. Alankara also conveys the nobility, the grandeur and the lovely nature of the adorable image. The Hoysala sculptures in particular are rich in ornamentation.

Specific names are given to the ornaments that adorn various body- parts of image. The ornaments below or around the neck are Kanti (like a collar) , Skandamaala  (necklaces) and manihara (strings of precious stones or beads).

In the abdomen region, are the Yajnopavitha (sacred thread), Kati bandha or kati sutra (waist belt).

Katakas are bangles made of gold or precious stones.

The feet are adorned with paada jalaka (ornament made of strings), nupura (the bells) and rings that decorate the toes.

 

Continued
Next:
Iconometry

References:

Shilpa Soundarya by KT Pankajaksha

The Lord of Seven Hills by Prof. SKR Rao

Line drawings of kirita and ornaments by the renowned Shilpi and Yogi Sri Siddalinga Swamy  of Mysore

Other Line drawings from Shilpa Soundarya

Other pictures from internet

temple_26031_md

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2012 in Temple Architecture

 

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Temple Architecture – Devalaya Vastu – Part Six (6 of 9)

Symbolism of the temple

Symbolism of the temple

A Temple is a huge symbolism; it involves a multiple sets of ideas and imagery.

The temple is seen as a link between man and god; and between the actual and the ideal. As such it has got to be symbolic. A temple usually called Devalaya, the abode of God, is also referred to as Prasada meaning a palace with very pleasing aspects. Vimana is another term that denotes temple in general and the Sanctum and its dome, in particular. Thirtha, a place of pilgrimage is it’s another name.

The symbolisms of the temple are conceived in several layers. One; the temple complex, at large, is compared to the human body in which the god resides. And, the other is the symbolisms associated with Vimana the temple per se, which also is looked upon as the body of the deity. And the other is its comparison to Sri Chakra.

shanka-kshetra-Copyright 2005-2010-HareKrsna-com

Let’s start with the temple complex being looked upon as a representation of Sri Chakra.

The shrine is itself an object of reverence. The icon at  the center of the temple is the image of divinity and its purity that generations after generations have revered and venerated. That image residing at the heart of the temple is its life; and is its reason. One can think of an icon without a temple; but it is impossible to think of a temple without an icon of the divinity. The very purpose of a temple is its icon. And, therefore is the most important structure of the temple is the Garbagriha where the icon resides.

There are also views that assert saying that the temple has a sanctity of its own , independent of the icon; and, the icon’s sanctity is related to that of the temple . This view is based on the premise that even before the icon is placed within it, the temple-structure , is indeed sacred as its womb (Grha-garbha); and, the sanctum becomes the Gabha-griha  (womb-house) only after the icon is installed within it. The temple  (ayatana , the abode) and the image of the divinity placed within it are, thus, mutually complimentary.

In fact, the entire temple is conceived as the manifestation or the outgrowth of the icon. And, very often, the ground-plan of a temple is a mandala. Just as the Sri Chakra is the unfolding of the Bindu at its centre, the temple is the outpouring or the expansion of the deity residing in Brahmasthana at the centre.

The temple as also the Sri Chakra employs the imagery of an all – enveloping space and time continuum issuing out of the womb. In the case of Sri Chakra the Bindu is the dimension-less and therefore imperceptible source of energy. The idol, the Vigraha, in the Garbagriha represents the manifestation of that imperceptible energy or principle; and it radiates that energy.

The devotee- both at the temple and in Sri Chakra- moves from the gross to the subtle. In the temple, the devotee proceeds   from the outer structures towards the deity in the inner sanctum, which compares to the Bindu in the Chakra. The Sri Chakra upasaka too proceeds from the outer Avarana (enclosure) pass through circuitous routes and successive stages to reach the Bindu at the centre of the Chakr, representing the sole creative principle. Similarly the devotee who enters the temple through the gateway below the Gopura (feet of the Lord) passes through several gates, courtyards and prakaras, and submits himself to the Lord residing in the serenity of garbhagrha, the very hearts of the temple, the very  representation of One cosmic Principle.

temple courtyard - Daniell, Thomas

The other symbolism is that the human body is a temple in which the antaryamin resides. The analogy is extended to explain the various parts of the body as being representations of the aspects of a temple. In this process, the forehead is said to represent the sanctum; and the top of the head, the tower. The space between the eyebrows, the ajna chakra, is the seat of the divinity. The finial of the tower is the unseen the sahasrara located above the head.

Accordingly, the sanctum is viewed as the head; and Right on top of that head is the passage through which the currents of life ascend to the tower through that stone slab Brahma-randra_shila. Around the four corners of this slab are placed the images of the vehicles or emblems that characterize the icon inside the sanctum.

devalaya symbolism

Another interesting aspect is that the temple concept is a curious mixture of Vedic, Tantric and Agama principles. The Tantra regards the human body as a Mandala; and it is mobile (chara or jangama) Mandala. The Agama shastras regard a temple too as Mandala; and here it is an immobile (achala or sthavara) Mandala. The analogy of the temple with the human body finds closer relationships.

The symbolism extends to the conception of Vimana or the central part of the temple as the physical form of god. For instance, the sukanasi or ardhamantapa (the small enclosure in front of the garbhagrha) is the nose; the antarala is the neck; the various mantapas are the body; the prakaras are the hands and so on. Vertically, the garbhagrha represents the neck, the shikhara (superstructure over the garbhagrha) the head, the kalasha (finial) the tuft of hair (shikha) and so on.

The names assigned to various parts of the Vimana seem to go along with this symbolism. For instance, Pada (foot) is the column; jangha (trunk) is parts of the superstructure over the base; Gala or griva (neck) is the part between moulding which resembles the neck; Nasika (nose) is any nose shaped architectural part and so on. The garbhagrha represents the heart and the image the antrayamin (the indwelling Lord).  These symbolisms also suggest seeking the divinity within our heart.

The temple is also seen as a representation of the subtle body with the seven psychic centres or chakras. In the structure of the temple, the Brahma randra is represented in the structure erected on top of the sanctum. The flat-roof (kapota) of the sanctum is overlaid by a single square stone slab known in the texts as Brahma-ranhra-sila (the stone denoting the upper passage of life). The sanctum is viewed as the head; and right on top of the head is the passage through which the currents of life ascend to the tower through this stone slab.

Interestingly, the Kalasha placed on top of the Vimana is not imbedded into the structure by any packing it with mortar or cement. It is, in fact, placed in position by a hollow rod that juts out of the centre of the tower and runs through the vase, the Kalasha. It is through this tube that the   lanchana ‘tokens’ (cereals and precious stones) are introduced. One of the explanations is the hallow tube represents the central channel of energy the Shushumna that connects to the Sahasra, the seat of consciousness, through the Brahma randra.

The other symbolisms associated with the Sanctum and the tower above it are, that sanctum is the water (aapa) principle and the tower over it is Fire (tejas); the finial of the tower (Vimana) stands for air (vayu) and above the Vimana is the formless space (akasha). The sanctum is thus a constellation of the five elements that are basic to the universe. And fire being the active element that fuses the others, the tower becomes an important limb in the structure of a temple.

vimana

Symbolism of The Sri Vaikunta Perumal Temple at Kanchipuram 

Dr D Dennis Hudson (1938-2006) who was the Emeritus Professor of World Religions at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts; and one who spent a lifetime in the study of Hinduism, particularly the Bhagavata tradition, in his book The Sri Vaikunta Perumal Temple at Kanchipuram, presents the interpretation of the symbolism that the temple structured as a three-dimensional Mandala.

His interpretation is based on Tirumangai Azhwar’s poetry and the theology of the Bhagavata Purana, which illumine layers of symbolism embodied in the architecture and sculpture of this temple.

vaikunta perumal 3

According to Prof. Hudson, on the Sri Vaikunta Perumal Temple built in 770 C.E. by Nandivarman II Pallavamalla (731-796 C.E.) was , initially, given the name Parameshwara at the time of his coronation . And, it came to be known as Parameshwara-Vinnagaram (the abode of Vishnu), as sung by the Vaishnava saint, Tirumangai Azhwar.

srirangam temple

The architecture of the Sri Vaikunta Perumal Temple is unique; with three sanctums placed one over the other, on the three floors; and, a concealed staircase leading to the upper floors.

The three sanctums enshrine Vishnu in three postures – seated, reclining and standing. The walls are adorned with more than fifty sculptures, besides the panels depicting the history of the Pallavas, leading to the coronation of Nandivarman.

According to Prof. Hudson, the temple reveals a visual theology, the `four formations (chatur-vyuha) as per the doctrine of Pancharatra Agama. The Vimana is structured as a three-dimensional Mandala.

vaikunta perumal2 jpg

 He identifies the central figure in the sanctum of the ground floor as Vasudeva facing west, i.e. the Earth; Sankarshana facing north, the realm of human life; Pradyumna facing east towards heaven; and, Aniruddha facing south, the realm of ancestors.

The sculptural scheme matches the Pancharatra concept, representing the six `glorious excellences’ and the twelve murthis (dwadasa-namas). The six excellences are: the omniscient knowledge (jnana), power (bala), sovereignty (aishwarya), action (virya), brilliance (tejas) and potency (sakthi).

The Murti on the middle floor has the Vishnu is in lying pose known as Sheshashayee Vishnu, as he sleeps in the Kshirasagara. This Murti rests in a rather smaller room with plain walls. Here, the King serves Vishnu, as a disciple would serve his Guru.

The sanctum of the third floor represents the realm of space-time, depicting Vasudeva as he appeared in the human form of Krishna. The temple per se signifies the `body of God.

The staircase from behind the ground floor sanctum opens up a huge sculpture of Vishnu in sitting posture.

Vaikunta perumal vishnu staircase

***

Iconography

Before we deal with iconography per se , let’s briefly go-over some its general principles associated with it .

The Agama shastras are based in the belief that the divinity can be approached in two ways. It can be viewed as nishkala, formless – absolute; or as sakala having specific aspects.

Nishkala is all-pervasive and is neither explicit nor is it visible. It is analogues, as the Agama texts explain, to the oil in the sesame-seed, fire in the fuel, butter in milk, and scent in flower. It is in human as antaryamin, the inner guide. It has no form and is not apprehended by sense organs, which includes mind.

Sakala, on the other hand, is explicit energy like the fire that has emerged out of the fuel, oil extracted out of the seed, butter that floated to the surface after churning milk or like the fragrance that spreads and delights all. That energy can manifest itself in different forms and humans can approach those forms through appropriate means. The Agamas recognize that means as the archa, the worship methods unique to each form of energy-manifestation or divinity.

The idea of multiple forms of divinity was in the Vedas. Rig Veda at many places talks in terms of saguna, the supreme divinity with attributes. The aspects of the thirty-three divinities were later condensed to three viz. Agni, the aspect of fire, energy and life on earth; Vayu, the aspect of space, movement and air in the mid-region; and Surya the universal energy and life that sustains and governs all existence, in the heavenly region, the space. This provided the basis for the evolution of the classic Indian trinity, the Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu.

[Let me digress here for a while  …

The study of Buddhist branch of Indian Iconography is one of the most interesting and fascinating subjects. In the present period, the study of the Buddhist Iconography is carried out mostly with reference to the available sculptures, bronzes, metal and miniatures sourced from various monuments.

As is well known, the earlier phase of Buddhism was free from a pantheon and representations of any gods and goddesses. The sculptural depictions found in the ancient monuments such as – Sanchi, Amaravathi and Bharhut etc., – relate to scenes of the Buddha’s life;  and, to incidents picked up from the Jataka tales. The early representations of the Buddha were through symbols such as: the Bodhi-tree; the wheel of Dharma; the throne of exposition; sacred foot-prints; and so on.

The Buddha’s representation as a perfect human being came about much later, in the Gandhara School, perhaps through the influence of the Greek. The first image of the Buddha was fashioned in the Gandhara School, replicating the Greek Art.

The sculptures at Amaravathi are perhaps very near, in time, to the Gandhara School. That was followed by the Mathura School. Then come the sculptures of Saranath, Magadha, Bengal, Orissa, Java and Nepal (particularly in the Tantric context).

In the early Buddhism of the Pali tradition (Hinayana) , there was a marked absence of pantheon; and ritualistic worship of the idols of the Buddha or of any other deity.

But , with the birth and growth of the Mahayana ; and, particularly with the influx of  the Vajrayana (which was a direct outcome of the Yogachara School) , the theories , principles and practices of the Buddhist iconography were thoroughly transformed  into a totally different class.

The Tantric Vajrayana introduced many innovations of a revolutionary character that were alien and hitherto unknown to the Buddhist traditions.

For instance; it brought in the concept of five Dhyani Buddhas as embodiment of five Skandas or cosmic elements; and, formulated the theory of Kulas or families of the five Dhyani Buddhas, from which emerged numerous deities according to the disposition and the need of the practitioner.

Further, Vajrayana introduced the practice of worshiping the Prajna or Shakthi and a host of other gods and goddesses. It also elaborately composed articulate Sadhanas (Dhyana slokas) to enable the practitioner to visualize one’s chosen deity; and, to invoke the deity through its appropriate Mantras, Mudras, Mandalas and Yantras.

In order to heighten its psychic and emotional appeal, the Vajrayana introduced every conceivable tenet, dogma and ritual, calculated to enthuse its adherents of all classes – cultured, rustic, pious or aggressive etc. Many of those theories, worship-practices and deities were adopted from Hinduism as also from the folk traditions of Nepal and China.

As the Buddhism traveled far and beyond the Himalayas into Tibet, China and Mongolia; and, spread eastward right up to Korea and Japan, it imbibed and brought within its fold several characteristics, features and practices that were unique to each region. It is needless to say; Vajrayana, in due course, attained great fame and popularity.

Now, virtually, it is no longer possible to isolate the Buddhist iconography of India from its later Avatars in the new worlds, although they, initially, were influenced by the Buddhist Tantras of India. And, that is further complicated by the free and frequent interchange of deities and concepts among the three prominent religious systems – Hindu , Jaina and Buddhist.

I gratefully acknowledge the source , particularly the  scholarly introduction to the Second Edition of  The Indian Buddhist Iconography – mainly based on Sadhanamala by Prof. Benoytosh Bhattacharya ; Published by Firma K L Mukhopadhyay , Calcutta , 1958.]

lotus blue

The pantheon and the concept of polytheism gave tremendous impetus to all branches of Indian arts, literature and iconography. The polytheism is, in fact, the lifeblood of iconography; for it is only through a divinity with aspects one can represent and worship ones ideal with  love, adoration and earnestness. Making an image involves an understanding of its attributes, virtues, powers, characteristics, symbols and its disposition. An image is the visual and concrete form of idealism; the idioms of beauty grace and power nurtured and honed by generations after generations. It is a representation of a community’s collective aspirations.

Iconographic representations of gods and goddesses are the idioms aiming to give expression to their attributes, powers, virtues and disposition. Multiplicity of heads denotes presence of their concurrent abilities; and multiplicity of hands denotes their versatile abilities. For instance, three heads of a divinity indicates trio guna (Guna-triad: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas) or shakthi traya [iccha (will), Jnana (consciousness) and kriya (action) shakthis or powers] . Four heads represent compreneshion  or enveloping four Vedas ; or overseeing four directions . Five heads stand for five principles or elements  (pancha-bhuthas) or five divine attributes or five stages of the evolutionary process

[shristi (creation), shthithi (expansion), samhara (withdrawal),  triodhana (concealing) and anugraha (preserving  till the commencement of the next cycle  of evolution)]

Not all divine representations are made through icons. Shiva is represented usually by a conic linga or an un-carved rock ; Vishnu and Narasimha are worshipped at homes as Saligrama (a special types of smooth dark stones found on bed of the Gandaki river); Ganapathi is best worshipped in the roots of the arka plant, and he is also represented by red stones (sona shila) or turmeric cones or pieces (haridra churna). The Devi in Kamakhya temple is worshipped in a natural fissure of a rock. Yet all these divinities have specified well defined iconographic forms.

Panchayatana

According to the Agamas, icons can be constructed of stone; Kadira wood; metal; clay; precious stones; or painted on cloth. And, those made in metal are usually sculptured in wax form and then cast in metal.

 ktvā pratinidhi samyag dāru loha śilādibhi | tat sthāpayitvā mā sthāne śāstra dṛṣena vartmanā || Padma Samhita Kriya Pada 1;5

 

Since the very purpose of the temple structure is the image residing in it; and the temple is regarded the virtual expansion of the image, let us talk for a while about temple iconography.

Iconography, in general terms, is the study and interpretation of images in art. But, in the context of this discussion it could be restricted to the study of icons meant for worship and the images used in temple architecture. The temple iconography is more concerned with the concept, interpretation and validity of the icon in terms of the themes detailed in the scriptures or the mythological texts; and with the prescriptions of the Shilpa Shastra. There is not much discussion on the styles of architecture or the art forms, per se.

Iconology could be understood as the study of the symbolism projected by the images. Here, the symbolism is the expression of reality through aesthetically presented suggestions; it is where two realms meet:  the formless Absolute (Nikala) and the form with attributes (Sakala).

A symbol could be natural or conventional or otherwise. When we perceive a direct relationship between one orders of things with another a natural symbol develops.

[A short explanation about the term iconography. We are using it for want of a better term in English. The word icon is derived from Greek eikon; and it stands for a sign or that which resembles the god it represents.

In the Indian tradition what is worshiped is Bimba, the reflection or Prathima, the image of god, but not the god itself. Bimba means reflection, like the reflection of moon in a tranquil pool. That reflection is not the moon but an image (prathima) of the moon. In other words, what is worshiped in a temple is an idea, a conception or the mental image of god, translated to a form in stone or metal or wood; but, it is not the god itself. The principal Indian term for Iconography is therefore Prathima –lakshana, the study of images.

Various terms are used while referring to icons; such as:

Bera : image; Mūrtī : an image with definite shape and physical features; Bimba: reflection of the original or model after which it is made (the Original Being of course is God); Vigraha : extension, expansion, form; Pratima :  resemblance or representation; Pratīka : symbol;  Rūpa : form; and , Arca : object of adoration and worship.]

Apart from the Agamas, there are several texts that detail the processes involved in practicing the art; and specify the rules governing iconography and iconometry. The Brihat Samhita of Varahamihira (6th century AD) is an ancient text that provides descriptions of certain images. It refers to one Nagnajit, as the author of a contemporary work on Silpasastra – but not much is known about him or his work. Shukranithisara is another treatise which discusses aspects such as the proportions and the measurements recommended for the images of various classes and attributes. The subject he dealt with has since developed into Iconometry. Someshwara’s (a 1th century western Chalukya king) Abhilashitartha Chintamini contains interesting iconographical details of many important deities.  And, Hemadri (13th century AD) who hailed from Dakshina Kannada region authored Caturvarga_chintamini, which deals with temple architecture and construction. He is credited with introducing a method of construction that did not use lime.

In addition, there are the major and authoritative texts that deal comprehensively with all aspects of Devalaya Vastu. These include Kashyapa shilpa samhitha, Mayamata, Manasara, Shilpa rathna, Kumaratantra, Lakshana_samuchayya, Rupamanada; and the Tantrasara of Ananda Tirtha (Sri Madhwacharya) , which contains sections dealing with the study of images (iconography and iconometry).

Among the puranas, the Agnipurana details the Prathima_lakshanam (the characteristics of images), Prathimavidhi (the mode of making images), and Devagraha nirmana (the construction of places of worship).

Similarly, the Matsya Purana (dated around second century AD) has eighteen comprehensive chapters on  architecture and sculpture. This purana mentions as many as eighteen ancient architects (vastu_shatropadeshkaha): Brighu, Atri, Vashista, Vishwakarma, Brahma, Maya, Narada, Nagnajit, Visalaksa, Purandara, Kumara, Nanditha, Shaunaka, Garga, Vasudeva, Aniruddha, Shuka and Brihaspathi. Many of these names appear to come from mythology; but quite a few of them could be historical. Sadly, the works of most of these savants are now lost. The Mathsya purana says that the best aspect of karma yoga is the building temples and installing deities; and therefore devotes several chapters to the subject of temple construction and image making.

The Vishnu purana (dated about 3rd century AD) too contains several chapters on the subjects of architecture and sculpture. Further, it includes the Vishnu_dharmotthara_purana (perhaps an insertion into the Vishnupurana at a later period), which is a masterly treatise on temple architecture, iconography and painting. This work which is in the form of a conversation between the sage Markandeya and the King Vajra is spread over 42 chapters. In part three of the text there is virtually a catalouge of the various deities with  descriptions of their features, stance and gestures (mudras) apart from their disposition and attributes.

In addition to  the Sanskrit texts, the Tamil works – Mandalapurusha’s Chintamini Nigandu and Sendanar’s Divakara nigandu, are well known and widely accepted. Besides, there is an ancient work by an unknown author, Silpam (perhaps a translation of an ancient Sanskrit text), which is popular among the shilpis.

A special mention needs to be made about iconography ‘s (prathima lakshana) relation with Natyasastra.

The Shilpa and Chitra (painting) are closely related to Natyasastra (ca. second century BCE). The rules of the iconography (prathima lakshana), in particular, appear to have been derived from the Natyasastra. The Indian sculptures are often the frozen versions or representations of the gestures and poses of dance (caaris and karanas) described in Natyasastra. The Shilpa (just as the Natya) is based on a system of medians (sutras), measures (maanas), postures of symmetry (bhangas)   and asymmetry (abhanga, dvibhanga and tribhanga); and on the  sthanas (positions of standing, sitting, and reclining). The concept of perfect symmetry is present in Shilpa as in Nrittya; and that is indicated by the term Sama.

The Natya and Shilpa sastras developed a remarkable approach to the structure of the human body; and delineated the relation between its central point (navel), verticals and horizontals. It then coordinated them, first with the positions and movements of the principal joints of neck, pelvis, knees and ankles; and then with the emotive states, the expressions. Based on these principles, Natyasastra enumerated many standing and sitting positions. These, demonstrate the principles of stasis, balance, repose and perfect symmetry; And, they are of fundamental importance in Indian arts, say, dance, drama, painting or sculpture.

The demonstrations of those principles of alignment could be seen in the sama-bhanga of Vishnu, Shiva, abhanga of Kodanda-Rama and tribhanga of Nataraja; and in the vibrant movements of dance captured in the motifs carved on the walls of the Indian temples depicting gandharvas, kinnaras, vidyadharas and other gods and demigods. If the saala bhanjikas (bracket figures) recreate the caaris(primary movements) , the flying figures recreate the karanas (larger movements).The representations of about one hundred and eight of the karanas described in the Natyasastra find expression on the walls of temples spread across the country.

It is as if the rich and overpowering passages of Natyasastra are translated in to stone and published on temple walls.

For the purpose of creating an image , initially, a square grid is divided into sixteen equal squares . These squares are grouped into six  segments : Brahma -bhaga ( the central four squares) ; Deva -kesha or Deva shiro-alankara -bhaga ( two squares on top of Brahma-bhaga for depicting the crown or elaborate hair arrangement) ;Vahana-bhaga or peeta-bhaga ( space for pedestal – two bottom squares , below the Brahma-bhaga);Bhaktha -bhaga ( two bottom sqares on either side of Peeta -bhaga for locating images of the worshipping devotees); Devi-bhaga ( two squares each on either side of Brahma-bhaga for the accompanying female deities) ; and Gandharva-bhagha (two squares in the top on either side of Shiro-bhaga for depicting the Gandarvas).

