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

Iconography continued

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

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

A. Sthanaka

Abhanga etc

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

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

Samabhanga is standing erect, with the head, neck and torsos in a line, radiating peace, fulfillment and benediction, as in the case of Sri Venkateshwara, Chenna keshava or Jina.

Abhanga is a stance with only a slight bent of head or waist, or with a hand on the waist  as in the case of Dakshinamurthy, Velayuda or Vatu the boy Subrahmanya.

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

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

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

Narasimha atibanga

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

B. Shayana

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

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

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

Ranganatha

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

( Line drawing by Shilpi Shri Thippajappa)

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

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

C. Aasana

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

4_padmasana6_maharaja_leelasana8_utkudi_asana9_yogasana10_swastik_asana

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

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

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

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

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

E.Yana

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

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

1. Yoga mūrti;

yoganarayana

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

2. Bhoga-mūrti:

lakshmi venkateshvara

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

3. Vīra-mūrti:

rama deating ravana

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

4. Ugra-mūrti:

ugra narasimha

This is the form which is used for protection against enemies (either real or virtual  in the form of anger, delusion, desire etc.). They are characterized by sharp teeth and a large number of arms carrying various weapons, wide eyes and a flaming halo around the head. This icon may only be set up in the North-eastern corner of the settlement or village. The setting up of an Ugra-murti in the midst of a town or city is prohibited. If it is established then a śānta-mūrti must be placed directly in front of it, or a tank of water should be constructed in front of the temple. The Viśvarūpa, Narasimha, Sudarśana and the Vaṭa-patra-śāyin are of the Vaiṣṇava Ugra type. Gaja-samhāra is an ugra form of Lord Śihva and Kāli dancing on Śiva, and Pratyaṅgira Devī are examples of Ugra Śaktis.

5. Abhicārika-mūrti:

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

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

 

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Ayudha

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

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

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

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

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Mudra:


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

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

1_abaya_hasta2_varad_hasta4_vyakyana_hasta5_susi_hasta5_susi_hasta14_darma_chakra_hasta

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Kirita, makuta and Jatamakuta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alankara -ornamentation:

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

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

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

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

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

Katakas are bangles made of gold or precious stones.

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

Continued
Next:
Iconometry

References:

Shilpa Soundarya by KT Pankajaksha

The Lord of Seven Hills by Prof. SKR Rao

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

Other Line drawings from Shilpa Soundarya

Other pictures from internet

temple_26031_md

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2012 in Temple Architecture

 

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

Symbolism of the temple

Symbolism of the temple

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

devalaya symbolism

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

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

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

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

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

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

vimana

Iconography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

[A short explanation about the term iconography. We are using it for want of a better term in English. The word icon is derived from Greek eikon; and it stands for a sign or that which resembles the god it represents. In the Indian tradition what is worshipped is Bimba, the reflection or Prathima, the image of god, but not the god itself. Bimba means reflection, like the reflection of moon in a tranquil pool. That reflection is not the moon but an image (prathima) of the moon. In other words, what is worshipped in a temple is an idea, a conception or the mental image of god, translated to a form in stone or metal or wood; but, it is not the god itself. The Indian term for Iconography is therefore Prathima –lakshana, the study of images.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dhyana shlokas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please look at the summary of a few Dhyana shlokas.

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

South Indian, late 19th c, Vishnu

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

vishnu_narayana_wj94

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

Vasudeva Perumal stands in samabhanga

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

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

vishnu seated2

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

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

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

Pancha bera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

venkateswara

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

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

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

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

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

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

The iconography of Sri Venkateshwara in the Tirumala temple:

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

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

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

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

Khajuraho tempie

Iconography continued in the next part…>

References:

Shilpa Soundarya by KT Pankajaksha

The Lord of Seven Hills by Prof. SKR Rao

Line drawings of kirita and ornaments

By the renowned Shilpi and Yogi Sri Siddalinga Swamy of Mysore

Other Line drawings are from Shilpa Soundarya

Other pictures are  from internet

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

 

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

 

Measures and proportions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eight hairs = one grain of sand,

Eight grains of sand = one mustard seed,

Eight mustard-seeds = one bamboo seed,

Eight bamboo-seeds = one angula.

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

One Hastha = one cubit= 45 cms;

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

One Hastha =24 angulas = 45 cms.

