Temples were the direct manifestation of a need to provide an appropriate “shelter” to a Divine Force in the form of the Deity that would otherwise remain invisible.
The essential elements that facilitate this contact come from ancient texts that have the directions and the regulations for Temple architecture.
Devotion to God was not merely a religion but a way of life.
The spacious halls were used for singing hymns and devotional congregational chanting, believed to benefit the community at large.
They were also used for music, dance, food distribution and social gatherings.
A Temple is considered to be in harmony with the mathematical basis of the Universe, provided it is constructed according to a mathematical system, which determines the proportions of the design.
These systems were codified in treatises comprising a sacred geometric diagram, commonly referred as Vastu Purush Mandala. This diagram is a Yantra, a geometrical contrivance by which an aspect of the Supreme may be bound (‘Yantr’ implies ‘to bind’) to any location for worship.
This diagram is instrumental in regulating the form of the Temple and establishes a symbolic connection with the Supreme.
It is in principle a square and the record of an architectural rite. It could be converted into other shapes like a rectangle or octagon, yet retain its symbolism.
It is the place for the meeting of Heaven on Earth, accessible to the common man.
This ritual drawing manifests the super structure of the Temple, which is the manifestation of God.
The entrance is oriented to face the Rising Sun and is therefore ideally along the true East-West axis. The devotee enters the Temple through a series of enclosures, which become increasingly sacred. The key enclosures can be classified into three sections, as follows.
Ardha Mandapa (Porch): This refers to the elevated porch at the entrance of the Temple. One entered the Temple complex through an ornate gateway into an open area and comes across a porch with supporting pillars or by a large pillared hall.
The Mandapa (Primary Congregation Hall): This is the central assembly hall, primarily for chanting and glorification of the Deity. There could be one or many Mandapas attached to or detached from each other. It is usually a pillared hall for the congregation. Some of the earlier Temples had an antechamber (‘Antarala’ or ‘Transitory Space’) between the Mandapa and the Sanctum.
Garbhagriha (Sanctum): This was the inner sanctuary, housing the presiding Deity and sacred objects. From about the Fifth to the 10th Century, the plan of the Temple was just a square with an entrance door leading the devotee into the square sanctum within.
Symbolically, these areas represent the various bodily features of the Supreme Being. His head represents the Sanctum and the Gateway represents His feet. The various energy fields in the body of the Supreme are said to be transmitted in His
Palace (Temple) and are experienced by the worshipper.
The Auckland Scene
Over the years, Auckland has seen a huge surge in skilled migrants from India and other countries. These migrants bring their own culture and devotional practices.
The Indian community grew by 63% from the last census, making it the third largest growing group of migrants in New Zealand, behind people from China and South Africa.
As the Hindu community grew, Temple projects were being undertaken.
Although traditional Temple design experts from India were consulted, most of these temples have faced challenges with planning regulations, resources and suitable building materials, forcing the designer to modify the design to be more adaptive to the local conditions.
This research by design for my Master of Architecture postgraduate degree helped me trace the roots of Hindu sacred architecture.
This study helped me assimilate the essential characteristics of a Temple and its importance in imparting the feeling of sacredness in the mind of the worshipper.
This helped me to evolve my own language to express the inherent qualities of the Temple in contemporary context in New Zealand.
Shubhendu (Bobby) Banerjee is an architectural designer and a student at Unitec, Auckland. He recently completed his Master of Architecture presentation and is due to graduate in March 2011. The above is an extract from his research Paper.
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