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Traditionally a Hindu mandir is the home of a god and people visit it as one might go to see a friend. They will bow to the statue of deity, offer flowers and incense. However, it is not necessary for someone to offer worship in a mandir. Some people were not expected or allowed to go to mandir in past times; they were people who ate meat or belonged to certain caste groups. According to the Indian constitution of 1951, all mandir should be open to everyone (Mayled and Ahluwalia).
A mandir is the temple for Hindus. Hindus do not meet together in the mandir very often, except at festivals. The mandir is used by people on their own and by small groups. Sometimes they take time to stop at the mandir. In India, there are mandirs in every town and village, and people call in for some quiet time before going back to their jobs for the day (Nye).
The most important and holy part of a mandir is the place where the statues if gods (murtis) are kept. This is called garbha-griha. It is in the inner shrine or vimana, in the middle of the building. Over the garbha-griha is the tallest part of the mandir, which might be a tower, or a spire, or a dome. Many Hindus show respect for the murtis by walking around them (Mayled and Ahluwalia).
When Hindus visit the mandir, they take off their shoes, to show respect and to keep the temple clean. Most mandirs have a porch or hall to keep the shoes. When Hindus go into the mandir, they pass small shrines which have statues of other gods connected with the ones in the garbha-griha. For example, if Rama is the main god of the mandir, Hanuman, the monkey god, might be in the small shrine, because Hanuman is connected with Rama.
The space in front of the garbha-griha is called the mandapa. This is where Hindus can gather to look at the murtis and make their offerings from the worshippers and presents and presents them to the murtis (Cole and Morgan).
Mandirs are all kinds of shape and size. However, they have three features in common. First, there will be some object which represents the deity – a statue or some other symbol. Secondly, this will be covered by some kind of canopy. Usually this is the roof of the building, but its purpose is to cover the object respectfully, just as a parasol or umbrella is held over an important person, its function being not to shade someone from the sun, but to show him the honor his positions deserves. Finally, the mandir will be attended by a priest who will take care for the sacred object, make offerings on behalf of those who visit the mandir, and give them Prasad, a gift from the deity to the worshipper, usually in the form of food (Michell).
Large mandir built in past centuries had an entrance which faced the rising sun. On the open ground outside the mandir there would be the statue of an animal or bird, the creature upon which the god rides in Hindu mythology. This is sometimes regarded as the mandir guardian. The bull Nandi is associated with Shiva, the bird Garuda with Vishnu, and Durga rides a fierce lion (Nye).
A number of stone steps would take the worshipper into the presence of the god and its priestly attendant, probably at the end of large hall. Above the statue its canopy would take the form of a high tower representing a mountain, which is most ancient religions is regarded as sacred.
Hindu mandir in many places where Hindus have settled outside India are more than homes of god; they are places of congregational worship. In East Africa and the Caribbean there are purpose-built mandir designed on the model of classical mandir in India, but they are also centers where the local Hindu community gathers. At present in Britain and in other parts of Europe mandir are converted churches or similar large buildings or houses. The typical prayer room has a shelf or table standing against one of the walls. On the table will be one or more statues of the deities, perhaps pictures of others, maybe a bottle containing water from the Ganges and a copy of the Bhagavad Gita. The contents of the shrine may vary form mandir to mandir (Michell).
The term “Hinduism” incorporates a larger part of Indian Civilization than is communicated by the word ’religion’: it is a synthesis of many different beliefs and practices, modes of living and thinking. These differences are bound together by a cultural continuity and cohesive force that characterize Indian civilization (Mayled and Ahluwalia).
The temple is the most characteristic artistic expression of Hinduism, providing a focus for both the social and spiritual life of the community it serves. Temples have been built in all parts of Hindu Asia at different periods and continue to be erected in those countries which are all Hindu. The temple reflects the ideals and way of life of those who built it and for whom it was intended to operate as a link between the world of man and that of the gods. In order to understand the architectural forms and sacred art of the Hindu temple it is necessary to investigate the origins and development of the civilization that produced it. The temple reveals this range of Hinduism and is a lot more than a simple set for the customs related with definite viewpoint; it is instilled with a multifaceted scheme of symbolism and representation by which it exemplifies the most eminent ideas of Hindu way of life while still serving the necessities of daily spiritual living. It is thus, an expression in cooperation of Hindu civilization and of the mainly philosophical heights of Hindu culture (Nye).
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