Mandir Means – A Place Away From The Mind (मंदिर का अर्थ होता है- मन से दूर कोई स्थान)
In Hinduism, the temple is called a mandir. Each mandir is dedicated to a specific Hindu god or goddess.
The Mandir literally means ‘house’ and the Mandir is also called gates – like Ramdwara, Gurudwara, etc. The Mandir can also be called “aalaya” such as Pagoda, Jinalaya. But when we say that the Mandir is away from the mind then its meaning changes.
The Mandir is held by a god, deity or guru, the Aalaya is only of Shiva and the Mandir or stupa is only for meditation and prayer, but at present all the above places are called Mandirs in which any deity idol is worshiped. The place of worshiping or meditating on the formless God while staying away from the mind is called a Mandir. Just as we remove shoes and enter the Mandir, similarly the mind and ego are also left outside. Where the deities are worshiped is called ‘Devra’ or ‘Dev-sthal’. Where there is worship, it is called the place of worship, where the prayer is done. Vedas believe that God is pleased with prayer and not by worship.
The word Mandir is not very ancient in Sanskrit. In the epics and sutras, the words Devalaya, Devayatan, Devakul, Devgriha, etc. are used instead of the Mandir. The first mention of the Mandir is found in the Shatapatha Brahmin. In the Shakhanian source, Prasada is said to consist of walls, roof, and windows. In the Vedic era, nature was the law of worship of Gods. There is mention of Rudra and Vishnu with philosophical ideas in it. In the Rigveda, Rudra is considered the god of nature, flora, pasture, and Vishnu is the god of sacrifice. Later, Vishnu was considered the best of the gods in later Vedic literature. (Vishnu Param: accordingly Goddess Sarva Avya:).
Mandirs have a special place in the ancient architecture of India. The truth behind the Mandir construction was hidden in the Indian culture that such a religion should be established that people can get with ease and practicality. In order to fulfill this Mandir architecture emerged. Earlier, cavities, stupas, and chaityas were being built in India by Buddhism and Jainism. After the Kushan period, along with the worship of deities, the construction of Mandirs was started.
The architecture of the early Mandirs was influenced by Buddhist Bihar. Their roof was flat and they had a sanctum sanctorum. Roop Vidhan was conceived in the Mandirs and the artists established the Mandir in Dehroop along with giving it a realistic appearance. After the rise of the Bhagavata religion in the fourth century, there seemed to be a need to install the idol of the (presiding deity) god. Therefore, Vaishnavas started planning for the construction of the Matanuayi Mandir.
The Sanchi Mandir with two pillared rooms is considered to be the first phase of the Guptmandir. Later in the Gupta period, large Mandirs were built on which there are Mandirs of both Vaishnava and Shaiva religions. Initially, these Mandirs were simple and the pillars were not ornate. The roof was flat in place of the peaks and the sanctum had a statue of God, a high light, etc. In front of the sanctum sanctorum, a small or large verandah dependent on the pillars also started to be found. The same tradition is found in later periods. There are very strong evidence of Hindu Mandir Architecture/Hindu Temple Architecture in Ancient Times of India.
The above image is The Vastu (architecture) of a Hindu Mandir is depicted on a letter from the 18th-century Tadpatra manuscript obtained from Odisha.
Architectural View Of Hindu Mandir
In architecture of any Hindu Mandir, Vastu is the primary point. All things are according to Vastu.
Since ancient times, people of any religion have been praying collectively in a place where one can meditate fully, be able to concentrate or express devotion to God. That is why much attention was paid to Vastu in Mandir construction.
If we look at the ancient Mandirs of India, it is known that the architecture of all was very strong. Wherever we find peace. The grandeur of the Mandir has a profound effect on the mind. The Mandal that is formed at the time of the actual appearance of the house is the Mandal of the Mandir?
