A wish-fulfilling crystal, whimsical musical pillars, powerful lions and a giant stone bell. These are among the awe-inspiring features that spark the pilgrim's humility, elevate his thoughts and surround him in his divine quest.
Iraivan Temple emulates the architectural style of South India's Chola empire, which reached its zenith 1,000 years ago. Crowning the temple is a giant 7-ton monolithic capstone that took four men three years to carve. Hanging at each of the temple's four corners is an eight-foot-long chain, with graceful 14-inch links, impossibly carved from one block of granite (pictured on the left).
A 32-inch-diameter stone bell rings like metal when struck with a mallet. The wooden doors to the main sanctum are elaborately carved with ten forms of Siva and hung on an ornate black granite frame.
The Sivalingam is the largest single-pointed quartz crystal on earth. Its traditional five-metal base weighs nearly 10,000 pounds and is the largest cast in modern times.
Carvers will chisel two musical pillars from black granite, each 5 feet wide and 13 feet tall. From the massive stone which forms the central portion, craftsmen will carve out sixteen 4-inch-wide, 5-foot-long rods which, when struck, will resonate musical tones. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, just three South Indian temples were built with musical pillars. Iraivan will be the first temple outside India to have these rare artifacts, which are used by musicians to tune their instruments.
Guarding Iraivan's entrance are two yalli sculptures representing inner-plane beings who are a magical combination of seven animal species. Six lion pillars supporting three surrounding towers complete the temple's inner-plane guard. As if to show off the silpis' skill, each lion holds in his mouth a three-inch stone ball, which children love to turn with their hands, though no amount of cajoling will release it!
On the north side of the temple stands a stately statue of Siva as Dakshinamurti, the South-Facing Lord, Universal Guru and Silent Preceptor, teaching four sages seated before Him. The noble black granite Nandi, Siva's mount, will be enshrined in a 16-pillared pavilion in front of the main entrance, not far from three stone elephants who are climbing the steps to see Siva.
Visitors to Iraivan will be intrigued to learn that there are treasures even beneath the temple. Hindu temples traditionally have copper plates stored in a rock crypt sealed in the foundation, recording the history of the temple's creation and the times. Iraivan not only has these but also a modern argon-gas-filled stainless steel canister containing present-day artifacts. Scheduled to be opened 1,000 years from now, these two time capsules will reveal to future generations a treasured record of the philosophy and culture of Hinduism, and of how Hindus lived and followed their faith.