The temple is an enclosure to the icon, and centres round the icon. A temple must be built for the icon, and not an icon got ready for the temples, for a temple is really an outgrowth of the icon, an image of the icon. One cannot think of a temple without an idol.
The temple construction process involves several steps. The procedure is cryptically expressed as “Karshanadi Pratisthantam“, meaning beginning with “Karshana” and ending with “Pratistha“. The details of the steps involved vary from one school of Agama to another; but broadly these are the steps in temple construction:
Bhu pariksha: Examining and choosing location and soil for temple and town. The land should be fertile and soil suitable.
Sila pariksha: Examining and choosing material for image
Karshana: Corn or some other crop is grown in the place first and is fed to cows. Then the location is fit for town/temple construction.
Vastu puja: Ritual to propitiate vastu devata.
Salyodhara: Undesired things like bones are dug out and removed.
Adyestaka: Laying down the first stone
Nirmana: Then foundation is laid and land is purified by sprinkling water. A pit is dug, water mixed withnavaratnas, navadhanyas, navakhanijas is then put in and pit is filled. Then the temple is constructed.
Murdhestaka sthapana: Placing the top stone over the prakara, gopura etc. This again involves creating cavities filled with gems minerals seeds etc. and then the pinnacles are placed.
Garbhanyasa: A pot made of five metals (pancaloha kalasa sthapana) is installed at the place of main deity.
Sthapana: Then the main deity is installed.
Pratistha: The main deity is then charged with life/god-ness.
Let us now try to briefly go over some significant stages commonly involved in temple construction, in a summary form.
Sthala (temple site)
The temple construction project begins with the appointment of a team of experts headed by a qualified and an experienced Sthapati, the Acharya, the director for the temple construction project and the Shilpi (sculptor). They are the key figures in the construction of a temple.
The Samarāṅgana-sūtradhāra an encyclopedic work, attributed to the Paramara King, Raja Bhoja of Dhara (1000–1055 AD), spread over 83 Chapters (having more than 7500 Slokas) covers a wide range of subjects like Vastu Vidya ; town planning; residential architecture; temple architecture; sculpture; art of painting ; and mechanical contrivances, the Yantras , such as Vimanas, the flying machines etc.
[For more on the text, please read
Samaràngana: a work on architecture, town- planning, and engineering, by king Bhoja of Dhara (11th century): edited by Mahamahopadhyaya Dr. T. Ganapati Shastri, Ph.D Illustrated. 2 vols. 1924-1925 10-0
The Samarangana Sutradhara, a study, by Mattia Salvini , Mahidol University, Thailand
Drāviḍa Temples in the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra by Adam Hardy]The Samaràngana-sutradhàra, in its Chapter 44, titled Stapathi-lakshana– enumerates the desire qualities of Sthapati, an architect,
- Sthapati, the architect, should be well-versed in the sciences involving the significance of objects to be created and their specifications. He should know the theory and the practice; he should have the insight and the skill accompanied with procedure.
- That person is said to be an expert in workmanship who knows how to sketch the ground plan, draftsman ship, the horizontal and vertical measurements, the details of ground work of the plot, the 14 kinds of sketch lines, the cutting of the logs and stones etc., and seven kinds of circular sections; well finished joints of the joints and proper demarcation of upper, lower and outer lin
- A Sthapati should know eight-fold workmanship, the draftsman ship and sketches of various kinds, and variety of carpentry, stone-masonry and gold-smithy. The engineer equipped with these merits invokes respect. One who knows the fourfold engineering with its eight constituents and who is pure in his mind gets status in the assembly of engineers, and is endowed with a long life.
- An architect who has only the book knowledge; but has neglected to apply that knowledge to any construction will faint when called upon to demonstrate his knowledge, `like a cowardly warrior on a battlefield.’