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1. An appreciation of Hinduism and its reflection behind the power of religious belief over the design of Hindu temple architecture.
2. Identify the geometry and structural systems of Hindu temple architecture with precedents from the Dravidian style of Hindu temples.
3. Assessing the content characteristic, construction techniques and development involved in the construction of a Hindu temple.

Background of the Project

The essence of India lies in the spiritual culture that prevails in the land. The country has been home to almost all the religions of the world coexisting peacefully, including Hinduism which is the oldest religion practised to date. The primary worship place of the Hindus is known as a temple. India is dotted with temples, big and small all over its geography. Many of the Indian temples are thousands of years old. However, their architecture and the precision with which they have been built in those early ages with limited technical support and engineering knowledge compels even modern architectures to be amazed. The Ajanta Ellora caves in Maharashtra where the Kailash temple stands are completely carved out of the rock. The compositional proof to some degree reinforces this - rock-cut temples, for example, Kailash is made by unearthing the stone starting from the top (Lawrence 2009). Simply after they are done are they put and painted: Kailash was once painted. In this manner doubtlessly unless there were later plans for a nice veneer, Kailash was constantly expected to be about the internal magnificence.How this was done is still a mystery to the world at large.

Natural calamities are certain incidents caused by the wrath of nature. Earthquakes, floods, tsunamis all are natural calamities. India is a country that is surrounded by oceans on its three sides, western, eastern and southern, and mountains on the northern side. Therefore, the country has a vast coastal line. The coastal areas are often affected by perilous calamities coming from the seas.

In 2004 a drastic calamity had hit Indian coastline called the tsunami.Tsunamis happen when there are underwater seismic activities, explosions or volcanic eruptions. The 2004 Tsunami was caused by marine seismic activities which had its epicentre near Sumatra.Countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Sumatra, Java, Sri Lanka and India were drastically affected. In India, the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh were highly affected. In India estimated more than 20000 people lost their lives and about 1000000 lakhs displaced, and about 225000 people died cumulatively in all the countries that were affected ( 2018). The coastal areas were destroyed. The constructions along the coastlines were completely ruined (Suppasri et al. 2012).

However, interestingly many of the ancient temples dotting the southern part of Indian territory were unharmed and either not affected or affected to the least by the drastic calamity. This is an interesting instance worth researching, that what exactly helped the temples to survive the fatal waves in the face of which most of the other modern architecture failed? The architecture of these temples are so fine and highly advanced, even if they were built in the early ages, that modern human civilization is unable to construct buildings anything similar to them. Even in Kedarnath, a pilgrimage in the northern part of India in the state of Uttarakhand, a devastating flood destroyed almost all the other constructions and settlements causing lots of casualties except the ancient temple of Kedarnath which was unaffected by the floods with only some minor damages ( 2013). Research is necessary to understand the reasons why these temples are architecturally so strong and in what ways the ancient architects used to make these temples calamity proof.

The rationale of the project

The world is in need of better architectural designs to help the civilization defend themselves from the wrath of calamities in a better way. The research project examines the architectural features of the south Indian temples that have survived the tsunamis whereas most of the modern day structures failed and succumbed to the fatal waves. In addition, it is in favour of the architectural science to reveal the excellent knowledge of the early Indian craftsmen and architects who used to build such marvellous, extravagant and highly secure structures with limited technological advancement and knowledge of engineering. The knowledge that the humanity possesses today is something on which the human civilization prides upon but yet they cannot build structures which are as safe and stable as these ancient structures were. The rationale of the research is based on the basic fact that architectural studies need to understand these ancient engineering marvels to enhance its present method of building and construction.

This research endeavours to emphasize the design and physical competence from seismic reception of the South Indian temples. There have been numerous explorations into Hindu temple architecture. However, various perspectives that should have been researched in a more in-depth manner is yet to be examined. This research attempts to amass all current sources that have been utilized to potentially consume this information by conducting fundamental research of South Indian temples and their architecture. The aim is to understand the construction of a Hindu temple and how a few have survived the tsunami attack.

