Shree Ganesh Sthapatya

 Temple Designer & Contractor                  Bhavesh Sompura & Yash Sompura

History of Temples

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History of Temples

Posted by ganeshsthapaty on April 24, 2014 at 11:40 PM Comments comments (37)

Bhoomi poojan - khanan vidhi Previous | Next

Usually the first ceremony is that of ground breaking, known as Bhoomi Poojan - Khanan Vidhi. This whould be followed some days later by the foundation stone laying ceremony called the Shilanyasvidhi.

The land is first inspected and its soil tested for suitability for the proposed structure. The time of Bhoomi Poojan - Khanan Vidhi is then carefully fixed with the help of astrological and astronomical texts throug learned pundits. Preparations are made, invitations are sent.

The actual ceremony cum ritual involves the paying of homage to the land and after prayers asking the land for permission to disturb its natural state for construction work. Such is the reverence Jainism holds for nature !


It is interesting to know that when a temple is being built, the devotees perform a foundation laying ceremony called Shilaropan with a square slab of stone. The slab has nine squares etched on it, with nine different figures carved in each square which are illustrated in the picture above. The figures are mostly ocean creatures.

The middle square has a tortoise on it, so it is called kurma (tortoise) shila (slab). The temple is constructed upon this slab with the belief that the construction of the temple will be completed without any hindrance and it will be able to face the weather & effect of the time.

The foundations are first dug and within them at a key location usually a primary load bearing pillar, or in the case of a temple the area directly below the garbhagruha and enthroned image, a deeper hole is dug. Again an auspicious time is selected and preparations are made.

The ceremony is specifically designed to remove any evil influences that may permeate the land. The land is purified. Who can guess what atrocities and crimes had been performed on the selected land in the past!

The architect, engineer, builder and others involved in the construction work descend into the foundations and in accompaniment to the chanting of Sacred verses deposit sanctified sacraments in the special hole. A small pot also containing various sacraments is placed in the hole. Holy water is sprinkled over the entire site. As with the khatmuhurt, homage is paid and building permission is asked for. Hewn stones or bricks are then laid in the hole pointing in the eight cardinal directions.

Birds, animals and insects that would be affected by the construction are asked for forgiveness and requesting them to locate the new place! Finally, the architects, engineers and builders are given homage, for it is believed the represent Vishvakarma, the supreme builder-architect of the heaven.

The khatmuhurt and shilanyasvidhi are not practices begun by a primitive mind millennia ago and today faithfully supported by a superstitious mind cloaked with modernity.

The ceremones :

(1) Express clear understanding that the environment to be changed is not the exclusive property of an individual human, but is also the home of various other life forms.

(2) An awareness is created that nature is a complex dynamic ecosystem and man is to live harmoniously with this wonder created by God.

The Principal parts of the temple Previous | Next

Mandapa :

This is the place from where darshan of the consecrated deity in the garbhagruha can be had. It is a pillared hall in front of the doorway of the garbhagruha.

Later on it became the custom to unite the two isolated buildings i.e. the garbhagruha, the abode of the deity and the mandapa, the prayer hall, thus forming an intermediate chamber or vestibule called antarala.

Elegantly carved pillars form an essential part of the mandapa. They are so arranged geometrically that they leave the octagonal area or nave at the centre, and outside this central area they are so spaced that they form pillared aisles. The shafts of the pillars rarely taper, but are divided horizontally into equisitinly decorative zones or drums, the upper being less in diameter than the lower, so that they diminish by stages, to finish in a bracket - capital.

Antarala :

It is a vestibule in the form of an intermediate chamber which usually connects the two isolated parts of the temple i.e. garbhagruha and mandapa. It is also known as korimandapa. Its Shape must not be like a square court but it should be rectangular.

Ardhamandapa :

Leading up to the main hall or mandapa is a porch. It is an open four-pillared pavilion in front of the entrance door of mandapa. If the mandapa has three entrance doors, there shall be three such pavilions, one on each side. In design and carving it resembles the mandapa.