The image of the main deity along with that of the consorts and subsidiary figures are located within the square grid. The central part of the main deity is accomodated in the Brahma-bhaga; its head or crown or hair-do is figured in the Deva-shiro-bhaga, while the f eet of the deity, the pedastal and the mount (vahana) are in the lower vahana-bhaga.

The  verticle and horizontal axis of the square as also its diagonal axis of the square pass through what is known as the Brahma-bindu right at the centre of the Brahma-bhaga. It is at the Brahma-bindu the navel (nabhi) of the deity would be located. All other image parts are co-related to the Brahma-bindu.

Dhyana shlokas

One of the main resources for a practicing shilpi is the collection of Dhyana shlokas.

Before a shilpi starts on a project to sculpt an image, he needs to be clear in his mind on its form, its aspects, its countenance, the details of its physiognomy, its facial and bodily expressions; its posture, details of the number of arms, heads and eyes; and details of its ornaments, ayudhas (objects it holds in its hands) etc. For this purpose, the Shilpis generally refer to a wonderful collection of most amazingly articulate verses called Dhyana Shlokas, the verses in contemplation. These verses culled from various texts of Shipa Shastra, the Agamas and the Puranas; and also from Buddhist and Jain texts, describe, precisely, the postures (dynamic or static, seated or standing), the Bhangas (flexions – slight, triple, or extreme bends), Mudras (hand gestures), the attitudes, the nature, the consorts and other vital details of each aspect that provides the deity with power and grace. it is said that there are about 32 aspects or forms of Ganapathi, 16 of Skanda, 5 of Brahma, 64 of yoginis, and innumerable forms of Vishnu, Shiva and Devi .Each one of those forms has a Dhyana shloka illustrating  its aspects and attributes.

[ As regards Vajrayana Buddhism, the Sadhanamala,  a highly specialized  Buddhist Tantric text, is a collection of Dhyana slokas (composed perhaps between the 5th and the 11th century), which  deals with the Vajrayana Buddhist Tantric meditative practices; and , it provides detailed instructions on how the images  of 312  Buddhist deities are to be visualized  and invoked; each with  its appropriate Mantra . The descriptions are meant to aid meditation; and, also to serve as a practical guide to the sculptors and painters. It enables the practitioner to visualize the nature, disposition, virtues and detailed iconographic features of a deity.]

Dhyana shlokas are more than prayers or hymns; they are the word-pictures or verbal images of a three-dimensional image. They help the Shilpi to visualize the deity and to come up with a line drawing of the image. It is said that there are more than 2,000 such Dhyana shlokas. How this collection came to be built up over the centuries is truly amazing. These verses have their origin in Sanskrit texts; and the scholars who could read those texts knew next to nothing about sculpture. The Shilpis who actually carved the images had no knowledge of Sanskrit and could not therefore read the texts or interpret the shlokas. This dichotomy was bridged by the generations of Shilpis who maintained their own set of personal notes, explanations and norms; as also references to shlokas; and passed them on to their succeeding generations and to their disciples.

 [ Ram Raz (Rama Raja) (1790–1830) in his remarkable  Essay on the Architecture of the Hindús  also observed that only a few Brahmins could assist him in interpreting the Shilpa Shastras but they had no idea what so ever of architecture. The active rural craftsmen he approached were ignorant of Sanskrit and were unable to read the texts, their extensive practical knowledge having been learnt through pupillary succession. There seemed to be no interdependence between theoretical treatise and practical process.]

Thus, among the many traditions (parampara) inherited in India, the tradition of Vishwakarma is unique. The  mode of transmission of knowledge of this community is both oral and practical. The rigor and discipline required to create objects that defy time and persist beyond generations of artists, has imbued this tradition with tremendous sense of purpose, and zeal to maintain purity and sensitivity of its traditions; and to carry it forward. This has enabled them to protect and carry forward the knowledge, the art and skills without falling prey to the market and its dynamics.

With the emergence of the various academies of sculpture and organized efforts to collate and publish the old texts with detailed explanations, there is now a greater awareness among the shilpis of the present day. Yet, the neglect of Sanskrit and inability to read the texts in Sanskrit is still an impediment that badly needs to be got over.

Please look at the summary of a few Dhyana shlokas.

The image of Lord Narayana must be made with ten , eight, four or two arms. His head should be in the form of an umbrella, his neck should be like counch, his ears like sukthi, he should have high nose, strong thighs and arms. His breast must bear the Srivatsa mark and be adorned with the Kaustubha gem. He should be made as dark as the Atasi (Linum usitatissimum), clad in yellow robes, having a serene and gracious countenance. He should be wearing a diadem and ear-rings. Of the eight hands the four on the right side must have the sword(nandaka), mace(kaumodaki), arrow and abhaya _hastha, mudra of assurance and protection (the fingers raised and the palm facing the devotees), and the four on the left side, the bow(saranga), buckler, discus (sudarshana) and conch (panchjanya).

South Indian, late 19th c, Vishnu

In case the image is to have only four arms, the two hands on the right side will display the abhaya mudra or lotus; and discus respectively. And, in his hands in the left, he holds the conch and mace. 

vishnu_narayana_wj94

And, in case he is made with only two arms, then the right hand bestows peace and hope (shanthi-kara-dakshina hastha) and the left holds the conch. This is how the image of the Lord Vishnu is to be made for prosperity. 

Vasudeva Perumal stands in samabhanga

When Vishnu is two armed and carries discus and mace, he is known as Loka-paala-Vishnu.

Yogasana_ murthi (yoga Narayana) is Vishnu seated in yogic posture on a white lotus, with half-closed eyes. His complexion is mellow –bright like that of conch, milk or jasmine. He has four hands with lower two hands resting on his lap on yogic posture (yoga mudra). ; And the upper two hands holding conch and discus. He is dressed in white or mild red clothes. He wears modest but pleasant ornaments. He wears an ornate head dress or a coiled mop of hair. [Yogesvara is sometimes shown with four faces and twelve hands.]

vishnu seated2

Surya, the Sun-God should be represented with elevated nose, forehead, shanks, thighs, cheeks and breast; he should be dressed in robes covering the body from breast to foot. His body is covered with armor. He holds two lotuses in both of his hands, he wears an elaborate crown. His face is beautified with ear-rings. He has a long pearl necklace and a girdle round the waist. His face is as lustrous as the interior of the lotus, lit up with a pleasant smile; and has a halo of bright luster of gems (or, a halo that is made very resplendent by gems on the crown). His chariot drawn by seven horses has one wheel and one charioteer .Such an image of the Sun will be beneficial to the maker (and to the worshipper).

The dhyana shloka preceding the middle episode of Devi Mahatmya gives the iconographic details of the Devi. The Goddess is described as  having eighteen arms,  bearing string of beads, battle axe, mace, arrow, thunderbolt, lotus, bow, water-pot, cudgel, lance, sword, shield, conch, bell, wine-cup, trident, noose and the discuss sudarsana. She has a complexion of coral and is seated on a lotus.

The Mahakali is “Wielding in her hand the sword, discuss, mace, arrow, bow, iron club, trident, sling, human head, and conch, she has three eyes and ornaments decked on all her limbs. She shines like a blue stone and has ten faces and ten feet. That Mahakali I worship, whom the lotus born Brahma lauded in order to slay Madhu and Kaitaba when Hari was asleep”.

Pancha bera

The images in the Hindu temples can be classified into three broad groups: Shaiva, Shakta and Vaishnava, representing the three cults of Shiva, Shakti and Vishnu, respectively. The images in the temple could be achala (immovable) Dhruva-bimba or dhruva-bera; and chala(movable). The chala bera, usually made of pancha loha (alloy of five metals), are meant for other forms of worship and ceremonial services.

The dhruva-bera is the immovable image of the presiding deity of the temple and resides in the sanctum and to which main worship is offered (archa-murti). It is usually made of stone. In a temple following the Vaikhanasa tradition, the immovable (dhruva-bera) represents the primary aspect of the deity known as Vishnu (Vishnu-tattva). The other images in the temple that are worshiped each day during the   ritual sequences are but the variations of the original icon (adi-murti). These other forms are emanations of the main idol, in successive stages. And, within the temple complex, each form is accorded a specific location; successively away from the Dhruva bera.

A major temple, apart from the Dhruva bera, would usually have four or five representations of the principal deity (pancha bera).They are:

Dhruvam tu grāma rakārtham; arcan artham tu Kautukam | snānārtham Snapanam proktam; balyartham Bali-berakam | Utsava cotsavartham ca Paca-Bera prakalpitā ||

:- Kautuka –bera is a mini replica of the main idol (usually madeof gems, stone, copper, silver, gold or wood and about 1/3 to 5/9 the size of the Dhruva-bera), and  is placed in the sanctum near the main idol and is connected to it by a metal string or silk thread. It receives all the daily worship(nitya-archana) including those of tantric nature.

:- The next is the Snapana-bera (usually made of metal and smaller than Kautuka) which receives ceremonial bath (abhisheka) and the occasional ritual- worship sequences(naimitta-archana).

:- The third is the shayana-bera, to which the services of putting the Lord to sleep are offered.

:- The fourth is the Uthsava (always made of metal); is meant for taking the idol out of the temple premises on ceremonial processions.

:- The fifth idol is Bali – bera ( always made of shiny metal) taken out , daily ,  around the central shrine when  food offerings are made to Indra and other devas, as well as to  Jaya and Vijaya the doorkeepers of the Lord ; and to all the elements.

To this, sometimes another icon is added for daily worship, special rituals, and processions and for food-offering, it is known as Bhoga-bera.

These five forms together make Pancha bera or Pancha murti.  But, these different icons are not viewed as separate or independent deities; but are understood as emanations from the original icon, Dhruva–bimba.

[There is also a mention of A Karma- bimba, which , in effect, is a proxy image of the main Icon; and , it  is used for a variety of practical purposes. The life force (Prana) from the main Icon is transferred into the karma bimba for a short duration for serving the particular purpose. Thereafter it is transferred back into the main Icon. These karma-bimbas have to correspond, in every way, to the iconic forms of the Mula-bimba or  the Dhruva-bera. These relate to the disposition, attributes, postures and other iconographic features of the Dhruva-bera.

karmārcā sarvathā kāryā mūla-bimba anusāriī | Viśvaksena Samhita 17; 11.

But, in terms of their size: the karma-bimbas should be either a quarter, a third or half of the height of the Mula-bimba.

Mūla-bimba samucchrāyā dvidhā vāpi tridhāpi va | caturdhā vā savibhajya eka bhāgena kalpayet || utsavārcā tad ucchrāyā dvidhā vāpi tridhāpi vā | caturdhā vā vibhajya eka bhāgena parikalpayet || īśvara Samhita 17; 242, 243 || ]

[One of the few cases (that I am aware of) where the principal deity is taken out of the sanctum for procession, is that of Lord Jagannath of Puri. Such images are regarded chala-achala (both movable and immovable)]

According to Vyuha -siddantha of the Agamas, the dhruva bera which is immovable represents Vishnu (Vishnu-tattva); and it symbolizes Para, the transcendent one (Vishnu). The kouthuka is bhoga (worship idol) representing purusha (personification of the Supreme), Dharma and Vasudeva. The snapana is ugra (fearsome aspect) represented by Pradyumna or Achutha. The uthsava bera is vaibhava (the resplendent) representing Jnana (knowledge), truth (Sathya) and Sankarshana. And, the Bali bera is antaryamin (one who resides within) representing Vairagya (spirit of renunciation) and Aniruddha.

And again it is said, Purusha symbolized by Kautuka-bera is an emanation of the Dhruva-bera. Satya symbolized by Utsava-bera emanates from Kautuka-bera. Achyuta symbolized by Snapana-bera emanates from Utsava-bera. And, Aniruddhda symbolized by Bali-bera emanates from Bali-bera.

The symbolisms associated with the four murtis (chatur-murti) are many; and are interesting. The four are said to compare with the strides taken by Vishnu/Trivikrama.  The main icon represents Vishnu who is all-pervasive, but, does not move about. When the worship sequences are conducted, the spirit (tejas) of the main idol moves into the Kautuka,-bera, which rests on the worship pedestal (archa-pitha). This is the first stride of Vishnu.Again, at the time of offering ritual bath, the tejas of the main idol moves into the Snapana-bera which is placed in the bathing-enclosure (snapana –mantapa). This is the second stride taken by Vishnu. And, the third stride is that when the Utsava-bera is taken out in processions. This is when the tejas of the Main idol reaches out to all.

In Marichi’s Vimana-archa-kalpa the five forms, five types of icons, the pancha-murti (when Vishnu is also counted along with the other four forms) are compared to five types of Vedic sacred fires (pancha-agni): garhapatya; ahavaniya; dakshinAgni; anvaharya; and sabhya. These in turn are compared to the primary elements (earth, water, fire, air, and space). And, the comparison is extended to five vital currents (prana, apana, vyana, udana and samana).

Further it is explained; the Vaikhanasa worship-tradition retained the concept of Pancha-Agni, but transformed them into five representations of Vishnu (pancha –murthi): Vishnu, Purusha, Satya, Achyuta and Aniruddha. And, that again was rendered into five types of temple deities as pancha-bera: Dhruva, Kautuka, Snapana, Utsava and Bali.

venkateswara

Let us, for instance, take the case of the idols in the shrine on the hills of Tirumala. The practices at the Tirumala temple are slightly at variance with the standard procedures, perhaps because the temple predates most of the other temples in South India and that it has a tradition of its own.

The dhruva bera at the Tirumala shrine is of course the magnificent and most adorable image of the Lord made of hard-black-stone; and has a recorded history of about two thousand years. He is addressed as Sri Venkateswara, Sri Srinivasa and by host of other names. (Let’s talk more about the dhruva bera, towards the end of this post).

It is said that around the year 614 AD, the Pallava Queen, Devi Samavai (also known as Kadavan-Perundevi), donated an almost (but not exact- as it holds the Sanka and Chakra ) replica of the dhruva bera, made of silver. In terms of the Agama texts, this image is called kouthuka bera; but in the Tirumala shrine it is called Bhoga Srinivasa., In Tirumala , the kauthuka   serves as snapana bera too  (that is, the one to which ceremonial bath service is rendered). This image has come to be  known as Bhoga srinivasa; perhaps because the other services such as the daily ceremonial bath and Ekantha seva that are due to the dhruva _bera are rendered to it. There is a six cornered Vaishnava chakra (mandala)- in the shape of two inter placed equilateral triangles –  placed at the foot of the kauthuka, representing the six virtues of knowledge (jnana), abundance (Aishvarya), power (shakthi), strength (bala), resplendence (tejas) and valor or virility (veeerya). The kauthuka is placed right in front of the Lord’s foot stool (paada pitha) and is linked to the dhruva_bera through a string with strands of gold, silver and silk. It is ever linked to the dhruva bera and is never brought out of the antarala (bangaru vakili). For that reason it is also addressed as sambhandha-sutra-kauthuka-murthy. 

The Uthsava_bera at Tirumala shrine is named Malayappan, the earliest reference to which is found in an inscription dated 1369 AD. This idol might have entered into the temple regimen with the rise of the Pancharathra School of worship. Malayappan is a very skillfully crafted, beautiful image, made of panchloha, standing three feet tall on a pedestal of fourteen inches. It does not greatly resemble the dhruva_bera. Yet, it has a very pleasing disposition and is modestly ornamented. His consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi (of about twenty-nine inches height) are on his either side. All services, processions and celebrations conducted outside the sanctum are rendered to Malayappan.

The Bali bera in Tirumala shrine is addressed as Koluvu srinivasa. After the rendering the ceremonial food service to the dhruva_bera, offerings are made to the bali_bera who accepts it on behalf of the basic elements in nature , the host of spirits guarding the temple and other minor deities. A unique feature of the bali_bera in Tirumala shrine is that, it seated on a golden throne placed in Snapana Mandapam,  presides over the formal court summoned at the commencement of the day, where the day’s almanac is read out, and where the accounts of the previous day’s collections at the Srivari hundi are submitted. This is done is Snapana Mandapam before the dusk ;and, in Ghanta Mandapam after dawn. The traditional distribution of the daily remuneration, in the form of food grains and provisions, to the temple priests and attendant staff takes place in the presence of koluvu_srinivasa. It is not clear how this practice came into being at Tirumala.

The other bera in the Tirumala temple is the Ugra Srinivasa, which apart from the dhruva bera is perhaps the oldest idol in Tirumala shrine. But, it has a rather sad history. The earliest reference to this idol is in an inscription dated 10th century. Ugra Srinivasa was used as the Uthsava murthy till about 1330 A.D, when a fire broke out in the temple; and thereafter it was replaced by Malayappan. The Ugra Srinivasa no longer serves as the uthsava bera and it is never bought out of the temple after sunrise; except on a single occasion in a year (utthana dwadasi in karthika month-Kaisika Dwadasi ) that too well before the sunrise. It is feared that if the sunrays touch the idol, it would spark fire in the temple premises.

The iconography of Sri Venkateshwara in the Tirumala temple:

There are no known descriptions or specifications of the iconography of the Sri Venkateshwara idol in any texts of the Shilpa shastra. Till about the Vijayanagar period there were no temples of Sri Venkateshwara, outside Tirumala, Tirupathi and Mangapura regions. The idol does not also fall within the interpretations of any of the known schools of architecture such as Pallava, Chalukya, and Chola etc. That might be because the image of Sri Venkateshwara predates all such schools.

The sanctum at Tirumala is eka murthy griha a sanctum housing a single deity; Sri Vekateshwara is standing alone, not accompanied by his consorts. The icon is made of hard- black – polished stone (often described as saligrama shila) .Though the precise measurements of the image of the deity cannot be ascertained, it is said,  it stands  more than  six feet in height,  with the Kirita , the crown,  measuring about twenty  inches high; and  the idol is mounted  on a pedestal of about eighteen inches. The pedestal with lotus motif is almost at the ground level. The total height of idol is estimated to be a little more than eight feet (A person of normal height with arms raised just falls short of reaching the top of the idol’s crown) .

The idol, crafted with great skill, is wonderfully well proportioned and is very pleasing to look at. It has four arms though its two upper hands are always kept covered (for whatever reason). Of the other two hands, the right hand is in Varada mudra, in a posture of benediction, blessing the devotees. The left hand is almost near the left knee in Katyavalambita mudrawith the thumb almost parallel to the waist, as if to assure that the mire of the samsara , the mundane existence , is only knee deep for those who submit to him and seek salvation.

Let’s discuss  some  specific forms of iconography in the next segment.

Khajuraho tempie

Iconography continued in the next part…>

References:

Shilpa Soundarya by KT Pankajaksha

The Lord of Seven Hills by Prof. SKR Rao

Line drawings of kirita and ornaments

By the renowned Shilpi and Yogi Sri Siddalinga Swamy of Mysore

Other Line drawings are from Shilpa Soundarya

Other pictures are  from internet

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2012 in Natya, Temple Architecture

 

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Temple Architecture – Devalaya Vastu – Part Five (5 of 9)

Measures and proportions

The structural harmony, the rhythm and a fine sense of proportion is the hall mark of Indian temple architecture. It not merely resolves the contradictions but also expresses harmony by encompassing all contradictions, transforming into pure and uncompromised details of structure. The aim of a proportional system, meaning not merely symmetry, is to manifest a sense of coherence and harmony among the elements of the temple and it’s whole. The proportional harmonization of design, therefore, is of utmost importance in the construction of a temple. It is believed that the power and purity of the structure radiates from its exact proportions and measures as specified in the texts. It is also believed that a meticulously well constructed temple radiates peace and joy; and ensures the welfare of the world and its people.

Without harmony, symmetry and proportion there can be no principles in the design of any temple. This is analogues to the precise relation between the features and organs of a well proportioned, good-looking person.

The ancient texts, therefore, insist on a high degree of precision in their measurements. The standard text Mayamata  mentions “Only if the temple is constructed correctly according to a mathematical system can it be expected to function in harmony with the universe. Only if the measurement of the temple is in every way perfect, there will be perfection in the universe as well.”

The Hindu temple is a feast of a variety of visual aspects, and wherever one engages one of them, entering a doorway, circumambulating or approaching the inner sanctuary or worshipping there– one is accessing an aspect of the whole.

The rules of Vastu-shastra render beauty, structural stability and quality of spaces by virtue of light, sound and volume management. They also evoke in the devotee an attuning of his person to its structure and ambience.

The lighting of spaces inside a temple is orchestrated such that the mukha mantapa (i.e. entrance porch) is semi-open with maximum light. If the directions and measurements are followed correctly the sun rays should fall into the mantapa for at least six hours (from 9.00am to 3.00pm, if the sun rise is at 6.00am). The Sabha Mantapa (for worshippers) has moderate light with few openings.   Garbhagirha with a single opening in front of deity allows light only on deity; and, is illumined by natural oil lamps, placed on either side of the deity. The net effect of this arrangement is that it projects the images against the dark wall. Further, the surroundings of the Garbhagriha are modest in sculptural details. These help the worshippers to keep away the distractions and to focus their attention on the deity.

Echoes are avoided by a clever manipulation of open spaces, elevations and designs in the structured areas. Absolute quiet is ensured in the Sanctum vicinity. The Shilpis, in some cases (Meenkshi temple, Madurai; Sundareshwara temple Tirchendur; and the Vijaya Vittala temple of Hampi- Vijayanagar) displayed remarkable ingenuity in sculpting “musical” pillars, which when struck at precise parts, produce the seven swaras (octaves).

As regards the volumes, every part of the temple is rigorously controlled by a precise proportional system of interrelated measurements, maintaining the fundamental unity of the architecture and sculpture.

The ancient shilpis used a great degree of precision in their measurements. Much of this system is followed by the present shilpis too. An interesting feature of these systems is the standard unit of measurement; the smallest unit mentioned is the anu or the particle, which is hardly perceptible. The anu measure was employed for extremely delicate or intricate or the most vital aspects of a sculpture; for instance, the eyes and facial features of the image of presiding deity; or in the amaziningly  delicate and minute carvings of the Hoyasla images. The norms and measures specified in the Southern texts, it is said, are still in use. These measures are in two categories; one for delicate and intricate work and the other for normal structures.

Look at the table of measurements for minute and delicate carvings.

Eight anus (particles) = one nulu (breadth of a fine cotton or silk fiber),

Eight nulu = one hair (breadth of horse hair),

Eight hairs = one grain of sand,

Eight grains of sand = one mustard seed,

Eight mustard-seeds = one bamboo seed,

Eight bamboo-seeds = one angula.

The angula (1.875 cms) and the hasta (cubit, 45 cms) are the units that are normally used for deriving the dimensions, proportions, the height and other details of a sculpture. The Danda (four cubits) used for measuring less-delicate or lengthier structure is equivalent to 180 cms.

One Hastha = one cubit= 45 cms;

Four Hasthas = one Danda= 96 angulas = 180 cms.

One Hastha =24 angulas = 45 cms.

Thus one angula = 1.875 cms.

The old Sanskrit texts too mention a set of measurements. According to them Anu or paramanu, the particle, was the smallest measure.

8 anus = one ratha renu (grain of dust);

8 ratha renu = one valagrasa (hair end);

8 valagrasa =One grain of yava;

4 yavas = one angula;

12 angulas = one vitasta or Tala (span)

2 Vitasta or Tala = Hastha (cubit) = 24 angulas

26 angulas= Dhanurbhagha (handle of a bow).

4 hatas = One Danda;
8 Dandas = One Rajju (rope)
1000 Rajju = One Yojana

The proportions of the head-trunk-arms-legs of images; and also their finer specifications like nose, nail, ears and their shapes are specified in the texts. Generally: it is dasatala (ten talas) for the height of image of male deity, navatala (nine talas) for his consort and astatala (eight talas) for bhakta. These are not absolute measurements; but are meant as guidelines to maintain proper proportions.(We shall discuss more about these aspects in the part dealing with Temple Iconography.)

