- Religion and Philosophy
CONSTRUCTION OF HINDU TEMPLES
The construction of a Hindu temple is a complex and elaborate process. It is also considered to be a very pious act. The person who intends to construct the temple is called the YAJAMANA. It is he who chooses a STHAPAKA or ACHARYA who like a consultant is responsible for the overall guidance and supervision of the temple construction. The ACHARYA then chooses the STAHAPATI or Chief architect. Others who assist the ACHARYA are SOOTRAGRAAHIN or surveyor TAKSAKA or sculptor and VARDHAKIN the mason and painter.
Once the team is ready the next step is in selecting a suitable place, which should meet the criteria of a temple site. The BRIHAT SAMHITA contains guidelines for suitable selection of sites. Many of the great temples have been near water, forests and mountaintops. The importance attached to water is such that if the temple is not near natural sources of water, there should be a temple tank on the left or in front of the place of worship. There are also guidelines found in the MATSYAPURANA After it has been identified the place should be cleared of all vegetation and evil spirit.
Drawing of the VASTUMANDALA on the site at an auspicious time is the next important task. It is believed that once the VASTUMANDALA is ceremonially drawn, the place is energized and comes ‘alive’ with the VASTUPURSHA residing in it.
After this an image or symbol of the deity is installed in the center of the MANDALA at an auspicious time and SILANYASA or foundation stone is placed in the northwestern corner of the building plan.
As work progresses, apart from GARBHAGRIHA, the temple structure is built up to plinth level. The GARBHAGRIHA that is filled up to 3/4th would then become the center of activity. In the center of the GARBHAGRIHA the base stone (AADHARASILA) is placed. On this is placed :
- A pot called NIDHIKUMBHA.
- A tortoise and lotus made of stone
- A tortoise and lotus made of silver
- A tortoise and lotus made of gold.
From this spot a copper tube called YOGANALA leads up to the plinth. A stone slab called BRAHMASILA is then placed over it and later on the image of the deity is consecrated.
During the construction of the temple a rite called ANKURARPANA is performed in three stages. This is the rite of the ‘seed and its germination’. The first rite is performed at the commencement of the construction and is intended to ward of obstacles.
It is also performed before the last brick is placed and is called MURDESTAKAA and finally at the time of installing the deity. The last process mentioned here is the ‘opening the eye’ of the deity and is called ASKIMOCHANA. In this rite seeds of different varieties of rice, sesamum and mustard are placed in sixteen copper vessels before the Lord of germination ‘SOMA’. After its germination it is placed before the deity.
There is also another rite called GARBHANYASA or insemination of the temple site. In this rite a copper casket, which is proportionate to the dimensions of the temple has its 25 squares filled with various articles and is ceremonially lowered into the earth.
All materials that is used for the construction of the temple, whether it is bricks, stone or wood should be new. All tools and implements used are worshipped before the commencement of work and once the temple complex is ready the next important activity is the installation of the main and subsidiary deity.