“Motion in Stasis: Incorporating Movement in Architecture” by Srikumar M. Menon

Movement is one of the most fundamental aspects of the Universe. Architects have striven to incorporate movement in their creations, especially on monumental scales, from very early periods to even modern times. In this talk, I will look at some of the techniques used for this, and initiate discussion on these. Built structures are static, usually, but the myriad ways in which they interact with their environment can lead to movement experienced on different time-scales by the viewer. One such example is the manner in which structures like megaliths responded to solar motion at the site, especially to the oscillation of sunrise and sunset on the local horizon. This tradition is carried forward into later times, too, especially in the design of sun-facing structures, including temples (though there may not be cultural continuity between these practices). Many sculptors have endeavoured to capture motion in the images they carve, and used a variety of techniques for these, too. In the wealth of carved stone images which embellish the structural components of Indian temples through history, we will look for such sculptures, which capture movement. But the most subtle of ways in which motion is embodied in Indian architecture is probably in the very conception of the structure of some temple types themselves. We will look at the evolution of the temple in Karnata Dravida tradition, and see how, in the conception of the temple as an image of the cosmos, is represented the essence of the cosmic motion.

“Like other mature varieties of Hindu temple, Karnata Dravida vimanas convey a sense of movement, as if under the sway of an inner power. Once this way of looking at the temples has been experienced, they virtually move before one’s eyes.”

– Adam Hardy (Indian Temple Architecture: Form and Transformation)

Abstract Excerpt from “The Reading Glass” fortnightly session of CSP on 30 Nov 2018, by Prof Srikumar M Menon