A three-day workshop on Temple Architecture and Iconography (Level 1) was conducted by Amrita Darshanam - International Centre for Spiritual Studies (ICSS) between 4th and 6th of January 2019, at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Bengaluru campus. It came as a follow-up to the three-day National Seminar on ‘Temples: Symbolism, Art and Architecture’ organized by the centre in January 2018, which was the first of a series being planned by Amrita Darshanam.
The event was inaugurated on 4th January, 2019, in the presence of dignitaries Padma Bhushan Dr. R. Nagaswamy (Archaeologist and multi-faceted scholar, Chennai); Dr. Krishna Murthy (Archaeologist and historian, Mysore); Dhanraj (Director, Bengaluru campus); Prasanth B. (Co-ordinator, Amrita Darshanam) and Dr. Rakesh S. G. (Associate Dean, Bengaluru campus). The gathering was welcomed by Arjun Bhardwaj (Assistant Professor, Amrita Darshanam, Bengaluru campus), who also gave an overview of the workshop. Afterwards, the dignitaries spoke in a nut-shell about the significance of the workshop and inaugurated the event formally.
The resource persons for the workshop were Padma Bhushan Dr. R. Nagaswamy, Dr. Krishna Murthy and Dr. Manoj Gundanna, all doyens in their respective areas. During their speech, the dignitaries briefed the audience about a wide range of topics including the meaning of a temple, its development and evolution, the major and miscellaneous parts of a temple, chronological development of temples in the states of Karnataka, Kerala, Kashmir and Tamil Nadu and finally, the Śaiva and Vaiṣṇava iconography.
The audience was able to get an overview on Indian temples, the types of techniques used to build them and the relevance of various imagery used to decorate the temple walls. Truly unique places of cultural heritage, the temples are archetypes of refined craftsmanship which facilitated both the spiritual and worldly pursuits of the devotees. Spiritually speaking, a temple can be defined as the microcosmic representation of the macrocosm.
By promoting various forms of art, music, dances, śāstric branches of knowledge and oral form of learning, temples used to function as universities of ancient times. In addition, they also served as places offering emotional and psychological refuge for people in pain. The surviving grand temples of India along with the texts associated with their construction and their ritualistic practices form an integral part of the cultural heritage of India. Even though the great temples of India are magnificent architectural marvels, the intricacies of their architecture and iconography are less known today.
Information on the selection of the place to build a temple, installation of the primary deity, its consecration and associated rituals and the construction of the various other adjuncts of the temple, can only be learned from indigenous texts. Such a study, with a multi-dimensional approach, could throw light on India’s ancient heritage and inspire today’s students of art, architecture and engineering to reimagine their perspectives. A thorough understanding of Indian cultural history and mythology improves the study of the iconography of a temple, and workshops like this enable students to explore and experience the history, architecture, art and symbolism of the temples.
The sessions also included a live demonstration of the rituals performed while worshipping a deity, complete with traditional chanting of mantras by Mr. Ananta Sharma (Assistant Professor, Amrita Darshanam, Bengaluru campus) and Dr. Vishwanath M. V. (Assistant Professor, Amrita Darshanam, Mysore campus). The meaning of the rituals was explained in detail by Dr. R. Nagaswamy. Dr. Krishna Murthy served as the backbone for the workshop and was the academic advisor too.
The workshop was attended by 45 participants from across the country and 45 students from Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Bengaluru campus. The participants were from different backgrounds including arts, dance, architecture, engineering, medicine, wireless communication and literature.
The three-day workshop concluded with a valedictory session that included the workshop report, which was delivered by Mr. Manish Rajan Walvekar (Assistant Professor, Amrita Darshanam, Bengaluru campus) and a vote of thanks by Mr. Ananta Sharma. The workshop was a wonderful cultural experience for everyone including both ordinary people and scholars.