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By Sreenivasa Rao
Part No. Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Part Six Part Seven : : : : : : : Topic Agama and Temple architecture ……………………… Temple and Township……………………………………… Vastu Purusha Mandala …………………………………… Temple Layout ………………………………………………… Some essential aspects of Temple Structure …… Iconometry……………………………………………………… Some norms adopted in the Shilpa shastra ……… Page 01 10 20 29 46 61 75
Date: 24 October 2012; 01:25 PM
Part One : Agama and Temple architecture
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 conography. Sometimes, the term Shilpa is also used to denote the art of sculpting; but here Shilpa 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, Shilpa 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. 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 -1-
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 coherance 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 a 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.
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. 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 , agnichiti 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 chaithyas for the 33 gods (MBh 3.125).He also advises Pandavas to visit the Chaithyas on the banks of the Narmada (MBh 3.121). 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 -3-
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. 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 communityworship. 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 -6-
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, are the 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 (11th13th Century 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 -9th century). 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 -8-
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 Encyclopedia Britannica http://www.britannica.com/dday/print?articleId=109585&fullArticle=true&tocId=65333
Part Two : Temple and Township
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 centers 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: 1. Bhu pariksha: Examining and choosing location and soil for temple and town. The land should be fertile and soil suitable. 2. Sila pariksha: Examining and choosing material for image. 3. 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. - 10 -
4. Vastu puja: Ritual to propitiate vastu devata. 5. Salyodhara: Undesired things like bones are dug out and removed. 6. Adyestaka: Laying down the first stone . 7. Nirmana: Then foundation is laid and land is purified by sprinkling water. A pit is dug, water mixed with navaratnas, navadhanyas, navakhanijas is then put in and pit is filled. Then the temple is constructed. 8. 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. 9. Garbhanyasa: A pot made of five metals (pancaloha kalasa sthapana) is installed at the place of main deity. 10. Sthapana: Then the main deity is installed. 11. 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). If the site was located along the river bank, the township had to be on the convex side of the river-bend. For instance, the ancient city of Madurai was located along the Vaigai; the holy city of Varanasi is situated along the convex side of the river Ganga and presents a semi-lunar phase. 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 - 11 -
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 bundings, or trees such as milky trees. Etc.
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. 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. 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 should be avoided. 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. - 12 -
The site should have in their surroundings milky trees (four variety of trees having milky sap: nigrodha, oudumbara, ashvatta 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.
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. 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. 5. 6. 7. 8. To go round the city, on the interior side of the fortifying wall, a broad road would be built. The dwelling places of the people of various castes and professions are identified. The markets would be in North East and prisons would be in South West. Places like the royal palaces should be in the East. 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 Smith) for 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 boxlike formation, with bulging mounds of about fifteen feet, rising in all four directions. Some parts of these mounds now been leveled to make room for “developments”.
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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 is facing east. Swami Pushkarani is located to the northeast of the temple. A waterfall is 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, while the temple store houses are in the North-West and North side.
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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 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 Vimana Pradakshina, measuring about 250 feet(E-W) and 160feet(NS). This enclosure contains shrines to house Varadaraja, and narasimha .The Kalyana mantapa(80x36) 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.
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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.
Sri Rangam 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.
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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 must 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.
Vastu Purusha Mandala for the township 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 Manduka, parama-saayika and triyuta, respectively. As for Manduka Mandala (8x8), the whole square would be divided by the two axes that go North-south and East-west. In the case of Parama Saayika Mandala (9x9), the entire squire would be unevenly divided.
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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
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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. In certain exceptional cases a temple may face south, provided it faces a natural formation say a hill or a waterbody. 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.
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 - 19 -
Part Three :
Vastu Purusha Mandala
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; Vastu Purusha Mandala. In fact the Vastu Purusha Mandala, the site plan, is his body; and it is treated as such. His height extends from the South West corner (pitrah) to the North East corner (Agni).The Vastu Purusha Mandala also depicts the origin of the effects on the human body. All symbolisms flow from these visualizations. Purusha means 'person' literally and 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 - 20 -
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 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).
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
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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 energy 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 panda 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.
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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 word OM is uttered 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.
Vastu and directions
These areas are also related to various planets and their position. 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 tounge are in the head; and the head should be - 23 -
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 centre 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. “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 semiabstract 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 - 24 -
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 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 levelled ground; it is the fundament 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. If the temple symbolises the body of god on the macrocosmic plane, it equally symbolises the body of man on the microcosmic palne. 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 garbhagrha represents the head and the image, the antrayamin (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)
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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 linier representations, Yantra is a threedimensional 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.
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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://www.cultdeadcow.com/archives/2006/11/the_symbolism_of_che.php3 )
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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 from internet.
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Part Four : Temple Layout
The drawing of the court yard of the Shiva temple at Thiruvālangādu, by the famous artist Silpi 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).
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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. For the limited purpose of this discussion let us stick to the square or rectangular layout, ignoring the rest. Else, I fear, it might get too complicated. Having determined the suitability of the land for constructing a temple, and having drawn up the Vastu Mandala of the town and identified the temple location ; the next stage is to draw up a construction plan .This specifies the location, the size and the orientation of the various temples to come up in the proposed complex. This again involves preparation of another Vastu Mandala.
The land considered suitable for the purpose of constructing the temple (vastu bhumi) and placed at the center (Brahma Sthana) of the Vastu mandala of the township must be in the shape of a rectangle or a square. The ratio between the breadth and the length of the area may be 4:8; 4:7; 4:6; or 4:5. (The square would be 4:4). Shapes of sites to be avoided are: circular (vritta), triangular (trikona), rod shaped (dandakriti), bow shaped (dhanur akara) and other irregular shapes. And, in case it becomes necessary to construct a temple on a land of such “un approved” shape, the area meant for the temple should be demarcated and rendered a square or a rectangle in shape. Incidentally, the Buddhist and Jain temples too follow the same principles. Even the Sri Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple at Amritsar is structured in a square shape; with the Sanctum placed in the Brahma sthana.
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The following is the layout of a Jain temple.
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In case of a rectangular site, it must have north – south orientation. The depth of the site (Aayaprofit) should be more than its breadth (vyaya-loss). That is the reason we find our temple walls (prakara) on north-south shorter than the walls on east-west. The slope of the land surrounding the temple in the east and the north direction should be in the northeast corner. Fountains or lotus ponds of the temple should be in the northeast direction. In the open space surrounding the temple, Basil plant with raised bed should be in the east; the Jasmine, white Champak, Star Coral plants etc. should be in the northwest corner or the east. Four approach roads are much recommended. The preliminaries for construction of a shrine include preparations of a plan, Vastu Purusha Mandala, a Yantra, with unit cells (pada) of 64, 81 or 256 in number. The entire process is rich in symbolism. The square shape of the Mandala is symbolic of earth, signifying the four directions which bind and define it; and the Vastu is the extent of existence in its ordered site; Purusha being the source of existence.
The ground plan, again, is symbolic and is the representation of cosmos in miniature. The Vastu Purusha represents terrestrial world with constant movements. The grid made up of squares and equilateral triangles is imbued with religious significance; with each cell belonging to a deity. The position of the deity is in accordance to the importance assigned to him .The central portion of the square (Brahma Sthana) is occupied by the presiding deity of the temple ; while the outer cells house deities of lower order.
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Another important aspect of the design of the ground plan is that it is intended to lead from the temporal world to the eternal. The principal shrine should face the rising sun and so should have its entrance to the east. Movement towards the sanctuary, along the east-west axis and through a series of increasingly sacred spaces is of great importance and is reflected in the architecture. This process of drawing the Mandala , known as Pada-vinyasa or Vastu mandala Vinyasa is essential not only for construction of the main temple but also for deciding upon the location, the orientation and the size of the sanctum; and for placement of retinue-divinities. Let us look at the following example of an 81 cell parama-saayika layout.
The site-plan is to be regarded as the body of the Vastu-purusha whose height extends from Pitrah (in the bottom left corner) to Agni (top right corner). The Vastu purusha mandala is in some ways a development of the four pointed or cornered earth mandala having astronomical reference points. The mandala of 81 squares has 32 squares around the border representing the four cardinal points and the lunar constellations. It is the representation of all cyclical time; lunar and solar. Brahma is the God at the centre.
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The Manduka Mandala (8x8) the whole square would be divided by the two axes that go Northsouth and East-west.
In the case of Parama Saayika Mandala (9x9) , the entire square would be unevenly divided.
