Thursday, July 30, 2009

In search of the one



To some a temple is merely an edifice in stone, mortar and bricks. A collection of cement loosely arranged to house objects of reverence. To others it is a marvel of sweat, blood and tears shed in copious quantities to appease the deity within. For a demanding deity tall spires stretch out into the sky their shape dictated by social norms of the region and the resident deities religion. Gods seem curiously similar to humans in this regard, some have grandiose structures that seem to pale anything into insignificance next to them. Some temples have exquisite carvings demanding extreme devotion and extracting the skillful dexterity of the sculptor. And then there are those temples seeming to be but simple abodes, a roof and a porch; stark in structure making up for it with millions thronging outside.


Real estate goes by three commandments; location, location and location. Some temple builders of yore seem to have known this all along. Which is why there are temples straddling the rapid and visceral Ganges, those built along the mature Ganges; temples overlooking the placid bovine Ganges and then those looking upon the great river as it disintegrates into muddy silt and meets the sea. There is a beautifully derelict temple in the Kangra valley where nothing seems of grandeur. Then as one bows down before the Goddess, the mighty snow capped peaks of the Himalayas rise and seem to form the very roof of the temple. Some temples have the sea as a fourth wall, yet others lie submerged in caves demanding precarious climbs. And some temples rise magnificently out of nowhere, themselves becoming a beacon of architectural beauty and enriching the surroundings. Spires rise out of green paddy fields, and spires stand among skyscrapers blending into the landscape almost as if God intended them to be there.


Does a temple ask to be reviewed? Or are critics merely supposed to comment upon the more trivial pursuits of mankind? To a devotee a temple is a sum of several parts architecture being but one if at all. The munificence and largesse of the God, the sternness of austerities demanded for worship, the extent of penitence demanded in case of a wrongdoing and the power and veracity of the said God to mete out justice, these theological parameters often decide the position of the temple in the Indian social fabric, irrespective of religion. Art and architecture are therefore incidental, which is not to say we are a society of philistines but that God cannot be bothered with too much art. And then there are temples where art is the sole God, but man needs pray at the altar of his needs than his appreciation for mere structures.


Every temple has an ambiance factored by aspects within and without. It is these that make every temple unique. Some are places of refuge, some places of fervent prayer. Some ask for open mouthed adoration and some are inconspicuous to the extent of being one with their surroundings. The temple is an innate part of the Indian geography imbuing its many hues to the landscape.


13 comments:

kusublakki said...

1.I personally have a liking for old, unheard of, and ragged temples that nobody visits. I dont enjoy the commercial ones, with Tirupathi bein my least favorite!

2. Coming from a family of quite a few atheists, I have learned to observe the architectural beauty in every temple. Some frown at me when I close my eyes in front of an idol saying 'its a waste of time! Use your time and money in staring at the idol, the jewellery that goes on the idol, the mantapam and everything else!'

3. Apparently the temple in Murudeshwar is one of its kinds. My mom was raving about how the temple has a river on one side and the sea on the other side! Check it out when you can :)

4.Loved the description of the temples overlooking the Ganges.In your words -- brilliant :D

chocoliciousgal said...

I agree with kusublakki here. Even I tend to enjoy the more rustic temples, were fewer people vist
( There are many such temples in Kerala....in the gramams for e.g. Exquisite sclupture, less crowded and they light 'diyas' not artificial lights...I think it looks beautiful)

Some temples I guess fill u with inner peace. I guess 'm religious as in I believe in god, I dont believe its necessary to go to a temple to pray...but I enjoy going to the less crowded ones more...for the aforementioned peaceful feeling.

On the other hand...bala do u sleep with a dictionary next to u :P...This post is very very descriptive ( allowed me to picture what u were writing to an extent...a=h btw I thnk I have visited the kangra valley wala temple ) and well written :) :)

swatimala said...

brilliant...

though i like the funny ones more

Madhuri said...

Your thoughts are very well articulated. Normally, such articles would be what i would skip, but this held my attention long enough to finish reading it. I enjoyed it as well. However, I like admiring mosques more. They invoke feelings similar to what you have described in you post.

maxdavinci said...

kya baat hain.

I love the sri kalahasti temple for its beauty in stone, cool and calm.

it's cousin temple a few kilometers away is a commercial complex!

Karthikk said...

loved the way you ended it... very difficult to write on, well limited

Gradwolf said...

Wonderful. Have you been to Chidambaram, Madurai or any small town near Kumbakonam? The temples, along with their architectural splendor, are interesting for their legends.

Nandini Vishwanath said...

I want you to go to Hampi and write about it. Please.

And the lines about temples on Ganges - beautiful, B

foreigndesi said...

Really well written! It brought me back to the MANY temples I visited on my second-to-last trip to India.

Coconut Chutney said...

Check out the navatirupati temples near tirunelveli. They are 9 different temples in a 1 km radius. The uniform architecture in all 9 temples is brilliant. They're like copies of each other, only different :D

You have a way with words, I must say!

varali said...

Lovely.

Exoand and publish?

varali said...

*Expand

foreigndesi said...

Hi, Passed an award your way on my blog :)