Accessory mandapas :

As the art of temple architecture progressed and temple ritual developed the central mandapa was widened and sometimes also surrounded by other subsidiary mandapas. The shrine having circumambulatory around it gave scope for the enlargement of the mandapa. When a transept on each side of the central mandapa is added, the whole structure is known as mahamandapa.

Mandovara :

Above the basement (pitha) rise the walls to the garbhagruha. The side of the walls is straight in its ground plan and plain in its elevation, though it is occasionally relieved by niches in its middle. The outer side of the wall, technically known as mandovara is usually decorated with various sculptures in the form of panels and figures. The projecting central portion of the well, which is technically known as bhadra, contains niches having plain, ringed-pilasters. In these niches beautiful figures of gods and goddesses are set. The other recesses adjoining the bhadra, similarly contain dancing sculptures, figures of celestial nymphs, gods and semi-gods with their attendants, chowri-bearers, musicienas etc.

Garbhagruha door :

The door frame of the garbhagruha comprises the two vertical jambs supporting the lintel containing a central dedicatory block. The lower horizontal step is known as the threshold. It rests mostly in the centre of the front garbha wall to a small height from ground level.

The jambs are carved into vertical sections or mouldings, some projecting and other recessed. The fascial thus formed may be 3,5,7 or 9 in number. They are usually decorated with a creeper and leaves, or with a repeating lozengeshaped ornament, or a square and a circle, or with dancing figures etc. The lower member threshold may be lavishly decorated. The lintel may contain various panels of gods and goddesses or may be ornamented with various designs.

The width of the jamb should be 1/4 of its height, the same applies to that of the threshold, the thickness of the jamb should be 1/4 of its width.

The height again should be such as the image enshrined in the sanctum may be viewed even from a distance. So the height of the image along with its pedestal should be made equal to that of the opening less by 1/8. This fixed proportion of the height of the image with that of the door and of the door with that of the temple enables us to guess the dimention of one from that of the other.

The door threshold, at times, projects outward, in that case it contains a semi-circular drum like moulding in the centre, and on each side of it there is a projecting kirtimukha face. The space between the projecting threshold and the ground floor of the antarala to mandapa as the case may be, is filled with an elaborately carved slab. On the centre of the lintel is a small projecting block on which is carved the deity to whom the temple is dedicatedc, a figure of his consort, a vehicle or another sacred emblem.

Approaching the image in the garbhagruha it appears framed by the door which leads to this inner most sanctuary. With the wings of the wooden door opened, during puja, the image is seen by the devotee in the middle of the door; the frame of the door is also that of the image. The image in the garbhagruha is raised on a special platform.

The meaning of door and image is closely connected. The Divinity to whom the temple is dedicated has His symbol or image in the garbhagruha; His image, as a rule, is also carved, on a small scale, on the centre of the lintel, He presides over the entrance and His gate-keepers (dvara-pala) are stationed below, to the right and left, at the doorjambs. These guardians of the threshold flank the gods and symbols of the entrance.

In one aspect, the door is regarded as God through whom man enters into the presence of the Supreme Principle whose image or symbol has been enshrined in the garbhagruha. To be able to enter into the Supreme Presence, man has to undergo a transmutation, for only when he has acquired a divine body himself is he qualified to pass the company of the gods and confront the Supreme Presence.

Garbhagruha : The sacred throne-room of the temple. Previous | Next

The most important single element in the entire temple structure-cum-complex is the grabhagruha. Mysterious and mystical, this inner holy of holies, the sanctum sanctorum, is the divinenucleus. Because it is here that the image or symbol of the Divine is enshrined. And it is for the worship of that which is enshrined that the devotee visits the temple.

Far from being the expected highly decorative majestic court, the grabhagruha is small, dark and ordinary. In its interior it has four plain walls. They are massive and their continuity is broken only by the entrance in the front wall, through which the devotee has darshan.

There is no inlet for a natural source of light. If the door is closed, the interior is shrouded in complete darkness, save for the obligatory divo. In the larger temples, where one or several halls precede the sanctuary, the image is but faintly lit by the light of day as it reaches it across the hall. In such conditions the dim light is just sufficient to set off the image against the darkness of its chamber.

