Revival of Temple Culture
The revival of authentic Vedic temple culture is one of the keys to reviving Sanatana Hindu Dharma and is therefore one of Kailaasa’s highest national priorities. The Vedas, the Upanishads and the Dharmashastras provided the philosophical foundation and the Itihasas (religious history) and Puranas (sacred literatures) the societal framework to sustain this foundation. Temple culture formed the nucleus of Hindu civilization and it spawned, incubated, nurtured, sustained, and spread Sanatana Dharma’s cultural and social milieu from time immemorial.
The origins of temple culture date back to the Vedic concept and practice of yajna. The word yajna describes an elaborate ritual of sharing—a ritual where all communities and strata of society came together and offered their material and non-material services for the welfare of the country. It was an act of strengthening human, social and national bonds on an epic scale. A yajna was how the entire nation renewed its vows to itself.
As Vedic culture evolved and gave us the concept of murti puja (deity worship), yajna gradually found an organic expression in the form of temple culture. A temple in spirit was not just a place for people to worship and return home; it was simultaneously the primary educational institution, a community center, the home of the performing and literary arts, and the platform for free and fair social and political discussions and debates.
The plan, design, and structure of almost all classical and medieval temples was well-defined, scientific and followed the rules of Indian architecture laid down in the Shilpashastra texts. A visit to any of these still-surviving temples makes it clear that areas are earmarked for specific purposes: dormitories for pilgrims, halls for debates and similar activities, a yajna shala (sacred rituals building) , a natya shala (theatrical dance building), a communal water tank, and platforms for Gurukul students to take their lessons. The actual temple itself forms a small part of this grand architectural scheme. For example, the North Indian holy city of Varanasi is in fact one massive temple complex that contains hundreds of mini-temples within its walls.
One of the greatest contribution of Vedic temple culture is in the field of classical performing arts. Hindu classical music and dance primarily evolved from and were refined over hundreds of years in the confines of thousands of temples spread throughout the various Vedic kingdoms. Nothing can substitute the Guru-shishya (Guru-disciple) tradition that alone has sustained Hindu classical performing arts. The temple culture in turn sustained the Guru-shishya tradition by granting the Guru the material prosperity and social respect to perpetuate his or her art to posterity.
The temple culture produced superior human resources required to sustain not just these endeavors but, indirectly, a kingdom itself. It produced ministers, advisers, strategists, artisans, and teachers. Those who dismissively refer to Madurai, Thiruvanamallai, Rameshwaram, Tanjavur, etc. as mere “temple towns” fail to recognize the essential role temple culture played as the incubator of Hinduism’s societal and religious infrastructure. It is therefore unsurprising that almost all Hindu kings gave such large grants to temples and avoided appropriating temple wealth for sovereign uses.
And so, when a temple was destroyed, it also simultaneously destroyed every cultural facet of a kingdom. At present very little of the classical tradition has survived in North India. This is the direct consequence of repeated and large-scale temple destruction by Islamic invaders (and the long period of Mughal rule, which prevented Hindus from building new temples and from renovating/restoring existing ones). As far as South India is concerned, we see this phenomenon most prominently in Goa, whose original name is Gomantak. Few temples have survived there and the classical tradition is virtually non-existent.
After India gained independence the situation did not improve. Under Jawaharlal Nehru, temple culture was relegated to the waste heap with a simple device—by putting temples directly under government control as part of the destructive project of de-Hinduizing India. This policy denied temples much of their autonomy and the funding they badly needed to restore their dilapidated infrastructure after centuries of hostile foreign rule.
Preserving and Proliferating of Sacred Arts
The quintessence of Vedic civilization was expressed in the science and art of forms “Shilpa” (work of art). The renowned temple architect and sculptor, Dr. V. Ganapathi Sthapathi explained “the real culture of India lies in its arts, poetry, music, dance, sculpture and architecture. I call them Vedic in view of the fact that this science and technology are dealt with in Sabda, Gandharva, Natya, Sthapatya Vedas, I also call these Vedas as living Vedas or Vedas in action, productive of tangible material results and leading to spiritual realization within the built environment.”
Regarding Shilpa, the Aitareya Brahmana, Rig Veda, 6.5.27 states,
“The works of art of man imitate the divine forms by employing their rhythms they metrically reconstitute and interpret the limitless knowledge of the sacred hymns from the limits of being human.”
The ancient lineage of Vedic scientists and artisans applied their knowledge of Shilpa of across various arts and crafts and extended to every aspect of culture, including the architect, metallurgist, sculptor, potter, perfumer, wheelwright, painter, weaver, dancer, musician, and even into the arts of love. Ancient Indian texts assert that the number of the arts is unlimited and deployed sixty-four kala (techniques) and thirty-two vidyas (fields of knowledge).
Shilpa is discussed in Agamas, Puranas and Vastu Shastra where it is linked to the mythology of Vishwakarma (the Divine Architect). These arts were all considered deeply spiritual and granted the sanctions of a sacrament in ancient culture.
Vaastu Temple Building
Probably the most notable application of Vedic Science was in the area of building temples or Vaastu architecture and its knowledge systems expounded in the Veda-Agamas, Sthapatya Veda and Vaastu Shastras.