The center of the mandala consisting nine cells is dedicated to Brahma, the first of beings and the engineer of universal order. The Three cells to its east are for Aryaman, three cells to its west are for Mitra and three cells to its north are for Prihvidhara. In this site plan 32 spirits reside in the outer ring. There are 8 spirits in four corners. There are four spirits surrounding Brahma. Thus there are in all 45 spirits (including Brahma). Dikpalas or guardian deities of different quarters, who assist in the affairs of universal management, are an important part of the Vastu. Indra, Agni, Yama, Niritti, Varuna;, Vayu , Kubera and Isana; reside in the East , South-East , South, South-West, West, North-West, North and North-East
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respectively. All except Kubera are principal Vedic deities. This provides a method that determines the requirements of architecture in relation to its directions.
Establishing Vastu Mandala on the site
The vastu-purusha-mandala, forming a sort of map or diagram of astrological influences that constitute the order of the universe, is now complete. When placed on the building site the vastupurusha-mandala determines the positions and orientations of the temples and the time for commencing the construction. Only by the combination of the vastu-purusha-mandala and the astrological calculations can this factor be ascertained. From the diagram of the vastu-purusha-mandala the architect next proceeds to develop the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the temple. The square, the rectangle, the octagon and the pentagon are fundamental patterns in the horizontal or ground plan. In the vertical alignment the pyramid, the circle and the curve are more prominent. The subdivisions of the ground plan include the brahmasthana (the main shrine and smaller chapels) and the mantapa (balconies, assembly halls and auditoriums). The vertical plan consists of drawings for the gopura (entrance ways), the vimana (the structure above the main shrine or chapel) and the prakara (the walls). The construction of the temple follows in three dimensional forms, in exactly the patterns laid out by the mandala. The relationship between the underlying symbolic order and the actual physical appearance of the temple can best be understood by viewing it from above (top elevation). In order to establish the vastu-purusha-mandala on the construction site, it is first drafted on planning sheets and later drawn upon the earth at the actual building site. The ground for civil construction is demarcated by dividing the site into 81 cells, by drawing 10 lines from East to West and
10 lines from North to South in which Vastu Mandala deities are installed.
In addition the deities of the Sarvathobhadra-mandala are also established after performing Vastu Homa. The drawing of the mandala upon the earth at the commencement of construction is a sacred rite in itself. The cells sustain the temple in their own sphere of effectiveness, in the manner that the actual foundation supports its weight.
Shilanyasa is the ceremony for laying foundation stone. It is the laying of the first stone (square in shape) or a brick signifying the start of construction. It is laid in the north-western corner of the building plan, drawn on the ground. After this, the construction of the foundation is taken up. The foundation is built and the ground filled up, up to the plinth level, except in the middle portion of the garbhagraha area, which is filled up three-fourths.
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The sanctum is technically known as Garba-Griha. This part of the temple is usually constructed first. The ceremony related to it is known as Garba-dana or Garba-nasya; and, it involves letting in to the earth a ceremonial copper pot, containing nine types of precious stones, several metals, minerals, herbs and soils symbolizing creation and prosperity. The following is a little more detail about it. The Brahmasthana , the principal location in a temple where the Garbagraha will eventually come up, is the nucleus of the Vastu Purusha Yantra. At the brahmasthana, as drawn on the ground a ritual is performed called garbhadhana, inviting the soul of the temple (Vastu Purusha) to enter within the buildings confines. In this ritual, a golden box is imbedded in the earth. The interior of the box is divided into smaller units exactly resembling the vastu-purusha-mandala. All the units of the gold box are first partially filled with earth. In the thirtytwo units representing the nakshatras (lunar mansions), the units of Brahma and the twelve sons of Aditi, the priest places an appropriate mantra in written form to invoke the presence of the corresponding divinity .An Image of Ananta, the hooded serpent , is also placed in the box. Ananta, meaning eternal or timeless, also represents the energy that supports the universe. The box also contains nine precious stones diamonds, emeralds, rubies, pearls, yellow sapphire, and blue sapphire, red coral, cats-eye and jade – to appease the nine planets. A stone slab (adhara-shila) is thereafter placed over the spot the copper pot is buried. And over this slab will rise the foundation for installing the Mula-bhera. The copper pot signifies the womb; and icon the life arising out of it. The sanctum constructed around it is the body.
That pot represents the roots of the “temple-tree”; and the icon its sap. The four walls around the icon represent the branches spreading around. The structure of the Vimana rises above it in a series of tiers. The roof resting over the walls is called Kapotha, meaning where the doves rest. The imagery suggested is that of a tree with birds perched on its branches. The sanctum is thus a model of a growing tree. Another set of symbolism is that the foundation of the temple represents the Earth (prithvi); the walls of the sanctum the water (apaha); and the tower over it the fire (tejas). The final tier of the Vimana is air (vayu) and above it is the form-less space (akasha).The sanctum is thus a constellation of five elements that are basic building blocks of all existence.
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Once the garbhadhana and agni-hotra ceremonies are complete the actual construction of the temple commences according to the plan. When the foundation is finished the vertical structure is raised. The external features of the temple are brought to life through finely sculpted figures and paintings. The art and sculpture frequently portray the forms of divine entities and the different stages of consciousness in the gradual evolution of life throughout the universe. It is believed that the Vastu Purusha sleeps during Bhadrapada, Ashviyuja and Karhika months facing east. During Margashira, Pushya and Magha months he sleeps facing south; In phalguna, Chaitra and Vaishaka, he sleeps facing west. And, in Jeysta Ashada and Shravana, he sleeps facing north. The doors facing towards those directions are fixed in the respective months.
Temple Layout and its symbolism
Sri Venkateshwara temple , Cleveland
The Agama Shastras say that the Temple structure is a mini cosmos. The Temple entrance should face east – the direction of the Rising Sun. The ideal Temple should have at least one entrance, an Ardh-Mandapa, a Mandapa or a large hall, a Garba-Griha and a Shikara directly above the GarbhaGriha. The design comprises:
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1. A Towering structure called the Rajagopuram (pyramid in pattern) on the Eastern side at the entrance to the Temple. 2. A Dwajasthamba (pillar) in line with the main shrine immediately after the Rajagopuram. 3. Near the Dwajasthamba is a lotus shaped pedestal for offerings, called the Balipeeta. 4. A large Mandapa or hall for assembly of devotees. 5. The passage through the Mandapa leads to the “Garba-Griha” (womb chamber) where the Main Deity is installed. 6. Ardha Mandapa adjacent to the main Mandapa and before the “Garba-Griha”. 7. The Main Deity faces East word inside and the Garba-Griha is located inside a structure or sanctuary called the “Vimana”. 8. The pyramidal or tapering roof over the Deity is called “Shikara” or “Gopuram” which is a dome. 9. There is a circumbulating passage or “Pradakshira Patha” around the Garba Griha and Mandapa. The above design applies both to the “Shiva” and “Vaishnava” Temples with small variations. Architecture is otherwise called “Shilpa” and the one who constructs the Temple is called a “Sthapathi”. The “Sthapathi” is an expert in Temple architecture and idol creation. The procedure of worship in the Temple is known as “Agama Vidhi”.
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The Temple is not only a home of God but his representation in the structure of temple which resembles human form. The symbolism of the temple plan and elevation suggests that the garbhagrha represents the head and the gopuram the feet of the deity. Other parts of the building complex are identified with other parts of the body. For instance, the sukhanasi or ardhamantapa (the small enclosure in front of the garbhagrha) is the nose; the antarala (the passage next to the previous one, leading to passage next to the previous one, leading to the main mantapa called nrttamantapa) is the neck; the various mantapas are the body; the prkaras (surrounding walls) are the hands and so on. Vertically, the garbhagrha represents the neck, the sikhara (superstructure over the garbhagrha) the head, the kalasa (finial) the tuft of hair (sikha) and so on.
Another interesting symbolism is that when a devotee enters the temple, he is virtually entering into a mandala and therefore participating in a power-field. His progress through the pavilions to reach the sanctum is also symbolic. It represents the phases of progress in a man's journey towards divine. In accordance with this scheme, the architectural and sculptural details vary from phase to phase ; gradually leading him to the experience, which awaits him as he stands in front of the deity in the in the sanctum. This is explained in the following way. On reaching the main gateway, a worshipper first bends down and touches the threshold before crossing it. This marks the transition from the way of the world to the world of God. Entering the gateway, he is greeted by a host of secular figures on the outer walls; representing the outward and diverse concerns of man. As he proceeds, the familiar mythological themes, carved on the inner walls attune his attitude. The immediate pavilion and vestibule near the sanctum are restrained in sculptural details and decorations; these simpler motifs and the prevailing semi darkness help the worshipper to put aside distractions and try focusing his attention on the sanctum. Finally the shrine, devoid of any ornamentation, and with its plainly adorned entrance, leads the devotee further to tranquility, to fulfillment and to the presence of God. The garbhagriha is usually surrounded by a circumambulatory path, around which the devotee walks in a clockwise direction. In Hindu and Buddhist thought, this represents an encircling of the universe itself.