Further, the Vastu believes that every unit of time vibration produces a corresponding unit of space measure; and derives that the time is equal to space. This rhythm of time and space vibrations is quantified in terms of eight and as multiples of eight.  According to the Vastu, at the subtle level the human form is a structure of eight spatial units apart from elements  like the hair, kneecap and toe nails, each of which measures one-quarter of the basic measure of the body and, when added on to the body’s eight units, increases the height of the total form to nine units. Traditionally, these nine units are applied in making sculptures of gods.

Similarly, the lengths, the breadths the heights of various elements of the temple too are related to each other by certain ratios. These lend esthetic appeal and stability to the temple structure. For instance, it is said, by restricting the height of the tower, Shikhara, to twice its width at the base, the weight of the tower is contained within itself. Further, as the size of the pada (bay, distance between two pillars) increases, the cross section of pillars also increases in size and width of beam has to be exactly same as that of the pillar.

Rám Ráz in his Essay on the Architecture of the Hindús describes seven kinds of Pillars (Sthamba) in relation to the thickness of the walls, the strength and breadth of the base, and the number of floors in the building. According to Rám Ráz :

When the base is taken as a reference point for the length of a pillar, than it may be 1¼, 1½, 1¾ or 2 times the height of the base. In total there are 12 varieties of the height of a pillar. For the pilaster (in other words a wall-pillar) it is 3, 4, 5 or 6 angulas. The diameter of a pillar is 2, 3 or 4 times the width of the pilaster.

The pillar has a constructive character. It must be able to withstand the forces in the building. When the amount of floors in a building is taken as a reference points for determining the height of the pillars, then the ground floor pillars of a twelve storey building are 8½ cubits in height. By subtracting one span for each storey a height of 3 cubits is obtained for the pillars of the top storey. The diameter of the ground floor pillars of a twelve storey building is 28 digits. By subtracting two digits for each storey 6 digits are obtained for the diameter of the pillars of the top-storey.

The proportions of the Adhisthána or base must be related to those of the building. In response to that, the rest of the pillar relates to the base of the pillar. (The Mánasára uses the base to define the pillars. The Mayamatam uses the amount of floors in a building to define the height of the pillars.)

As regards the form or shape of the pillars, Rám Ráz states :

There are 6 forms of pillars, namely: square, pentagonal (5 sides), hexagonal (6 sides), octagonal (8 sides), 16 sided and circular. These shapes are uniform from bottom to top, but the base and top may be square.

The top of a pillar consists of 7 elements : The bracket capital, the dye (featuring a human figure), the abacus, the bell capital, the support, the lotus and the band ornamented with garlands.

Intercolumniation

It is the distance between two pillars. For the intercolumniation, two different approaches can be used.

The first one is relative to the rest of the building: “The intercolumniation may be either two, three, four, or five diameters; it is measured in three ways, first from the inner extremity of the base of the pillar to that of another; secondly from the center of the two pillars, and, thirdly from the outer extremities of the pillars including the two bases.”

 The second approach to intercolumniation is not relative to the building. In this approach the intercolumniation consists of 9 different possibilities. These are defined by 2 or 4 cubits, where each time 6 digits can be added. The architect can chose all of the 9 possibilities. Here it doesn’t matter what its type is, but the disposition of the pillars has to be regular, because otherwise it is believed to bring destruction upon the building and upon its site.

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The size of the structure will also determine the various kinds of building materials to be used at different stages of the construction. They also help to control the proportions of the dimensions of the temple. These norms carry shades of religious intentions too; the set of six formulae or Ayadivarga viz., the Aaya, Vyaya, Yoni, Tithi, Vaara and Nakshatra are applied by the Acharya to derive the proper orientation and dimensions of the structure. (More of Ayadivarga in the final part.)

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The Vastu Purusha Mandala of the temple projects the temple in two main sections: the ground plan and the vertical alignment. The square, the rectangle, the octagon and the pentagon patterns drawn in the Mandala relate to the horizontal section or the ground plan. The subdivisions of the ground plan detail the Brahmasthana (the main shrine and smaller shrines) and the Mantapas (pavilions). The vertical alignment consisting the pyramid, the circle and the curve are meant for designing the Gopura (entrance ways), the Vimana (the structure above the main shrine) and the prakara (the walls).

How these designs of certain measurements and proportions are translated into three dimensional constructions, is really interesting.

Hindu temple construction is strictly based on a complex system of measurements and proportions. These proportions control every aspect of a temple’s design, from its width and height to the size of its doorways and moldings.  There are a number of prescribed methods. Let us look at just two of them.

A. This relates to the construction of the Garbhagriha (sanctum) and the Vimana or Prasada on top of it.

In this method, the square of 4 (16) and the square of 8(64) are considered auspicious. All the main horizontal as well as vertical proportions are with reference to either of these numbers (mulasutra).The area of the Vimana (the prasada or the tower above the sanctum) is divided into 16 squares (maha-pitha) or 64 squares (manduka), as the case may be; in which case the width would be 4 or 8 units.

If the width of the Vimana is 4, then the width of the sanctum would be 2 units; the height of the Vimana would also be 4; and the base of the Vimana would be a cube. The Sikhara on top this cube would be twice its height (that is, 4×2).The cube and the Sikhara would together rise to a height of 12 units. This proportion builds a relationship between the vertical and horizontal extents of the other parts of the temple.

In case the width of the sanctum is 8 units, The total height of the sanctum with Sikhara would be three times the width of the sanctum(8×3), of which the height of the Sikhara would be 2/3 the total height.

B. In this method, the size of the sanctum and the Dwajasthamba is determined by the height of the image of main deity in the sanctum. The size of a temple is always a fixed multiple of the height of image of main deity.

The normal height of a man is taken as six feet; and the sanctum would be in the shape of a square of its inner length and width, of six feet. The width of the sanctum walls would be two feet. The outer measurement of the sanctum would be 10 feet on each side.

A mantapa, in front of the sanctum, would have certain special features. The inner length and breadth of a mantapa should be twice that of the sanctum. For instance, in this case, the outer side of the sanctum is ten feet; and therefore the inner side of the Mantapa should be 20 feet, in width. This is achieved by extending the face (door) side of the sanctum on either side to form the inner dimension (20’) of the Mantapa.

If the directions and measurements are correctly followed the sun rays should fall into the mantapa for six hours (from 9.00am to 3.00pm, if the sun rise is at 6.00am).

For a sanctum of this size, the idol, in standing position, should be six feet tall. If the idol is less than six feet tall, its pedestal should be raised to obtain the required height. The idol should be installed exactly at the mid-point of the chosen direction (usually facing east).

The Dwaja –sthamba should be perpendicular and placed directly opposite to the idol.

A line drawn at an angle of 22 ½ degrees from the mid-point between the brows of the idol should cut the top of the Dwajasthamba. The height of the Dwajasthamba thus is related to the to the height of the image. Some scholars say, this perhaps is relates to the axis of the earth which makes an angle of 22 ½ degrees with the sun.

Sometimes, a hole is made in the roof of the mantapa, at the point where the imaginary line drawn from the idol emerges out of the roof of the mantapa, on its way to reach the top of the Dwajasthamba. Thus, it is ensured that the mid point between the brows of the idol, the hole in the roof and the top of Dwaja sthamba are all aligned along one straight line.

The line when extended further from the top of the Dwaja sthamba should touch the Kalasha on top of the Gopura.

Thus, the distance and the height of the Gopuram get related to the height of the idol and the Dwajasthamba.

***

Mention is also made of other methods for determining the size of the Dhruva-bhera (the main idol) and its position/placement in the Garbhagriha . According to this method, the icon is considered to be made of three parts.; the con proper being two parts ; and, the pedestal making up the third part.

The whole length of the Icon including pedestal should be 7/ 8th s of the height of the doorway. (i.e. height + 7 x 8 = doorway). If the Icon is made 2 meters in height then the following measurements are calculated;

doorway = 2 .28 mtrs high x 1.14 mtrs in width.
Sanctum = 4.57 mtrs square
Vimana = 9.14 mtrs high
Mandapa = 9.14 mtrs wide
Plinth = 3 mtrs high

As regards the position of the Dhruva-bhera within the Garbhagriha :

The Garbhagriha  is divided into two  halves. One  half should again be sub-divided into 10 parts.

garbhalaya

The following is generally followed for positioning of the deity :

Shiva Linga in the 10th part i.e. center
Brahma is placed in the 9th part.
Vishnu is placed in the 8th part.
Shanmuga is placed in the 7th part.
Sarasvati in the 6th.
Surya in the 5th.
Ganesha in the 4th.
Bhairava in the 3rd
Shakti in the 2nd place from the rear wall.

Temple as Purusha negetive

The actual construction process of a temple can be divided into three steps. The first is the planning of the temple by architect, second is the carving of different parts and the third is assembling the parts.

In the first stage, the architect prepares a list of all the parts that go into the details of the temple; like the figures, pillars, beams, and brackets etc. These parts are usually composed of several elements. For example, a pillar is made of at least five parts, while the dome is made of several units. This is one of the reasons, it is said, why the temples do not normally collapse in case of earthquakes or cyclones; as its parts are not joined rigidly (say by materials like cement) but can vibrate within the surrounding structured space.

In the second stage, the teams of assistants of the Shilpi carve the parts and segments according to the temple Acharya’s and Shilpi’s drawings, designs, specifications and guidelines.  The parts thus got ready are transported to the site. And, at times the transportation to the site, itself, becomes a huge task. For instance, it is said that a four km long ramp was constructed to transport and place in position the dome of the Brihadishwara temple in Tanjore.

The stability of the temple structure is attributed to its principles of unity, harmony, balance and distribution of weight. It is said, if one member of this family breaks, the unity, peace and stability of the family is sure to crumble. . Hence, no member moves from its place, and holds the structure together even in the face of destruction all around. These aspects are ensured during the third stage.

The third stage is the assembling of the readied parts i.e. the actual construction of temple. The various elements and parts of temples are interlocked to hold in position. All the parts have mortise and tenon joint for ensuring strength; and a hole or slot is cut into each piece of readied part, for a projecting part tenon of the adjacent part to be inserted into the next. These mortise and tenons not only hold the parts their positions securely but also allow space for the stones to expand in heat or even to vibrate modestly.

The third stage and the second stage have to be well coordinated in order to take care of precise alignments and possible corrections. Though this stage, inevitably, means the slowing down of the construction pace, it is said, the Sthaphti or Sthalapahi, the one who supervises the actual construction process on site, takes extra care to ensure precise positioning and alignment of each part and segment; and to meticulously follow the overall proportion, stability and visual appeal, as specified and envisaged in the Vastu mandala and the construction plans.

The size and the nature of the structure will determine the various kinds of building materials to be employed at different stages of its construction. Generally the use of iron, considered the crudest of metals, is strictly avoided within the temple structure, as iron tends to get rusty and endangers the stability and the life of the structure. The stone which has a far longer life and is less corrosive, is the major building material employed in temple construction. (There are elaborate methods for testing and grading the stones; and more about that in the final part) The main structure and the dome are invariably constructed of tested stone.

The Building materials like stone, brick, mortar, wood, etc., are selected for the main body of the temple, whereas elements like gold and silver are be used for final ornamentation. Marble is not used in Southern structures. Materials like simulated marble, plastic and asbestos, strictly, are not acceptable building materials. Only organic materials are used in temple architecture. The traditional Indian temples of stone, it is said, are designed to last for 800 years unlike RCC structures which are guaranteed for 80 years. Incidentally, the Ayadi aspects are worked out to ensure longevity of the temple.

Indian architecture is a logical and an intellectual approach to how the vision of the architect, governed by the prescriptions of the texts, should be realised. It has clear rules on how a building should be constructed. It starts with defining the cardinal directions of North, East, South and West. These directions form the basis for designing the building; as also in erecting the walls of the temple.

The temple is based on the faith that it is a reflection of the Universe, which follows cyclic processes of creations and destructions. Therefore, the temple has also to project that cyclical notion. For that reason, its design grows from unity to multiplicity; simultaneously, tending back to unity through a process of dissolution and fusion. In this way, a temple is to be rendered cyclical, in its nature. These cycles can occur at different times, at different rates, and in different parts of a temple. In order to achieve such effects, several architectural tools are employed.

Some of the tools that could help the Indian architect to design a temple; and, for achieving the pattern of its growth and of movement, as detailed by Adam Hardy in his Indian Temple Architecture: Form and Transformation (page 26) , include :

– Increasing aedicularity (principle of articulating the temple exterior as a matrix of inter connected shrines)

 – Aedicular density, meaning to move shrine images to get closer together

– Proliferation and fragmentation, meaning the repetition of a given type of designs and patterns culminating in a grand architectural composition. And , fragmentation is the breaking up the whole into minor  individual designs.

– Central emphasis: the cardinal axes of the Vimana as also those of the Mantapa become increasingly dominant, at various levels

– Using an increased sense of movement through various patterns which convey a sense of emergence and expansion

 – Staggering, where the forms become progressively more staggered creating certain visual architectural effects; say, from Vimana or Mantapa as a whole, through pillars to the moulding of the pilasters.

 – Continuity and alignment. This ensures horizontal continuity with the vertical structure; say, with each Tala (or the phase or the level) of the Vimana rising one over the other

 – Abstraction. Here the shrine-imagery, particularly in the shapes of moulding, develops away from the depiction of timber and thatch construction. The temple-structure is transported from the non-essentials towards  its idealized form.

– Assimilation.  The elements or details, which, are at first  scattered are systematically composed and assimilated with each other  into a framework that  finally defines the temple architecture

Thus, the temple-construction, which generally follows an evolutionary process combines in itself the stages of differentiation and fusion; creation and dissolution; and, emergence and mergence or blending . Although such dynamic processes are at once conflicting and complimentary, they all are harmonized in a meaningful composition to achieve the final and the idealized image of the temple.  The process is also analogous to the emergence from the unity of the the seed to the diversity of the tree with many branches.  

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Some essential aspects of Temple Structure

A typical South Indian temple has a certain fairly well defined features and a generally accepted layout. The most important structure of a temple is the garbhagriha or sanctum sanctorum which houses the idol of the presiding deity.

The Garbagriha is followed by four types of mantapas or pavilions. Mantapa means any roofed, open or enclosed pavilion (hall) resting on pillars, standing independently or connected to the sanctum of the temple.

Screen Shot 2013

The first of the mantapas is the antarala (sometimes called sukanas or sukanasi or ardhamantapa), a narrow pavilion connecting the gharbhagriha and the navaranga.  It usually will have niches in the north and south walls, occupied by a deity, with attendant divinities in secondary niches flanking the central niche.  In a few temples the antarala serves as the navaranga too.

The next mantapa is nrttamantapa or navaranga, is a big hall used for congregational services like singing, dancing, recitation of mythological texts, religious discourses and so on. The navaranga will usually be on a raised platform and will have nine anganas (openings) and sixteen pillars.

This is followed by Sanapana mantapa, a hall used for ceremonial purposes. This leads to mukha mantapa the opening pavilion.

mantapas

The Dwajasthamba (flag post) in front of either the garbhagrha or antarala or the mantapa is another common feature. It represents the flag post of the ‘King of kings’. The lanchana (insignia) made of copper or brass fixed like a flag to the top of the post varies according to the deity in the temple and his/her nature.

The Balipitha (pedestal of sacrificial offerings) with a lotus or the footprints of the deity is fixed near the Dwajasthamba, but nearer to the deity. Red-colored offerings like rice mixed with vermillion powder, are kept on this at appropriate stages of rituals for feeding the parivara_devatas and panchabhuthas or the elements.

A Dipastambha (lamp post) is situated either in front of the Balipitha or outside the main gate. The top of this post has a bud shaped chamber to receive the lamp.

The whole temple is surrounded by a high wall (prakara) with one main and three subsidiary gates, opening in the cardinal directions. A gopura (high tower,) adorns these gateways.

These were of course later developments; and in due course became characteristic features of South Indian temple architecture. It is said, the Agama texts provide for as many as 32 prakaras, the concentric – enclosing walls. But, they recommend five to seven as advisable, in case more than one enclosure is needed.  In many cases, the main area of the temple, plus the halls, tanks, and gardens are surrounded by a single wall (prakara) or enclosure. But many major temples  do have a series of enclosures.  As mentioned earlier the Sri Rangam temple has seven enclosing walls, enveloping the whole township.

The Agama texts prescribe that each enclosure must have door-ways in all four directions. But, very few temples followed this rule, perhaps with the exception of the great temple at Tiruvannamalai. In most cases, the doorways lead from one courtyard to the next, finally  leading to the sanctum. And, it became customary, since 10th century, to erect towers (gopuras) over such gateways, though a gopura was not an essential feature of the temple per se. It is needless to mention that the prakara contributes to the security and beauty of the temple

With the growth and development of the temples , their structures and details became increasingly complicated .The  structural arrangements of the major temples  became   more elaborate. The prakara in its many layers provides for a number of minor temples or shrines for the deities, connected with the presiding deity of the temple. Apart from these, the temple precincts include a yagasala, (a hall for occasional yajna or yagas), kalyana-mantapa, marriage or a general purpose hall; asthana-mantapa, where the processional deity holds court; Vahana mantapa , to store the various “vehicles” used to mount the processional deity during festivals and processions; alankara-mantapa, where the processional deity is dressed before being taken on procession; vasanta-mantapa, a hall in the middle of the temple tank used for festivals; and utsava mantapa, hall used on festive occasions. Temples will also usually have a treasury, a kitchen (paka-sala), a store room (ugrana), and a dining hall. A well or a puskarini (tank), flower garden and Ratha (the temple chariot) and its shed are the other essentials associated the temple.

The garbha-griha is encircled by the first prakara, called antara-mandala. This is a passageway, often narrow, permitting the devotees to circumambulate the sanctum in a customary act of devotion. The flight of stairs that connects the first prakara with the sanctum sanctorum is called the sopana. In front of the sopana is the main mantapa.

Around the main mantapa and antara-mandala is the second prakara (antahara). This forms a broad verandah with doorways on all four sides. The antahara leads out into an enclosure containing the main bali-pitha.

The next enclosure is called madhya­hara. Beyond this and just outside the main bali-pitha is the flagstaff (dhvaja-stambha).

The fourth enclosure is called bhayahara. The fifth prakara (enclosure) is the maryada (limit), or last wall.

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Let us briefly go over the broad features of some of the essential aspects of the temple.

Sanctum

The most important part  of a temple, its very heart as it were, is the garbhagrha or  the sanctum sanctorum,  the cave-like cube-shaped “womb room,” located within the Brahmasthana of the Vastu Purusha Mandala, directly above the gold box, placed earlier in the earth during the garbhadhana ceremony. Here on the altar, the deity in the Dhruva Bheru (immovable) form is installed.

According to the nature and placement of the Duruva Bheru, the presiding deity, the entrance will be determined either to North or to East of Garbagriha. The placement of other deities will also be determined accordingly.

Garbhagriha usually is a cube with a low roof and with no doors or windows except for the front opening. The image of the deity is stationed in the geometrical centre, facing the midpoint of the chosen direction. The whole place completely dark, except for the light that comes through the front opening. The name garbhagriha perhaps has reference to the devotee finding his way to this secret inner place and being reborn from it, emerging later, transformed, by grace.

***

The sixth century text, Vishnu dharmottama purna, indicates certain specifications of the sanctum. It says the idol should preferably face east; and the placement of the other deities in the temple should be in relation to the main idol.

“It is commendable to place the central door of the temple in one of the cardinal points. The height of the door should be made double its width, o king. [One should make] the image together with the pedestal on 1/8 lower than the height of the door. The image [should be] two parts [of the whole] and the pedestal a third part. It is commendable to make the width of the door equal to 1/4 of [the width of] the shrine

“The height of the door should be [that of] the deities increased by 1/8. One should make the height of the door double [its] width”.

To illustrate, if the total height of the idol is 6’.0”; the pedestal would then be 2’.0” high and the image would be 4’.0” high. The height of the sanctum door would be 6’.9”; and its width, would be 3.’4 ½ “. The width of the sanctum would be (four times the width of the door) 13’.6”. The sanctum would be in the shape of a square.

As regards the thickness of the sanctum walls (bhitti), the text seems to suggests that the walls should be 1/8 the width of the sanctum. Applying this norm to our illustration   , the walls of the sanctum would be about three feet thick. (It is a bit confusing, here. I am not sure, if the portion relating to the sanctum walls sounds reasonable.)

Next, the text seems to suggest that the width of the sanctum should be 8/15 of the length of the enclosure surrounding it. If we apply this to our illustration, it seems to suggest that the passage around the sanctum would be about 3 ½ feet in width. (I am not certain.)

***

The sculpture and carvings at the doors and the vicinity of the Garbagriha are modest and not so exuberant as to distract the attention of the devotee. Absolute quiet is ensured in the vicinity of the sanctum. Further, the only light entering into that part of the temple falls on the deity. The oil lamps that illumine the deity enhance the ambiance of serenity and peace.

Garbagriha is the very purpose of the temple. Its enclosures are supplementary in nature.

Some texts therefore argue that that the temple, per se, comprises only the sanctum and the tower on the top of it; and these two are the only essential parts of a shrine.

devalaya22Temple Vimana pushkar

Some texts say that the shrine extends up to the front porch leading to the Balipeeta, the ‘dispensing pedastal’ ; and , no further.

In some temples, a pradaksinapatha (a circumambulatory passage) is provided just round the garbhagrha, to enable the devotees to go round the deity. The vesara temples do not have this passage.

The walls of the sanctum raise above a series of moldings, constituting the socle (adhisthana), a base that sticks out from under the bottom wall. The adistana should be strong and massive, as it carries the entire weight of the Garbha griha, the mantapa and the path for circumblation pradakshina; and also of the weight of the super structures, such as the Vimana and its details.

The adhisthana consists of several mouldings (from bottom up); Upana or upatala (the base), Padma (a layer of lotus motif), Jagathi (straight and mnodestly decorated), Kumuda (round and ribbed), Kanta (neck) and Kapolapalika (double layer of lotus petals)

In the Hoysala or the Vesara architecture, particularly from the late 10th century onward, this arrangement of the superstructure is loaded with decoration.

While on the subject, the sanctum of the most celebrated temple in India that of Sri Venkateshwara in Tirumala is a square of twelve feet and nine inches. The sanctum is considered so holy that it is addressed as Koil Alwar meaning the divinity in the form of temple. The three sides of the sanctum (other than the one with the opening to view the deity) are enclosed by another set of wall/s. The total thickness of the walls surrounding the sanctum is about seven feet and two inches. Perhaps this is the most secure sanctum wall one can find. The pleasing Ananda Nilaya Vimana stands on these sets of walls. It is surmised that the outer wall might have been erected sometime around 1260AD.

Vimana

The term Vimana has acquired various interpretations. Sometimes the term Vimana stands for the temple. Often, Vimana means the tower shikara, raised to its final height above the sanctum .

Vimana from Manasara

But, some say that the term Vimana should, strictly, refer to the rotund structure above the series of elevations (tala) which stand on kapota (the flat roof over the sanctum).

In other words, the term vimana, it is said, should refer to the structure between the final Tala and the stupi, the end. The Vimana rests or is surrounded by the Kanta (neck).

