The deeper we probe into Vedic knowledge and its iconography, we realize how a deliberate attempt was made to knit the ‘phenomenon and principals of well-being’ with a layman’s life by personifying energies and by creating rituals to establish the connect with natural elements. Seen from this perspective, it is amazing to find how folklore, crafts, art, daily practices and festivals were used as ‘devices and opportunities’ to introduce a common man to the principles of universe- in a very dynamic and artistic manner, writes Architect and Building Biologist Raman Vig.
Just like all the inanimate world is made out of elements of the periodic table, at the most fundamental level, all living forms on earth are created from five elements. The balance of these five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether determines the well being of a living creature at both gross and subtle level.
The intent of Bioenergetic Architecture is to create spaces that facilitate ‘health happiness and harmony’ in the lives of people who inhabit such spaces. Therefore, knowledge of the five elements (also known as Panch tatva or Panch mahabhoot), and their application in space design as well as integration with our lifestyle becomes integral to this subject.
Five elements and ‘health, happiness, harmony’
The five elements and their properties have been extensively explained in various Vedic literature (especially Taittiriya Upaniṣhad ). An element (mahabhoota) is the substance (dravya) which has an associated property called ‘guna’ ( qualitative aspect).
Humans perceive this ‘element-property’ (or dravya-guna) relationship through the five senses and this is how connect of our ‘body-mind-energy’ with five elements happens – incessantly from the time we are born till we leave our body.
In many ancient cultures around the world, there seems to be a clear understanding of how closely the well being of human beings is related to the natural elements. Therefore many ancient cultures integrated the five elements with daily rituals in some or the other manner.
This seems especially evident in Indian culture. What seems ritualistic at face of it, is interestingly a very systematic way formulated by sages (read scientists!) to bring back balance ( or resonance) of ‘panch-mahabhootas’ (or the five basic elements) in our body.
The deeper we probe into the vedic knowledge and it’s iconography, more we realize how a deliberate attempt was made to knit the ‘phenomenon and principles of well-being’ in a layman’s life by personifying energies and by creating rituals to establish the connect with natural elements. Seen from this perspective, it is amazing to find how folklore, crafts, art, daily practices and festivals were used as ‘devices and opportunities’ to introduce a common man to ‘Universal Principles’ in a very dynamic and artistic manner.
How Indian Temples facilitate balancing of Five elements
Temples of ancient India were definitely more than religious centers. Their socio-economic relevance has already been well studied. However, the subtle mechanism of an Indian temple to re-connect a common man with the five elements – whose balance in our subtle and gross bodies holds the secret of wellbeing- has not been widely understood.
It helps to perceive this subject better if we look at the five elements not only for their physical or gross qualitative aspects but also for their subtle and energetic characteristics. The balancing of the elemental frequencies happens at the ‘subtle’ (quantum realm) through resonance. Hence the qualitative aspects of ‘the five elements’ becomes more critical phenomenon than their quantitative effects.
As we enter a temple complex, all five senses are systemically yet subtly engaged in following manner:
- Earth element (as we take off shoes) : While reverence and hygiene are prime reasons for a common man to take off the shoes before entering any temple; however besides these the moment we take off our shoes to enter the temple premises, spontaneous grounding ( earthing) happens . This bringing numerous physical, physiological and bioenergetic benefits in a matter of just minutes, ranging from impact on blood viscosity resulting in improved circulation and oxygenation and stabilization of blood glucose and more (Watch the movies: “The Grounded” and “Heal for free’ to understand the science behind grounding). Later ( after or during the puja), receiving ‘prasadam’( all food is earth element) and consuming same, is a way of imbibing the earth element ( that has been charged through the chants and energized field of sanctum sanctorum). Also, the kum-kum and ‘bhasm/ vibhooti’ that is received is put on ‘ajna’ chakra (third eye or forehead) and some put it on ‘vishudhi’ chakra ( throat) too – to resonate these with the energy of earth element.
- Water element during cleansing and as ‘panch-amrit’: Before proceeding towards the inner chambers of a temple, when we cleanse our hands, face and feet ( and often face and top of head- the sahasrara chakra too) with water, our body temperature equalizes and a wave of ‘freshness and alertness’ engulfs our whole being.
Later (after or during the puja) receiving ‘charan-amrit’ or ‘ panch-amrit’ and consuming same, is a way of imbibing the positive vibrations generated through chants that water absorbs in it’s molecular memory! Water has memory and it works as a carrier of information and this fact was known to our sages who made water integral to all rituals (refer to the work of Dr. Emoto Masuru for more on the subject)
- Fire element (flame of ‘aarti’/earthen lamps): Most apparent manifestation of fire is through the flame or ‘jyoti’ that is swung around the deity and one takes it’s warmth/ energy (with both hands) as the priest offers it to every one- and bring it to our face and head. In the evening, the light of ‘deepams’ or the ‘earthen-lamps’ enlightens the environment.
- Air element (fragrance of flowers, incense etc ): A visit to an Indian temple is like having aromatherapy! Our olfactory senses get a dose of delightful fragrances – during the rituals, through the flowers we offer and through burning of camphor / cow ‘ghee’ etc. All fragrances flow through to the subtle element of air.
- Sound element (ringing of the gong/bell and mantra chanting): Most temples have a bell at the entrance or there is bell ringing during ‘aarati’ or ‘puja’ of the deity. The Sanskrit ‘shlokas’ recited in correct manner simulate specific sound frequencies. Each sound has impact on us and our cellular being starts to resonate with it’s vibrational frequency. The sound element is representative of the space element – the subtlest of all ‘panchtatvas’. Many of us may also be able to relate to the ‘singing bowls and bells’ from Tibetan culture where similar techniques are used to resonate with the space element.
Through appropriate instrumentation it is possible to demonstrate how aforementioned ‘resonance’ of ‘panch-tatvas’ impacts us on subtle and gross levels. However, the proof of the pudding is in eating it. All it takes to get an experience of aforementioned is by visiting some ancient temple (preferably with an open heart and mind!) and observe how the play of five elements resonates at all levels.
(The author is a researcher and a space designers working with principles , protocols and procedures of Bio-energetic Architecture.
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(Featured Photograph by Jai Shankar)