"All Souls are alike and potentially Divine. None is Superior or Inferior...."
What is a Mandir?
Mandir is the Hindu name for a place of worship or prayer. Mandir is a Sanskrit word for where the mind becomes still and the soul floats freely to seek the source of life, peace, joy and comfort. For centuries, the mandir has remained a centre of life – a common community place where people forget their differences and voluntarily unite to serve society.
Why Do We Need Mandirs?
Every religion in its own tradition builds houses of worship. It is the mandir that fuels our faith in God, strengthens our society and teaches us to trust one another and to become trustworthy.
Schools will educate the mind, but who will educate the soul? Hospitals will mend a broken arm, but who will mend a broken heart? Cinemas and arcades will excite the mind, but where will one go for peace of mind?
A Mandir is a centre for learning about man, nature and God. It is where ethics and values are reinforced. It is where people celebrate festivals and seek shelter in sad times. It is where talents in various arts – music, literature and sculpture, etc. – are offered in the service of God.
Science of Architecture
From conception to completion, the Jain ethos for building a mandir requires that nature is appeased through various rites performed during the different stages of the mandir construction.
The land is first inspected and its soil tested for suitability for the structure proposed. The actual ritual involves the paying of homage to the land and performing prayers to seek permission of earth to disturb its natural state for construction.
The foundations are first dug and below the garbhagruha, a small pot containing sacraments is ceremoniously placed. This creates an awareness that nature is a dynamic ecosystem and man is to live harmoniously with other life forms.
The astro mathematician sees within the design a complex pattern of mathematics and geometrics that link the mandir to the universe and its component stars, planets and galaxies. Underneath the intricate artistic sculpture lies the foundation of regular shapes. Hence, the birth of geometry and numeracy arose from the need to build mandirs of perfect proportions.
Traditionally, all the masonry of such a mandir is loadbearing in itself, with no reinforcement from ferrous metals, such as steel in its foundation or structure. This in itself extends the life of the mandir to over a thousand years due to absence of erosion through temperature variations or corrosion of steel. The cantilevered dome is believed to be the only one in Britain that does not use steel or lead. The ferrous metals concentrate the earth's magnetic field, which impedes meditation.
These mandirs are a rare gift in today's age. They serve as ideal examples of spiritualism coupled with art and architecture. They are centres of peace and worship, hope and inspiration. With their inherent peace and purity, they represent abodes of love, peace and harmony for the devotees. Today, these mandirs are visited daily by thousands of people who come, pray, worship and receive divine inspiration.
Concept of Murtis
When a Hindu visits a mandir, he or she goes there for 'darshan' which loosely translated means 'seeing' of the sacred murtis (images). However, to the initiated, it has a more profound meaning and implies being in close proximity with God and beholding His divine form. Murti puja has always been synonymous with the Hindu tradition and for thousands of years, Hindus have practiced the adoration and reverence of sacred murtis as a form of devotion.
In order to appreciate this unique form of devotion, one needs to look at the philosophy and mystique pertaining to murti puja. The ancient sages, realizing the difficulties in controlling the mind sanctioned murti puja to enable devotees to focus on a murti – a medium aiding concentration. In the Bhagwad Gita (12/5), Shri Krishna strengthens this point by stating that it is difficult for those whose minds are attached only to the impersonal aspect of the Supreme to make spiritual progress.
The advent of the industrial age and the rise of science as a supposedly omniscient superpower created a parallel disregard for things spiritual. Unexplainable phenomena of supernatural implications were denounced as primitive beliefs or plain heathenism. It has been overlooked that advancement in one field of human interest does not necessarily initiate degradation or confirm the untruth of another field. The bafflement of many who first behold the array of Hindu murtis springs from the deep-rooted Western antagonism to imaging the Divine at all. However, worship of God through belief in His presence in an image is considered to be one of the foremost aids to spiritual realization in Hindus.
The Mandir is a place of worship or prayer for Hindus. It is an extraordinary tradition that dates back many millennia. It is built according to the principles of ancient Indian Shilpashastras. The murtis and rituals of arti and worship in the mandir form the very core in elevating the soul to the pinnacle of God-realisation. The Jain mandirs worldwide fulfill the lofty concept of the Jain tradition of mandirs.