RSS

Category Archives: Temple Architecture

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.

***

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.

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.

plan_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.

Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjabi Miniature, c 1840

The following is the layout of a Jain temple.

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-sarovar

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.

****

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:

slider1

 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. 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.’
*

***

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).

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

 
19 Comments

Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Temple Architecture

 

Tags: , ,

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 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.

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).

*

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.

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).

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.

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.]

**

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.

[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

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.

srirangam-temple-garden

“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 symbolises the body of god on the macrocosmic 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.

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)

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

“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.

 
19 Comments

Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Temple Architecture

 

Tags: , , , , ,

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)

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 first step 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 celnrated text of the Shilpa-shastra- instructs :  First test the earth (site); after that 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)

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 capacity.This 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 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.

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

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 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 centre 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.

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 levelled 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 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-pushkarani area.

The temple faces east and has only one entrance, about 11 feet wide. There are three enclosures or Pradakshina-pathas, for circumambulating 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 VimanaPradakshina, measuring about250 feet(E-W) and 160feet(N-S).This enclosure contains shrines to house Varadaraja, and narasimha .The Kalyana mantapa(80×36) 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 (8×8), 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 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 .

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 centre, 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.

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 Garbhagrha 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

 
35 Comments

Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Temple Architecture

 

Tags: , ,

Temple Architecture-Devalaya Vastu –Part One (1 of 9)

Agama and Temple architecture

Hindu temple

The Agama literature includes the Shilpa- Shastra, which covers architecture and iconography. The aspects of temple construction are dealt in Devalaya Vastu; and Prathima deals with the iconography. Sometimes, the term Shipa is also used to denote the art of sculpting; but here Shipa refers to the practice of the technique, while Shastra refers to its principles.

The worship dealt with the Agama necessarily involves worship -worthy images. The rituals and sequences elaborated in the Agama texts are in the context of such worship- worthy image, which necessarily has to be contained in a shrine. The basic idea is that a temple must be built for the icon, and not an icon got ready for the temples, for a temple is  only an outgrowth of the icon, an expanded image of the icon. And an icon is meaningful only in the context of a shrine that is worthy to house it. That is how the Agama literature makes its presence felt in the Shilpa-Sastra, Architecture. The icon and its form; the temple and its structure;   and the rituals and their details, thus get interrelated .Further, the Indian temples should be viewed in the general framework of temple culture, which include not only religious and philosophical aspects but social, aesthetic and economic aspects also.

Elaborate rules are laid out in the Agamas for Silpa , describing the quality requirements of the places where temples are to be built, the kind of images to be installed, the materials from which they are to be made, their dimensions, proportions, air circulation, lighting in the temple complex etc. The Manasara and Silpasara are some of the works dealing with these rules. The rituals followed in worship services each day at the temple also follow rules laid out in the Agamas.

While describing the  essential requirements for a place of  pilgrimage ,  Shipa Shatras of the Agamas elaborate on  the  requirements of the temple site; building materials; dimensions, directions and orientations of the temple structures; the image and its specifications. The principal elements that are involved are  Sthala (temple site); Teertha (Temple tank) and Murthy (the idol). A temple could  also be associated with a tree, called the Sthala Vriksham.

Temple at Tiruvallur, near Tanjore

The Gupta Age marked the advent of a vibrant period of building and sculpting activities. The texts of this period such as the Arthashastra of Kautilya and Matsya Purana included chapters on the architecture of the way of summary. By the end of the period, the art and craft flourished; and branched into different schools of architectural thought; but all based on common underlying principles. These principles are now part of Vastushastra, the science of architectural design and construction. . It is explained that the term Vastu is derived from Vasu meaning the Earth principle (prithvi). This planet is Vastu and whatever that is created is Vastu and all objects of earth are Vastu.

During the medieval period, vast body of Sanskrit references, independent architectural manuals were written, without reservation, and scattered across the country. Apparently, some attempts were made to classify and evaluate their contents in a systematic way. Of the many such attempts that tried to bring about order and coherence  in  the  various theories and principles of temple construction, the most well known compilations are Manasara and Mayamata. They are the standard texts on Vastu Shastra, and they codify the theoretical aspects of all types of constructions; but specifically of temple construction. These texts deal with the whole range of architectural science including topics such as soil testing techniques, orientation, measures and proportion, divination, astrology and ceremonies associated with the construction of buildings.

