The Fractal Structure of Hindu Temples

Traditionally, temples have been the most prominent religious institution in India and fractals form an integral part of those temples. A single gaze at a temple and you will find fractal-like spires (shikharas) or a tower surrounded by smaller towers, surrounded by still smaller towers, and so on, for eight or more levels. Each part of the facade is designed to look like a miniature reproduction of the whole.

Vishnu temple in Varanasi ganges shows fractal-like patterns
Vishnu temple in Varanasi. This single-pointed wholeness composed of many self-similar peaks at various points in the structure displays a striking fractal quality

Since Hindu philosophy views the cosmos to be holonomic and self-similar in nature – each fragment of the cosmos is believed to be whole in itself – temples are designed and constructed as models of the cosmos.

George Michell, author of ‘The Hindu Temple’ explained, “The architecture of the Hindu temple symbolically represents the quest for moksha– ultimate spiritual liberation, the realization of oneness by setting out to dissolve the boundaries between man and the divine.

For this purpose certain notions are associated with the very forms and materials of the building.

Paramount is the identification of the divinity with the fabric of the temple, or, from another point of view, the identification of the form of the universe [for example the cosmic mountain] with that of the temple.

Such an identification is achieved through the form and meaning of those architectural elements that are considered fundamental to the temple.”

Indian temples self-similarity and 3D structure based on fractal geometry
Indian temples are like 3-dimensional structure based on fractal geometry
Kandariya Mahadev temple in khajuraho
The rising, fractal-like spires of Kandariya temple in Khajuraho. Some parts are even reminiscent of features in the Mandelbrot set.
Madurai temple showing intricate sculptures of deities creating fractal patterns
The intricate sculptures of deities on Madurai temple create fractal-like patterns

Temples are of different sizes populated by sculptures and images of deities, animals, mythical beings and varied symbols to create a distinctive visual and spiritual experience. Not all Hindu temples are based on sacred geometry but many are.

The temple is a fractal part of the whole of Hinduism, and that the use of fractal geometry has a special symbolic meaning in the forms of Hindu temples. Like the whole is reflected and celebrated in each part!

Virupaksha temple in hampi
Virupaksha temple in Hampi – Temples are designed as models of the cosmos envisioned in the Hindu philosophy

Resource:

Hindu temples, models of a fractal universe

Fractals in Temples

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  • Bhavika

    Bhavika is a nature-loving, spiritual being and co-founder of Fractal Enlightenment, who strives to help fellow beings re-connect with nature and their inner selves. Thank you for being part of this journey.

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