The holy light: a study of natural light in Hindu temples in the southern region of Tamilnadu, India (7th century AD to 17th century AD)
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This thesis discusses the phenomenon of natural light that becomes the holy light in sacred architecture. In pursuing this investigation the study addressed three major objectives. First, to understand the significance of religion in the treatment of light in sacred monuments around the world. Second, to understand the methods used to achieve the desired light quality in the ancient south Indian Hindu temples. Third, to add to the existing body of knowledge in the field of study of ancient south Indian Hindu temples. Following these objectives the study developed two hypotheses on the basis of a literature review and a conceptual model. The first hypothesis says that the principles of religion govern the quality of light in sacred monuments. The second hypothesis suggests that accomplishment of light design technology is a function of time as expressed through building technology and building size. To test these hypotheses and the conceptual model, this thesis studied the natural light systems in three Hindu temples built in the southern state of Tamilnadu in India. These three temple are the Shore temple built at Mahabalipuram by the Pallava dynasty (700 AD); the Brihadeshvara temple built at Tanjore by the Chola dynasty (1010 AD); and the Meenakshi-Sundareshwara temple built at Madurai by the Nayaka rulers (1660 AD). The study was conducted using multi-method analyses that included a qualitative analysis using accepted lighting design guidelines, and a quantitative analysis in the form of computerized daylight simulations. The results of both the analyses show that though there are differences in the building size and techniques in each of the three Hindu temples, on the whole the quality of light inside the structure did not undergo much change. Also though there was significant progress in the technology of lighting design from the 8th century to the 11th century, due to the changes in the political scenario, there was no further progress in this aspect of south Indian temple design from the 12th century AD onwards. The thesis concludes that the results support the paper's hypotheses and follow the Hindu religious requirement for light.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 75-77).
Issued also on microfiche from Lange Micrographics.
Mukherji, Anuradha (2001). The holy light: a study of natural light in Hindu temples in the southern region of Tamilnadu, India (7th century AD to 17th century AD). Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from