Ancient sculptures and symbolic references have always intrigued me and so I thoroughly enjoy my vacation amidst ruins or historical monuments. But what I saw in the strange little temple in Gujrat was something I was not prepared for. Usually temples are named after the deity and when I heard the name of EME temple, I was slightly taken aback. EME is indeed the name of a temple – a very unique place and probably the only structure of its kind; built by the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (EME) unit of the Indian army, hence the name.
This is an uncommonly modern temple with structures made of aluminum extracted from old fighter airplanes from World War II. The silvery white tower and the dome will make you think twice before you actually accept the fact that it is a temple. The stone slab at the entrance says that The EME temple, was conceived, designed and constructed in 1965 under the patronage of the founder commandant of EME School-Brigadier A.F. Eugene.
This unassuming religious site is a mixture of modern architecture and ancient artifacts, and has been constructed by depicting symbols of various religions. The four entrance doors in an elliptical shape represent Jain architecture. While the prayer hall, which is dome-shaped, depicts Islam, the top of the dome represents Buddhism. A 70-feet tower depicts Christianity and a Kalash-the Vedic motif on top symbolizes Hinduism. The temple premises has over a 100 sculptures ranging from the 6th to the 18th century neatly arranged in the most, serene and picturesque surroundings amidst seven pairs of banyan trees named after the Saptarishis and their wives (seven saints). These trees provide ample shade to these ancient artifacts and accentuate the splendor of the surroundings. I was told that the sculptures and antique artifacts were collected from all over India, over a period of many years by the army cadets during their training exercises; in and around some jungles and ancient abandoned cities or forts.
As you enter the dome you see a main deity of Lord Shiva in human form with his feet pressing down on a demon, denoting suppression of all forms of distractions to achieve one’s goals, but unlike the usual temple, there are no priests or any holy men fussing about.
Later in the evening, after admiring the sculptures and statues, when I went into the temple; I noticed people gathered inside the shrine meditating or reading scriptures in silence; after a while a soldier walked in with his army fatigues except his shoes and threw a salute at the deity. He then proceeded to light a few lamps and the people who were gathered around sang some hymns in unison and offered their prayers. After almost an hour, some curtains were drawn to cover the idol to announce the closing time.
Never have I seen a more classic example of ‘Work is Worship’. There are no priests or incense or any signs of religious practices. The temple is maintained by the Indian Army where the soldiers and their families of all religions and faith volunteer to perform and maintain the cleanliness of the temple premises. A visit to this monumental structure will be an experience that will live in your memory forever. Perhaps for the first time, I felt a spiritual vibe at the amazing architectural achievement of the Indian Army where there are no spiritual barriers, no boundaries of religion and faith, or separation of classes.