“1. An appreciation of Hinduism and its reflection behind the power of religious belief over the

design of Hindu temple architecture.

  1. Identifying the geometry and structural systems of Hindu temple architecture with precedents

from the Dravidian style of Hindu temples.

  1. Assessing the content characteristic, construction techniques and development involved in the construction of a Hindu temple.”
  1. Does the Hindu religious belief and faith affect the architecture of the temples built by the Hindus in ancient India?
  2. What are the structural systems and architectural designs that were adopted in the construction of the temples in the Dravidian style of architecture?
  3. Are the construction techniques and the designs of the temple the primary reasons why these temples are unaffected or very negligibly affected by the large-scale natural calamities like tsunamis?

The Hindu temples are deeply attached to the overall concept and theology of Hinduism, and different archaeological aspects of the temples reflect different theological philosophies of Hinduism. The term Hinduism was given by foreign invaders who called the people beyond the land of "Sindhu" river the "Hindus", originally the faith is termed the Sanatan Dharma or the eternal religion (Flood, 2009).

Klostermaier(2014) states in work "Hinduism: A short history". That is how there has been no agreed upon date which can be assigned to the beginning of Hinduism and also that there are different branches of Hinduism like the Vaishnavas, the Shaivite, the Shaktas and the Smartas and how each of these branches developed their styles of temples and philosophical works. The temples in southern India are ornate and mainly made of stone. However, the earliest Hindu temples were not built by stones or solid structures. In many cases, natural caves were used for the consecration of the deities (Burgess 2013). There were small mud huts with thatched roofs that could be used as temples in the ancient days.

Research Aims

The Pallava dynasty ruling the southern part of India between 600 to 900 AD started the full-scale initiative in South India to sponsor temple building activities in royal patronage (Ramaswamy 2017). This dynasty was behind the construction of the temples which were chariot shaped and cut out from the rock. The South Indian temple architecture is mainly known as the Dravidian style of architecture, and various kingdoms and dynasties contributed in this style (Thapar 2012). The Gopuram forms one of the major characteristics of these temples, and these are highly stable and ornate gates made out of main rock and designed in a way that they withstand several kinds of natural calamities (Verma 2012).

The Dravidian architecture followed the ancient Hindu law book for construction also known as Vastu Shastra.Patra(2009) in his research work named “Vaastu Shastra: towards sustainable development” has pointed out how the ancient Indian architectural science was based on sustainable development and sustainable utilization of space and energy. The Agama Shastra is also a scriptural law book for the science of building temples and creation and consecration of deities in within the temples.

The Pallava dynasty had gained expertise in building temples cut out from rocks. According to Seshadri (2017), the rock-cut temples at Mahabalipuram are some of the best contributions of the Pallavas. The temples were built cutting rocks and caves and in many temples Pillars were built in natural caves without any man-made roof and keeping the natural cave roof as it is. It is believed by many that the Cholas were pioneers in building large temples. However, the Pallavas are the actual pioneers of temple building in its true sense (Buckee 2016). The temples of this time are especially unique as they did not have any external mortar or bricks, they just carved the stones inside out to make temples. The deities consecrated and installed by the Pallavas were in many instances larger than the deities installed by the Cholas. The Vishnu Murtisof the Pallavas are 25 feet to 35 feet in height at Thiruppadagamand Thiruooragam, in comparison to the 17 to 18 feet Shiva Lingams of the Cholas (Deepika 2013). The Pallavas are therefore given credit for building both large temples and huge deities, and they were the pioneers in the field. Their temple structures were stable and rock solid capable of withstanding even strong earthquakes and calamities.

The Chola dynasty came after the Pallavas and carried their legacy of building more temples. The early Cholas built comparatively smaller temples mainly of brick structures. The later Cholas built huge magnificent structures (Michell 2012). There are intricately detailed figurines in the walls and frescos of the temples. Designs of creepers and leaves are also featured. The huge Thanjavur temple dedicated to Lord Shiva built by the later CholaRajarajawhich is one of the tallest temples in South India (Geetha 2012).

