|Basic temple parts. godsownwebblogspot|
Though the Indian temples are built in a pattern native to a particular region, the structure of Hindu temples is based on 4 collective principles of human life : they are Artha (wealth, prosperity), Kama (pleasure, sex), Dharma (ethics, values), Moksha (self-realization, freedom from life or reaching heaven!). In this transient world, we must do our duty correctly as we progress in age. Self-contentment promotes happiness.
|Sketch of gopura. en.wikipedia.org|
Among the parts of a Hindu temple, regardless of style of temple architecture, be it Dravidian or Nagara, Vimana forms an important part. This structure over the inner sanctum/garbagriha is common among the Hindu temples of Nouth India and Odisha in East India. The main garbagriha is the place (in Tamil Karuvarai) where the presiding deity is enshrined. Temple Gopuram through which we get into the temple enclosure, it is believed represents the feet of the divinity and the sanctum / garbagriha represents the sirasu -head of divinity. A devotee bows at the feet of the Lord at the gate as he steps into the temple with humility and proceeds towards the chamber to surrender to him, leaving behind the mundane world of confusion, commotion and contradiction. he is there to be at peace with himself in the sanctified place of worship right before the deity. There is a well known saying in Tamil: "Gopura Darshanam Koti Paapa Nashanam" meaning the darshan of a temple gopuram will get rid of 10 million sins. Hence, temple towers/ gopurams are sacred to the Hindus.
|Hindu temple, northern and southern styles. templepurohit.com/|
North Indian temple design: They have a square garbagriha with adjacent pillared mandapas (halls or porches) that are connected to a sanctum by a vestibule (antaralas). Unlike south Indian temples the ones in the north have embellished entrance to the sanctum with figures of deities and geometric ornamentation. The temples usually contain a shrine and a meditation hall to engage in silent prayer and meditation. They are basically squares with several gradual projections in the center of each side. This gives a cruciform shape with a number of re-entrant angles on each sides .
Normally, a gopura is built with an enormous stone base in a rectangular plan and a superstructure of brick above it with support. It is topped by a barrel-vault roof crowned with a row of finials. Height, size, etc differ from temples to temples. But the main plan of the temple is the same. It is quite interesting to note that the height of Vimana over the inner sanctum is not uniform across India. Among the temples of East India where Kalinga style of architecture is predominant, the Vimana is the tallest structure. This is also true of north and West India where the tower with Vimana rises to a great height above the sanctum. On the contrary, in most of the south Indian temples, the Vimana over the inner sanctum is very much shorter than the entrance gate tower or towers (gopuras) on all four sides - East, west, north and south. With exceptions, this is a typical Dravidian style of temple architecture.
The terminology also differs as in the case of the superstructure over the garbhagriha, it is referred to as a 'shikhara'. But, as far as south Indian temple architecture is concerned, the term shikhara means a dome-shaped crowning cap above the Vimana. Among the entrance gate towers -gopura at four directions on the outer most walls, the East one is the main entrance to the temple. Rest of the gateways under the gopura are opened on certain auspicious days. The belief has been that if you choose one of these gate ways, you are assured of salvation, a place in heaven (Swargham) - meaning no rebirth will haunt you.
The tower/ vimana over the inner sanctum does not get as much importance as the entrance gate towers on the outer walls. In a few temples the roof of the sanctum assumes much importance regardless of its size, shape and height.
|tower above the sanctum, Thanjavur big temple. trekearth.com|
|Tallest Main Tower in India, Srirangam Ranganathar temple, TN anubhavtyagi.com|
|Srirangam temple. small gold-plated tower above the sactum shtadevata.com|
|The gold plated above sanctum. tall tower is the entrance tower hdnicewallpapers.com|
|Golden roof above sanctum, Chidambaram Nataraja temple.tripadvisor.com|
|Madurai Meenakshi temple. towers above the sanctum are very small. tall entrance towers. flickr.com|
At Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple there are two sanctums one for the lord Sundareswarar (Shiva) and another for Parvati (Meenakshi). Both vimanas over the sanctms are small and gold plated.
At the Jagannath Temple, Puri, there is the Neelachakra on the sikhara, i.e., the top of the Vimana. It is symbolic of God Vishnu's most powerful weapon, the sudarshana chakra. The toweis above the sanctum.
|Puri Jagannath temple, odisha tower above sanctum commons.wikimedia.org|