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Positions and orientations of the temples
The following plan indicates the position of gods and goddesses in an 81 celled temple-site. This plan relates to construction of a Vishnu temple.
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Atri Samhita prescribes that the central Brahma bagha must be divided into four equal parts and the main shrine facing east must be located on the North-western side thereof. The shrine must have five sanctums, to house five forms of Vishnu; and the shrine should have three stories. The seventh-eighth century Pallava temple Viz. Sri Vaikunta Perumal temple of Kanchipuram (which follows the Pancharatra Agama) is an excellent illustration of the fulfillment of these requirements. Its architecture is unique, with three sanctums on the three floors one over the other and a concealed staircase leading to the upper floors. The three sanctums enshrine Vishnu in three postures - seated, reclining and standing. The Vimana is represented as a three dimensional Mandala. The central figure in the sanctum of the ground floor is Vasudeva facing west, i.e. the Earth; Sankarshana facing north, the realm of human life; Pradyumna facing east towards heaven; and Aniruddha facing south, the realm of ancestors. The sculptural scheme matches the Pancharatra concept, representing the six `glorious excellences': omniscient knowledge (jnana), power (bala), sovereignty (aishwarya), action (virya), brilliance (tejas) and potency (sakthi). The sanctum of the third floor represents the realm of space-time, depicting Vasudeva as he appeared in the human form of Krishna (manusha Vasudeva). The temple per se signifies the `body of God.'
Coming back to the issue of placing the sanctum slightly to the North-West; this feature occurs in the temple of Sri Venkateshwara at Tirumala too. The enclosure immediately surrounding the sanctum called Mukkoti Pradkshina is rather skewed. 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
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half feet long. This skewed position of the sanctum, slightly to the north west , within the Brahma bagha was perhaps to satisfy the requirements of the temple vastu norms.
The Shiva temples too have their own configuration. In a Siva temple, the Shivaliga would be placed at the Brahma sthana, the shrines are dedicated to Parvathi, Ganapati, Subramanya , Veerabhadra and Candesvara would placed in the surrounding cells of the temples Vastu Purusha Mandala; as - 42 -
illustrated in the following typical layout of the famous Shiva temple at Gangaikondacholapuram(mid
Similarly in the Sri Kailasanathaswamy and Nithyakalyani Amman Temple, Karaikudi, Shiva shrine is at the Brahmastana, opposite to Shiva is lined Nandi, Bali pita and Dwajasthamba. The shrine of Nitya-kalyani Amman is located independently in the North. In the Mantapa adjoining the Sanctum are Ganapathi, Durga and Skanda. The Sapth Mathrikas, the seven female divinities, have their shrine in the Prakara behind the shrine.
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The Shakthi temples have their layout with shrines for other manifestations of the Mother Lakshmi, Saraswathi, Durga, Chamundi and related goddesses.
parvathi kalyana -Madurai temple 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. Kaqshyapa Shilpa Sastram by Prof. G Gnanananda - 45 -
Part Five : Some essential aspects of Temple Structure
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 anologus 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." - 46 -
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 Vastushastra 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, - 47 -
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. - 48 -
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. 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.
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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, 4x2).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(8x3), of which the height of the Sikhara would be 2/3 the total height.
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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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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 - 53 -
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.
Essential aspects of a Typical Temple
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. 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.
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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 - 55 -
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 madhya-hara. 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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Symbolism of the temple
The Hindu temple involves a multiple set of ideas and symbolisms. 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 symbolism extends to its conception as the physical form of god. The garbhagriha represents the head and the gopura the feet of the deity. Other parts of the structure are identified with other parts of the body. 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 prkaras are the hands and so on. Vertically, the garbhagrha represents the neck, the sikhara (superstructure over the garbhagrha) the head, the kalasha (finial) the tuft of hair (sikha) and so on.
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The names assigned to various parts of the temple 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 suggest seeking the divinity within our heart. The temple also represents 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. Very often, the ground-plan of a temple is a mandala. , 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.
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Though all the three mean the same, they 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 linier representations, Yantra is a threedimensional 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. 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 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. A Upasaka moves in the manadala, from the outer details, passes through circuitous routes and successive enclosures to reach the inner centre, the Bindu, representing the One creative Principle. Similarly in the temple too , the devotee who enters the gateway under the Gopura passes through several gates, courtyards and passages, leaving behind the grand externals, and progresses towards the serenity of garbhagrha, the very hearts of the temple and purpose of the temple, housing the representation of One cosmic Principle.
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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, http://www.sanathanadharma.com/temple/essential.htm http://www.orientalarchitecture.com/
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Part Six : Iconometry
The ancient Indian art of sculpture, Shilpa Shastra, developed its own norms of measures and proportions. It is a complex system of iconometry that defies rigid definitions .It is called Talamana paddathi, the system of measurements by Tala, the palm of hand (from the tip of the middle finger to the wrist). It plays a central role in the creation of temple icons and images. Iconometry (the doctrine about proportions) was an integral part of the Murti shilpa, creation of the idols. As explained in the earlier part of this post, the Dhyana shlokas, the contemplative hymns, delineate the spiritual quality of each deity and its forms and attributes, the lakshanas. The Dhyana Slokas also provide the details of the flexions - slight, triple, or extreme bends; the details of the number of arms and faces that endow a super-human quality to the idol; and also the descriptions of its ayudhas the
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weapons, the ornaments etc. They also specify whether the image should be dynamic or static, seated or standing; and they also detail the hand gestures and poses. But, it is the elaborate rules of the traditional iconometry that guide the practicing Shilpi in sculpturing the image and realizing his vision. These rules specify the various standards to be adopted for ensuring a harmonious creation endowed with well proportioned height, length, width and girth. These rules also govern the relative proportions of various physical features - of each class and each type of the deities. The standards of iconometry are of immense use for other reasons, as well. For instance, the iconometry of an image helps the sculptures of a later period in restoration work; in checking which of the known canons of iconometry were followed by the sculptors; in deducing which methods of sculpting were employed; and in hypothesizing how many sculptors were involved in executing the work. It also helps the art historians in dating sculptures; and the art students in studying the iconometric values of different Schools, across different periods and regions; and to ascertain the variations within a given set of stipulated proportions.
