This Article is From Mar 08, 2013

God bless: How religious beliefs influence home decor

For a country like India, where religious diversity is an undeniable part of the basic social fabric, religions and faiths influence home decor. Often, getting the absolutely perfect sanctum sanctorum is what people across religions look for first before deciding on the rest of the house.

"The statue or photograph of a God changes, but the concept of beautification remains the same. The difficulty lies in interior designing a place for the Gods. Somebody says 'I want sitting space', 'I want standing space' or 'I want a full corner of that room'. We have to make sure it is your best place for worship," Sudhanshu Gandhi, an interior designer, told NDTV.

Space is always an issue. While many use corner spaces to set up a prayer area, some opt to dedicate an entire room with minute detailing, like bells on the door -- typical in South India.

"If you come to South India, you will find the entire (prayer room) door made of metal. However, we've used wood because it goes well with the interior of the house," said Ajith Nair, who has set up one such room in his house dedicated to Murugan, a popular Hindu deity among Tamil Hindus.

Many follow Vastu Shastra, an ancient architecture doctrine based on the premise that the laws of nature influence human dwellings, while planning their home decor and design. According to Vastu Shastra, the prayer room in a house should be placed at a level where the deity's feet rest at the same level as the devotee's chest.

Some other tips based on Vastu Shastra from interior decorators are that wooden miniature temples should always have a dome on the top, the prayer room should ideally be located in the north-eastern corner of a house, etc.

For idols, a new trend emerging is the use of fabric cover for clay idols for longevity. Along the Western Express Highway in Mumbai's Kandivali locality, there are shops that make fabric-covered idols and getting your perfect idol can be relatively easy here -- all you need to do is carry a photograph or a design.

Options for readymade idols are also available in the market with frames, artifacts, sculpture, murals, wall-art among the varied options costing anything between Rs 200 and Rs 4.5 lakh.

These have found earnest buyers in not only resident Indians but also their non-resident compatriots. However, NRI tastes differ.

"They (NRIs) want something more Indian... their (houses) are modern, but they want to keep their roots intact being that far away (from India). They will go for paintings that depict religion," said Anmol Babani, a director at Satgurus, a department store in Mumbai's western suburbs.

Interestingly, these markets are often testimony to India's religious diversity and tolerance. It is not rare to see Muslim artisans working on marble temples for Hindu homes.

"Allah in different forms has come in. Catholics mainly go for Mother Mary or Jesus Christ," Mr Babani said.

Then there are the Parsis who worship fire. It is easy to sense their simple approach to life from their daily attire as is from their home decor that oozes old world charm. Parsis prefer to pray in the kitchen, considering it the purest area of the house.

"Unlike my many non-Parsi friends, we don't have the habit of constantly changing the structure of our house. We like to keep it as it is," Nevil Saiwala, a Parsi, said.