Monday, 12 December 2011

Significance of Kathopanishad

Similar concepts in Kathopanishad and Bhagavd-Gitä
Many mantras of Kathopanishad have been repeated in the Bhagavad-Gitä with some variation.

‘sarve vedäh yad padam ämananti - - I.2.15
‘na jäyate mryate vä kadäcit- - I.2.18
‘indriyebhyah parä hyarthäh- - I.3.10
‘indriyebhyah param manah - - II.3.7
‘na tatra surya - - II.2.15
‘urdhvamulo’väk-säkhah - - II.3.1
Bh.Gi.- XV.1

Similar mantras of Katha in various Upanishads



‘manasä eva-idam-II.1.11

‘na-tatra-suryo bhäti – II.2.15

‘bhayät-asya-tapati – II.3.3
- -
- -
- -
‘bhisäsmad-vätah -- II.8.1

‘asabdam- asparsam-I.3.15
‘yat-tat-adresyam I.1.6

‘iha-ced-asakad – II.3.4
‘iha-ced avedit-II.5

‘ihaiva santo’tha-IV.4.14
äsino duram vrajati – I.2.21

‘tad-ejati - 5

(I would like to believe that mantras of Brhadaranyaka Upanishad are repeated/adapted in other Upanishad, since Brhadaranyaka is an one of the oldest Upanishads. – author)

Rgveda and Kathopanishad
Occurrence of seeds of Upanishadic thoughts are found in the Rgveda. This has been noticed and identified by the scholars. ‘--- Upanishad is later than the Samhitäs, and later than the Brähmanas, but the first germs of Upanishad doctrines go back to at least as far as the Mantra-period, which conservatively has been fixed between 1000 and 800 BCE. Concepts corresponding to the general teaching of the Upanishads occur in certain hymns of the Rgveda-Samhitä, they must have existed therefore before that collection was finally closed.

‘hamsah sucisat - -
Ka. Up. – II.2.2

The famous Sauri-rk (RV-IV.40.5) addressed to Sürya is in the tenth mandala of Rgveda – ‘hamsah-sucishad-vasur-antarikshasad-hotä vedishad-atithir-duronasat—.‘This famous mantra is repeated in Sukla-Yajurveda-X.24, XII.14, SYV-Känvaäakhä-XIII.5.18, XV.6.25, Taittiriya-Samhitä-I.8.15.2, IV.2.1.5, Aitareya-Brähmana-IV.20, Taittiriya-Äranyaka-X.10.2 in toto. It is repeated in Kathopanishad also Ka.Up.-II.2.2., and Mahänäräyana Upanishad – Ma.Nä.Up.- I.2.6.

Mantras proving Reincarnation
Ka.Up.-I.1.6 and II.2.7 are pramäna for the theory/law of incarnation.

Pramäna for concept of Jivanmukti
Ka.Up.-II.2.1 and II 3.14 are pramäna vakyas for the theory/concept of Jivanmukti in Advaita.

Pramäna for Law of Karma
‘---yathäkarma yathäsrutam’. - Ka.Up.-II.2.7

It must have been obvious to the readers, who are acquainted with the paramparä, that the first chapter of Kathopanishad (Valli 1, 2, and 3) are chanted during the funeral, followed by 8th chapter of Bhagavad-Gitä, and Garuda Puräna. This tradition is etched in my memory since, while the Kathopanishad was being taught in the Gurukulam, mother of one of our Trustees departed. We were requested to chant the first chapter of Kathopanishad, followed by 8th chapter of Bhagavad-Gitä. And Sri Vishnusahasranäma at the special request of the lady. None of us knew Garuda Puräna. A selected batch of us, proficient in chanting went to the city and chanted for required 11 or 13 days.

Imagery of the Chariot
Kathopanishad uses the imagery of chariot in its teaching I.3.3 and I.3.4. It compares,
i)         the Ätmä, the "Self" is the chariot's passenger
ii)       the body is the chariot itself
iii)      intellect – buddhi is the chariot driver
iv)     the mind - manas is the reins
v)       the indriyas – five senses are the chariot horses
vi)     the objects perceived by the senses are the chariot's path.

Analogy with Fire, Air and the Sun
II.2.9 – Oneness of Ätmä compared with fire
II.2.10 – Oneness of Ätmä compared with air
II.2.11 – Oneness of Ätmä compared with the Sun

(I.3.14) – Arise, awake – was adapted by Swami Vivekananda. Many are surprised to see the source in the Upanishad.
Mantra I.3.4 – The concept of ‘razor’s edge’ in the Upanishad was popularized by Somerset Maugham in his novel ‘The Razor’s Edge’ in 1944. The novel was  later adapted, twice, into films of the same title. The epigraph reads, "The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard." taken from a verse in the Ka.Up.- I.3.14. Maugham had visited India in 1938 and met Ramana Maharshi in his ashram.

