Vastu-shastra (5): Temple Architecture

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

This page describes Layanas—Early Mauryan Specimens 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.

Kondane of the first century, B.C. cut out of the cliff-face consisted of a chaitya hall or temple and its attached monasteries represent the two characteristic types of structure, one arched over by means of a barrel-vault roof and the other having a flat roof. The seven rock-cut sanctuaries in the hills about nineteen miles north of Gaya—four on the Barbar hills and three on the Nagarjuni hill in addition to one more example called the Sitamarhi situated some thirteen miles south of Rajgriha and twenty five miles east of Gaya may be said to illustrate the first monuments representing the Layana types of early Prāsāda-shrines. Among the Barbar groups the two most notable examples are the Lomaśa Ṛṣi (Lomasha Rishi) and the Sudama. They are not only the earliest examples of rock-cut method symbolizing the Layana, the retreat but also they represent the early model of Śālā-architecture, the wood and thatch which, as already remarked, was the rise of first house, the Śaraṇa [Śaraṇam] or Nīḍa [Nīḍam] on earth either to house human beings or to dwell the divine. In the Nagarjuni group of sanctuaries notably in Gopi or milk-maid cave, we find the temple-architecture in making. The abundant application of pillars and motifs of the capitals arc reminiscent of the later genesis of the Śikhara or the spires or more characteristically, to put in the Vāstuśāstra terminology, the Aṇḍas of the later temples and the Āmalaka or the Amalaśilā of the finial in the later growth of the temple-superstructure. All these eight early Layanas, found in Barbar Hills (Karna-Kaupar, Sudama, Lomas Rishi and Visvajhopari), Nagarjuni group (Gopika Vahijaka and Vadalhika) and Sitāmarhī are our earliest types of Layana-Prāsādas.

The V.D. (III. XGIII 27, 28) like the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra also supports that the caves arc the places where the denizens of the heaven are present. Naturally the man in his quest for re-union with the gods, his higher selves, makes an operation consummate with the high mission of god lines for cutting the living rocks to make them for this communion, Vāstuśāstra (Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra LIX—238) designates these secret (Guhā) places as Layana.

Dr. Kramrisch also supports this conclusion—vide her observation in H.T. p. 114-15:,

“These, (i.e. caves) in their transformation by art, are stations of a return to nature symbolic of man’s return to his original state and higher self. The devotee enters them as places of release equal to the structural temples with their transubstantiated walls. The cutting and entry into the living rock would thus re-instate man in that integrity from which he had departed and fallen since the Kṛta-yuga the perfect age, when he lived in the hills at peace with himself”.

Now a word may be added in regard to the discrepancy as may be noted from the lakṣaṇas as given in the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra (LIX. 236-37) according to which, Layana (place of rest) is undoubtedly the name for rock-cut temples and which have no Śreṇī, which means no superstructure with its cluster groups in similar shape; they are without buttresses (niryūhaka) while a circumambulatory (bhrama) and window (gavākṣa) should be carved on the rock in imitation of structural temples. This lakṣaṇa epitomizes the development to which the early sanctuaries, as referred to above, had undergone. Further the Layana is also equipped with stairs, a gateway, (pratolī), roll cornice (viṭaṅka—kapotapālikā) on the facade and doors. This description according to the learned authoress of Hindu Temple refers only to cave-temples such as those in Badami.

The cave-temples, in the earlier example (3rd century B.C.—6th century A.D.) are interiors only, having a facade (which quite fits in with the eight examples cited alove); to these types were added (Mamallapura [Mamallapuram], Ellura, Kalugumalai—which to my mind represent not Layanas but Guhārājas as we shall presently see) complete replicas of structural temples hewn out of the rock in their exterior and excavated within (Kailash Nath Temple and Indra-sabhā in Ellura). She observes:

“Although the last named temples are, one Hindu, the other Jain, the majority of the rock cut temples and sacred abodes are Buddhist. Out of a total of 1200 rock-cut temples 900 are Buddhist, 200 are Jain and 100 arc Hindu. Some of the sanctuaries in Ellura (Daśāvatāra, etc.) and the Śiva temple in Elephanta are, though posterior to the sixth century, interior excavations only with a facade.”

“The square, dark, small Garbhagṛha, is not transferred from the cave temple to the structural temple. The flat roofed ‘Gupta’ temple is neither derived from Brahmanical excavated sanctuaries contemporary with it (Udayagiri in Bhopal, etc.), nor from earlier excavated cells with a flat ceiling; the early rock cut sanctuaries have domed or vaulted interiors, where as cells and halls in the rock cut monasteries have a straight ceiling. There is no scope for a flat roof in rock-cut temples, the Caitya hall prior to the Gupta age; it belongs to the flat roofed porch only of the sanctuary proper. The flat roof of the rock cut Kailasanatha Temple in Ellura of the eight century is in imitation of a structural temple of that age. Any shape can be cut into the rock, no structural form is born there.”

Vāstuśāstras (cf. the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra LIX) have codified the the individual dedications of the respective temples (Prāsāda-stavanam) to the principal gods. Layanas in that context are the common abodes of the gods in general which also fits in withits un-sophisticated evolution.

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