India, a civilisation that is rich in culture, colourful and untapped. Thousands of years of evolution that has seen many foreign influences that are beautifully amalgamated to bring out a new way of thinking. Open and receptive, yet selective in its acceptance, imbibing the new yet retaining its own.
Though the word Hindu was created by the British in early 19th century for its own administrative cause, Hinduism, if one may call it originated and sustained itself for centuries. According to the Hindu myth, the whole creation originated from a sound, the sound of OUM. For Hindus everything is based on the vibration that is created by sound, or in other words, the spoken. Knowledge passed from one generation to another in the form of words. The Hindus also believe that life is a continuous process, from one form to another, from one body to another through births and rebirths. Hence there was very little that was recorded as what we call as HISTORY.
Today, history and science are considered to be the truth, and anything beyond that is untrue and a folklore. This idea has actually made the entire Indian civilisation questionable from the point of view of science. And has killed an intriguing subject called MYTH.
Here are a list of Indian temples, that most Indians are unaware of, that showcases MYTH and FAITH with SCIENCE.
a. Brihadeshwara Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India
The Tanjore Brihadeeshwara or Periya Kovil was built by Raja Raja Cholan and his sister Kundavai, both ardent devotees of Lord Shiva.
Intriguing facts about the Chola temple of Thanjavur
- Originally the deity was named as Rajarajeshwar. The Marathas gave it the name Brihadeeshwara or the Greatest Lord.
- The main temple is entirely granite. It is believed that, more than 130,000 tons of granite was used in its construction. Strangely, not a single granite pit can be found in about 100 km radius of the temple!
- The thirteen storied construction has no form of adhesive joints. And the top most stone weighs 80 tons. How did the manage it?
- The Nandi at the entrance of the temple is carved out of a single stone.
- Raja Raja Cholan, during his visit to Sri Lanka, got inspired by the art there abd built this temple.
There is a portrait of Raja Raja Cholan in the temple, praying to Lord Natarajar. The painting is the first instance of a royal portrait.
- Inscriptions in the temple point also teaches us the art of Vastu or Vastu Shastra.
- Stone carved dancers display the karanas of Bharata Natyam as mentioned in the Natya Shastra of Sage Bharata. These depictions is first of its kind.
b. Konark, Orissa, India
An architectural marvel, the 13th century Konark Temple, dedicated to the Sun God, was built by king Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty in about 1250 CE. Konark, meaning the Kona (corner) and Ark (Sun).
Intriguing facts about the Konark Sun Temple
- Konark Temple, dedicated to the Sun God, was built like a chariot, with seven horses on 24 wheels. The black granite temple took 12 years to complete.
- The idol of the sun was suspended in the air using the power of magnets. This was done to recreate the floating Sun God. For years, it was a mystery as to how this happened. The magnetic field created by equal power magnets from all four sides that made this happen.
- 24 elaborately carved stone wheels which are nearly 3.7 m in diameter with 8 spokes. The wheels are actually sun dials and accurate time can be measured through them.
- It is believed that the magnets affected the navigation compass of ships of invaders, who eventually sailors ordered their removal. The temple has no idol now and tourists aren’t allowed to go in the sealed main chamber.
- Exquisite sculptures adorn the temple walls depicting scenes of normal human rather than deities. The walls display the art of love, the art of Kamasutra, real and many in fantasy.
- There are many large free standing life-size sculptures of animals that is fascinating and intriguing. Lions subduing elephants, elephants subduing demons…
- Aruna Stambha, an intricately carved pillar with friezes and motifs, dedicated to Aruna, was originally located in front of the eastern stairs of the porch. The pillar now stands in front of the Jagannatha temple in Puri.
c. Lepakshi Temple, Andhra Pradesh, India
The temple was built by brothers Virupanna Nayaka and Virannain around 1530-40 during the reign of King Achutaraya. Considered to be one of the divyakshetras by Skanda Purana the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva was built on a tortoise shaped granite hillock. Another legend says that this is the place where Jatayu, while fighting with Ravana while trying to save Seeta, got injured and fell here.
Intriguing facts about the Lepakshi Temple
- The temple is of the Vijayanagara architectural style.
- The entrance of the sanctum sanctorum has sculptures and paintings in every corner of the columns and ceiling. Gods, saints, guards, musicians and dancers. It also has the 14 avatars of Shiva.