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Two systems of iconometry seem to have existed; and both were called taalamana. In the first system, the tala, measured by the length of the palm (from the wrist to the tip of the middle finer) of the shilpi or the yajamana, the one who sponsors the project, is taken as an absolute unit of measurement (and the image-face is made equal to that length). That tala is subdivided into twelve angulas; and such an angula becomes a fixed-length. In practice, the angula (literally ‘finger’) is a finger’s width and measures one quarter of the width of the shilpi’s fist (as explained in the earlier posts). The value of the angula so derived becomes a fixed length (manangulam). And, all other measurements of the image are in terms of that unit. The second is the system of derived proportions (deha labdh angulam). Let me explain. The stone or the block of wood selected for carving is divided into a number of equal parts. In case the selected
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piece is divided into ten equal parts, the division is known as dasatala (ten face-lengths) or in case it is divided in to nine equal parts then the division is known as navatala (nine face-lengths) and so on. The shilpa shastra normally employ such divisions on a scale of one (eka tala) to ten (dasa tala).Each tala is subdivided in to 12 angulas. For instance, if the intended height of the image is nine tala (which is regarded the standard height for images of certain deities and celestial beings), the texts mention that the selected piece of material should be divided into 108“Its own angulas “.The expression “its own angula” is explained thus: divide the total length of the selected stone or wooden piece, which will cover the entire height of the idol from head to foot, into 108 equal parts. One of the parts would then be its own angula. There are obvious differences between the two systems. The manangulam system relies on a fixed set of measurements; while the deha labdh angulam is a system based on derived proportions. In the former system, the measurements are related to the size of the palm of the shilpi; and if the image is navatala, it would mean that the height of the image is nine times the size of the tala or the palm of shilpi; and the size of the image-face is one tala or one-ninth of the total height of the image. In the second method, the unit of measurement is derived from the divisions marked on the stone piece. If the image is said to be navatala, it means that the height of the image is 108 times “its own angula”. This system is more flexible. In Shilpa Shastra, the multiplicity and relative sizes take precedence over the absolute specific sizes of the units. Therefore, the proportions of the head-trunk-arms-legs of the image; and the finer specifications of nose, nail, ears and their shapes are always discussed in terms of their proportions and in relations to the other organs and particularly to that of the size of the face. Similar logic is extended to panels where more than one variety of images have to be accommodated harmoniously. Gift Siromoney and his team who have carried out remarkable Iconometric studies based on measurements made by anthropometric instruments says, “ In Indian art the important figures in a group are often represented as taller figures and inferior beings are represented as smaller figures. To such smaller figures a lower tala is often prescribed. However, if both the larger and the smaller figures were to represent deities of equal rank (say Siva and Vishnu) then strictly speaking they should be made in the same proportion, or in other words in the same tala. http://www.cmi.ac.in/gift/Iconometry/icon_pallavasculpture.htm I think this needs some explanation .Let us assume that three types of figures of three different statuses are to be depicted on the same panel. The sculptor, in such a case, would adopt the image of mid-status, as the standard; and relate the proportions of the other two images to that of the standard image. Those two images would then have to be made in different sizes; but in same proportions as that of the standard image. Assuming that the standard image was made by adopting the nava tala, the image would then have a height of 108 angulas; the angulas being “its own angulas”. The image with least status, among the three, would be made to a shorter height, say, of 96 angulas; but by borrowing the angula value from the image of the standard size. Similarly, the image with the best status, among the three, would be made to a greater height, say, of 120 angulas; but here again the angula value is borrowed from the image of the standard size. - 64 -
In the two cases, other than the standard one, the basic unit of measure is not “its own angula”; but it is a unit borrowed from the standard Image. In other words, the proportions of these two images are derived from that of a third image. Such instances, perhaps, explain the need for adopting the second system; the flexible system of derived proportions. Over a period of time, the two systems got mixed up ; and in some texts it became rather difficult to make out , which system the text was actually referring to. The confusion got compounded with both the systems carrying the same title, talamana paddathi. The practicing Shilpis do therefore have to check carefully whether the specifications mentioned in a given text belong to the first system or to the second system. In case they belong to the first system, the image- face length will have to be 12 fixed-angulas; irrespective of its total height. Despite the differences, there are certain features common to both the systems. The first is, the face – length, in either case, is divided in to three equal parts: the fore-head, nose and nose-to-chin. Secondly, the pubis (base of the male organ) is the midpoint of the height of a nude figure. In other words, the distance from the sole of the feet to the pubis is equal to the distance from the pubis to the topknot. Thirdly, the celestial beings are assigned a higher tala compared to human figures. And, fourthly, children are represented in a lower tala like the chatusra tala (four tala). The face length will be comparatively large for children and dwarfs.
The Indian system makes use of the fact that persons with disproportionately larger faces appear short and those with smaller faces appear tall. Dwarf figures were therefore made by adopting the four "taala" system where the total height is only four times the face length. This demonstrated that the figures of different sizes can be made while following the same set of proportions. For instance, the height of a nine tala image might be the same as that of a tentala image; but, the ten tala image with its smaller face-size looks taller than the ninetala image. As mentioned earlier, the shilpa shastra normally employs a method of division of the image-body, on a scale of one (eka tala) to ten (dasa tala). Each tala is divided in to 12 angulas. There are variations within each type of tala. That is, each type of tala is sub-divided into three sub-types: The standard or the mean height is the madhyama tala; while the extended height is Uttama tala. The - 65 -
diminished height is adhama tala. Accordingly, along with the height, certain other dimensions of the latter two images are duly modulated, depending on the nature and the status of the image; and the importance assigned to it in the overall context of the theme of the sculpture. For instance, the madhyama navatala (standard length of nine-face lengths) is normally used for images of celestial beings such as Yakshas, Apsaras and Vidhyadharas. Here, the height of the image would be nine talas (with each tala divided in to 12 angulas) or a total height of 108 angulas. And, the face length - from the chin up to the root of the hair on the forehead – would be 12 angulas or one tala. The length from throat to navel would be two tala; from navel to top of knee would be three tala; from the lower knee to ankle would be two tala making a total of eight tala. One tala is distributed equally between the heights of foot, knee, the neck and topknot. The nava tala thus has a total of nine tala units, in height (108 angulas).
The texts also mention that the images of the devas such as the eight Vasus, the eight Dikpalas and the eight Vidyeshwarsa are to be depicted in Uttama navatala. Whereas, the images of Rakshasas, Siddhas, Gandharvas and the pitris are to be depicted in adhama navatala. In such cases, the images in uttama nava tala type are rendered four angulas taller and the images in the adhama nava tala type are rendered four angulas shorter. The said four angulas are to be distributed, evenly, between the heights of the foot, the kneecap, the neck and the topknot. These two variations are in effect, the deviations from the standard values of the image.
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It is said that The uttama dasatala is built on the values of navatala ( regarded purest in terms of the proportions) by systematically adding one angula to each section of navatala ; the thighs and legs being , as usual, twice the height of the “heart” etc. The uttama dasatala aims to project the majesty of the higher divinities.
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There is no uniformity among the various Shilpa texts. Some texts describe a system of one to twelve talas. There is even a mention of a twenty-one tala image of Bhirava; but that measure is hardly in use.
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Some texts mention that human figures and gods at rest, or while involved in some pleasant activity, should measure ten talas. And, when performing heroic deeds, their height increases to twelve talas. Further, in their fearsome aspect, they even grow to fourteen talas. But, the Shilpis in South India do not, generally, go beyond ten talas (dasatala).Thus, in effect, only ten types of divisions from the eka tala (single tala) to dasa tala (ten tala) are in use. These ten talas correspond to 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, 84, 96, 108 and 120 angulas, in sequence. The series is built by adding 12 angulas for each successive tala. These talas have their three variations, as state earlier. The standard or the mean height is the madhyama tala; while the extended height is Uttama tala; and the diminished height is adhama tala.
Uttama dasatala(124) and nine other talas - by Shilpi Shri Siddalings Swamy - 69 -
As per the norms that are commonly in use, the animals and birds are depicted in four or less talas. For instance, tortoise and fish are depicted in one tala; crocodile and rabbit in two tala; and the dwarfs, the kinnaras , the birds and the vahanas of the deities are depicted in three or four talas. Humans and demigods are depicted in five to eight talas; Vamana an incarnation of Vishnu in seven talas. The relative height of goddesses is eight or nine talas, while children are six talas high. The consorts of the deities and minor goddesses are depicted in eight talas. The talas from nine to twelve are meant for images of deities. But, again, there is no unanimity among the texts in this regard. Nine tala (nine face-lengths) is largely taken as the height of certain gods and celestial beings. According to some texts, the Uttama dasatala is applied to major deities like Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Rama, Buddha and Jina; so that they might look tall and majestic.
The madhyama dasatala is applied to the images of Lakshmi, Saraswathi, Uma and other major. The rest are depicted in Adhama dasatala, in accordance with the importance assigned to them.
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The extra ordinary deities like Trivikrama or Narasimha or the huge demons are at times depicted in twelve talas. Out of the ten varieties of talas mentioned above, four varieties are in wider use. The iconometry of these talas are briefly indicated in the following table.
Vertical proportions of four main types of Images (Figures in angulas) Type of the image/ 7* Tala 8 Tala 9 Tala 10 Tala Particulars Face 12 12 12 13 Neck 03 04 04 05 Neck to the horizontal line connecting the nipples(heart) 09 10 12 13 From there to navel(belly, udara) 09 10 12 13 From navel to genitals(lower belly, vasti) 09 10 12 13 Thigh 18 21 24 26 Knee 03 04 04 05 Leg 18 21 24 26 Foot 03 04 04 05 Total height in angulas 84 96 108 120 (One Tala = 12 angulas)
Stella Kramrisch explains in her Hindu Temple: the rules are that the proportions of the trunk are the same in all the four types. The distance from the root of the neck to the genitals is divided in to three equal parts, in each case: neck-heart; heart-navel; and navel-genitals. The length of the thigh and that of the leg are twice as long as each of the three earlier mentioned sections. Further, the knee and the foot are of equal height. The actual lengths of these lengths might vary, but their proportions are maintained. As regards the size of the face, it is 12 angulas (except in the case of dasatala). Sometimes, the height that is not included in the texts is added to the image by enhancing the height of the parts above its hair, starting from its forehead. Such height, at times, is quite considerable. Because, the gods of higher hierarchy are adorned with elaborate crowns in order to emphasize and enhance their majesty and grandeur. The height of the crown might often exceed the height of the face. The head together with the crown atop would form one sculptural unit. The elaborately crowned gods thus exceed the proportions of the human body and standout with a super natural appearance. Apart from defining the relative height of the various gods, the tala also serves as a module for all representations of each separate figure. In addition to the norms concerning the height, there are extensive specifications for horizontal measurements such as the width of the shoulders, the waist, the head, the neck, the nose, the distance between the eyes, and so on. This is also the case with the measurements for depth; such as the distance between the back of the head and the tip of the nose, the back and the nipples, etcetera. There are measurements for the figure in the frontal position, in profile or in three-quarter profile. For such measurements, a central axis line or a plumb line is used, brahmasutra, which runs from the crown of the head through the navel to between the heels. - 71 -
The position of the body (standing, reclining, seated, dancing, and so on), of the arms and legs, also plays an important role in the iconographic determination of the images.
