A microcosm of the Hindu cosmological universe, the temple is the meeting point of the divine and the profane.
Mountaintop residence of the gods. The temple’s overall form — dominated by its large central tower (vimana) — symbolizes the mountain at the center of the universe, Mount Meru. The gods reside on the summit.
God’s cave. The sanctuary proper, located directly under the tower, is where an image of the deity resides. Its dark interior represents the cave into which the god descends from his mountaintop home and becomes accessible to human beings in physical form.
The sacred intersection. Inside the Hindu temple’s sanctuary, the worlds of the divine and human connect: the god’s vertical axis (mountaintop to cave) intersects with the visitor’s horizontal axis (temple entrance to cave). The entire universe emanates from this intersection, as unity with god is the goal of earthly existence. In Hinduism, the god — typically one of the trinity: Shiva, Vishnu or (rarely) Bramha — is believed to temporarily physically inhabit his representation in the sanctuary.
It is here, in a cave at the foot of Mount Meru, that the visitor’s symbolic journey ends in nirvana: the pairs of opposites characteristic of worldly existence (e.g., good versus bad, right versus wrong) fuse into a single infinite everythingness beyond space and time.