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Traditional Indian Architecture:

Hindu Temples
History of Architecture
Lecture: 1
Hinduism, meaning associated with Temple:
Incorporates large part of Indian civilization.

Synthesis of many beliefs, modes of living & thinking, when bound together
by cultural continuity & cohesiveness characterizes Indian civilization.

In Hinduism any religious & non religious matters are never distinguish infect it is
unimaginable that any activity, impulse or process can be without divine potential.

Temple a place of worship reflects this range of Hinduism, associated with set of
beliefs by complex system of symbolisms which elevates the notions of Hindu
philosophy while serving the every day religious life, hence reflect most profound
levels of Hindu civilization.

A Hindu temple is a symbolic reconstruction of the universe and universal principles

that make everything in it function. The temples reflect Hindu philosophy and its
diverse views on cosmos and Truths.
Hinduism has no traditional ecclesiastical
order, no centralized religious
authorities, no governing body, no
prophet(s) nor any binding holy book;
Hindus can choose to be polytheistic (the
worship of or belief in multiple deities),
pantheistic (believes that God is all
around us), monistic (oneness or
singleness ), or atheistic (nastik).

Within this diffuse and open structure,

spirituality in Hindu philosophy is an
individual experience, It defines spiritual
practice as one’s journey
towards moksha, awareness of self, the
discovery of higher truths, true nature of
reality, and a consciousness that is
liberated and content.
A Hindu temple reflects these core beliefs. The
central core of almost all Hindu temples is not a
large communal space; the temple is designed for
the individual, a couple or a family – a small, private
space where he or she experiences darsana.

From names to forms, from images to stories carved

into the walls of a temple, symbolism is everywhere
in a Hindu temple. Life principles such as the pursuit
of joy, sex, connection and emotional pleasure
(kama) are fused into mystical, erotic and
architectural forms in Hindu temples.

These motifs and principles of human life are part

of the sacred texts of Hindu, such as its Upanishads;
the temples express these same principles in a
different form, through art and spaces.
Temple as focus of culture & society:

Centralized location of temple in settlement

Temple functioning not only as place

of worship but as center of Intellectual
& Artistic life of Hindu community
hence is a public space in the settlement

Temple function as educational place for

religious, rituals & astrological learning
from ancient time, hence special hall for
recitations of Vedas, Puranas are created
in some of the advance form of plans of
temple complexes.
South Indian temples managed regional development
function, such as irrigation projects, land reclamation,
post-disaster relief and recovery.

These activities were paid for by the donations they

collected from devotees. These donations came from
a wide spectrum of the Indian society, ranging from
kings, queens, officials in the kingdom to merchants,
priests and shepherds.
They would provide employment to the poorest.
Some temples had large treasury, with gold and silver
coins, and these temples served as banks.

Major temples became employers and patrons of

economic activity.

Temples also acted as refuge during times of political

unrest and danger
Music dance are generally formed as
part of daily rituals also during festivals

As patronage of architecture, sculpture&

painting the temples has been of
paramount significance throughout the
history of Hindu civilization of Hindu
Temple as link between the Gods & Men:

Temples are design to bring in the contrast between man & god, here the god
appear to man

Fundamental preoccupation of Hindu thought of Moksha where man relived from

illusionary world in which he is reaccuringly born.

Hindu temples symbolically presents this quest to dissolve boundary

between man and divine

Significance attached to the site of temple in its ground plan & vertical elevation
has dominating images of mountain, cave & cosmic axis

Relationship between form & their meaning within Hindu temple is essential to its
function as a link between the god & man.

Temples are the place where god make themselves visible which itself is
represented in the terms designated to Temple :
A seat of god (prasada), a house of god (devagruha), a residence of god
(devalaya) or a waiting and abiding place ( Mandiram)

Temples are receptacle for the gods, who may appear there in form of
imagination of worshipers which are embellished in the form of art, sculptures
& deities in make of temple Fabric

Temple is not only place of worship but a object of worship, which is

extensively reveled in the vary fabric of Temple itself

From this perspective sculptures of the temples are considered as

evocation of the presence of divine

Mythology art & folk shore meet in common attempt to portray

manifestation to exploit god goddesses

Hindu art aims at recreating celestial environment of the world of gods

Dynamics of Temple:
The architecture of Hindu temples is symbolic. The whole structure fuses the daily life
and it surroundings with the divine concepts, through a structure that is open yet raised
on a terrace, transitioning from the secular towards the sacred, inviting the visitor
inwards towards temple’s central core, as well as lifting him upwards into a symbolic
space marked by its spire.

The ancient temples had grand intricately carved entrances but no doors, and lacked a
boundary wall. In most cultures, suggests a boundary and gateway separates the secular
and the sacred, and this gateway door is grand.
In Hindu tradition, this is discarded in favor of an open and diffusive architecture, where
the secular world was not separated from the sacred, but transitioned and flowed into
the sacred.

Connection with guardian deities on eight directions of the universe are realized in
temple architecture with the position of eight gods around the temple
Penetration inwards towards sanctuary usually is conducted along east west axis of the
temple which is a divine axis or a virtual axis representing cosmic energy

This itself had influence in creation of Temple Architecture as all interior spaces are
arranged to promote movement of devotes along the axis to reach century which
becomes increasingly sacred by series of enclosures approaching it. Further expression of
energy of the sanctuary radiating outward is the movement upward

Location of the Temple sites are at sacred places such as near rivers, mountains &
springs in town always in pleasure gardens

In Temple superstructure, most significant element identifies with peak of mountain

the Shikhara representing impulse to extend upward, horizontal tires are referred to as
earth or soil( bhumi)

North Indian Temples can be seen as conscious attempt to create complete

mountain range. Cave have been felt always as place of sanctity & peace also has been a
place of god to reside hence rock cut Temple has come in existence

In Hindu Temple sanctuary is strongly reminiscent of cave as it is small dark

& without allowing natural light to penetrate
Movement towards deity housed in sanctuary is always through large to small spaces,
from light in to dark spaces also from series of complexity of Fabric to simplicity,
has been experienced by devotees as centre of sanctity which houses the god towards
the centrality of space. Also experienced as cave or womb.

Anthropomorphic approach imagines the cosmic man displaying whole creation of his body ,
providing an means of access to higher and more sacred sphere of energy through his
spine which is identified as vertical axis

Most celebrated of the Hindu myth word Mountain, which identifies with churning
axis leads to ideas about composition of universe

Temple constructed correctly with mathematics & proportions is expected to function in

harmony with mathematical basis of universe

Inverse of this belief is if the mathematics of the temple is perfect as well will bring
perfection in universe
Temple as Link between God and men
Building as outcome of Vastushashtra
Temple designs evolved by guild of craftsmen at the same time it was evolved
through rules layed down by Brahmins “vastushashtra”

Act of building such as layout choice of site, testing of solid condition and even
the thickness of walls & columns were not based on technology but rather
mythology or astronomical condition

The crux of the guiding philosophy of design of the Mandala was the square :
most basic , rational & elementary of all geometrical forms

The square Mandala a divine chart was divided in many equal square( 64 to 81
being most popular)

The priest then invested each of the square with metaphysical and magic
powers by locating an individual deity in each. For example Brahama , the
supreme god invariable occupied central square or group of square
COSMIC MAN Vastupurusha & Mandala based on cosmology
Temple plan as reflection of Praportion of COSMIC MAN