Another interpretation is that Sikhara meaning mountain peak, refers to the rising tower of a temple constructed as per the architecture of North India; and is it’s most prominent and visible feature. While the Northern texts identify the Sikhara as Prasada; the Southern texts call them Vimana. The Vimana is pyramid like; and Prasada is curvilinear in its outline. We may for the present go with the last mentioned interpretation.

Among the several styles of Sikharas that obtain in temple architecture, the three most common ones are: the Dravida prevalent in south India; the Nagara   the most common style; and the third born from the synthesis of the other two called the Vesara, seen mostly in Hoysala and later Chalukya temples of Karnataka.

The Dravida style is highly ornate; the Nagara style is simpler and consists of a curvilinear dome. In the Vesara style, the dome is highly ornate and emerges from the Sukanasi or from the richly carved outer walls of the temple. In every style of Sikhara/Vimanam, the structure culminates with a Kalashaat its peak.

The early vimanas, in south, were circular until they ended in a point of the finial (stupi); like  the vimanam of Kadambar koil.

In some cases , the flat-roof (kapota) of the sanctum on which the tower rest and rises is overlaid by a single square stone slab known in the text as “the stone denoting the upper passage of life” (brahma-ranhra-sila). In certain structures, slab after slab is placed in a diminishing order with the final slab crowned by a perforated stone ring (amalaka) giving the structure a pyramid shape.

During the later times, the body of the Vimana tended to be more complex and multi layered rising up in several stages (tala). Each stage of the sikhara contained within itself several layers of mouldings depicting traditional motifs. The layers in a Tala are called Varga; and the sadvarga (six modules) is regarded the classic version. The southern texts describe the temples as sadvarga Devalaya. The sadvargas of a Vimana are Adistana, Pada, Prastara, Kanta, Sikhara and stupi. The vertical expansion of the sadvarga developed into Vimanas of Dvitala (in two stages) and tritala (in three stages) structures.

Tirumalatemple

The most celebrated Dvitala Vimana is the Ananda Nilaya Vimana  atop the sanctum of the Sri Venkateshwara shrine on the hills of Tirumala. It is not clear when it was constructed and who caused it to be constructed. The earliest reference to the Ananda Nilaya Vimana was in the inscription of Virasinga Deva Yadava who ruled the Tondamandala region, around 1250 AD. It is said; he performed Tula-bhara and donated gold, equitant of his weight, for covering the Vimana. The Vimana was renovated in the year 1417 by the Kings of Chandragiri. The most famous patron, in the later years, was, of course, Krishnadeva Raya of Vijayanagar Empire, who, in the year 1517, donated 30,000 pieces of gold for covering the Ananda Nilaya Vimana with gold polish.(please also see para below)

Before we go further we may talk a little more about Vimana.

The Vimana in the South Indian temple history had an interesting career. For instance, the most magnificent Vimana of the Raja-rajeshwara temple at Tanjavur (1009 AD) rises to an imposing height of 58 meters. Another temple of the same period at Gangaikonda-chola-puram (1025 AD) rises to a height of 48 meters. Thereafter, in the subsequent periods, the Vimanas tended to grow shorter. But the Gopuras, the towers that stand over the gate-ways (dwara-gopura) became increasingly ornate, complicated and huge.

The sanctity of Vimanas was not in any manner affected by its diminished size. While the sculptures on the outer Gopuras could house secular and even erotic themes, the Vimana had to be austere and carry only the prescribed divinities associated with the mula-bhera in the sanctum. The Vimana is verily the representation or the outer visible form of the murthi that resides within it; and is revered as such. It represents the glory (vaibhava) of the deity the antaryamin who resides within it. The Gopura on the other hand does not usually command an equal status.

[ While on the subject of the relation between the Vimana and the Gopura , please see the following extract from the response I  posted to the comment made by Dr.Ratti:

Valabhi_Temple_in_North_India_1The ‘Barrel-vault’ also known as a tunnel vault or a wagon vault is an architectural design looking like an oblong wagon-top or a vault or resembling a boat placed up-side down, is rather an old feature of the Indian temple architecture. Its curvy shape lends the structure a semi-cylindrical appearance. Such a design is assigned with many names, depending on the architectural school that it was involved with. The various parts of the temple are given different names in different parts of India.

For instance, in the Nagara tradition, which was practiced in the Northern, Western and Eastern parts of India, a barrel vaulted, rectangular superstructure that runs at right-angle to the entrance of the Gargha-griha is termed as Valabhi Prasada. The Valabhi turret is an ornamental structure on a flat roof. Usually, the sloping Valabhi resting on a flat roof is capped with multiple amlakas and finales, Shikhara.

I am given to understand that there are two explanations for derivation of the term Valabhi. The first one says; Valabhi is derived from the root Vala (enclosure) suggesting a turret or an upper room or a curved rafter. And, it might mean a kind of enclosure that would support a tunnel or barrel roof. And, therefore, Valabhi indicates a ‘mono-pitched roof.’

The other explanation suggests that the term Valabhi could relate to the name of an ancient city located in the Saurashtra region of Western India. It was the seat of the Maitraka dynasty who ruled the peninsula and parts of southern Rajasthan (from fifth to the eighth century). The City of Valabhi was also a celebrated centre of learning, with numerous Buddhist monasteries. It might be that such architectural type was the main characteristic of the Valabhi region, where there were numbers of Buddhist Chityas.

In the earlier periods, the temples and Stupas, which were successors to the huts, were constructed out of brick and timber. These were generally either elliptical (Kuta) or rectangular huts with gable roofs (Sala) made of bamboos. Therefore, the early temples, having vaulted domical and gabled (Sala) roof, resembled, in shape, a Chaitya hall (which itself was a successor to the Vedic stupa). It is also said; the palace architecture was developed form the Sala concept or design. And, since the palace was called Prasada, the God’s Palace (Devalaya) also came to be known as Prasada.

The Valabhi Prasada, generally, follows a rectangular plan; its length being thrice its width (ayata); with a barrel roofed superstructure running at right angle (tiryak) to the direction of entry to the Garbha-griha. Its slopes are either on all its four sides (hipped roof) or only on two sides. On its ridge, are placed three Amalasarkas. And, Dormer windows (Chandrasala) that projects vertically from a sloping roof are located on either side of the ridge.

In case the entrance to the shrine is located under the broader side of the ridge, such a Valabhi Prasada is classified as Bhadra; and, where the entrance is on the narrow, it is known as Dvarapala.

Because of its barrel vault roof, perhaps inspired by the early Chaitya architecture, the Valabhi is much wider than the Prasāda that you normally find in the Nagara temples. I believe, there are such ancient temples in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Uttarakhand (Nava-Devi temple in Yagesvar, Almora District) regions, too. Most of the Valabhi temples are dedicated to Devi, the Supreme Goddess.

Teli ka Mandir at Gwalior Vaital Deul Temple, Bhubaneswa Nakul & Sahadev Varahi Deula

As is well known, the earliest surviving example of Valabhi-Prasada is that of the Teli-ka-mandir (Ca.750 CE) of Gwalior, dedicated to Vishnu. And, though the temple stands on a Nagara base, its Valabhi Prasada resembles the Southern Gopura at the entrance of the temple complex. The later Jain temples of Western India (e.g., the fifteenth-century temple of Adinatha at Ranakpur) adopted similar designs, with slight modifications.

In Orissa, the same Valabhi mode is known as Khakhara (wagon roof or a bottle). The instances of such temples in Orissa are many. For example: the Baitala or Vaital Deul (8th-century) at Bhubaneswar; the Durga temple at Rameswar; the Varahi temple at Chaurasi, the Gopali and Savitri temple both in Bhuvanesvar and so on.

The Devi temple in Sibsagar (Assam); Terracotta temple at Vishnupur; and Siddheshvara Mahadeva temple in Barakar (Bengal) are also some of the many such Valabhi temples in Eastern India.

And, in the Southern tradition, a shrine of oblong plan with barrel vaulted roof or hut roof, topped by a series of stupi is named as Sala Vimana or Kosta or Sabha Vimana. It resembles a boat placed upside over a rectangular structure. A slightly modified Vimana of the Sala type where the hind part of the barrel-shaped roof is rounded, resembling the back of an elephant is called Gaja or Hasti prishta. This variety of Shikharas is also termed as Panjara or Nidha.

There are many instances of barrel vaulted Eka-tala Gaja-prishta Vimanas, in South India, principally at Aihole (Durga temple) and at Pattadakal.

Bhima Ratha, MahabalipuramAnd, there is the Bhima-ratha, one of the five Rathas or architectural models, at Mahabalipuram. Like the other four Rathas, the Bhima–ratha is also a stone-version or a model of a wooden structure. It is said to replicate the Chaiyta-model. The Bhima-ratha is an Ektala or single tiered oblong structure, with a barrel-vaulted roof (Sala Vimana) like a tilted boat, and ornate columns.

These were the forerunners of the architecture that flourished in the later centuries. For instance: Sri Kapoteswara Temple, Chejerla (AP) which dates back to third or fourth century A.D; Mahadeva swami Cave Temple, Malaiyadikurichi; Mukkoodal Appan Venkatesa Perumal Temple ; and so on . The Vimana atop the famed shrine in Srirangam (earlier to sixth century) has a curvy or a rotund shape at one end.

Amvar_Chejerla_Kapoteswara_temple_in_guntur_districtsrirangam temple rare picture

But, in the later periods, in the architectural designs of the temples, in North and East, the vaulted- roof Valabhi gave place to Prasadas having a large circular wheel shaped capstone block in the shape of a ribbed Amlaka ( myrobelan) . And in the South, the Vimanas rising in tiers (Tala), successively diminishing in circumference and ending in a point (stupi) over the cupola came into being, increasingly. This, over a period, gave rise to pyramidal or curvilinear form that we are familiar with.

[Before we move on to Vimanas of the South, lets briefly talk about the symbolism of the vaulted- roof Valabhi that you mentioned, as also of the Vimanas. At the outset, let me mention, there are countless symbolisms associated with the Vimana and the temple.

The temple, ideally, is regarded as an image (Bimba) of the Universe. It appears as though the inverted bowl of space under the wide Valabhi Prasada was imagined to be the vault of heaven, the starry region alive with the presence of dynamic light-deities (Adityas) and celestial beings such as the sun and moon, stars and such other sky gods.

The insides of the earlier vaulted roofs were, thus, imagined to be Akasha. The foundation of the temple is said to represent Earth (Prithvi); the walls of the sanctum, the Water (Apah); the tower over it, the Fire (Agni); the finale of the tower, the Air (Vayu); and, above it is the formless Space (Akasha). The sanctum is thus a constellation of the five elements that are basic to the Universe.

*

In the case of the Vimana, rising above the sanctum, it is said to symbolize the inverted tree with its roots above in the air; and, the branches spreading downwards (urdva mula; adah shakam).

The inverted tree, again, symbolizes the phenomenal world of matter and also the spirit having its roots the utmost subtle Absolute. The Man’s roots and energies are hidden in the abstract ‘thousand petalled lotus ‘(Sahasra), the invisible point just above the head, outside of the physical frame. That is his essence.

The Yoga texts speak of different psychic centres in the body, pictured as lotuses with their petals bent downward. The Yogi attempts to activate the vital currents within him to give the petals an upward stand.

While the Stupi, the point at the apex of the Vimana is considered as the root, the main mass of the Vimana represents the spreading branches.

Starting from the pointed copula, the Vimana is sculptured as an inverted lotus, with its petals spreading out and drooping down (Kumuda-vari). The Lotus is a symbol of life and consciousness.

Kailash Temple at Ellora vimanaShiv_temple_Tanjore

The petals of the lotus turn up when the sun shines on it. The divine grace is the sun (Aditya). That analogy is carried into the temple concept also.

The pointed finial of the Vimana symbolizes the dual act of gathering the essence from the from-less cosmos and letting it flown into the mass of the main tower. That essence descends into the icon placed at the centre of the sanctum, from where the divine grace flows into the Man. His effort is the ascent towards the spirit.

The shrine, thus, demonstrates the culmination of the human and the divine energies. The matter moves up evolving into higher state of consciousness; and, the grace, blessings flow down. ]

*
In the south, the earlier temples had taller Vimanas (say, as in Brihadisvara of Tanjore-58 meters; Gangaikonda-chola-puram – 48 meters). But the in the temples of later centuries, the Vimana tended to grow comparatively shorter. Over a period, the Vimanas assumed pyramidal or curvilinear form that we are familiar with. But the Gopura at the entrance (dvara) grew increasingly ornate, complicated, huge and monumental in size.

Thus, the Vimanas over the sanctum grew shorter or modest; and , in the process , lost their wide vaulted- roof- the Valabhi. In contrast to that, by about the twelfth century, the Gopura (gate-house) at the entrance grew amazingly massive, towering in pyramidal structures, as tall as up to sixteen stories, elaborately adorned and covered with brightly coloured plethora of sculpture of and guardian deities; and, capped at the top by an apsidal, eight-sided, or oblong, barrel vault shaped Sala (roof) pinnacle by a series of Stupi, the temple Kalashas.

Gopura Vimana

Thus, the ‘Barrel-vault’, the Valabhi, did not entirely disappear. It transformed, moved up and sat on the top of a magnificent Gopura.]

***

While the temple complex is designed as a Mandala with the sanctum at its heart (Brahma –sthana); the sanctum along with the Vimana atop is itself regarded a Mandala. The image is located in the mid-point of the sanctum which is designed as a square; that is, where its diagonals intersect each other. This point is elevated, in a three dimensional projection, and rendered as the sthupi or the central point of the Vimana. The Kalasha is installed at this point.

In order to appreciate the Mandala configuration of the Vimana, one could take its top-elevation; that is, take an aerial view from directly above the Vimana. The entire structure of the Vimana resting on a square base, projecting into the air in successive diminishing tiers and concluding into a needle (bindu) is a Mandala resembling the Chakra. The sanctum with its Vimana, thus, represents the worshipful (archa) form of the divinity. The different deities associated with the mula-bhera are aligned along the four sides of the Vimana (Mandala), according to their importance, starting with the grosser ones on the outer periphery of the Vimana (outermost layer of the Mandala).The sthupi , the central point , the needle of the Vimana being  the  bindu of its Mandala configuration.

anandanilaya

Ananda Nilaya Vimana is of Vesara architecture; and the Vimana is in Dvitala, meaning that structure above the Kapotha slab has risen in two stages; and on the top of the second tala is the Vimana, per se, in a rotund shape. Its total height from its base to the top of the Kalasha is 32’08” .Both the Talas are square in shape. The lower Tala depicts, in its four sides, the icons of the Vaikhanasa School: Purusha, Sathya, Achtuta and Aniruddha. The upper tala depicts about fifty-nine images including those of Hanuman, Garuda and several Rishis. The most famous Sri Vimana Venkateshwara is on the North face of the upper Tala.

The Kanta (neck), at the end of each Tala , is circular in shape. The rotund Vimana, atop the second Tala and enclosed by the circular Kanta (neck) is adorned with lotus motif.

In the later stages of South Indian architecture, the Vimanas grew more complex and muti-sided. The six-sided and eight-sided Vimans became quite common. It is said there are a few temples with their Vimana having as many as sixteen sides. The temple in Madurai is reputed to have as many as 65 sides!.

The basic shape of the Vimana is pyramid like. The imagery associated with its shape is that of an inverted tree with its branches spreading downwards. This has reference to the ancient imagery of the universe.

Sri Vaikuntha Perumal temple at Kanchipuram i (mid-8th century) has a unique and an interesting arrangement of three sanctums, one above the other, encased within the body of the superstructure.

Some of the best examples of the Vimans come from the massive temples erected by the Chola kings. The Brhadisvara or Rajarajesvara, temple, built at the Chola capital of Thanjavur is a fine example of the grandeur and majesty of the temples of this period. The temple construction begun around 1003 and was completed about seven years later. The main walls are raised in two stories, above which the superstructure rises to a height of 190 feet. It has 16 stories, each of which consists of a wall with a parapet of shrines carved in relatively low relief.

The crowning glory of the Brihadeeswara temple is the staggering cupola of the Vimana comprising two huge, sculpted, granite blocks weighing 40 tonnes each. The engineering skills and the expertise that made the mounting of these huge stones atop a structure that is nearly 200 feet high must have been way ahead of their times. Legend says that the stone was brought from Sarapallam (scaffold-hollow), four miles north-east of the city, using a specially designed ramp.

Vertically the vimana is organized by pilasters that break up the facade of the base, creating spaces for niches and windows in between.  However, the temple departs from southern Indian convention in one significant way: the vimana is taller than the gopura (gateways) of the temple’s walls.  Normally the gopuras are taller than the vimana.

The Vimana rises to a height of abut 216 feet, a tower of fourteen storeys. The basement of the structure which supports the tower is 96 feet square. The gilded Kalasa over it is 12.5 feet high. It is believed the sikhara and the stupi does not throw on the ground. The dome rests on a single block of granite, 25.5 feet square.

The architects and engineers attribute the stability of the massive temple to its pyramidal structure. They say it is more robust than its counterparts from north India with their complex curvilinear profiles.

Another fine example of the Chola temple architecture is the temple in Gangaikondacholapuram, which succeeded Tanjore as the capital of the Chola Empire. The Vimanam of this temple, in contrast to the rigid pyramidal structure of the Brihadeeswara temple, rises up in a concave manner with fluid lines. (For more information, please visit http://www.thanjavur.com/bragathe.htm)

The tallest Sikhara of a Hindu temple, it is said, is under construction at Mayapur in west Bengal. The temple when completed (say by 2014) will be 35 stories tall and almost as high as the great pyramid in Giza.

Kalasha

The crowning glory of the Vimana is its Kalasha, the vase. Some say it is reminiscent of the life giving Amrita-kalasha that emerged out of the milky ocean when it was churned. Kalash symbolizes blessings and well-being.

In the development of the Indian temple this feature appears to have arrived rather late.  The early kalashas were perhaps made of stone blocks, round or ribbed. They might have been in the nature of cap-stones that structurally held   the tall and tapering vimana,    as in the North Indian temples. The copper and brass vases seem to have been the later innovations; and the agama books favor use of copper vases.

Kalasha  has several members, such as “the foot-hold” (padagrahi) which is its foothold, the egg (anda) or the belly, the neck (griva), the lotus-band (padma-pashika), the rim (karnika) and the bud  (bija-pura). The shape of this unit could resemble the bell, the flower bud, the lump, coconut, alter or pot. all these shapes symbolize the potential and the possibilities  of life.

Interestingly, the Kalasa placed on top of the Vimana, it is said, is not imbedded into the structure by packing it with mortar or cement. It is, in fact, placed in position by a hollow rod that juts out of the centre of the tower and runs through the vase, the Kalasha. It is through this tube that the   lanchana‘tokens’ (cereals and precious stones) are introduced. One of the explanations is the hallow tube represents the central channel of energy the Shushumna that connects to the Sahasra, the seat of consciousness, through the Brahma randra. This is completes the analogy of the temple to the purusha ot to the human form.

I have heard of inserting a “golden person “inside the Kalasha; but have not come across much discussion about it. It appears, the Kalasha, the pot, has an important hidden component, the golden person (suvarna purusha) who is regarded the personification of the temple-spirit. The belly of the Kalasha contains a tiny cot made of silver, copper or sandal; over which is laid a soft feather mattress. A tiny golden icon holding a lotus flower and a triple flag rests on that cot. Four tiny pots made of gold, silver or copper containing consecrated water are placed on the four sides of the cot. There is also a tiny pot of ghee near the cot. This entire procedure of introducing the “golden-person “into the Kalasha is known as hrudaya-varnaka-vidhi.

Another kalasha is deposited under the sanctum. And, like the one on top of the Vimana, this Kalasha also contain tokens of growth and prosperity, viz., cereals with subtle seeds (such as millet) and nine types of precious stones. The womb, the icon and the sthupi the finial run along the same axis.

There are a few other symbolisms associated with the Kalasha. The structure of the Kalasha resembles an inverted tree; and is almost a replica of the “womb” buried under the sanctum. Both are described as roots. The one at the bottom urges upward growth; while the one atop is the root of the inverted tree.

Mantapas

[ Before we get into specifics, lets look at the general features of Mantapa, an important architectural component of the South Indian temples. 

A Mantapa, in its simplest form, is a free-standing four-pillared structure. It could either have a flat roof, with stone slabs laid horizontally, spanning from one supporting beam or wall to another; or, it could also have a structured ceiling, with an arrangement of one stone course over laying the other to produce designs of diminishing squares.

Mantapa design 2 Mantapa design 3 Mantapa design 1 Mantapa inside view

A Mantapa could be extended to any size or pattern with increasing number of pillars (say, 4, 16, 32, 64 and even up to 1000 as in the Srirangam Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple). Its member-stone may be connected to each other through a tenon-mortise joint, with or without lime mortar at the interface. In South Indian architecture, the stone members merely rest against each other with no interlocking mechanism. The roof of the Mantapa is made up of stone slabs spanning between beams, packed with lime mortar. Typical pillar spacing varies from 2 m to 3 m, with the height of each pillar being 3 m and 7 m in height.

 Important temples usually have a number of Mantapas, each intended for a different function, such as conduct of rituals, performing arts, resting spot for devotees, etc.  The types of the Mantapas could be:

: – Antarala / Ardha-mantapa – narrow pavilion between the temple exterior and the Garbagriha (sanctum) or connecting to  other Mantapa within  the main temple; ;

: – Navaranga / Nritta-mantapa / Ranga- Mantapa – spacious hall for singing and dancing etc;

: – Sanapana mantapa – hall for ceremonial purpose;

: – Kalyana Mantapa – dedicated to ritual marriage celebration of the presiding Lord with the Goddess;

: – Maha Mantapa / Asthana Mantapa – a big assembly hall for conducting religious discourses;

: – Nandi Mantapa– in Shiva temples  for housing the image of the sacred Bull , the Nandi; And,  

: – Mukha- mantapa – opening pavilion, a porch-like structure.]

The Pillars of the Mantapa of the Hoysala and Vijayanagar period tended to be highly ornate.]

Vittala temple Vijayanagar (Hampi)

***

In the temples of South India, the Garbagriha , generally, is  followed by four types of Mantapas or pavilions. Mantapa means any roofed, open or enclosed pavilion (hall) resting on pillars, standing independently or connected to the sanctum of the temple.

The first of the Mantapas is the Antarala (sometimes called sukanas or sukanasi or Ardha-mantapa), a narrow pavilion connecting the Garbha-griha and the Navaranga. It usually will have niches in the north and south walls, occupied by a deity, with attendant divinities in secondary niches flanking the central niche.  In a few temples the Antarala serves as the navaranga too.

The next Mantapa is Nrtta-mantapa or Navaranga, which  is a big hall used for congregational services like singing, dancing, recitation of mythological texts, religious discourses and so on. The Navaranga will usually be on a raised platform and will have nine anganas (openings) and sixteen pillars.

This is followed by Sanapana mantapa, a hall used for ceremonial purposes. This leads to Mukha mantapa the opening pavilion.

Nandi Mandapam

Bali pitha

Bali_pitha is an indispensable associate of the sanctum. It is an altar or the dispensing seat of the deity. It is a small but stylized stone seat that is installed directly in front of the icon and very near the sanctum. It is the seat on which offerings to deity are placed.

The chief (pradhana) Bali_pitha will be directly in front of the icon and often near the Dwajasthamba. It is usually made of hard granite and will be highly stylized, ornate, and majestic, with several limbs such as the base, cornices, wall-surface with door-lets or niches. Most texts suggest that the size of the altar should be 1/8, 1/7 or 1/5 of the dimension of the sanctum. Depending on their sizes and shapes, the altars are classified into several types such as Sri-bandha, Sri-bhadra, and Sarvato-bhadra and so on.

