A Mani Mandapa Temple at Orikkai
Former Director of Archaeology
Former Vice Chancellor of Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Viswa Mahavidyalaya
Secondly, the main temple is about one hundred feet in height, symbolizing the life span of His Holiness who lived amidst us for nearly one hundred years. All ancient temples were built, reflecting certain basic philosophies and this follows those traditional concepts. The superstructure called the Sikhara is about 56 feet and the height is one and three fourth, the width that is 1: 1.3/4 proportions bears a particular name indicating happiness (Ananda vimana), according to the sthapati.
The main sikhara is built on a high upapitha and with the traditional with several musings. The sikhara is built in five storeys topped by the stupika also made of stone. The sikhara is beautified with rows of corner kutas, intermediate shalas, and the central Projections (bhadras) provided with windows (jalas) for lighting and ventilation.
The inner sanctum is not the usual garbhagraha type but is a mandapa with raised pithika with four pillars at the corner. There is passage to go around and another concentric passage which is spacious to go around. Thus, there are two concentric passages around with mandapa in the centre where a Portrait of His Holiness will be enshrined. In front of His portrait is to be consecrated His Padukas (sandals) made of sandal wood and covered with gold plate. Essentially, it is a Mandapa and hence called Paduka Mani mandapa. The Architectural treatises call this type of structures as Mandapika Prasadas.
Such structures are known from early times. A typical example comes from Srinagar , in Kashmir where the famous Sankaracharya temple is built as Mandapika prasada. Originally, the Sankaracharya temple had circular garbha graham and is a very ancient temple. Around 1644, a Hindu King named Gopadeva added the central Vedika of the sanctum supported by four pillars. There are many such pillared sanctums built in the time of the Gupta kings in the fourth and fifth centuries. For example, such pillars temples are in Vidisa in Madhya Pradesh. Also, there is a fine temple in northern Karnataka near Badami (the ancient Vatapi). Such temples were not only built in India but also in ancient Cambodia. One of the most ancient temples at Sambhor Prai Kuk, in North Eastern Cambodia, assigned to 4th cent is also built in this form. In fact, most other temples in Cambodia are built in the mandapika style with a mandapa in the centre of the sanctum to enshrine the deity. Mahaswamiji was a great admirer and keen lover of the history of Cambodia and it really seems to be a divine coincidence that this mandap dedicated to him recalls this tradition.
Another significant feature of this temple is two significant sculptures introduced for the first time portraying two well known dhyana slokas in Sanskrit. The sculpture on the south wall of the main temple portrays the Guru Parampara - Narayana, Brahma, Vasishta, Sakti, Parasara, Vyasa, Sukha followed by Gaudapada, Govinda yogindra, and (Adi) Sankaracharya and His disciples. This is an illustrious sculpture that would enable the visitor to correlate the dhyana sloka recited by all with the sculpture and is certainly a fine way of introducing art of sculpture to the devotees.
(Sri Adi Sankara and His Disciples)
Similar is the sculpture on the northern wall that depicts the Pradosha Tandava of Siva based on a sculpture from Badami 6th cent. Visitors to the temple who know this verse of Sandhya tandava would welcome the portrayal.
Pradosha Tandava of Shiva
There is another sculpture on the southern wall of the temple representing a Ganesa. It is a beautiful sculpture that would attract the attention of art lovers. The entrance to the sanctum also has some interesting sculptures. Sculptures of both Ganga and Yamuna are portrayed at both the door jambs of the entrances. In addition, the creeper designs here portray 16 forms of the Guru at the outer door jambs while the inner entrance depicts the twelve Jyotir lingas.
The temple it must be understood is the tallest and traditionally well laid out physical space in Tamilnadu that has been undertaken in this century.
The author can be contacted at email@example.com