Monday, 17 September 2018

Captivating Teli Ka Mandir, Gwalior Fort, MP - a remarkable temple!!

One of the four entrances to theTeli ka  temple with defaced sculpture,En.wikipedia
Side view of the Teli ka Mandir, Gwalior.
Completed in the 8th or 9th-century Teli ka Mandir, also known as Telika Temple, is a Hindu temple.  Located within the Gwalior Fort complex  in Madhya Pradesh, India, this old  temple dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva and Matrikas.
Teli ka Mandir, Gwalior.fort, MP.
It has been a tradition among the Hindu temple to have a square plan for the sanctum - garbagriha. But, here the sanctum has a rectangular plan, quite  an unusual feature for a Hindu temple. The striking feature is the integration of  the Nagara style of architecture and the Valabhi prasada. So, the overall appearance looks like the Dravidian wagon-vault topped gopuram superstructure. However, the Pratihara-Gopagiri style prevalent in the northern region is being followed here. 
Fort complex Gwalior. Teli ka Mandir
This temple inside the fort complex is close to historic Hindu and Jain temples from the medieval era, as well the major group of Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Shaktism temples. Mention may be made of  Bateshwar Temples near Morena along with dozens of standing temples and the ruins of over 100 small pancharatha-style temples. Also closely located are temple of great antiquity - the Naresar group with 22 temples  and the Mahua group of temples most of which are dated back to between the 6th and 10th century. These unique temples bring out the variations in the Nagara style of Hindu architecture as well as the incorporation of f Vastu mandala symmetry principles in a unique way. 
Teli ka  templeGwalior
The Telika Mandir is  built on a high point  and it stands out from different locations within the fort.  According to early  inscriptions the site where  the Teli ka Mandir and other historic temples  are located used to be known as Gopagiri.
Gate. Teli ka temple of Gwalior.
Detailed investigations carried out on  paleography, art-style, architectural design and small inscriptions found within the temple premises  point out the temple and others were built between the 8th and 9th centuries.  Many temple historians like Michael Meister,  George Michel and  Bharne and Krusche  come up with different dates for the temple; the former suggested 750 CE whereas Bharne and Krusche put the date of construction between 700 and 750 CE.  George Mitchell mentioned that it was completed by the 9th century.  Yet another historian Allen suggested 8th century.  Indian historian  Bajpai is of the view that  the temple might have come up during the reign of the Gurjara-Pratihara Mihira Bhoja.
This beautiful temple and others were  badly damaged during the mad  raids by Muslim army of Qutb-ud-din Aibak and his successor Iltutmish in 1232 CE  in the fort following a jauhar. Evidences point out  parts of the ruins and fragments were  then used to build a mosque nearby. However, centuries later, the mosque was in turn destroyed by Hindu Maratha army men. 

Subsequently the damaged temple was restored by the Hindus after the desecration by Iltutmish forces. The interesting feature of this old temple is that it had close links with all three major traditions of Hinduism: Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism as revealed by the inscriptions in the temple. One of inscriptions mentions about the  hymn on Goddess Durga Devi. The relief work includes a prominent Garuda, the vahana of Vishnu. Inside the temple is a Shiva linga.
Sculptures near Teli ka Mandir, Gwalior
Thanks to the Scottish military officer one Major Keith of the Royal Scots Regiment stationed in Gwalior who, between 1881 and 1883 took major initiative to repair this beautiful temple. Since the Muslim invasion, the temple had been in ruins  in the 19th century. 

The name of temple means  Oilman's Temple, but the origin of the name is a contentious matter. Local folklore suggested that it was  built by people from oil merchant caste  and not from either  kings, the royal class or the priestly class. There are no records to corraborate it. 
The sanctum - srikovil of Teli ka mandir with a rectangle plan is on a jagati platform that is a square of 60 feet (18 m).It has a large kapili projecting portico of about 11 feet (3.4 m) towards the east. The tower (Gopuram)  rises above the rectangular sanctum to a height of 80 feet (24 m) capped by  a barrel-vault shaped cap of 30 feet (9.1 m), its length  being perpendicular to that of the sanctum, that reminds of  one of South Indian gopurams. The  amalaka, kalasha and others atop are missing and might have been lost during invasions.  There are numerous niches on the wall for statues, but  are empty now and show signs of damage. The niches are topped by tall pediments. The outer dimensions of the sanctum are 60 x 40 feet.  
The ornate doorway into the temple is a huge  one- 35 feet (11 m) high. Above the doorway is a relief work of Garuda, the vahana of Vishnu. Inside, there is another doorway above which is a Ganesha relief.  In the sanctum one can find the Lingam and nandi.  At the temple entrance, the panels have several inscriptions suggesting an age of 10th to 15th century. The latter inscriptions point out  that the temple was a Shiva shrine by the 15th century. One of the inscriptions discovered is a metrical hymn about Durga, and it suggests a Shakta tradition influence. The mandapa here has no covered roof, however thare is a prakara that  has four entrances, one from each cardinal direction which a devotee can use to enter the temple for a darshanam.

