India is a country with various religions being followed and practised, and each one of them brings with it unique style of architecture in the places of worship. These unique styles are governed by a lot of factors namely geographical locations, climate, ethnicity and historical and linguistic diversities. Apart from these factors, various other factors play an essential role in designing temples and giving them a unique touch. Some elements are discussed below.
- Design: Hindu ideology believes that everything is united and every aspect is related. There are four essential principles that form the core of human life. They are, the quest for;
- Artha: This relates to wealth and prosperity
- Kama: This refers to sex and pleasure
- Dharma: This relates to morality and virtue, and
- Moksha: This relates to self-realisation knowledge
These four principles are illustrated and duly revered in the designs of the Indian temples be it in the delicate carvings on the pillars and statues or in the mathematically structured spaces. The hollow spaces at the centre of temples have as much a more profound meaning as one below or on the side of the deity.
- Site: Most of the Hindu temples are in the lap of nature, close to a water body. The best site for a ‘Mandir’ is considered to be one which has flowers blooming around it, birds chirping on the trees in its vicinity and where animals have no fear. The place has only calmness around it. Temples were also suggested to have been built on the inside of the caves and carved out stones, on top of hills which offered serene and breathtaking views, within forests or hermitages, next to gardens or at the top end of lanes or roads of the area.
- Overall Layout: The typical interior layout of a Hindu temple pursue geometrical shapes and designs known as Vastu purusha. These are considered the three most important aspects of a design. It is symmetrical, concentric and is taken from basic traditions, myths, fundamental and mathematical principles and primary convictions. According to Vastu purusha mandala, when the design of a temple has a saffron-based centre it is considered sacred especially when it has intersecting diagonals. The temple’s axis is built with the aid of the four cardinal directions, thus creating a perfect square around the middle axis. The square is enclosed by the mandala and is split into accurate grids which are revered. Also, the ring is comparable to something seen in your daily lives like the sun, water droplets, the moon, horizon or a rainbow. Both shapes complement each other. This is how an 8*8 grid temple is. The enormous 81-grid temple is reserved for ceremonial temples and has a more complex layout. Hindu temple layout manuals have plans for grids to have the squares in the numbers 1, 4, 9, 16 and going up to 1024, with each grid signifying a particular purpose. Though this is a standard layout of temples, some temples have deviated from this ritual leading to artistic creativity and flexibility.