The Experience of the Temple
When the worshiper enters the temple, they are passing through a doorway where the world is left behind. By entering the building, they are becoming a part of the energy field that is the temple (Kumar). As the field enclosures and pavilions are symbolic of the phases of the journey that man must pass through to attain enlightenment (Kumar). As the worshiper enters the space, they symbolically begin a journey that will lead them to the center of the universe, and ultimately to the physical center of the temple. As one passes through the gate of the temple, they are greeted by a multitude of figures on the outer walls. These first images represent the material world (Kumar).
As one works to the center of the temple, the figures become mythical. This stage is meant to take the worshiper from the material world and into the meditative state, similar to what is achieved in yoga (Kumar). The light moves from lightened halls to darker passages, representing night and the sleep state (Kumar). When the devotee enters the inner shrine, all boundaries to the material world are said to be stripped away.
The Hindu temple is one of the most ornate buildings and consists of architecturally complex detail that is almost overwhelming. The detail is of such scale that it is difficult to comprehend. This adds to the feeling of grandeur and helps the worshiper to achieve the desired mental state. The sanctorum is known as the garba-griha (womb house), the place from which all matter comes (Kumar). The garba-griha is circled by a path, where the devotee walks in a counterclockwise direction, representing encircling the universe (Kumar).
A the worshiper approaches the temple, the most striking feature is the tall structure, that shoots skyward, seeming to tough the sky. This element is known as the Shikhara, which marks the location of the shrine room. It represents a mountain reaching skyward (Kumar). It is believed that Gods live in mountains, so this structure makes an appropriate location for the inner sanctorum. The spires of the structure are carved with gods residing on their slopes. Once again the detail of the structure is too much to comprehend for the worshiper, therefore, it helps to induce the feeling of being in another world.
The Shikhara also symbolizes the individuals rise to through the levels of enlightenment (Kumar).
According to the Hindu religion, man was once a divine being himself, but through certain acts, lost his divinity. The Temple is a place where man can regain a little of the divinity that he lost along the way. To the western eye, the temple appears to be grandiose and materialistic. The high degree of ornamentation appears to be in excess, hardly worthy of the spiritual meaning inherent in the design. However, in order to appreciate the ornamentation and experience of the temple, for the spiritual space that it is, one must attempt to view it in reference to the meaning behind the various elements. Only when one can do this, can they understand the experience that the temple offers to those who enter.
Vedic astrology and symbolism form the central theme of the temple (Sriselvamsiddhar).
Without this influence, it is believed that the worshippers will not be able to have the divine experience that they desire. The elaborate processes that are involved in the construction of the temple have been a part of Vedic tradition that are so ancient that no one really knows where they originated. They have been passed down through the epics, such as the Matsya Purana, Skanda Purana, and the Vishnu Purana (Sriselvamsiddhar). The ritual and construction of the temple is an integral part of Vedic tradition and philosophy. The various parts of the temple are laid out with geometric precision. The measurements must be precise. It is believed that if the measurements are not precise, then the occupants will experience negative affects (Sriselvamsiddhar).
Kumar, N. The Hindu Temple – Where Man Becomes God” May 2003. Exotic Indian Art. http://www.exoticindiaart.com/article/hindutemple / (Accessed November 5, 2008).
Kumar, P., Rao, P., & Parthasarathy, R. A Synthesis of Styles Spanning Over Thousand Years. SSVT. http://www.ssvt.org/about/Architecture1.asp (Accessed November 5, 2008).
Sriselvamsiddhar. October 5, 2008. Http://Sriselvamsiddhar.Blogetery.Com / (Accessed November 5, 2008).
Sunnyvale Temple. http://www.sunnyvaletemple.org/index.htm (Accessed November 5, 2008).
Scale Floor Plan