2 points | Post submitted by suyash95756 days ago |4 comments
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Science behind Hindu Temples
What are some facts behind Hindu temple architecture?
The human body is the temple for the Indwelling Spirit of God (Antaryāmin). So the temple as the body of God on earth is a similitude to the human body.
All the various parts of the temple structure correspond to various parts of the human body. The temple is the physical body which houses the presence of God. So the actual building of the temple itself is a symbol of the presence of God in the world.
The temple with all its intricate imagery represents the universe in all its variety and just as on the macrocosmic scale the universe is the body of the Lord so on a microcosmic scale when the icon represents the manifested Lord; the temple is His Body.
In the Āgamic (Tantric) practice, each and every temple is built to serve as a tīrtha, a place to commune with the Devas and experience the niṣkala realm. Hence specific temples like Srirangam, Tirupati are called bhūr-loka vaikuṇṭham — “heaven on earth”. Wherever Hindus migrate in the world they create these fords or sacred places, they sacralise the land and through the complex rituals replicate the sacred landscape of India in America, Australia, Europe, England, Africa etc.
Is a Hindu temple holy if the idols in it are not sculpted and invoked with a deity as per Shilpa Shastra?
I cringe at the term “idol” which is a pejorative term coined by the invaders who used it to denigrate Hindu symbols. The proper accurate and polite term is ICON.
Hindu temples are either Alaya or Mandir - as I have already described in a previous post.
In an Alaya the ICONS have to be sculptured according to exact principles and measurements as mentioned in the Shilpa Shastra - the artist does not have much room for displaying personal creativity. So if an icon is absolutely perfectly carved but is defective in proportions for example, it is rejected for a less perfect specimen which has the correct proportions. In an Alaya the principle ICON is invariably of black granite
IN a Mandir - the sculptor can produce an Icon applying his/her artistic skill as long as he/she abides by some basic principles of aesthetics and symbology. Icons in Mandirs are usually of painted and gilded marble.
An ICON is just as statue unless and until it is consecrated with sacred rituals. It can be kept in a museum or as a garden ornament, or in your hall.
In an Alaya the principle ICON has 9 gems and a copper, silver or golden yantra placed in a cavity underneath it. The Deity is invoked and requested to be present in the ICON for bestowing grace and beneficence upon the devotees — through elaborate ceremonies lasting for several days. Thereafter the ICON is considered as representing the presence of the Deity and is offered worship as such every single day - whether devotees are present or not. (Their presence is irrelevant to the functioning of an Alaya.)
In the āgamas (regarding Alayas) there is a sūtra which says:–
bhagavad sānnidhyam arcakasya tapo-balāt — the presence of the deity is dependent upon the spiritual discipline and meditative powers of the attendant (learned & consecrated) priests.
In order for the Deity to be present (sānnidhyam) it has to have the same representative three bodies which we have.
If any of these elements is lacking then the sacrality of the temple (Alaya) is compromised.
Mandirs are not required to conform to these strict conditions.
What is the necessary condition for building a Hindu temple?
It depends on which type of temple you want to build.
A Mandir is basically a prayer hall and can be built anywhere - even a previously used building like a church or hall or house can be renovated and converted into a Mandir. The conditions and regulations for building a Mandir are very flexible and there is plenty of room for innovation and modification. (The Mandir is based on Purāṇas)
An Ālaya is a temple proper and is based on the Agamas. It needs to be built on virgin land - usually outside of a town or city and preferably on a hilltop or near a water source - a river or a lake.
The conditions and stages of preparation of the soil and the dimensions of the building and orientation and timings of the various stages of construction and the rituals to accompany each and every stage are complex and are strictly regulated in every detail by the Agamas.
The simple diagnostic metric to determine whether a Hindu temple is an Alaya or a Mandir check for the Flagstaff (Dhvaja-stambha)- if there is one it is an Alaya if none - it is a Mandir.
If it has one of these then it must conduct an annual Brahmotsava or Temple Festival for 10 days every year and numerous other very costly festivals during the annual cycle. A Mandir has no such compulsions - and can celebrate whichever festivals the committee desires in whatever manner.
Because of the seriousness and expense of constructing and maintain an Alaya the Agama gives us a dire warning:–
hantyārtha hī nā kartāraṃ mantrahīnaṃ tu ṛtvijam |śrīyaṃ lakṣanā hīnā tu na pratiṣṭhā samo ripuḥ ||Lack of opulence destroys the patrons, lack of knowledge of the proper mantras destroys the priests, lack of the proper paraphernalia destroys the prosperity of a temple, there is no enemy like an installation. (Narada Samhita 28:19)
hantyārtha hī nā kartāraṃ mantrahīnaṃ tu ṛtvijam |
śrīyaṃ lakṣanā hīnā tu na pratiṣṭhā samo ripuḥ ||
Lack of opulence destroys the patrons, lack of knowledge of the proper mantras destroys the priests, lack of the proper paraphernalia destroys the prosperity of a temple, there is no enemy like an installation. (Narada Samhita 28:19)
So if you are planning to build a temple - go for the Mandir option unless your patron is Bezos or Gates or Ambani.
What do people do at a Hindu temple (preferably a step by step instruction)? Would it make a difference whether you are male or female? Can anyone visit one?
Most devotees and visitors just do whatever type of puja/rituals as they want while avoiding touching the deities or entering into the sanctums.
There are two types of Hindu temples:–
Mandir = which is similar to a prayer hall with few rules and regulations. The deities are usually white marble and the consecration done according to Purāṇic usage.
Ālaya = which is a temple built and consecrated according to texts known as Āgamas - they are strictly controlled and the rules are more complex. The deities are usually of black granite.
There are also some key differences if the temple is dedicated to Shiva or Vishnu.
The protocol for visiting an Ālaya are:–
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