The banded doorway that can be reached through a flight of stairs has  beautiful sculptures of river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna, each with a boy and a girl on the lower part. Above them are found  amorous couples in various stages of courtship and intimacy (mithuna). The outer and inner doorways as in many Tamil Nadu temples have both male and female carrying weapons and a kind expression of welcome, and possibly symbolizing the theology in Shaiva and Shakta traditions.  The doorway leads to the sanctum sanctorum or garbha griha. There is a decorative sculpture of Garuda at the entrance to the temple. The temple's Valabhi shikara  is similar to the gopuram of Dravidian temples and it stands on a Nagara base. The temple's outer walls have been extensively carved.

About the temple Teli ka Mandir the following points need to be taken into account: 
01. This mandir is unusual, considering its complex design that has a mix of Dravidian temple architecture, Buddhist architecture,  Nagara style design and that of Gupta period. 

02. The plan of the garbagriha - sanctum is rectangular - an unusual one unlike the square one.

03. The temple was Vishnu temple initially and later became a Shiva temple. 

04. Initially, it started out as a Sakthi shrine (the Matrikas (mother goddesses).

05. Some historians argu that the Dravidian style of design is more due to collaboration among the members of pan-Indian guild, rather than the influence of south Indian style.  That the post-colonial era studies suggest  similar ruined barrel-vault capped historic temples in many places in north and east India, including those in Odisha may lend support to this view. 

06. The distinct  keel-vault details of this temple suggest that the idea is  markedly a different expressions never tried before, rather than a copy.
Teli Ka Mandir is an architectural splendor that will never disappoint you.

The Sé Cathedral of St. Katherine in Old Goa - What is so special about it?

 cathedral of old Goa,dedicated to st.Catherine.
Largest in Goa & Asia: Sé cathedral of old Goa
The small State of Goa has many historical and beautiful churches built during the Portuguese rule in that region. Some of them are quite artistically quite inspiring. Among them,  cathedral of old Goa is impressive is a great destination of tourists.
King Dom Sebastião (1557-78)
e church in Asia, the  Cathedral or  Cathedral of St. Katherine, the most  ancient and celebrated religious buildings of old Goa, was commissioned by the Portuguese Viceroy, Redondo/George Cabral  and he wanted it to be "a grandiose church worthy of the wealth, power and fame of the Portuguese who dominated the seas from the Atlantic to the Pacific". This magnificent 16th century  Roman Catholic  Church built during the Portuguese rule in Goa is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria on whose feast day in 1510 Alfonso Albuquerque defeated the Muslim army and took possession of the city of Goa. Hence it is also known as St. Catherine's' Cathedral.  Though commenced in 1562, for various reasons, apparently unstable political situation prevailing then, the cathedral was not completed until 1652 when the altars were finished.  It is an excellent example of European Renaissance architecture; the interior has Corinthian  style of architecture and it  boasts of several chapels and a total of 15 altars around the walls, seldom found in other churches. The  fully finished building  is bigger than any of the churches in Portugal itself.

 cathedral of old
It was during the rule of of King Dom Sebastião (1557-78) 
the construction of this imposing structure had begun in earnest in 1562  and later completed in 1619. As mentioned above,
the  main altars did not get ready  until the year 1652. However, the consecration of the cathedral was done in 1640. It is said the expenses were met by the Royal Treasury out of the proceeds of the sale of the Crown's property and it was built for the Dominicans.

 cathedral of old Goa
The  building built in Portuguese-Gothic in style with a Tuscan exterior and Corinthian interior  stands to the west of the great square called Terreiro de Sabaio and has its façade turned to the east. The church is 250 ft in length and 181 ft in breath. The frontispiece stands 115 ft high. It has a fine  courtyard that can be accessed by a flight of steps. 