Thus one angula = 1.875 cms.

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

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

8 ratha renu = one valagrasa (hair end);

8 valagrasa =One grain of yava;

4 yavas = one angula;

12 angulas = one vitasta or Tala (span)

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

26 angulas= Dhanurbhagha (handle of a bow).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intercolumniation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

The Garbhagriha  is divided into two  halves. One  half should again be sub-divided into 10 parts. The following is generally followed for positioning of the deity :

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

srivatsa enless knot

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Some essential aspects of Temple Structure

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

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

Screen Shot 2013

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

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

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

mantapas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sanctum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Garbagriha is the very purpose of the temple. Its enclosures are supplementary in nature. Some texts therefore argue that that the temple, per se, comprises only the sanctum and the tower on the top of it; and these two are the only essential parts of a shrine.

Some texts say that the shrine extends up to Balipeeta, the ‘dispensing seat’ and no further. In some temples, a pradaksinapatha (a circumambulatory passage) is provided just round the garbhagrha, to enable the devotees to go round the deity. The vesara temples do not have this passage.

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

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

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

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

Vimana

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

Vimana from Manasara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tirumalatemple

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Amvar_Chejerla_Kapoteswara_temple_in_guntur_districtsrirangam temple rare picture

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

Kailash Temple at Ellora vimanaShiv_temple_Tanjore

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

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

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

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

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

Gopura Vimana

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

***

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

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

anandanilaya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kalasha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mantapas

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

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

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

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

Nandi Mandapam

Bali pitha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flag staff

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

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

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

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

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

Gopura

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Tiruvannamalai3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Madurai4

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

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

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

map-Meenakshi-Amman-Temple-karta

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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CONTINUED in the next part->

Sources:

A. Maps of Madurai and Sri Rangam

By courtesy of Kultur in Indien

B.Other pictures from Internet.

C. Devalaya Vastu by Prof. SKR Rao

D. Vastu – Astrology and Architecture

E. Stella Kramrisch, The Hindu Temple,

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

http://www.orientalarchitecture.com/

Encyclopaedia Britannica

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

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

ALL PICTURE ARE FROM INTERNET

Tirumala Anandanilaya

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2012 in Temple Architecture

 

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Temple Architecture-Devalaya Vastu – Part 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.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Temple Architecture

 

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Temple Architecture-Devalaya Vastu – Part Two (2 Of 9)

Temple and Township

Madurai

The Indian temple is not a building; it is an image, a conception of divinity. While it is both natural and necessary for the image to be projected into a spatial arrangement and concretized by a structural movement, the image does not depend upon such activities for its continuance. The temple is an enclosure to the icon, and centres round the icon. A temple must be built for the icon, and not an icon got ready for the temples, for a temple is really an outgrowth of the icon, an image of the icon. One cannot think of a temple without an idol.

The temple construction process involves several steps. The procedure is cryptically expressed as “Karshanadi Pratisthantam“, meaning beginning with “Karshana” and ending with “Pratistha“. The details of the steps involved vary from one school of Agama to another; but broadly these are the steps in temple construction:

Bhu pariksha: Examining and choosing location and soil for temple and town. The land should be fertile and soil suitable.

Sila pariksha: Examining and choosing material for image

Karshana: Corn or some other crop is grown in the place first and is fed to cows. Then the location is fit for town/temple construction.

Vastu puja: Ritual to propitiate vastu devata.

Salyodhara: Undesired things like bones are dug out and removed.

Adyestaka: Laying down the first stone

Nirmana: Then foundation is laid and land is purified by sprinkling water. A pit is dug, water mixed withnavaratnas, navadhanyas, navakhanijas is then put in and pit is filled. Then the temple is constructed.

Murdhestaka sthapana: Placing the top stone over the prakara, gopura etc. This again involves creating cavities filled with gems minerals seeds etc. and then the pinnacles are placed.

Garbhanyasa: A pot made of five metals (pancaloha kalasa sthapana) is installed at the place of main deity.

Sthapana: Then the main deity is installed.

Pratistha: The main deity is then charged with life/god-ness.

Let us now try to briefly go over some significant stages commonly involved in temple construction, in a summary form.

Sthala (temple site)

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

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Temple Architecture

 

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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.

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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

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Temple Architecture

 

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