Manasara is a comprehensive treaty on architecture and iconography. It represents the universality of Vastu tradition and includes the iconography of Jain and Buddhist images. The work is treated as a source book and consulted by all.

The Mayamata too occupies an important position. It is a general treatise on Vastu shastra; and is a text of Southern India. It is regarded a part of Shaiva literature and might belong to the Chola period when temple architecture reached its peak. It is the best known work on Vastu. The work is coherent and well structured. It defines Vastu as the arrangement of space, anywhere, wherein immortals and mortals live.

These subjects are intertwined with Astrology. The Vastu Texts believe that Vigraha (icon or image of the deity) is closely related to Graha (planets).The term Graha literally means that which attracts or receives; and Vigraha is that which transmits. It is believed that the idols receive power from the planets; and transmit the power so received. It not merely is a symbolism but also one that provides logic for placement of various deities in their respective quarters and directions.

The texts that are collectively called Vastu Shastra have their origin in the Sutras, Puranas and Agamas; besides the Tantric literature and the Brhat Samhita. The Vastu texts classify the temple into three basic structures: Nagara, Dravida and Vesara. They employ, respectively, the square, octagon and the apse or circle in their plan. These three styles do not pertain strictly to three different regions but are three schools of temple architecture. The vesara, for instance, which prevailed mostly in western Deccan and south Karnataka, was a derivation from the apsidal chapels of the early Buddhist period which the Brahmanical faith adopted and vastly improved.

    temple-architecture-styles1

These three  schools have given rise to about forty-five basic varieties of temples types. They too have their many variations ; and thus the styles of temple architecture in India are quite diverse  and virtually unlimited .

Among the many traditions inherited (parampara) in India, the tradition of Vishwakarma is unique. The  mode of transmission of knowledge of this community is both oral and practical; and its theories construct a holistic universe of thought and understanding. 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  the  purity and sensitivity of its traditions; and to carry it forward . This has enabled them to protect the purity of the art and skills without falling prey to the market and its dynamics.

Jagannath Puri

It is virtually impossible to state when the custom of building stylized temples took hold in our country.

The Rig Veda is centered on home and worship at home.There is not much emphasis on temple worship. The term employed in Grihya sutras(Ashvalayana -1.12.1; and parashara -3.11.10) to denote a temple was Chaithya , which  literally means, piling up ; as piling up of the fire alter ,agni_chiti  from bricks (as in agni-chayana).This perhaps suggests that chaitya implied piling up bricks to form a shrine. This is consistent with the view that the earliest temples were relatively simple piled brick structures.

The use of the term Chaithya to denote a place of worship appears to have been in vogue  for quite a long period after the Vedic age . In Mahabharata, the Rishi Lomaharsha mentions to Yudhistira that the tirtha on the Archika hill is a place where there are chaityas for the 33 gods (MBh 3.125).He also advises Pandavas to visit the Chaityas on the banks of the Narmada (MBh 3.121).

[ Tirtha refers to any holy place, such as the river, the sea, or a site where a famous Yajna was conducted. It appears, in the ancient period, such Tirthas were, indeed, the pilgrim places; that is, before the emergence of temples per se. Even today, the rivers at Varanasi and Haridwar; the confluence of rivers at Prayag; the sea at Rameshwaram; the Nara-Narayana peaks at Badrinath; and the Mount Kailas are the primary worship centres to where the pilgrims depart devotedly. The temples in these places are either incidental or came up at a later time. ]

Mahabharata often refers to Chaithyas as being close to Yupas (chaithyupa nikata bhumi); Yupa being the spot where a major Yajna was performed. It is possible that small shrines were erected on the Yupa site to commemorate the Yajna.

Ramayana too mentions that Meghanada, the son of Ravana, tried to perform a Yajna in a temple located in the Nikhumba grove.

Zarathustra demands from Ahur Mazda “Tell me, can I uproot the idol from this assembly that set up by the angras and the karpanas?”. At another time, the Emperor Xerxes, a follower of Zarathustra declares “I destroyed this temple of daevas”.