The Pradhana Bali-pitha will often be covered metal sheets .The more affluent temples as the one at Tirumala, give the Pradana Bali-pitha a metal covering with gold polish.

It is on this Bali_pitha that the food offerings, in the form of vermilion colored rice, and rice mixed with pepper are offered to the attendant divinities and the guardian goblins. These offerings are placed only after the main food offering to the presiding deity, in the sanctum, is completed.

 While the main (pradhana), Bali_pitha will be directly in front of the icon; there will be several such other altars, located in the prakara, positioned in eight directions, around the sanctum. Their positions are determined in accordance with the prescriptions of the canonical texts that the temple follows.

Some suggest that the yupastambha (Sacrificial post) and the balipitha (sacrificial pedestal) of the Vedic age have metamorphosed into the dhvajastambha and the balipitha of the present day.

A dipastambha (lamp post) is situated either in front of the balipitha. The top of this post has a bud shaped chamber to receive the lamp

Flag staff

The dhvajastambha (flag post) in front of either the garbhagrha or antarala or the mantapa is another common feature of the temples. It should be perpendicular and directly opposite to the idol. It will be located very close to the Bali pitha; and the Bali pitha will be between the sanctum and the Dwajasthamba. It represents the flag post of the ‘King of kings’. The lanchana (insignia) made of copper or brass fixed like a flag to the top of the post varies according to the deity in the temple. The figure on the lanchana is invariably that of the vahana (carrier vehicle) of the deity. For instance, in Siva temples it contains Nandi. In Devi temples it is the lion that finds its place. In Vishnu temples the Garuda gets that honour.

The practice of erecting tall columns of fifty to eighty feet in height appears to be of recent origin. In the early stages, these flag posts were perhaps meant to indicate the position of the sanctum. Even today, the temples in North India fly long flowing banners and flags from the tower atop the sanctum.

The old texts favoured wooden or bamboo poles, with odd- number of joints, up to twenty-five.  And, the flag-staff was not intended to be a permanent structure.  The ceremony of flying the temple flag marked the inauguration of a major Uthsava at the temple. The flag also served as signal to indicate to the people of the town and the visitors that a Uthsava is on. The old customs required that no major domestic auspicious functions be held in the village while the temple flag is hoisted. This was perhaps to suggest that the celebrations at the temple took precedence over those at homes; and that everyone in the village should participate in the temple celebrations.

In course of time the permanently fixed flag-staff became a common feature in temple architecture. The older temples had flagstaffs made of stone. That gave place to the practice of erecting a stone pillar or wooden pole covered with copper, brass, or even silver plates gilded and installed on a raised stone platform, often square in shape,located in front of the sanctum. The top portion of this tall mast will have three horizontal perches (symbolizing righteousness, reputation and prosperity, or the three divinities Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Siva the destroyer), pointing towards the sanctum.

The pedestal or the seat of the flag-staff as well as the mast with perches became highly stylized in South India during the days of the Chola and Pallaya rulers, for the flag-staff was uniquely a royal insignia.

Gopura

In the case of major temples, the entire temple area is surrounded by a series of conectric protective walls, the prakaras. The lofty towers erected over the entrance gateways of these walls are the Gopuras. These rectangular, pyramidal towers, often fifty metres high dominate the city skyline. And, adorned with intricate and brightly painted sculptures of gods, demons, humans, and animals, have become the hallmark of southern architecture; though, strictly, they are not the essential aspect of a temple layout or its structure.  The Gopura emphasizes the importance of the temple within the city.

The Gopura is a unique feature of the Dravidian architecture. It had its origin and development in South; and the other schools of architecture do not have equivalent features.

It is said in the older texts that the concept of Gopura  originated from extensive cow-stalls (Go-griha) which was  virtually a gate-house at the doorways of a huge building , monastery , temple or even a town (Pura-dvaram tu gopuram I Dvara-matre tu gopuram I ). The Gopura, therefore, technically, denoted gate-houses of palaces, cities and residential buildings of various descriptions; and that they did not necessarily belong to temples alone.

The advent of Gopura in Dravidian architecture was rather late. The practice of erecting a Gopura at the entrance gateway to the temple seems to have come into being during the mid-12th century. And, with the decline of the mighty Cholas and with the increasing threat from invading armies, the temple cities (prominently Madurai and Sri Rangam) found it expedient to erect a series of protective walls to safeguard and defend their temples, palaces and cities. The Gopuras constructed on the gateways leading from one enclosure to the next, initially, served as watch and defensive towers.

By about the tenth century, the temples in South India, generally, came to be surrounded (perhaps as a defence-measure) with high walls (Prakara) with one main and three subsidiary gates, opening in the cardinal directions. A Gopura (high tower,) adorned these gateways. And in due course the Gopura became a characteristic feature of South Indian temple architecture. Many major temples   have a series of enclosures (Prakara).  For instance; the Sri Rangam temple has seven enclosing walls, enveloping the whole township; and, the entrance to each Prakara is adorned with a Gopura.

The later Agama texts mention that each enclosure must have door-ways in all four directions. But, very few temples followed this rule, perhaps with the exception of the great temple at Tiruvannamalai.

Tiruvannamalai3

In most cases, the doorways lead from one courtyard to the next, finally leading to the sanctum. And, it became customary, since 10th century, to erect towers (Gopuras) over such gateways, though a Gopura was not an essential feature of the temple per se. It is needless to mention that the Prakara contributes to the security and beauty of the temple.

The whole temple is surrounded by a high wall (prakara) with one main and three subsidiary gates, opening in the cardinal directions. A Gopura (high tower,) adorns these gateways.

These were of course later developments; and in due course became characteristic features of South Indian temple architecture. It is said, the later Agama texts provide for as many as 32 prakaras, the concentric – enclosing walls. But, they recommend five to seven as advisable, in case more than one enclosure is needed.  In many cases, the main area of the temple, plus the halls, tanks, and gardens are surrounded by a single wall (prakara) or enclosure. But many major temples do have a series of enclosures.  As mentioned earlier the Sri Rangam temple has seven enclosing walls, enveloping the whole township.

With the growth and development of the temples, the structures and details of the Prakara-s and Gopura became increasingly elaborate and complicated. The main entrance, somehow, popularly came to be known as Raja-Gopura.

There is mention of Gopura-s with sixteen storey’s, divided into ten classes. These ten classes were made having in view the number of its architectural members designated as Shikara (cupola), Stupika (dome), Gala-kuta (side-tower or neck portion) and Kshudra-nasi (minor vestibules or nose). A Gopura is thus, technically, a Shiro-bagha (caput or head) having a Shikha (tuft or spire) resembling a Shala (arrow-head) . The Gopuara usually has a circular surrounding dome and is furnished with a side-tower, four small vestibules and eight large vestibules.

The fifteen kinds of Gopuras are mentioned having one to sixteen or seventeen storeys. But the details of only five storeys are given; the others being left to the discretion of the architects. These give the descriptions of the ornaments and moldings of each storey; the central or main hall as well as all other rooms, together with different parts such as pillars, entablatures, walls, roofs, floors, and windows, etc.

[ But, the traditional view according to ancient texts on Shilpa-shastra , the most important part  of a temple, it’s very heart as it were, is the Garbhagrha or  the sanctum sanctorum,  the cave-like cube-shaped “womb room,” located within the Brahmasthana  of the Vastu Purusha Mandala. Sometimes the Garbagriha with its Vimana alone is defined as temple per se. But, generally, its extended by an Ardh-Mandapa, a Mandapa or a large hall up to the Bali-pita.

All that is to suggest the Raja-Gopura is not an essential part of the temple; and its structure is left to the discretion of the architect.]

What started as a defensive structure rapidly developed into a prominent and an architectural extravaganza with great visual appeal. The Gopuras grew in size from the mid-12th century and came to be greatly emphasized, until the colossal ones rose to dominate the temple complex, surpassing the main sanctum .Some of them are extremely large and elaborately decorated with sculpture,; and quite dominating the architectural ensemble.

Among the finest examples are the Sundara Pandya Gopura (13th century) of the Jambukesvara temple at Tiruchchirappalli and the Gopuras of the great Siva temple at Chidambaram, built largely in the 12th–13th century.

The Gopuras of the Meenakshi temple at Madurai are of course the most magnificent array of temple towers.There are twelve impressive Gopuras soaring over the three tier Prakara walls. The outer four towers dominating the city landscape are truly huge in size and magnificence.

Madurai4

The nine -storied towers came up between 13-16th centuries during the reign of Madurai Nayaks. The edifice of the Gopuras measure 174 ft. from north to south, and 107 ft. in depth.The gateway is 21 ft. 9 in. wide; and the gatepost is 6o ft high, made of blocks of granite, carved with the most exquisite scroll patterns of elaborate foliage. The heights of the Gopuras range from 161 feet to 170 feet.

Chidambaram Temple by Fransis Ward 1772

Chidambaram temple by Francis S Ward 1772

The Gopuras appear to have influenced revision in the temple design and layout. Such was the emphasis placed on the eminence of Gopuras that as time went by; the Southern temples came to be designed as a series of courtyards, as if to justify the Gopuras. The spaces around the shrine became hierarchical; the further the space was from the main shrine, the lesser was its eminence. The outermost ring had buildings of a more utilitarian or a secular nature – shops, dormitories, sheds, workshops etc., thus transforming the temple from a purely place of worship to the hub of a vibrant living city. A particularly interesting example of this is the Sri Ranganatha temple at Sri Rangam, which has seven enclosure walls and as many as twenty-one Gopuras, halls, other temples and township constructed over several centuries. The seventh, the outer most, enclosure is 3072 feet in length and 2521 feet in breadth; enclosing an area of about six hundred acres.

The grand Meenakshi temple in Madurai is another great illustration of this development which was initiated by the Pandya kings. It was during this period that the building of a temple became the nucleus of a town-planning exercise, which we discussed in the earlier parts of this article. 

map-Meenakshi-Amman-Temple-karta

Though the evolution of the Dravidian temple architecture stalled briefly after the demise of the Pandyan Empire, the architectural expression scaled new heights during the reign of the Vijayanagara kings (15th and 16th centuries). Although the later temples were not huge in size, they often were of very fine workmanship. For instance, the Subrahmanya temple of the 17th century, built in the

Brhadisvara temple complex at Thanjavur, indicates the vitality of architectural traditions even at that late date.

The Raja-Gopuram of Sri Rangam temple, completed during the year 1987, is perhaps the tallest in South India. The Gopura with 13 stories is 243 feet high; and with twelve Kalashas adorning its peak.

In the meantime a 249 feet tall gopura, said to be the tallest gopura in Asia, has come up in the Shiva temple at Murudeshwar in the coastal district Uttara Kannada, in Karnataka. The twenty-one story high gopura measures 249 feet high and is taller than the 243 Raja Gopura at Sri Rangam and 239 feet tall gopura of Brihadeshwara. The gopura is fitted with elevator services and the temple plans to have museums and art galleries on all the 21 floors of the gopura.


A Gopura is generally constructed with a massive stone base and a superstructure of brick and pilaster. It is rectangular in plan and topped by a barrel-vault roof crowned with a row of finials.  It differs from the Vimanam in that it need not necessarily be square-based. Above that rectangular base a pyramidal structure covered with brightly coloured plethora of sculpture is raised to a great height. A Gopura has to be towering and massive.

In the ancient times, the cities all over South India could be discerned from afar by the distinctive shape of their Gopuras dominating the skyline.

When viewed from top, the Gopura too resembles a Mandala; With the Goblins, Yalis, mythical animals and other beings located in the outer enclosure, as if supporting the weight of the mandala. The humans and the divine beings are in the inner enclosures. The peak of the Gopura, the Kalasha is at the centre of the Mandala

Symbolically, the Gopura and the entrance to the temple represent the feet of the deity. A devotes bows at the at the entrance, the feet of the Lord, as he steps into the temple and proceeds towards the sanctum, leaving behind the world of contradictions.

In the Sri Rangam temple the seven concentric prakara walls are said to represent the seven layers of matter-earth, water, fire, air, either, mind and intelligence-that envelop the consciousness of the living entities in the material world. The gopuras, or gateways through the prakaras, are symbolic of being liberated from the bondage of matter as one enters the temple and proceeds toward the central shrine.

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CONTINUED in the next part->

Sources:

A. Maps of Madurai and Sri Rangam

By courtesy of Kultur in Indien

B.Other pictures from Internet.

C. Devalaya Vastu by Prof. SKR Rao

D. Vastu – Astrology and Architecture

E. Stella Kramrisch, The Hindu Temple,

Others:
http://www.sanathanadharma.com/temple/essential.htm

http://www.orientalarchitecture.com/

Encyclopaedia Britannica

http://www.britannica.com/dday/print?articleId=109585&fullArticle=true&tocId=65333

https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/dspace/bitstream/1887/2668/1/299_022.pdf

ALL PICTURE ARE FROM INTERNET

Tirumala Anandanilaya

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2012 in Temple Architecture

 

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Temple Architecture- Devalaya Vastu – Part Four (4 of 9)

Temple Layout

south-elevation-of-kailash-temple-fergusson

South elevation plan of Kailash temple is Plate LXXX11 from the book “Cave temples of India” by Ferguson, James and James Burgess (Thanks to Dr.JB Ratti)

The Shilpa text Shiva-prakasha in its chapter titled vastu-bhumi-bedha, describes sixteen (Shodasha) types of temple layouts:  the Square (Chandura); Rectangle (Agatra);Trapezium ( with uneven sides – like a cart – shakata); Circle (Vritta); Elliptical (kritta vritta); triangular  (dwaja);  diamond or rhombus (vajra) ; Arrow (shara);umbrella (chatra) ; fish (meena);back of a tortoise (kurma);conch (shanka); crescent (ardha-chandra); pot (kumbha);sword (khadga); and lotus (kamala).

 

These layouts have specific applications; and are not to be used generally. For instance: the back of a tortoise (kurma), pot (kumbha), conch (shanka) and lotus (kamala) are recommended only for Vishnu and Shiva temples. Similarly the Square (Chandura), Rectangle (Agatra), fish (meena), diamond or rhombus (vajra) and sword (khadga) are recommended for Devi temples. The rest of the lay outs are for other (lesser) deities.

But all texts generally agree that the square or the  rectangular shape of layout are the best and most auspicious. Varaha-samhita calls such layouts as Siddha-bhumi, the best of all. In case the layout is rectangular ,the North South dimension should be greater than East-west dimension. It is also said , it would be better if the elevation on the west or the South is slightly higher.

For the limited purpose of this discussion let us stick to the square or rectangular layout, ignoring the rest.  Else, I fear, it might get too complicated.

The drawing of the court yard of the  Shiva temple at Thiruvālangādu,  by the famous artist Silpi.

thiruvannamalai temple top view

Having determined the suitability of the land for constructing a temple, and having drawn up the Vastu Mandala of the town and identified the temple location ; the next stage is to draw up a construction plan .This specifies the location, the size and the orientation of the  various temples to come up in the proposed complex. This again involves preparation of another Vastu Mandala.

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Pada Vinyasa

Belur-Chennakeshava-2Halebid-Hoysaleshvara

The land considered suitable for the purpose of constructing the temple (vastu bhumi) and   placed at the center (Brahma Sthana) of the Vastu mandala of the township must be in the shape of a rectangle or a square. The ratio between the breadth and the length of the area may be 4:8; 4:7; 4:6; or 4:5. (The square would be 4:4). Shapes of sites to be avoided are: circular (vritta), triangular (trikona), rod shaped (dandakriti), bow shaped (dhanur akara) and other irregular shapes. And, in case it becomes necessary to construct a temple on a land of such “un approved” shape, the area meant for the temple should be demarcated and rendered a square or a rectangle in shape.

The 9th-century Temple at Borobudur , Central Java,  Indonesia is built upon  six square platforms topped by three circular platforms , resembling the Sri Yantra.  Even the ancient temple of Sri Vishwanatha of Kashi that was later destroyed by Aurangzeb , during 1669 CE, was in form a square , with the sanctum at the heart  of it.

Borobudur templeplan_of_the_ancient_temple_of_vishveshvur_by_james_prinsep_1832 (1)

Plan of the Ancient Temple of Vishveshvur, by James Prinsep

Incidentally, the Buddhist and Jain temples too follow the same principles. Even the Sri Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple at Amritsar is structured in a square shape; with the Sanctum placed in the Brahma sthana. The Buddhist temple at Neak Pean at Angkor, Cambodia was also designed by aligning squares around the central square.

Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjabi Miniature, c 1840 Neak Pean Cambodia ground plan

The following is the layout of a Jain temple.

This is the layout of the Aksharadhama temple at New Delhi

Akshardham Temple 2 , New Delhi

In case of a rectangular site, it must have north – south orientation. The depth of the site (Aaya-profit) should be more than its breadth (vyaya-loss). That is the reason we find our temple walls (prakara) on north-south shorter than the walls on east-west.

The slope of the land surrounding the temple in the east and the north direction should be in the northeast corner.

Fountains or lotus ponds of the temple should be in the northeast direction.

kusuma-sarovartemple view negetive

In the open space surrounding the temple, Tulsi ( Basil) plants with raised bed should be in the east; the Jasmine, white Champak, Star Coral plants etc. should be in the northwest corner or the east. Four approach roads are much recommended.

Madurai Temple Graden

The preliminaries for construction of a shrine include preparations of a plan, Vastu Purusha Mandala, a Yantra, with unit cells (pada) of 64, 81 or 256 in number. The entire process is rich in symbolism.

The square shape of the Mandala is symbolic of earth, signifying the four directions which bind and define it; and the Vastu is the extent of existence in its ordered site; Purusha being the source of existence.

The ground plan, again, is symbolic and is the representation of cosmos in miniature. The Vastu Purusha represents terrestrial world with constant movements. The grid made up of squares and equilateral triangles is imbued with religious significance; with each cell belonging to a deity. The position of the deity is in accordance to the importance assigned to him .The central portion of the square (Brahma Sthana) is occupied by the presiding deity of the temple ; while the outer cells house deities of lower order.

131-385021c0e2

Another important aspect of the design of the ground plan is that it is intended to lead from the temporal world to the eternal. The principal shrine should face the rising sun and so should have its entrance to the east. Movement towards the sanctuary, along the east-west axis and through a series of increasingly sacred spaces is of great importance and is reflected in the architecture.

This process of drawing the Mandala , known as Pada-vinyasa or Vastu mandala Vinyasa is essential not only for construction of the main temple but also for deciding upon the location, the orientation and the size of the sanctum; and for placement of retinue-divinities.

Let us look at the following example of an 81 cell parama-saayika layout.

The site-plan is to be regarded as the body of the Vastu-purusha whose height extends from Pitrah (in the bottom left corner) to Agni (top right corner).

The Vastu purusha mandala is in some ways a development of the four pointed or cornered earth mandala having astronomical reference points. The mandala of 81 squares has 32 squares around the border representing the four cardinal points and the lunar constellations. It is the representation of all cyclical time; lunar and solar. Brahma is the God at the centre.

The Manduka Mandala (8×8) the whole square would be divided by the two  axes that go North-south and East-west.

In the case of Parama Saayika Mandala (9×9) , the entire square would be unevenly divided.

Vastu Shastra purusha

The center of the mandala consisting nine cells is dedicated to Brahma, the first of beings and the engineer of universal order. The Three cells to its east are for Aryaman, three cells to its west are for Mitra and three cells to its north are for Prihvidhara. In this site plan 32 spirits reside in the outer ring. There are 8 spirits in four corners. There are four spirits surrounding Brahma. Thus there are in all 45 spirits (including Brahma).

Dikpalas or guardian deities of different quarters, who assist in the affairs of universal management, are an important part of the Vastu. Indra, Agni, Yama, Niritti, Varuna;, Vayu , Kubera and Isana; reside in the East , South-East , South, South-West, West, North-West, North and North-East respectively. All except Kubera are principal Vedic deities. This provides a method that determines the requirements of architecture in relation to its directions.

Establishing Vastu Mandala on the site

hore temple at Mahabalipuram datable to late 7th centurySouthern Temple Style - Dravidian

The vastu-purusha-mandala, forming a sort of map or diagram of astrological influences that constitute the order of the universe, is now complete. When placed on the building site the vastu-purusha-mandala determines the positions and orientations of the temples and the time for commencing the construction. Only by the combination of the vastu-purusha-mandala and the astrological calculations can this factor be ascertained.

From the diagram of the vastu-purusha-mandala the architect next proceeds to develop the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the temple. The square, the rectangle, the octagon and the pentagon are fundamental patterns in the horizontal or ground plan. In the vertical alignment the pyramid, the circle and the curve are more prominent. The subdivisions of the ground plan include thebrahmasthana (the main shrine and smaller chapels) and the mantapa(balconies, assembly halls and auditoriums). The vertical plan consists of drawings for the gopura (entrance ways), the vimana (the structure above the main shrine or chapel) and the prakara (the walls).

The construction of the temple follows in three dimensional forms, in exactly the patterns laid out by the mandala. The relationship between the underlying symbolic order and the actual physical appearance of the temple can best be understood by viewing it from above (top elevation).

In order to establish the vastu-purusha-mandala on the construction site, it is first drafted on planning sheets and later drawn upon the earth at the actual building site. The  ground for civil construction is demarcated by dividing the site into 81 cells, by drawing 10 lines from East to West and 10 lines from North to South in which Vastu Mandala deities are installed. In addition the deities of the Sarvathobhadra-mandala are also established after performing Vastu Homa.

The drawing of the mandala upon the earth at the commencement of construction is a sacred rite in itself. The cells sustain the temple in their own sphere of effectiveness, in the manner that the actual foundation supports its weight.

Garbhadhana,

 Shilanyasa is the ceremony for laying foundation stone. It is the laying of the first stone (square in shape) or a brick signifying the start of construction. It is laid in the north-western corner of the building plan, drawn on the ground. After this, the construction of the foundation is taken up. The foundation is built and the ground filled up, up to the plinth level, except in the middle portion of the garbhagraha area, which is filled up three-fourths.

The sanctum is technically known as Garba-Griha. This part of the temple is usually constructed first. The ceremony related to it is known as Garba-dana or Garba-nasya; and, it involves letting in to the earth a ceremonial copper pot, containing nine types of precious stones, several metals, minerals, herbs and soils symbolizing creation and prosperity. The following is a little more detail about it.

The Brahmasthana , the principal location in a temple where the Garbagraha will eventually come up, is the nucleus of the Vastu Purusha Yantra. At thebrahmasthana, as drawn on the grounda ritual is performed calledgarbhadhana, inviting the soul of the temple (Vastu Purusha) to enter within the buildings confines. In this ritual, a golden box is imbedded in the earth. The interior of the box is divided into smaller units exactly resembling thevastu-purusha-mandala. All the units of the gold box are first partially filled with earth. In the thirty-two units representing the nakshatras (lunar mansions), the units of Brahma and the twelve sons of Aditi, the priest places an appropriate mantra in written form to invoke the presence of the corresponding divinity .An Image of Ananta , the hooded serpent , is also placed in the box. Ananta, meaning eternal or timeless, also represents theenergy that supports the universe. The box also contains nine precious stones – diamonds, emeralds, rubies, pearls, yellow sapphire, and blue sapphire, red coral, cats-eye and jade – to appease the nine planets.

A stone slab (adhara-shila) is thereafter placed over the spot the copper pot is buried.And, over this slab will rise the foundation for installing the Mula-bhera. The copper pot signifies the womb; and icon the life arising out of it. The sanctum constructed around it is the body.

