Hindu Temple Mystery!


Thirissur Temple in Kerala

Research article by London swaminathan

Post No.2230

Date: 9  October 2015

Time uploaded in London: 21-43

Thanks for the pictures.

Don’t use pictures. Don’t reblog for at least a week.

If you read any modern book on Hindu Temple architecture they broadly classify the temples into three categories: Nagara, Dravida and Vesara. But these are relatively modern terms. It is neither found in Varahamihira’s classification of temples or Tamil saint Appar’s classification of temples. Both of them lived before seventh century CE. Temples did not exist during Vedic times. But they existed during Epic times. We have references to Temple worship in Ramayana and Bhagavata. They may not be the gigantic temples like the temples we see today. They may be just places of worship inside a palace or under a banyan tree.


Dwajasthamba with Tortoise

Nagara type of North Indian temples have curvilinear towers. They have square base. Dravida type of South India have towers like pyramids. They have octagonal base. Vesara type of temples combined both these styles. They have circular base. Earlier temples were built with perishable materials such as wood, brick, clay and mortar. Then Guptas built cave temples probably following the Buddhist caves. The gigantic temples we see today came into existence around eighth century CE. In the South, Pandyas and Pallavas made cave temples from sixth century CE at Kazukumalai, Tirupparankundram, Tirumeyyam,Pillayarpatti, Kundrakkudi Kanchi and Mamallapuram. Athiyaman also made such temples in Namakkal.

Varahamihira enumerates twenty types of temples!

(Read my article Twenty Types of Temples in Ancient India- posted on 30th March 2015. In another article I have listed all the temples from the Tamil epic Silappadikaram). Later Appar mentioned seven types of temples:-

Appar alias Tirunavukkarasu, one of the Four Great  Saivite Tamil saints sings about

“If the seventy eight great temples of the Lord

Whose matted crest is adorned with the great flood

KARAKKOYIL, GNAAZHARKKOYIL  girt with well protected

Groves, the hill like KOKUDIKKOYIL of  Karuppariyal

ILANGKOYIL where with the chanting of the Rig Veda

The Brahmins hail and adore the lord MANIKKOYIL

AALAKKOYIL  and every TIRUKKOYIL where Siva abides

Are circumambulated and hailed in humble

Adoration, evil Karma will get annulled “

(Sixth Tirumurai, Adaivu Tiru Thandakam of Appar)


He and his junior contemporary Sambandar visited nearly 300 temples in Tamil speaking areas of South India in the seventh century CE. But we could not even figure out the temples mentioned in Appar’s Thevaram hymn. My research shows that the Kerala Type of temples were the oldest type. We can see such temples from Kerala to North East India. It is also seen in Nepal. Such type of temples don’t fall under the Nagara, Vesara, Dravida Types. The structure of the temples are designed to withstand the monsoon climate. The rain water drains easily in the step like tiled sheds. It helps the teak wood inside to last for longer. Periodically they wold have changed the roof and wood. No mention of these temples in the modern temple architecture books show that they were not taken into account in the classification of temples.

IMG_6786 (2)

Nepalese Temple

The mystery lies not only in its structure but also its occurrence from southernmost tip of the land to the Himalayan country of Nepal. We see them even beyond north east India, in Burma, Thailand and other South East Asian countries. After Cambodian and Javan kings modelled their temples on the stone temples of India, this structure continued its existence only in the royal palaces of those countries. Before eighth century they also must have had temples like Kerala. Two things remain a mystery until today:

  1. How come the temples from Kerala to Nepal were built in the same style?
  2. Why there was no mention of this type in Temple architecture books? I mean they were not listed under the three main categories.

3.Third Mystery

There is another mystery surrounding the Dwajasthama, the Flag Staff. In Kerala, most of the temples have erected the Dwajasthamba on Tortoise/Turtle. There is no explanation to show why Kerala temples only followed this type of Flag staff. Tortoise is associated with various things such as Kurma Avatara, Kurma Mudra, Kurma Asana etc in Hindu literature. But we have no explanation to show why they differed from other temples in the erection of Dwajasthamaba. We have Mandapas (Halls) erected on Turtle/ Tortoise in Tamil Nadu, but no Dwajasthamba.

IMG_6785 (2)

Temple in Nepal

After studying these things and other ancient customs in Kerala temples, I concluded that they were the oldest models available today. More research is required to put them in the correct place in the development of Hindu Temple architecture. Till we do it there will be some gaps in the study of temple architecture.


Tamil Book Launches in Temples! The Wonder that is Tamil- Part 4


Chidambara Nataraja Temple

Research paper written by London Swaminathan

Research article No.1536; Dated  1 January 2015.

1.Tamil Humour!

A humorous picture of a crab’s encounter with a beetle is found in Natrinai ( A collection of 400 Tamil poems). A beetle wanted to taste a black naval fruit. A crab mistook it for a fruit. The crab thought that there two black fruits lying on the ground and grabbed the unfortunate beetle first leaving the real fruit. The poor beetle made a pitiable cry like the yaz/veena instrument and attracted the attention of a crane standing nearby. The crane rushed to its rescue and relived the beetle from the clutches of the crab (Natrinai verse 35).

