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Old Posted Jan 29, 2007, 7:14 AM
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Jai Jai is offline
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Join Date: May 2004
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The Sri Mayapur Vedic Temple and Planetarium: a (long) update

Hi all

After I had posted this thread here, picked it up and wrote an awesome article on the temple, that architecture critics on the blogosphere picked up and went nuts (in a good way ) over. Many of them wondered about the architecture of the temple and many have linked back to this thread.

Therefore, I've collected more information on the structure and design of this temple which I hope will go to address many of the questions they (and maybe you guys here) posed on the Mandir's (temple's) architecture. I've tried to explain how the temple relates to traditional Indian temple architecture and its design significance to Hindu philosophy by explaining the history of the design temple, and its geometrical-spiritual context as well.

Oh, yeah, and the first post has been edited with better/clearer renderings.


Evolution of the Design of the Mandir

First design:

The Sri Mayapur Vedic Temple and Planetarium is planned to be one of the most striking examples of Vaishnavite architecture, hence it draws heavily from the architecture of Vaishnavite tradition. In the ten or so years, it has undergone a design evolution that is a fascinating story itself.

The Vedic Temple design was created to evoke Vedic architecture, the miniature of the cosmos, and be true to the exceptionally large, intracate and ornimentally detailed architecture depicted in art and scripture. The first design of this Temple was to emulate the architecture of Ayodhya, which was the capital city of Ram. The architecture of Ayodhya has been depicted as reflecting the Himalaya mountains in both color (white marble) and and its massive, lofty spires.

While traditional northern Nagara architecture did evoke this image, no temple built has ever come in scale or scope. This original design of the Vedic Temple was designed to address both the image and the size.

^ The first design of the Temple, viewed from the air

^ a cut-away profile view, showing the inside design

It was designed to be singularly massive, almost 35-40 stories at spire height.


Second design:

After much debating, the Temple was once again redesigned to reflect the ancient city of Dvaraka, Krishna's capital city, which according to legend was so diverse and beautiful in its architecture that it was said to have inspired the various temple traditions of India:

Also added to this design was the conception of the [b]Vedic Village[b] that would surround the Temple, where traditional craft and industry would be promoted, allowing villagers in one of the poorest parts of India educational, economic and cultural opportunities, as well as the concept of using the river as it has traditionally been, a highway used to ferry pilgrims back and forth from holy sites. Hence a harbor was also planned.

The views of the redesigned Temple above to a larger scale than the very first rendering, which just consisted of the central island above. While the Temple itself hasn't changed much, the massive courtyard was redesigned to feature gardens and landscaping. Surrounding the main temple would be the Temple complex itself, which would contain exhibition centers, schools, monestaries and the like. The Vedic Village would surround this.

Just like the popular conception of Dvaraka encompassing north, south, central, east and west Indian temple architecture, this redesign is a very unique melding of all styles. The main tower iself is representative of the east Indian Bengali/Assamese architecture in its body, while the spire at top is from Orissan styles. The Temple's podium and main building design is based on traditional north and west Indian architecture, while western Rajasthani and Kashmiri inspired havelis (halls) would ring the building. The plan of the Temple compound evokes Deccan and coastal Southern traditions, while the Gopurams (pyramidal gates) are very much in the Southern tradition.

All in all, it was a fascinating plan, and, had it been the final plan, would by far be the largest and most comprehensive "blended" architecture temple design. I personally liked this plan the best. Unfortunately, detailed renderings of it were never made, as it hadn't gone much past the conception stage when it was changed once again.


Third design:

In order to both portray the spirit of Gaudiya Vaishnava culture, the Temple was redesigned again to best portray the tradition's roots in Gura Desh, which comprises the region of Bengal, Orissa and Bihar.

^ Examples of traditional Bengali Temple Architecture. (Click thumbnails for full-size images)

^ Examples of traditional Orissan Temple Architecture(Click thumbnails for full-size images)
This third design of the Vedic Temple see a fusion of mainly Bengali but also Orissan architectural styles.

Notice how the main structure of the third design has the distinctive 'hive' like appearance of Bengali temples. Note also the Chajjas or curved arching roof edges, as a prominent feature. Like the Bengali tempes, this design would be made of an extremely strong clay and terracotta brick.

The main Shikarha, or the dome, is heavily influenced by Orissan architecture, especially the spire.


Final design:

The fourth and final design change came about around 2000. As the project really started to pick up steam, and as project objectives were better realized, the Temple underwent a radical (especially for temples) design change.

It was to not only be grounded in the traditional architecture of Gura Desham, but it was to be an modern elaboaration on this style that would eschew Western, Islamic and Buddhist styles, and attempt to make a futuristic Hindu style of temple architecture.

This goal of modernizing Bengali architecture is not the first time ISKCON has attempted to revolutionize modern Temple architecture. They are indeed very good at thinking out of the box when it comes to futurizing ancient styles. The Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Bengaluru (Bangalore), Karnataka state is a recently completed temple that is a modern take on traditional Dravidian architecture, incorporating both ancient and modern design and materials.