The Buddhist and Jain texts mention of a certain Chaithya of Devi Shasti, consort of Kumara, at Vishala. Jain texts, in particular, mention the Chaithyas of Skanda in Savasthi; of Shulapani (Rudra) and of Yakshini Purnabhadra.

Therefore by about six hundred BC, the Chiathyas were quite common. They were perhaps small-sized constructions (usually of brick) surrounded by groves of ashvattha or audumbara trees.

The Maurya period described in the Artha-shastra, had Chaithyas for a number of Devis and Devas, such as Indra, kumara, Rudra, and Aparajita etc. A description of the Chaitya of goddess kaumari suggests that it had multiple Avaranas, one enclosing the other ; and, the outer Avarana having a circular arch.  By the time of the Mauryas, the Chaithyas appeared to have steadily gained importance; and , become an integral aspect of city life. However, there is nothing to suggest that they were large structures like the classical Hindu temples that were to follow later.

The Buddhism, in its initial stages, rejected the of the Vedic practices; however,  in due course, it came to adopt some features of the old religion. For instance; the ‘piling’ (Chayana) of the Vedic fire-altar was transformed into a Buddhist Chaitya. It is likely that the Buddhist Chaitya was initially meant to be a funeral pyre. But, in the later periods, it became a prime symbol of the Buddhist architecture. And, similarly, much later, Homa (offering oblation into the fire) became an accepted practice in the Mahayana Buddhism.

By about first century BC , the Buddhist places of congregation either as caves carved into rocks or as free standing structures, came to be known as Chaithya_grihas. These were patterned after the shrines of Vishnu, with the form of the fire altar being placed on the raised platform in the apse of the Chaithya hall. The term Chaithya later came to increasingly associated with the Buddhist Stupas or places of worship.

It was perhaps during the period of the Imperial Guptas that a Hindu temple came to be regularly addressed as Devalaya, the abode of Gods. The oldest of the surviving structural shrines date back to the third or even fourth century A.D .They are made of bricks.

Some of the them might perhaps been temporary structures, erected on occasions of community-worship. The canonical concept of pavilion (mantapa) suggests that they might have been pavilions to accommodate those who gathered to participate in the worship ritual. It is only later that structures tended to be permanent bigger.

The earliest temples in north and central India which have survived the vagaries of time belong to the Gupta period, 320-650 A. D. ; such as the temples at Sanchi, Tigawa (near Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh), Bhumara (in Madhya Pradesh), Nachna (Rajasthan) and Deogarh (near Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh).They consist of a square, dark sanctum with a small, pillared porch in front, both covered with flat roofs. The  brick temple at Bhitargaon ; and the Vishnu temple at Deogarh, built entirely of stone , both , have a square sanctum, but instead of a flat roof there is a pyramidal superstructure (sikhara).

The rock-cut temple and monastery tradition also continued in this period, notably in western India, where the excavations—especially at Ajanta acquire extreme richness and magnificence.

The temple groups at Aihole and Pattadakal in North Karnataka date back to about 5th century, and seem to represent early attempts to experiment with several styles and to evolve an acceptable and a standard regional format. Here, temples of the northern and the southern styles are found next to each other.  Besides, Badami, the capital of the Early Chalukyas, who ruled much of Karnataka in the 6th to 8th centuries, is known for its ancient cave temples carved out of the sandstone hills above it.

The school of architecture in South India seems to have evolved from the earliest Buddhist shrines which were both rock-cut and structural. The later rock-cut temples which belong to 5th or 6th century A.D. were mostly Brahmanical or Jain, patronized by three great ruling dynasties of the south, namely the Pallavas of Kanchi in the east, the Calukyas of Badami in the 8th century A.D, the Rastrakutas of Malkhed came to power and they made great contributions to the development of south Indian temple architecture. The Kailasanatha temple at Ellora belongs to this period.

