Significance of Indian Temples At the Chennakesava temple in Belur, Adinarayanan Ji explains the significance of temples.
Tenacious effort over generations
[Shri Adinarayanan] Namaste. It is a wonderful place that we are in. It is a very significant place with respect to architecture as well as history. We are in the midst of the perfection of Hoysala architecture*. We are in the vicinity of Chennakeshava temple, Belur. Inside the temple, there is a beautiful vigraha of Lord Keshava. And all around we see exquisite carvings, which have taken more than about 12 decades to complete. You can imagine 12 decades! If we take up any activity, what is the kind of thing that keeps us hold on to some activity? Even individually it is a huge challenge. But you can imagine – the entire kingdom, civilization, the Raja, the praja, everyone oriented towards developing this over 12 decades. And then preserving and then propagating it. So that is the kind of tenacity that the Indian ethos builds in us. Can you imagine the kind of logistics that is required – the generations of people dedicated towards building each component that we see here. The generations of people who have the knowledge to create it, sustain it and also take it forward. All that has been invested in this.
* Hoysala architecture is the building style developed under the rule of the Hoysala Empire between the 11th and 14th centuries in Karnataka
Astronomy integrated within architecture
You can see, for example, this is the Stumba that gives out astronomical significance. With this, you can measure the longitudinal position of the sun, that is the Right Ascension. You can measure the period of the year, knowing which rashi (zodiac constellation) the Sun is in right now. You can measure the time of the day, even the latitude of this place and so on, given some details. So that is the level of knowledge that is inherent in this temple, which is not visible to an untrained eye. For most of us, we don’t have the educational background to be able to look at it and see the wow factor behind it. That is the kind of knowledge that has gone into each square feet of this wonderful place. We must definitely invest time and energy in exploring such beautiful…it is not just beautiful. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. And that also takes knowledge. So you invest time and energy in training yourselves, educating yourselves and appreciate the beauty that Bharata desha is.
Temple – center of Indian thought and life
Now, what is the significance of a temple to the Indian tradition? See all of us, we encounter that the mind becomes engaged with one thing or the other. Now if the object that the mind gets engaged with is limiting, then we feel limited. If the object is empowering and expansive, then we feel empowered and liberated. That is why our object of meditation or object of regular activities in Indian life has been around a temple, so that we are constantly looking up to a high role model. Our puranas illustrate how great these devas and devis have been. We develop ourselves so much by just looking at them. We become inspired to be great in our own lives. And hence we proceed towards liberating ourselves from limitations, from constraints. That is the process of getting enlightened with knowledge – knowledge that is not just intellectual, but very much in action, directed towards the well-being of all. That is what the devas and devis show us – that we are constantly engaged in action that leads to goodness in all the lokas. That is what a temple does to us, when we orient ourselves around a temple, around such inspiration that the devas and devis provide. That is a blessed life, that is an awesome life.