Hindu Temple; 4 Definition(s)


Hindu Temple means something in Hinduism, Sanskrit, the history of ancient India. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Vastushastra (architecture)

Hindu Temple in Vastushastra glossary... « previous · [H] · next »

The Hindu temple is a micro-model of a macro-cosmos. The architectural design of the temple with the ground and the elevation plan replicates the form of puruṣa, the cosmic man. The principal elements in the construction of the Hindu temple comprise (i) the square cell named garbhagṛha, also known as the nucleus, the germ cell, the womb, or the house of image; (ii) the interchamber connecting the garbhagṛha and the body of the temple; and (iii) the pyramidal spire or roof. The basic elements in the temples and the worship in them derived mostly from Vedic and Purāṇic sources, and, in the course of centuries, they assumed different styles and patterns during their diffusion over wide areas.

The temple is regarded as the body of god in his cosmic form, with the various worlds located on different parts of his body. The bhūloka (earth) forms the feet of God, the satyaloka (the abode of Brahmā) forms His head, with the other lokas (bhuvarloka, janaloka, svarloka, maharloka, tapoloka) forming appropriate parts of his body. With respect to the temple, the ground represents the janaloka/bhūloka (earth), the base slab represents the bhuvarloka (underworld), the pillars and the entablature represent the svarloka (sky), the superstructure over the garbhagṛha represents the maharloka (abode of celestial beings), the top knot or finial represents the tapoloka (the abode of the Ṛṣis).

Source: Shodhganga: The significance of the mūla-beras (vastu)
Vastushastra book cover
context information

Vastushastra (वास्तुशास्त्र, vāstuśāstra) refers to the ancient Indian science (shastra) of architecture (vastu), dealing with topics such architecture, sculpture, town-building, fort building and various other constructions. Vastu also deals with the philosophy of the architectural relation with the cosmic universe.

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Shilpashastra (iconography)

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The Hindu temple is called devagṛha in Sanskrit and kōyil in Tamil, which means the house of god. The practice of preparing images of the deities mentioned in the Vedic mantras slowly disappeared by the end of the Vedic Period. The yāgaśālās (places where the sacrificial rites were performed) of the Vedic Period got metamorphosed into temples by the Epic Period owing to the influence of cultic practice. The early temples were built with perishable materials like timber and clay. Later came the cave temples and temples carved out of stone or built with bricks. Heavy stone structures with ornate architecture and sculpture belong to a still later period. The building of a temple has a set pattern with a basic philosophy of the temple, its meaning and significance.

The Hindu temple displays sculptures on the outer surface, the maṇḍapas (the various columned halls) and the prāsāda (a three-storeyed palace, a complete solid mass, on whose multi-buttressed walls the images are displayed), in which the innermost sanctuary or the garbhagṛha is located. The garbhagṛha or the womb cell is a small, dark, cubical chamber even in the largest temples. The divine symbol or the deity, invariably carved out of stone, is installed in the garbhagṛha. The door of this cell usually faces the east. In front of the doorway is the rectangular chamber which is called the antarāla or vestibule. The vestibule is the intermediate chamber between the garbhagṛha and the pillared hall called the maṇḍapa. Entrance to the maṇḍapa is by a porch called the ardha maṇḍapa (the hall leading to the inner sanctum sanctorum).

On the whole, a temple is a structure of figure sculptures. T. A. Gopinath Rao points out the specificities of each temple by saying that each temple is filled with numerous images of gods, goddesses, parivāra-devatas (gods related in a family), devas (attendants to the gods), śālagrāmās (cakra–an ammonite shell), bānaliṅgās (egg-shaped pebbles), yantras (mystic and magical diagrams engraved upon metallic plates), navagrahas (the nine planetary divinities), certain divine animals and birds, certain holy rivers, tanks, trees and sepulchers of saints.

Source: Shodhganga: The significance of the mūla-beras (śilpa)
Shilpashastra book cover
context information

Shilpashastra (शिल्पशास्त्र, śilpaśāstra) represents the ancient Indian science (shastra) of creative arts (shilpa) such as sculpture, iconography and painting. Closely related to Vastushastra (architecture), they often share the same literature.

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General definition (in Hinduism)

Hindu Temple in Hinduism glossary... « previous · [H] · next »

Temples played a significant role in the life of the Tamils and occupied a central place in their lives. They served as places of worship, divine experience, entertainment, aesthetic relish, social togetherness, as well as home for artistes in the fields of sculpture, painting, music, dance and philosophy. A Hindu temple is one of the means to attain mokṣa (release). The Hindu temple is a monument with elaborate sculptures and wide circumnutating passages, with other deities placed around the chief deity.

In ancient days, a group of artists resided in the temple. The architects, the sthapatis (sculptors), the devadāsīs (dancers), the musicians, the pūcārīs (priests), the kavīs (poets), the jewelers, the garland makers, and a large number of attendants were part of the temple and its precincts. Day and night they were engaged in serving god and they experienced divinity in doing so. Each person was an expert in his/her own field. In the presence of the Divine the devotee surrendered his/her ego and professional pride and became a humble servant of god. The temple was a common platform which brought all classes of people–priests as well as menial functionaries in the temple to act in perfect unison.

Source: Shodhganga: The significance of the mūla-beras

India history and geogprahy

Hindu Temple in India history glossary... « previous · [H] · next »

The Hindu temples are intended to show by concrete physical designs the constitution of man both in his higher and lower aspects. The various prakaras stand for the various protective coverings, the deity in the sanctum sanctorum or the innermost sabha or hall of the temple standing for the human spirit.

Source: archive.org: South Indian Festivities
India history book cover
context information

The history of India traces the identification of countries, villages, towns and other regions of India, as well as royal dynasties, rulers, tribes, local festivities and traditions and regional languages. Ancient India enjoyed religious freedom and encourages the path of Dharma, a concept common to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.

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