The next thousand years (from600 to 1600 A.D.) witnessed a phenomenal growth in temple architecture. The first in the series of Southern or Dravidian architecture was initiated by the Pallavas (600-900A.D.) The rock-cut temples at Mahabalipuram (of the ratha type) and the structural temples like the shore temple at Mahabalipuram and the Kailasanatha and Vaikuntha Perumal temples in Kancheepuram (700-800 A.D.) are the best representations of the Pallava style. The Kailasanatha (dating a little later than the Shore Temple), with its stately superstructure and subsidiary shrines attached to the walls is a great contraction. Another splendid temple at Kanchipuram is the Vaikuntha Perumal (mid-8th century), which has an interesting arrangement of three sanctums, one above the other, encased within the body of the superstructure. The Talapurisvara temple at Panamalai is another excellent example. The Pallavas laid the foundations of the Dravidian school which blossomed during the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Vijayanagar kings and the Nayaks.

Most important of a large number of unpretentious and beautiful shrines that dot the Tamil countryside are the Vijayalaya Colisvara temple at Narttamalai (mid-9th century), with its circular sanctum, spherical cupola, and massive, plain walls; the twin shrines called Agastyisvara and Colisvara, at Kilaiyur (late 9th century); and the splendid group of two temples (originally three) known as the Muvarkovil, at Kodumbalur (c. 875).

The Vijayalaya Colisvara temple, with its first and second thala (base) of the vimanam square in shape, the third in circular (vasara) and the griva and Sikhira also in circular shape; is a forerunner of the magnificent temple at Gangaikondacholapuram built by Rajendra Chola. The vimana is a fine mixture of Nagara and Vesara styles.

These simple beginnings led rapidly (in about a century) to grandeur and style. The temples, now built of stone, were huge, more complex and ornate with sculptures. Dravidian architecture reached its glory during the Chola period (900-1200 A.D.). Among the most magnificent of the Chola temples is the Brhadishvara temple at Tanjore with its 66 metre high vimana, the tallest of its kind. The later Pandyans who succeeded the Cholas improved on the Cholas by introducing elaborate ornamentation and huge sculptural images, many-pillared halls, new annexes to the shrine and towers (gopurams) on the gateways. The mighty temple complexes of Madurai and Srirangam set a pattern for the Vijayanagar builders (1350-1565 A.D.) who followed the Dravidian tradition. The Pampapati Virupaksha and Vitthala temples in Hampi are standing examples of this period. The Nayaks of Madurai who succeeded the Vijayanagar kings (1600-1750 A.D.) made the Dravidian temple complex even more elaborate by making the gopurams very tall and ornate and adding pillared corridors within the temple long compound.

The Hoysalas (1100-1300A.D.) who ruled the Kannada country improved on the Chalukyan style by building extremely ornate, finely chiseled, intricately sculptured temples mounted on star shaped pedestals. The Hoysala temples are noted for the delicately carved sculptures in the walls, depressed ceilings, lathe-turned pillars in a variety of fanciful shapes ; and fully sculptured vimanas. The exterior is almost totally covered with sculpture, the walls decorated with several bands of ornamental motifs and a narrative relief.Among the more famous of these temples, which are classified under the Vesara style, arethe twin Hoysalesvara temple at Halebid, the Chenna Kesava temple at Belur (1117), the Amrtesvara temple at Amritpur (1196), and the Kesava (trikuta) temple at Somnathpur (1268).

In the north, the major developments in Hindu temple architecture were in Orissa (750-1250 A.D.) and Central India (950-1050 A.D.) as also Rajasthan (10th and 11th Century A.D.) and Gujarat (11th-13thCentury A.D.). The temples of Lingaraja (Bhubaneswar), Jagannatha (Puri) and Surya (Konarak) represent the Kalinga-nagara style. The greatest centre of this school is the ancient city of Bhubaneswar, which has almost 100 examples of the style, both great and small, ranging from the 7th to the 13th century. The most magnificent structure, however, is the great Lingaraja temple (11th century), an achievement of Kalinga architecture in full flower.

The most famous of all Kalinga temples, however, is the colossal building at Konarak, built by the Chandellas, dedicated to Surya, the sun god. The temple and its accompanying hall are conceived in the form of a great chariot drawn by horses.

The Surya temple at Modhera (Gujarat) and other temple at Mt. Abu built by the Solankis have their own distinct features in Central Indian architecture. Bengal with its temples built in bricks and terracotta tiles and Kerala with its temples having unique roof structure suited to the heavy rainfall of the region developed their own special styles.

