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Hindus/Hindu Praying space

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Good afternoon,

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,
Respectfully,
Best wishes,

Ana Maria Silva

Answer
Dear Ana Maria Silva,

Namaste.

1. A Hindu sacred/worship space should be clean, having good fragrance, silent, place for putting images of deities, and places for sitting comfortably, preferably cross-legged on the floor.

2. These elements/needs are common to all types/practices of Hinduism.

3. A Hindu prayer room should be silent. A Hindu temple has the images of deities and has ritualistic worship and hymnal singing. But the prayer room is silent and it can be collective.

4. To create a space where Hindus could do their daily rituals and oral prayers (as opposed to daily silent prayers), you can have a large space with provision for cleaning of hands and feet and also, the provision of the water of the river Ganges.

5.  Yes all different variations and practices of Hinduism can co-exist in the same worship space provided you do not put any image of any deities.

6. If people have a space where they can put the images of their deities, which they bring with them, then different worshippers can practice at different times. However, generally Hindus do not have problems with seeing the images of deities other than those they worship.

Please feel free to ask any other question. My email id is narasimhananda@gmail.com
With best wishes,
Swami Narasimhananda

Hindus

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A monk of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission

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Prabuddha Bharata

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