Sometime the grabhagruha is based on a square and thus it may also be called a temple.

A Chamber of Spiritual Experience

The grabhagruha in literal translation says, ''house or womb which contains the embryo,'' the source of life. ''Thus it also refers to the worshipper who comes to the Divine and attains his new birth in its darkness.

The Supreme Being - God, is infinite and beyond all limits. The world in which we live, and ourselves, is indefinite in extent and open to question and uncertainty. And so when constructing a medium through which the one who is infinite and beyond all limits is to be approached, care has to be taken. The grabhagruha is thus a sanctuary from which outside influences are cut off by thick walls and narrow doors. The interior is kept secret. Its sacredness is protected from the destructive agents of time and accidents. This is the place towards which the devotee proceeds where worship is offered.

While approaching the grabhagruha through the halls in front of it, the devotee is enclosed within the sacred architecture. Surrounding him are intricately designed pillars, domes and arches. Wherever his eyes may fall, he finds the holy images and symbols. The atmosphere is soothing, the light is dim. The scent of flowers, burning lamps and incense pervade the air. The devotee is being prepared for his encounter with the Lord. This is no ordinary building!

The mind becomes quiet, losing though with the material world beyond the confines of the temple. The senses; eyes, ears, nose, tongue skin and the whole body experience only that which is related to the Lord. The carvings cease at the door of the grabhagruha. Here they confornt the devotee for the last time as he approaches the innermost sanctuary. He himself, is not allowed to step inside the grabhagruha.

The dimness of the grabhagruha, illuminated only by an lamp or divo (modernity has replaced these as illuminators) is in stark contrast to the bright light outside in the open. The darkness makes it difficult to view the image as a whole, and thus the devotee is forced to concentrate all his energies to the task, resulting in a greater concentration on the Lord.

The relaxing atmosphere engulfed by the sacred architecture also encourages meditation. The shadows coax the devotee to sit cross-legged and lose himself in thoughts of his Lord. His heart centres on the Lord, his mind becomes silent. He may sit thus for several minutes or several hours, emerging into the material world of family, job and ambition filled with a spiritual experience that increases his longing for a permanent-continual experience magnified manifold.

Apart from the spiritual reasons for the design and placement of the grabhagruha, the sages and temple builders of the past were practical. Images and symbols were often made of wood, stone or clay. They had to be protected from the changing seasons and climates or one would soon have a majestic temple housing a damaged image!

Pradakshina : Circumambulating the Image Previous | Next

The approach to the garbhagruha and the circumambulatory passage Outward radiation of energy from thecentre of the garbhagruha

The most significant aspect of deveotional dynamism in templetradition is the circumambulation (Pradakshina) which proceeds in a clockwise direction around a sacred person, image or object and even around the temple itself. This circumambulation is a rite constituting a bodily participation in movements and prayer. Most temples are furnished with ambulatory passageways. Circumambulation takes the worshipper from the doorway of the sanctuary, housing the image of the Deity, around the sanctuary in a clockwise direction where further icons introduce other aspects of the divine.

The centre of the sanctuary functions as the focus of other dynamic which are realized through a process of symbolic association. To begin with there is the radiation of energy outwards from the centre of the sanctuary in four directions. The sacredness of the image in the sanctum of the temple expresses itself as a powerful force whose influence expands outwards; hence the potency of sacred images that are aligned with these forces, especially those positioned in the centres of the north, west and south sanctuary walls. These secondary images are often given prominence by being set within projecting and elaborately decorated niches. As a further extension of the idea of these lines of energy providing potency, images are placed at the four corners as well as at the centres of the sanctuary walls. A connection with the guardian deities of the eight directions of the universe is sometimes realized in temple architecture with the positioning of the eight gods around the temple.

The rite of circumambulation is more a communion by movement with the images stationed on the walls than a visual recognition of their identity and the perfection of their workmanship. Where no special passage for circumambulation has been provided, circumambulation of the entire temple is performed. Viewed from the outside, the temple structure with its multi-butterssed walls, images, multiple shikhar's etc. is humbling and are inspiring, helping communion with the Lord.