Hindu temples were built outside India too. The earliest of such temples are found in Java; for instance the Shiva temples at Dieng and Idong Songo built by the kings of Sailendra dynasty ( 6th -9thcentury). The group of temples of Lara Jonggrang at Paranbanam (9th to 10th century) is a magnificent example of Hindu temple architecture. Other major temples are: the temple complex at Panataran (Java) built by the kings of Majapahit dynasty (14century); the rock-cut temple facades at Tampaksiring of Bali (11th century); the Mother temple at Beshakh of Bali (14th century); the Chen La temples at Sambor Prei Kuk in Cambodia (7th – 6th century); the temples of Banteay Srei at Angkor (10th century) and the celebrated Angkor Vat temple complex (12th century) built by Surya Varman II.

Sources:

Pictures from Internet

Devalaya Vastu

By Prof. SKR Rao

Encyclopaedia Britannica

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

To follow :

Vastu Purusha Mandala

Temple Layout

Parts of the Temple

Iconography

Norms and Measurements

 
16 Comments

Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Temple Architecture

 

Tags: , ,

Temple worship and rituals (2 of 5) – Symbolism of Rituals in Temple Worship

 

Symbolism of the temple

– Symbolism of Rituals in Temple Worship

The Agama texts mention that divinity may be worshipped in one of the four ways: (1) Japa, recitation of the holy name as initiated by the Guru ;( 2) Homa, oblations offered in Agni accompanied by appropriate hymns ; (3) Archana, actual worship (of nine types); and (4) Dhyana, meditation on transcendental and empirical aspects of divinity.

The first approach is through a pattern of sounds (nada/shabda) while the second is through the medium of Agni. Meditation isindependent of concrete representations. All these three are individual approaches. It is the Archa, the worship of a deity individually and in communion with fellow devotees that is easiest. Further, the Archa includes in itself the essentials of the other three approaches as well. Archana in temples is an integrated mosaic of individual and congregational worship; and is the most popular approach.

The formal worship of deities in Hindu traditions broadly follows the Vedic, Tantric or the mixed (Misra) procedures. The Vedic traditions are centered on Agni (fire) the visible representation of divinity and a medium to approach other gods in celestial realm. Oblations offered into Agni accompanied by recitation of appropriate hymns constitute Vedic worship. The Vedic traditions do not generally provide for worship of icons.

Tantric ideology views the divinity in terms of human or semi human forms (murti) and as represented by diagrams (mandala) and incantations of great merit (mantra).

The temple and iconic worship may appear like tantric. However, in practice the worship at temples involves both homa and archa rituals. The rituals here are a combination of concepts, procedures and symbolism. The symbolism behind this method of worship is that God pervades the universe and that the entire creation is his manifestation. The human mind with its limitations cannot easily comprehend God in absolute; but tries to comprehend divine spirit and bestow a form to the formless. (Na cha rupam vina devo dyatum kenapi sakyate, Vishnu samhita 29, 51). The worship helps the devotee to visualize the incomprehensible divinity in chosen form and attributes so that he may dwell on it and engage himself in a certain service; else, the mind of an ordinary person might lapse into drowsiness or wither away. The texts suggest that human form of God’s image helps the devotee better to meditate on the divine attributes ; and to relate to the spirit of god with love, affection, friendliness, devotion, reverence etc. The temples generally house images of god in human form except in Shiva temples where the image will be in lingam form (even here the processional image will be in human form).

The worshipper is aware all the while that the forms (murti), sounds (mantras) and diagrams (mandalas) employed in worship are human approximations and are inadequate representations of God (prathima svalpa buddhinaam). Yet, he tries to find through them an approach to the Supreme. It is not very important whether it is archa or the Agni you choose, but it is the devotion and sincerity of purpose that matters. Here, concepts are more significant than precepts; procedures more significant than concepts and symbolism more relevant than procedures.

The temple worship ritual has two distinct aspects; symbolic and actual. The former is the inner worship (manasa puja or antar yajna) and the latter is the procedural aspect, the service (Upachara). In manasa puja, God is the worshipper’s innermost spirit; while in Upachara the personified god is treated and revered as the most venerated guest. The services are rendered with gratitude, love  and devotion.

