“When a building is inspired by deep thoughts it becomes architecture.”
“When a building is inspired by deep thoughts it becomes architecture.”
In Vidyapith, one may feast one’s eyes on majestic architectural splendours, awe – inspiring not only for their exquisite beauty but also for the deep ideas they convey. The Sarada Mandir is a characteristic example. Featuring grandeur unusual for a school building, the Sarada Mandir can well be described as the emblem of Vidyapith. It has been basically structured as a ‘Makar’ (Capricorn). Makar symbolizes the arrival of Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and wisdom (Saraswati Puja, i.e. the worship of Goddess Saraswati takes places during the period of Capricorn). The zenith of the Sarada Mandir is shaped like a pair of Makar faces. Just below them is a statue of goddess Saraswati, about to alight upon a blooming lotus, symbolizing the eager heart of a student beaming with life, keen to receive the blessings of the Goddess of learning. The blooming lotus, the heart, rests upon the divine swan, the Paramhansa, that symbolizes the Atman. Just below this is the statuette of Deepa Lakshmi – Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, holding the Deepa, the lamp of knowledge, to adore Saraswati. The Lamp of Knowledge is lit by the fire of painstaking perseverance that leads one through the path of knowledge. Deepa Lakshmi stands upon more than one swan. This signifies the plurality of students. Below the Deepa Lakshmi, are the figures of two students – one holding a padma, lotus and the other holding a deepa, lamp. The padma signifies Sraddha – respect, reverence, modesty and the deepa signifies sharp intellect, both made for the worship of Saraswati. To further enhance the significance of this worship there are the bas reliefs of outstalked sunflowers – one each on either side of gate. A sunflower concentrates itself on the sun all day long – such sincerity, such concentration is required to achieve success.
At the very bottom of the sunflower stalks come the Kumbha – the vessel signifying completeness, completeness of this artistic grandeur that signifies the Jnan Yoga – the path of knowledge and wisdom. The classrooms of Sarada Mandir are extended backwards in the form of a rectangle, with a rectangular lawn at the centre. In front of the classrooms extends an elongated corridor facing this lawn. Inside the rectangle (i.e. on the back of the frontal facet) features a brass relief of Avanindranath’s Bharatmata and just below the relief is a shaded platform, with a brass representation of the map of undivided India.
Outside the Sarada Mandir, in front of the statue of Goddess Saraswati, lies a rectangle-shaped water body with blooming white lotuses as lies in front of temples [The Sarada Mandir is the seat of learning, so it is regarded as the temple of Sarada or Saraswati]. Further, at the centre of a beautiful lawn in front of the Sarada Mandir stands a pillar, resembling the garuda-pillar architecture. The pillar has the emblems of all the five elements or Panchabhuta, Kshiti (earth), Ap (water), Teja (fire), Marut (wind) and Vyoma (sky) engraved on it in cement. A quotation imbued with patriotic feelings is inscribed on each of these emblems except that of Kshiti.
These quotations have given this pillar the status of a patriotic monument as well. A flag post is fitted above it, where the Indian tricolour is hoisted on every occasion of national importance [viz. the Independence Day on 15th August, the Republic Day on 26th January, the National Youth day on 12th January, the birth anniversary of Subhas Chandra Bose on the 23rd January, etc. Just a bit away from the Sarada Mandir stands the Vivek Mandir, the school building for the junior boys. It is an ‘L’ shaped building, one wing longer than the other. One end of the longer wing has a small temple enshrining a bust of Swamiji. The other end of this wing has a powerful telescope installed on its roof. The beautiful engravings on its walls add to the sanctity of this seat of learning. Besides, we have the library structured as a thatched hut and the Nivedita Kala Mandir (school of art) that stand as specimens of grand architecture.
But the main temple, a unique blend of Gothic, Mayan and Pathan architecture devoid of any structural complexities, surpasses all these architectural marvels in its sublime beauty, as if the deepest feelings of a pure and simple heart have taken form here. The divine nerve-centre of Vidyapith life, this temple stands for satva – for austerity, sanctity, purity and bliss – in short, it stands for everything that is Godly, as if to arouse the divinity dormant in the inmates of Vidyapith. It has the sanctum-sanctorum and the cathedral combined into one. The sanctum-sanctorum is crowned by a most simple representation of the Panchavati [the trees of Banyan, Fig, Amla, Arjun, Peepal] and in front of the temple stands a representation of the midday sun, flaring in all its glory. As if to endorse that, a part of the Gayatri Mantra has been inscribed on the midday sun. Next to the main temple stands the Vidyapith auditorium. It also exposes structural resemblance to the Makar in some parts. In front of the auditorium stands a most simple representation of a burning fire. On it is inscribed the burning words of manliness that were once uttered by Swami Vivekananda.
Another specimen of exquisite architecture in Vidyapith is the Central Office. The central office is shaped like a chariot, so it has been named Devayana. Devayana means the divine chariot or the Chariot of God. Again the Chhandogya Upanishad explains Devayan as the pathway to eternity – to Devaloka. Devayan is the route of selfless and desireless service that leads one to Brahman, the Supreme Divine Self. That is what signifies the main office. All duties executed here are selfless and desireless, service devoted to the purpose of Vidyapith, or more precisely, to the purpose of the members of Vidyapith family. The inner walls of the room of the Secretary of Vidyapith within the Devayana depict glimpses of educational views of the Upanishads i.e. the ideal of Gurugrihavasa, etc. the very base of Vidyapith’s educational system.
The grand main entrance of the Vidyapith also cannot but inspire our awe and admiration. It has two pillars rising vertically, and at a certain height, the pillars bend towards each other slightly. The capital portions of the pillars meet almost horizontally at an angle not too far from straight. This gives the entrance a subtle grandeur characteristic of Pathan architecture. The Zenith of the entrance has a structure reassembling paired Makar, and below that is engraved the emblem of Ramakrishna Mission in cement. This emblem symbolises the merger of Jnana, Karma, Bhakti, Yoga i.e. the ideal of Vidyapith life. A quotation from the Upanishads – “Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached” has been inscribed just beneath the emblem, signifying the motto of Vidyapith life. The architectural beauty of the main entrance is enhanced by an intricately designed huge gate and the bas relief of the nine Mangalghats [vessels that stand for the well being] on each side of the entrance to signify the Aryan welcome into the holy premises of Gurukul that Vidyapith stands for. Vidyapith is noted not only as a premiere educational institute, but also as a place of architectural and artistic excellence – architecture that expresses the deepest thoughts of human mind. Vidyapith gives her children a unique opportunity to gain knowledge amidst an artistic environment – letting a student’s mind flourish in all glory and splendour.