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ARTICLE : Sri Aurobindo on Indian Temple Architecture



THE MEANING OF INDIAN TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE

        "To appreciate [the] spiritual-aesthetic truth of Indian
architecture, it will be best to look  first at some work where there is
not the complication of sorroundings now often out of harmony with the
building ... some place where there is room for a free background of
Nature.
I have before me two prints which can well serve the purpose, a temple
at Kalahasti, a temple at Simhachalam, two buildings entirely different
in treatment and yet one in the ground and universal motive. The
straight
way here is not to detach the temple from its surroundings, but
to see it in unity with the sky and low-lying landscape or with the
sky and hills around and feel the thing common to both, the construction
and its environment, the reality in Nature, the reality expressed
in the work of art. The oneness to which this Nature aspires in her
inconscient self-creation and in which she lives, the oneness to which
the soul of man uplifts itself in his conscious spiritual upbuilding,
his labor of aspiration here expressed in stone, and in which so upbuilt
he and his work live, are the same and the soul-motive is one...
 One of these buildings climbs up bold, massive in projection,
up-piled in the greatness of a forceful but sure ascent, preserving
its range and line to the last, the other soars from the strength
of its base, in the grace and emotion of a curving mass to a rounded
summit and crowning symbol. There is in both a constant, subtle
yet pronounced lessening from  the base towards the top, but at each
stage
the repetition of the same form, the same multiplicity of insistence,
the same crowded fullness and indented relief, but one maintains its
multiple endeavor and indication to the last, the other ends in a
single sign. To find the significance we have first to feel the
oneness of the infinity in which this nature and this art live,
then see this thronged expression as the sign of the infinite
multiplicity which fills this oneness, see in the regular ascent of
the edifice the subtler and subtler return from the base on earth
to the original unity and seize on the symbolic indication of its close
at the top. Not absence of unity but a tremendous unity is revealed.
Reinterpret intimately what this representation means in the
terms of our own spiritual self-existence and cosmic being, and we have
what these great builders saw in themselves and reared in stone...
To appreciate the detail of Indian architecture is easy when the
whole is thus seen and known; otherwise, it is impossible."


                                                Sri Aurobindo
                                From "Foundations of Indian Culture"


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