BENGALORE, INDIA, December 4, 2011: A temple's architecture conveys more than just the identity of the God it houses; it also talks about the rulers during the time of its construction, customs and traditions, and more. The aromatic incense of burning camphor swirled in the sweet fragrance of flowers in myriad colors, light from diyas dancing to the tune of hymns sung by orthodox priests, graceful Deities dressed in silk and jewels, the sound of huge bells reverberating beyond walls, devotees on their routine visit to the almighty, a temple scene is all this and more. Places where prayers are offered and heard, temples are places of faith and worship where hope is kept alive.
The Someshwara temple at Madivala, Bengaluru, is one such place where the walls enshrine history along with divinity. Dr Meera Iyer, Co-convener, INTACH says that the Someshwara temple is one of the oldest temples in Bangalore. Built by Cholas, like many other temples it has been renovated by successive rulers -- the Hoysalas and later the Vijayanagara kings. The inscriptions on the outer walls are in Tamil and Grantha script that can attest to the temple's age.
The earliest record dates to 1247 AD and refers to lands donated 'below the big tank of Vengalur' by a resident of 'Veppur' (Begur). Other inscriptions record grants made during the reigns of Hoysala king Ballala III and Chola king Rajendra. One record, from 1365, mentions a land grant at Tamaraikkirai (meaning 'the banks of the lotus pond' in Tamil).
In his book "Indian Sculpture: 700 - 1200 AD," Pratipalya Pal makes some interesting observations about how temples have evolved over time. He says -- 'Before the eight century, the Indian temple whether Hindu, Buddhist or Jain was a modest structure. By 11th century, both Hindu and Jain temples not only expanded physically, becoming enormous conglomerations of several buildings but also grew into the major social and cultural centres in a given community. The temple increasingly became the focal point of public life, serving as the community's town hall, theatre for dance and drama and public art gallery. Hence, nothing excluded from the architect's repertoire and the sculptor drew on all forms of human activities both spiritual and mundane to educate and delight his visitors.
From the modest house of God to architecturally extravagant social centres, temples adapt and change. One can only wonder, what is next?