That  pot represents the roots of the “temple-tree”; and the icon its sap.  The four walls around the icon represent the branches spreading around. The structure of the Vimana rises above it in a series of tiers. The roof resting over the walls is called Kapotha, meaning where the doves rest. The imagery suggested is that of a tree with birds perched on its branches. The sanctum is thus a model of a growing tree.

Another set of symbolism is that the foundation of the temple represents the Earth (prithvi); the walls of the sanctum the water (apaha); and the tower over it the fire (tejas). The final tier of the Vimana is air (vayu) and above it is the form-less space (akasha).The sanctum is thus a constellation of five elements that are basic building blocks of all existence.

Once the garbhadhana and agni-hotra ceremonies are complete the actual construction of the temple commences according to the plan. When the foundation is finished the vertical structure is raised. The external features of the temple are brought to life through finely sculpted figures and paintings. The art and sculpture frequently portray the forms of divine entities and the different stages of consciousness in the gradual evolution of life throughout the universe.

It is believed that the Vastu Purusha sleeps during Bhadrapada, Ashviyuja and Karhika months facing east. During Margashira, Pushya and Magha months he sleeps facing south; In phalguna, Chaitra and Vaishaka, he sleeps facing west. And, in Jeysta Ashada and Shravana, he sleeps facing north. The doors facing towards those directions   are fixed in the respective months.

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Temple Layout and its symbolism

Bhubaneshvar-Rajarani-3

The Agama Shastras say that the Temple structure is a mini cosmos. The Temple entrance should face east – the direction of the Rising Sun. The ideal Temple should have at least one entrance, an Ardh-Mandapa, a Mandapa or a large hall, a Garba-Griha and a Shikara directly above the Garbha-Griha. The design comprises:

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 1. A Towering structure called the Rajagopuram (pyramid in pattern) on the Eastern side at the entrance to the Temple.

2. A Dwajasthamba (pillar) in line with the main shrine immediately after the Rajagopuram.

3. Near the Dwajasthamba is a lotus shaped pedestal for offerings, called the Balipeeta.

4. A large Mandapa or hall for assembly of devotees.

5. The passage through the Mandapa leads to the “Garba-Griha” (womb chamber) where the Main Deity is installed.

6. Ardha Mandapa adjacent to the main Mandapa and before the “Garba-Griha”.

7. The Main Deity faces East word inside and the Garba-Griha is located inside a structure or sanctuary called the “Vimana”.

8. The pyramidal or tapering roof over the Deity is called “Shikara” or “Gopuram” which is a dome.

9. There is a circumnutating passage or “Pradakshira Patha” around the Garba Griha and Mandapa.

The above design applies both to the “Shiva” and “Vaishnava” Temples with small variations. Architecture is otherwise called “Shilpa” and the one who constructs the Temple is called a “Sthapathi”. The “Sthapathi” is an expert in Temple architecture and idol creation. The procedure of worship in the Temple is known as “Agama Vidhi”.

Madura Meenakshi temple.

konark_conjectural_restoration_2

The Temple is not only a home of God but his representation in the structure of temple which resembles human form. The symbolism of the temple plan and elevation suggests that the garbhagrha represents the head and the gopuram the feet of the deity. Other parts of the building complex are identified with other parts of the body. For instance, the sukhanasi or ardhamantapa (the small enclosure in front of the garbhagrha) is the nose; the antarala (the passage next to the previous one, leading to passage next to the previous one, leading to the main mantapa called nrttamantapa) is the neck; the various mantapas are the body; the prkaras (surrounding walls) are the hands and so on. Vertically, the garbhagrha represents the neck, the sikhara (superstructure over the garbhagrha) the head, the kalasa (finial) the tuft of hair (sikha) and so on.

Another interesting symbolism is that when a devotee enters the temple, he is virtually entering into a mandala and therefore participating in a power-field. His progress through the pavilions to reach the sanctum is also symbolic. It represents the phases of progress in a man’s journey towards divine. In accordance with this scheme, the architectural and sculptural details vary from phase to phase ; gradually leading him to the experience, which awaits him  as he stands in front of the deity in the in the sanctum. This is explained in the following way.

On reaching the main gateway, a worshipper first bends down and touches the threshold before crossing it. This marks the transition from the way of the world to the world of God. Entering the gateway, he is greeted by a host of secular figures on the outer walls; representing the outward and diverse concerns of man.

As he proceeds, the familiar mythological themes, carved on the inner walls attune his attitude. The immediate pavilion and vestibule near the sanctum are restrained in sculptural details and decorations; these simpler motifs and the prevailing semi darkness help the worshipper to put aside distractions and try focusing his attention on the sanctum. Finally the shrine, devoid of any ornamentation, and with its plainly adorned entrance, leads the devotee further to tranquility, to fulfilment and to the presence of God.

The garbhagriha is usually surrounded by a circumambulatory path, around which the devotee walks in a clockwise direction. In Hindu and Buddhist thought, this represents an encircling of the universe itself.

Positions and orientations of the temples

The following plan indicates the position of gods and goddesses in an 81 celled temple-site. This plan relates to construction of a Vishnu temple.

 
 place for vishnu
Atri Samhita ( 2.38.42) prescribes that the central Brahma bagha must be divided into four  equal parts and the main shrine facing east must be located on the North-western side thereof. The shrine must have five sanctums, to house five forms of Vishnu; and the shrine should have three stories.
*
The icon of Vishnu , the principal object of worship, may be represented in the shrine  in one of his many forms . It could be single ( eka-murti-vidana) or many ( aneka-murti-vidana).  The aneka forms might be : 5 (pancha murti); 6 ( shan murti); or 9 ( nava murti). 
*
The opening of the sanctum on the Eastern side is preferred , specially in a shrine dedicated to Vishnu. The shrine must never have a door in the intermediate direction (Vidik)- Atri Samhita (2.32-33)
*
And, generally, the doorway to the East is the best , most auspicious (utta-mottamam) ;to the West is next best (uttama); to the South is middling (madhyama); and, to the North is not desirable ( adhama) – Vimanarchana kalpa (patala 3)
*
Vishnu as Vaikuntha-natha
 *
The seventh-eighth century Pallava temple Viz. Sri Vaikunta Perumal temple of Kanchipuram (which follows the Pancharatra Agama) is an excellent illustration of the fulfillment of these requirements. Its architecture is unique, with three sanctums on the three floors one over the other and a concealed staircase leading to the upper floors. The three sanctums enshrine Vishnu in three postures – seated, reclining and standing. The Vimana is represented as a three dimensional Mandala.
vaikunta perumal2 jpg
The central figure in the sanctum of the ground floor is Vasudeva facing west, i.e. the Earth; Sankarshana facing north, the realm of human life; Pradyumna facing east towards heaven; and Aniruddha facing south, the realm of ancestors. The sculptural scheme matches the Pancharatra concept, representing the six `glorious excellences’: omniscient knowledge (jnana), power (bala), sovereignty (aishwarya), action (virya), brilliance (tejas) and potency (sakthi). The sanctum of the third floor represents the realm of space-time, depicting Vasudeva as he appeared in the human form of Krishna (manusha Vasudeva). The temple per se signifies the `body of God.’
Vaikuntha Perumal Temple layout
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Coming back to the issue of placing the sanctum slightly to the North-West; this feature occurs in the temple of Sri Venkateshwara at Tirumala too. The enclosure immediately surrounding the sanctum called Mukkoti Pradkshina is rather skewed.  The width of the enclosure is uneven; and the enclosure is open on only three sides.

The path in the south (on the right side of the deity) is seven feet wide and twenty feet long; while the path on the other side (towards the left of the deity) is seventeen feet wide and ninety-two and half feet long. This skewed position of the sanctum, slightly to the North West; within the Brahma bagha was perhaps to satisfy the requirements of the temple vastu norms.

The Shiva temples too have their own configuration. In a Siva temple, the Shivaliga would be placed at the Brahma sthana, the shrines are dedicated to Parvathi, Ganapati, Subramanya , Veerabhadra  and Candesvara would placed in the surrounding cells of the temples Vastu Purusha Mandala; as illustrated in the following typical layout of the famous Shiva temple at Gangaikondacholapuram(mid 11th century).

Gangaikondacholapuram plan1

Similarly in the Sri Kailasanathaswamy and Nithyakalyani Amman Temple, Ilayathakudi ( near karaikudi), Shiva shrine is at the Brahmastana, opposite to Shiva is lined Nandi, Bali pita and Dwajasthamba. The shrine of Nitya_kalyani Amman is located independently in the North. In the Mantapa adjoining the Sanctum are Ganapathi, Durga and Skanda. The Saptha Mathrikas, the seven female divinities, have their shrine in the Prakara behind the shrine.

Please also see the Floor plan of Ilayathakudi Temple), based on a drawing by Sri  V. Thennappan, Devakottai,

Floor plan of Ilayathakudi Temple.

Please also see the layout of the temple at Tiruvannamalai

Tiruvannamalai

The Shakthi temples have their layout with shrines for other manifestations of the Mother Lakshmi , Saraswathi , Durgi , Chamundi  and related goddesses.

Temple Layout Drawing

Sources:

A. Maps of Madurai and Sri Rangam

By courtesy of Kultur in Indien

B.Other pictures from Internet.

C. Devalaya Vastu By Prof. SKR Rao

D.Kashyapa Shilpa Sastram by Prof.G Gnanananda

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Temple Architecture

 

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Temple Architecture-Devalaya Vastu – Part Three ( 3 Of 9)

Vastu Purusha Mandala

Before we proceed further, let us briefly discuss the concept of the Vastu Purusha Mandala.

The Vaastu Purusha Mandala is an indispensable part of Vaastu shastra; and, it constitutes the mathematical and diagrammatic basis for generating designs. It is the metaphysical plan of a building that incorporates the course of the heavenly bodies and supernatural forces. The goal of a temple’s design is to bring about the descent or manifestation of the un-manifest and unseen. The architect or Sthapati   begins by drafting a square, considered to be a fundamental form. It presupposes the circle and results from it. Expanding energy shapes the circle from the center; it is established in the shape of the square. The circle and curve belong to life in its growth and movement. The square is the mark of order, the finality to the expanding life, life’s form and the perfection beyond life and death. From the square all requisite forms can be derived: the triangle, hexagon, octagon, circle etc. The architect calls this square the Vaastu- purusha-mandala-Vaastu, the manifest, Purusha, the Cosmic Being in the form of a Mandala

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The faith that Earth is a living organism, throbbing with life and energy; is fundamental to the Vastu Shastra. That living energy is symbolized as a person; he is the Vastu Purusha. The site for the proposed construction is his field, the Vastu Purusha Mandala. In fact , the Vastu Purusha Mandala, the site plan, is his body; and , it is treated as such. His height (or spread) extends from the South West corner (pitrah) to the North East corner (Isana). The Vastu Purusha Mandala also depicts the origin of the effects on the human body. All symbolism flow from these visualizations.

Purusha means ‘person’ literally; and, it  refers to Universal Man. Purusha is the body of god incarnated in the ground of existence, divided within the myriad forms. He is also that fragmented body simultaneously sacrificed for the restoration of unity.

The underlying principle appears to be that all things in this existence are interrelated. The devotee who enters a temple  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) in progressive stages

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Vastu Purusha is associated with the Earth ; and, its movable and immovable basic elements of nature, such as the earth, water, fire, air and space, just as a human being does. The Vastu Purusha mandala is , in some ways,  a development of the four pointed or cornered earth mandala having astronomical reference points. Further, the Vastu Purusha Mandala is also the cosmos in miniature; and , the texts believe “what obtains in a microcosm, obtains in macrocosm too (yatha pinde thatha brahmande).”

Similarly, it believes that,”Everything is governed by one law. A human being is a microcosmos, i.e. the laws prevailing in the cosmos also operate in the minutest space of the human being.” In the end, the nature, the man and his creations are all one.

“The vastu-purusha-mandala represents the manifest form of the Cosmic Being; upon which the temple is built and in whom the temple rests. The temple is situated in Him, comes from Him, and is a manifestation of Him. The vastu-purusha-mandala is both the body of the Cosmic Being and a bodily device by which those who have the requisite knowledge attain the best results in temple building.”  (Stella Kramrisch,; The Hindu Temple, Vol. I)

The terms Vasu (wealth)  , Vastu  (substance) and Vaastu (residence, dwelling , site)  are derived from Vas – to reside , to exist etc. Vasundara (one in whom the wealth – Vasu – abides) is one of the many names of Mother Earth.

Vaastu, whose body is vastu (existence); Vastupa (protector of vastu); Vastopathi (Lord of Vaastu); and, Vastupurusha (personification of Vaastu) are all synonyms or variations of the name given to Existence rendered secure and steady; and, laid out in order.

Vastopathi is also a form of Rudra; and, he is the protector of the Yajna; and, is  the lord or in-charge of the Yajna-vedi (Yajna-vastu-swamin). Vastopathi is also the protector of the home. He is also Agni, the Grihasvamin or Grihapathi, the giver and protector of homes (Grihapathi, Vaasaka), who presides over the rituals at home. And, the radiant (vasu)  Agni is a god of the terrestrial region (Earth). Along with Agni, Indra , Prajapathi , Soma and other gods are  givers of dwellings; as such, they all are Vasus-s. They all reside in Vastumadala.

Vastopathi assumes many forms; he is Rudra, Agni, as also Asura. Vastupurusha, as personified, is an Asura; and his overlord is Brahma (Vastavadhipathi).

vastu pueusha

Whatever name by which Vastupurusha is known, his representation , on earth, is a diagram (Yantra) in the form of a square – Vastumandala. It is considered as his body (sarira) and as the  device (sarira-yantra) of the Vastu-purusha, who, indeed, is an aspect of Brahma (Vastubrahma) .

The symbolism of Vastu-mandala was , earlier,  associated with Yajna-vedi (the altar). The Brahma, the presiding priest of the yajna, draws the Mandala. The Vastupurusha, here, is indeed Agni.  His head lies in the East (prachi), in the square of 64 squares, with his legs in the opposite; while his body and limbs fill the Mandala. The 360 bricks (corresponding to the number of days in a year – samvathsara) are so arranged as to connect the limbs, joints and the vital parts (naadi) of the subtle body of the Vastu-purusha, without hurting them*. These act as his nerves or the channels of energy. The spine (vamsa) of the vastu-purusha of 64 or 81 squares lies, with his face down (prottana), hands folded in Anjali-mudra,  diagonally along the altar, with his head to the North or  North-East .

[*This is based on the faith that the body of the Vastupurusha has a number of sensitive points called marmas. The well-being of the Vastupurusha assures the well-being of the building and, by implication, its owner. An important criterion for any building, therefore, is to avoid injury to such sensitive marmas. As a precaution, the texts prohibit constructions directly upon the marma-sthanas said to be located at the intersections of major diagonals, regarded as the veins (siras or naadis) of the Purusha.]

Apart from that, in a broader view, Vastu-mandala is based on the principle that Man and Universe are analogous in their structure and spirit. Vastu-purusha-mandala is thus a Yantra or an image of the Universe. It is also called as Puri (city) of the Purusha (Puri-sadah); or ,  as the ground (Bhumi) on which the Purusha rests. It is said; Vishvakarma, the divine architect was the first to make use of the square-like Vastumandala, to create things.

vishvakarma

What is more important here is the symbolism, the symmetry and proportion of the diagram, than the actual figure of Man caught in it.

geometry of the temple

Vastu-purusha-mandala is not necessarily an actual picture of Man, encased in numerous cells or squares.  As the scholar Stella Kramrisch explains: It is a diagrammatic representation, through symbols,   of the field of co-ordinates, inter-sections, currents, flow of energies in the subtle body of a human being. The Purusha, in these diagrams, is a term of reference. It serves as a means to locate several parts, within the whole. The body here is but a sphere of coordinated activities; and, each part being associated with a particular function.

Whatever be the number of Padas (square or the position) in the structure of the Vastu-purusha-mandala, the Brahma is at heart of the Mandala; it is its vital aspect. The center of the Vastu-purusha-mandala is the seat of Brahma (Brahmasthana), around it are grouped 44 Devatas, in various positions. Of these, 12 Devatas form the inner rim, bordering the Brahmasthana; and 32 Pada-devata or Prakara-devata are placed, in the positions assigned to them, on the outer rows  and columns enclosing the Vastu-mandala.

Thus, in all , 45 Devatas (1 + 12 +32) occupy the body of the Vastu-purusha, covering his head, body, limbs and vital parts.  Whether the Mandala is composed of 64 squares or of 81 squares, in either case,  the Brahma always resides  at the center (Brahmasthana) ; and,  the other forty-four are accorded places , according to their nature and importance in the Mandala. The position and the size of their Padas (cells) are variable. Therefore, the position of the 32 Prakara Devatas also varies from one type of Vastu-purusha-mandala to the other.  Their positions are  also regulated by space and time, as by the movement of the Nakshatras (stars).

Stella Kramrisch

As Stella Kramrisch explains (The Hindu Temple- Vol One) :  “ the number 32 (= 4 x 8) is a function of 4; the binomial polarity, as seen in sunrise and sunset; east and west.  In these 4×8 fields or units, the 4×7 regents of the lunar stations (Nakshatras) are accommodated.  The numbers of 32 Divinities, plus the 12 Devatas in the inner rim, together with Bramha at the center form the body (yajna-tanu) of the Vastupurusha.

In the diagram, the right and left refer to the body of the Vastupurusha fallen with his head down. The divinities of the East and South are on the right ; and, those of the West and North on the left. Their positions  are distributed on his intrinsic form, which is the square (chatur-akrti) ; and, not on the allusions to the figure of Man , which merely acts as a place of reference. The divinities are stationed  at definite places of the square form; and, as a result , the same divinity is at times placed on the head ; at other times on his chest and so on , according to the position of the Vastupurusha , who faces East or North –East . Thus, the Devathas reside on the square form of the Vastupurusha only  by mere implication .”

The Brahma-sthana, the nucleus, of the Mandala, generally, covers four squares in Manduka (64 squares) ;and, nine squares in Paramasayika (81 squares) designs. From Brahma, the regent of the Brahma-sthana emanates light and energy towards the other padas (squares) marked by their positions and time. The forms of the Sun (Aditya) surrounding the Brahma-sthana are 12 (dwadasha-adityas), as the inner divinities. They are placed in their positions according to the days/months/ year with which they are associated with the courses of the Sun and the Moon.

[In a Hindu temple’s structure of symmetry and concentric squares, each concentric layer has significance.

The outermost layers, 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. 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 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 Darshana.

Finally, at the very centre of Brahma padas is Garbhagriha (Garbha– Centre; griha – house; literally the centre of the house) (Purusha-Space), signifying Universal Principle present in everything and everyone.

The spire of a Hindu temple, called Shikhara in north India and Vimana in south India, is perfectly aligned above the Brahma pada (s). A Hindu temple has a Shikhara (Vimana or Spire) that rises symmetrically above the central core of the temple. These spires come in many designs and shapes, but they all have mathematical precision and geometric symbolism.

One of the common principles found in Hindu temple spires is circles and turning-squares theme (left), and a concentric layering design (right) that flows from one to the other as it rises towards the sky. Beneath the mandala’s central square(s) is the space for the formless shapeless all pervasive all connecting Universal Spirit, the Purusha. This space is sometimes referred to as Garbhagriha – a small, perfect square, windowless, enclosed space without ornamentation that represents universal essence.]

aaaaaaa

Lets take for instance the Manduka (64 squares) Yantra

Brahma is at the center is assigned four squares (Padas). And, of these 12 Adityas, the four – Aryaman, Vivasvan, Mitra and Mahidhara (or Pritvidhara or Bhudhara) – are assigned larger plots (padas) on the four sides of the Brahma-sthana, beginning from the East.

And,  as regards the other eight Adityas, they are placed  in four  pairs , as : Savitr-Savitra (South-East); Indra-Indraja (South-West); Rudra-Rudraja (North-West) ; and, Apa-Apavatsa ( North-East) . Such pairs are located at the corner squares or their halves, starting from the South-East corner.

The Devatas on the outer rim (visakambha ) are associated with the positions of the Nakshatras ; and, are led by the four regents of the space (Lokapala) – Indra ( Mahendra) or Aditya (Sun)  in the East; Yama in the South;  Varuna in the West ; and, Soma ( or Kubera)  in the North.

The four Lokapalas are positioned in the middle of each side.  The corners are given to the regents of the eight intermediate directions (Asta-dik). These Asta-dik-palas,  placed, beginning from the East, are: Isana (North – East); Agni (South-East); Nirtti (or Pitr) – (South-West); and; Vayu (Marut) – (North-West).

Of these, Isana is regarded as a form of sun with its rays; and, therefore is  regarded as the lord of all quarters.   His position (North-East) is considered the most auspicious of the intermediate regions.

Along the East–side  of the Vastu-purusha-mandala,  on its outer rim : between Isana ( North-East) and Agni (South- East ) are placed : Parjanya ( adjacent to Isana) ; and , adjacent to him are Jayanta and Indra (Mahendra) , next to whom is Aditya or Surya  the Sun-god , the Lord of all planets. The other remaining gods on the East are some of the Vasus who guard the Dharma (rta) of the world. Next to Aditya is Sathya (truth); next to him is Vrisha; and, under him is Antariksha. The south East Corner ends with Agni.

South is the region of ancestors (Pitris); and is associated with death. The entrance to their region is on the South-East.  The gods in the South are led by Yama, the Lokapala, the destructive aspect of Agni, the death, at the centre of the row. Yama is flanked by the gods associated with Pitr-s as also by the divinities of evil potent.  Nearest to the South-East corner is Pushan, the Asura, the guardian of road-saftey. At the South-West corner reside the Pitrs (ancestors) or Nritti who symbolises the exit from life. Between Pushan and Pitrs, Yama, at the centre, is flanked by Vithatha, symbol of A-dharma, and his son Bhringaraja. The other lesser gods on the South are Grhakasta (who is Budha or mercury) and Gandharva, a messanger who creates discord  between gods and men. And, Bhrigu or Mrga (Capricorn) is adjacent to Nritti in the south-east corner. He turns the path (pradakshina) towards West, the quarter of serpants.

Varuna (Jaladhipa), the son of Aditi, is the guardian of the West. As compared to his counterpart Mitra (aspect of sun), Varuna symbolizes darkness. Between Pitris (Nritti) and Varuna is Sugriva, the son of Vivasvan Martanda and the brother of Yama. And, Sugriva is flanked by Dauvarika the gatekeeper (Dwarapala) and Pushpadanta, the flower-tusked.  Further, between Varuna and Vayu (on the north-west) is Sosana (Shani) symbolozing emaciation or withering away. And, Sosana is flanked by Papayaksaman, the consumption, Roga disease or affliction; and Asura, symbolozed by Rahu. It is said; Rahu (ardha –vastu) is the extension and Rahu, his brother, is his duration.

Soma- Kubera rules the North. Soma the Moon is the regent (Lokapala) of the North; as also the Lord of Nakshatras. And. Kubera is the Lord of wealth.  This is the region of Yaksas, mortals and serpants. Betweem Soma in the center and Vayu in the Noth-West, is Mukhya, the Visvakarman, the maker of all forms. Mukhya is flanked by Naga, the serpant Vasuki; and, by Bhallata, the aspect of Soma with his rays.  Between Soma and Isana is Aditi the mother of gods, And, Aditi is flanked by Diti the mother of Daityas (both being the wives of sage Kashyapa); and by Mrga (Argala) who is Bhujanga, having cast off his skin. These deities on the North   in their Pradkashina connect the regions of death and life; West and East.]

vidyashankara sringeri2

The Manduka Vastu-mandala with sixty-four (8×8) Padas is considered particularly auspicious for construction of the temples. A number of famous ancient temples, including the temples at Kajuraho and the Sri Vidyashankara temple at Sringeri were designed by adopting the floor-plan structure as per the Manduka Yantra.

