Importance of Temples – 2 Mahadwara and Courtyard

The entire temple complex is an excellent, vast positive energy field. Most of the temples were built near the ocean, rivers or large lakes. Temples were associated with the seat of power. They also functioned as education and art centers, and provided shelter, food and water for travellers.  The main aspects of a temple are as follows: we enter the MAHADWARA (the main entrance) which has the tallest GOPURA and then move further through the smaller DOORWAYS with small GOPURAMS to reach the PRAANGANA or the COURTYARD of the temple. The DHWAJA-STAMBHA along with the BALI-PEETA are located in the courtyard right in front of the sanctum. Next comes the MAHA MANTAPA with its exquisitely carved pillars and then the ARDHA MANTAPA, which is arch-shaped. Finally one arrives at the GARBHA GRIHA or the Sanctum Santorum with the VIMANA or SIKHARA on the top. All of them – mahadwara to the garbha griha with the vimana – are in ONE STRAIGHT LINE and they represent the physical body structure in the horizontal position (lying-down position). 

The mahadwara represents the feet of the Lord, the various prakaras and their doorways represent the various layers of Matter-vestures around an individual. The dhwaja-stambha represents the bottom of the spinal cord, the maha mantapa represents the belly, ardha mantapa the chest and garbha griha the face. Finally the vimana represents the head. The dhwaja-stambha which represents the end of the spinal cord signifies the mooladhara chakra and the vimana signifies the sahasrara chakra. Hence during puja or meditation, an individual is expected to keep the head, neck and back absolutely straight. The lower portion of the body (represented by the dhwaja-stambha upto the mahadwara) is in sitting position – sukhasana or padmasana. This indicates that the extroverted-ness has been contained and the seeker has become introverted. Therefore, entering the temple and reaching the sanctum signifies the spiritual pilgrimage from the lower to the Higher within oneself – an evolutionary process.

The Science of Temple Building – Vastu and Shilpa Sastra were strictly followed in the construction of the temple. The dimensions and architectural design of the temple complex ensured complete harmony between Nature and the temple complex, as well as harmony between the temple and the pilgrims. The height of the deity, the dhwaja-stambha and the main gopura are inter-related. Aestheticism, beauty, symmetry, stability, coherence, astronomy, astrology, art-forms like sculpturing, painting, music, dance and drama, rhythm, inclusiveness, integrity, light-sound-air-flow management through the various structures and temple-tanks were an intrinsic and integral part of the temple-construction.

MAHADWARA represents the feet of the Lord. The main entrance with its high walls and tallest gopuram (many temples have four entrances – one in each direction) denote the boundary within which the electro-magnetic fields are very strong. The entire city is laid out around the temple and hence known as TEMPLE-CITY. In fact, the streets around the temple are known as North Temple Street, East Temple Street etc depending on their direction with respect to the temple. The Main Tower is also known as Maha Gopura, which means: City or Store-House (Pura) of Knowledge (Go). It consists of a specific number of tiers and is inlaid with stories and illustrations from epics and puranas. An odd number of Kalashas made of gold or gold-plated metal adorn the top of the gopuram. The height facilitates the drawing or absorption of the cosmic energy by the kalashas. Not only are they excellent absorbers but good emitters too. They continuously radiate the cosmic energy in all directions for the benefit of all. Hence it was customary not to have any building in the city taller than the gopuram. The kalashas also act as good lightning conductors. In many of the ancient temples, the kalashas are supposed to be connected through unseen metallic strips to the deity in the sanctum. As one crosses the threshold of the Mahadwara, a few seconds right under the vast and spacious Maha Gopura is extremely rejuvenating! One cannot but feel a sense of freshness and liveliness under its umbrella!!

The outermost parikrama (going round the temple) beyond the mahadwara is also known as Nagara Pradakshina. The temple utsavas, collective sankirtan and bhajans are a part of the Nagara Pradakshina.

TEMPLE COURTYARD: On crossing the mahadwara, and the inner prakaras, there is the spacious courtyard of the temple with the dhwaja-stambha right in front of the sanctum. It is customary to perform the Parikrama or Pradakshina starting from the dhwaja-stambha and back. Parikrama means “to put forth steps with the full awareness of the Divine Presence of the Lord”. Pradakshina means “to keep the Lord on our right side” while going round. This is to ensure that we receive the divine vibrations of the deity emanating from all sides of the sanctum. We keep the Lord to our right, because our right side represents Purusha Tattva (Energy Aspect). Pradakshina is undertaken bare-foot. This helps the pressure-points on the feet to get activated. Also in ancient temples, there are metal strips concealed within the ground in the courtyard. This helps absorption of positive energy from the ground below.

Next Post: Significance of Dwaja-stambha, Mantapams and the Sanctum.

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