Temples of Ancient India are a sight to behold. So perfect in proportions and immaculate in design. Many of them were built as per the ancient Indian treatise on architecture, called the ‘Shilpa Shastra’. Such temples are spread across India, from the sub-zero temperatures of the Himalayas to the coastal cities of south India; and even in other countries with significant Indian influence like Indonesia, Cambodia etc.
Ancient Hindu temples across the world in Indonesia and Cambodia, like Angkor Vat, Prambanan etc. were deserted and were claimed by nature, to be re-discovered by explorers in 1800s for adoption as heritage sites, sites today marvelled at for their beauty and magnificence.
As is the case with things Indian, nothing has a known beginning and a known end, and they just flow from the ancient to the modern, all the while living, evolving, modifying and surviving. Most ancient Hindu temples in India have lived and have been a place of worship constantly through the ages.
Temples have been a part of everyday life, smoothly amalgamating in the rural and urban landscape of India.
And they have been places where the community catches up with each other, freely intermingling and praying to their deities.
Over the ages, the whole ethos of the temples seem to be deteriorating into commercialisation and distortion. Commercialisation of entry, and distortion of the Shilpa Shastra treatises and the liberal ethos of ancient India.
Movements of piligrims are being restricted through tickets. A campus which was designed for free homogeneous movement of pilgrims is being redesigned through ugly iron barricades designed to keep pilgrims away and to permit them only after paying hefty fee in various categories. A higher fee gets you a direct audience with the deity and if you are poor you can be damned to a full day queue, even as the custodians periodically close the doors on your face on the plea that the Gods need rest.
Sample the iron structure around the main courtyard of the Srisailam temple, erected only to keep pilgrims segregated in various fee groups. Something like a Cinema hall, where balcony people are segregated from the dress circle and the box.
Recently during my visit to a 13th century temple, the Osian Mata temple I noticed that custodians of this temple are on their way to destroy free movement through these gaudy blue coloured iron meshes. And by the time this article goes online, they must be all over the place.
See the queues formed just by periodically closing the gates and creating an artificial scarcity so as to fleece pilgrims.
Ethereal statues, celebrating godliness in human form are being covered with ugly piece of clothes in the name of modesty.
The custodians of these temples seem to be people who have no sense of aesthetics, no sense of culture and no sense of compassion for fellow human beings.
It is a pity that well-educated pilgrims from across the world submissively bow their heads to this shame, buy tickets for entry into the sanctum sanctorum (even paying bribes in the process) and go back without raising a voice against the slaughter of our heritage.
Hope a strong enough voice of sanity provides succour to these temples so that they regain their days of glory as places of peace and calm.