Dr. Gift Siromoney and his team of researchers applied computer analysis methods to study a large sample of South Indian sculptures; those included the sculptures of the Pallava, Chola, and Pandya and Chera periods. It is said that anthropometric instruments were used for the analysis of facial proportions of the carvings; cluster analysis was used for collating the sculptures into groups that contain very similar features. - 72 -
The team came up with the conclusion that there existed two systems of proportions which had run into each other. The average values of the facial proportions of the sculptures that were studied were at variance with the proportions prescribed in the canonical texts. The sculpture seemed to have enjoyed a certain degree of artistic freedom within the framework of the Shilpa texts. The shilpis innovated or improvised their working methods for creation of well proportioned images. Please visit Dr. Siromoney’s home page and other study reports: http://www.cmi.ac.in/gift/Iconometry.htm
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References: Cannons of Icometry by Dr. Gift Siromoney http://www.cmi.ac.in/gift/Iconometry/icon_southindian.htm http://www.cmi.ac.in/gift/Iconometry/icon_pallavasculpture.htm Line drawings By Shilpi Sri Siddalinga Swamy, Dr. Jnananada And from Shilpa Soundarya.
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Part Seven :
Some norms adopted in the Shilpa shastra
I. Determination of cardinal points (Dik nirnaya)
In Sanskrit, the root, ma, stands for that which gives existence to a thing, gives it a reality in our world; and demonstrates the relation between things. The term matir, for mother is derived from that root ma. There is a close relation in the Indian thought, between measurement (maa_na) and creation. Measurement separates and differentiates the elements of the world and provides them an identity or a recognizable standard form. Perhaps the first act of measurement in our universe was the breaking of the barrier between time and timelessness; and, it surely saved our existence from perpetual chaos. Maana not merely measures the elements of space and time, but also governs the standard of ones conduct in life. It is said that the ritual of measurement performed at the commencement of the temple building or of a Vedic altar is a re-enactment of creation of the world. The importance accorded to precise - 75 -
orientation and precise measurements in the construction of the temple reveals the symbolism involved in the act. The Sanskrit term, vimana, referred to the temple signifies a ‘well-measured’ or “well-proportioned” structure. The standard texts on temple architecture carry extensive discussions on the systems of proportional measurements and the techniques employed for determining true cardinal points. The ancient text Shathapatha Brahmana repeatedly refers to the term prachee meaning the correct East-West line. Ascertaining the exact cardinal points and drawing the East-West line (prachee) was one of the primary concerns of the ancients. It was considered essential to align any auspicious structure say, yupa, the sacrificial altar; a mantapa, the pavilion; or a temple, along the prachee. The Sulaba Sutras of Bhodayana and Kathyayana too describe methods to determine true cardinal points. The Yajna altar of the Vedic times, which was reconstructed each year around the time of vernal equinox, carried a rich symbolism. The altar built of five layers, represented the five seasons, five elements and five directions. The altar was surrounded by a wall of 360 bricks representing 360 days of the year. The fired bricks symbolized the elements of fire, earth, and water. The akasha provided space and air by breathing upon the bricks of the altar and bringing them to life. The Shilpa Shastra texts, such as Kashyapa Shilpa sutra; Vastu Vidya; Vishwakarma Vastu Shastra; Shilpa Rathnam; Ishana Shiva Guru Doctrine and Manasara etc too discuss elaborately the instruments and the methods employed to determine true directions. The instrument that the texts talk about in this regard is the Sanku Yantra or the gnomon. The gnomon is probably mankind's oldest astronomical device. The Sanku in its simplest form is a piece of sharp edged, smooth surfaced pole made of wood or other material, firmly erected perpendicular to a leveled ground rendered “as smooth as a mirror", The method uses the movement of the Sun and the shadows it casts . And, it is often described as the Indian Circle Method. The Sanku (gnomon) or its variations were used by all ancient civilizations for determining the eastwest direction and also for knowing time. The Indian astronomers also used it for the determination of the solstices, the equinoxes and the geographical latitudes. For instance, Brahmagupta described a conical gnomon, the staff (yasti) of which represented the radius of the celestial sphere and was used for determination of the position of heavenly bodies, and also for terrestrial surveying. The Sawai Jai Singh’s Observatories at Ujjain includes a Sanku Yantra. (Please check; http://www.engr.mun.ca/~asharan/JAI_SINGH/index.html )
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For the limited purpose of our discussion, let us confine to the Sanku discussed in the texts of Shilpa Shastras and its use for determining the cardinal points. Each text of the Shilpa Shastra recommends its own set of specifications for the height and girth of the gnomon; the material or the wood to be used for making the gnomon; the mode of embedding the gnomon into the earth; the type of ropes and the pegs to be used; and the measurements to be taken etc. Some of the salient recommendations of only four of Shilpa texts are briefly tabulated under.
Particulars Height of Sanku above the ground level- (In inches) Girth of sanku at the bottom
Kashyapa Shilpa - 15 inches
Vishvakarma Vastu Shastra 12 to 24 inches and 48 inches for Temples
Pointed edge at the 1 yava top of sanku
Diameter of the circle drawn around the base of Sanku
Ground on which Sanku Is erected How to embed the Fixed firmly Sanku?
Twice the height of the sanku pole from the ground Level –like a stone
Uttama-24inches Madhyama-18 inches Kanista- 12inches Uttama -2 inches 2 inches Madhyama -1inch Kanista-1/3 inch Like a pin-head A sharp point made of metal 24 inches Four times the Twice the height of Sanku height of Sanku Level –like water Level- like water surface surface
Ishana Shiva Guru 12 inches
Which wood to be Sara vriksha used for making Sanku
Smooth and level as a mirror Some portion to Some portion to be Erected on be buried buried the ground underground underground Kadira, Kadira, Shami, Sarada Tinduka, Kshira Or Kshira vriksha Or ivory ivory
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Season of the year for taking measurements
Summer solstice, Any auspicious day Summer brighter half of barring Full –moon solstice, any the month and New-moon auspicious days day
Before drawing the plans and designs for a temple, the orientation of the site has to be established properly. The best way to go about it is to commence the exercise at a time when the sun is in the northern part of the sky, and on a day when there are no sunspots disfiguring its visible surface. Before erecting the Sanku pole, it is essential that the ground is rendered absolutely clean, smooth and flat. The Mayamata and Manasara describe what is called as “water method” to ensure an even and a flat surfaced ground. The selected ground, in a square shape, is leveled and enclosed by a frame of bricks; and is filled with water. Then, with the aid of a measuring rod the height of water at different points are checked to ensure that the water column is of same height through out. After it is dried out the uneven surfaces, wrinkles and blotches are corrected and evened out by suitably increasing/decreasing the level at selected points. The Vastu Vidya Shilpa text suggests an improvement over the above method. After the leveling by water-method has been carried out, it recommends the use of a device called avanatha constructed out of three wodden strips of equal length (25 inches each).An equilateral triangle constructed out of the three wodden strips is placed at different points on the prepared ground. If the pendulum (plumb line) suspended from the apex of the triangle stays erect at all test-points; it means that the pegs stand at equal height. If not, suitable corrections have to be carried out, until it is required. Finally, after the ground has been dried, cleaned and fine-leveled, it again is checked by the avanatha.
