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HEIGHTENED EXPERIENCE OF TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE THROUGH

PERSPECTIVE OF PHENOMENOLOGY

Phenomenology is based on the unprejudiced, descriptive study of what appears to consciousness, and
is characterized as a way of seeing rather than a set of doctrines. It tries to employ ―a fresh
unprejudiced look – i.e. untainted by scientific, metaphysical, religious or cultural presuppositions or
attitudes – at the fundamental and essential features of human experience in and of the world.

“I believe that architects, like poets, should be sensitive to the images provoked by things. We should
relearn naïve seeing” ds, it deals with the, essence of manifestation.”
. -Juhani Pallasma.

According to Pallasmaa, architects design buildings based on the images and basic feelings of the
people who live in them, and phenomenology analyszes these basic feelings. In fact, phenomenology
deals with the basic and common feelings and images of the people. Referring to Husserl and
Heidegger, he argues that phenomenology intends to depict phenomena appealing directly to the
consciousness as such, without any theories and categories taken from the natural sciences or
psychology. Thus, using Husserl’s concept, phenomenology means “pure looking at” the
phenomenon, or “viewing its essence”. Phenomenology is a purely theoretical approach to research in
the original sense of the Greek word theoria , which means precisely “a looking at”. In this regard,
Pallasmaa explains phenomenology of architecture as “looking at‟ architecture from within the
consciousness experiencing it.
Pallasma explains the phenomenological approach as “a pure looking at the essence of things
unburdened by convention or intellectualized explanation‟ and expresses that all the artists are
phenomenologist and try to present the things as if they were objects of human observation for the
first time.”
Pallasmaa argues that our reactions to the spatial qualities and situations are rooted in the living
conditions of our predecessors. All the existential human sensations and deep phenomenological
feelings, such as the directions, above and below, here and there, horizontality and verticality, light
and dark, etc., are strongly rooted in our collective unconsciousness. In this connection, he states, “We
may live in a city and be deeply engaged in the technological and digital realities of today, but our
embodied reactions continue to be grounded in out timeless past; there is still a hunter gatherer,
fisherman, and farmer concealed in the genes of each one of us, and architecture needs to
acknowledge this deep historicity of humankind.” (Pallasmaa, 2007). In this way, Pallasmaa believes
that our phenomenological aspects of being continue their lives unconsciously.
Thus, the main and eternal task of architecture is to create embodied existential metaphors that
concretize man’s being in the world. Human’s existential dimensions are structured in architectural
works. Architecture gives us the opportunity of perceiving dialectics of permanence and change, to
dwell in the world and sense the continuum of culture.
“In memorable experience of architecture, space, matter and time fuse into one single dimension, into
the basic substance of being, that penetrates consciousness. We identify ourselves with this space, this
place, this moment, and these dimensions become ingredients of our very existence. Architecture is
the art of reconciliation between ourselves and the world, and this meditation takes place through the
senses.”
Thus architecture, space, moment and time defines existence of our manifest world, which we
experience through senses which are vision, hearing, touch, smell, taste.
So, we live in a world of manifest phenomenon. Yet ever since the beginning of time, man has
intuitively sensed the existence of another world: a non-manifest world whose presence underlies –
and makes endurable – the one we experience every day.
The principle vehicles through which we explore and communicate our notions of this non-manifest
world are religion, philosophy and the arts. Thus, to define this existence of non-manifest world the
architecture is also the different. In India these beliefs are all pervading. They surface everywhere
since they are not confined to formal art and philosophy but thrive in popular incarnations as well.
Even in overcrowded commercial centre of a metropolis like Bombay, every twenty feet or so we find
a sacred gesture – a Rangoli on a doorstep, a yantra painted on wall, a shrine, a Temple. Amongst the
public and private realms there is a realm which has got importance throughout the human history, the
sacred realm which constitutes such gestures. This sacred realm is of fundamental to any
understanding of Indian architecture. The sacred is neither public nor private though it qualifies both
immeasurably by engaging the mythic dimensions inherent in the non-manifest. Mankind has always
been fascinated by the invisible, the unknown, the unknowable, whom we now call as god.
Primordial man believed this invisible in natural powers such as sun, moon, rivers, oceans, etc.
According to Hindu literature Aryans also believed in natural powers as god. Later to overcome the
increasing popularity of Buddhism and Jainism there was need to give physical form to these beliefs
and there emerged the architectural form as temple with the concept of house of a god which evolved
drastically engaging many beliefs and social setting around it.
Primarily architecture we experience through our senses which defines our existence. But if we see
temple as an abode of a god, whom we consider as a most superior, the primary task of architecture is
to create an experience of god’s abode. So, the most important task is to make the all senses engaged
fully while moving in the abode of god. This will be called as a heightened experience which will be
superior to all and will create a such an impact, so the existence of non-manifest is defined
profoundly. This experience is described as a divine which helps us to meditate and gives relief.