Research Objectives

This temple featured for the first time two Gopuras which were massive in structure and size. The Vimana (the tower above the main sanctum sanctorum) is gigantically tall with a height of 190 feet. It is a matter of contemplation till date how such huge structures could be built with medieval architectural knowledge and not so advanced technology (Balu and Senthilkumar 2016). The Shikhara which is the first crest over the Vimana is placed on an81-ton granite block.

The ThiruchendurMurugan Temple at Tamil Nadu dedicated to Lord Murugan the son of Lord Shiva, situated in Tamil Nadu is one of the ancient South Indian temples of Dravidian style that has the Chola style of architecture. When the 2004 Tsunami has hit the Indian coast this temple despite being very close to the coast was unharmed, although all the adjoining areas including the nearest bus stand was destroyed by the fatal waves.

The Vedic age and the pre-Vedic age produced a large volume of pieces of literature that dealt with philosophy and theology that helped in shaping Hinduism as a religion and also resulted in the kind of architecture that was devised to build the ancient temples. The sanctum sanctorum where the main deity resides is the most important place in a temple and the most sacred place as well. Directly above this place is the Vimana, a huge tower and on the Vimana, a Shikhara and a Kalash(Parthiban 2013). In the Dravidian temple architecture, ornate doors known as the Gopurams were important and obvious parts of the temples. These were built in such a way that they protected the temples from natural calamities and external invaders.

There are three main types of temples found in India, the South Indian style also known as the Dravida style, the North Indian style or the Nagara style and the mixed style that is found in Deccan and Karnataka region (Hardy 2013). The elements of a typical Dravida style of temple architecture constitutes of “Stupi (Finial), Shikhar (Tower), Griva (Neck), Hara (Parapet), Prastara (Entablature), Pada (Wall), Adhisthana (Plint), Upapitha (Base). These are the longitudinal divisions of a Dravidian temple (Branfoot 2013). If the ground plan of the Dravida temples are examined, the divisions are, Garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum), Mandapa (the place where people can stand and see the deity), Arthamandapa (extended mandapa), Dhvajastambha (the pillar bearing the flag), Balipith (place assigned for sacrifice), Gopuram (the ornate gates), and the perimeter walls (Priya and Radhakrishnan 2013). These are the basic divisions of a Hindu temple in south Indian which are also known as the Dravidian style of architecture.

Research Questions

 The temples are not built just by little architectural formulas. Each physical part of the temple has their own spiritual significance according to the Hindu theology and philosophy (Tillotson 2014). The Vastushastra which is the Vedic injunction for the building has two divisions, the Sthapatya Shastra and the Shilpa Shastra, the former is dedicated to the building architecture, and the other one deals with sculpture (Birtchnell 2016). The Vedic geometrical calculations known as the Shulbasutras were used to calculate the designs conforming to the Hindu philosophy (Joseph 2015). Mayamatam which is a part of the Vastu Shastra is a rich and very detailed south Indian Dravida literature about building temples starting from the selection of construction sites to different designs and methods of construction, and it has 36 different chapters.

The Hindu Mandir by its architecture reflects the concept of Moksha or liberation. The design of the temple directly represents the different parts of the body of the worshipable deity. The cosmic manifestation is also reflected in the structure of the temples (Prasad and Rajavel). If the horizontal division of the Mandir is inspected, the garbhagriha or the sanctum sanctorum represents the head of the deity, the antarala or the passage before the garbhagriha represents the neck, the mandapa is the reflection of the torso, the outer wall the hands, the knees are represented by the ardhamandap and the Gopurum represent the feet of the supreme.

Vertically if the temple structures are dissected the Stupi (finial) represents the hairs, the shikhar represents the face, the Harantara represents the neck, the Prastara reflects the shoulders, the Padam reflects the torso, the Vedibandha represents the legs, and the Pith represents the feet of the supreme.

