What you can get out of a Temple Visit

It took just that one temple visit for me to become inspired by the creativity and industry of our forebears, and spur my fascination with visiting temples, and it’s important to me to pass that inspiration down to my children.

The Temple of Poseidon, is known for being an incredibly striking monument, its pillars soaking with meaning, but the guide organised by my university had put off our visit to it to coincide with the full moon, anticipating a need for that added element of magic to infuse it with the greatest atmosphere, but there was really no need. The full moon’s light gave the ruined temple a glow and showed up the stone carvings perfectly, but when, inspired, I came back the next day I found the atmosphere buzzed and zipped just as well and though the temple was built in the 5th Century BC it was still vibrant with latent meaning.

These great ruins to the energy and beliefs of our past survive outside our daily lives in the daily lives of our ancestors and I’d never before thought ancient people capable of creating anything so wonderful or civilised, I somehow thought our civiliation was the most advanced and it opened my mind to be proved wrong. I began to practically consider the lives or our ancestors with our own. From there I was a convert and I was struck dumb by the impossible prospect of people without machinery managing to build The Parthenon, the next stop on our tour, and spent about an hour thinking about what it would have been like for it to be your job to carve murals out of stone – would it be like being a graphic designer? A week later I wandered Delphi soaking everything up, marveling at this amazing culture, lead by much revered drug addict women, which was able to create and accumulate so much beauty in art and architecture.

When it came to writing about my experience I was filled with wonder at the idea of the faith that would inspire you to spend your life creating something so glorious, when at the time I couldn’t really be bothered getting out of bed to go to church on a Sunday morning. Distilled, that’s the wonder I now want to pass on. I started plotting my own small pilgrimages to some of the world’s great temples and though that I found I was developing a deep appreciation of human faith and creativity. At the Srirangam Vishnu Temple I joined crowds of pilgrims in admiring the hundreds of statues of the many incarnations of Vishnu one at a time. At Prambanan and Borobudur I thought about how primitive the people who built these monuments were thought to be yet how much they would have needed to know about architecture to design them and at Tikal I just wondered. Wondered about living here at the time of its construction, wondered about the lives of the people building it, wondered at the sheer mammoth effort it would have taken and at whose faith stretched to such ends and lamented the way this ocean has dwindled into me.

Ancient streets and houses are part of many temple complexes, offering a glimpse at the domestic life as well as the spiritual life of the people who came before us which is a great part of what I marvel at. Will we create any lasting monuments of this kind? No one seems to have the faith or time to do anything so wonderous or permanent these days and the main cause religion is used for seems to be destruction. Yet I hope we are able to produce something that teenage girls in two and a half thousand years will admire and wonder at and will open up their minds to the human potential.

More Wonderful Temples

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