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Temple Architecture
Evolution of Indian Temple

Early texts mention that when Temple were first built, they served only a temporary purpose. In contrast to the huge magnificent edifices seen today, Temple in those times may have been to a large extent makeshift structures, erected as part of some festival or special occasion for group worship, to be demolished once their purpose had been served.

Permanent Temple would also, of course, be built to serve towns and villages. To accommodate the influx of devotees during such occasions, a mandapam (hall) was constructed adjacent to the main mandir. These facts are cited in the ancient scriptural text Vishvakarma Prakasha. In those times, people only visited these public mandirs during some special event. Otherwise in each home, there was a small mandir-shrine where people would offer their daily prayers and worship. In this way, two types of mandir existed:

1.Atmartha - where only individuals along with their family members offered prayers.

2.Paratha - where the masses congregated to offer worship together.

With time, Parartha Temple - which initially only came about to mark some important occasion - gradually began to assume a more permanent role. In ancient times, such grand mandirs were considered prestigious. As quoted in the Agni-Purana, "If an individual merely nurtures a wish to build a mandir, sins committed in his previous births would be immediately washed away."

Vishnu Dharmottara notes, The benevolent fruits of great sacrifices such as the Rajasuya Yagna and the Ashvamedha Yagna would be bestowed upon those who have a mandir constructed. With such prestige given to building mandirs, that too in a civilization which held a high regard for sacrifices (nonviolent), the hearts of numerous devotees were awakened with a longing to play some part in the mandir construction process. Consequently, countless mandirs started to spring up - this practice continues to this very day. Graduallv the distinction between Atmartha and Parartha mandirs no longer remained. The eloquence of the larger, external mandirs began to increase at the expense of the smaller home mandirs which paled into insignificance.

In addition to the main worship centre, other structures gradually came into existence - e.g. accommodation and dining facilities for pilgrims. With time, mandirs did not remain as centres exclusively devoted to worship but gradually became institutes assuming a much wider role in contributing to social welfare.

Whenever I have read any part of the Vedas, I have felt that some unearthly and unknown light illuminates me. In the great teachings of the Vedas, there is no touch of sectarianism. It is of all ages climes and nationalities and is the royal road for the attainment of the Great Knowledge. When I am at it, I feel that I am under the spangled heavens of a summer night. Slowly the full moon appears with its soothing beams and inundates me with an indefinable sublimity of celestial origin. - THOREAU.




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