Since time immemorial, the role of temples in the lives of mankind has been profound. Temples have been the heart of social, economic, artistic and intellectual functions of the society and in many ways being a way of life. Historically temples were the biggest structure in any town/village probably next only to the king’s palace and in most cases matching its grandeur. The artisans, sculptors and masons were extremely successful in raising engineering marvels that stood the test of time.
A temple also serves as a community centre, a venue to mark festivals, a centre to celebrate all art forms, a wedding hall, a granary, a centre for learning, a refuge from the forces of nature, a fortress during wars and much much more. Many temples served as centres where ancient manuscripts were routinely used for learning and a large number of works on Hindu philosophy, poetry, grammar and other subjects were written and preserved inside. They promoted vedic education that expounded not only the knowledge of divine but also life sciences such as economics, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, social responsibility etc.
Some temples had large treasury, thanks to generous contributions from patrons and these temples served as banks. Temples also managed regional development functions, such as irrigation projects, land reclamation including building facilities such as water tanks, irrigation canals, new roads etc. and also played a role in post-disaster relief and recovery. The large wells inside temples served as the only source of water in dry months. Temples used to be active charity centers (Dharmashalas) and they provided free meal for wayfarers, pilgrims and devotees, as well as boarding facilities for students and hospitals for the sick. Temples also acted as refuge during times of political unrest and danger.
Such is the significance of temples in Hindu philosophy and they continue to serve as a conduit between devotees and deities even today. Though classified as temples in general, they differ significantly as we traverse the length and breadth of the nation. They are built on mountains, caves, river banks, dense forests and even near oceans. The architecture also varies with materials such as rocks (in fact, the type of stone used itself is manifold), wood, plaster and precious metals. The purpose of construction of ancient temples are also several – some constructed to signify the success in wars, some to depict historical events, some to please the Lord and some even to bring peace to the area by unifying the people in the region.
It is an exciting journey to visit each and every possible temple in the country and understand the underlying purpose of these holy structures. They can not only reveal the wonders about the temple but also tie in with various Dharmic aspects and reveal connections with other temples. We are a set of curious travellers who go round the country in search of truth and planning to bring it to the attention of a larger audience. Please stay with us and enjoy the blissful experience!
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