The Sanku has to be erected in the mid region of the prepared ground. The ritual of erecting the Sanku is called Sanku_sthapana. The sanku is made of either ivory or the seasoned kadira (hard) wood which does not bend in the heat of the sun. Its surface should be smooth, perfectly circular and without irregularities; and pointed at one end. The total length of the sanku would normally be 18 inches; of which six inches would be under the ground level. The effective height of sanku, above ground, would normally be 12 inches. The Manasara text however recommends 24 inches as the best (uttama) and 18 inches as next-best - 78 -
(madhyama) height of the Sanku. The girth of the Sanku at its bottom should range between two inches to six inches. Its top-end should be pointed; but it should not be too thin; else it might be difficult to mark its shadow on the ground, especially during the evenings. The diameters at the top and bottom should be proportionate to their length. The Sanku should be fixed firmly and it should stand perpendicular to the ground. With the base of the Sanku as the centre, a circle should be described around the sanku, having a radius equal to twice the height of the Sanku. It is argued that the radius of that circle should not be too long; nor should it be too short. In either case of extreme, it would be difficult to obtain correct readings, especially during the evenings. Most texts recommend that the radius should be twice the height of the Sanku. [There is some confusion here. Some texts say the diameter (vyasa) should be twice the height of the Sanku. While some other texts say that the radius (trigya) should be twice the height of the Sanku. But all texts say that the radius should not be less than the height of the Sanku. I have, in the interest of uniformity, adopted here the radius as equal to twice the height of the Sanku.] The Shilpa texts such as Shilpa Dipika, Raja_vallabha and Kunda _siddhi recommend a unique method to ensure that the Sanku is standing perpendicular to the ground. They suggest that in case the height of the Sanku is 12 inches, a circle should be described with the base of Sanku as the centre and with a radius of 16 inches. This in effect forms a right angled triangle , with the radius as the base of the triangle (16 inches), the Sanku as its height (12 inches); and the string(rajju) connecting the top of the Sanku to the point of intersection of the base of the triangle with the circle forming the hypotenuse. If the sanku stands absolutely perpendicular then the string (hypotenuse) should measure exactly 20 inches. This exercise was based on the theory of Brahmagupta (6th century AD) otherwise known as the Pythagorean Theorem.
Now, having completed the preliminary work -- of leveling and smoothening the ground; erecting the sanku ; and drawing a circle , round its base, with a radius equal to twice its height — you proceed with the task of determining the cardinal points with the help of gnomon. It is recommended that the first reading is taken at sunrise during a month when the solar path is towards the north (uttarayana) during a bright fortnight when sunrise is clear, when there are no spots in the solar disc and when the sun is in the asterism of the appropriate fortnight.
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As the sun rises in the morning, you keep observing the sanku’s shadow. When the shadow of the top of the Sanku just falls on the circle, mark the point. By evening, when the shadow of the sanku gets longer, you again mark the point where the shadow intersects the circle. Connect the two points with a straight line. This line points directly East-West. This East-West line is called prachee. A line perpendicular to the E-W line is the north-south direction.
In this method, as the sun rises in the east, the shadow points west. Then, as the day advances, the shadow first swings to the north and then to the east, as the sun travels to west. The problem with this method is that the shadows are shorter in the summer than in the winter, because the earth is tilted toward the sun in summer and away from the sun in the winter. Another issue is that the sun moves most rapidly at the equinoxes. And, therefore the points marked on the circle indicate only approximately correct directions.
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An improvement over this method is the drawing of circles with these East and West points as centers. The radius of the circles is the distance between those East and West points. The intersection of these circles creates a fish shaped figure. A line drawn between the points where the two circles intersect indicate the geographic North-South.
In Uttarayana Punyakala or Makara Sankranti, Sun in his entourage, after touching the southernmost tip of his path (23.5 degrees or Circle of Tropic of Capricorn – Makara Sankranti Vritta), he reverses his movement from travelling in southern direction and from that day onwards he starts travelling in the Northern direction for next six months, from Makara up to Mithuna signs, till he reaches northernmost tip of his path (23.5 degrees or Circle of Tropic of Cancer – Karkataka Sankranti Vritta). From that point, which termed as Dakshinayana Punya Kala, again he starts travelling in Southern direction, again for another six months, from Kataka up to Dhanu signs, till he reaches the circle of tropic of Capricorn. Utarayana can also be explained as the progress of the Sun to the north of equator – The Summer solstice. Dakshinayana is the progress of Sun to the south of the equator – The winter half of the year.
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In a period of six months as the sun moves from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Tropic of Cancer his position shifts by 47 degrees. That is, the sun’s position shifts by about 8 degrees in each month. Accordingly, the sun shadow on the ground too shifts gradually during this period. Theoretically, the Indian circle method leads to the error up to 8' in the time near spring and autumn equinox (March and September). If the East-West line (prachee) has to be fixed accurately, the readings taken earlier need to be fine-tuned. The Shiva Guru Doctrine suggests the following method in this regard. The shadow points of the Sanku intersecting the circle drawn around it should be marked everyday both in the morning. Over a period of time these markings form a curvaceous line or an arc. Further, when the shadow of the Sanku is within the circle, three points have to be marked three circles should be drawn with these three points as the centre. The points of intersections of these circles should be marked. Let us name these points as A-a; and B-b. When the lines joining A-a and B-b are joined and extended backwards they converge in the point N, as shown in the following diagram. A line drawn at 90 degrees to the line indicating North would be the East-West line.
As the sun rises and sets at shifting points on the horizon, the vertical gnomon casts its shadow in different directions on different days of the year, while the length of shadow also varies from day to day through the year. The shadow of the sun will on any given day of the year follow a curved path from west towards east. From spring equinox to autumn equinox the path will curve towards south. From autumn equinox to spring equinox (yellow area above) the curving is northerly. The amount by which the sun changes its declination during the day decreases as the sun moves away from equinox, and on the days of solstice the change is zero. Shilpa Shastras caution that the points marked out on the ground based on the shadows cast by the sanku do not therefore indicate the true cardinal points. The readings need to be suitably corrected depending on the movement of the sun. The texts suggest that the East- West line should be established with adjustments- by reduction- of the following numbers of digits for each ten day period of each month. There, again, is no uniformity
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in this regard. The corrections suggested by each text are different. Please see the following table for the month -wise corrections suggested by two major texts.
Chandraman Calendar Corrections Month month Reduction suggested (in inches) Mayamatha Manasara A B` C A B C 01 kanya Bhadrapada Jul-Aug 01 02 02 00 01 02 02 Rishabha Vaishaka Apr-May 01 02 02 01 01 02 03 Mesha Chaitra Mar-Apr 01 00 00 02 01 00 04 Kumbha Magha Jan- Feb 05 04 04 06 05 04 05 Makara Pushya Dec-Jan 07 06 06 08 07 06 06 Mithuna Jesta May-Jun 03 04 04 02 03 04 07 Kataka Ashadha Jun-Jul 03 02 02 04 03 02 08 Simha Shravana Jul-Aug 01 00 00 02 01 00 09 Tula Ashviyuja Sep-Oct 03 04 04 02 03 04 10 Vrishika Karthika Oct-Nov 05 09 06 04 05 06 11 Dhanus Margashira Nov-Dec 07 08 08 06 07 08 12 Meena Phalguna Feb-Mar 03 01 01 04 03 02 A stands for first 10 days of the month; B stands for days from 11 to 20; And C stands for days from 21 to 30 of the month
After carrying out the corrections, you plot the readings and draw the lines and arcs. The final drawing will look as under.
Sr. Rashi No.
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The East-West line is named Brahma Sutra; The North-South line is named Yama Sutra; and, the Diagonal lines are named Karna Rekhas. The entire exercise is called Dik parchheda or Prachee sadhana, which is achieving the true cardinal points.
Guided by the stars
The practice of determining the directions, based on the position of stars is rather ancient. The Kathyayaneeya sulba sutra mentions that the true East can be determined with reference to the position of the pairs of stars: Chiita and Swathi; Shravana and Prathi shravana; Krutthika and Prathi krutthika; and Pushya and Punarvasu , when they are 86 inches above the horizon. The text however does not detail the method to be employed. There is no description, either, of Prathi Shravana and Prathi Krutthika stars. The Shilpa texts –Kathyayaneeya sulba sutra, Raja Vallabha and Shilpa deepika- mention that the line connecting the polar star (dhruva) and the two stars of the Ursa Major (Saptha Rishi mandala) , when extended would point to North. A few points need to be mentioned by way of clarification. The exercises described were undertaken to find the geographic North Pole which is the pole about which the Earth seems to spin. They were not talking about the Magnetic North Pole. The Magnetic North Pole is currently wandering at a few kilometers per year through the far north of Canada, while the Geographic North Pole is in the Arctic.. The methods which we discussed so far were being followed by the Shiplis until about the 17th century .Thereafter, with the introduction of magnetic compasses, the ancient methods were given up. Now everyone goes by the compass to ascertain the directions. Yet, many feel that determing the geographic north, as the ancient did, is a superior method. Incidentally, the diagram, based on the Sanku method, for positioning the yupa, the sacrificial altar, looked as shown below.
