My parents took me to see as many temples, mosques, forts, and caves as possible as a child. My sister and I were never really fond of those. In every state we explored, we had to visit all the nearby archaeological sites. We tried to use the weirdest tactics to get out of visiting those sites, but all in vain. My father used to say, “You must appreciate these beautiful sites, the work those humans put in to build this, the art, the devotion, everything. You need to value that, nana. (nana – to call someone dearly in Telugu/ Father)
About a year ago, we moved to Chennai. My parents were thrilled; Tamil Nadu is fraught with temples. On the other hand, I wasn’t too pleased, and I knew they would drag me to every place they wanted to visit. So, one fine day, that’s precisely what happened. We decided to go on a road trip to see some of the most famous temples near Chennai.
As much as I don’t want to admit it, my parents were right. Those temples were some of the most beautiful and exciting places. Be it the architecture, the art, or just the atmosphere in the temple, one couldn’t help but notice how magnificent everything was.
Throughout those 17 hours of the trip, all I could think of was how talented the people were back then. They carved things that are so intricate on a piece of rock. On a rock!
Every temple has its unique reason for its existence, its history, and its art. Every pillar, every slate in the temple, has history embedded in it. Some of those are 1000 years old. That is when it hit me, why history was so important. Not just in the recent past, but in history, when the entire world was in a different state.
Most of us often worship in temples without knowing much about the significance of each of them. But I believe it is vital to acquaint ourselves with the history behind a temple and its importance. Only then would we genuinely appreciate the place, the art, the heritage, and
the present. It is easy to forget how the present societies are direct descendants of our past societies. We live in a fast-paced, rapidly changing world where one word marks the essence of human life: speed. In order to keep up this unreal speed, we sometimes tend to forget to look back once in a while.
We usually have a rather pessimistic outlook on our history, not just about the country but also the whole world. We never forget about the Holocaust, but we barely remember the Agricultural revolution. We know so much about the wars but seldom do we read about, say, the Indus Valley Civilization. Bad news dominates the headlines, and it is only human to look at the bad more than we look at the good. But maybe it’s time we celebrate the good, celebrate our heritage.
One thing that remained constant was the need for a human to create. It is incredible to think how even 2000 years ago, humans wanted to create, be creative, and portray a story, be it through the inscriptions on the walls or the beautiful carvings on a rock. All these added up to the history of the temples. These sites are an essential part of the heritage of the whole country, through which we could learn to appreciate who we once were and who we are now.
Some temples worship Snakes (Mannarsala Temple, Kerala), while some worship lizards (Varadaraja Perumal Temple, Tamil Nadu). Some temples have withstood
some of the most terrible natural calamities (Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand), and some have been unearthed 20ft below the earth’s surface (Pataleshwar Mahadev temple, Rajasthan).
India is filled with such beautiful, fascinating histories. Apart from putting things in perspective or just appreciating our traditions and cultures, by looking back, we would recognize the magnificent innovations, architecture, and art that were a part of the historical society and that now are the foundation for the modern one and which will be an inspiration for the future society. These temples don’t just give us an insight into people’s minds during that period, their devotion, their culture, and their incredible skills, but also how even with the existence of leading-edge technology, we would never match the skills of the artisans of that period or how a majority of these sites have withstood the effect of time and still stand in their full glory, which many buildings in the present world fail to do.
Maybe we all need to understand that we must look back to look forward. As said by Lord Byron, “The best prophet of the future is the past.“
So, the next time you ever get an opportunity to visit such beauty, take time to appreciate it and acknowledge that it, in some way or the other, has got us here.
BTech – Computer Science (2018-22)