In abode of God, the science of temple-building

  • Prithviraj Singh, None, Kedarnath
  • Updated: Nov 06, 2014 19:08 IST

More than a year after unprecedented floods ravaged the hills of Uttarakhand, experts now agree that the Kedarnath Temple escaped with minor bruises due to the extraordinary science in its construction.

One of Hinduism’s most revered shrines and located 11,700 feet above sea level, Kedarnath Temple is dated to around 1050 AD by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) though it is generally believed to be more ancient.
However, experts agree that the temple’s highly scientific construction enabled it to withstand nature’s savage fury in June, 2013.

“The temple’s foundation is very strong, both scientifically and architecturally. And this helped the shrine withstand such a natural disaster,” said AK Bhargava, the Dehradun-based superintending archaeologist of ASI.

“But we are still in the process of understanding the entire science behind the temple’s construction,” he added.

With work on restoration of the temple commencing, the Geological Survey of India and Dehradun-based Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology are also engaged along with the ASI in studying the science behind Kedarnath Temple.

An ASI official working at the temple -- but not authorised to speak to the media -- said the temple’s strength appeared to lie in its “ball-and-socket joints and iron clamps”.

He, however, added that the assessment was based on “visual study only”.

After the disaster, the ASI had asked the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai to carry out a study on the temple. The report is still awaited.

ASI experts who had worked on similar constructions in other parts of the country feel that metallic clamps as well as ball-and-socket joints offered worked as cushion for the temple walls when the huge volume of water and boulders struck the structure.

A member of the Badri Kedarnath Temple Committee (BKTC) -- the governing body of the temple – said the temple’s strength could be gauged from the fact that while the shrine still stands, most of the other concrete structures in the temple-town of Kedarpuri were reduced to rubble. Those standing have become too unstable and unfit for use.

The temple’s chief priest Gangadhar Ling said that the shrine foundation is as deep as the structure above the ground and “this, perhaps, helped the shrine to withstand the floods”.

However, ASI did not fully agreed with Ling on the foundation depth of the temple.

“Though the temple foundation has substantial depth but it’s not as much as being claimed by BKTC. Apart from foundation depth, the thickness of the temple walls also makes it strong enough to withstand the floods,” Bhargava added.

The ASI, however, agreed with the BKTC on the use of a unique cementing material made using over 15 ingredients.

“The cementing material used in the temple walls was a mixture of ingredients like limestone, jaggery, urad dal paste, ash and other components. The best property about this mortar is that it turns stronger with the passage of time,” said BKTC chief executive officer BD Singh.

The ASI official said that the “cementing materials used in the temple was crucial and strong enough to prevent its walls from breaking down”.

Another significant feature of the temple, ASI experts said, was its inverted lotus-shaped dome which does not let snow to accumulate during the harsh winter months and add more pressure to the main structure.

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