The Aagama texts, Tantra Sara and Siddha yamala list as many as sixty-four upacharas. However, in practice, about sixteen upacharas are conducted; hence the expression Shodashopachara puja. They are , in sequence: (1) seating ( aasana), (2) welcoming (swagatha), (3)   offering water to wash feet (padya), (4) offering water to wash hands (arghya), ( 5) offering water to sip and rinse mouth ( aachamana), (6) providing a bath (snana), (7) offering fresh clothes and decorations (vastra- abhushana), ( 8) offering fresh sacred thread ( yajno_pavitha), (9) offering aromatic substances like sandal paste (gandha), (10) offering flowers (pushpa), (11) burning incense (dhupa), (12) waving lights ( deepa), (13) offering four kinds of food (naivedya), (14) offering tambula (betel leaves with areca nut, camphor and spices), (15) prostrations (namaskara) and (16) send off(visarjana).

The offerings during the worship are meant to please different aspects of the divine. For instance, Arghya is offered to please celestial deities (deva priyartha), sandal paste is a favorite of the Brahma; flowers favor prosperity; dhupa is dear to Agni (vaishvanara priya); aarathi signifies victory (jaya prada); and offering food– naivedya or havis is for abundance (samruddhi).

Each of the five senses contributes to our joy in life. The five fold offering (Panchopachara) – of Gandha (sandal paste), Pushpa (flowers), Dhupa (fragrance), Deepa (lights) and Naivedya (food) – are submission to the Lord with a request to direct our five sensestowards the goodand the God.  

Abhishekha (pouring water over the deity) is an act of love and submission. It purifies the worshippers’ mind and fills with devotion. Flowers confer prosperity, gladden the mind   and hence are Sumanas.Dhupas just as the flowers, gratify the deities immediately. Lights represent energy, fame and upward motion. Lights dispel darkness and ignorance. Satvic food(Naivedya)  of  agreeable scent and appearance mixed with milk  along with flowers and fruits ,offered with reverence and devotion gratify the deities .These offerings submitted with devote  bows , prostrations and absolute surrender do please the Lord.

Prasad and Charanmrit (the residue of the offerings made to the Lord) is most precious, sacred and purifying. It is most the sought after and one who receives it considers himself most fortunate and blessed.

These Upacharas are submitted to the deity only after conducting ceremonial purification of various kinds, infusing life force into the deity and establishing a proper communication with the divinity residing in the icon.

The entire ritual of daily worship  is broadly classified into five stages of worship; (1) aasana, welcoming the divinity to partake the worship; (2) sthapana, seating and invoking life force into the deity; (3) sannidhi_karana, establishing proper communication with the deity; (4) archana main worship; and (5) visarjana bidding farewell or literally dismissing. Incidentally, in Mahabharata (Anushasana parva), Bhishma describes , among other things , the virtues of worship and talks about the  significance of offering flowers , fruits , lights and food to the deity .

(KM Ganguli’s translation

 http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m13/m13b063.htm )

  ***

All the sixteen (shodasha) upacharas like tendering invitation, offering seat; offering water for the feet and to sip and to rinse the mouth and also for bath; presentation of dry and fresh garments,; serving food etc. are performed with devotion and reverence. The personified God is also the Lord of the Lords who oversees the universe (lokadyaksha).Therefore the honors that are due to a king are offered to the icon as Rajopachara. These include white umbrella, flywhisk, music, dance, vehicles of various sorts, flower pavilions, swings, chariots etc.

All the while the worshipper and the devotees are aware that the external worship characterized by splendor and spectacle is an overflow of religious devotion and is secondary to the main worship, the inner worship manasa puja of the antaryamin (the inner being) residing in ones heart.

The inner worship that takes place in the privacy of the sanctum is more significant than the external worship. These are in a sequence such as Shudhi (purification of elements), Mudras (assumption of appropriate and effective gestures), Pranayama (regulation of breath to enable contemplation of the divinity), Dhyana (contemplation), Soham_bhava (identity of the worshipper with the worshipped), Mantra (words to help realize the deity in worshipper’s heart) and Mandala (diagrams representing aspects of divinity).