Explicit mention of Yoga (Meditation and Contemplation)
‘Katha Upanishad’ is also notable for first introducing the term Yoga (lit. "yoking, harnessing") for spiritual exercise,

‘When the five organs of perception become still, together with the mind, and the intellect ceases to be active: that is called the highest state. This firm holding back of the senses is what is known as Yoga. (Ka.Up. II.3.10–11)


Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Temple Architecture - Different Styles - III

Temple Architecture - Different Styles - III

Background of Temple-Building
During the Vedic age (say 5,000 years ago) temples as we see today, did not exist. Temple-building appear to have originated around 500 BCE, when Vedic (Srauta) practices gradually disappeared, and Smarta practices (relating to Isvara through bhakti) took over. The opinion that the Vedic yajnasala gradually gave way to temples by the epic period of because of the bhakti-era is widely accepted by scholars.

The earliest temples were built with perishable materials like wood and clay. Then followed the Rock-cut cave-temples (Ajanta, Ellora, Elephanta).

Ajanta Caves
Ellora Caves
(Photo - Author)

3-Headed Mahesha in
Elephanta Caves 6th century CE

Heavy-stone structures came still later, and in areas where caves were not available. In fact, in places like Bengal, where even stones are not available, temples are built with bricks. Incidentally, currently, most modern temples are partially built with stones, and the external structures are built with brick and mortar, due to funds constrain.

Taking into account the vast size of India (undivided when temple building started), it is remarkable that the construction of temples have followed a set pattern. This is since all of them have followed the Silpasastra, Vastusastra, Agamasastra. The sculptors and artists nevertheless have executed their individual artistic style, remaining within the sastra.

The earliest temples in the North and Central India which have withstood the vagaries of time belong to the Gupta period (320-650 CE). Some of these temples are Sanchi, Tigawa (near Jabbalpur, Madhya Pradesh), Bhumara (Madhya Pradesh), Nachna (Rajasthan), and Deogarh (near Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh).

Earliest Temples
Some of the earliest surviving temples in South India are those in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Tamil country was the cradle of Dravidian School of Temple Architecture, which evolved from the earliest Buddhist shrines which were both rock-cut (Ajanta, Ellora Hindu caves) and structural.

Ajanta Caves
(Photo - Author)

Ellora Cave-16 Kailashnath Temple
(Photo - Author)

The later rock-cut temples that belong to 500-800 CE were mostly Hindu or Jain, patronized by three great ruling dynasties of the South, namely the Pallavas (Kamakshi Temple in Kanchi and Mahabalipuram Temples) of Kanchi in the east, the Chalukyas of Badami in the west,, the Pandyas (Minakshi Temple) of Madurai in the far south. With the decline of the Chalukyas of Badami in the 8th century, the Rastrakutas (Kailashnath Temple of Ellora) of Malkhed came to power, and they made great development of South Indian Temple Architecture. The Kailashnath Temple of Ellora belongs to this period.

In the west (northern Karnataka), the Aihole and Pattadakal group of temples (5th – 7th centuries) show early attempts to evolve an acceptable regional style, based on tradition. Among the more famous early structural temples at Aihole are, the Huchimalligudi and Durga Temples, as the Ladkhan Temple, all built between 450-650 CE. Equally important are the ten early Chalukyan temples (of Kasinatha, Papanatha, Sangameswara, Virupaksha, and others) in Pattadakal near Aihole, and the Svargabrahma Temple at Alampur (Andhra Pradesh). In some of these temples, built by the later Chalukyas, we come across the vesara style, a combination of nagara (of north) and dravida (of south) style.

The Three Styles
There are many ancient texts prescribing the formal architectural styles prevalent in various regions. The comprehensive text called Vastusastra has its origin in the Sutras, Puranas, Agamas, Tantrasastra, and Brhatsamhita. Thus, although the basic pattern remained the same, varieties did enter that gave rise to three distinct styles of temple architecture. They are nagara (or rekha or prasada), dravida (or vimana) and vesara style. They employ respectively the square, octagon and circle in their plan. In its later evolution, when the vesara style adopted the square (of nagara) for their sanctum, the circular or stellar plan was retained for the vimana. The nagara style is distinguished by the curvi-linear towers. The dravida style has its towers in the form of truncated pyramids. The third style vesara is a combination of both nagara and dravida style, which is seen in the temples (Belur, Halebid and Somanathapura) built by the Chalukyas in Karnataka.