The  cathedral originally had two tall towers on either side at the front, but the one on the south side collapsed in 1776. Since the loss of  Bell tower. it has not been rebuilt, and surprisingly, this cathedral with plain exterior  has a unique appearance in the Tuscan tradition and it is quite catchy.  Yet another interesting feature is this cathedral has has five bells. The surviving  tower houses a famous bell, believed to be  the largest in Goa and is often referred to as 'Golden Bell'  owing to its rich and distinct tone which has been immortalized in a Portuguese poem. As for the main altar, it is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria, and has old paintings on either side of it displaying various  scenes from her life and martyrdom. The Saint was beheaded in Alexandria and among the images here are those showing her awaiting execution and being carried to Mount Sinai by angels

 cathedral of old Goa and ASI.
 Built on a raised plinth of laterite, covered over with lime plaster, the cathedral has a  a long nave, two aisles and a transept.  The nave is barrel-vaulted while the crossing is rib-vaulted. Massive pillars support the vault in the nave and the choir, while the chapels on either side are separated by internal defences. The building is oblong in plan but has a cruciform layout in the interior. A bell tower is located to the southern side of the façade.

 cathedral of old Goa,
The  front main entrance has Corinthian columns on plinths supporting a pediment containing an inscription in Latin  mentioning that, in 1562, in the reign of King Dom Sebastiao, this Cathedral was ordered to be erected and later rulers  continued the same at the cost of the Royal Treasury.

The notable feature is there are four chapels on either side of the nave, two of which have perforated wooden screens across the entrance. The screens are so beautiful, its workmanship is just amazing. Of these two screened chapels, the outstanding Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament has a nicely  gilded and beautifully decorated wall and ceiling as opposed to the sober look of the cathedral's interior.
Largest in Goa & Asia: Sé cathedral of old Goa
On the right of the nave, is the other screened chapel, the Chapel of the Cross of Miracles. It is said a vision of Christ is said to have appeared in 1919 on this huge, plain, cross. Towering above the main altar is the huge gilded reredos. The six panels are carved with scenes from the life of St Catherine. .
There are small  statuettes of St Francis Xavier and St Ignatius Loyola  inset into the main pillars supporting the choir   The chamber to the right, contains  the baptismal font made in 1532, apparently brought from the old Cathedral. 
St Francis Xavier is said to have baptized thousands of Goan converts using this font. A large painting of St. Christopher is hung beneath the choir.

The four chapels are to the left of the entrance dedicated to Our Lady of Virtues, St. Sebastian, the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of Life. The four chapels to the right are  dedicated to St. Anthony, St. Bernard, the Cross of Miracles and the Holy Ghost.

There are two wooden pulpits in the nave  projecting from two columns on the right. There are are six altars in the transept, three on either side of the main altar. The altars on the right side are those of St. Anna, Our Lady of Dolores and St. Peter, while those on the left are those of Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Three Necessities and Our Lady of Hope.

The arches in the  altars are decorated with paintings depicting scenes from the lives of the saints. The wooden statues of St. Paul and St. Peter are kept  in the niche on either side of the nave.

 There is an 18th century organ kept in a projecting gallary  near the altar in the nave. There are also  seats for the canon and a throne for the archbishop in the nave. Yet another feature is an old richly carved  ebony stand, which was originally in the Church of St. Francis of Assisi. The  church is modelled after St. Peter's Church in Rome as it is revealed by the presence of vaulted structure with gilded altar in the  sacristy.

The adjoining conventis turned in to an Archaeological Museum and is open to the public. Just behind the cathedral lies a two storied edifice, the Palace of the Archbishop, which is no longer in use. The Franciscan church lies to the the west of the cathedral. Archdiocese of Goa and Daman is taking care of the administration.  It is a UNESCO world Heritage Site.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Mind-blowing Sun Temple, Modhera, Gujarat - sermon in stone