Vedic builders cognized that free space is capable of experiencing, vibrating, and converting energetic vibrations themselves into spatial forms. They considered the temples they built to be living organisms pulsating with life, just as is the case with our human form. Temples were built specifically to purify and enlighten humanity. The science of Vaastu temple architecture and its application spread across the globe and are considered to be the architectural foundations of many civilizations.
The vibrancy of the temples of the ancient past are unfortunately missing in most of today temple constructions. This is because the true knowledge of Vaastu architectural principles has mostly been lost or is in the hands of very few. Even the Vedas and Upanishads have not been properly understood and have yet to be attuned to the context of the Agamas and Vaastu Shastras.
The nation of Kailaasa will restore temple science to its original splendor and will not compromise on its adherence to the Agamas and Shastras. Only through the application of authentic Vaastu principles by an enlightened incarnation can full scale construction of temple complexes be achieved. Large scale constructions being currently being contemplated will rival and be more luminous the greatest temples ever built. The impact of the energy radiated by Vaastu-compliant temple complexes is capable of raising the consciousness of humanity on a mass scale.
Revival of Rudrakanya Sampradaya
The Rudrakanya Sampradaya (spiritual lineage) was an ancient order of chaste strong sacred women sanyaasis who traditionally live within the Vedic temple complex, took care of the temples and studied and shared the all the sacred Vedic arts. These Vedic women were the heroines and role models of their day, the epitome of complete chastity and devotion and held the highest status in society. With the destruction of temple cities and complexes by invaders, the Rudrakanyas were no longer respected and honored and were either captured as trophies of war or pushed into poverty and prostitution.
As these Rudrakanyas were literally a biological repository of all knowledge, arts and scriptures, with their decimation, a huge treasure trove of Vedic “DNA” and its extensive knowledge of scriptures, culture arts and sciences was lost with the demise of the Rudrakanya tradition.
As part of Vedic cultural revival and propagation, ASMT has now revived the Rudrakanya Sampradaya. Rudrakanyas are trained in the 64 arts including art, dance, music, drama, singing, linguistics and preservation and glorification of temple culture. This is essentially a spiritual incubator for propagating lost knowledge of temple culture and reviving an ancient tradition of powerful sacred women through keeping the social structure and the temple-based culture alive.
From the Vedic perspective, the whole universe is being brought into existence as the manifestation of the dance of the Supreme Dancer, Nataraja. In the Hindu scriptures every God has his or her own style (lasya and tandava represent two aspects of dance) including 23 celestial beings called Apsaras who dance to please the Gods and express the supreme truths in the magic of movement.
The dance in Hinduism used to be a part of a sacred temple ritual, especially in South and Eastern India, where the Rudrakanyas worshipped different aspects of the Divine through the elaborate language of mime and gestures. Natyashastra is the most ancient and the most elaborate scripture describing every element and aspect of this sacred art-worship.
The temple dance gradually evolved into what is known today as the South Indian Classical Dance that still preserves many ritualistic elements of Hinduism. Many temple dancers, Rudrakanyas are incarnations of apsaras.
Traditional dance existed in its purest form during the Vedic periods, as it was encouraged and patronised to a great extent by offering dance in temples and royal courts as a form of worship to the Divine.
Revival of Temple Arts and Crafts
Through the Sacred Arts program at the Bengaluru Adheenam temple complex, ASMT has spearheaded the revival of ancient temple crafts such as producing temple structures, deities, vahanas (vehicles of the deities), flagstaffs, temple jewelry, Puja/ worship items, kavacham (sacred armor), sacred weapons, deity arches, crowns, jewelry for deities, chariots and thrones as per the Agamas – the oldest available scriptural text of instructions authored by Lord Shiva himself. These sacred creations are sent to Hindu temples and home temples in all countries, throughout the world in a systematic attempt to revive these previously lost temple art forms and to revive this knowledge in the present day.
Vedic Education – Gurukul Education System
The Gurukul is the original Indian education system of Sanatana Hindu Dharma where students lived with enlightened masters from a tender age, learning the 64 vidyas – types of knowledge. Knowledge was transmitted through the very bio-memory of the master.
The children emerged as spiritually-anchored geniuses who radiated shaktis (mystical powers) and were high-achievers and world leaders. Nithyananda Gurukul is fast reviving the gurukul education in its entirety not only in India but around the world, through a state-of-the-art virtual Gurukul created by His Divine Holiness Paramahamsa Nithyananda.
Vedic Economy – Goshala
The Vedic tradition has encouraged an agrarian civilization from time immemorial, and cows have played a pivotal role in society. The cow is revered as the most sacred animal to Hindus, a fact that is evidenced by the dedication of several hymns and rituals, reverentially addressing them as ‘Gomata’ (divine mother cow) in all the sacred scriptures including the Vedas and Puranas. Cows also formed the economic backbone of Hindu civilization and economy by ensuring every family and community maintained self-sufficiency through easy access to cow-based food, fuel and medicine. Protection of cows is a sacred duty that is performed by Hindu communities worldwide through the revival of the Goshalas (cow sanctuaries). Under the guidance of the leadership of Kailaasa, the Goshala infrastructure, economy and related Vedic rituals are being revived and propagated on a mass scale.
The Vedic tradition has always encouraged living in a sustainable manner in alignment with nature. Therefore it adheres to an organic, vegetarian, cruelty-free lifestyle by promoting organic farming as well as a holistic lifestyle of nonviolence, harmony, and mutual upliftment and respect for all beings, human, plant or animal.