Jagannath Temple
Puri, Odisha
Nagara style
(Photo - Wiki/Internet)

Brhadiswara Temple,
Dravida style
(Photo - Author)

Kumbha Shyam Temple,
Chittorgarh, Rajasthan
Vesara Style
(Photo - Author)

These three styles do not pertain strictly to three different regions, rather indicate the temple-groups. For instance, the vesara, which came to prevail mostly in the western Deccan, and south Karnataka, was a derivation from the apsidal temples of the early Buddhist period, which subsequently the popular Hindu culture (note, Vedic period did not have temples; so one could say that the worship of form/s was started by the Buddhists. Although the Buddha did not accept the existence of God, he ultimately ended up becoming the God of the Buddhists) adopted, and vastly improved. In its origin, the vesara is as much north Indian as it is west Deccanese. Similarly, among the 6th-7th century shrines of Aihole and Pattadakal, the nagara style is evident in the vimanas. The dravida or Tamilian style became popular throughout South India, only from Vijayanagara period (1350-1565 CE) onwards. While the vimana of the nagara style rises vertically from its base in a curvi-linear form, the vimana of dravida style rises like a stepped-pyramid, tier upon tier. The northern style came to prevail in Rajasthan, Upper India, Odisha, the Vindhya uplands and Gujarat.

Tamil Nadu
During the next thousand years (from 600-1600 CE), there was a phenomenal growth in temple architecture, both in number and intricacy in style. The first in the series of Dravidian/Southern architecture was initiated by the Pallavas of Kanchi (600-900 CE). The rock-cut temples at Mahabalipuram (the five rathas carved out of monolithic boulders), and the Kailashnath and Vaikuntha-Perumal Temples (700-800 CE) of Kanchipuram are the best representatives of the Pallava style.

Shore Temple
(Photo - Author)

The 5 Monolithic Rathas
(Photo - V B Anand)

Kailashnath Temple
(Photo - Author)

It was the Pallavas, who laid the foundation of the Dravidian School, which blossomed to its full extent during the Cholas (900-1150 CE), the Pandyas,  the Vijayanagara Kings (1350-1565 CE), and the Nayakas (1600-1750 CE). The temples, now built with stones, became bigger, more complex, and ornate with sculptures. Dravidian architecture reached its glory during the Chola period (900-1150 CE), by becoming more imposing in size, and endowed with happy proportions. The most beautiful of the Chola temples is the Brhadiswara Temple at Tanjavur with its 66 metres high vimana, the tallest in India.

Brhadiswara Temple,
(Photo - Author)

Brhadiswara Temple,
(Courtesey - ASI)
Airavateswara Temple,
(Photo - Author)

The later Pandyans, who succeeded the Cholas improved the Cholas, by introducing elaborate ornamentation, and big sculptural images, many-pillared halls (1000-pillared Halls in Sri Rangam, Minakshi, Rameswaram), new annexes to the shrine, and towers (Gopurams) or the gateways.

The mighty temple-complexes of Madurai and Sri Rangam in Tamil Nadu, set a pattern for the Vijayanagara Kings (1350-1565 CE), who followed the Dravidian architectural style. The Pampapati and Vitthala Temples in Hampi are standing examples of Vijayanagara period. The Nayakas (1600-1750 CE) of Madurai, who succeeded the Vijayanagara Kings, made Dravidian temple-complex even more elaborate by adding very tall and ornate Gopurams, and building pillared-corridors within the temple-compound (1000-pillared Hall within Minakshi Temple-Complex).
The Hoysalas who ruled the Kannada country, improved on the Chalukyan (of the Badami) style by building extremely ornate temples in many parts of Karnataka, noted for their sculptures on the walls, depressed ceilings, lathe-turned pillars, and fully sculptured vimanas. Among the most famous of the Hoysala temples are the ones at Belur, Halebid, and Somanathapura in south Karnataka, which are classified under vesara style.