Sun Temple, Modhera,Gujarat. Kund.
Gudha mantap, Sun Temple,
Situated on the bank of the river Pushpavati, the Sun temple at Modhera village of Mehsana district, Gujarat was built after 1026-27 CE during the reign of Bhima I of the Chaulukya dynasty. This  Sun temple is dedicated to the Solar deity  amd as it is a protected monument of national importance, being managed by the Archaeological Survey of India ASI. The temple  is known locally as Sita ni Chauri and Ramkund worship What is so special about this place? It is a huge temple complex known for artistic beauty and workmanship. Just like Virupakshi Veebadra temple, Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple or Nellaiappar temple of Tamil Nadu, it is a repository of beautiful sculptures and ornate structure; simply a serman in stone. The remains of this ancient Sun Temple at Modhera draw hundreds of tourists, to this village 30 km south of Patan, near Ahmedabad.  Modhera village  is 25 km from Mehsana and 106 km from Ahmedabad.  The main deity Surya is east facing and sandstone is the main material used in this breath-taking old temple.
Tank and sun temple at Modheragujarat
sun temple at
Though in its ruined state, the sun temple at Modhera is quite impressive but no worship  is offered here now There is no shikara/tower or gopuram either.

It is to be noted that the main proper shrine of the Sun Temple was constructed during 1024-25 when  Bhima I of Chaulukya dynasty was the ruler. When Mahmud of Ghazni  raided Bhima's kingdom he made a vein attempt to seize the kingdom of Modera,  Historian  A. K. Majumdar is of the opinion that the Sun Temple, it is likely, was built to commemorate this defence. The inscription "Vikram Samvat 1083", corresponding to  1026-1027 CE upside down carelessly made in Devnagari suggests possible  destruction and reconstruction of the cella. As for the kunda (tank) with its corner shrines, it was  built earlier in the beginning of the 11th century. The inscription mentioned above is presumably the date of destruction by Ghazni. King Bhima, having  returned to the power built the temple proper, the miniature and the niche shrines in the tank shortly after 1026 CE. The dancing hall came up during the rule of of Karna in the third quarter of  the 12th century along with the gateways, the porch of the temple proper and the door frames of the temple and the cella.

Architecture of this temple is in Chaulukya style. Built in Maru-Gurjara  the temple complex is characteristic of  three axially aligned components as normally one will find at many Hindu temples. They are, as mentioned earlier:  the shrine proper (garbagriha) in a hall (Gudha Mandapa), the outer or assembly hall (Sabha Mandapa or Rangamandapa) and a sacred reservoir (kunda). The temple also has a pradakshina patha around the sanctum  and a sabha mandap in front.

The distinctive feature is the assembly hall is not linked with the sanctum (garbagriha, rather it is a separate structure; however, both are on the same platform and built on a paved platform whose plinth is an inverted lotus-shaped.  Their roofs, it is believed, collapsed long ago, and constructed with a different plan with a diameter of 15'.9''

 01. The Gudha Mandapa:  It is divided into  a hall and garbagriha, has a dimension of 51 feet 9 inches by 25 feet 8 inches. Both are rectangular in plan having  projections  in the entrance  and on the outer walls; the latter have perforated windows on each side and the  windows (stone screens)  in the the northern part are in ruins and the southern parts  are missing. 
Modhera sun temple: Gudha mandapa/
Modhera Sun temple. Reliefs on Gudha
About Garbagrihathe square-shaped Srikovil - sanctum measures 11 feet on one side. There are two cells  - upper and lower at different levels.  The collapsed upper cell once had the presiding deity. The seat of image is now a pit. The lower cell was probably used for storage. Pradakshina marga (corresponding to the  Prakara of South Indian temples) is formed by the passage between the walls of garbagriha and the outer walls of Gudha Mandapa. The roof over the passage has stones slabs carved with rosettes. The Shikhara over it  is missing. 
sun temple at Modhera, Gudha mantap
The walls inside the shrine are plain and  devoid of decoration unlike the decorated outer wall. The doorway is an interesting one with carved figures of seated Surya in panels surrounded by dancers and amorous couples. It is very  sad that beautiful  carved images are heavily damaged so is the ornate door.  The special feature about the  sanctum is that the first rays of the Sun at dawn bathe the  image of main deity - Surya during solar-equinox days  and on summer solstice days; at noon, the sun shines directly above the temple and does not cast a shadow.

Gudha mandapa has base-mouldings.  The outer walls of shrine  are  richly  decorated. The base and walls of the shrine consist of  several stretches with unique carvings. The pitha or adhisthana, is made of  two square members. There is an inverted lotus like moulding called padma or padmaka. This is followed by  several bands of mouldings. The  broad band, patti is carved with elephants (gajathara). The following band narathara has figures of men in different attitudes.

