Mandirs and its architecture are Bharat’s unique soft power. Culturally rich and climatically diverse, our nation has been further enriched by the presence of numerous Mandirs scattered all over Bharat. Soft power involves shaping the preferences of others through appeal and attraction. The deep-rooted Bharatiya philosophy is manifested through Mandir architecture.
Culture is the physical and mental manifestation of human beings. Man’s journey is continuously evolving in two states, materialistic and spiritual. On the materialistic path, there is a tendency to improve physical enjoyment and comfort, while on the spiritual path, man progresses in religious, philosophical, ethical, literary, or artistic fields through thoughts. Hindu philosophy has always supported progress on the path of Shreyas and Preyas. As culture develops, it is necessary to reconcile the journey of man on both these paths, and it happens constantly. There is always an impact of one state on the other. Architecture, especially the Mandir architecture, is the best example and the indicator of both the states. A piece of architecture is built for worldly happiness, its structure and its philosophy are a symbol of the collective thinking of that society.
Aesthetics, context, and culture are the factors that take the building beyond being merely a commodity for functional satisfaction; they render social relevance to the buildings and make them architecture. Architecture has always been a true reflector of prevailing social, economic, and cultural trends of society and much more beyond that. Thus, architecture in general and Mandir architecture in particular have the potential to be a soft power.
Ram Mandir in Ayodhya is the most relevant example depicting the cultural existence of not only Hindus but of every individual of Bharat. The Mandir is the symbolic representation of that existence. Though the Mandir is newly constructed, the unseen presence of the Mandir has always been there in Ayodhya. Sri Ram is in the heart of every Hindu of Bharat and even those who are physically away from Bharat. Sri Ram connects them to Bharat. Sri Ram is the soul of Bharat and is an essence of the existence of Hinduism. This, the most awaited Mandir of Bhagwan Ram at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, is the epitome of Hindu philosophy.
History, geography, and philosophy play an important role in defining architecture. The formal language of Indian architecture is deeply influenced by the philosophical tradition. In Indian traditions, the word used for philosophy is Darshan. Mandir architecture of India and its evolution are the true manifestation of this philosophy. Mandir can be called as the soul of Indian culture. The soft power of architecture lies in its inherent quality. There is a symbiotic relationship between architecture and memory. Aptly designed space has the power to dissolve the fragmentation of time in the past and present. Perceptions and empathy associated with the imagery are the connecting point of the designed space with another. Architecture thus becomes the point of reference. The architectural expression also evokes a sense of belonging, belonging to time and space.
The architecture of Ram Mandir meets all these standards to ensure the status of the soft power of Bharat to this Mandir for years to come. The turning point in the history of Bharat has arrived and is marked by the architecture of the Mandir. The norms of sustainability and that of being local in all respects are also fulfilled by the Mandir architecture.
The original design for Ram Mandir was conceived in 1988 by the Sompuras from Ahmedabad. The Sompura family has designed many Mandir in Bharat. The chief architect of Ram Mandir is Chandrakant Sompura. He was assisted by his two sons, Nikhil Sompura and Ashish Sompura, who are also architects. A new design, with some modifications from the original, was prepared by the Sompuras in 2020 as per the new specifications and requirements. The Mandir is 250 feet wide, 380 feet long and 161 feet high. In the Garbh Griha, there is the childhood form of Sri Ram – the murti of Ram Lalla, filling the devotees with the emotion of love and innocence. The architecture of the Mandir is the depiction of the purity of that emotion; the essence is in the simplicity and natural expression of the Mandir. Vatsa Bhav is the core of the Bhakti movement in Bharat. Architecture is the manifestation of that Bhav.
Made from red sandstone under the blue sky on the auspicious land of Ayodhya, the most awaited dream of every Hindu at heart has been fulfilled. Sequentially rising pyramidal towers on Garbha Griha and on each Mandapa finally lead the eyes of the viewers to the main shikhar. With a curving smooth outline, the design of the Shikhar resembles the Shikhar of Khandaria Mahadev Mandir of Khajuraho. Arches and intricate carving not only allow light inside but also accord transparency and lightness to the entire form. The plinth, not so high with horizontal lines, provides a much-needed sense of stability to the large, graceful structure.
Mandirs in ancient India were not only places for worship but were also multi-purpose areas for social events, social integration, social awakening, and dissemination of art and education. The Mandirs were responsible for revitalising, building, and maintaining Indian society. Everyone in the community had to go to the Mandir several times a day for various reasons. Mandirs provide a platform for every activity of society. Sculptures all over the facades of the temple not only impart an artistic texture but also depict the private and public life of society. The statues of deities, Gods, and Goddesses adorn the columns and the walls of the Mandir. The spiritual and peaceful ambience of these Mandirs provided a kind of stability, harmony, and coherence in the society.
Though it was during COVID-19 period when the celebration was least hampered. The entire festivity reminded of the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s Rajyabhishek ceremony at Raigarh Fort in the 17th century. The importance of the event is in the hearts of every Hindu, and it will be remembered for years to come.