Brihat Samhita

by N. Chidambaram Iyer | 1884 | 135,584 words | ISBN-13: 9788171104215

This page describes the building of temples (prasada-lakshana) which is the fifty-sixth Chapter of the English translation of the Brihat-samhita. This work, written by Varahamihira in the 6th century, is classified as jyotisha literature, also known as Indian astronomy. It contains however, also content regarding astrology, palmistry, agriculture, gardening, perfumes, medicines and various other encyclopedic topics.

Chapter 56 - On the building of temples (prāsāda-lakṣaṇa)

1. After procuring an abundant supply of water and forming gardens round it. there shall be erected on the spot temples (prāsāda) for Devas for the increase of one’s fame and virtue.

2. The person who desires to go to worlds to which go persons who perform sacrificial fire ceremonies and dig water tanks, shall erect temples for the Devas. He prospers both in this world and in the world above.

3. Places where there are waters and gardens, whether natural or artificial, are dwelt by the Devas.

4-7. The Devas are ever at play in tanks made shady by the leaves of the lotus and white by the water-lilies moved to and fro by the wings of the swan; in tanks rendered agreeable by the music of the swan, the duck, the curlew and the ruddy-goose and by the water animals, resting in the shade of the hijjal growing on the banks; in places where there are rivers adorned by lines of curlew birds serving as a girdle with beads, full of the sweet music of the swans with the watery sheet for robes and with the ilisha fish for belts; in places where there are rivers with blossomed trees on their banks for their head ornaments, with the junction of the streams as their loins, the sandbanks as their breasts and with the counding swans as their ankle beads.

8. They rejoice always in gardens, streams, hills, places through which pass mountain currents and in the canals of flower gardens.

9. Places which have been described as suitable for the erection of houses for the Brāhmaṇas and others are also suitable for the erection of temples.

10. In the case of temples (prāsāda), the site shall always be divided into 64 squares and the entrance shall be in the middle of the wall and the walls shall be due east and west and due north and south.

11. The height of the temple shall be twice its breadth and its kaṭi shall be a third of its height.

12. The Garhhagraha or the inner apartment shall be half as broad as the breadth of the temple and walls shall be raised all round. The breadth of the entrance to the garbhagraha shall be a fourth of the breadth of the room and its height shall be twice the breadth.

13. The breadth of the two vertical side frames as well as of the two horizontal frames above and below shall be a fourth of the height of the entrance, and the thickness of the vertical frames shall be a fourth of the breadth of the entrance.

14. The number of vertical frames of the door of the entrance may be 3, 5, 7 or 9, two small openings shall be made at one-fourth of the height of the door from below.

15. The other parts shall be adorned with the figures of birds, trees and pots, and with male and female figures as well as those of leaves, creepers and of the fiends attending on Śiva.

16. The height of the image of the Deva with its pedestal shall be 7/8th of the height of the entrance. The image shall be double the height of the pedestal.

17-18. Twenty different sorts of temples (prāsāda) are referred to by writers. These are—Meru, Mandara, Kailāsa, Vimānacchanda, Nandana, Samudga, Padma, Garuḍa, Nandivardhana, Kuñjara, Guharāja, Vṛṣa, Haṃsa, Sarvatobhadra, Ghaṭa, Siṃha, Vṛtta, Catuṣkoṇa, Ṣoḍaśaśri and Aṣṭāśri.

19. I shall now proceed to describe each of the twenty sorts of temples.

20. The building known as Meru consists of six sides, twelve storeys with numerous caves and with four entrance and shall be thirty-two cubits long.

21. The building known as Mandara is thirty cubits broad and consists of ten storeys with pinnacles. The building known as Kailāsa is twenty cubits long and consists of eight storeys with pinnacles.

22. Vimāna is twenty-one cubits long with windows and air holes. Nandana has six storeys, is thirty-two cubits long and has sixteen Aṇḍas (domes?).

23. Samudga is round; Padma is of the shape of a lotus, 8 cubits long with a single story and pinnacle.

24. Garuḍa is of the shape of an eagle with wings and tail; Nandivardhana is 24 cubits broad with seven storeys and twenty Aṇḍas.

25. Kuñjara is of the shape of the back of the elephant with four sides, each 16 cubits broad. Guharāja is 16 cubits long and has 3 storeys with verandahs.

26. Vṛṣa is 12 cubits broad, round on all sides with a single floor and pinnacle. Haṃsa is of the shape of the swan. Ghaṭa is 8 cubits broad and is of the shape of a pot.

27. Sarvatobhadra has four entrances with numerous pinnacles and with apartments in upper storeys; it consists of 5 storeys and is 26 cubits broad.

28. Siṃha is twelve-sided and 8 cubits broad containing the figure of the lion. The four remaining structures are of black colour; of these four, Caturasra has 5 Aṇḍas.

29. The height of a storey shall be 108. digits and 3½ cubits according to what was stated by Viśvakarmā to Maya.

30. In the opinion of persons learned in the science of temple building, a temple (prāsāda) furnished with pigeon holes is deemed perfect though it might contain defects.

31. In this chapter, I have briefly described all that has been stated by Garga, and my attempt has also been to summarise the wide accounts given by Manu and other Ṛṣis on the subject of Temple Architecture.