Political and religious values
Architecture is one of the pillars upon which almost each and every great civilization is built. By taking a look at a nation's architecture, one can clearly see how the citizens of particular nations and empires perceived the world around them and what the big influences in their lives were. Architecture is also an indication of the influences that people considered major in their lives and from it a historian could evaluate the social, political and religious values that a particular society held in high esteem.
East Indian architecture is one that is replete with the symbolic representation of nature in its diverse forms and one that borrows heavily from both religion and culture. From the simple design of houses in the Vedic period to the magnificent temples, it is clear that almost all the architectural wonders of East India have a rich history behind them. It is for this purpose that the essay seeks to find out some of the inspirations on these architectural wonders based on nature.
One such influence is the celestial bodies which were mysterious to ancient Indian society since the early decades. The fascination with time due the rotation of the earth around the sun prompted some of East Indiats finest architects to make monuments in celebration of this age-old mystery. It is for this reason that such magnificent puzzling buildings as the Konark Sun temple came to be. Shaped in the form of a chariot with two rows of a dozen wheels on each side drawing it. The temple itself being a perception of the twenty-four hours that make a day. It is also interesting to note the symbolic influence of the number seven which is the number of spirited horses that drag the chariot shaped temple. The seven horses are by themselves a representation of a typical seven-day week. From this type of architecture, it is clear that East Indian livelihood and building design was to a large part under the influence of mysticism of time and the celestial bodies which defined it such as the sun (Malville and Rana 431-449).
East Indian Architecture
Geography also played a huge role in East Indian Architecture as some of the most vibrant architectural designs received inspiration from the terrain of the area. One place of such worthy repute is the caves at Udayagiri in the ancient city of Bhubaneswar. The caves estimated to be carved out in the first century BC symbolize the rocky and mountainous terrain of the surrounding region. It is this rocky terrain that architects under King Kharavela sought to modify towards their housing needs and develop a city carved deep into the massive rocks. Numerous manuscripts with the King's inscriptions were discovered when the caves were unearthed (Brown 193-194). In this way, the geology of the surrounding area proves to be one of the influences of the architectural designs of the area at the time.
Religion also plays a significant role in East Indian architecture because there exists a sprawl of temples and worship areas spread across East Indian territory. From the University at Nalanda, one can clearly tell that the influence of Lord Buddha can be felt centuries after his demise. The ancient city was one of his favorite destinations due to its metropolitan nature which made him enjoy spending time there. He was particularly fond of the mango groves in the city and was also drawn to it since it was the birthplace of one of his disciples Sariputra (Prasad 175-188). In perspective, the area boasts of numerous temples and Buddhist shrines and monasteries all crafted by the finest of artists aimed at Buddhist worship.
Other architectural features inspired by religion were the temples mostly built in West Bengal. The state underwent numerous political dynasties which consequently brought with them religious change. Among the architectural marvels as a result of this were the Ras-Manch and Shyamrai. The Ras Manch was a pyramid shaped temple low in height compared to other magnificent temples of similar stature. Built in 1587 AD, the temple boasts of short hour glass shaped columns on the outer ringing the worship area.
Rumtek monastery is also a famous religious site deeply embedded in Buddhist beliefs. The three-storey building was designed as a meditation site by the Karmapa's in the 12th century is an architectural marvel with a large courtyard adorned by strong granite pillars and a stupa overlooking the open courtyard. Its most inspiring creation is the terrace on the top floor which gives the monastery a perfect view of the nearby Gumtek town. The main temple houses some of the most iconic Buddhist symbolic remnants including a golden statue of Buddha himself. Inside the walls of the main temple are engravings of made in reference to wonders of the religion and the great miracles performed by Lord Buddha.
It is clear that East Indian architecture is very complex and fascinating in its designs. Upon study, one can precisely determine the influence of symbols and nature on the design of buildings in this regional context. The most common influences of nature on these architectures include geology of the surrounding areas, religious mysticism and celestial bodies such as the sun and the moon. All these influences converge in the design of new buildings as man's way of trying to show their association and fascination with these natural influences.
Brown, Robert L. and R. P. Mohapatra. "Udayagiri & Khandagiri Caves.". The Journal Of Asian Studies, vol 42, no. 1, 1982, p. 193. Cambridge UUniversity Press (CUP), doi:10.2307/2055411: 193-194.
Malville, J.McKim and Rana P.B. Singh. "Visual Astronomy In The Mythology And Ritual Of India: The Sun Temples Of Varanasi". Vistas In Astronomy, vol 39, no. 4, 1995, pp. 431-449. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/0083-6656(95)00004-6.
Prasad, Chandra Shekhar. "Nalanda vis-U -vis the Birthplace of KhFriputra." East and West 38.1/4 (1988): 175-188. Print.
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