^ The retro-futuristic Sri Sri Radha Krishna Chandra Temple in Bengaluru (Bangalore). (Click thumbnails for full-size images)
To say the least, a rather beautiful and successful interpretation, in my opinion. Taking advantage of revolutions in artistic cast glass design, the architects of the Vedic Temple posed the following question: how could they take advantage of modern glass detail work in the modernation of the traditional terracotta geometric designs of Bengali temples...


[i]^ Example of Bengali Temple terracotta bricks that make up the facade of Bengali temples.(Click thumbnails for full-size images)
...and translate that into cast glass sculptures that will crown the Sikharas? The answer is something that is a building that is at once incredibly gorgeous, steeped in tradition, and also a revolution in materials design.

Now that is how the design of the Temple came to be. Below, I'll temple's layout in more detail.


Geometry and Layout of the Vedic Mandir

External Form:

In Hindu architecture, the principles on which the Temple is designed, especially in terms of sacred geometry, remain fixed, however, the external form and embellishment can be designed freely

^ Illustration of the side elevation, with indication of guiding geometry.

After two years of study of Bengali and Orissan temples, the Vedic Temple had been re-designed to grow more naturally from the stoil, and better reflect the spiritual tradition of Bengal. The most important inclusion is the "Bengali Arch", which developed from the simple bamboo temples of the villages. This arch is found in many ancient stone temples throughout the region.


Sacred Geometry:

In Hindu philosophy, geometry is seen to exist everywhere in creation: its order underlies structure of all things from molecules to galaxies. As such, Geometry is symbolized as a sacred language -- normally hidden in the Lord’s own design work of the natural world.

The ancient Vedic science of Vastu Shastra, the canon of , the ancient codes of town planning and architecture that had been transmuted to China via Buddhism as "Feng shui," is concerned with the natural geometric laws of the Universe. A temple constructed according to Vastu, and related Vedic sciences, it is said, will enhance the devotional experience of the pilgrim.

The Temple is both a place of worship and a Vedic Planetarium, that will teach people the ancient traditions as well as modern astrophysics, and how it relates to the Hindu worldview. As such, many elements of Sacred Geometry has been incorporated within the Temple.

^ An overlay of the floor plan of the Temple complex on a field ion micgograph of metallic atoms.

The floorplan of the Temple is based on the Vastu Purusha Mandala grid. The square in the centre of the mandala is presided over by Brahma. Encircling it are a number of squares called ‘padas’, or seats presided over by lesser deities, who form a hierarchy. Around it in the boarder of the mandala are 32 divinities that preside there.

^ Pursha Mandala and the floor plan

It had already been known Indian astronomers long before Nicolaus Copernicus that there are 9 major planetary bodies that orbit the Sun. This fact plays a major role in traditional Hindu theologic-geometic concepts. In Vastu Purusha Mandala design, the eight cardinal/diagonal directions are presided over by the eight planets (the 9th one being Earth.)

In this way, the mandala symbolically represents sacred space and the cyclic movement of time. With these affinities, this mandala embodies an all-inclusive, contained image of the ordered cosmos and is a potent architectural mechanism that provides a blueprint for the building.



The objective height for the Temple's design was set by Srila Prabhupada for a temple of ‘about thirty stories’, whilst keeping beauty, buildability and costs in mind. The criteria for scale is based, for example, on the large proportions and number of the main deities, the magnitude of the structure required to fulfil the 1000 year longevity brief and the floor area required to hold the large number of
pilgrims. Temple height and proportions of the structure are rooted so many sacred geometries, scales, and mandalas.


Heavenly Harmonies

Any temple or sacred structure is traditionally considered as a bridge between heaven and earth. A formula that links the two is found in number, geometry and harmony which is encoded in the cosmology of the fixed stars and the moving planets. The Vedic Temple, like most Indian temples, incorporates this.

Pole Star Alignment

An example of the Temple as a planetarium is its alignment with the Pole Star. The Pole Star is the only stationary point in the sky, and everything else revolves around it, both day and night. The Pole Star sits at 23.5 degrees above the horizon, due North of the Temple. The Temple is designed so that when one stands at the South entrance and visually lines up the top of the gateway with the top of the kailasa upon the central sikhara, one will locate the Pole Star.

Spring and Autumn Equinoxes

March 21 and September 21 are known as the Spring Equinox and the Autumn Equinox respectively. They are singularly important days in the year since the Sun rises exactly opposite the East everywhere on Earth and sets exactly in the West. Also, everywhere on Earth experiences 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night, thus the equinoxes are days of perfect balance and harmony.

The alignment of the Temple to the four directions means that its relationship with the Sun will be strengthened on these two days each year, with the Sunrise occurring directly through the
East Gate, falling at the feet of Sri Sri Radha Madhava sanctum sanctorum


Vedic Temple as a Planetarium

The objective of this Adbhuta Mandira is the exposition of the Vedic cosmology. This theme is present in every stage and aspect of the design. The very proportions and geometry of the Temple, both externally and internally, are reflections of the cosmic design.

