Temple Towns in the South of India (Reblogged)
Sacred Architecture was our focus in the Tamil Nadu cities of Srirangam, Chidambaram,Thanjavar, and Madurai. We saw many of the major Hindu Temples but only a tiny fraction of the 30,000 located in the state of Tamil Nadu alone. The temples were part of huge complexes with elaborate towers and are immediately recognizable by the distinct difference from the ones we had seen before. In the North, the soaring tower above the inner sanctum is in the form of a circular mountain. In the South, there are multi-staged pyramidal spires with a barrel-vaulted roof. Worship for Hindus is in the small dark central sanctuary or womb chamber. The elaborate decoration of the Southern temple towers is stucco figures of deities, mythical animals and monsters painted in vivid colors. (Today, instead of water soluble natural colors used in ancient times, oil based paint is applied to the towers on a twelve year schedule.) Each temple complex enclosure has major halls conceived for a specific purpose. Some early kings were crowned in the temple. There is a hall for dancing, offering of sacrifice, a tank for bathing, and several have a one thousand column hall for festivals and rituals.
My thoughts in all of these complexes were that I have been transported to a temple in Biblical times, though none were constructed as early as Solomon’s Temple. The temple in Jerusalem would not have had the graven images prevalent in Indian temples. We saw huge statues of bulls, themes of fertility, and sacrifices of grain, flowers and fruit. People were milling around, goats were eating the grass poking up through the stones, the walls were high and made from blocks of granite, people were selling religious and non-religious wares, making offerings, standing in line to go into the innermost places, and sleeping in the shade of the huge columns. Some were sitting around the tanks of cleansing water, though no one was waiting to be cured by a dip in the holy water as recounted in the New Testament. I could imagine much of this activity as well as the bells ringing and the continuous chanting taking place in Jerusalem and other ancient places of worship. I also could imagine Christ angrily clearing out the money changers and non-prayerful worshipers from “His Father’s house of prayer”. People were taking short cuts through the temple complexes, carrying their shoes to go about their business at the gate on the other side. These complexes were the center of the ancient cities.
As we walked barefooted through the complexes truly having our senses assaulted , David commented that we were witnessing what we might have prevalent worship today if Greece and Italy had not given up their pantheon of gods and become monotheistic in their acceptance of Christianity.
T I I I ! This Is Incredible India!
Do you notice the diffrence in the southern temples and the northern ones? Which do you prefer? Have you been to the south to see any of these buildings? Visited there on a vacation? Do you leave in the south of India?