Apart from the theological and philosophical importance of temples in India, there are scriptural incidents that are associated with each of the temples (Hundley 2013). In the case of ThirchendurMurugan temple there is a scriptural incident where it is stated that the demigod in control of the water resources of this material universe known as Lord Varna promised Lord Murugan, who is the son of important Hindu God Lord Shiva, that the sea would never harm the temple or "cross the borderline of the temple” (Pillai 1948). When the Tsunami had hit the coastline of Tamil Nadu, the Murugan temple which is situated in a location very close to the coastline miraculously got saved, even when the nearest bus stand was destroyed and all the close constructions were dilapidated. It was found that a huge crater that appeared in the land near the temple had helped in allowing the water to recede and not let the water touch the temple compound ( 2005).

Literature Review

 The southern part of India by nature is aseismic which means it has very less number of seismic activities, which indicates that these regions are not prone to dangerous earthquakes (Nath and Thingbaijam 2012). In the regions where there have been large-scale earthquakes, it is unlikely that there will be such earthquakes again soon, as in the regions with fault lines or the fault locations there is a requirement of a long time to rebuild that amount of energy that can cause a similar earthquake (Sitharam and Kolathayar 2013). There is a time frame of 300 or 500 years required for such energy build up.  Therefore, it is usual to see highly damaging earthquakes in the areas where historically earthquakes have not been observed on a large scale. On such grounds, Sitharam and Kolathayar (2018) have stated that there are probably eight locations in South India where there can be an earthquake in the next 50 years. These are called the “Future Earthquake Zones” based on “micro seismicity analysis”.

It can be seen from the image above that the main earthquake activities happen in the northern part of India and Southern India is more or less safe from such activities. Jaiswal and Sinha state in their research "Estimating Seismic Hazard for Central and Southern India” sudden reactivation of a seismic zone from seismic sources which are untraced often have caused earthquakes that are sudden and surprising, an example of the Latur Earthquake of 1993 can be given in this regard. Active tectonic regions of the area constitute the Himalayan mountain range of the north, the Hindukush mountain range of the North West and the Andaman fault line in the South East. However, there can be surprising seismic activities in the regions that are not already classified as under the fault line locations.

Anbazhagan et al. (2013) have stated recently there has been some seismic activities in the Mysore Bangalore region, and there are some minor fault lines in the region mainly near the regions of Bhatkal and Udupi. According to the seismic hazard map, the southern part of India falls into the category of Zones II and Zones III.

The Tirupati temple that is situated in the Tirumala hills in Tamil Nadu is also under threat from fault lines detected in this region by the seismologists and a specialized team from IIT Roorkee has developed elaborate system to understand the seismic activities in the Tirumala region and other places like Tarangambadi and Paler where there is the threat of tectonic plates colliding and causing earthquakes (Tejonmayam, 2017). It is expected that if an impending earthquake is approaching then it can be known from beforehand and the authorities can take appropriate actions to avert large-scale massacres.

In the case of the 2004 Tsunami, a 9.0 magnitude of the earthquake at the epicentre near the western coast of Sumatra, caused severe oceanic movements displacing a huge amount of water from the oceans (Satake 2014). The earthquake was caused by pushing of tectonic plates (the India and Burma plates) against each other for thousands of years. The tension that was caused and accumulated finally had been released causing such large-scale earth movement in the oceanic floors which finally caused the tsunami to happen (Dominey-Howes and Papathoma 2007). This earthquake was one of the most violent in 40 years ( 2017). The displacement of water caused by the earthquake caused the formation of large waves that devastated the countries which were in the area of reach.

Project or research methodology is the process and methods by which the researcher endeavours in designing his or her research in the relevant manner (Khan 2014). The selection of the methodology is important in shaping the findings of the research in the desired manner; otherwise, there can be flaws in the research findings. In this research, the researcher has taken realism philosophy, deductive approach and descriptive research design. In addition, the researcher has collected secondary data in order to conduct the research. For analysis of the data, the researcher has done the thematic analysis.  