2.Love and ‘’Naaval’’ fruit


Akananuru , part of Sangam literature, describes another scene. A male crab noticed a fruit falling down from a naval tree. It seized it with its claws, crushed it out of shape and carried it to its mate (Akam verse 380).


The crab on the sea coast is assigned its own place in the life of the lovers. When the hero seeks the favour of the lady-companion to approach his sweet heart, he notices a crab taking with its pincer like legs a naval fruit and offering it to its loving mate in the burrow among the screw pine roots. He then remarks that the creature is blessed and fortunate to be so loving. He makes this remark in the hearing of the lady-companion who later conveys it to the heroine and convinces of her of his sincerity in his love (Akam 380)-from The Treatment of Nature in Sangam Literature by Prof.M Varadarajan


Avvaiyar — Murugan; pictre from murugan.org

3.Avvaiyar’s encounter with Lord Skanda

Jambu (Naaval in Tamil) is associated with Lord Ganesh and his brother Lord Skanda (Murugan) in Tamil Nadu. During Ganesh Chathurthi in August/September they buy it and offer it to Lord Ganesh. His brother Skanda/Murugan was teasing the grand old lady of Tamil literature —  poetess Avvaiyar by sitting on a jambu tree.

When Avvaiyar came under the tree and looking for ripe fruits, young Murugan (Skanda) sitting on the tree asked the old lady, Oh, Grand ma! Do you want burnt/hot fruits or not burnt fruits? Avvaiyar was puzzled by this question. She wondered whether fruits are cooked on the tree. When asked for explanation Murgan revealed himself and gave her the explanation. Burnt fruits are the one which you blow with your mouth to remove the sand sticking to the fallen fruits.

4.Kapila’s Achievement!

Kapila was the poet who made the highest contribution to Cankam corpus .His poems form nearly one tenth of the Cankam anthologies. He was praised by other poets as ‘A Brahmin of spotless character’. He was the Sangam poet who was praised by more than anyone else. Kapila composed over 235 poems.

Kapila, though a Brahmin, was the first to throw the caste barriers into wind and took a Tamil Chieftain’s (Paari Vallal) daughters to other kings for marriage alliance. But no Tamil chieftain came forward to marry them, fearing the enmity of the three powerful kingdoms. The three great Tamil Kingdoms Chera,Choza and Pandya were against Paari and eventually killed him. At last the daughters of Paari were put under the trust of Brahmins and Kapila entered fire (self immolated himself).


Madurai Meenakshi temple

5.Auspicious Tamil Words

Tamil grammar says that the books should begin with an auspicious word (Mangala Sol) like the world, sun, Moon, letter ‘a’ etc. Famous poems begin with the world “ Ulakam” in Tamil ‘Lokam’ in Sanskrit. Tamil Tirukkural begins with ‘a’ like the Rig Veda!

6.One of the Four Famous Saivite poets is Manikkavasagar. His Tiruvasagam attracted even Christian preachers like Rev. G U Pope. He learnt Tamil just to study Tiruvasagam. He translated it in to English 100 years ago. But one poet by name Kadavul Mamunivar who wrote the life history of Manikka Vasagar (Tiruvatavurar Puranam) never mentioned Manikkavasagar’s name throughout his book, probably forgot. He simply calls him ‘a man from Vaathavur’ (Vaathavuurar). Vaathavur is the birth place of Manikkavasagar and it is 20 miles from Madurai in South India. We did not know the true name of Manikkavasagar as well.

7.Paranar’s Achievement

Nine similes in one poem: Aka nanuru poem 178 by Paranar has nine similes in just twelve lines. Scholars compared it to a bride loaded with jewellery from head to foot at the wedding time. Though a Vedic hymn has got 27 similes (Please read my post 27 Similes in one Vedic Hymn posted on 18 August 2012) Paranar did it in 12 lines!

srirangam ranga gopuram

Srirangam Temple

8.Tamil Book Launch

Tamils do the Arangetram (Book Launch Events) of their books mostly in temples:

a)Periya Puranam-  launched  at Chidambaram Temple

b)Kandha Puranam- launched  at Kumara Kottam,Kanchi

c)Kamba Ramayanam- launched  at Srirangam Temple

d)Thiruvilaiyadal Puranam- launched  at Madurai Meenakshi Temple

  1. e) Tirukkural – launched at Madurai Meenakshi temple

f)Meenakshi Pillai Thamiz- launched  at Madurai Meenakshi Temple

g)Narayaneeyam- launched  at Guruvayur Temple (Book is in Sanskrit)

h)Tolkappaiam, oldest Tamil book, was launched in the court of king Nilantharu Thiruvil Pandyan, presided over by a Brahmin well versed in the four Vedas.

(Palm leaf manuscripts of the great Thevaram poems were found in Chidambaram Temple. Annamacharya’s copper plates were found in Tirupati temple).

Contact–  swami_48@yahoo.com