Research Proposal: Vishnu Temple

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Vishnu Temple

Vastu Purusha and the Construction of a Vishnu Temple

Temples are both a shaper and product of the culture that inspired them. They are unlike buildings that are strictly for a utilitarian purpose. Temples are meant for a specific purpose, connecting the occupant with some aspect of the divine. They are spaces set aside for the development of the unique relationship between mortal man and the immortal world of the gods. Temples have always been a central point around which activities revolved in Indian life (Kumar, Rao, & Parthasarathy). The temple is a central location for many culturally significant social activities and family activities alike (Kumar, Rao, & Parthasarathy).

The architecture of the temple serves its occupants by attempting to eliminate the boundaries between man and the divine (Kumar, Rao, & Parthasarathy). The structure serves as a functional boundary between the worshiper and the outside world. When one steps into a temple, they leave the material world behind and enter the realm of the otherworldly presence. United Hindu Temple of LA, located in Covina, California differs from Hindu temples located in India, yet preserves the necessary elements of the Indian architecture necessary for worship.

The Hindu temple is a prime example of architecture that directly supports the belief system of the builders. One can find examples of temples that are simple and ones that are complex. However, regardless of the complexity of architectural design, certain key elements must be present in the design in order for the building to service its purpose. The outer appearance of the temple and the space inside translate the divine into a visual representation that can be understood by the devotees (Kumar, Rao, & Parthasarathy). Temples built in the United States mimic those found throughout India. They must be constructed according to strict guidelines, or they will lose their religious significance.

The development of modern temple style has a long past, undergoing several major form changes before arriving at the design most widely used today (Kumar, Rao, & Parthasarathy). Muslim invasions destroyed many Hindu temple, whereas British policy during the Indian occupation was one of neglect (Kumar, Rao, & Parthasarathy). They simply let the temples fall into ruin. However, the temple represents the Hindu culture and the people use them as centers of cultural preservation. The temple is linked to the people, as much as the people are linked to the temple.

Sunnyvale Hindu Temple and Community Center

The Sunnyvale Hindu Temple is an excellent example of Vedic Architecture. The Inner sanctuary is laid out in precise relation to the vastu purusha compass. However, due to the enormity of the building and the detail inside, this is not evident while inside the building. It only becomes apparent when viewing a floor plan of the building. Exact measurements could not be taken of the building due to its scale. In addition, this activity may have been an insult to the occupants of the building. However, from the floor plan, one can see that it has the necessary elements described in the test.

It is apparent that the site determined many of the elements of the building. This temple is not laid out in the traditional fashion and is missing some elements. For instance, it does not have a circular path around it. The triangular shape of the lot obviously restricted the ability to include this traditional element of the design. However, the circular entrance serves a similar purpose. Allowing the worshiper to enter the sanctuary or the communal portions of the building.

The Sunnyvale Temple contains a mix of circular and square element, both inside and outside of the building. In this manner, the symbolism of the mandala is repeated throughout the structure and grounds (http://www.sunnyvaletemple.org/siteplan.htm).The space is grand, but also preserves the simplicity necessary to put the mundane aside while in the space.

The Sunnyvale Temple is home to many community events and services throughout the year. The Temple is home to daily worship services, weekly services, yoga classes, and special holiday events (http://www.sunnyvaletemple.org/activities.htm).It serves as the center of Hindu life in the Sunnyvale area. The center of the community of worship and community service.

The Sunnyvale Temple, like many temples in the U.S., differs from temple constructed in India. It has the basic elements, but due to site restriction, code restrictions, and other architectural considerations, temples in the United States differ in aesthetics from those overseas. The question is whether these differences harm the intent of the temple, or whether the sacredness of the space can be preserved despite these missing elements.

In the case of the Sunnyvale temple, my impression is that the sacred element of the space is preserved. However, the elements of the temple are preserved through the actions of the occupants, more than through the architecture. It serves its function as a community center and place of worship. However, the Shikhara is not as grand as those in India. It is not as big and grand, but it still preserves the solitude and elements necessary to symbolize the path to enlightenment. The inner sanctum is dark, yet all other parts of the building are designed to be light and vibrant. The Sunnyvale Temple is an excellent example of the preservation of key elements of Vedic culture, under the restrictions imposed by the site and construction regulations of the U.S.

Formal Elements of the Temple and Their Significance

Temple design is based in the Hindu religion itself. Every element of the construction must be according prescribed rules and procedures. It is not enough to simply put up a building and call it a temple. There is much preparation that goes into site preparation and construction techniques of the Vishnu temple. The selection of land for the temple is carried out with prayers and rituals to sanctify the land (Kumar). In modern urban locations, the ideal setting may not be available and practical considerations may come into play, such as the location of the temple in relation to the Hindu community.

Water is an essential element in the temple and must be present symbolically if not available from a natural source (Kumar). Water is needed for purification. The smell and color of the soil at the chosen site help to determine which caste the temple will be most favorable for (Kumar). After this has been determined, the ground is turned and leveled. A seed is planted in the middle of the site, and if it grows and thrives, the earth goddess has placed her blessing and the building can begin (Kumar). The site must then be meticulously leveled and the drawing of the vastu-purusha mandala is drawn. This is the metaphysical plan of the temple (Kumar). This mandala represents the meeting of heaven and earth (Kumar). As one can see, extensive ritual goes into the building of a temple in order to make it an appropriate place to worship and commune.

The design of the temple uses sacred Hindu geometry. The temple is symbolized as a mandala, with the inner square representing earth and the outer circle representing heaven (Kumar). The temple is aligned with the four cardinal directions and represents the meeting ground of heaven and earth (Kumar). The entire process of building a temple is based in ritual derived from thousands of years of Hindu legends and stories (Kumar). The outer and inner elements of the temple reflect care and consideration as would be worthy of Gods.

The inner sanctuary is laid out in accordance with the legend of Vastu. According to the story, Shiva ought a demon named Andhaka. In the end, he was pressed down to the ground by Gods and a number of deities were pressed with him. The temple is laid out using a compass that reflects the deities and position that the demon was in when he was pressed (Kumar). This special compass is used in laying out the various stations for diety worship.

The vastu-purusha is the spirit in mother earth. In the building of the temple, she needs to be pacified before any construction begins on the site (Kumar). The temple architect marks the positions of the prospective deities on the ground, which can number up to 45 total. Then he marks the positions of the thirty-two nakshatras, which are the constellations that the moon passes through on its monthly course (Kumar). All of these elements have to be carried out with precision so that the temple will carry out its prescribed mission.

In the center of the vastu-mandala sits the Brahma, the creator of the earth, who looks to all four directions at the same time (Kumar). This is the spiritual center of the temple and is, ironically, the least highly decorated to emphasize the spiritual over the mundane. This is only a brief description of the care that goes into building the temple. This care is what separates it from any other building. It is what allows the devotee to experience something that is not of this world. It… [END OF PREVIEW]

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