Garan (伽藍) means a purified place where Buddhist monks gather and practice the religion, but eventually the term came to mean Buddhist temple or the group of buildings that forms the heart of a temple. 伽藍 (garan)' is a Japanese abbreviated form of the expression '僧伽藍摩 (sogyaramma)' or '僧伽藍 (sogaran)' which are transliterations of the Sanskrit saMghaaraama (सँघाराम) or Sangharama. In classical Chinese translation, the word was sometimes translated as '衆園 (shuon)' or '僧園 (soon)' but usually it is called just "伽藍 (garan)."
Garan in India
In India the origins of Buddhist stupa, to which the subject of worship is dedicated, differed from the priest's cell where monks dwelled, but in later years temples accepted stupas. In later years it became popular for monasteries to have a square-shape vihara with a courtyard in the center, surrounded by a loculus, in addition to a shido (a hall dedicated to the souls of ancestors) in which the subject of worship (a stupa or Buddhist statue) was placed. A hall, dining hall, kitchen, storage room, washing areas and toilet were attached to a vihara. They were developed to provide facilities necessary for monks to live as a group but at the same time to provide enough seclusion so as not to disturb their privacy and meditation (see the section on Vihara).
Jetavana Vihara and Venuvana Vihara are famous and their names are known in literature, but their real existence is not certain.
In Rajgir (its ancient name is raajagRha) was excavated an ancient foundation of what is deemed to be a vihara in a mango garden donated by Jivaka KOMARABHACCA, a noted doctor in Buddha's time. In this vihara there were no individual rooms for priests, nor was there a stupa (Buddhist pagoda) or a Shido (chaitya hall), which made it completely different from the monasteries of later years.
Notable examples in later years include the ancient site of a monastery in Somapura (now Pahaarpur). In this monastery there were 177 cells for priests inside the surrounding square walls approximately 300 meters per side, as well as a cruciate vihara in the center of a courtyard with stairs on all sides (base: 109 m x 96 m). Inside the base, there were 2,800 unglazed clay tablets in which Buddhism venerable statues, images of Hindu gods, people and animal figures were carved in relief, which remain valuable examples of the art of the Pala Dynasty.
Garan in the People's Republic of China
The oldest example of garan in the Buddhist temples of China is '浮屠祠 (futoshi),' which was described in the "呉志 (goshi)" as a garan built in Xuzhou by 笮融 (sakuyu) at the end of the Houhan period. It is said that the building enshrined a golden statue of Buddha and could accommodate 3,000 people, with two layers of kairo (a long-roofed, portico-like passage connecting two buildings) that surrounded a two-storied tower with a nine-tier 銅槃 (doban) hanging from a sorin at the top. This tower functioned as a 'Butsuden (Buddha hall, a building enshrining the status of Buddha and dedicated to prayer)' and as a 'pagoda' in later years.
It is believed that a garan in its early days was structured around the building dedicated to Buddha, but as the worship of Buddha's sariras began to thrive, a stupa dedicated to Buddha's sariras and a Buddha hall housing a Buddha image were separated; therefore, it is believed that the garan centered around a stupa was gradually changed to a garan centered around a Buddha hall.
Furthermore, during the period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties (China) there were many cases where aristocrats donated their houses, which then became temples. In these cases, a Buddha hall and a lecture hall were placed in front and behind the garan, but many of them did not have a stupa. Also, not only Chinese-style temples such as those described above were constructed in China, but also grottoes modeled on the Indian-style garan. Examples include the ancient remains of the Yungang Grottoes, Dunhuang, the Longmen Grottoes, etc.
