Hindu Temple architecture which evolved over a period of more than 2000
years conforms to strict religious models that incorporate elements of
astronomy and sacred geometry. In Hindu belief, the Temple represents
the macrocosm of the Universe as well as the microcosm of inner space.
While the underlying form of Hindu Temple architecture follows strict
traditions, considerable variation occurs with the often intense
decorative embellishments and ornamentation.
A basic Hindu Temple consists of an inner sanctum, the garbhagriha
womb-chamber, a congregation hall, and possibly an antechamber and
porch. The Hindu Temple represents Mount Meru, the axis of the Universe.
There are strict rules which describe the themes and sculptures on the
outer walls of the Temple buildings.
The two primary styles that have developed are the Nagara style of
Northern India and the Dravida style of Southern India. A prominent
difference between the two styles are the elaborate gateways employed in
the South. They are also easily distinguishable by the shape and
decoration of their śikharas. The Nagara style is beehive-shaped while
the Dravida style is pyramid-shaped.
Śikharas – Mountain Peaks
Śikhara, a Sanskrit word translating literally to "mountain peak",
refers to the rising tower in the Hindu Temple architecture of North
India. Like mountains these structures are larger at the bottom than at
the top. They were built of stone and brick and were capped with a
bulb-shaped top called an amalaka. The Śikhara over the sanctum
sanctorum where the presiding deity is enshrined is the most prominent
and visible part of a Hindu Temple of North India.
In south India, the equivalent term for "Śikhara" is "Vimanam". These
are not to be confused with the elaborate gateway-towers of south Indian
Temples, called "Gopurams", which are perhaps the most prominent
features of those Temples.
Vimana is a term for the tower above the Garbhagriha or Sanctum
sanctorum in a Hindu Temple. A typical Hindu Temple in Dravidian style
may have multiple gopurams, typically constructed into multiple walls in
tiers around the main shrine. The Temple's walls are typically square
with the outermost wall having four gopuras, one each on every side,
situated exactly in the centre of each wall. The sanctum sanctorum and
its towering roof (the central deity's shrine) are also called the
Vimana. Generally, these do not assume as much significance as the outer
gopurams, with the exception of a few Temples where the sanctum
sanctorum's roofs are as famous as the Temple complex itself. The
structure of Vimana are generally believed to be the docking zone for
celestial vehicles in which gods travel.
The photo below was taken during the recent Kumbhabhiskheam
Adiannamalai. The photograph shows the ceremony in which Divine Power is
transferred back to the deities by performing an abhishekam (salutary
bathing) to the Vigrahas and Vimanas (pinnacles) on the roof with the
sanctified holy waters from the kalasas accompanied by Vedic chanting
and special rites. On that day at the designated auspicious time, when
the Kumbha is bathed with the charged and sanctified holy waters
contained in the sacrificial pots, consecrated and sanctified pranic
powers trickle down a silver wire and enter the Deity installed inside
the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Temple.
Anointing the Vimana
It is not only the mountain Arunachala which is a significant factor in
the spirituality connected with this site but also the presence of
Arunachaleswarar Temple. The construction of the Temple and its
situation magnifies the energies of its surroundings as it was built in
strict observance of the sacred geometry of mathematical repetition in