INDIA, June 2, 2011 (The Hindu): "There is actually no difference between a temple and a house in terms of vaasthu," begins R. Selvanathan, Chief Executive Sthapati, Sri Vaidyanatha Sthapati Associates and Panchami Associates. The architect of many well-known temples in India and abroad, Selvanathan is the nephew of veteran V. Ganapathy Sthapati, with whom he worked for over 20 years, after graduating in temple architecture.
Selvanathan's heart lies in restoring ancient temples on the verge of collapse. "These temples represent our heritage, a testimony to the expertise of our ancestors. Besides, they are reference points. It is fine to build a new temple but in Tamil Nadu, a place of over 40,000 temples, resurrecting and renovating old ones would be more appropriate," says the master craftsman.
It is the Palani Baladandayuthapani idol of which the sthapati makes special mention in the context of restoration. Made of navapashanam, a concoction of nine herbs by siddhars, the statue was coming apart due to erosion and handling. "What with the controversy surrounding it, I was all nerves when I started on the project," recalls Selvanathan. He stayed at the temple with his team of architects and they succeeded in repairing the damage done. "It was an unforgettable experience, as though a divine hand guided us through the work," he observes.
"Prasadam Purusham matva poojayet mantra vittamaha" quotes Selvanathan from "Sirpa Rathnam" and explains the meaning: The temple is a form of God; hence mantras are to be chanted for the temple that is considered as a living organism. "Manena nirmite bimbhe swayam aabhati daivatam": Divinity is automatically revealed in the chiseled form that is based on shastrical measurement. "The norms laid down in the Agama have to be faithfully followed," he affirms.
"The energy in space converges inside the sanctum sanctorum with the gopuram and the kalasam acting as the medium. Location and direction are vital factors here. There are thousands of ancient temples waiting to be resurrected, saved and maintained. Let's protect them, our heritage," concludes Selvanathan, who has been showered with awards and titles here and abroad.
The sthapati has come across many people during his career, remarkable among them being the late Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami of Hawaii, publisher of Hinduism Today. "An American-born Hindu, who loved India, he studied Hinduism and became a guru. He envisaged Iraivan Temple, a massive temple of granite in Hawaii, with a five-tonne panchalokha avudaiyar and a crystal Sivalinga." The mantle has fallen on his disciple, Satguru Bodinatha Veylanswami.