Scriptural Basis of Temples

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In Hinduism, human evolution can be understood through four ages. Satya, Treta, Dwapar and Kali Yug. There was no need for temples in Satya Yug. Gods appeared in the Treta Yug, but there were no temples
 -Dr Ujwala Chakradeo

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In the Dwapar era, the idol was worshipped in a secluded place away from the village in the forest. In Kali Yug, however, there was a need for temples. (Reference- The Agma Encyclopedia by S K Ramachandra Rao.) In Kali Yug, a man paid more attention to ‘bhog’ i.e., ‘bhukti’ than ‘mukti’, so man wanted a technique that would provide both bhukti and mukti, and temples were erected.
In Agam Shastra, there is a straightforward building temple and constructing a temple, which is called Vastu Shastra. Tantra in the English language means technique. The architecture of the temple is closely related to the human body. The basic principle of Vastushastra is that whatever the path is of Nirgun or Sagun Bhakti, the human mentality and its attitude are intertwined in the temple structures, and the temple facilitates the path of human self-development.
यत् पिंडी तत् ब्रम्हांडी अन् यत् ब्रम्हांडी तत् पिंडीण्
The human body and the universe are built on the same principle. The human body is a part of the Panchamahabhutas who have occupied this entire universe. Every object and thing on this earth is the existence of these five great beings. This seems to be the best definition of ecology and sustainability.
भूमी रापो नलो वायुरू खं मनो बुद्धिरेव च
अहंकार इतीयं मे भिन्ना प्रकृतिरष्टधा ।।४।।
Earth, water, fire, air, sky, mind, intellect and ego are considered the eight forces of nature. Along with the Panchmahabhutas, the human mind, intellect and ego are also given equal importance. This verse shows that human participation or intervention in the ‘environment’ is of importance. The seeds of ‘Vastu Shastra’ have been sown here. Principles of form and structure of the temple have been given a lot of importance by the architects- Vastu Shastradnya of ancient Bharat because the temple is the abode of God. Vastu Purush Mandala simplifies these principles for execution. The precise relation between Vastu Purush Mandal and the human body and its contribution to temple design is slightly complex, yet utmost necessary to appreciate temples. It is necessary to understand the six chakras (energy centres) in the human body and their study. The sixth chapter of the Gita describes these six chakras.
The Photo above gives some idea about the relationship between temple parts and the human body. Entrance towards feet, mandap and antaral near stomach and chest, garbha griha in the head and place of the idol is precisely at the midpoint of eyebrows. Even though these are the general norms, there are variations as per the geographic locations and site requirements and the particular need of that specific time. These norms also vary as per deity of that particular temple. The art and science of temple construction were never stagnant. It has evolved over a period of thousands of years. That is the reason why we witness the construction of marvellous temples all over Bharat.
(The columnist is Principal of SMM College of Architecture, Nagpur and specialises in Bharatiya Architectural Heritage)