There are many ancient temples in Kerala and most of them are the examples of the excellence in the architecture of the past. Adorned with murals and sculptures, these temples attract many art lovers too apart from the devotees. However a close watch of the architecture of different temples will show the similarities between them.
Unlike in many other religions, the concept of god is related to the Mother Nature in Hinduism. Although different stories in epics and religious texts talk about heaven and hell, all those are being written as jut symbols. The core of the Hindu religion is "Thath thvam asi" or that is you. In other words, according to Hinduism, the god is very much inside our own body and the purpose of visiting temples is to enhance the divine power rests in us. The architecture of each temple facilitates it.
Although different in size, shape and structure, each temple will have a huge entrance gate known as Gopuram. This will be adorned with paintings and sculptures and most of the art depicted on Gopurams will be of some sex positions. These gopurams represents out physical body which is always going behind the physical pleasures.
Once you enter through the Gopuram, you reach a pavement constructed around the temple. You have to take rounds around the temple by walking on that pavement or pradhakshinavari. This represents your thoughts which wandering around in search of truth.
After taking several rounds, you are entering into the temple. This place, known as Nalambalam is the place where one can sit and meditate. In some temples, temple arts will be performed in this area. Here is the place where our mind gest enlightened with knowledge and peace of mind. Then we come to the Sanctum Santorum which is the ultimate point of liberation. Liberation is the aim of our life according to Hinduism and the Temples perform that duty with their specially designed architecture.
However, just by visiting a temple you cannot liberate your soul. You need to practice a specific style of living for that. That aspect is displayed in the form of rituals inside the temple. Five articles are compulsory for any ritual according to Hinduism. They are water, flowers, bell, incense sticks and light. It represents the five elements such as water, earth, space (which is filled with noise of bell) air (filled with the smell and smoke of incense sticks) and fire (in the form of light). According to Hindu concepts, a human body (or the body of any other living beings for that matter) is being made with these five elements. When we die we lose the first element air as we lose our breath. Then we lose water as the blood gets clouted and then the fire as we lose the body temperature. When we falls down and being taken to the burial ground we lose the earth and when our body became ash we lose the space which has been occupied by our body. In short, death is nothing but the loss of five elements which constitute the body. When we die we attain nirvana or the soul will get liberated.
In rituals, the priest displays the same thing by offering all articles representing different elements to the god. In other sense, he is directing us to surrender all the five elements in us to the almighty or in simple to kill the ego. After the rituals, the priest will come out with lighted camphor in a plate. We all will take oath on that fire that we will live according to what he showed through rituals. Then we apply either ash or Sandal paste on our forehead to show that the ego is dead. Ash we will become when we die or the sandal wood which is being used to burn the human bodies certainly represents the death.
Now the real worship begins. After killing the ego within us, we should sit at the temple premises for quite a long time either meditating or chanting devotional songs. This will enhance the virtue inside us and thus promotes the positive energy. Thus we can enhance the divine power inside us.