Vastu-shastra (5): Temple Architecture

by D. N. Shukla | 1960 | 69,139 words | ISBN-10: 8121506115 | ISBN-13: 9788121506113

This page describes Layanas, Guhadharas and Guharajas of the study on Vastu-Shastra (Indian architecture) fifth part (Temple architecture). This part deals with This book deals with an outline history of Hindu Temple (the place of worship). It furtherr details on various religious buildings in India such as: shrines, temples, chapels, monasteries, pavilions, mandapas, jagatis, prakaras etc. etc.

We have already seen that one of the types of Prāsādas as described in the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra is the Layana or Guhārāja or Guhādhara. We have also seen—vide Origin of Temple-Architecture, that one of the most remarkable motifs of this origin was the mountain and its caves. Cave-dwelling has been a recognised institution for meditation and communion with God in India for times immemorial. Mountains arc said to be the abodes of gods. In the celestial geography of India, mountain Meru is the abode of gods in general, and Mount Kailāśa, the abode of the Lord Siva in particular. It is on this fascinating background of our mythology and implied sagacity of the searchers after truth—and the truth in this particular context being the divine communion—Deva-milana, that a separation from whom (i.e. the gods) was effected in Tretā-yuga due to the haughtiness and misdemeanour of the mortals—vide ‘Sahadevādhikāra’ the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra Chapter VI, that the abodes of denizens, the temples were conceived, planned and executed on the models of mountains.

This however is a history of the most developed motif of temple-architecture. What were the beginnings, the humble beginnings in this direction? The answer to this may be sought in the early caves like Lomaśa Ṛṣi, Khandagiri, Udaigiri, Hathigumpha, Bhaja, Kondane, Karli, Ajanta, Ellora and Mamallapura [Mamallapuram] groups etc., which to all intents and purposes were not only primitive shrines and abodes of worship but also the replicas of cave-dwelling, a very hoary institution of India. The forests and mountains both have been popular for such abodes and such dedicated devotion. The rise of hermitages in secluded corners of the forests and the caverns in the mountains are a testimony to testify to this ancient Hindu ideal of meditation (which also included the search after Truth—cf. the evolution of the Āraṇyakas and Upaniṣads from the womb of the forest). Life of a foresteer—vide Vāṇaprasthāśrama, was a recognised and equally important mode of living in ancient India. It was one of the fourfold Āśramas, or the stages of life. Naturally any origin for worship and places of worship must have been motivated from the forests and mountains. These aforesaid places, our reputed archaeological sites are all in the midst of forests and also in the lap of the mountains. I therefore, take these caves to be the earliest representations of temples and temple architecture and illustrating fittingly our Vāstuśāstra temple-types or the Prāsāda-jātis of Layana, Guhādhara and Guhārāja Prāsādas or Vimānas.

All these three names illustrate also the gradual evolution of this type. The primitive cave-shrines at places like Khandagiri, Udaigiri etc. are illustrative of the Layana-Prāsādas, the caves of Ajanta may be taken to illustrate the Guhādhara Prāsādas and the cave-temples of Ellora and Mammalapura [Mammalapuram] being the finest specimens of rock-cut-architecture illustrate the zenith of this type, the Guhārāja, like the Prāsādarāja Meru which illustrates the finest and the grandest representation of Śikharottama Prāsādas taking their motifs from the Mountains, the specimens of which will be taken up in due course in this study. With this general introduction let us take these monuments one by one.

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