In the north, the main developments in the temple-architecture took place in Odisha (750-1250 CE) and Central India (950-1050 CE), Rajasthan (10th-11th century), and Gujarat (11th-13th century).The Lingaraj Temple of Bhubaneswar, the Jagannath Temple of Puri, and the Sun Temple of Konark represent the Odisha style. The temples built at Khajuraho built by the Chandellas, the Sun Temple at Modhera (Gujarat), and other temples at Mount Abu built by the Solankis have their own distinct style in Central Indian temple architecture. Bengal with its temples built in bricks (due to non-availability of stones) and terracotta tiles, and Kerala with its temples having peculiar roof-structure suited to the heavy rainfall of the region, developed their own regional styles.


Friday, 4 November 2011

Temple Architecture - Different Styles - II

Temple Architecture - Different Styles - II

Indian temple architecture can further be classified into three types:

i.                    Cut-in architecture
ii.                   Cut-out architecture (Rock-cut architecture)
iii.                  Structural architecture

The first two styles are found near hilly regions around the India, as it required huge monolithic rocks and stones. These two architectural styles differed only in technique, and both were employed for utility, or ornamentation.

Structural Temple Architecture

In case of the third type however, structural architecture evolved because of dearth of hilly regions. Structural architecture developed due to the non-availability of huge rocks and other building material.

Availability of Stones
The type of raw material that was available in the different regions naturally brought about changes with reference to construction techniques, carving possibilities, resulting in a different overall appearance of the temple. The soft soap-stone type material used by the Hoysala architects of the 12th and 13th centuries, permitted the ivory and sandalwood-sculptors to carve the most intricate and ornate designs of all Indian styles. Whereas hard crystalline rocks such as granite, which is typical of the area around Mahabalipuram prevented detailed carving, and resulted in the shallow relief that is associated with the Pallava temples of 7th to 9th centuries. In areas without stones, such as parts of Bengal, temples constructed of brick portrayed different stylistic characteristics.

Individual Royal/Dynasty Signature
Royal patronage also had a very significant effect on the stylistic development of temples, and as has been stated before, regional styles are often identified by the dynasty that produced them. For example, each of the famous dynasties – Pallava 600-900 CE, Chola – 900-1150 CE, Hoysala – 1100-1350 CE, Chalukya - 600-1200 CE) and Chandela ((500-1300 CE) temples had distinctive style of temple architecture.

Addition of 1000-Pillared Halls
From 8th century onwards, with the development of even more sophisticated rituals and festivals, the Hindu temples especially in the South, expanded in size and became more elaborate in carving. There were more mandapas added for various purposes such entry hall/assembly (mukhya-mandapa), offering hall (bhoga-mandapa), dance pavillion (nrtya-mandapa), and even a mandapa to house Nandi (as in Brhadiswara, Darasuram etc.). More corridors and pillared halls such as ‘Thousand-pillared Halls’ (Madurai, Sri Rangam, Rameswaram etc.) were built. Similarly, the bali-pitham (sacrificial alter) was also incorporated.

1---Pillared Hall,
Minakshi Temple, Madurai
(Courtesey - Picture Post Card)

1000-Pillared Hall,
Sri Rangam Temple, Trichy

Addition of Gopurams
However, the most significant visual difference between the later northern and southern styles is the gateways. In the north, the shikhara remains the most prominent element of the temple, and the gateways were usually modest. In the south, enclosure walls were built around the whole complex, and along these walls, ideally set along the east-west and north-south axes, elaborate and often magnificent gateways called gopurams (Madurai, Sri Rangam, Tiruvannamalai, Rameswarama, Sri Sailam) led the devotees into the sacred courtyard. The gopurams became taller and taller, dwarfing the inner sanctum (Tirupati, Chidambaram, Sri Sailam) and its tower, and dominating the whole temple site. From the Vijayanagara period (14th – 16th centuries) onward, these highly embellished polychrome reliefs (Tenkasi, Srichandur) became numerous. The width of the storey of pavilions and other architectural elements were carefully adjusted to create a concave contour, which is distinctive characteristic of the Dravida temples seen throughout the south, particularly in Tamil Nadu.

Raja-Gopuram of
Sri Rangam Temple, Trichy
(Photo - Author)
North Gopuram of
Minakshi Temple, Madurai
(Photo - Author)
Gopuram of Sri Sailam Temple,
Andhra Pradesh
(Photo - Author)

An example of a fully developed temple built between the 13th and 17th centuries is the Ranganatha Temple at Sri Rangam. Eventually, it became, in fact, a temple-city with 21 gopuras and 7 enclosure walls surrounding 156 acres. Each encircling space is less sacred, the further one moves away from the garbhagrha. The plan is an example of the concept of the cosmos as a series of concentric rings around the Lord. Clearly, not only the temple, but also the whole city has been conceived as a mandala.