If you see the composition of ancient Mandirs, then you will know that all were somewhat pyramidal shaped. From the very beginning, our religious leaders have thought of the design of the Mandir as a pyramid. Astrological and astronomy were also taken care of in the architecture of Hindu Mandirs.
You must have seen that some Mandirs in our country are built just below the Tropic of Cancer. The Mandirs of Ujjain and Omkareshwar are examples of this. While Shaktipeeth and Jyotirlinga had special attention to architecture, the selection and direction of the location of the celestial planets and constellations of its creation have also been taken into consideration.
As far as the pyramidal structure was concerned, the huts of sages and sages were also of the same size. The roofs of our ancient houses used to be similar. Later, the Hindu Mandir Architecture continued to change due to the influence of Roman, China, Arab and Greek architecture.
Scholars believe that the Mandir is pyramidal and east, north or north facing. Many Mandirs are also west, south, igneous or Nairtyamukhi, but can we call them Mandirs? They can be any other place of worship.
The Basic Form Of A Hindu Mandir
When you browse our earlier articles on Hindu Mandir Architecture/Hindu Temple Architecure, you would realize one thing. It was a gradual evolution starting from the rock-cut- cave Mandirs to monolithic rathas which finally culminated in structural Mandirs. The basic form of a Hindu structural Mandir consists of the following.
It literally means ‘womb-house’ and is a cave-like a sanctum.
In the earliest Mandirs, it was a small cubical structure with a single entrance.
Later it grew into a larger complex.
The Garbhagriha is made to house the main icon (main deity) which is itself the focus of much ritual attention.
It is the entrance to the Mandir.
It may be a portico or colonnaded (series of columns placed at regular intervals) hall that incorporates space for a large number of worshippers.
Dances and such other entertainments are practiced here.
Some Mandirs have multiple mandapas in different sizes named as Ardhamandapa, Mandapa, and Mahamandapa.
3. Shikhara or Vimana:
They are mountain like the spire of a free-standing Mandir.
Shikhara is found in North Indian Mandirs and Vimana is found in South Indian Mandirs.
Shikhara has a curving shape while vimana has a pyramidal-like structure.
Shikhara and Vimana
It is a stone disc-like structure at the top of the Mandir and they are common in North Indian Mandirs.
It is the topmost point of the Mandir and commonly seen in North Indian Mandirs.
6. Antarala (vestibule):
Antarala is a transition area between the Garbhagriha and the Mandir’s main hall (mandapa).
It is a raised platform for sitting and praying and is common in North Indian Mandirs.
It is the mount or vehicle of the Mandir’s main deity along with a standard pillar or Dhvaj which is placed axially before the sanctum.
Types/Styles Of Hindu Mandir
Styles is called Shaili (शैली)
The Mandirs located in the Indian subcontinent and other parts of the world are built in different styles. Some of the styles of Mandirs are as follows:
Nagar Style (नागर शैली)
The spread of the Nagara style can be seen from the Himalayas to the Vindhya mountain range. According to Vastu Shastra, the identity of the Nagara style Mandirs is to be its quadrangle from the base to the highest part. The sanctum sanctorum in the developed Nagar Mandir, in front of it, the interval, pavilion and semi-pavilion are found. These parts are attached to each other on the same axis.
Dravidian Style (द्रविड़ शैली)
This style is known as Dravida style due to its development in South India. In this, the base part of the Mandir is square and the top of the sanctum sanctorum is pyramidal, which consists of many floors. The main feature of Mandirs of this style is that they are quite high and surrounded by huge courtyards. There are many Mandirs, chambers and cisterns in the courtyard. The main entrance to Pragna is called ‘Gopuram’. The Mandirs of the Chola period are the best evidences of the Dravidian style.
Besar literally means mixed form and mixed form of civil and Dravidian style is called as Besar. It is Dravidian style in form and Nagar style in form. Due to two different styles surface between wide area of North and South. An area was formed where they were mixed in the form of baser style.This Mandir of this style is built from the Vindhya ranges to the Krishna River, but the field of art is infinite.
