The Maṇḍala Of Text And Temple

 

Madurai MT 

Meenakshi Temple,
Madurai, South India: an entrance corridor


Sanskrit sacred text expands from a center of ferociously absurd verse in concentric circles of increasing sensibility. 

It moves; it moves not. It is far; and it is near. It is inside [all]; and it is outside [all]’ pronounces the Isha Upanishad.

Esoteric religious texts typically began as written down versions of privileged oral teaching.  Upanishad is Rahasya: ‘Secret Transmission’. The core is unsaid and ambiguous; the interpreted periphery, explicit and sensible.

The core texts are Sruti, unfiltered; at the periphery are the Smritis, Slokas and Sastras, the qualifiers and footnotes, the rules and rituals of orthopraxy.

At the peak of Vedic intent, Brahman is Nirguna Brahman (without attributes). As Sahguna Brahman, (with attributes) all names are in absurd phrase: Being-Becoming; Sonant-Silent; Eternal-Temporal; Explicit-Implicit.

Lower still and in increasing familiarity are the Myths, the Epics, the Folk-Tales, the Proverbs, the learned Bon-Mots.

You can drop the bar as low as you like. It is up to you.


This Maṇḍala of cryptic center simplifying in stages to a comprehensible and conventional perimeter is repeated in the architecture of the classic South Indian Temple.

The Garbha Griha [‘Womb-Abode’] resides at the center of the complex, recessed within corridors of diminishing light and crouching access. The deity is minimalist in extreme, a stone-erect.

As the devotee moves outward from ‘Womb’, the pillars and ceilings and walls of the temple becomes discernible, domestic. Myths, Gods, Goddesses and semi-divine figures.

At the outer walls of the temple, all cover is dropped. Life depicted in full bounce. Men and women, child and animal, angle and color, festival and ritual; life as Panorama.

The temple parallel, the three-dimensional analogue of sacred text.

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