The Sri Vidyashankara at Sringeri was built in honour and memory of the Tenth Jagadguru of the Sringeri Mutt, Sri Vidyashankara or Sri Vidyathirtha, who presided over the Sringeri Peetam for a period of nearly 104  years from 1229 t0 1333. He is revered as one of the Greatest Gurus of the Sringeri Samsthanam.  Even to this day, the official seal of the Sringeri Peetha bears the name of its most  eminent Guru  Sri Vidyashankara.

The temple which combines the Dravida and Hoysala architectural features; and, resembling a chariot is hailed as ‘poetry in stone. It said to have been built around the year 1388. It came about at the instance of Sri Vidyaranya (who later became the twelfth Jagadguru of Sringeri – 1380 – 1386).

vidyashankara sringeri 3

The Shiva Linga, which is addressed as Sri Vidyashankara Linga, is installed at the Brahma-sthana; and, it is positioned over the Samadhi of  the Parama-Guru , Sri Vidyashankara immersed in a Lambika Yoga  – लम्बिकायोगनिरतं अम्बिकापतिरूपिणम् विद्याप्रदं नमामीशं विद्यातीर्थ महेश्वरम्

Vidyatirtha Mahaswam

Idol of Sri Vidyatirtha at Simhagiri in Sringeri; flanked by the images of his
two foremost disciples – Sri Bharati Tirtha and Sri Vidyaranya; Picture courtesy Sringeri.net

Sri Vidyaranya, the jewel among the Jagadgurus, was the head of the Sringeri Mutt for only a short span of six years (1380 – 1386). But his association with the Sringeri Peetha and with his predecessors Sri Vidya Tirtha (1229 – 1333 ) and Sri Bharati Tirtha (1333 – 1380) , who was his Purva-ashrama brother, was spread over a  long period of almost sixty years.  The era of the three Gurus – Sri Vidya Tirtha, Sri Bharati Tirtha and Sri Vidyaranya – stretching over a period of 157 years, from 1229 to 1386, is regarded as the Golden Epoch (Svarna-yuga) in the history of the  Sri Sharada Peetham, elevating it to position of great eminence.

It is said; the temple , a dedication to the Greatest of the Gurus, was indeed the fruit (Phala) of the harmonious combination of genius of two sages – Sri Bharathi Krishna Tirtha and Sri Vidyaranya –   along with the matchless skill of the architect (Stapathi), Jakkana. The plan of the Vidyashankara Temple is said to be a synthesis of various concepts of the ancient architectural traditions of the Shilpa Shastra.

vidyashankara sringeri

The temple structure is erected on a richly sculpted plinth (upapitha), on top of which there is another platform (adhisthana) , on which are located six doorways. The layout of the temple ,which is structured to resemble a chariot, is more or less a rectangle, with apsidal East-West ends; the front door facing the East; and the Garba-griha on the West.  The entrance to the Garba-griha is flanked by the shrines of Vidya Ganapati on one side and of the Durga on the other side. On the other three sides of the Garba-griha are the shrines dedicated to Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara, with their consorts. The Vimana over the Garba-griha rises with an exquisitely well designed shikhara, mahapadma and stupi.

In the eastern half of the structure (mukha-mantapa) there is the magnificent Navaranga, decorated with intricately sculptured twelve pillars (chitra-kambha) , carrying  large animal sculptures, which are huge monolith projections jutting out to support the structures above them. Each of those pillars is topped by a Yali, with a rolling stone ball in its mouth. The central ceiling is a specimen of exquisite of workmanship with lotus and pecking parrots.

As regards its basement, it is elaborately sculpted with the figures of animals; representations from mythologies (Purana); the images of several deities such as Shiva, Vishnu in his various forms, Kali, Shanmukha and so on.

A special feature of the Sri Vidyashankara temple is the ingenious alignment of the twelve pillars marked by the twelve signs of the zodiac (Raasi sthamba) in their regular order. It is said; during each of the twelve months of the solar year (each named after the Rasis or house, which the Sun is said to occupy in the course of the year – the Rasi-chakra),  the rays of the early morning sun , entering through one of the three openings,   fall upon its corresponding  Rasi pillar.

Vidyashankara temple from East

Courtesy : Sri N K Rao and Smt Priya Thakur 

The direct sunlight comes mainly through the eastern doorway, but also partly through the southern and northern doorways. There are also a few small gaps in the outer wall which allow the sunlight to enter.

The floor of the Navaranga Mantapa is marked with converging lines in accordance with the Sun’s movement round the twelve Rasi pillars, to indicate the path of the sunlight or the direction of the shadows that sun-rays cast. That was, possibly, meant to serve as a device to indicate the month of the year.

vidyashankara sringeri Floor plan with sunlight rays

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Several studies have been undertaken by a number of well qualified researcher to ascertain the Astronomical significance of the alignment of the twelve Rasi pillars and the marking of the sunlight , during each month of the year, on the designated Pillar.

As far as I know, the following studies are indeed very significant:

Aspects of Observational Astronomy in India: The Vidyasankara Temple at Sringeri
Authors: Rao, N. K. & Thakur, P.

The Zodiacal Pillars of Sringeri by Smt. B S Shylaja , Bangalore Association for Science Education, JN Planetarium

Sringeri VidyAshankara Temple in the Light of Yoga  by Viswa N Sharma, San Ramon, California

The studies, in a way, are rather in-conclusive. The study undertaken by N. Kameswara Rao and Priya Thakur of Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, makes an interesting observation:

The recent monitoring of morning sunlight on the Rasi pillars in the Navaranga of the Vidyashankara Temple revealed that they do not indicate the position of the Sun in the zodiacal constellations of the present epoch ; but , rather they match the zodiacal sky of 2000 ± 300 B.C.

Although the temple was supposedly built around A.D. 1350, it is suggested that the Rasi pillar arrangement might have been adopted from an earlier 2000 B.C. sacred calendar -device (or of a Vedic altar)

sringeri

By the way, there is another astronomical wonder. It is the Sri Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple, Bangalore, believed to have been constructed during the time of  Nadaprabhu Hiriya Kempe Gowda (16th century), renowned for his social reforms and contribution to building temples and water reservoirs in Bengaluru.

This temple was formed by the natural boulders of hillocks; and faces the south-west direction. The courtyard is wide and has large-sized monolithic sculptures placed in certain alignments. Shiva’s symbols – the Trishula and the Damaru – are placed on the southern edge of the courtyard.

Since these two large circular discs (each with a diameter of 2 Mt), placed parallel to each other face East and West, they  are identified as symbols of the Sun and the Moon; and,  are, therefore,  known as Suryapana and Chandrapana.

This cave temple is famous because, at the time of Makara Sankranti (14th  January), the early morning sun’s rays pass through the window and touch the Shivalinga installed in the Garba-griha.

Gavi Gangadaresvara

Plate nineteen in ‘Picturesque Scenery in the Kingdom of Mysore’ by James Hunter, 1804

As regards the astronomical significance of the Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple, please refer to the research paper produced by Jayanth Vyasanakere, K. Sudeesh and B.S. Shylaja. In summary , it is said :

The passage of the setting sun through the cave of Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple on 14th January is well-known. The recurrence of this event on yet another date is established from our observations supported by simple astronomical calculations. Observations extended to other seasons have shown that the two large discs in the courtyard are probably aligned to the summer solstice. The shadow of the bronze pillar coincides with the vertical marking on the disc, a fact which has gone unnoticed all these years. Thus it is a unique temple where marking of both solstices are incorporated. A detailed inspection of an old painting dated 1792 shows that the passage of the sunlight into the cave also was probably intended for marking winter solstice. Subsequent constructions and renovations perhaps have modified it for 14 January (and 30 November). The summer solstice event is now totally forgotten.

Gavi gangadhareshwara sketch

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Now, reverting to the main subject ..

The Vastu Purusha is visualized as lying with his face and stomach touching the ground; to suggest as if he is carrying the weight of the structure. His head is at North East (ishanya) and his legs are at the South West corner (nairutya).

There are many symbolisms associated with the position of the elements of the Vastupurusha

The South West corner (nairutya) where the Vastu Purusha has his legs corresponds to the Muladhara chakra ; and, denotes the earth principle. Just as the legs support the weight of the body, the base (adhistana) for the Muladhara should be stable and strong.  Accordingly, the South West portion of the building is the load bearing area; and , should be strong enough to support heavy weights. Just as the feet are warm, the South West cell represents warmth and heat; even according to the atmospheric cycles , the South West region receives comparatively more heat.

Svadhistana chakra is in the lower stomach region near the kidneys. It is related to water principle (apa). On the Vastu Purusha Mandala, it is to the South and to the West . Therefore, the wet areas like bathroom etc are recommended in the south or in the west portions of the building. It is for sewerage (utsarjana).

Manipura Chakra is at the navel; and,  relates to energy or fire or tejas. While in the womb of the mother, the fetus is fed with the essence of food ; and, the energy  is passed on to it through the umbilical chord connected with its navel. The Vastu Purusha Mandala shows Brahma at the navel of the Vastu Purusha. Further, the lotus is the base (Adhistana) of Brahma. Thus , navel connects Brahman with Jiva or spanda or life. It is left open and unoccupied. The central portion of the building is to be kept open. It is believed that Vastu Purusha breaths through this open area.

Anahata chakra is near the heart. It is related to Vayu, air regulated by lungs. The lung region of the Vastu Purusha should be airy.

Vishuddaha chakra is near the throat from where the sounds come out and reverberate in space. This region represents Space (Akasha). The sound OM emerges out  through throat. The echo of that sound vibrates in the hallow of the bone-box of the head , and in the space in brain. The head of Vastu Purusha is in the North East corner (Ishanya). The Ajna chakra is between the eyebrows. This direction is related to open spaces (akasha). Atmospherically, North East is cooler; and, so should be ones head. The Puja room, Devagraha, is recommended in the North East portion of the house.

The limbs of Vastu Purusha, other than the above, are also related to the construction of the building. Liver (yakrt) is towards South East. The cooking area is recommended in South East, because it is related to Agni. The rays of sun reach here first and cleanse the atmosphere.

The North West, vayuvya, is presided over by air Vayu. The Organs like spleen, rectum of the Vastu Purusha fall in this portion. The store room is recommended here; perhaps because the spleen in the body does the work of storing and restoring blood.

Astrological signs

[There is a belief that the vastu purusha is awake during eight months of the year and is asleep in the other four months (eight months of wakefulness: mesha, vrishabha, kataka, simha, tula, vrichika, makara and kumbha; and the four months of sleep : dhanur, mina, mithuna and kanya).

Some others say    that the vaastu purusha sleeps in vaastu chakra  on the left side and rotates clockwise during twelve months with his head towards:

Jan:  west-south-west; Feb: west; Mar : west-north-west ;Apr :  north-north-west; May : north ; June : north-north-east ; July : east-north-east ; Aug : east ; Sept : east-south-east ; Oct : south-south-east; Nov : south ; and Dec : south-south-west.

While taking up construction of a structure, digging in the sector where Vastu-purusha’s head lies is not recommended. The schedule for erecting the doors is also based on this concept.

For instance:

If Leo is ascending, set up the south door; if Taurus set up the west door; if Kubera set up the north door;

If the moon is passing the meridian, set up the east door.

When Leo is ascending is the proper time for placing a door in a temple of Vishnu. When Taurus is ascending is the proper time for placing a door in a temple of Mahadeva. When Kubera is ascending is the proper time for setting a door in Ganesa’s temple. When the moon is passing the meridian, a door may be set up for any one.

I think, this concept of purusha sleeping may have only astrological significance; and therefore , varies from person to person and from site to site. They cannot be generally applied. Even otherwise, now, hardly anyone goes by this schedule, as it is impractical.

Perhaps the four months of non-activity as recommended, might have something to do with the onset of monsoon , winter and such seasonal constraints.]

Vastu and directions

These areas are also related to various planets and their positions.The vastu purusha mandala, like the horoscope is another way of illustrating the intersection where the sky and earth meet at the horizon, at the equinox points; and the zenith and nadir

Nineplanets Navagraha 2

The Vastu Purusha lies with his back up, perhaps to suggest that he carries the burden on his back. Pillars are not recommended on sensitive parts of Vastu Purusha; they are the inlets and outlets.

The general guidelines are:  the South West should be heavier and North East where gods dwell should not be so . The base should be heavy and the apex be lighter; just as in the case of a hill or a tree. The sensitive organs like brain, eyes, ears tongue are in the head; and the head should be lighter and secure. The head of the Vastu Purusha is in the North East and it should be kept free of pillars. Activities like worship, study are recommended in and towards east and adjoining directions.-North east and South East.

Sun is at the center of the solar system; the earth and others rotate around it. The Vastu follows the same principle. The middle house , the dining hall and work space represent the sun aspect. After sun set the South West and North West are warmer; bedrooms and store house are recommended here.

It is said that, although water is everywhere that which cleanses the body is water; and that which purifies mind is Thirtha. A brick and stone construct is house. A Vastu is temple.

Bangla Sahib Delhi

“The Hindu temple typically involves a multiple set of ideas. Perhaps Hindu traditional architecture has more symbolic meanings than other cultures. It is highly articulated. The temple is oriented to face east, the auspicious direction where the sun rises to dispel darkness. The temple design includes the archetypal image of a Cosmic Person spread out yogi-like, symmetrically filling the gridded space of the floor plan, his navel in the center, and it includes the archetype of the cosmic mountain, between earth and heaven, of fertility, planets, city of the gods, deities, etc.). One encounters these simultaneous archetypal themes and meanings conveyed (and hidden) in the semi-abstract forms in many Hindu temples. There are rules of shape and proportion in the authoritative texts of Hindu tradition (shastras and agamas) which give birth to a variety of complex temple designs. The Brihat Samhita text (4th century CE) says the temple should reflect cormic order. To understand the uses of recursive geometrical forms involving self-similarity on different scales (fractals) in the Hindu temple complex we will need to explore some of these deep images and their uses.

” The structure of a temple rests on its Vastu-purusha-mandala, the ground-plan and its logic (chhandas). The ground-floor (adahschanda) is placed with the Garbha-griha (sanctum) at the center, corresponding to Brahma-sthana, the center of the Vastu-purusha-mandala. It is surrounded by thick walls, on which rest the high super-structures. These structures are in alignment with the gods who surround the Brahma-sthana. The various kinds of projections, the zone of 32 Pada-devatas form the perimeter of the temple. The well proportioned Vimana rising from above the garba-griha.

Thus , the form of the temple, all that it is and signifies, stands upon the diagram of the vastupurusha. It is a ‘forecast’ of the temple and is drawn on the leveled ground; it is the fundamental from which the building arises. Whatever its actual surroundings… the place where the temple is built is occupied by the vastupurusha in his diagram, the Vastupurusha mandala…. It is the place for the meeting and marriage of heaven and earth, where the whole world is present in terms of measure, and is accessible to man.”(25) The cosmic person became the universe, and to recreate this origin is to construct a cosmos which offers a return to the transcendent oneness.

The vastupurusha mandala is a microcosm with some fractal qualities. As shown in the illustration, there are self-similar squares within squares within squares. The geometric configuration “of central squares with others surrounding it is taken to be a microscopic image of the universe with its concentrically organized structure.” Thus the grid at the spatial base and temporal beginning of the temple represents the universe, with its heavenly bodies. It is also more– it simultaneously symbolizes the pantheon of Vedic gods– “each square [is] a seat of particular deity.” The gods altogether make up the composite body of the Purusha.

The Purusha is related not merely to the site and the ground plan; even the elevation of the temple is likened to the the body of the Purusha. And, different parts of the temple are named after the the limbs of the body; the soul being  consecrated in the image of the deity in the sanctum. The temple is , thus, an image of the Cosmic-man.

If the temple symbolizes the body of god on the macro-cosmic plane, it equally symbolises the body of man on the microcosmic plane. The names of the various parts of the temple are the very names used to denote the various parts of human body! Look at the following technical names: paduka, pada, carana, anghri, jangha, uru, gala, griva, kantha, sira. Sirsa, karna, nasika, sikha. Pada (foot) is the column, jangha (shank) is parts of the superstructure over the base. Gala or griva (neck) is the part between moulding which resembles the neck. Nasika (nose) is any nose shaped architectural part and so on. The garbhagriha represents the head and the image, the antaryamin (the indwelling Lord). This symbology tries to impress upon us the need to seek the Lord within our heart and not outside.

Devalaya Vastu

(Source: http://www.dsource.in/resource/shilpa-kala-shala/devalaya-vinyasa)

The temple also represents the subtle body with the seven psychic centres or cakras. The garbhagrha represents the anahata cakra (the fourth psychic centre in the region of the heart) and the topmost part of the kalasa point to the sahasrara (seventh and the last centre situated at the top of the head). The first three centres (muladhara, svadhisthana and mainpura situated respectively near the anus, sex-organ and navel0 are below the ground level. The fifth and the sixth (visuddha and ajna cakaras, situated at the root of the throat and in between the eyebrows) are on the sikhara area.”

(Stella Kramrisch, The Hindu Temple, Vol. I)

buddha stupa

Sahasra chakra is regarded the seat of consciousness. An aperture on top of the head, called brahma randra, leads to it.In the structure of the temple, the brahma randra is represented in the structure erected on top of the sanctum. The flat-roof (kapota) of the sanctum is overlaid by a single square stone slab known in the texts as brahma-ranhra-shila (the stone denoting the upper passage of life).  The sanctum is viewed as the head; and right on top of the head is the passage through which the currents of life ascend to the tower through this stone slab.

Interestingly, the kalasha placed on top of the vimana  is not imbedded into the structure by any packing it with mortar or cement. it is, in fact, placed in position by a hollow rod that juts out of the centre of the tower and runs through the vase, the kalasha. it is through this tube that the   lanchana ‘tokens’ (cereals and precious stones) are introduced. one of the explanations is the hallow tube represents the central channel of energy the shushumna that connects to the Sahasra, the seat of consciousness, through the Brahma randra.

The expressions Mandala, Chakra and Yantra are synonymous. Mandala is explained as that which gathers the essential detail (mandam laati).The Chakra and Yantra too perform similar functions. Like Chakra, the Mandala too denotes visualization, an act of bringing together all significant details; those details might pertain to the world or the body or the structure of the building or whatever. It also brings together the outer and the inner faculties or energies.

Though all the three mean the same, they have somehow seemed to have acquired distinct forms. For instance, Chakra suggests a circular form, while the Mandala might be a figure of any shape, but commonly a square. While both Chakra and Mandala are lenier representations, Yantra is a three-dimensional projection.

In the Vastu Purusha Mandala too, the ground plan and the vertical plan are cast in two dimensions and in three dimensional representations of the structure.

Whether you call it Chakra or Mandala or Yantra; it represents a sphere of influence and brings together and energizes all its components.

In a way of speaking the Vastu Purusha and the Chakreshwari of the Sri Chakra represent the same principles. They embody and preside over all the aspects of their domain, which is universal. They not merely resolve the internal and external contradictions, but also usher in complete harmony of existence.

Just as the Sri Chakra is the unfolding of the Bindu at its centre, the temple is the outpouring or the expansion of the deity residing in Brahmasthana at the centre.

Both the forms employ the imagery of an all – enveloping space and time continuum issuing out of the womb. In the case of Sri Chakra the Bibdu is dimension-less and is the imperceptible source of energy. The idol, the Vigraha, in the Garbagriha at the Brahmasthana represents the manifestation of that imperceptible energy or the principle; and it radiates that energy.

[There is an theory that suggests that the board of chess was inspired by the 64 celled Vastu Purusha Mandala. It states

chess

“The form of the chess-board corresponds to the ‘classical’ type of Vastu-mandala, the diagram which also constitutes the basic lay-out of a temple or a city. It has been pointed out that this diagram symbolizes existence as a ‘field of action’ of the divine powers. The combat which takes place in the game of chess thus represents, in its most universal meaning, the combat of the devas with the asuras, of the ‘gods’ with the ‘titans’, or of the ‘angels’ with the ‘demons’, all other meanings of the game deriving from this one.”  (Please check:

[ http://phaneus.blogspot.in/2007/07/symbolism-of-chess.html]

temple_architecture

References;

The Hindu Temple, by Stella Kramrisch,.

Devalaya Vastu by Prof.SKR Rao

Vastu -, Astrology and Architecture     : A collection of essays by various authors

Pictures are from internet.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Temple Architecture

 

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Temple Architecture-Devalaya Vastu – Part Two (2 Of 9)

Temple and Township

Madurai

The Indian temple is not a building; it is an image, a conception of divinity. While it is both natural and necessary for the image to be projected into a spatial arrangement and concretized by a structural movement, the image does not depend upon such activities for its continuance. The temple is an enclosure to the icon, and centres round the icon. A temple must be built for the icon, and not an icon got ready for the temples, for a temple is really an outgrowth of the icon, an image of the icon. One cannot think of a temple without an idol.

The temple construction process involves several steps. The procedure is cryptically expressed as “Karshanadi Pratisthantam“, meaning beginning with “Karshana” and ending with “Pratistha“. The details of the steps involved vary from one school of Agama to another; but broadly these are the steps in temple construction:

Bhu pariksha: Examining and choosing location and soil for temple and town. The land should be fertile and soil suitable.

Sila pariksha: Examining and choosing material for image

Karshana: Corn or some other crop is grown in the place first and is fed to cows. Then the location is fit for town/temple construction.

Vastu puja: Ritual to propitiate vastu devata.

Salyodhara: Undesired things like bones are dug out and removed.

Adyestaka: Laying down the first stone

Nirmana: Then foundation is laid and land is purified by sprinkling water. A pit is dug, water mixed withnavaratnas, navadhanyas, navakhanijas is then put in and pit is filled. Then the temple is constructed.

Murdhestaka sthapana: Placing the top stone over the prakara, gopura etc. This again involves creating cavities filled with gems minerals seeds etc. and then the pinnacles are placed.

Garbhanyasa: A pot made of five metals (pancaloha kalasa sthapana) is installed at the place of main deity.

Sthapana: Then the main deity is installed.

Pratistha: The main deity is then charged with life/god-ness.

Let us now try to briefly go over some significant stages commonly involved in temple construction, in a summary form.

Sthala (temple site)

Temple tirtha

The temple construction project begins with the appointment of a team of experts headed by a qualified and an experienced Sthapati, the Acharya, the director for the temple construction project and the Shilpi (sculptor). They are the key figures in the construction of a temple. 

The Samarāgana-sūtradhāra an encyclopedic work, attributed to the Paramara King, Raja  Bhoja of Dhara (1000–1055 AD),  spread over 83 Chapters (having more than 7500 Slokas)  covers a wide range  of subjects like Vastu Vidya ; town planning;  residential architecture;  temple architecture; sculpture; art of painting ; and mechanical contrivances, the  Yantras ,  such as Vimanas, the flying machines etc.

[For more on the text, please read

Samaràngana: a work on architecture, town- planning, and engineering, by king Bhoja of Dhara (11th century): edited by Mahamahopadhyaya Dr. T.  Ganapati Shastri, Ph.D Illustrated. 2 vols. 1924-1925 10-0

The Samarangana Sutradhara, a study, by Mattia Salvini , Mahidol University, Thailand

Drāviḍa Temples in the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra by Adam Hardy]

The Samaràngana-sutradhàra, in its Chapter 44, titled Stapathi-lakshana– enumerates the desire qualities of Sthapati, an architect,

–  Sthapati, the architect, should be well-versed in the sciences involving the significance of objects to be created and their specifications. He should know the theory and the practice; he should have the insight and the skill accompanied with procedure.

