Comparative Analysis of the Temples and Churches of India, and Australia

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Spiritual spaces provoke a sense of symbolism, one example of this are religious places such as temples and churches. Temples and Churches are situated across the world, however to see the religious spaces in Eastern and Western countries would have drastic difference in terms of the architecture, the placement of materials and certain structures and how the end building was either built or designed. Nowadays, temples and churches usually undergo a process of restoration to enhance the aesthetic and provide a more meaningful experience for the residents. Temples and churches in Eastern (India) and Western (Australia) countries regarding the different styles of architecture and usage of the building will be investigated.


Temples in India

India is full of abundant cultural heritage dependent on its historical past. During the Vedic period, a rise in Hinduism occurred ('History Of India - Facts, Timelines, Events, Personalities & Culture', n.d.). The Vedic period occurred between 1500 BC and 500 BC ('Vedic Age- Vedic Period, Vedic Civilization, Vedic Period Civilisation, Vedic', n.d.). During that era, Vedic Sanskrit texts were composed. Further, the society and community emerged during that time is known as the Vedic Period. This civilisation became the foundation of Hinduism alongside the Indian culture associated ('History Of India - Facts, Timelines, Events, Personalities & Culture', n.d.)

It was believed that temples did not exist during the Vedic period, this was as they followed a ritual practice that involved making an altar with bricks and creating a fire within it and later placing offerings and chanting hymns. As this ritual allowed mobility and did not require a permanent and robust structure, they did not need a place “anchor their spirituality” (Patanaik, 2010). Among the numerous amounts of Hindu temples in India, there are two distinctive architecture styles specifically seen in the north and south. These are the Nagara style and Dravidian Style.

The Dravidian Style

The Dravidian, also known as “Southern style” occurred prior of the two main styles (Thapar, Kumar Manto & Bhalla, 2005). The most distinguishing feature from the Dravidian Style is the combination of the vimana, an architectural feature integrated with the garbhagriha, a small chamber sparsely lit to place the idol. This takes a shape of a trapezoidal structure with a square base and layers above layers with each layer smaller than the one below, this is called the shikhara (Thapar, Kumar Manto & Bhalla, 2005). Often built by kings, temples became spaces of power (Thapar, Kumar Manto & Bhalla, 2005). Stone was the dominant material that early Dravidian temples were made of, however as the shikara is a key structural part where it is required to support excessive weight, a change in material occurred where brick was used to make the shikhara. The exterior decoration of the brick work was performed with terracotta sculptures coated with a “special lime mixture of mineral colours” (Thapar, Kumar Manto & Bhalla, 2005).

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Nagara Style

Developed after the Dravidian style, Nagara is also known as “North Indian Style of sacred Hindu architecture” The Nagara shrine is one of its distinctive attributes of this particular style as it is always square however with a multiple pillars and extension, some may replicate cruciform regarding the shape (Thapar, Kumar Manto & Bhalla, 2005). The shikhara is notable for its curvilinear structure and positioned over the garbhagriha. The exterior surface of the shikhara is covered with detailed carvings (Thapar, Kumar Manto & Bhalla, 2005). There may be smaller replicas around the base of the main shikhara (Thapar, Kumar Manto & Bhalla, 2005). The Mundeshwari Temple, located in “Kaura of Kaimur district in Bihar” (Ram, 2018), is one of the oldest temples in India. It is estimated that the temple dates back to 108 AD ('History Of India - Facts, Timelines, Events, Personalities & Culture', n.d.). Mundeshwari temple is an example that follows Nagara style architecture. The temple is constructed from stone and based on an octagonal plan.

Churches/Cathedrals in India

Wide range of buildings were introduced to India due to the British and Portuguese movement, these buildings included churches and warehouses. When the Portuguese arrived in 1498, that was the first introduction to Catholicism in India (Thapar, Kumar Manto & Bhalla, 2005). Most of the cathedrals and churches they built were located in Goa. These buildings typically followed a European Classicist and Baroque style architecture (Thapar, Kumar Manto & Bhalla, 2005).

The Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa is one of the oldest churches during the rule of the Portuguese. In 1605, the construction of the building was complete. It was constructed with laterite stone from Bassein and plaster. The church includes a “three storied Renaissance façade”. Wooden and gold leaf covers the interior giving a characteristic of “Indian Baroque” style. In the southern section with “twisted gilded columns” remains a Chapel and the Tomb of St Francis Xavier, providing a space of worship as well. The church includes all three classical columns; Ionic, Doric and Corinthian (Thapar, Kumar Manto & Bhalla, 2005).