Ghummata Previous | Next

The base, otherwise, known as adhisthana or pitha, here includes also the most lower parts of the temple known as jagati. The jagati and pitha together serve the pupose of a platform on which the walls of the garbhagruha rest. The basement (i.e. pitha ), the upper surface of which levels the floor of the interior, is carved with a series of horizontal mouldings like rows of grinning faces (grasamukhs or kirtimukhas), - processions of hourses, elephants or men, besides some form of semi-circular cushion mouldings ornamented with jewel motives or geometrical diamond reliefs. In the case of a shrine provided with a pradakshina passage, the most lavishly decorated side is that of the other wall.


The word shikhara is used to denote the whole superstructure including the crown (amalaka) and the finial (kalasha). In respect to the structural development of the shikhara style in India the two principal varieties (i) the pyramidal shape and (ii) the curvilinear shape are prominent. Both the superstructures have truncated bodies, which are either straight or curved, and are terminated by a platform (the neck, skandha) and above it rests the crowning portion whence rises the finial.

The shikhara is composed of an orderly grouping of miniature multiples of itself. In its simpliest form a miniature spire, the oorushringa, is built over each bhadra, the whole being crowned and held together by the amalaka.

The Kalasha Previous | Next

This crowning glory of a temple symbolises man's eternal quest for immortality

No temple is complete without the kalasha. The amalaka crowns the shikhara. Above the amalaka is the stupika the kalasha...

The kalasha is important in more ways than one. When placed aloft the shikhara complex, Various rituals are performed. The ceremony is enthusiastically participated in by lay devotees. The kalasha is symbolic of the immortalising nectar filled kalasha that was churned up out of the ocean with 13 other treasures by the gods and demons. Even a drop of nectar drunk would guarantee immortal life - victory over death.

During the early stages of temple building the kalasha was usually of stone. As the science of temple building progressed, kalashas of copper were introduced followed by those of brass and gilt gold. Just as the kalasha placed in the depths of the foundation directly below the garbhagruha is filled with nine sacraments, the kalasha atop the amalaka is likewise divinised. The sacraments symbolise progress, expansion and wealth.

The kalasha is not attached to the shikhara permanently with cements or other adhesives. Instead a protruding pipe embedded in the amalaka runs vertically through the kalasha to hold it in place.

Between the kalasha beneath the garbhagruha, the murti in the garbhagruha and the kalasha atop the amalaka is created an invisible stream of divine energy. The centre of the energy stream is the garbhagruha. The kalasha becomes a sacred antennae, capturing energy streams from the living spiritual world which are channeled down through the shikhara where they are caught in the garbhagruha - the fountainhead of all energy.

Its most conspicuous part is the round body of the jar. The golden kalasha, a 'high seat', on the summit of the god's dwelling looks as if it were the sun's orb that had arisen on the lordly mountain of sunrise. The kalasha is likened to the sun and the temple is ''the mountain where the sun rests at midday. Meru, the support of the sun, and ''the one sun that never leaves the Meru''

Scriptures teach that when a human dies or is born the soul leaves and enters the body through the brahmarandhra. This ingress in located on the head. If the garbhagruha is imagined as a head, then the slab that closes its ceiling is the brahmarandhra sheela (stone). It is accempted that during the image installation ceremony, the Lord enteres the grabhagruha and thence the image through the brahmarandhra sheela.

When the kalasha is installed, along with it an 'invisible' Suvarnapurusha (golden man) is also installed. The treaties Aparajitapariprucha and Deeparnava extensively explain the purpose of this Suvarnapurusha, who represents the existence of the entire temple. Many curves of the kalasha give a false impression of being one single vessel. In fect, the kalasha is a systematic succession of various parts placed one on another. Thus we have as base the padgrahi, then in turn the andak, griva, padmapattika, karnika and the bijpur. In the complete combination of these parts we see as a whole the ghant (bell), pushpankhadi (flower petals, deep (lamp) shrifal (coconut) - all symbols of the mythological spiritual world, being used extensively in various rituals.