Research philosophy deals with some belief systems which are associated with the researcher's belief in the process of research conduct and the universally accepted standards of research philosophies (Crossan 2003). Primarily there are four types of research philosophies, Interpretivism, realism, positivism, post-positivism.

The researcher has selected realism research philosophy as realism is the mixed approach which considers both aspects of Positivism and Interpretivism.  Realism relies on the concept of independence from the reality and this philosophy is mainly based on the assumption of the scientific perspective of the study (Taylor et al. 2015). In addition, realism philosophy has been a help for this research as realism can be divided into two basic divisions, critical and direct. Realism has been provided help to collect the data on the architecture of temples and to develop the knowledge on this. On the other side, positivism theory has the characteristics of critical thinking and logical analysis. Therefore, the researcher will have the scope to take up the data and critically and logically evaluate them. Interpretivism mainly deals with the interpretation of secondary qualitative data which gives very realistic findings based on existing authentic research. Interpretivism, on the other hand, observes that the researches should be more of qualitative.

The research approach is the approach which the researcher takes towards the conduct of the research. The research approach is the plan and the processes that go on to shaping the total research (Savin-Baden and Major 2013). There are mainly two kinds of research approaches that can be selected for particular research, deductive research approach and inductive research approach.

In this research, the deductive approach has been taken as deductive approach examines the data in the light of existing theories and hypothesis. The decision of finalizing a particular research approach depends on the type of data that is aimed to be collected and in what way the findings are to be analysed to give out appropriate recommendations (Mackey and Gass 2015). The deductive research approach has been selected for this particular research and help has been taken from existing researches and literature on architectures on temples to understand the validity of the topic and thus analysis has been given (Singh 2015). On the other side, inductive approach, on the other hand, determines the validity of new theories and approaches (Gray 2013). The reason why inductive research has not been taken because new theories and new research models cannot give proper justification to the topic. The existing researches and the theories will help in understanding the architecture of the ancient south Indian temples and how these are saved from imminent dangers of devastating natural calamities.

The research design is the program or the routine through which the research is done and the method in which the research is explained and detailed (Lewis 2015). There are three major research designs which are known as descriptive, explanatory, an exploratory (Mitchell and Jolley 2012). The research design helps in explaining the research by defining and analyzing a relationship between two variables of a research topic (Schwartz-Shea and Yanow 2013). The exploratory research, on the other hand, is the design that is based on the hypothesis and theories developed by the researcher.

The descriptive research design has been selected for this research as the descriptive research design is also known as analytical research design. The descriptive approach leads the researcher in going voraciously through existing theories and researches on the topic and explaining them after due analysis (Lewis 2015). In order to understand the research topic in a detailed and descriptive manner the research design of analytical and descriptive type is taken up. Descriptive research design helps in the observational study, and here the researcher has given the description of the temples and architecture design. This design will give an in-depth analysis of the topic, and the small details can be highlighted properly with the help of authentic researches and literature (Lambert and Lambert 2012). The other methods are rejected because these will not help in looking into the matter in a very detailed and descriptive manner.

There are two kinds of data collection methods that can be employed for research, the primary data collection and the secondary data collection. The primary data collection is associated with the collection of first-hand primary data from the sample population through interviews, researches, and surveys. Secondary data is, on the other hand, is collected from the existing researches and existing literature (Johnston 2017). Existing surveys, researches, reviews, scientific observation and all similar kind of information fall into the category of secondary data.

In this research secondary data collection has been adopted. The secondary data is all the information taken from existing authentic sources. However, the sources must be authentic and may be peer reviewed properly. The researcher used the secondary data sources, and secondary research data are easier to carry the research (Taylor et al. 2015). It is a cost-efficient and time-saving method. This research method is adopted because the existing researches about the seismic activity in the area have to be studied, and the temple architecture has to be understood by the expert researchers who have been doing extensive research about the ancient temples of South India (Cheng and Phillips 2014).