Mandovara or wall mouldings have several decorated bands, starting with  kumbha, a pitcher. There are panels decorated with  figures of gods but the figures of Surya are placed  more prominently than others as the temple is dedicated to him. Other panels are decorated with dancers and other figures.

 The well-carved figure of Surya is within  three niches of shrine proper as well as on the each side of three windows in the outer wall of Gudha mandapa. The eye-catching feature is the figures of Surya  in standing position with two arms holding lotuses and driven by seven horses. There are 12 niches on the walls, bringing out the different  aspects of Surya in each month. Other figures include eight Dikpals (Dwarapalaks: guards at the gate), Vishwakarma, Varuna, Agni, Ganesha, Saraswati. This is followed by shikhara which no longer exist. The Vimana possesses  horizontal geometrical and figurative bands  rising to create the Mount Meru-like shikhara. 

The Mandap- hall has a big dome and is  supported by eight principal pillars below arranged in an octagon, four pillars in front of shrine proper and two each in the recesses of windows and door.

02. Sabha mandapa: Sabha Mandapa also called Rangamandapa, is actually an assembly hall or dancing hall with rows of pillars opening entrance on each side diagonally. The  exterior is extensively carved and has a series of recessed corners giving impression of the star like plan of it. There are 52 intricately carved pillars in the hall.

Sabhamandapa with ornate  pillars and exterior
Modhera sun temple. Sabha mandapa,annotation of exterior mouldings,wikipedia 
About base mouldings, the pitha here  is almost similar to the Gudha mandapa but smaller in size because two courses of fillets are omitted. The richly carved Padma  with floral ornamentation is impressive.

Wall mouldings here  have fine figures of dancers and gods known as rajasena. The  is followed by   sort of bands  decorated with large panels of gods, goddesses and floral designs. There are erotic figures on it interrupted by rail-patterns.

Ceiling and torana enhance the beauty of this temple. The Pyramidal roof  longer exists. Inside, the walnut-shaped ceiling has tiers with numerous floral girdles. It is 23 feet high and  is supported by pillars arranged in an octagon. These pillars have stilts which in turn support the lintels. 
The interesting feature is the Torana or the decorated cusped arches arising  from the lower brackets of the pillars and touching the lintels in middle. There are semicircular and triangular  arches. The lower brackets have makara; hence the name  makara-torana while decoration gives the name - chitra-torana.
Modhera sun temple.Sabha mantapa Long& short pillars, semicircular &triangular arches
Pillars of Kirti-torana and steps leading to kunda ,
Pilars of Kirti-torana and steps leading to kunda are equally interesting. There are two types of pillars both  short and tall in the Sabhamandapa and Gudhamandapa. The short pillars rest on walls and supports the roof whereas the tall ones  rise from the floor and give better support to the load-bearing structure. The square part of the short pillrs have floral designs. Following pillrs is the shaft which is  first decorated with standing figures, mostly dancers, on all eight faces enclosed in ringed pilasters. This followed by a band consisting of men and beasts and later human. The shaft becomes circular and has three or four rows of warriors.  

Iconography here is well depicted. The panels on the Gudha mandapa are  decorated with Surya, the main deity of this temple. These images wears peculiar West Asian (Persian) boots and belt as in the Dakshinaarka temple at Gaya!!  The other corners and niches are decorated with figures of Shiva and Vishnu in various forms, Brahma, Nāga and goddesses. The small flat ceilings and lintels of sabhamandapa has depictions from various episodes of the great epics like  like the Ramayana.

Kirti-torana  was the triumphant arch, in front of sabhamandapa. The pediment and torana do not  exist but  for two pillars. The moulding and decoration are similar to those on the walls of sabhamandapa and pillars.  There were two more kirti-torana on each side of the kunda of which only one exists without upper part.

