Thursday, August 27, 2009

James Lochtefeld - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, 2-Volume Set

James Lochtefeld - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, 2-Volume Set
Rosen Publishing Group | 2001 | ISBN: 082393179X 0823931803 0823922871 | Pages: 909 | PDF | 15.55 MB

As you drive through the cornfields of northern Illinois, just north of the town of
Aurora, you may see a massive brick building that seems out of place. It stands three
or four stories high with an elaborate facade depicting pillars and cornices. Topped by
towering spires with flapping banners, it looks as if it belongs to another world. In a
sense it does—the architectural style comes from southern India, and the building
itself is a Hindu temple.
I was there late on a Sunday morning, and the parking lot was about half full.
There were cars from as far away as Michigan. The building’s main entrance was a little
below ground level, and as is common with Hindu temples outside of India, the lowest
level had a lobby, a kitchen, and a large meeting room that was comparable to the
“church basements” of its Christian counterparts. The lobby was furnished austerely,
with folding tables and chairs. There were a few people sitting near the kitchen, drinking
tea and chatting informally.
By the staircases leading upstairs to the temple room were rows of simple shelves,
fronted by low benches. I removed my shoes, as is customary before entering a temple,
both to preserve the temple and to signify that one is walking on holy ground. The
staircase marked the threshold between two regions, the outer and the inner world.
Upstairs, the temple was richly decorated. The presiding deity was Venkateshvara, a
form of the god Vishnu, whose image was placed in the center of the temple, the most
important space. Yet, as in most Hindu temples, there were images of deities from
throughout the pantheon: Ganesh, Shiva, Subrahmanya, other forms of Vishnu, different
forms of the Goddess, and various subsidiary deities. Most of the images were
carved from black South Indian granite and polished to a mirrorlike finish. Many were
housed in small shrines built out of white marble. The primary function of a Hindu
temple is to serve as the home for the deities it contains, and it was clear that the
people who had commissioned the temple had spared no efforts. The temple had
been lovingly built and has been carefully maintained.



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