A Hindu temple ( Sanskrit : मंदिर, mandira = "house [of a deity]", derived from Hindi mandir = "temple"; Tamil with the same meaning: கோவில் (kovil) or கோயில் (koyil or koil) ) is a sacred building of the followers of Hinduism . It is usually reserved for religious and spiritual acts.
In Hinduism the temple (mandir) represents the cosmos par excellence. The world of the gods and the world of men meet in the temple. In contrast to the domestic rites, however, visiting the temple is not compulsory; there are pious Hindus who never or rarely go to a temple.
Medieval Hindu temples or their ruins are distributed all over India, but also from some regions, mostly wooded tribal areas, no stone buildings are known - whether there were wooden shrines here in honor of the numerous Hindu deities, or whether natural deities ( Rivers, mountains, trees, snakes etc.) are not known. Often the temples are in cities or larger places; However, many are located away from today's and former localities, so that one can infer regional pilgrimage centers or places of pilgrimage (e.g. Tigawa , Nachna , Eran ). In contrast to the temple buildings of the Jains, in whose cult practice mountain peaks still play a major role to this day (e.g. Mount Abu , Palitana , Parasnath or Shravanabelagola ), the temples of the Hindus are regularly located on the flat land, i.e. in the vicinity and at height the human.
The earliest known Hindu temples are rock temples and date from the 4th-8th centuries. Century ( Udayagiri , Ellora , Elephanta , Mandagapattu etc.) In the time around 400 AD, the construction of free-standing temples (e.g. Tigawa , Talagunda , Nachna or Deogarh ), which were part of the buildings of Kanchipuram, began , Khajuraho or Madurai reached their peak. During the Islamic period (11th to 17th centuries) numerous temples were destroyed in northern India (e.g. Martand , Gyaraspur , Eran and many others); There were hardly any new buildings at this time, these only emerged gradually from the 18th and 19th. Century in the phase of the decline of the Mughal Empire and the gradual takeover of power by the British .
The foundation of temples is one of the religiously meritorious acts. The largest and most beautiful temples in India and East Asia are stately buildings, but merchants and landowners have always founded temples in the cities and favored poets, dancers and Sanskrit scholars. In addition to the huge temple complexes and pilgrimage centers such as Tirumala Tirupati, there are millions of very simple village temples in which less educated village Brahmins perform their service, but also simple shrines without the presence of Brahmins can be found almost everywhere in the country - many of them seem to be ancient tree sanctuaries etc. to be linked.
Brahmin priests of various ranks serve in the temples. In the large sanctuaries, however, the technical tasks are usually left to the assistant to the chief priest - often people of low standing. Bathing and fire ceremonies are performed by Veda- trained priests. Other priests specialize in recitation , while other (not necessarily Brahmanic) helpers are responsible for the washing and anointing of the cult image or lingam .
The deity becomes present in the ritual; the core of every priestly activity is the puja . A sermon as in Christianity or Islam does not play a role in the Hindu temple ritual; there are religious lectures for this, but these take place outside the main temple (often in ashrams ). Access to temples for the untouchables (casteless) has improved in modern India.
Apart from the early Buddhist monasteries and a few medieval fortifications, the Hindu and Jain temples were the only stone buildings in the Indian cultural area. Unlike many sacred buildings in medieval Europe, Hindu and Jain open-air temples - apart from a few brick buildings in the north (e.g. in Bhitargaon and Sirpur or in the stoneless alluvial land of Bengal ) - consist exclusively of precisely hewn house stones of different sizes. These were only seldom walled up with mortar, but usually fitted seamlessly to the neighboring stones. Quarry stones or field stones , however, are completely absent; This is primarily due to the - in view of the numerous older rock temples - already mature stone processing techniques.
Hindu temples are regularly aligned in an east-west direction, with the entrance side mostly (but not always) facing east.
The temple tower - as a north Indian shikhara or as a south Indian vimana - represents the center of the universe as an image of the mythical world mountain Meru . Below the temple tower, which is always missing in older temple buildings (e.g. Tigawa , Kunda , Bhumara , Aihole , Talagunda ), is the most sacred area of the temple, the cella ( garbhagriha , literally: "lap house"), which contains the cult image or the lingam . The cave-like room, which is only illuminated through the door, may only be entered by the Brahmins; the believers only stay in the vestibules ( mandapas or antaralas ). The buildings of the 5th and 6th centuries were already raised from the ground level by a platform ( jagati ), which largely prevented contamination during the monsoon season or from animals roaming free. Temple towers belonged in the 6./7. Century already the standard of North Indian temples (e.g. Naresar ); in the south this took a little longer (e.g. Kanchipuram or Mamallapuram ).
In the north of India, the medieval Shikhara towers mostly ended in a disc-shaped, ribbed end stone ( amalaka ), whereas in the south a so-called "umbrella dome" regularly forms the upper end of the horizontally tiered and altogether much less steep tower structures. The northernmost temple of the south Indian type is the Kailasanatha temple in Ellora from the second half of the 8th century.
- Architectural jewelry
In the case of early and high-medieval Hindu temples, one must assume that the figures as well as the other structural and decorative elements - comparable to the Greek temples or the medieval cathedrals - were painted in color. Inside the altogether rather unadorned cella there was a cult image or lingam and often a ceiling rosette in the form of an open lotus flower as a symbol of purity and / or enlightenment . With the increasing horizontal and vertical structuring and differentiation of the outside, the possibilities for attaching decorative elements to friezes , cornices and pilasters as well as for attaching figure and picture reliefs, from which almost free plastic figures and scenes later developed, increased significantly and became accordingly used (e.g. Dashavatara Temple in Deogarh , Lingaraja Temple and Kandariya Mahadeva Temple in Khajuraho ).
- Principles of order
According to the ancient Indian Sanskrit texts of architecture, Vastu Vidya , the blueprint of temples is based on a certain geometric mandala as the spiritual basis . According to this, the Hindu temples are designed according to certain order structures, which are comparable to concentric grids. In this structure, the symmetry in each of the concentric layers has a meaning. Much of this, however, is theoretical speculation, because such features cannot be verified on the buildings themselves.
- Michael W. Meister u. a. (Ed.): Encyclopaedia of Indian Temple Architecture. North India - Foundations of North Indian Style. Princeton University Press, Princeton 1988, pp. 19ff ISBN 0-691-04053-2 .
- George Michell: The Hindu Temple. Architecture of a world religion. DuMont, Cologne 1991, pp. 120 ff ISBN 3-7701-2770-6 .
- Link list and literature on the arts and culture of India
- Temples of Karnataka
- Terracotta Temples of Bengal
- Stella Kramrisch: The Hindu Temple. Vol 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-81-208-0222-3