The Science Behind Temples

February 28 is celebrated as the National Science Day to mark the discovery of the Raman Effect by Indian physicist Sir Chandrashekhara Venkata Raman. This year, the theme for National Science Day is “Science for the People and the People for Science”.

India’s contribution in the field of science has been magnanimous all along. Among the wide array of fascinating contributions, the architecture of Indian temples has left a lasting impression. Centuries-old temples are still functional in India with devotees performing rituals and offering daily prayers.

Temples in Odisha, like that of the Sun temple (Konark), Jagannath Temple (Puri), Ekamra Kshetra (Bhubaneswar), are stand-outs in the world of ancient architecture. What makes Odisha’s temple architecture remarkable, however, is the science behind the architecture. The Ekamra Kshetra in Bhubaneswar has been built as per the Silpa Sastras based on the principles of mandala. The Konark sun temple is also an excellent example where the sun god was worshipped at the centre of the mandala. The placement of the temple and the Sun God had been aligned in such a way that the first ray of the sun from the coast would cross the dancing hall and would fall and reflect from the diamond, placed at the crown of the Sun God. The twelve pairs of wheels situated at the base of the temple signifies the wheels of the chariot, and the spokes of the wheels form a sundial – allowing people to calculate precise time by just looking at the shadow cast by these spokes.

The art of construction of a temple was scientifically designed and passed on from generation to generation. Though the temples vary across regions, the basic structure remains the same and is derived from a single idea of design. The Shipshastra along with other general manuals on Hindu architecture are still referred for the construction of the sacred Hindu temples. The science behind this helps us understand the purpose of the temples, catering to the needs of that particular region.

This shows how science is engaged in every aspect of our daily lives, also that our ancestors were quite pragmatic. This National Science Day, it would be in the best interests to learn from the wonders of the past and pay our respect to the brilliant architects of the ancient world.

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