FIVE SENSES AND HEIGHTENED EXPERIENCE OF TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE:


LOCATION OF TEMPLE AND APPROACH TO THE TEMPLE:
Throughout the human history the sky has earned a profound and sacred meaning. Man intuitively
perceived it as a abode of supernatural. Hence to climb a path to the top of a hill, where god dwells is
a paradigm of such mythic power that it has been central to the beliefs of almost every society, since
the beginning of time. If not mountain the location of temple is such that it takes efforts to reach. Even
the steps to reach the temple are bigger in proportion than ours. This takes physical effort to climb and
represents the superiority of god. Thus, this journey of approaching the temple is physically effort
taking and after reaching the destination the natural beauty of location and the silence of the place
with exception of sound of blowing wind which also helps to cool our body temperature makes us
relief and gives calmness and feeling of satisfaction to our mind.
SENSE OF TOUCH:
Walking barefoot in a temple is a tradition which is followed till the date. After entering a temple, the
first thing we feel is the warmth of stone paving and its hardness. The temperature of stone paving
changes as we move inside the temple. In late morning the temperature of stone paving rises and
sometimes even difficult to walk on such surface. But after entering the garbha griha the stone paving
is chilled and gives relief to our barefoot. To devote a flower to a idol is also tradition where the
smooth and sleek touch of flower stimulates our sense of touch.
THE SCENT OF THE SPACE:
The most persistent memory of any space is often its scent. “Every dwelling has its individual smell
of home”. The appearance of a space might be erased from the retinal memory, but the nose helps the
eyes to remember. The nose remembers better than the eyes. Temple space has significant character of
scent. Where the scent of flowers, intense scent of camphor and the odour of vapours of diya, the
scent of coconut, in combination with the slightly air tight chamber of garbha griha gives an slightly
intense scent which is very calming and soothing.
SENSE OF SOUND:
“Sight isolates, whereas sound incorporates; vision is directional, sound is omni-directional. The sense
of sight implies exteriority, whereas sound creates an experience of interiority. I regard an object, but
sound approaches me; the eye reaches, but the ear receives. Buildings do not react to our gaze, but
they do return our sound back to our ears”. In this way, Pallasmaa points to the existential importance
and differences of the vision and hearing. He explains that the experiencing of a building or a space is
not only perception of its visual characteristics, but also of its acoustic characteristics. Every building
has its unique visual and acoustic character, which affects our body while visiting it. According to
him, we perceive space through our hearing. The sound of church bells in a city, or the voice of Azan
in a Muslim city, provokes the sense of spirituality.
Similarly, the sound of bells of temple provokes spirituality. The special thing about temple bell is the
sound created by bell echoes for 7 to 8 seconds and we try to perceive it till the last echo and this
increases our awareness in temple even in addition to the silence in the space. After this stimuli to
awareness when we enter in garbha griha and perceive the chants, it makes easier to understand this
chants.
SENSE OF VISION:
Vision is most superior and noble amongst all the senses. But in temple architecture, to represent the
superiority and ordeal nature of god this sense is blurred slightly. When we enter from open court in
which temple is placed to the semi-open porch to the closed garbha griha the ambience of light
changes in hierarchy becoming darker and darker. When we enter in garbha griha the space is most
darkest and the lamp is the only focus near the idol emphasising the position of idol. The vapours of
camphor and the darkness slightly blurs our sense of vision and after getting out from this shrine to
open court with bright sunlight our eyes take time to adjust and sometimes cause tears but this blur
vision makes our other senses more active and creating an impact of the god’s superiority.
SENSE OF TASTE: After following all the traditions the last one is to taste prasad which is sweet and
made with rich flavours. This activates our sense of taste and defines the end of process of pilgrimage.
This special prasad has a capacity to remember the temple space because of its specific attachment to
temple space.

Thus due to this stimuli to all our senses the experience of temple is heightened experience and called
spiritual or divine experience which defines the existence of non-manifest ang engages beliefs of
peoples forming a social setting around temple architecture.