A perfect example of that might be temples.
Now, I have been to lots of churches.
I’ve read quite about about the construction of cathedrals, and (although now an agnostic) I am quite familiar with the basics of church structure, and operation.
But since we began travelling, I’ve often taken the opportunity to take a look at temples, especially Hindu and Buddhist ones.
Over the past week, I’ve been featuring those pictures on my Facebook page … and that’s meant I’ve had to do a little research, to ‘flesh out’ the posts.
I started on Monday, with Bali’s Pura (or Temple) Puseh, in the village of Batuan.
This temple has been here, in one form or another, since its establishment in the year 1022.
Its an interesting blend of Indian and Balinese – with this, the main tower, at the centre – but surrounded by other buildings.
On one side, there is a pavilion with gamelan instruments like metallophones and mallets, and kendhang drums.
It’s the most significant of 27 Wats, or temples, on the island – and in the Grand Pagoda there’s a display – seen here – which supposedly contains a fragment of one of Buddha’s bones (or the ashes thereof).
It’s claimed to be one of only nine such reliquaries in the world.
The original Wat’s history is shrouded in antiquity – but the current buildings date to the 1800s.
The Grand Pagoda is a truly impressive Stupa, climbing 65 metres above the surrounds – and this shrine is in the highest part.
Shirl and I had gone for a bite at a Hawkers Market in Singapore – and as we wandered back to our hotel, we spotted this.
It’s a temple built to honour Mariamman, a South Indian mother deity especially associated with health.
It’s the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, being established just eight years after the East India company set up in Singapore.
This is a series of buildings in Beijing’s Eastern quarter, where the Emperor would hold sacrifices, to intercede with with Shangdi, the unknowable god who was also known as Tian, or Sky (heaven).
In fact, it was his role as intercessor that gave the Emperor his ‘Mandate from Heaven’ to rule – and his title, the Son of Heaven.
While construction of the complex was begun in 1406, this particular image comes from the interior of the Hall of Good Harvests – which was rebuilt in the 19th century after a fire.
As a communist country, the edifice is no longer regularly used as a temple – but even before the party came to power in 1949, the Temple had been turned into a park. That happened in 1918, during the era of the Republic of China – which replaced the Qing Dynasty.
I mentioned earlier that there are 27 Wats on Phuket … and this is the equivalent of a parish church and parochial school.
That’s not to say that it’s not beautiful – with it’s jet-black statue of the Buddha, or it’s green concrete snakes (Nagas) protecting the stupa, and the prayer halls .. but it’s not as ostentatious and touristy as (say) Wat Chalong and the Big Buddha.
The day that we just wandered in (while shopping in Karon Beach village) there was a low-key funeral being held for an ex-pat who had become a Buddhist and moved to Phuket years before (the order of those two events wasn’t quite clear).
We felt it would be rude to intrude, so took pictures instead of a small Ubosot (or ordination hall – the most holy building in a Wat).
Outside are King Nagas, guarding the steps.
Our second-last temple was the Pura Luhur Uluwatu in Bali.
The temple started life sometime in the first millennium CE, but the current structure was expanded in the 11th century.
The name Pura Luhur Uluwatu is significant. Pura means Temple, and Uluwatu is the place-name .. but Luhur means either ‘Imposing and Majestic’, or ‘Noble and Honorable’.
It got the name because a sage is reputed to have gained ‘moksha’, or breaking out of the cycle of birth-rebirth, after designing and building the shrines at the temple.
The other things the temple are famous for are the monkeys that inhabit the temple in their thousands, and the Kecac dancers who perform in a plaza beside the path to the temple (that’s where this pic was taken from.)
The Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple is in Nadi, Fiji – and it is, like many Hindu temples, a continuous work-in-progress.
The ceilings inside are covered in murals depicting adventures of the gods and scenes from the Vedas – and as soon as the ceiling is covered, a section is whitewashed and a new mural is painted over it, so that the work is never completed.
The Sri Siva Subramaniya temple was built in the 1980s, over an existing temple that dates back to the turn of the 20th century or before.
It’s built in the Dravidian style (not often seen outside India) and is dedicated to the deity Murugan, or Subrimaniya (amongst other names).
He is a god particularly honoured in the South of India, as the god of war and victory, and whose statue, specially carved in India, is housed in the main temple.
The second part of the complex is Ganesh temple, while the third section is the Meenakshi and Shiva temple.
Oh – and the temple shown at the bottom of this post?
That’s the Byodo-In non-denominational temple on the island of Oahu, in Hawaii.
It’s a replica of a 900-year old temple in Japan – but unlike its Kyoto inspiration, the Hawaiian temple is not an ‘operating’ temple (in the sense that there are no resident monks or regular congregation).
In fact, it says it welcomes people of all faiths – but that didn’t mean much for one American couple on a bus tour we took which included the temple.
As the rest of us were disembarking, to take in the gardens, the peace bell and the temple itself, they quite ostentatiously took out their bibles, and told anyone that would listen that “they weren’t going to bend a knee at a heathen place”.
Their loss 🙂