Data analysis technique is the particular process in which a set of data is analysed so that required findings can be derived from the information collected. In this case, thematic analysis of data is adopted. Thematic analysis is the most common form of data analysis in the case of qualitative research. This analysis is mainly based on identifying themes within the set of data collected and analysis the data based on the themes identified (Vaismoradi, Turunen and Bondas, 2013). It is mainly dealing with understanding, identifying and analysing patterns in the set of data that is collected. A theme represents a pattern or design within the data that can be extracted and separated from others theme within the data (Alhojailan 2012).

In this research, thematic analysis has been done because the topic has been analysed, verified and justified from various angles and themes, and the findings will be derived in the most efficient manner. Semantic topics endeavour to distinguish the express and surface implications of the information. The analyst does not look past what the member said or composed. Some profundity and multifaceted nature are lost. Be that as it may, a rich depiction of the whole informational collection is spoken to. Idle topics distinguish basic thoughts, examples, and suspicions. This requires much elucidation of the information, so scientists may centre around one particular inquiry or zone of enthusiasm over most of the informational collection.



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Literature review




Data collection






The data analysis will be done in a thematic analysis method; therefore some relevant themes will be identified and the secondary data will be categorized according to the themes and will be analysed in accordance with the research questions.

Two themes have been identified through the analysis of which the final findings can be obtained. These are “Site selection followed in the consecration of the temples” and “The architectural characteristics of a temple acting as a deterrence to calamities”. These two themes can successfully explore two important aspects of the research, firstly on what basis the construction site had been selected which helped in making the temples secure in the hands of the natural calamities, secondly what are the architectural processes that had been applied making the temples so strong and steady against any kind of natural hazards.

 The data that has been collected is from existing journals, researches and articles related to the architecture of the ancient Indian temples. Data about the natural calamity called tsunami has been collected from various newspapers that had reported on the incident and also from researches done on the natural calamity.

The tectonic activities and seismic movements of the South Indian plates have been explained in various government’s and authorised statistical websites which have been collected and analysed to compare with the damages made by the calamity.

 Various Vedic literature and texts that deal with the ancient art of building and construction have been duly studied, and the principles specified in them has been understood to establish the findings of this paper.

In Bhavisya Purana it is stated that the “Gods play in places where there are grooves, forests, rivers, oceans, mountains, and springs are nearby” (Arora 2016). Therefore, it is found that most of the temples in the Indian subcontinent are found in regions which are lush green, and there is diversity in natural resources. The regions where there is substantial vegetation the ground remains strong, and there is less threat of soil erosion or flood. The soil is strongly held by the vegetation.

In ancient India, the temples were seen to be built mainly in "teerths" or places of pilgrimage, and the pilgrimages are mainly situated in areas like river banks, oceans or mountains(Singh 2013). Therefore, the regions which had an abundance of fresh water supply were ideally selected for construction of temples. Also natural vegetation is an important factor for site selection of the ancient temples (Shinde 2012).

The scriptural tests which were advised for the site selection are as follows. A hole in the ground which measured about 2 feet x 2 feet has to be dug on the soil where the temple is to be built. The soil removed is again used to fill up the hole. If it is seen that some soil remains in excess after filling up the hole, the ground is considered according to the ancient science of construction to be of high quality. If no soil remains in hand as excess then the land is regarded as of average quality, and if it is found that there is a shortage of soil for filling up the hole the land is unsuitable for building the temple. This test scientifically shows the nature of the land is strong and stable or not, and whether the nature of the land is to wither away and reduce (Arora 2016).

