Philosophies and traditions which originate from the greater Indian subcontinent all have one thing in common – discussions related to realizing one’s true nature. The ancient literature and methods such as yoga guide us to realize that our real nature, or our true self entails an inward journey of recognition coupled with awareness. Thus, there is a major focus on deidentification from the body as well as the functions of the mind – each of which are temporary in nature and bound by space and time. The goal here is to understand that we are not the physical body, nor the limited function of the mind; we are much more than that. Jnana yoga – the path of self-inquiry and wisdom tries to make us realize that I am the Universe, or the Brahmand. Meaning, our existence is limitless and eternal, and the false identification with limited, physical aspects of our body can be overcome.
The tools to facilitate this process of increasing awareness is yoga. Within yoga, an instrument available to us to realize the dormant aspects of realization within ourselves is a temple. A consecrated temple serves as a battery charging station for us, enhancing abilities of perceiving the Truth. Consecration of a space which allows us to experience the source of Creation itself.
Such sacred structures are built based on principles of sacred geometry in a way for us to realize that the source of Creation flows through us and we are the eternal Self. Each consecrated temple might have a different type of energy, relating to different deities or dedicated to various chakras – metaphysical energy centers within the body. Altars, columns, towers and carvings made for temples follow the foundations of mathematical precision and fractal geometry laid out in the Sulba Sutras which are considered appendices of the Vedas as well as other texts which came after the Vedas.
For example, according to 5th-6th century text – Brahmiya Chitra Karma Shastram, the following are suggested when carving out the presiding Deity from stone. Accurate measurements for carving stone are outlined for the face, neck, from the heart to navel, as well as measurements of the thighs, knees, legs, and feet according to Sukranitisara. The measurement from the crown to the forehead should be three fingers, the nose should be 4 fingers, eyes should be three fingers in length and two in width, and so on. According to the 6th century text – Brihat Samhita written by Varaha Mihira, the height of the pedestal of the presiding Deity should be 1/3rd of 7/8th of the height of the entrance and the image should be twice the height of the pedestal. These mathematical laws make the Deity extremely pleasing to gaze at and the temple grounds conducive to be in. In short, correct ethics and harmony begin to flow within us at a temple due to correct aesthetics and geometric precision.
According to above mentioned and other related texts, the ancients were aware of and practiced the science of architecture. They ascertained the energy aspects of a location before settling down in that space. For example, those in ancient India wanting to build a new town would first visit the place, stay there for a few days in order to determine whether to live there or not. They would feel the energy of the place, the constituency of the soil, examine the water bodies, analyze the types of trees and foliage as well as wind directions. They would even taste the soil and water to determine feasibility of settlement. This is because the pancha bhutas or the five main elements – space, fire, water, wind, and earth – which make up the universe also make up the earth as well as our bodies. Inter and intra harmony and congruence with the elements are thus essential and necessary to be aware of.
Temples were first built in a suitable location before settlers built the town. This would ensure that everyone would have access to the energies within the temples. Looking at temple architecture we can see that the layout is similar to the human form. We enter the temple and walk all the way up to where the third eye or the ajna chakra is, circumambulate around the consecrated Deity and imbibe the energy present in the temple. As we gaze upon the Murti of the Deity, the Deity gazes back, and this act of grace is known as darshana. Devotees and worshippers often make offerings to the Deity, including offering themselves. People feel positive and energized in a temple because it is mathematically designed to create a certain feeling of oneness with the creation.
Rituals within the temples might not always have been common in ancient times. Also, not all temples are consecrated spaces; many temples have been built by devotees who felt the need to have a structure dedicated for devotion and surrender. For example, people on the path of Bhakti yoga have built temples all over India and most likely outside of India as well.
Many temples in current times are being vandalized or are in a bad state due to neglect. We seem to have forgotten that we need temples more than temples might need us. We can’t survive 24 hours without charging our phones, so how did we forget to charge ourselves with renewed energy and positivity provided by temples?
Temples have been doing us favors for centuries. It’s time we begin to do favors for ourselves and pay them a visit. Temples don’t discriminate, they let everyone in. It’s up to us to even be selfish and thereby take steps to preserve what is helpful to us. Hope this inspires you to visit a temple today.
Dutta, T., & Adane, V. S. (2018). Trends in Fractal Dimension in Laxman and Kandariya Mahadev Temples, Khajuraho. International Journal of Applied Engineering Research, 13(3), 1728-1741.
Rian, I. M., Park, J. H., Ahn, H. U., & Chang, D. (2007). Fractal geometry as the synthesis of Hindu cosmology in Kandariya Mahadev temple, Khajuraho. Building and Environment, 42(12), 4093-4107.
Rao, Srinivasa. Temple Architecture, 9 parts. Retrieved from: https://sreenivasaraos.com/
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