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II. Four Types of Architects
The ancients mention four types of architects - the Sthapati, Sutragrahin, Vardhaki and Takshaka. The Sthapati is the chief architect or master builder empowered to plan, design and direct the construction from the beginning to the end. He is well-qualified in Shastras and the Vedas. He is pictured as a cultured, decent man free from vices. He has the ability to direct his team. The Sutragrahin is the supervisor and is said to be normally the Sthapati's son or disciple. He is also well-qualified in the Vedas and Sastras. He is an expert draftsman or Rekhagna, who directs the rest of the work force. His job is to see that all building parts are aligned correctly. He should be able to give instructions to the other craftsmen. The Vardhaki is the painter and has made a special study of it. He is also well-versed in the Vedas. Vardhaki joins together the building elements shaped by Taksaka.
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Taksaka is the craftsman who cuts and shapes the building elements. The Takshaka is also the master carpenter who is responsible for all the intricate wood work including doors, windows, pillars etc. These four classes are considered the representations of Viswakarma, Maya, Manu and Twasta, the sons of Brahma, the creator.
Acharya is the learned preceptor who gives the yajamana (one who sponsors the temple project) the necessary advice and guidance in selecting the proper site, the sthapati and other silpins. The sthapati, yajamana and the ahcarya form the trinity of vastusthapana (construction); they are compared to Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra .
III .Building Materials used in temple architecture
The building materials that are prominently used in temple construction are the stone, the bricks and the wood (apart from earth which we discussed separately in the earlier part of this series). The Shilpa texts describe in detail the nature of these materials and the criteria for their selection, for various purposes. Let us take a quick look at these three materials.
The stones are the major ingredients in temple construction. One cannot think of a temple constructed without using stones. It is therefore natural that the Shilpa texts discuss the stones quite elaborately. The following, in brief, is the summarized observations and recommendations of some shilpa texts. The stones collected from open source such as mountain or hill are stronger and more durable as compared to those dug out of earth. Similarly, the stones or boulders dug out from the coastal areas are considered weak, as they could be eroded by the chemicals and the salt content of the sea. They are not considered fit to bear heavy loads. The reason for preferring the stones from hills or mountains could be that they are well seasoned by constant exposure to the vagaries of weather; and are unaffected by salts and other chemicals. Stone should be free from lines, patches, blotches, blots and cracks or other faults. The white lines or patches in a black or other colored stone are acceptable. But, black lines or black patches in white or other colored stones are not acceptable at all. The explanation given is, the white lines, the patches of quartz, strengthen the rock structure; while black lines of baser materials weaken the stones. The traces of chlorite or olivine cause green or black patches and weaken the stones; therefore, such stones are not recommended for temple construction. The Vishnu Darmottara Purana talks in great detail about the faults in the rocks and the methods to test the rocks. Stones such as marble, steatite, khondalite, sandstone, basalt etc are not fit for carving a deity. They are not recommended in load bearing areas, either. They could be used in other areas, if needed.
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As regards their color, the stones are of four basic colors: white, red, yellow and black. Some of them could be tainted with traces of other colors. Stones of white color are regarded the best for temple construction. The next in the order of preference are the red, yellow and black colored stones. . It is preferable to use uniformly the stones of the same color. The Kashyapa Shilpa mentions seven categories of white stones: white as milk, as the conch, as jasmine, as moon, as pearl, as alum and as the kundapushpa (a variety of jasmine).The white stones with traces of blue or slight brown or bee-like black lines are considered good for temple construction. The red colored stones are of five types: Red as red hibiscus flower (japa kusuma), as kinsuka (bright red), as the indragopa insect, as parijatha flower, as the blood of a rabbit, and as pomegranate flower. The yellow color of the stones is of two types: yellow as the Banduka flower, and as koranti flower. The black of the stones comes in ten colors: black as the pupil of the eye, as mascara, blue lotus, as bee, as the neck of peacock, as kapila cow, as urd gram etc.
The stones are also classified according to their “age”-: child (baala), youthful (taruna) and the old (vriddha). If a stone when tapped gives out a faint sound or the sound is as that of mud, or of half burnt brick; such stones are classified as baala- the child; to mean raw or immature. The baala stones are not fit for making idols or for bearing loads. If a stone when struck produces the sound resembling the ring of a bell and if such sound resonates for quite a while, such a stone is classified as taruna youthful. Such stone should have a cold touch and a soft feel. If the stones emanate fragrance it is much better. The taruna- the youthful - stones are fit for carving images and for crucial areas of temple. An old, the vriddha, stone does not give out any sound and has a dry appearance or has .It gives the touch and feel of a frog or a fish. It might have many holes or might be in a state of decay. Such old and spent stones are not fit for making images or for load bearing areas.
Stones are also classified according to their “gender”. Those stones which give bronze sound at the hammer weight are called “male’. Those which give brass sound are called “female’. And, those that do not produce any sound are called genderless (neuter). A hollow stone may be taken as pregnant and hence should be discarded. When smeared with a paste, overnight, it changes its color. Shilpa Ratna describes dozens of such pates. Some stones are said to carry poisonous effects. These stones too should be tested by application a paste; and should not be used. - 87 -
It is suggested that male stones are used for carving male deities; female stones are used for carving female deities; and the neuter stones are used for other constructions. Further it is said, the male stones could also be used for construction of sikhara (tower) and stone walls; the female stone could be used for structures above foundations; and the neuter stones could be used for foundations. Male stones are big, round or polygonal, are of a singular shape and uniform color; they are weighty and give out sparks when hammered. When dug out, its apex will be towards north. If the apex is inclined towards north or west facing, the rock is considered inauspicious. Highly compact rocks like dolerites, bronzites, proxenites and peridoties as well as lamprophyres are regarded male rocks. A female rock is of medium weight , square or octagonal, thick at root and thin near the apex, cold to touch, soft to feel and on being struck gives out sonorous notes like that of a mridanga (drum). A neuter gender stone is one that doesn’t give any sound on being struck and narrow towards its bottom and triangular on its upper side ; and such stones may be used only for the foundation. Coming back to the issue of acoustics in the stones, the Shilpis displayed a remarkable skill and ingenuity in crafting “musical “pillars, which when struck at right points produce sonorous octaves. One can see such pillars in the Vijaya Vittala temple at Hampi; Meenakshi temple at Madurai; and at Sundarehwara temple at Trichendur. There might be such “musical” in other temples too. Usually such pillars are of granite and charnockites; and of different girths and volumes to produce the right octaves.