Another test associated is to dig a hole of 2 feet x 2 feet and leave it overnight filled with water. In the next morning if it is found that there is absolutely no water left then the quality of the land is unsuitable, whereas if most of the water still remains then it is considered to be a good quality land. This test actually scientifically tests the porosity of the land. The ancient temples were very heavy in build-up, therefore, the load-bearing capacity of the land must be high to ensure that the temples are safe and stable (Dalal 2017). Therefore, from the above absorption test, it is found whether the land is strong enough or not. These tests are mentioned in the "Bruhat Samhita", and other tests are there as well which are done by Vastu experts who include the smell, consistency, colour, and shape of the soil, all of which reflect the nature of the soil and its strength (Chidambaram 1884).

Many of the archaeologists and architectural experts have opined that the location that was chosen for building the Thiruchendur Murugan temple was done with great expertise and finesse, so much so that even if the temple is situated just on the coastline, the tides never touch the temple even during the tsunamis. A forum which is known by the name commended the ancient architects who have built this temple about their scientific and engineering knowledge, which resulted in such perfect selection of a location for building the temple ( 2013). However, there has been no substantial archaeological reasoning that how a place could be selected in such a place where the tides never touch the temple even if the place is just located beside the sea line. In addition, the phenomenon of the huge crater forming exactly when the tides started to form, which resulted in the sea to recede is also something which is too precarious to be incidental.

However, the most prominent and major explanation given by the oceanographers, architectural experts and the scientific community are about the location selection of the temple and how it prevented the water from entering in the temple premises.

The platform on which the temple rests is significant in Vedic architecture and is known as the Pitha or Adhisthana. In the Vedic Mayamatamthe Pitha is described as the base or pedestal on which the total structure will rest. The platform is historically built very strongly with stones, and the "bheet" or the base is built in a way that it penetrates the ground very deeply.

Just above the platform lies the socle known as Vedibandha which forms the base of the wall. The wall which is strongly built begins from the socle. Therefore the socle and the vedibandha should be strong enough to support the heavy walls of the temples. There are decorative mouldings that both acts as decoration and support for the structure (Hardy 2013).

The pillars that were constructed were ensured to be strong enough to support the heavy structures like the Vimana, Shikhara and the other upper parts of the temple (Venkata 2014). The pillars support and sustain the whole weight of the Mandapa. The pillars of the ancient Indian architecture were composed of three parts the Kumbhi or the base, the Sthambha or the shaft, and the Sirsha or the capital. The three parts of the pillars provide structural support and also act as decorative elements in the total structure. Based on their shape and cross-section the pillars can be classified into several types of circular, square, scalloped, lobed, stellate, or polygon (Rao, Bhonsle and Kumar 2016).

The stairs area before the sanctum is known as the Sopana. The stairs are built starting from the ground level to the Ardhamandap of the temple. These stairs are built in a way that in the times of flood the temple is saved from any kind of water proliferation inside the temple. Two kinds of Sopana include one which directly starts from the ground and reaches the ardhamandapa with balustrades and second which are lateral steps from two sides intersecting at a common platform. The major temples are having protective layers of walls known as the Prakaras. These walls are punctuated by large gates which are known as Gopurams as mentioned above. The Gopurams are the signature characteristics of the South Indian temples. The Gopurams served as both defence structures and beautiful architectural marvels.  

A proper analysis of the temple’s architectural features will reveal how every element in the temple architecture serves as a deterrence to any kind of untoward incidents like earthquake or flood. The platforms on which the temples rest are deeply penetrated in the ground, and are highly raised so that water cannot percolate inside. The pillars are strong and heavy so that there are no chances of the structure becoming weak or the Mandapa falling due to earth movements or seismic activities. The stairs and the frontal area are highly built and having structural characteristics that do not allow entrance of water even during the flood when the rest of the area around may be inundated. The structural and architectural significance of the temples in defending against natural calamities are very notable and how the ancient Indian architectural science provided strong support to fight off natural evil forces in the most efficient form. One of the important reasons why Tsunami could not impact the Thiruchendur Murugan temple in the coast while it washed off all other structures, is the architectural features of the temple.

