To some a temple is merely an edifice in stone, mortar and bricks. A collection of cement loosely arranged to house objects of reverence. To others it is a marvel of sweat, blood and tears shed in copious quantities to appease the deity within. For a demanding deity tall spires stretch out into the sky their shape dictated by social norms of the region and the resident deities religion. Gods seem curiously similar to humans in this regard, some have grandiose structures that seem to pale anything into insignificance next to them. Some temples have exquisite carvings demanding extreme devotion and extracting the skillful dexterity of the sculptor. And then there are those temples seeming to be but simple abodes, a roof and a porch; stark in structure making up for it with millions thronging outside.
Real estate goes by three commandments; location, location and location. Some temple builders of yore seem to have known this all along. Which is why there are temples straddling the rapid and visceral Ganges, those built along the mature Ganges; temples overlooking the placid bovine Ganges and then those looking upon the great river as it disintegrates into muddy silt and meets the sea. There is a beautifully derelict temple in the Kangra valley where nothing seems of grandeur. Then as one bows down before the Goddess, the mighty snow capped peaks of the Himalayas rise and seem to form the very roof of the temple. Some temples have the sea as a fourth wall, yet others lie submerged in caves demanding precarious climbs. And some temples rise magnificently out of nowhere, themselves becoming a beacon of architectural beauty and enriching the surroundings. Spires rise out of green paddy fields, and spires stand among skyscrapers blending into the landscape almost as if God intended them to be there.
Does a temple ask to be reviewed? Or are critics merely supposed to comment upon the more trivial pursuits of mankind? To a devotee a temple is a sum of several parts architecture being but one if at all. The munificence and largesse of the God, the sternness of austerities demanded for worship, the extent of penitence demanded in case of a wrongdoing and the power and veracity of the said God to mete out justice, these theological parameters often decide the position of the temple in the Indian social fabric, irrespective of religion. Art and architecture are therefore incidental, which is not to say we are a society of philistines but that God cannot be bothered with too much art. And then there are temples where art is the sole God, but man needs pray at the altar of his needs than his appreciation for mere structures.
Every temple has an ambiance factored by aspects within and without. It is these that make every temple unique. Some are places of refuge, some places of fervent prayer. Some ask for open mouthed adoration and some are inconspicuous to the extent of being one with their surroundings. The temple is an innate part of the Indian geography imbuing its many hues to the landscape.