– That person is said to be an expert in workmanship who knows how to sketch the ground plan, draftsman ship, the horizontal and vertical measurements, the details of ground work of the plot, the 14 kinds of sketch lines, the cutting of the logs and stones etc., and seven kinds of circular sections; well finished joints of the joints and proper demarcation of upper, lower and outer lines.

– A Sthapati should know eight-fold workmanship, the draftsman ship and sketches of various kinds, and variety of carpentry, stone-masonry and gold-smithy. The engineer equipped with these merits invokes respect. One who knows the fourfold engineering with its eight constituents and who is pure in his mind gets status in the assembly of engineers, and is endowed with a long life.

–  An architect who has only the book knowledge; but has neglected to apply that knowledge to any construction will faint when called upon to demonstrate his knowledge, `like a cowardly warrior on a battlefield.’

On the other hand, one who is proficient as a builder but has not studied the Shastra will prove to be a blind guide who leads his followers into a whirlpool.

Madurai 2 Teppakulam 1772-3 by Fransis Ward

Teppakolam , Madurai by Fransis S Ward 1772

The first step in the construction of a temple is, of course, to look for a proper site. This involves examination of all aspects relating to the location, the extent, the quality of Soil, the water source, the environment and astrological suitability of the site. This elongated process goes by the name: Bhupariksha.

The Temple construction, in the past, often began as the nucleus of a new village or a township which went by names such as grama, kheta, kharvata, durga, pura, nagara etc. Mansara explains that the proposed site for setting up a township should be determined by its smell, taste, shape and direction, sound and touch. The preferred sites for such townships should be along the banks of a river or near a tank or the seashore. Else, the water table had to be at about eight feet (height of a person standing with raised arms).

Manasara, an ancient text of Shilpa sahstra, recommends that if a town has to be located along a river bank it should then be at a height sloping towards the east or north (praganuthamuttara natham samam va bhumi)  ; and, it should be situated on the convex side of the river bend. The text mentions Varanasi situated along the convex side of the river Ganga;  and,  presenting  a semi-lunar phase as a classic example that satisfies this norm. 

And , similar is the case of the ancient city of Madurai  located along the convex side the Vaigai.

It is said; the ancient city of Madurai was re-designed by the King of Madurai , Vishwanatha Nayak (1159–64 CE), in accordance with the principles of Shilpa Shastra. The city was built with the temple dedicated to the Goddess  Sri Meenakshi at its heart. The city was square in its shape, aligned with the four quarters of the compass. The area between the temple at the center and the outer rim of the city was divided into series of concentric squares. And, each enclosure was provided with four gateways, with Gopura atop each entrance. The perennial river Vaigai curved its way along the edge of the city.

565cd-ma28city-map_1380140g madurai sepia

study-of-city-evolution-temple-town-madurai-11-638

Maurai temple view

Tiruvannamalai temple

The temperatures had to be modest in summers and winters (sukha – samsparsa). The sites with inclination (slope) towards its Eastern or the Northern side, to receive sunlight, were preferred; or the site had to have equal elevation on all the sides’. The sites located to the west of a hill were avoided.

The Village boundaries should always be marked by rivers, hills, bulbous planes, caves, artificial buildings, or trees such as milky trees. Etc.

Mansara , the celebrated text of the Shilpa-shastra- instructs :  First test the earth (site); and, only thereafter  plan the construction – (Purvarn bhumirn parikseta pascat vastu prakalpayet )

The ground (Desha) is classified into three categories on the basis of sixteen criteria of physical features of the land (desha-bhumi). The three broad categories are: the barren land where warm winds blow is Jangala; the second is Anupa, beautiful countryside with moderate climate and water sources; and, the third Sadharana is of the average quality consisting vast stretches of unused land areas. The best land is Anupa, which abounds in lotus and lilies (supadma); and , which inclines towards east or north.

It is said : One should dig the ground till water is seen there, (Yavattatra jalarn drstarn khanettavattu bhutale)

Madura - The Sacred Tank - 1868

As regards the colors of the soil, the colors could be white, yellow, red or black. A land which abounds in any one of these colors is preferable; a combination of colors, mixed colors are to be avoided. Sandy soils with assured supply of water are preferable.

However, some texts mention that soils of white color with ghee-like smell ; and, soils of  red with blood-like smell are preferred. Soils, yellow in color, smelling like sesame oil is middle.  And soils , black in color, smelling like rotten  fish are to be avoided.

The soil should have pleasant odor as of flowers, of grains; of ghee, of cow urine etc. The soils with obnoxious odor as of excreta, dead bones, of corpse, of fermented liquor etc should be avoided.

The taste of the soil too should be acceptable. The taste of sweet is said to be best. The others in order are astringent (kashaya), bitter and pungent. The soils tasting sour, salty should be avoided.

As regards the sound tested by pounding the soil , the soils giving out sounds of musical instruments like drums (mridanga), neighing of horse, or like  waves of the sea are considered best. The next in order is the soils that sound like birds, animals like sheep , goats etc. And, the soils that sound like donkey, drainage, broken pot etc are to,be avoided.

The soil should be pleasant to touch; warm in winter, cool in summer and one should generally evoke a happy feeling.

The sites which were earlier graveyards or the land bloated like the belly of sick animal, broken up with dead roots, bones, ash, or rotten material ;and with anthills, skeletons, full of pits and craters  should be avoided. (Valmikena samayukta bhumi rasthiganaistu ya I Randhranvita ca bhurvarjya gatighesca samanvita II )

There also other tests for determining the strength of the soil by digging test pits, filling them with water or driving pegs at various points are discussed in various texts.

One of the methods for testing the strength of soil was to dig a pit; and, refill it with excavated earth. If a lot of earth was left out, over pouring the pit , then the soil was said to be compact having a good load-bearing capacityThis testing procedure mentioned in the ancient text is in vogue even to this day

The text says :  The soil  should be tested by digging a pit of one arm length and refilling it with the same soil. If soil is more, one will beget prosperity; if short, one will beget loss; if equal, it is normal

(Ratnirnatramadhe garte pariksya khatapurane I Adhike sriyamapnoti nyune hanirn  samam  )

lord-siva-temple-kaliaperumal-bharathi

The appropriate site for a temple is a harmonious space near water and gardens, where lotus and flowers bloom, birds are heard, where animals rest without fear of injury or harm. While major Hindu Mandirs are recommended at Sangams (confluence of rivers), riverbanks, 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, as per Visnudharmottara, in Part III of Chapter 93 , 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.

The site should have in their surroundings milky trees (four variety of trees having milky sap: nigrodhaoudumbaraashvatta  and  madhuka) , trees bearing fruit and flowers; and also plenty of anti- malarial Neem (nimba) trees. The site should be suitable for growing Tulasi, Kusha, Dharba, Vishnukrantha, Hibiscus and Dhruva grasses and flowers.

The site should be large and should evoke pleasant feelings (manorama) and should generally be acceptable to all.

srirangam-temple-garden

The text states : after examining the color, smell, taste, shape, sound and touch (of the soil) buy the best material as found suitable (Varna-gandha-rasa-akaradi-sabda-sparsa-anairapi I Pariksyaiva yatha-yogyam grhniyad dravyam-uttamam II)

Martin_Madurai_1860

[ Before we go further , lets in a nutshell state the stages in temple construction

Temple Design and construction Team:

The temple Design Team involves the Acharya, the Stapaka  (Yajamana) and the Stapathi  in the main, along with the Silpin ( chief sculpture-artist)

Acharya is the learned preceptor who gives the yajamana (one who sponsors the temple project) the necessary advice and guidance in selecting the proper site, in consultation with  the Stapathi and the Silpins.

The construction Team who work under the guidance of the Stapathi and Silpin include: ; Sutragrahin ; Takshaka;  Vardhakin ; and Workmen .

The Sutragrahin is the supervisor;  and is said to be normally the Sthapati’s son or disciple. He is also well-qualified in the Vedas and Sastras. He is an expert draftsman or Rekhagna, who directs the rest of the work force. His job is to see that all building parts are aligned correctly. He should be able to give instructions to the other craftsmen.

Taksaka is the craftsman who cuts and shapes the building elements. The Takshaka is also the master carpenter who is responsible for all the intricate wood work including doors, windows, pillars etc.

The Vardhaki is the painter and has made a special study of it. He is also well-versed in the Vedas. Vardhaki joins together the building elements shaped by Taksaka.

On deciding upon a suitable site after going through the due process of selection, the following series of actions would take place.

*

Construction Process

    1. Planning of the temple

The architect prepares list of all parts that go into details of temple -figures, beams, brackets etc.

    1. Preparation of the stones

This is a very elaborate and laborious task involving many stages of work

2.1. Quarrying of Stone:

– Cut a series of pockets along the surface of the stone

– Filling them with wood,

– Watering the woods regularly

–  Wood swells and makes a crack along the holes

2.2. Transportation to the construction site where the actual carving work takes place

The carving of different parts of each stone involves four phases

(I). Team of stone masons will cut stone blocks to appropriate size.

(ii). Team of carvers will give basic shape to stone

 (Iii) Sculptors give them final form along with joinery details

 (iV). During assembling time, these details are made fine and correct to make a proper joint

    1. Drawings of Stone: –

–  Drawings on stone are made by sharpened coal piece and bamboo shoot dipped in any colouring agents like lime, ink, and red oxide etc.

– Long straight lines are marked by soaking the thread in colouring agent and then stretching from one end to other and snapped.

 – After every phase of carving, more lines are made for the canvas to detail the stones

    1. Polishing the stone: –

– Final phase, takes 12 -20 days to complete – done using stone bars slowly and patience

– Fine chiselled surface is levelled using different categories of stone bars

– washed

cleaned to remove stains and dirt

Carving and assembling

1.The Silpin and his team carve the parts and segments as per drawings, designs, specifications and guidelines; and Transport the finished parts to the construction site

2.Assembling the parts

 At the construction site, the various  parts are assembled with joints -mortise and tenon joint, lap joint etc.

 While doing so care is taken to ensure that the mortise and tenon joint allow space for stones to expand in heat or even vibrate modestly without moving from its position

pillar designs

Elements of the Temple – Upapitha-Adistana-Garbagriha-Shikara

(The pillars and Mantapas follow the size and the type of the Adistana)

Upapitha / Jagati , Adisthana / Pitha

– These are usually the high plinth to give respect to the temple

–  made using layers of stones of good quality

Construction: –

– The plinth stones are placed above foundation stone and it act as retaining wall for the rubble compacted earth within plinth area of structure.

 -Above this compacted rubble are laid stone slabs of thickness 20-30 cm, for flooring.

 – Stones are placed one above the other and made stable with the self weight (3-10 layers) -top most course has grooves for pillar bases

*

Mandovara / Pada:

These are the wall that connects base to the Shikhara; and , is divided into 44 parts with moldings

Construction: –

– Structural stone masonry, with interlocking of stones with mortice and tenon joint

-‘Through stone’ is provided for extra stability

 -Stone slabs are cut, dressed and carved and used as facing stones.

 -Stone thickness varies from 30 -450cm and wall thickness 80-120cm

– As regards its proportion;   generally, width: height = 1:1  

– And in relation to the size of the Garba-griha ; the grid considered is 4X4 or 8X8 -(Vastu Purusha Mandala) , considered auspicious for both horizontal and vertical proportions

vimana cropped

Shikhara / Vimana:

The Shikhara is the most distinctive part of Hindu temple . It is usually structured  in  stepped, curvilinear / conical / Pyramid shape ; and,  is  built over the Garbha-griha (the sanctum)

–  Construction: –

– The horizontal courses one above the other are stepped inwards and progressive forward to cover the space.

-The Shikhara is usually hollow from inside or in some cases filled with rubble.

-The apex of the superstructure is mounted by a single piece of stone

–  The relation between Garbha-griha and Shikhara : the area of Shikhara is divided into 16 (4X4) units if width of sanctum is 2, then width and height of Shikhara would  4 and 2/3rd of total height

*

Process of Temple Building

  1. Pada Vinyasa

– The land selected for temple construction should be a square (4:4) or rectangle (4:5, 4:6, 4:7, 4:8) ratio for breadth to length

–  It is first drafted and s designed on planning sheets and later drawn upon the earth (site)

– The ground divided into 81 cells, by drawing 10 lines from east to west and 10 from both to south (if square layout and (9X9) is selected)

  1. Garbhadhana

– Foundation pit is dig with not less than 2m depth

Adyestaka: laying of first foundation stone in the NW corner

– Stones are fully packed (one above the other) below the sanctum

-portion below Garbha-griha is filled 3/4th ]

(Source : https://edoc.pub/temple-construction-pdf-pdf-free.html)

Chidambaram Temple by Fransis Ward 1772

Chidambaram temple by Francis S Ward 1772

Township Layout

The Shilpa text Shiva-prakasha in its chapter titled vastu-bhumi-bedha, describes sixteen (Shodasha) types of temple layouts:  the Square (Chandura); Rectangle (Agatra);Trapezium ( with uneven sides – like a cart – shakata); Circle (Vritta); Elliptical (kritta vritta); triangular  (dwaja);  diamond or rhombus (vajra) ; Arrow (shara);umbrella (chatra) ; fish (meena);back of a tortoise (kurma);conch (shanka); crescent (ardha-chandra); pot (kumbha);sword (khadga); and lotus (kamala).

These layouts have specific applications; and are not to be used generally. For instance: the back of a tortoise (kurma), pot (kumbha), conch (shanka) and lotus (kamala) are recommended only for Vishnu and Shiva temples. Similarly the Square (Chandura), Rectangle (Agatra), fish (meena), diamond or rhombus (vajra) and sword (khadga) are recommended for Devi temples. The rest of the lay outs are for other (lesser) deities.

But, all the texts , generally, agree that the square or the  rectangular shape of layout are the best and most auspicious. Varaha-samhita calls such layouts as Siddha-bhumi, the best of all. In case the layout is rectangular, the North South dimension should be greater than East-west dimension. It is also said, it would be better if the elevation on the west or the South is slightly higher.

Generally , the Vastu Shastra recommends five types of town-shapes: the Square (Chandura); Rectangle (Agatra); Circle (Vritta); Elliptical (kritta vritta); and circular (Gola). A diamond or a rhombus shape is not recommended. A bow shaped town is considered powerful. The square shape is considered secure and amenable to progress.

The plan for the village or the township commences with placing the temple right at the center and expanding the layout in layers and layers of streets, and entrances, in accordance with the appropriate Vastu Mandala. The entire township is laid out in the form of a square. If a square shape is not possible then the city could be laid out in a rectangular shape.The following are a few of the general recommended features of a city.

sarvathobhadra0011 croppedNandyavarta0024 cropped

1. The city should appear as a big square or a rectangle comprising of so many small squares, separated by the roads that run north-south and east-west.

2. Fortifying walls should be built round the city.

3. The city would be divided into four parts by two broad royal   roads (Raja marga) that run north-south and east-west. Their width would be about 10 to 12 meters.

4. To go round the city, on the interior side of the fortifying wall, a broad road would be built. .

5. The dwelling places of the people of various castes and professions are identified.

6. The markets would be in North East and prisons would be in South West.

7. Places like the royal palaces should be in the East.

8. And in case of temple cities , say as in the case of Srirangam and Madurai, the principle temple would be at centre of the city, in the Brahma Sthana..  And, there would be fortifying walls built round it; and in which the temples of other deities are accommodated..  And the place beyond that fortified wall  would belong to the  humans and other beings.

Srirangam (Sri + Arangam) the sacred island that is encircled by the river Kaveri on one side,  and its tributary Kollidam (coleron) on the other. The history of Srirangam town dates back to the ancient period of the Tamil Sangam.  The Srirangam temple has a hoary history

The best example of such a formation is the ancient city of Madurai. Please check this site (Madurai, the architecture of a city by Julian S Smithfor the layout map of the old city.

Another example of a well laid out Temple Town is that of the Tirumala Tirupati . The holy deity of the temple has a history dating back to about two thousand. The temple structures around it, developed in stages, spread over several centuries. The temple is on top of a hill series, at about 3200 ft above sea level. But, the temple, per se, is located in a depression surrounded by raising hills on its three sides; leaving open an approach from the North-East. The temple  is enclosed in a box-like formation, with bulging mounds of about fifteen feet, rising in all four directions. Some parts of these mounds now been leveled to make room for “developments”.

Tirumala_overview

The outer walls of the temple, enclosing an area of more than two acres, measure 414feet (E-W) and 263(N-S), in length. The temple complex is in a rectangular shape, with the depth (Aaya) being more than the breadth (Vyaya). .The streets (maadas) running around the outer walls of temple are of uneven length. The North-South streets running by the side of the outer walls measure 800 feet, in length. The west side street (behind the temple) measures 900 feet in length; while the East side street (in front of the temple) measures 750 feet, including the swami-pushkarini area. The main temple  occupies only one-fourth area of the total area; and ,  its Eastern and Northern side are open areas.

Tirumala arielview

The temple is facing east. The Garbhagriha is situated slightly  to the South-West. The Swami Pushkarini (water element)  is located to the northeast of the temple. A waterfall is also in the northern direction ; and, the water from it is used for the holy bath of the main deity every day. The Kitchen is in Southeast (Agni), while the temple store houses  for storing grains and other items required in the kitchen are in the North-West and North side.

Tirumala devasthana

tirupati (1)

The outer walls of the temple, enclosing an area of more than two acres, measure 414 feet (E-W) and 263(N-S), in length. The temple complex is in a rectangular shape, with the depth (Aaya) being more than the breadth (Vyaya). .The streets (maadas) running around the outer walls of temple are of uneven length. The North-South streets running by the side of the outer walls measure 800 feet, in length. The west side street (behind the temple) measures 900 feet in length; while the East side street (in front of the temple) measures 750 feet, including the swami-pushkarani area.

The temple faces east and has only one entrance, about 11 feet wide. There are three enclosures or Pradakshina-pathas, for circumbulating the temple.The main entrance leads into Sampangi Pradkshina , of about 120 feet in depth.There are are a number of pavilions within this enclosure,; such as Prtathima mantapa, Ranga mantapa, Tirumalaraya mantapa and others. The Dwajasthamba is in front of the Tirumalaraya mantapa. Presently , this enclosure is closed to pilgrims.

The Second enclosure is the Vimana Pradakshina, measuring about 250 feet(E-W) and 160feet(N-S).This enclosure contains shrines to house Varadaraja, and narasimha .The Kalyana mantapa (80 x 36) and kitchen are also here.

The third enclosure is the Mukkoti Pradkshina, which encloses the sanctum. Presently, it is rather difficult to identify it as an enclosure. The width of the enclosure is uneven; and the enclosure is open on only three sides. The path in the south (on the right side of the deity) is seven feet wide and twenty feet long; while the path on the other side(towards the left of the deity) is seventeen feet wide and ninety-two and half feet long. This skewed position of the sanctum within the Brahma bagha was perhaps to satisfy the requirements of the temple vastu norms.

In the case of Sri Rangam an entire township was placed within the well laid out rectangular temple complex.

The prakaras or walls that fortify the temple may vary in size and number according to the dimensions of the temple. Larger temples, like the one in Sri Rangam, are sometimes surrounded by up to seven concentric walls , said to represent the seven layers of matter-earth, water, fire, air, either, mind and intelligence-that cover the original consciousness of the living entities in the material world.

Jaipur was another city which was laid out according to Vastu Shastra, with the Palace and temple at the centre; and roads with East-west and North South orientation.Roads running in Eastern axis ensure purification by sun rays; and the roads running North South ensure circulation of air and cooler atmosphere.

In the recent times , Chandigarh is said to be designed on the Vastu principles

214-1502f09fbb

[ Source : Indian Architectural Theory: Contemporary Uses of Vastu Vidya  by Vibhuti Chakrabarti ] 

Vastu Purusha Mandala for the township

To start with the Vastu mandala of the entire village needs to be drawn and the location of the temples to gods, Vishnu and others  be fixed. Here, the layout of town, its size, breadth of different levels of streets, locations and sizes of facilities like water tanks are determined based on the size of town.Then the location of temple (Brahma sthana) in the town is decided. Temple is usually in the center of village. The entire arrangement is called grama vinyasa. The thumb rule is , the area demarcated for the temple at the centre should at least be 1/9th of the total area of the proposed township.

Prambanan temple

There are, different types of Vastu Purusha Mandalas depending upon their applications such as residential buildings, palaces, auditoriums, temples etc. About 32 types of Vastu Purusha mandalas are enumerated, the simplest among them is with one square. But the most common ones are those with 64 squares (padas), 81 padas and 256 padas. They are called Mandukaparama-saayika andtriyuta, respectively. As for Manduka Mandala (8 x 8), the whole square would be divided by the two axes that go North-south and East-west.  In the case of Parama Saayika Mandala (9 x 9), the entire squire would be unevenly divided.

Among these, the different texts such as Marichi, Maya-mata and Vastu-Vidya have their slight variations. To summarize their position on the question of locating the  Vishnu temple within the town; a shrine may be constructed in the centre of the township or on the western side; but always facing the town. When it is in the centre, the site – plan should provide for locating the shrine at the North-western direction within the Brahma bagha.The Vishnu icon may be in any posture: standing, sitting or recumbent. Vishnu may be single or accompanied by the two Devis. The sanctum may house only the Dhruva and Kautuka Bheru (immobile) idols. It is best if the temple complex has nine, six or five forms of Vishnu installed, if one can afford; else, a single icon of Vishnu would suffice.

Orientation of the temples in existing towns

As regards constructing temples and their orientation in already existing village or towns three principles are generally followed: First, the temple should face the rising Sun in the east. Second, the temple should face the centre of the town or village. Third, the deity in a peaceful (shanta) aspect should be located in, and facing towards the place where people live, and wrathful (urga) aspect should be situated outside and facing away from where people live.

evolution-of-hindu-temple-architecture-23-638

In certain exceptional cases a temple may face south, provided it faces a natural formation say a hill or a water body .

temple view

The temples and images to be turned away include Narasimha and Rudra. Siva should be turned away except when situated in the east or west. The proper place for Siva temples is in forests and mountains according to one text.

The direction of a temple is according to this triple orientation – towards the Sun, towards the center, towards man. The majority of the preserved temples do face the east, but it is not necessary that they physically must. The other directions can be described as \being east. To the tantrics who have some obscure symbolism about Sunrise in the east, south, west and north relative to ones spiritual evolution; any direction may represent east.

Most temples face east, west is next best, even south is permissible but they definitely should not face the north.

The Vimanarcha Kalpa says that the doorway of the sanctum facing east is best (uttamottama-most auspicious); west is next best (uttama); even south is permissible (madhyama); and, to the north it is inferior (adhamam), not desirable. (Vimanarchana – kalpa patala 3)

Where it is impossible, for some reason, for the temple to face the town, this is remedied by painting an exact likeness of the sacred image in the Garbha-griha upon the wall of the temple facing the desired way towards the village.

Mahadev Temple-Itagi,Koppal

Sources:

A. Maps of Madurai and Sri Rangam

By courtesy of Kultur in Indien

Madurai , India architecture of a city by Julian S Smith
http://dspace.mit.edu/bitstream/1721.1/34289/1/02639082.pdf

B. Other pictures from Internet.

C. Devalaya Vastu By Prof. SKR Rao

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Temple Architecture

 

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