Garan in Japan
The major buildings that comprise a garan are as follows: a sanmon gate (the gate of a temple, it stands between the somon gate and the main hall), which symbolizes a border with the mundane world; a Hondo (main hall) dedicated to the principal image; a to (pagoda); a kodo (lecture hall); a place for study; a kuri; monks' living quarters, a jikido (refectory); a shoro (belfry); a tosu (toilet), etc. The layout and number of these elements vary according to the sect to which it belongs, as well as to the era of its construction. A large temple complex that has most of these elements is called a shichido garan (which literally means "seven-hall temple" or a group of seven buildings that are supposed to form the heart of an ideal Buddhist temple). Even though what is included in the shichido garan varies from sect to sect and era to era, according to the "Kokon-mokuroku-sho" in the Kamakura period, it includes a kondo (main hall or golden hall), a pagoda, a lecture hall, a belfry, a kyozo (scriptural depository, library), a sobo (monks' living quarters) and a refectory, which are the commonly known elements. However, in the Zen schools a shichido garan includes a sanmon gate (main gate), a Buddha hall, a hatto (lecture hall), a sodo (meditation hall or a building dedicated to zazen), a kuin (temple's office or a kitchen), a tosu or a seichin (toilet) and a yokushitsu (bath).
It is assumed that when Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the early sixth century there were no full-fledged temples; instead, small Buddhist shrines were built within the palace and houses. According to "Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan)," it is said that temple engineers, 鑪盤 (Roban) experts, tile experts, etc., came from Baekje in 588 and started the construction of Hoko-ji Temple (Asuka-dera Temple), the first full-fledged garan. According to the results of the excavation of Asuka-dera Temple, the temple had a garan layout in which a pagoda stood at the center of the area surrounded by roofed corridors, and surrounding it were three main halls (central main hall, east main hall, and west main hall); such construction follows the Goguryeo-style and is believed to have originated in the Sangoin layout of China.
In the garan layout of Osaka Prefecture's Shitenno-ji Temple, which was erected at the beginning of the seventh century, as well as an old garan (wakakusa garan）of Horyu-ji Temple (Ikaruga-dera Temple), a chumon (inner gate), a pagoda, a main hall and a lecture hall are placed on a straight line from south to north. The two roofed corridors connect the left and right edges of the chumon to the lecture hall, surrounding the pagoda and the main hall. This layout is called the 'Shitenno-ji-temple-style garan layout,' which is a style seen in the temples in Baekje in the Sanguo shidai (the Three States period) (the Korean Peninsula). There are approximately 40 temples whose construction work started in the Asuka period in the areas from the Tokai region up to the Sanyo region, most of which concentrated in Nara Prefecture, Osaka Prefecture and Kyoto Prefecture, and are considered to be the first Japanese full-fledged garan.
One of the prominent things about the garan of this period is a consideration given first and foremost to the pagoda. The meaning of "pagoda" differs according to whether there is only one pagoda, there are two pagodas placed in the east and west, or whether pagodas are positioned within or outside of corridors. These are exactly the issues of how to deal with the remains of Buddha's bones. The second point is the size of a lecture hall. The main hall and Buddha hall are structures for the purpose of worship, and they have the same meaning as "shido" in India and China. However, lecture halls were introduced from China into Japan, and they were built for the purpose of study. Whether they were placed within the corridors or outside the corridors implies how much the study was valued.
The garan layout of major temples between the latter half of the seventh century and the eighth century is as described below:
Kawara-dera Temple (Asuka) has an asymmetric garan layout with one tower and two main halls; it has a central main hall in front of the Chumon, a west main hall on its left and a pagoda on its right, and can be regarded as an Asuka-dera Temple garan layout without an east main hall.
The Sai-in garan of Horyu-ji Temple, which was reconstructed from the end of the seventh century to the beginning of the eighth century, has the pagoda (left) and main hall (right) side by side in the courtyard surrounded by roofed corridors. The neighboring Horin-ji Temple (Ikaruga-cho) has the same garan layout, which is called the "Horyu-ji-temple-style garan layout." A layout that is similar but has the pagoda and main hall on the opposite sides is called the "Hokki-ji-temple-style garan layout."
