Vishnudharmottara Purana (Art and Architecture)

by Bhagyashree Sarma | 2021 | 59,457 words

This page relates ‘Necessity of Temple Building’ of the study on the elements of Art and Architecture according to the Vishnudharmottara Purana: an ancient text whose third book deals with various artisan themes such as Architecture, Painting, Dance, Grammar, etc. Many chapters are devoted to Hindu Temple architecture and the iconography of Deities and their installation rites and ceremonies.

2. Necessity of Temple Building

In the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, devatāpūjana i.e., the worship of god is highly recommended to attain the supreme happiness and the book suggests two ways of worship in this context-one is antarvedi and another is bahirvedi.[1] The sacrifices undertaken for worshiping a deity were associated with the procedure called antarvedi and other procedures like upavāsa, vrata etc. were recognized as the procedure of bahirvedi type of worship.[2] Both these procedures of worship are seen to be practised in Hinduism. These procedures may be at the bottom of the idea of temple building. Moreover, According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, temple building is regarded as a sacred work.[3] The Bṛhatsaṃhitā also agrees on it and says that-one, who wishes to attain desirable things in this world, should construct a temple.[4]

The reference of image worship is almost nill in the Vedic age and there was not the presence of temples like present day society. In the Vedic age, people practised to connect themselves with gods through the yajñas i.e sacrificial rites by chanting the Vedic mantras or practicing penance. In the Vedic era, Agni is considered as the mediator between the deities and the devotees or sages.[5]

In the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa it is clearly stated that the requirement of making of temple is most important in the Kaliyuga. Because, in the three other yugas i.e.,, Kṛta, Tretā and Dvāpara; people could realize the existence of Gods and had tried directly to connect themselves with the supreme spirit.[6] But in the Kaliyuga it is totally impossible due to the growth of unlawful activities in the society.

In the Bhāgavatapurāṇa, it is said that after Dvāparayuga, on the very day when lord Kṛṣṇa left the earth, Kali, who is the source of irreligiousness had entered in this world.[7] Thus, people of Kaliyuga have lost their power to communicate with God directly through prayers and chanting mantras. And that is why, specially in the Kaliyuga, the necessity of the temple building is suggested in the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa.[8]

Footnotes and references:


antarvedi bahirvedi puruṣeṇa vijānatā/ devatāpūjanaṃ kāryaṃ lokadvayamabhīpsatā// Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.1.2


yajñeṣu devayajanamantarvedi prakīrtitaṃ/ bahirvedi tathaivoktamupavāsavratādikaṃ// Ibid., 3.1.3


prāsādakaraṇaṃ puṇyaṃ/ Ibid.,3.1.10


iṣṭāpūrttena labhyante ye lokāstān bubhūṣatā/
devānāmālayaḥ kāryo dvayamapyatra dṛśyate/ Bṛhatsaṃhitā, 56.2


agniḥ pūrvebhirṛṣibhirīḍyo… devā eha vakṣati/ Ṛgveda, 1.1.2


kṛtatretādvāpareṣu narāḥ paśyanti devatāṃ/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.1.5


yasminnahani yarhyeva bhagavānutsasarja gām/ tadaivehānuvṛtto’sāvadharmaprabhavaḥ kaliḥ// Bhāgavatapurāṇa, 1.18.6


viśeṣeṇa kalou kāle kartavyaṃ devatāgṛhaṃ/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.1.4

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