Temple Mandapams

Indian temples have a lot of mandap (or mandapams) each of which signifies different characteristics. Interestingly, some mandapams also connect to our body organs in temples.

It is interesting to see the body parts and connections to temples / mandapams. My thoughts went to how peaceful I felt in some of them, where I felt my mind calm down, and read about the history behind some of them.

  • Gopuram stands for the feet of  the man
  • Ashana Mandapam stands for knees
  • Nirutha Mandapam stands for thighs
  • Altar stands for navel
  • Maha Mandapam stands for chest
  • Artha Mandapam stands for neck
  • Garbha Graham stands for head
  • Lord Dakshanamoorthy stands for right ear
  • Lord Chandikeswarar stands for left ear
  • Lord Nataraja is the chest
  • Lord Nandikaeswaran is the mouth
  • Sthabada Mandapam stands for mouth entrance
  • Sabana Mandapam stands for nose
  • Vimanam stands for the top of the head

When we visit a temple, how can we identify which mandapam we are in? Wanted to know more about the varied types of mandapams, their architecture and how we can distinguish them, and found these…

  1. Artha Mandapam – Is the intermediary space between the temple exterior and the garba griha (sanctum sanctorum) or the other mandapa of the temple.
  2. Maha Mandapam – When there are several mandapas in the temple, it is the biggest and the tallest. It is used for conducting religious discourses.
  3. Nirutha Mandapam – The Deities are assembled during Navaratri for dance, beautifully decorated
  4. Padinaru kal mandapam – 16 pillar mandapam is built inside/outside the temple or river/lake bed. Deities rest during utsavams in this mandapam and during holy bath in the river.
  5. Nootru or Ayiram kal mandapam – Hall of 100 or 1000 pillars. there are only few temples which has 1000 pillar mandapams in temple in Tamil Nadu. There is a temple (Rudraeshwara) in Telangana famous for 1000 pillars. In Tamil Nadu, temples in Kanchipuram, Madurai, Rameshwaram, Chidambaram has 1000 pillar mandapams. Some of their architecture is so unique that they are listed as UNESCO world heritage sites.
  6. Snapana Mandapam – Mandapam where Thirumanjanam (bath) is performed for deities
  7. Vaadiya Mandapam – Where musical instruments are played. In some of them, hundreds of musicians come to perform during Thyagaraja festival
  8. Muka Mandapam – Is a small pavilion or porch constructed in front of the doorway of the temple. As this forms the part of the façade of the temple, this pavilion is called by the name mukhamaṇḍapa (mukha- face + maṇḍapa- pavilion). Mukhamaṇḍapa is a regular feature of the Dravidian temple architecture.
  9. Sopanaa Mandapam – literally means a “staircase” or a flight of steps. Sopānas are provided to the temples and their annexes such as maṇḍapas, platforms, corridors, tanks, for the talas of the towers, etc,. Wherever the structure is built on an elevated plinth (adhiṣṭhāna) suitable staircases are provided to climb the plinth.
  10. Gopura Dwara Shala Mandapam – Mandapam in front Entrance of the temple
  11. Asthana Mandapam – Main Assembly Hall where discourses are conducted
  12. Yaga Mandapam – Mandapam where Homa/Yaga/Havan are performed. These are usually huge to accomodate many people.
  13. Pushpa Mandapam – Mandapam where Flowers garlands are prepared. Spacious for many women to sit and sort out the variety of fresh flowers in huge baskets and choose the garland making process and colors for the week or during festival times.
  14. Pooja Mandapam – Pooja performed to the Utsava moorthis. Pradosham pooja, unjal seva are special ones that we can watch at many temples.
  15. Narumana Kalavai Mandapam – Mandapam where Herbs are mixed for abhisekam or other temple rituals.
  16. Neerazhi Mandapam – Bathing tank in temples. It is auspicious to take a holy dip in these waters. There are many stories of people taking a dip in various temples and getting completely cured of various diseases.
  17. Aabharana Mandapam – Where ornaments are stored.
  18. Manjana Mandapam – Bathing rituals for some special deities are performed here
  19. Alankara Mandapam – Where Alankaram (dressing) is done for deities
  20. Vasantha Mandapam – Sometimes also called as Vaibhavotsava mandapam.. Here deities are brought during vasanthostvam (onset of spring) festival. As the name suggests flower decorations are done with grandeur here.
  21. Murasu Mandapam – Where Murasu(drums) are beaten for informing starting of any temple rituals. Apparently, the temple architects should have planned for this to build it into the temple design as the drum beats should be reverberating far and wide.
  22. Veda Payirchi mandapam – Veda Pathashala. Students are taught Vedas here
  23. Agama Mandapam – Precepts and doctrines that have come down as traditional languages and cultures get discussed here
  24. Purana Verivurai Mandapam – Where Puranas are explained and discourses are conducted
  25. Deekshai Mandapam – Mandapam where devotees can get Deekshai/Diksha to initiate their spiritual journey.
  26. Veena Mandapam – Where musical string-instruments like Veena are played during festivals
  27. Kodiyetra Mandapam – Where the temple flag is hoisted. Usually this is done on the Gaja sthambam of smaller temples and a full mandapam assigned to this in larger temples.
  28. Ther (Car) Mandapam – Deities are brought to this mandapam before taking them to ther(car) during car festival.
  29. Gejjala Mandapam – Where dancers tie gejjalu (anklets / ghungroo) and dance in the mandapam. Usually these mandapams are filled with dancers during festival times.
  30. Kalyana Mandapam – Where the deities go through the wedding ceremony rituals. Srinivasa Kalyanam, Meenakshi Sundareswarar Kalyanam are very famous.

Could not find the descriptions of the following mandapams. If any of you have heard about it or know it, please share in comments section. I will update the post.

Keya Mandapam, Valli Mandapam, Kandha Mandapam, Choorna Mandapam, Sutru Mandapam, Vijaya Mandapam, Ubachaara Mandapam.

PS: It was my humble attempt to understand more about Indian temples and their structure, rationale that prompted me to read about them and write about it. Thanks to Ganesh who prompted me to write about this! If I have made any mistakes, I will be happy if you can point me to someone who can help me bridge the gap!

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