As someone who struggled with Nightmare Disorder, I tried everything to not fall asleep, to avoid the mentally scarring nightmares. I would try to stay awake through the night, I would pray and exorcise the bed to drive away evil spirits so the night hag, the sleep paralysis demon, wouldn’t sit on my chest and for once I wouldn’t wake up screaming. I bought a dream catcher and hung it above my bed hoping the Chinese myth would work. It didn’t end the nightmare problem but it did calm my anxiety, so I bought myself two more. I slept looking at them and woke up looking at them. Their patterns resembled Miquel’s six circle theorem and that was the first time I realised geometry could also be seen outside math class.
If you stop looking at your phone and gaze around, you will see its imprints everywhere —in the swirl of a child’s hair, in the rustling leaves falling against your window, in Tagore’s verses and in Lata Mangeshkar’s voice, in Mozart’s compositions, in the iris of your eye, in your ancestral home and the one thing that drives human spirit and society, Religion.
When I got up to pray the following night, I noticed the prayer mat, or the Janamaz was arch-shaped and had a beautiful geometric embroidery done in gold. I looked outside the window, and the mosque in my street had similar patterns on its walls. The framed Ayat in my room had curvy calligraphy in it. I began to think that maybe religion incorporates geometry to make believers feel more spiritual.
I grew up in a town where most of them followed monotheism, and my first encounter with a Kolam was when I moved to Chennai a few years ago. I would watch my neighbor, a warm woman in her mid-30s, early in the morning crouching on the street and making strokes on the floor, the lines and flowers were so skillful and rhythmic. As she swayed her hands back and forth filling in space with patterns, the green bangles on her wrist hummed along with its mesmerizing motion, more enticing than the Kolam itself. A week later, I mustered the courage to ask her why she troubled herself with this, why she wakes up so early every day, cleans the space and draws Rangoli on the street just for the by-passers to walk on it or for the vehicles to run over and ruin her efforts and labor?
She said she has been doing this since she was a kid. She said it comforts her. Kolam is a symbol of auspiciousness, she said, that Goddess Lakshmi resides in homes that are adorned with the most intricate designs. I told her I have been watching her do this for a week, how it gives my day a positive start, and how these geometric designs have been making my mornings optimistic and full of hope. “That’s how its supposed to make you feel. You reaffirmed my theory”, she exclaimed. I told her I like to think of Kolam as frozen poetry. The many layers have hidden meanings leaving the end result peaceful and soul-soothing. Despite the religious significance, she said, she continues the tradition because of its therapeutic nature. She finds herself in them, in its dots, lines and curves, in its spaces, precision and Geometry.
Plato once said, "Geometry will draw the soul toward truth and create the spirit of philosophy." Maybe that is why it is an integral part of the architecture of religious institutions. Temples, Mosques, Cathedrals and Buddhist monasteries have geometric designs because they radiate positivity and awakening pushing us towards spiritual growth and personal development. A visit to the Periya Kovil in Thanjavur and you feel like your soul is rejuvenated. Offer a prayer at the mosque, you will feel your soul is cleansed off its sins.
A Hindu temple has a Shikhara, a spire, that rises symmetrically above the central core of the temple. Similarly, a Mosque has a Minaret which is usually decorated with busy, strenuous carvings. Both of these symbolic additions, richly chiselled with geometric designs stand tall, rising towards the sky, proving sacred geometry is the universal and unspoken language of harmony.
Like Kolam, another method of self-therapy is creating Mandalas, a spiritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism that represents the Universe. They are filled with layers of meaning that transcend all religions and cultures by representing life as we know it. The circle symbolises the womb of creation and its geometric designs reveal the inner workings of nature. The more I learnt about geometry, the more I knew that I was in the wrong about associating it with just Calculus and Pythagoras.
There is an ancient belief that God created the Universe according to a geometric plan. I believe God is speaking to us through geometry, and geometry is the Universe's way of telling us that the path to peace is in its details, in its intricacies. Conflicts owing to religious beliefs have no place in something so pure, in something that exists solely to evoke self-growth and harmony in humans.
In a world where we are distracted by opinions, credence, morals and our choice of which God to worship, the presence of Sacred Geometry shows how its shapes and patterns are merely a repeated representation of the Universe that we live in. The repetition of these patterns in all the religions is a reassurance of the omnipresence of it all. We are drawn to places of worship that exude peace. We are moved by words of prayer and love keeping us in mind. I believe Geometry in the most sacred situations emanates absolute beauty, which inspires love. Love moves our souls, and the soul likes it better when it is blanketed by peace.