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Question:

Temple Visit Reflection Paper Instructions
Due: Sunday, March 20th by 11:59pm via Turnitin. Requirement: 1000 words
or more.
Visit a temple or center of one of the traditions we covered in the course (Hinduism,
Buddhism, Sikhism, or Jainism), and take notes on what you see and hear. Reflect on
how your observations fit with what we covered in class. You will experience things
that are different from what we’ve studied; that is the whole point of the exercise!
Instructions:
1) Before you go, make a note of why you are visiting that particular place, and what
do you plan to do there.
2) Be respectful and courteous to people you meet at the site. (Smiling helps.)
Introduce yourself to anyone who is curious why you are there. If appropriate,
explain that you are a student at UH and are there to learn more about their
traditions.
3) Take notes of what you observe. If you get permission first, take some photos. If
taking notes during the visit isn’t feasible, write them up ASAP afterwards. This will
give you something to draw on when writing your paper.
4) Write a well-formed paper of at least 1000 words that contains:
a. a brief overview of the temple (its history, who visits and when, the site’s physical
environment, etc.) Cite your source for this information.
b. your observations and experiences
c. your reflections on the experience, esp. in relation to what we covered in class
d. proper grammar, punctuation, etc. Proofread your paper before submitting it.

Reflective Essay: A visit to the temple

Hinduism is one of the largest religions globally. Hindu’s worship in holy places called temples. Unlike other world religions, it is not mandatory to visit the temple for worship. According to Flood (1996), each Hindu home has a small shrine also referred to as the puja room where families conduct daily prayers, excusing them from going to the temple daily for prayers. Hindus mostly go to the temple only during auspicious occasions or religious festivals. Unlike other religious places of worship like churches, mosques or shrines where the place of worship plays a critical role in functions like funerals and marriages, the temple does not play a crucial role in any of those events. Rather it more of a meeting point for religious discourses like chants and devotional songs or bhajans and kirtans (Das, 2014).

have always wanted to visit India and when the opportunity presented itself, I did not hesitate to pay a visit to one of the most beautiful temples there. The Konark sun temple is a distinct work of art standing out in Odisha, Puri district. Konark, which is a small town in India, is the exact location of the marvel Konark sun temple. The temple stands as a dedication to Lord Sun one of the Indian gods. The temple resembles a carriage that is shaped like a chariot. It has twelve wheels appearing to be dragged by seven horses. At first sight, the temple will amaze you because of the skills used to create it. Researchers believe that the temple was constructed in the 13th century.

The creative mind behind the construction was King Narasimhadeva a legend who lived then. According to Puri (2011), many temples in India are built in connection to legendary figures. The story of Konark temple is related to the legendary Lord Krishna who cursed one of his sons. The curse led to leprosy. To seek atonement, Samba, Krishna’s son devoted his life to worship Lord Sun also referred to as Surya for a decade and two years. After twelve years of seeking penance, Lord Sun healed Samba. Samba was always grateful and indebted to Surya who came through for him during a tough time in his life. As a result Samba devoted himself to make Surya more than a memory. He decided to build the temple to express his gratitude to Lord Sun (Puri, 2011).

Everybody who sees the temple can easily tell that it was a timeless work of art build to last and to impact many generations. The temple’s mesmerizing beauty is nothing short of stunning. In his words Rabindranath Tagore, the exquisiteness of the temple cannot be described in architectural terms asserts Das (2014). My observation during the visit was a lifetime experience. This being the first time for me in a temple, almost everything for me was a learning process. The images on the wall, the architectural designs, the gods, forms of worship, how men and women were dressed, were part of my observation. I learnt so much that I had to record all this details in my travel journal to keep the memories intact.

The first basic thing I learnt about the temple is the sacred value they hold for Indians. The temple is a sacred meeting point for Hindu people to commune and revitalize their energies spiritually argues Flood (1996). Indian temples are shaped in various forms like the rectangular shape, octagon, semicircular with different entry points like gates or domes. Despite all those facts there are six parts of a Hindu temple which resemble all temples regardless of the shape. The Konark temple for example had the Dome and steeple shape. The steeple or Shikhara represents a high mountain peak while the dome shape, a trident shape of shiva. There was the second part which was an inner chamber also referred to as the garbhagriha a scared place where the image or idol of the deity is kept. The place is out of bounds for visitors giving room to only temple priests.

The common place for all to assemble is the temple hall which is meant for the audience to sit. The temple hall also known as the nata-mandira was a hall used for temple dancing traditionally (Flood, 1996). Women dancers would perform their ritual dances while other people use the hall to sit, pray, meditate, chant or watch the priest perform rituals. The hall was decorated with paintings of goddesses and gods beautifully. I sat there to meditate and view the vast region of the hall quietly. The temple also has a front porch, an area where a big metallic bell hanging from the ceiling was kept. This section of the temple is useful as devotees enter and leave through this area. To declare their arrival and departure they ring the bell.

According to Michelle (1988), the reservoir of fresh flowing water is another significant part of the temple. It is used for hygiene purposes, some people perform a ritual birth before getting to the holy temple as well as keeping the floor of the temple clean.  Most temples that are not build near natural water bodies have a water reservoir in form of a spring or fall. Lastly, the walkway that includes stair cases that people use to get in and out of the temple through. There are also walkways around the walls of the inner chamber for the deity and devotees to walk around as a mark of respect to the god or goddess of the temple (Michelle, 1988).

My visit to the temple was a wonderful experience. I found the Hindu religion very interesting and gained more experience by being inside a temple. I learnt that the Hindu respect the temple and view it as a sacred place for spiritual duties. Men and women dress decently when going to the temple. While men wear button down shirts and slacks women wear long decent skirts and Indian clothes. When you enter the temple, you have to remove the shoes, wash your feet then start worshiping the deity from the left side. Their form of worship includes holding hands in the middle also referred to as namaste and bowing the head (Flood, 1996). For gods kept away from the wall one can worship them by walking in a circle around them.

At the end of worship also pujas, a priest walks around with a tray which is brushed over one’s head three times. Other times the priest offers fruits to people worshiping called prasadam or may come and mark your forehead with ash, turmeric or kumkum (Michell, 1988). Members greet each other with a warm smile in a kind gesture such as Hari om and a response is given. Temple priests play a crucial role in the temple and are known as pandas, pujaris hired to perform temple rituals. They are respected and were traditionally from the Brahmin caste.

References

Das, R. (2014). All about the Hindu temple, About religion, India

Flood, G. D. (1996). An introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge [England: Cambridge University    Press.

Michell, G. (1988). The Hindu temple: an introduction to its meaning and forms, University of      Chicago press ed.

Puri, R. (2011). Konark: Temple to the sun, Comic books, strips

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