Kunda is actually a  reservoir or water tank often referred to as  Ramakunda or Suryakunda. The reservoir, rectangular in shape, is accessed through the flight of steps through kirti-torana. The main entrance is on the west side.  It measures 176 feet from north to south and 120 feet from east to west.  Paved with stones all around in a particular geometric pattern,  there are four terraces and recessed steps to descend to reach the bottom of the tank.  There are steps to reach from one terrace to another  terrace. The steps are rectangular or square  shaped except the first step of each flight of steps which is semicircular.  There are several miniature shrines and niches in the front of terrace-wall  and they carry the images of gods including many Vaishnavite deities and goddesses such as Shitala. These miniature shrines adorn the steps of the tank - which itself is an art gallery.
Modhera: Massive pillars leading to the stepped tank outside the
The stepwell on the west of Kunda has one entrance and two pavilion-towers.  Moderately ornamented, the door-frame has lotus and leaves and the ruchaka type pilasters suggesting possible 11th century age.  However, the  small mandapa above the ground level located on the second kuta of step well is suggestive of 10th century.Modhera dance festival is a great event here and this place comes alive during that time.  An annual three-day dance festival known as 'Uttarardha Mahotsav' at the temple during the third week of January, following the festival of Uttarayan  attracts lots of people. It is arranged by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat. The objective is to present classical dance forms and recreate  an atmosphere quite similar to the one under which   they were originally presented. The added advantage is the sun temple and the ambiance here provide a matching  backdrop for the exhibition of performing arts.
When in 1026 CE, the Sun temple was built. during the same period or just prior, the Jain temples at Mount Abu by Vimal Shah, the Rudra Mahal temple at Siddhapur , the Somnath temple at Somnath, Patan came up. Interestingly, the grand Brihadeeswarar temple at Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu was built by Rajarajan much  earlier in 1010 AD.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Koodal Azhagar (Vishnu) Perumal Temple, Madurai, TN

Koodal Azhagar Perumal temple, Madurai.
Considered as one of the 108 Divya Desham shrines dedicated to Lord Vishnu and glorified  in the the Divya Prabhandam, the  early medieval Tamil canon of the Tamil Azhwar saints from the 6th–9th centuries, Koodal Azhagar Perumal Temple is popular one  and  is located near  the  Periyar Bus stand and Madurai Railway station. It is just 500 meters away fom the famous Meenakshi temple. Here, the lord's main consort is Maduravalli thayar (lakshmi). Koodal is the ancient name of Madurai City as recorded in Sangam literature. and it  also  means joint or junction. it was the place where the  eminent Tamil scholars used to meet for literary discussion). Madurai is a later legendary name meaning sweet or beautiful. 

The 5 tiered gopuram (125 feet tall) forms the main entrance gate of this temple. The temple was built by Pandya rulers and  later by the Vijayanagara rulers. Madurai Nayaks made additional contribution to the  temple structure. The latter rulers built pillared hall (mantap) during the 16th century.  The Dwajasthambam (flag staff) mantap and the hall before the Hema Pushkarani were onstructed by the Madurai  Nayaks. 

When  the famous celestial wedding (Meenakshi Thirukalyanam) was fixed between Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswar  (Lord Shiva), it was Lord Kallazhagar  who gave his sister as kannika dhanam. Because of flood in the Vaigai river Vishnu was unable to attend the wedding and, however, the Kannika Dhanam took place at the auspicious hours with  the help of Koodal Azhagar Perumal. 

Koodal Azhagar Perumal temple, Madurai.
The granite idol of Koodal Azhagar Perumal in seating posture is a big one - 6 feet tall  and here his consorts are  Sridevi and Boodevi.  The unique feature of this temple is  the Ashtaanga Vimanam (tower above the Sanctum sanctorum in a Hindu temple) is a main feature of this temple.   At  Thirukostiyur, the sanctum sanctorums (srikovils) are seen one above the another.   Lord Surya Narayanan is in a standing posture in the first tier Garbagraha and in the second tier Garbagraha  Lord Ksheerabdir Perumal is in the reclining posture - Ananathasayanam. There are beautiful wall paintings inside the Ashtanga vimanam. A rare  feature of this temple is the installation of Navagrahas at the right hand corner of the temple

An interesting feature worthy of note is that here you can  see Vishnu in three postures - standing, sitting and reclining; all under the same vimanam. Here goddess Maduravalli thayar is in Padmasana (sitting) posture and she is believed to  be Padhi Thanda Pathni ( meaning one who does not leave the confines of the her abode - garbagraha).

The temple follows the traditions of the Thenkalai sect of Vaishnavites and that of  Vaikasana aagama. In modern times, the temple priests perform the pooja (rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis. The temple rituals are performed six times a day (Aarukala Puja).

