Cosmos and Eternal Harmony in Indian Temples

Cosmos and Eternal Harmony in Indian Temples

Temples in India and the sculptures in them have represented the cosmos and its eternal harmony. Explain

- The Indian temple is conceived of as a place for the self-transformation. It is here where one can transcend the material world and lose attachments in order to gain greater knowledge and liberate oneself. The temple has been an important part of everyday life in the Hindu community.

- Earlier, temples were carved into hills which later gave way to structural temples. Sanchi has the earliest surviving temple belonging to the 5th century CE.

- Temples in India were built with an underlying theme that it represents the cosmos. The construction of the temple follows a three dimensional form laid out in the shilpashastra. Mountains and caves are looked upon as abodes of Gods.

- An important aspect of the temple plan is that it is intended to lead from the temporal world to the eternal.

- The sanctum should face the rising sun and so should have its entrance to the east. Movement towards the sanctuary, along the east-west axis and through a series of increasingly sacred spaces is of great importance and is reflected in the architecture.

– Other important aspects of the temple that connect it to the phenomenal world are its site in relation, its vertical elevation which resembles the mountains, and the most sacred part, the garbagriha or the sanctum which symbolizes the caves.

– The Hindu temple as a conception of the astronomical frame of universe seems to serve the same purpose as the Vedic altar, which is consistent with the motions of the sun and moon.

– The advanced complexity of the classical temple was inevitable given an attempt to bring in the astronomical notion in the superstructure. The position of the gods in the vastupurushamandala within the temple is a symbolic representation of the spatial plan of the cosmic purusha in his own body.

The temple therefore is seen as a structure that gives considerable information about the cosmology along with immense knowledge of the people of the times.


• Angkor Vat is the best example of temple built keeping astronomical positions in mind.

• The source documents that detail the sacred principles for the construction of Hindu temples and iconographic sculptures are the ‘Sthapatya Veda’, which is divided into the more commonly known Vastu and Shilpa Shastras.
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