Conclusion and Recommendations


The above deeply delved study into the architecture of the South Indian Temples, and how this particular architecture helps in deterring the natural evil forces like Tsunami has thrown light on how advanced and highly scientific methods were adopted by the ancient architects while building these temples, which is not possible even in today's daytime.

Apart from that, the spiritual significance of the ancient Indian scriptures and Vedic literature undeniably has a high significance in such incidences especially when a scriptural incident matches a real-life occurrence. In the scripture Varuna, the demigod in charge of all the water resources personally makes a promise that the water from the seas will never touch the temple of Murugan, and it is found that the promise is actually kept even during a large scale Tsunami, the temple was untouched and unharmed even though it was in close vicinity of the ocean, and all other structures nearby were washed away. Architecturally and spiritually conclusion can be drawn that it is doubtful that the temple was saved from such a destructive natural calamity.

In the study it was evident that how Hindu philosophy has left a deep impact on the architectural designs of the ancient temples. It was a found that how the whole temple can be regarded as the body of the worshipable deity. The overall design of the temple can also be linked to the journey of the soul towards "mukti" or ultimate liberation. The steps taken towards climbing the sanctum sanctorum signifies the soul’s journey to the liberated condition, whereas the architectural features like the Shikhara and Vimana all have their own scientific, spiritual and philosophical significance. Research reveals that the temples are regions of high energy exchange. The overall temple architecture reveals the deep-rooted theological philosophy of Hinduism.

The South Indian temple architecture which is also known as the Dravidian style of architecture has specific architectural and geometric characteristic features which indicate their genre of construction. The characteristic features include The elements of a typical Dravida style of temple architecture constitutes of “Stupi (Finial), Shikhar (Tower), Griva (Neck), Hara (Parapet), Prastara (Entablature), Pada (Wall), Adhisthana (Plint), Upapitha (Base). These are the longitudinal divisions of a Dravidian temple (Branfoot 2013). If the ground plan of the Dravida temples be examined the divisions are Garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum), Mandapa (the place where people can stand and see the deity), Arthamandapa (extended mandapa), Dhvajastambha (the pillar bearing the flag), Balipith (place assigned for sacrifice), Gopuram (the ornate gates), and the perimeter walls (Priya and Radhakrishnan 2013). These are the basic divisions of a Hindu temple in south Indian which are also known as the Dravidian style of architecture.

The research on the several sections of the ancient temples reveals how intricately these were designed in a way that the aesthetics are maintained, and the natural calamities are deterred in the most efficient way. The platform is historically built very strongly with stones, and the "bheet" or the base is built in a way that it penetrates the ground very deeply. The wall which is strongly built begins from the socle; therefore the socle and the vedibandha should be strong enough to support the heavy walls of the temples. These stairs are built in a way that in the times of flood the temple is saved from any kind of water proliferation inside the temple. The stairs and the frontal area are highly built and having structural characteristics that do not allow entrance of water even during the flood when the rest of the area around may be inundated. The construction techniques included a high amount of labour intensive work and technologies associated are still not comprehended by present engineers.

Recommendations can be provided to the present engineers and architects to take knowledge from the ancient architectural techniques and include elements from these techniques to ensure the safety of the modern day structures from getting affected by major natural calamities. The techniques and process in which safe locations were identified and the process in which the different sections of the architecture were given deterrence capability from natural evil forces can be imbibed in today’s day architectural designs.

There were various limitations faced while conducting the research which included factors like unavailability of relevant data about how the architectural features saved the South Indian temples from getting devastated by the fatal waves of the 2004 Tsunami.

 There was also a requirement of a first-hand visit to the temple premises to understand the archaeological characteristics in its actual situation, which could not be done due to time and economic factors.

In the future the temples which are under construction can adopt researches to understand further the intricate details of the ancient temple architecture and include them in their architectural design to avert effects of natural calamities. The “world’s largest temple” is presently under construction in India, known as “The Temple of Vedic Planetarium”, it is located in the province of West Bengal in a town called Mayapur. They can take up research of the ancient temples to include architectural techniques in their construction.


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