It is said that Lord Azhagar gave darshan to the sounakas, Brighurishi and Periazhwar, a high priest in the Vatapatra Saayi temple at Srivilliputtur. His original name was `Vishnuchitta', a scholar in Vaishnavism  and took pleasure in doing Kainkarya to the lord. Sri Vallabha Deva was then  ruler in the Pandyan kingdom with  Madurai as his capital. He had a very devoted minister and priest called Selva Nambi. Once a satsangh was held at the request of  a Pandya ruler. Periyazwar won the battle of wits and got a bag of gold coins with which he built the Srivilliputur temple. When he got the honor from the Pandya ruler Lord Vishnu himself blessed Periazhawar. 
Saint Periazhwar at Koodal Azhagar perumal temple, Madurai
The important temple festival is the fourteen day annual Brahmotsavam during the Tamil month of Vaikasi (May - June). The Urchavar  images of the main  temple  deities are brought in a chariot round the streets of the temple in various mounts during all the fourteen days. The Ther Ootam or ratha festival attracts  people in thousands.

srimad-azhagiya singar-mangalasasanam-at-koodal-azhagar-temple
On July 16th, 2013, HH 46th Azhagiyasingar, Srimathe Srivan Sathakopa Sri Ranganatha Yatindra Mahadesikan, did mangalasasanam at Koodal Azhagar Temple in Madurai. Earlier on the 14th of July, Srimad Azhagiyasingar performed Sethu Samudra Snanam in the morning at Thiruppullani, followed by mangalasasanam in the evening

Friday, 14 September 2018

Why do Hindu temples have a bell? 20 essential facts!!

Hindu temple bells.
In those days when urban and semi urban traffic was to the minimum we could hear the  melodious and rhythmic ringing and   chiming of temple and  church bell at a distance place slowly being carried by the prevailing breeze.  The sound of bells from the sanctified places was so soothing to our mind and soul it would  make us feel euphoric. No doubt, a feeling devotion and bhakti would overwhelm us. It also reminded of the time of the day and the prayer or puja kalam (puja time) at the temple. Nowadays though the temple bells do ring during puja times, we, sometimes, hear the feeble sound that may die out soon. Because the urban/semi urban  din is so bad and noisy, the beautiful sound of the bells gets drowned in the noise.  

As far as Hindu temples are concerned, a bell is an integral part of the prayer time and many temples do have a bell mantabam ( hall). The historic temples in Tamil Nadu have a big bell in one corner of a hall hanging from a massive beam

Bells play a vital role in Hindu temples. Every temple is adorned with lots of bells set on the huge entrance  wooden doors or gates. Small bells are tied  on tree  braches on the temple premises.
A bell is commonly  a directly struck idiophone percussion instrument. Invariably, most of the bells have the shape of a hollow cup with its sides forming a good resonator. When struck  it is being aided by the resonator, causing vibration  in a single strong strike tone. The hollow part has an internal ''clapper'' or ''uvula''  with which strike is made. Extrnal strike is possible with a hammer, in case of small bells.

Bells  intended to be heard over a wide area can range from a single bell hung in a turret or bell-gable or chiming bells as one finds in churches and town halls.  Bells are usually cast from bell metal (a type of bronze) for its resonant properties; depending on the function, they  can also be made from other hard materials;. Some small bells such as ornamental bells or cow bells are made from cast or pressed metal,  but large bells such as church, clock and tower bells are normally cast from bell metal. The traditional metal for these bells is a bronze of about 23% tin. Steel  was not used after 1870s as it had questionable durability  and cost of production.

The study of bells is called Campanology and the process of casting bells is called bell founding.
Huge temple bell,Kochi Tirumala Devaswom 
Above image: The huge bronze bell in this image is at Kochi Tirumala Devaswom, one of the important Hindu temples in Matancherry, Kochi, Kerala. It is believed to be  the second largest in Asia. Srimath Muttom Thirumala Devaswom at Cherthala in Kerala, is managed by the Gowda Saraswatha Brahmin community. They in 2012 installed this huge bell  and  it weighs 1100 kg. Size is 4.8 ft in diameter and 5 ft high......................

There are many reasons behind sounding of  temple bells:

01. Temples in Tamil Nadu have  a fairly huge bell and it is rung to inform the public that the pooja to the main deity in the sanctum (Garbagraha/Srikovil) is about to start. 

