close logo

Temples Make the Intangible Tangible

Smt. Anita Korde led the setting up of the Somnath Exhibition Gallery also known as Somnath Temple Architecture Museum in 2021, a unique museum based on the remains of the previous Somnath Temples. The theme of the museum is temple architecture. She is the author of the book – The Invincible Somnath Temple – from Jīva to Shiva, commissioned by the Shree Somnath Trust. At the Indic conference on Tantra and Tantric traditions, she spoke on the theme of Symbolism in Art and Architecture of the Chausath Yogini temple of Hirapur.

Asked about her interest in Indology and art and architecture, Anita says that she was always fascinated by Bharat’s tangible and intangible heritage since her college days. “I was intrigued by various architectural elements, their shape, and their position on the temple. I felt there was more to what I saw. Hence I decided to formally learn through the MA Indology program from Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth, Pune.”

What drew you to study the Somnath mandir?

Being a native of Gujarat, Somnath Mandir has an unmatched place of faith in my heart like millions of other devotees. The temple stood in defiance against the destructive forces and like a phoenix it rose again and again after its destruction. It is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas and also a beacon of hope for the Hindus.Post independence the first large iconic Somnath temple with its history of trials and tribulations in the style of Maha Meru Prasaad was built. So, when I got a chance to be a part of the team to set up the museum I wholeheartedly embarked on the journey of exploring the ancient ruins of the previous Somnath Temple.

(Figure 1: Shree Somnath Temple along the western coast of India)

The history of the Somnath temple is a recapitulation of the history of the period of destruction of Indian temples. It is said that the linga was partially destroyed by Mahmud of Ghazni. How do you think the resilience of the Somnath temple overcame many such tribulations?

Every time throughout his existence of hundreds of years, evil forces have made efforts to destroy the spirit of Somnath by destroying, demolishing, and erasing its existence. But,  each time it was restored, rebuilt, and resurrected. Somnath Temple stands not only as a place of faith but also as a symbol of defiance, hope, and righteousness for the entire country and the Hindus worldwide. Shree Somnath Mahadev has a special place in history and the hearts of its millions of devotees worldwide. Somnath has been at the forefront of the twelve Jyotirlingas and has inspired many devotees to ‘Do and Die’ for the Unity of Bharatavarsha. During the tumultuous times of the Muslims’ Rule Somnath bore, for times over and over again, the brunt of their iconoclastic zeal and suffered heavily every time only to inspire and instill fresh urge and vigor to repel the invasions and to protect our Eternal Culture (Sanatan Sanskriti).

How is the art of the Chalukyas who built the Somnath temple different from the other Chalukya temples from the South including Badami? How is the Somnath temple different from other schools of Indic architecture?

The northern Chalukyas built temples as per the North Indian architecture called Nagara Architecture and Southern Chalukyas built temples in the Dravidian style. There are three distinctive styles in Indian temple architecture. Nagara style in the North, Dravidian in the South, and Vesara elsewhere. The Maru-Gurjara style of architecture evolved in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Somnath temple follows the same line of architecture as defined in Deeparnav and Kshirarnav.

You were part of a team that built a museum on the temple, housing many artifacts. What are some of the precious memorabilia housed here and what was the vision of the museum?

The remains of the old Somnath temple suggest that the temple must have been restored four to five times and the temple must have been built in the 1st CE. The second time, the temple was built at the very same location in the period between 5th CE to 7th CE during the Vallabhi Empire whereas the third restoration happened  between the 8th CE to 10th CE during the rule of Gurjaras and Pratiharas. The fourth time, it was built by Bhimdev Solanki in Maru-Gurjara style. This type was Ratnakuta of Maru-Gurjara Vastushashtra.  The addition of Mahapitha to the stairway of Mukhamandapa was done in 1130 in Chalukya Jayasimha Siddharaj time. In 12th CE Kumarpala, for the fifth time,  built the temple in Kailash Meru Prasad type at the same location. After Kumarapala, the major addition to the Somanatha temple was made in the form of Meghnada mandapa, a two-storied mandapa by Bhimdeva II of the Chalukya dynasty in 1217. In the 14th CE, Chudasama King Mahipal restored this temple.

The purpose of building the Museum of Temple Architecture by Shree Somnath Trust is to not only display artifacts with information, but also to educate the visitors about the science behind the temple architecture, its elements, and its symbolism, and to be proud of our rich heritage.

The temple is the manifestation of the beliefs of the Hindus where the invisible tenets are given the visible form, the intangible is made tangible and the abstract is given the form.

Hindu temple architecture is vast and requires an understanding of not only Hindu philosophy, but also the nature of religious beliefs and practices, rituals, regional and cultural influences, and temple worship in Hinduism. Temple is a culmination of the subjects of philosophy, cosmology, psychology, mathematics, geometry, and an in-depth understanding of the social and cultural life of the people and the times.

The artifacts of the temples are displayed with their architectural technical details, the position of that element in the overall architecture of the temple, and the symbolism behind it.Vahanas of the deities are explained, hasta mudras illustrated, various weapons in the hand of the deities, various ornaments etc. are illustrated and explained. The museum shows the right way to take darshan of the deity in the Garbhagriha.

Your talk was on another beautiful temple – the Chausath Yogini temple of Hirapur. What are your thoughts on literature available on the art of ancient India?  Could you tell us more about this temple? 

Many authentic authors have written on an array of topics in art history. My favorite authors are Dr  Stella Kramrisch and Dr Ratan Parimoo. The plan of the Chausath Yogini temple includes the site of Shiva, surrounded by 4 Bhairavas, 4 Yoginis and 60 Yoginis of the outer circuit and the 9 Kātyāyanīs and 2 dwārapālās. The Navadurgas are depicted in the outer wall. There’s a Yoni Patha on which the Shivling rests. There’s  a Yogini chakra and we have the Saptamatrikas – Maheshwari, Brahmani, Indrani, Vaishnavi, Narasimhi, Varahi and Chamunda.

You are now leading several visits to the shrine and around other shrines as part of the G20 meets. What is the most important takeaway for tourists?

Proud and grateful to be associated with the G20 events. I lead many G20 groups to the Dandi Kutir museum, Modhera Sun temple, and Dhlovira. The biggest takeaway for the delegates is how our culture is one of the most ancient civilizations in the world. Our temples are the tangible form of the intangible beliefs of Sanatan Dharma executed scientifically. Every element has a science and symbolism behind it. Dholavira, a Harappan site epitomizes the urban landscaping and water conservation system which was advanced as compared to the west.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author. Indic Today is neither responsible nor liable for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in the article.

More Articles By Author