- The intricate stone carvings in the slim columns have images of horses and soldiers.
- There are paintings on the ceiling of the main mandapa and the antarala. The paintings are done on an initial plaster layer of lime mortar. Vegetable and mineral colours are blended with lime water and applied on red coloured background.
- The fresco in the ceiling of ardha mantapa or the ante chamber, is the biggest in Asia, 7 m × 4 m illustrating the 14 avatars of Lord Shiva.
- The presiding deityis Veerabhadra, in a life size form, armed and decorated with skulls.
- It is believed thatsage Agasthyam who lived in the cave chamber in the sanctum, installed the image of the Linga here.
- On the eastern side, a huge boulder of granite stone is carved out to form a coiled multi-hooded serpent providing an umbrella cover over a Linga.
- A huge granite Nandi (bull) faces the serpent. Carved out of a single block of stone, the nandi is 6.1 m in height and 9.1 m in length.
- About 70 pillars adorn the main temple, but one of them is actually hanging. This is believed to be the pilar that maintains the balance. One can pass a piece of paper or cloth under it.
d. Kamakhya Temple, Guwahati, Assam, India
The Kamakhya Temple is dedicated to the Hindu mother goddess Kamakhya. The temple is the main temple in a complex of individual temples dedicated to the ten Mahavidyas of Hindu Shakti forms. Kali, Tara, Sodashi, Bhuvaneshwari, Bhairavi, Chhinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamalatmika. Goddesses Tripurasundari, Matangi and Kamala reside inside the main temple, while the rest have individual temples dedicated to them.
One of the oldest Shakti peeths, the temple was built and renovated many times through 8th to 17th century, hence giving the form of a hybrid style that is called as the Nilachal type, a temple with a hemispherical dome on a cruciform base.
Intriguing facts about the Kamakhya Temple
- The temple has a total of four chambers. One Garbhagriha and three mandapas. The mandapas are names as calanta, pancharatna and natamandira.
- Kamakhya Temple, representing Shakti or the feminine power, is one the 51 peethas in India.
- There are no idols but the sculptured figure of the yoni (vagina) of the Goddess that is worshipped here. It is placed in a corner of the cave. A natural spring keeps the stone moist at all times. But women when menstruating are not allowed inside the temple.
- The legend says that Goddess Sati or Shakti was married to Lord Shiva against the wishes of her father, King Daksha. Daksha organised a Yagna, but didnt his daughter or the Lord. Sati decides to attend the yagna and reaches her father’s palace, only to bear insults for herself and her husband. Humiliated, Sati jumps into a fire and kills herself. This infuriates Lord Shiva, who does the tandava, holding the dead body of Sati in his arms. Lord Vishnu cuts the dead body with his chakra into parts. The pieces fall in 108 different places and are worshipped as Shakti peethas. Sati’s womb is believed to have fallen where Kamakhya temple stands today.
- The Kamakhya Temple is the centre for Tantric worshippers. The annual Ambubasi festival attracts lots of devotees for tantric worship.
- The temple with these unique features stands out for respecting femininity.
e. Kal Bhairav temple, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, India
The Hindu temple on the banks of the Shipra river, is dedicated to Kal Bhairav, the guardian deity of the city. The temple is known for it’s unique in its tradition. Devotees offer Liquor is as one of the offerings to the deity.
Intriguing facts about the Kaal Bhairav Temple
- It is believed that the worship of the eight Bhairavas is a part of Shaivite tradition worship and the chief among them is Kaal Bhairava.
- The temple structure was built over the remains of an older temple, that was believed to have been built by king Bhadrasen.
- The God here is offered liquor. It is quite amusing to find liquor bottles in various sizes along with regular puja items outside the temple.
- The bottle is generally handed over to the priest along with other puja material. The liquor bottle is opened and half of it poured into a shallow plate which is placed near the mouth of the idol. Slowly, the liqueur level starts going down and the Priest takes back the plate when all the liquor is finished. The contents of the plate disappears in front of your eyes.
- Hundreds of bottles of liquor are offered in a single day, but no one knows where the liquor goes. This has been occuring since ages.
- The prasad is in the form of left over in the bottle.
Faith and Myth are very personal, and there are many temples in India that follow faith and myths that cant be explained, justified or debated. This is the first edition i n tis series. Please watch this space for more.