Hindus/Hindu Prayer Rituals
I'm an architecture student from the Architecture School of Lisbon (FA UTL) and I am currently working on my masters degree which is about religious architecture, more precisely a multi-faith centre. This centre is supposed to be a step into inter-religious dialogue and mutual respect. One could call it a center for inter-faith tolerance and peace.
This building offers a space to accommodate different religions for seminars, conventions, gatherings, or any other event and respects the different traditions and costumes, therefore, it also offers the visitors the possibility of a praying/meditating space appropriate to their beliefs. It's this part of the project I need guidance with.
The information I have acquired so far is confusing and hard to summarize, so, with that in mind, I am using this e-mail to call for your help regarding some difficult questions, in my view, that might not be as difficult for you to answer, since you are an expert:
1. What are the needs for a hindu sacred/worship space? Physical or otherwise.
(For example: contact with nature, sun orientation, altars silence, any other relevant symbols or physical needs)
2. Do these elements/needs diverge from one type/practice of hinduism to a different one ?
3. What is the difference between a hindu temple and a prayer room? Can a prayer room be collective or is it strictly for praying at home?
4. I would like to create a space where a number of hindus could practice their daily rituals for a short period of time (during the time they would be visiting the multi-faith center), like, a week, at most. It should be integrated in the building so the traditional aesthetics of a hindu temple, especially the exterior decorations and shape would be difficult to obtain. Could it be a collective prayer room? If not, what would be the best option here? And following what principles to create this space?
4. I believe there are different variations and practices of hinduism. Can these co-exist in the same worship space?
5. If not, could they do it in the same space only in different schedules?
The answer to these questions can be of a great help to me and my project, specially since I am having trouble finding reliable and direct information regarding this subject.
Thank you very much, I appreciate any collaboration given regarding this theme.
Looking forward for your answer,
Ana Maria S
Dear Ana Maria,
Thank you for your questions. Rather than answer your excellent questions individually, I will try to give you an understanding of what might be useful to some Hindus.
First of all, the primary sacred space for Hindus is the human heart. Therefore, spiritual practice happens independent of any external space. Temples historically were built by kings or other powerful individuals as monuments to their influence and wealth. They could serve as social meeting places more than places of worship, and a priest or other ritualist would perform worship for the sake of those in attendance. Some temples or shrines become places of pilgrimage, particularly when the deity enshrined manifests in some tangle way or performs some miracle. Most practicing Hindus keep a small altar or shrine in a corner of their homes where their important religious rites are performed in private. These are not normally appropriate for viewing or sharing outside their family or sect. The point is most Hindu ritual practice occurs in private, and therefore no public space would be appropriate for rituals.
Therefore, a Hindu traveler seeking a space for individual practice would most likely prefer a quiet room without any sectarian trappings. Those who sing and dance as their primary form of worship would be unlikely to need or want to do that in any public space.