Temples in Australia

The fastest growing religion in Australia is Hinduism however the most common remains to be Christianity ('Hindu fastest growing religion in australia', 2013). The first ever Hindu temple in Australia is located in Auburn, Sydney. It is called the Sri Mandir and it was established in 1977. It was built to satisfy the rapid growth of the Hindu community regarding social, religious and cultural needs ('History | SRI MANDIR', n.d.). Most temples outside India follow the same or similar pattern in its architecture to the temples built in India as they want to keep the tradition ('History | SRI MANDIR', n.d.). The positioning of the gods, entrance of the temple, and various other details regarding directions follow a particular structure which is what is included in every temple ('Hindu Temple Architecture - Indian Temple's Architectural Marvel - TemplePurohit - Your Spiritual Destination | Bhakti, Shraddha Aur Ashirwad', n.d.).

Churches in Australia

Likewise to India, Churches were introduced when the British settlers arrived in Australia. The “First Fleet” arrived to Australia with The Anglican Church from England, mostly consisting of convicts and members of the military. In early 20th century, the church was divided into 4 parts, each part corresponding to each state; Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia. In 1981, the name of the church was then changed to represent a national identity, it was changed to “Anglican Church of Australia”. The church is developed continuously to be related with social order, political life, culture and other principles that make up the foundations of the Australian nation ('Anglican Church of Australia — World Council of Churches', 2019).

The first church in Australia was designed and built by Reverend Richard Johnson, the Chaplain that arrived with the First Fleet. The church was built of raw materials and took eight weeks. The church plan was divided into three chambers for the corresponding classes od people, one of them being for convicts. This was later burned down to the compulsory rules that needed to be followed. Afterwards, a storehouse was lent for construction of St Philip’s, at Church Hill which in 1855 was replaced by a stone church (Abrahams, 2010).

Furthermore, modern church buildings experienced a hesitant start immediate the post-war years in Australia. However, in 1950s, optimism arose resulting to a significant increase in experimentation of church designs ('Uneasy heritage: Australia’s modern church buildings are disappearing', 2018). They began expanding the type of buildings to design kindergartens to hospitals. This was strongly supported by the Australian government. This update in the religious compass concurred with the architects’ experimental design due to the modern materials and tools for construction such as advanced technologies. The architects began to consider to rethink ‘religious architecture’ to provide for the modern society.

Further, after the process of rethinking, a new “type” of church architecture arose. This new design was more compatible to its surroundings, consisting mostly of common residents. This led to a more intimate relationship in terms of materiality and scale. This can be seen in Figure 5, Kenmore Presbyterian Church designed be architect Robin Gibson in 1968, now called Uniting Church.


Firstly, comparing the Eastern and Western temples, it can be determined that India has a significant amount of history regarding the architecture and positioning of the basic structures like the shikhara. However, positioning of the entrance and placement of the gods in the temple is also followed by western country temple design as the builders or architects of the temple have originated from India. This then leads to the difference of the number of temples in India than Australia. As India is a densely populated country with a lot more history than Australia and Hinduism being its dominant religion, temples are far more common to be found in India than Australia. However, in saying that, Hinduism is increasing significantly and the increase of temples in Australia can be estimated in the far future.

On the other hand, churches in the Western country are more central than in India. The materials used in the examples provided are different as well. However, the materials in old churches and old temples remain similar, even though used in different techniques. This most likely emphasises the lack of technology and resources that was available. Further, the churches in India are far grander and symbolise a space of power due to the uncommonness of them. In Australia, although symbolic to a space of power too, some are not designed as grand as India due to the fact of accessibility to a church.


To conclude, old temples in India have more detail and history than temples in Australia as they were introduced to Australia later. This emphasis the authenticity and rich culture of India. Similarly, the same can be said regarding churches in Australia and India. However, the churches/cathedrals in India provide a are more grander experience due to the materials utilised and the historical relevance behind it. Nonetheless, temples and churches are seen differently in every country and every person and will continue do so, therefore there will be more experimentation with new design and further updating construction will continuously be undergoing.

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