Shuddhi is not merely the purification of the sanctum and its ambiance as the worshipper purifies the earth (bhu shuddhi) and the elements but is also the symbolic transformation and accommodation of all the elements that constitute worshippers body and world around him.

Dhyana is an important sequence in internal worship. It is not a prayer in the sense, it is not recited in praise of the deity nor is the worshipper seeking through it fulfillment of his desires. It is essentially to attune the inherent divine nature of the worshipper with the divinity of the deity. The worshipper visualizes and contemplates on the resplendent form of the deity as abiding in his own heart.

Mantras that seek to evoke the power of the deity and the mystical designs (yantras or mandalas) that serve as fit abodes for the deity are also important.

The next step is very significant. According to Tantra ideology, the worshipper regards his body as a Yantra where the deity resides. As a prelude to worship per se, the worshipper literally breathes life into the deity during prana_prathista sequence. The idol is transformed to divinity itself. The worshipper does this by extracting the power or the luster (tejas) of the divinity residing in his heart by means of inhalations and exhalations (ucchvasa and nishvasa), and investing it upon the deity. At the same time, the worshipper draws the presence of the Highest Spiritual being (paramatma) into his own individual being (jiva).This process symbolizes invoking the divine residing in ones heart, extracting it (bahir agatya) and transferring it with ease (sukham thistathu) in to the deity in front (asmin bimbe).The transferred Tejas stays in the deity until the worship is formally concluded.

The placement (nyasa) of divine presence in the structure of the icon as also in the worshipper is an essential ritual sequence before the actual service (upacharas) commences. Through these nyasas collectively called bhagavad_aaradhana adhikara_yogyata-siddhi, the worshipper secures competence to worship the deity. He invokes divine presence in himself.This takes three forms.

(1) Matrka-nyasa: placement of fifty seed-sounds (beeja mantra) in several psychic centers (chakras) on different parts of the body.

(2) Devata-nyasa: placement of different aspects of divinity on limbs and different parts of body; and

(3) Tattva-nyasa: Endowments of twenty-four basic factors (as per Samkhya) to the deity in order to individualize it.

The first two forms of nyasa are Tantric in character and are intended to transform the abstract form of divinity residing within the worshipper into a concrete form of divine as invested in the icon.

The second form of nyasa is designed to suit a specific type of deity .The Vaishnavas adopt Keshavadi nyasa; the Shaivas adopt Srikantadi nyasa while Shakthas adopt kala nyasa.

The third nyasa is largely Vedic with traces of Tantra. It sometimes provides a structure for abstract form of worship.

It is only after the deity is thus properly invoked (Avahita), established (stapitha), close at hand (sanhita), positioned right in front of the worshipper (sammukha), confined in a place of honor (sanniruddha) and well concealed under a canopy  (avaguntitha), the worship (upachara) commences and acquires a significance. Unless the worshipper establishes his identity with the worshipped, the rituals have no meaning. The Agama texts prescribe, “God is not to be worshipped by one who has himself not become God” (nadevo bhutva devam pujayet).

After the formal worship is completed, the deity is dismissed (visarjana). This ritual signifies withdrawal of the divine presence (temporarily lodged in the icon) and taking it back into worshipper’s heart (which is its permanent residence). The mantras recited in this context say “ Come ,oh God residing in the icon come back into my heart-lotus” (Ehi ehi, prathima sthitha purushottama , mama hrutkamale); “Reside in my heart , O Lord of the worlds , along with your glory” (hrudaya kuru samvasam sriya saha jagatpate).

The foregoing is the broad pattern of ritual worship and its symbolism. However, certain temples where the deity is Self-manifest (Swayambhu) or installed by celestial beings (Deva prathistaha) say, as in Tirumala, follow a slightly different procedure. Here, the deity is the repository of divine powers and the priest need not go through the prana-prathista ritual. The Upacharas (services) are rendered not to the main deity but to a smaller image of the Lord (Kauthuka beru).It is the kauthuka beru that is infused with prana at the time of upachara worship. The priest evokes Tejas from the main deity , not from his own heart , and transfers it to kauthuka beru.

Read Next :

Importance of water in temple rituals

pattern2

Reference:

Agama kosha By Prof. SK R Rao

 

Tags: ,