02. Ringing of bells is symbolic of invoking the divinity in the place of worship, and virtuous and noble thoughts will get into our heart and house.  Driven out are the evil and demonic forces that carry the stamp of negativity in us. So, we get clarity and get rid of  hopelessness.  

03. Derived from the  Sanskrit word Ghanta (meaning sound), the Temple bell is fundamentally  made out of bronze, magnesium and other metals. That the temple bells are unique and different from other bells is true. The composition of temple bells is not an ordinary one. It is an alloy of various metals mixed in a particular proportion. Metals  cadmium, lead, copper, zinc, nickel, chromium and manganese also go into the alloy.

04. According to the temple Agama Sastra, the bell should be made of 5 metals - copper, silver, gold, iron and brass and they refer to  as Panchabootha - five  essential elements of the earth. 
Depending on the words in the mantra being chanted the bell should be sounded 8, 16, 24, and 32 times,

05. As mentioned before, the right mixing of every element used in bell-makingis essential and it  is where the right technical expertise lies.

06. Rgardless of size, the bell has a hollow interior and from the centre hangs a piece of metal (clapper)  which strikes the metallic side of the hollow part and creates the sound. The space between the hollow vessel and the metallic rod is important in bell making and the quality of sound depends on the metallic composition and the configuration of the bell, including the diameter of the bell and the size of striking rod at the center.  

Puja bell with nandi (bull)
Hand bell with nandi (bull)
07. According to Sanskrit Literature,  there are many types of bells such as Kansyaghanta, tala, ghatika, jayaghantika, kshudraghanta and karma, each one is for a specific purpose.  

08. The bell  with a handle in the shape of Vajra is called  Vajraghanta. In the  Buddhist monastery/temple, the hand bell has a Stupa shaped handle  and it is widely used for for prayers.

09. In Vaishnava temples, the hand bell carries the image of Sangu and Chakra or Garuda or Hanuman at the top end of the handle. On the other hand, in Shaivite temples, the same hand bell carries the image of a small Nandi (rishabam) atop the handle. 
Vaishnava hand bell for puja.
10. Perhaps, it is pertinent know why temple bells are rung at the appropriate time. This is to announce the time (kalam)  of the Puja , hence the bell is rung right before the beginning of the Puja to get the attention of the devotees on the temple premises and surrounding streets.

11. The sound of the temple bell in the early morning   wakes you up and prepares you for the ensuing puja protocol. 

12. The other purpose of sounding bell is to welcome the God and ask for his gracious presence throughout the Pooja at the temple. 

13. The bell is  being continuously struck when puja is on - during anointing,  decoration of the idol with fresh flowers, sandal paste, jewels, etc and when aarti is done before the deity.  This bell is being struck to bring in  the devotees to the prayer hall and to prevent distractions. 
14. Further, the continuous sound from the bell creates a divine ambiance in the already-sanctified place and now our mind is automatically preoccupied with devotion. It is fully focused on the God in the sanctum during the puja ritual as other external sounds get drowned by the continuous sound from the temple bell. Consequently our concentration on the God and prayer won't be disturbed during the puja time. 

15. Yet another reason is such temple bell sound creates positive energy on the temple premises as well as among the visiting devotees. Some bells can produce the long strains of the sound OM (Pranava mantra).

16. The bells are  made to produce such a distinct sound that it promotes proper functioning of both sides of the brain - right and left hemispheres in unison.  

17. The belief is that once the sound from the bell is produced the minute sharp sonic vibrations (harmonics) last for  some seconds in echo mode. The sound, it is said, is good enough to reach the  seven healing centres or chakras in your body, producing positive vibe.  

18. Yet another interesting fact is the moment bell is rung and you hear the sound, the brain becomes bereft of other unwanted thoughts. In other words, the brain is emptied of all irrelevant thoughts. Consequently, the devotee prays to God with intense concentration. Now, he is in a trance-like situation, draining out the unwanted thoughts. It subtly increases his concentration power.

19. With respect to hand bells, the body of the bell represents time or anantha; the tongue (clapper) of the bell represents Goddess of wisdom Saraswati, and the handle represents the prana sakthi. It symbolically represents Nandi, Chakra, Garuda or Hanuman

20. So simply, when the temple bell rings, we  detach ouselves from the materialistic world to enter the world of divinity and spiritual awareness that is everlasting. Chanting mantras has an added advantage.