B. Bricks (Ishtaka)
Bricks have been in use for thousands of years in construction of yupa the sacrificial altars and Chaithyas the early temples of the Vedic ages. Shathapatha Brahmana as also Shilpa Rathna - 88 -
describes the methods for molding and burning the bricks. The Sulba sutras and Manasara detail the dimensions of the bricks of various sizes in relation to the sacrificial altars constructed for various purposes. The remnants of the Indus valley civilization too amply demonstrate the extensive use of bricks in construction of buildings and other structures. During the later ages, the bricks were used in the temple structures mainly for erecting Gopuras the temple towers and Vimanas the domes over the sanctum. As per the descriptions given in Manasara the bricks were made in various sizes; the size of the bricks varying from 7 inches to 26 or even to 31 inches in length. The length of the bricks were 1 ¼, 1 ½, 1 ¾ or 2 times the width .The height of the brick was ½ its width or equal to the width. Thus, bricks of different sizes, shapes, and types were made. The composition, shape and baking of a brick depended upon the use to which it was put. Interestingly, the bricks with straight and linier edges were called male bricks; while those with a broad front side and a narrower back side or those of curved shape were called female bricks. The bricks in concave shape were called neuter bricks. The male bricks could be used in the construction of the prasada, the sanctum. The female bricks were used for the sanctum of female deities. The neuter bricks were generally not used in temple construction; but were used for lining the walls of the well. According to Shukla Yajurveda Samhita, bricks were made from thoroughly mixed and pulverized earth and other ingredients. The earth was strengthened by mixing goat hair, fine sand, iron flake or filings and powdered stone. Earth was also mixed with ‘raal oil’, etc. and thoroughly beaten and blended in order to increase the strength of the material by enhancing the cohesion of the earth particles. Triphala concoction is said to render the earth, white ants (termite) and microbe proof. Brick lying was done with the aid of moulds; and, the bricks were burnt in enclosed kilns. The works like Shilpa Ratna and Vastuvidya explain that the brick moulds were baked for 24 hours in a fire of firewood. Bricks black in color or half baked or broken or defective otherwise were rejected. The bricks should be well burnt and be of uniform color. According to Shulba Sutra, bricks measuring 22.8X11.4X5.7 cms were used in construction of walls. The Bodhayana Sulaba sutra specifies the arrangement of bricks, while constructing a wall. The brick should be directed in a dextral and laevo order. The brick ends should not be piled one over the other. The joints of the brick in each third row of brick may fall over the brick of the first row; this is the ‘Malla Lila’ style of fixing the brick, based on the arrangement of the joints of the brick. The bricks having a smooth surface are not to be set one above the other, but are to be fixed in straight line and the wall should be of an equal thickness all over. The corners of the walls should be on the ratio of 5: 3: 4 and at right angle to each other. According to the Sumrangana Sutradhara, the square of the diagonal of the wall should be equal to the sum total of the square of the width of the wall. It is said that the altar constructed for major sacrifices, bricks of about 200 types were used, depending upon the size and shape of the altar. - 89 -
Wood has limited use in traditional temple structure of medieval times. Its application is mainly for carving doors, erecting Dwajasthamba the flag posts and for other utilities such as platforms, stands etc. But, in rare cases (as in Sri Jagannath temple at Puri or at Sri Marikamba temple in Sirsi) the principal idol dhruva bhera is made of wood. The most extensive use of the wood is of course in the construction of the Ratha the temple chariot. In rare cases as in Puri a new chariot is created each year. Shatapatha Brahmana a Vedic text of about 1500 BC or earlier makes repeated references to wood and its applications. During its time the temples and the images were mostly made of wood (kasta shilpa). The text mentions a certain Takshaka as a highly skilled artist who carved wood. It names a number of trees the wood from which was used for various purposes. For instance Shaala (teak) and Kadira a type of hard wood was used for carving images, pillars, gnomon (sanku) and other durables. Certain other trees are also mentioned as being suitable for pillaras, posts etc: Khadi, Shaal, Stambak, Shinshipa, Aajkarni, Kshirani, Dhanvan, Pishit, Dhanwalan, Pindi, Simpa, Rahjadan, and Tinduka. Trees such as Nibaka (Neem), Panasa (jackfruit), Asana, Sirish, Kaal, Timish, Likuch, Panas, Saptaparni, wood are said to be best for roofing work. Coconut, Kramuk, Bamboo, Kitki, Oudumbara (silk cotton etc. wood is suited for hut constructions, ribs and rafters etc. However use of certain trees considered holy or godlike was not recommended in temple construction. The trees such as Ashwattha (Peepal), Vata, Nagrodha (banyan), Chandana
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(sandalwood), Kadamba, Badari, Shami, Bilva, Parijatha, kinsuka, and Bakula, were sacred and godlike trees. Chandana, Kadira, Saptaparni, Satwak, etc. were used for engraving and carving artwork.
The southern text Shilpa Rathnam states that the wood from the following is not suited for temple construction.; Trees from a place of public resort, trees from a village or from the precincts of a temple, trees that have been burnt, trees in which are birds' nests, trees growing on anthills, trees in which are honeycombs, trees fruiting out of season, trees supporting creepers, trees in which maggots dwell, trees growing close to tanks or wells, trees planted in the earth but reared by constant watering, trees broken by elephants, trees blown down by the wind, trees in burning-grounds, in forsaken places, or in places which had been paraclieris, withered trees, trees in which snakes live, trees in places where there are hobgoblins, devils, or corpses, trees that have fallen down of themselves, these are all bad trees and to be avoided.
The lifetime of a tree was regarded as 103 years. The trees under the age of 16 were Baala – child trees; and those above 50 years of age were Vriddha- trees in their old age. The trees between the age of 16 and 50 years were regarded most suitable for construction of temple and homes. Tall trees of uniform girth without knot and holes, in their youth, grown on dense hilly regions are most suited for construction of pillars. The trees that are white under the bark are in the best category; followed by those having red, yellow and dark interiors; in that order. The juicy or milky trees are preferable.
The trees that are round from the root to its apex, give a gentle fragrance, are deep rooted, are solid and temperate may be taken as masculine trees, yielding male wood. The feminine trees have slender roots and are thick at apical part, but a much thicker middle part with no fragrance or odor in the wood. The wood should be straight and without any knot, crevice or cavity. The structure built by joining such male and female wood last for centuries
Slender and long in the middle of the trunk and having a thick head, is a genderless tree. While the male trees serve for pillars; female trees for wall-plates, beams, and capitals; the hermaphrodite trees serve for cross-joists, joists, and rafters. Agastya Samhita has described the wood that is to be used in a chariot, boat or an aircraft. A youthful and healthy tree should be cut and its bark removed, thereafter, it should be cut in squares after which are to be transported to the workshop where these pieces should be stored upon spread
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out sand in an orderly manner for 3 to 8 months for seasoning. The root and apex sides must be marked because in pillars the root side is to be kept down and apex part up. As far as possible, only one type of wood may be used for one particular construction. The use of more than tree types of wood in a construction is not recommended. It is said the ISI standard A-883-1957 regarding a wooden items is based on the specification s mentioned in the ancient Indian Texts Precautions in the selection of the building materials: No used building material should be used. Stolen and renovated material should never be purchased. Materials confiscated by the King should not be used. The wood culled from the trees cut down in a cremation ground; temple, ashram or shrine should not be utilized.
IV. Ayaadi Shadvarga
Ayadi _shadvarga is a matrix of architecture and astrological calculations. According to Samarangana Sutradhara Ayaadi-shadvarga is a set of six criteria: Aaya, Vyaya, Amsha, Nakshatra, Yoni and Vara-tithi, which are applied to certain dimensions of the building and its astrological associations. The purpose of the exercise is to ascertain the longevity of the house as also the suitability to its owner. These norms are applied to temples too. The term Aaya could be taken to mean increase or profit; Vyaya - decrease or loss; Nakshatra,- star of the day; Yoni - source or the orientation of the building; Vara- day of the week; and Tithi - the day in lunar calendar for construction of building and performing invocation of Vastu Purusha.. The area of the structure is divided by certain factors assigned to each element of the Aayadi Shadvarga; and the suitability or longevity of the building is ascertained from the reminder so obtained. For instance, if the plinth area of the house is divided by 8; and the reminder is either 1 or3 or 5, then these are called Garuda garbha, Simha garbha and Rishabha garbha, which are auspicious. Hence the plinth area of the building should be manipulated or altered to arrive at an auspicious reminder. The rule is also applied to ascertain the longevity of the building. According to this method the total area should be divided by 100 and if the reminder is more than 45, it is good and if it is more than 60 it is very good. For instance, If the length of the house 11 meters, and the width 5 meters, then its area is 11 X 5 = 55 sq.mts. Multiply the area by 27 (Nakshatra factor) , 55 X 27 = 1485. Divide the product 1485 by 100. The remainder is 85,-which indicates the projected longevity of the house. Since the reminder is more than 60, .it is a very healthy result.
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There is another method for arriving at the Aayadi value. The result is categorized in to eight types of Aayas. According to this method, the area (length X breadth) is multiplied by 9; and divided by 8. The reminders 1 to 8 are interpreted as good or bad, as indicated in the following table.
Aaya Dhwajaya Dhumraya
Symbolizing Reminder Interpretation Money 01 Good. Brings wealth Smoke 02 Not good. ill heath of the head of the family and spouse. Simhaya Lion 03 Very Good. Victory over enemies; health ,wealth and prosperity. Shwnaya Dog 04 Bad. Ill health and bad omens. Vrishabhaya Bull 05 Good. wealth and fortune. Kharaya Donkey 06 Very bad. Head of family will turn a vagabond; premature death in family. Gajaya Elephant 07 Good. Life of head of family and members brightens; improvement in heath and wealth. Kakaya. Crow 08 Very bad. Sorrow to family; and no peace. Manasara says “When there is more merit than demerit, there is no defect in it; but if the demerit is more than the merit, it would be all defective.”
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References: Vastu Darsha by Dr. G Gnanananda. Orienting From the Centre By Michael S. Schneider www.geomancy.org/.../summer/orienting/index.html Cosmogony and the Elements.. John McKim Malville http://www.ignca.nic.in/ps_05005.htm Vastu Interiors http://www.gkindia.com/vastu/vastubuilding1.htm
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