Pagoda style (पगोडा शैली)
Pagoda style is a popular Hindu Mandir Architecture/Hindu Temple Architecure in Nepal and Bali island of Indonesia. In this style, a series of roofs are placed vertically on top of each other. Most of the sanctum sanctorum is in the ground level. But in some Mandirs (example: Akash Bhairava of Kathmandau and Bhimsenasthan Mandir), the sanctum sanctorum is installed in the second floor. The sanctum sanctorum of some Mandirs are built in a well-known site (eg: Nyatpol Mandir of Bhaktapur), which is situated at the height of about 3-4 floors from the ground. Pashupatinath of Nepal, Pura Besaki of Bali etc. are prominent in the famous Mandir built in this style.
With the construction of the stupas, the construction of Hindu Mandirs as free structures also started. There were mythological stories in Hindu Mandirs as the subject matter of the gods. There were three Mandir building styles on the basis of pradakshina path and entry in the Mandirs.
Sandhar (सन्धार): The Mandirs of this style used to have a pillared gallery surrounded by a square womb house. The purpose of this gallery was to illuminate the womb. Thus, there is a pradakshina path in Sandhar style.
Nirandhar (निरन्धार): The Mandirs of this style do not have a pradakshina path.
Sarvatobhadra (सर्वतोभद्र): Mandirs of this style have four entrances which are in all four main directions. It also has an architrave with 12 pillars surrounding it. This type of Mandir gets entry from all directions.
Sculptures, Iconography, and Ornamentation
- Iconography is a branch of art history which studies the images of deities.
It consists of the identification of images based on certain symbols and mythology associated with them. There are symbols like Om and Swastika.
- Even though the fundamental myth and meaning of the deity may remain the same for centuries, its specific usage at a spot can be a response to its local or immediate social, political or geographical context.
- Every region and period produces its own distinct style of images with its regional variations in iconography.
- The Mandir is covered with elaborate sculptures and ornament that form a fundamental part of its conception.
- The placement of an image in a Mandir is carefully planned: for instance, river goddesses (Ganga and Yamuna) are visually found at the entrances in a Nagara Mandir, Dwarapalas are usually found on the gateway or gopurams of Dravida Mandirs, similarly mithunas (erotic images), navagrahas ( the 9 auspicious planets) and Yakshas are also placed at the entrances to guard them.
- Various forms or aspects of the main divinity are to be found on the outer walls of the sanctum.
- The ashtadikpalas (deities of direction) face eight key directions on the outer walls of the sanctum and/or on the outer walls of the Mandir.
- Subsidiary shrines around the main Mandir are dedicated to the family or incarnations of the main deity.
- The various elements of ornamentation are gavaksha, vyala/ yali, kalpa-lata, amalaka, kalasha, etc.
Gopuram or Gopura (also known as Vimanam) is a monumental attic, often crafted, and mostly located at the gates of Mandirs in South India. It is a major part of the architecture of Hindu Mandirs. It is beautiful with the Kirt Kalash above. They provide the gate work in the walls of Mandirs.
The history of the gopurams goes back to the early Pallava dynasty constructions and principal organs built by the twelfth-century Dandya dynasties. They cover the interior of the Mandir, as they are often much larger than the main Mandir. It also dominated the inner sanctum in amount of ornamentation. Often a shrine has more than one gopuram.
Gopurams are mostly rectangular, with large wooden gates on the ground floor, which pave the way inside, and are very ornate. The upper gopuram is divided into several floors, and gets tighter as it goes up. At the top of it there is usually a dholak shaped peak, and on top of it an odd number of urns are adorned. 
Gopurams are highly decorated with crafts and paintings. These are only Hindu mythological characters. Mainly those, which are related to the main deity of the Mandir.
So, this was something about Hindu Mandir Architecture/Hindu Temple Architecure. I hope you got the point and know about the architecture of a Hindu Mandir. Also Read about Indus Valley Civilization.