Natural disasters arise from the energy and activity of habitual forces of climate and geology. These natural disasters are acknowledged as grievous and inevitable. There has been a number of severe natural disasters that have caught the eyes of the globe, one major disaster includes the Indian Ocean Tsunami which occurred on the 26th December 2004 (Boxing day). Thirteen years ago, the vastness of 9.1 earthquake smacked at the bottom of the Indian Ocean within reach of Indonesia, effecting a tremendous tsunami that stated more than 230,000 deaths in fourteen various countries, with Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand being the major hits, Taylor (2014). A particular earth tremor lasts for less than a minute, nonetheless can demolish a city built over a period of centuries. Despite the fact that earthquakes does not eliminate human species, what destroys them are the insecure structures of what’s around them. The experience of the tsunami that occurred in the Indian Ocean is known as one of the deadliest natural disasters ever recorded.
Many researchers have discovered a significant devastation across the coasts of the Indian Ocean during the 2004 Tsunami attack, the powerful waves from the tsunami crashed across Asia, particularly in Tamil Nadu, a city located in India. Miraculously, the only constructions that remained standing in many neighbourhoods were ancient Hindu temples, however, the surroundings were completely dismantled in its path. India is a land specially known for temples which are even to this day standing in the direction of the power of mother earth and are the living evidence of constructional effectiveness and technological skills of Indian skilled workers and master structure. The design of the most historic Indian temples displays the country’s age, wealth and traditional culture. Unluckily, these temples have been affected from both natural and moral evil through the generations. As a result of these events, a number of temples have been destructed, some are in ruins, some have even disappeared and a very few are still surviving to this day of time. Even though, the seismicity of the southern division of the region is not as much as compared to the northern divisions, the cultural worth of these temples requests a genuine seismic analysis of the construction and method taken place by indian craftsmen.
This present paper attempts to focus on the design and structural efficiency from seismic perspective of the South Indian temple. There has been a various number of investigation into Hindu temple architecture however, a large number of features in this topic is still not yet acknowledged. This research strives to assemble all existing sources that has been aspired to potentially use this knowledge by conducting a structural review of South Indian temple architecture. The aim is to understand the construction of a Hindu temple and how a few have survived against the tsunami attack.
An appreciation of Hinduism and its reflection behind the power of religious belief over the design of Hindu temple architecture.
Identify the geometry and structural systems of Hindu temple architecture with precedents from the Dravidian style of Hindu temples.
Assessing the content characteristic, construction techniques and development involved in the construction of a Hindu temple.
Discussion of literature
Origin of Hinduism:
Following the science of the construction of Hindu temples, which was originally inspired by Buddhist architecture, humans have created a space in connection to the divine. The construction of hindu temples have been located in places whereby positive energies and influences is maximised promising believers to experience happiness and inner satisfaction, Thakur, (n.d.). They were designed in a distinctive way to captivate our senses enabling individuals to enter a world of blessing and spiritual power.
During the ancient period of Hinduism, temples were established as the most dominant construction and was empirically proven to be the most spiritually powerful building in humanity. For instance, the miracle of Ganesh – a Hindu God, whereby millions of Hindus devotees have witnessed the miracle of Ganesh drinking milk in 1995, Mikas (2010). This shows that Hindu Temples are the most sacred buildings in humanity even to this day of time.
The traditional Hindu systems of architecture is named ‘Vastu Shashtra’, which defines the ‘science of architecture’. The arts and sculpture of the hindu architecture is named ‘shilpa shashtra’ and is organised in such a way that symbolises a powerful religious purpose, Sinah (2016). The floor plan of the Vastra Shastra integrates with nature which uses geometric patterns to directly locate the space of gods which brings the entire building into magical harmony with time and space.
A south Indian temple named Thiruchendur Murugan Temple faithful to Lord Murugan (second son of Siva), was the only major construction in the neighbourhood to have not been collapsed by the Indian Ocean Tsunami, Gupta (2017). This has left many witnesses startled and skeptical as to why the waves had not touched the temple. Thiruchendur is an exclusive temple amongst the six abodes (temples of Lord Murugan) in Tuticorin District, India. This is because it is the only temple situated on the seashore. The inner sanctum temple is a cave, with an entrance at sea level that then descends to the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Murugan. When a person stands in front of the deity, the water sea levels outside would measure above their heads. This would suggest that the waves should have hit and entered the Temple, however, this was not the case. – reference
From a hindu devotee’s point of view, one could argue that the Temple’s spiritual power explains the reason as to why the tsunami hasn’t affected thiruchendur temple. For example, there appear to be a mythical story behind it, in that Lord Varuna (The God of Water) had promised Lord Murugan that the sea will not harm or cross borderline of the temple. Here it now seems that the God of water had kept his promise to protect the Murugan Temple. Therefore, the survival of this extraordinary Hindu Temple shows that religious belief is a significant explanation for the survival of Hindu temples over Natural disasters. include ref.
On the contrary, from an architectural’s point of view, it can be argued that it is in fact the structural strength of the Temple that has caused it to “survive” from the Indian Ocean Tsunami attack making it an earthquake resistant building. For example looking into the formation of the Gopuram. This is a pyramidal structure that is known to be most balanced and supports why the Egyptian pyramid is currently the world’s most stable structure, TemplePurohit (2016). In regards to the structure of the Hindu Temple, the Gopuram is constructed from the ground with the use of an enormous stone base and a superstructure of brick that is supported using timber. As a result, the structural weight of the building would be immensely light from the top and heavier at the bottom. In the event of an earthquake of high frequency, the stable Gopuram structure allows the temple to vibrate at a much slower rate than the movement of the shakes from the ground. The different storeys of the Gopuram would lean from divergent directions during the event. While some parts sway from the left the other sways from the right, this maintains the central gravity constant and well balanced, Sophina (2015). Therefore, an architectural’s point of view would be stronger over religious belief, as there is empirical evidence that the architecture of the Thiruchendur Temple structure had not collapsed during the devastation of the Tsunami due to how it’s been built rather than through the power of God.
Limitations and Implications:
While there are sources that provide general descriptions on the formation and meanings behind the creation of Hindu temples, there is still restricted information explaining how certain temples; Thiruchendur Murugan temple in particular was built. This suggests that the architecture behind the Thiruchendur Murugan Temple requires further research on its structural strength.
However, there is structural analysis and more research on the Dravidian style temples. It is very similar to the Thiruchendur Murugan temple understanding the seismic response of gopuram and mandapam which are crucial and repetitive structural forms in South Indian temples. Also since this research could not be addition accompanied by field work in India most of the facts is collected from the secondary sources.
Another limitation discovered is that many of the sources that are referred to above have proposed that the design of Hindu Temples was inspired by the belief of Buddhism and its Architecture, however the history behind the connection between Hindu and Buddhist Architecture is still yet to be found.
After having explored the concepts described in the section above, a question has been devised to guide this research: how are South Indian Hindu Temples protected from the evil forces of the nature? This dissertation aims to investigate these matters and provide suggestions of what could be done to ameliorate one’s understanding of Hindu Temples against natural evil.