Yakushi-ji Temple: The temple was moved from Fujiwara-Kyo to Heijo-Kyo; the temples in both locations had the same garan layout with two pagodas and one main hall, and the pagodas in the east and the west were built within the corridors.
Daian-ji Temple: The temple used to be in Asuka and was called 'Daikandai-ji Temple'; it has one pagoda and is regarded as a Yakushi-ji-temple-style without a pagoda in the west. After it was moved to Heijo-Kyo and renamed ’Daian-ji Temple,’ two pagodas were built in the east and west but they are located further to the south of a nandai-mon (south gate) and further out from the center of the garan.
The garan layout of Kokubun-ji temples, being provincial temples established in each province of Japan by the Emperor Shomu in the Nara period, have one pagoda and one main hall in general; in this layout the pagoda was not built on the central pivot line of the garan but was built inside the corridors, or outside the corridors either on the east or the west side.
When the Heian period started, the systematic garan layout (as in the Nara period) disappeared because the mountain temples of Esoteric Buddhism were subject to site restrictions. However, the garan built on flat land, such as To-ji Temple and Sai-ji Temple built in the east and west of Rajomon Gate of Heian-Kyo, followed the layout of the Nara period.
As the Jodo sect (Pure Land Buddhism) developed, more garan were built with a style seen in the Jodo-mandala, which has an Amida hall in the center and a large pond placed in front of the Amida hall. This is believed to have been an adaptation of Shinden-zukuri architecture, a style of a nobleman's residence, into temple architecture. In Hojo-ji Temple (defunct) built by FUJIWARA no Michinaga, Hossho-ji Temple, as erected at the wish of the Emperor Shirakawa, and Byodoin Hoodo (the Phoenix Hall or Amida Hall of Byodoin), etc., to the west of a pond is where the Amida hall was constructed, which symbolized reverence to higan (the Western paradise where Amitabha dwells) in this world.
When the Kamakura period started and the Zen sect was introduced into Japan, the systematic garan layout was revived; this period saw a garan layout that had a sanmon gate, a Buddha hall and a lecture hall built on a straight line, following the somon gate (the gate at the entrance of a temple). Even though there are temples with a Chinese-style symmetrical garan layout in which a sanmon gate is connected through the corridors to the Buddha hall, behind which a lecture hall and a hojo (head priest's living quarters) are built, a kuin and a sodo on the left and right sides of the corridors, and a yokushitsu and tosu are placed diagonally across the sanmon gate; such temples whose whole garan structures (including the corridors) remain are limited to those built in the early-modern times, such as Zuiryu-ji Temple (Takaoka City, Toyama Prefecture), Mampuku-ji Temple (Kyoto Prefecture), etc. There are cases where Zen temples include pagodas, but they are built outside the center of a garan and do not have organic meaning as part of a garan layout.
It appears that the garan layout of the Pure Land and True Pure Land sects in the Medieval period did not have a fixed style. However, since a goeido (daishido), which is dedicated to a Kaiki (patron of a temple in its founding), was valued as much as the main hall (Amida hall), which is dedicated to Amitabha Tathagata for the temples of the True Pure Land sect in early-modern times, the basic style was to build them both so that they faced the east.
The tradition of the Nichiren sect says that the temples should ideally be constructed on a site that is suitable for the Four Symbols (four mythological creatures in the Chinese constellations). This is believed to have been an influence from the Esoteric Buddhism by Nichiren. In reality, since temples were built on the sites donated by Kaiki patrons, they were more or less forced to compromise. Even though there is no fixed style for a garan layout, there are many examples of temples that were built based on the Zen-sect style. As for the characteristics of the Nichiren sect, a small hokkedo is built at the beginning, and other structures such as a main hall, a goeido, a kuri, a kyakuden (guest hall), a somon gate, a sanmon gate, five-story pagoda, shukubo (monks' living quarters), etc., are gradually added. Temples with many shukubo are sometimes called taibo (large living quarters for monks).