Within the Temple, each space will house artistic exhibits. A variety of ideas have been developed which will work harmoniously with the interior spaces.


Temple Construction Phases

The Temple is designed from the outset to be easily, cheaply and ascetically built in modular phases from the foundation to the Shikara. According to the project's Managing Director,
Abhirama Dasa, the temple itself can be completed and opened for tours within six years and cost less than $20m to build.

The very basic groundwork prep on the Temple has begun, but as of yet construction of the Temple elf has not started. The the Temple was expected to be completed by 2010, though due to very heated last minute politcal wrangling with the West Bengal state government (an elected communist government.. go figure) who, fearful of losing political power at the draw this project will have, threw up a slew of insane roadblocks that do not have much legal foundation but will take time in overcoming, I personally don't see it finishing until the 2013 at the least.

^ Illustration of the three main phases of construction. Starting with the Planetarium/Entrance building in the front, followed by Kirtan Hall and Shikara.

The phase construction method allows the Temple to be used as a sacred structure from whence the first building is completed. The first phase

^ Another view of the complex, with the Planetarium/Entrance building in the foreground

Just to again put the renderings in scale, to see how large the Temple is, check out how freaking tiny the pilgrims approaching in the Temple are in the picture above

^ The temple in entierty. The dots are people.


Temple of the Vedic Planetarium and Vedic Village

The Vedic Temple is just the crowning glory of the project, which also includes the establishment of the Vedic Village. The village is to be designed in three phases, phase one which will be developed concurrent to temple construction.

There are two major roads in the Vedic Village, Chaitanya Avenue, which leads to the main enterence, and Prabhupada Avenue, behind the temple which will lead to the Vedic University and Prabhupada's Samadhi Mandir. Both roads and the village itself nwill be extensively landscaped.

^ Model of first phase of Vedic Village in relation to the temple. Existing buildings are yellow. Phases two and three wlil fill in the open areas.

The village will see extensive dyking and drainage systems carefully integrated into the master plan. This area of Bengal is among the wettest spots on Earth, and has historically been prone to flooding.

An earthen dyke around the perimeter of the property, which will protect the whole township from floods. It will appear as a raised grassy area, reinforced on the outer side with rocks. A strengthened retaining wall on the Ganga side of the property will for flood protection, so that existing buildings can be retained intact.

^ A section through the dyke, as planned for the Taranapur Road side of the area

Roads along the top of the dykes, with ramps at various points for access. Landscaping and tree planting will be used to screen all traffic that is on the dyke, from the residential areas. To drain internal water 25 percent of the total area will be kept open for holding ponds, to contain water in times of high rainfall. This water will be pumped out from two or three points.


Architecture in Vedic Village

The architects studied in great detail the existing architectural styles in Mayapur, and Navadwipa district, as well as buildings and architectural elements in Kolkata (Calcutta.) The temple architects are designing buildings on in the immediate temple vicinity in some detail, and these designs, and of course the buildings themselves, will serve as an example which the developers want future developers to follow.

The architectual goal for the township design is for it to have discernible regional character, and the seamless integration of this project into the Bengali landscape. Keeping in mind that the construction of this temple will lead to the rapid urbanization of the surrounding area, development and architectural guidelines for the public and private zones throughout Mayapur will be written up so that the ambience and overall character remainconsistent and attractive.

These guidelines will not be rigid, but will be open to a certain amount of interpretation, so that variety is not excluded. In this way, it is planed that the entire development will look visually coherent and appropriate to the location, and make for a harmonius and inspiring experience, especially in the public areas around the temple.


Prabhupada Avenue

Prabhupada Avenue runs from the Samadhi down to the site of the new temple. It is planned as a garden area, with a quiet and peaceful mood.

The buildings on either side of the Avenue will house exhibition halls, perminant party residences, public offices and a few shops. The Avenue will be pedestrian only with trees and areas of grass. It will be an area in which to linger and to relax.


Chaitanya Avenue

The main entrance for pilgrims and all vehicles will be from Chaitanya Avenue, to the North of the township. This Avenue aligns to and re-inforces the spiritual axis that connects Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura's house, via the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium, to Sri Yoga Pitha.

The buildings on both sides of the Avenue have shops on the ground floor, which will create a lively environment. The upper floors are planned for pilgrim hospitality. In the centre of the Avenue, there will be a large open space, where artists and artisans will be working.


Conclusion *phew*

Sorry for the long post guys, but I hope you all enjoyed peruzing it as much as I did writing/researching it!

Jai's HONOLULU, Hawai'i photothread: ...showing off the Jewel of the Pacific!

--=- | Check out The Indian Skyscraper Blog - Chronicling the vertical risE of India... | -=--

Last edited by Jai; Jan 29, 2007 at 7:29 AM.
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