Thursday, December 27, 2007

The story of a temple

Location: Tahakari, near Samsherpur, Map

On a sunny day during vacation I set out to unravel a mystery. It concerned an ancient temple in a village tahakari, in India. The village has different species of birds; I spotted few kingfishers and a peacock. The temple itself is in black stone, constructed near a lake with stone steps from the lake leading unto the entrance. The walls have carvings depicting people dancing and exquisite designs. Going around the temple one can’t help but marvel. The surroundings throb with a high amount of energy. Why would anyone make such a beautiful temple and what does it stand for ?

Villagers there have made a sincere attempt to understand the temple and to save it from ruin. Experts had been called to read the writings but to no avail. They are also disturbed by the erotic scenes depicted. They are unable to see anything divine.

Failing to understand it, the villagers did what anyone of us would do - projected their own mind on the temple.
  • A lone face in the carving which resembled Ganesha has been twisted by the villagers to make it look like the Hindu god.
  • A statue of goddess Laxmi has been installed. And the temple is now known as the temple of Laxmi!
  • Some of the erotic carvings have been defaced. Part of the temple has been painted to resemble other temples that the villagers are aware of, taking away some of the charm.

Stories and superstitions abound.

  • The pandavas from Mahabharata built it in a single day!
  • A secret passage from underneath the temple opens up in the mountains
  • Tigers from the nearby forest visits the temple to pay homage to the goddess

I started out with a hypothesis:

Hypothesis 1: Ancient India has been famous for people who were constantly working on their minds, looking within to know themselves. It could be that the carvings were a test. Meditators sitting in front of the statues and when the dancing women failed to entice them only then they would enter the temple of God.

But for this hypothesis to work there should be no erotic sculpture inside the temple. There are temples like those in khajuraho with no sculpture inside.

I entered the temple, there was darkness. I took out my mobile, focused its faint light on the walls to see if they were empty. But to my surprise there were sculptures even more beautiful, everywhere, on the walls on the ceilings, inside the innermost part which is generally used for worship. Hypothesis 1 had failed !

Inside there were carvings of people dancing, some playing the flute some beating on the drum. Having a jolly good time. I thought my God this is just celebration, all round. The word struck me, celebration. And I knew I had the answer - this temple is about celebration. No rituals, no worship, no God, pure dance, celebration of beauty, of life. Imagine a time hundreds of years back when the population was sparse. Man was in tune with nature, consciousness at a high. What can be done, but celebrate !

Why are there so many women in the carvings? Because it’s the men who built it! Other mysteries still remain, how old the temple is, who built it, in which kings times it was built, what is written on the walls, is there a secret passage? But I think I had found the essence. The temple had whispered it to me and whispers it to whoever passes by.

Disclaimer: The blogger isn’t religious and does not trust organized religion 1 bit :)


  1. Wonderfully written...

    In today's formulaic world, we try to restrict temples to being 'places of worship' and restrict worship to 'rituals of repentance'. But every ancient 'temple' had it's own essence. That essence can be a 'celebration' like the one in Tahakari or the 'pride' you feel looking at the 'Kailsanath' temple at Ellora or the 'Fresh Start' feel the Konark Sun temple must have given it's visitors. Even in the no-so-ancient temples, this character was present. I still remember the 'simple joy' I felt in Pandharpur or even in the Neelkantheshwar temple in Worli as a child. The sounds of 'taaL & Mrudunga' never failed to bring that 'Prasanna' feeling to me. Or they way the sea breeze takes away all the stress and tiredness at the 'Mahalakshmi' temple. I believe this 'essence' , this feeling that you sought and found hard to get in day to day life, was the key to 'going to a temple'.

  2. Now for someone who have really less knowledge about temples, this blog is worth reading. You just gave me virtual tour of the temple, thank you for sharing it with us