The doors to the world

The doors to the world

Thurns und Taxis Palace in Regensburg, Germany.

Chronicles of Narnia, the Thiruvananthapuram temple, Daya from a 2-decade long Hindi TV serial, Shani Shingnapur ...What is common about the above? Did I hear you say ‘Doors’? If you did, you would be right.

Doors - ubiquitous, largely unobserved, and yet a vital component with regards to security of people, places and nature.

My tryst with doors began nearly four decades ago when my mother described the etchings on the doorframe of the main door of the house in Chikkabalapura where she spent her childhood. I still recollect the joy I experienced when I finally got to visit that house – which must be at least a century old and which had since passed 
on into the hands of some other family – and see the place amma grew up in.

More recently, when some of us visited the house again, the family staying there was kind enough to allow me to photograph the door.

For nearly a decade now, I have been on the lookout for interesting doors wherever I go. Thanks to that, I have a treasure trove of door pictures today.

Have you ever thought about what a door does? It reflects, among other things, the culture of the land, the purpose it serves, the access to something or someplace it provides or prevents, and the economic status of the resident.

When I visited the centuries-old ‘Thurns und Taxis’ Palace in Regensburg, Germany, a couple of years ago, I observed that every visible door was sturdy and also slightly intimidating – the side doors included. The main door of the Kinderdijk windmills in The Netherlands which were also built around the same time, was, on the other hand, basic and primarily functional.

Let me draw your attention to the most frequently visited places anywhere in the world - places of worship.

Their doors are usually ornate and generally include some symbolism of the religion behind said doors.

Doors of temples in Bali or India may have images of one or more deities from the Hindu pantheon. Churches in Europe, especially those that are centuries old, have large intricately carved doors and imposing door frames with etchings and idols of various saints and other aspects related to Christianity. Monasteries in countries like Bhutan and India have colourful doors with paintings of dragons or one or more of the eight major symbols of Buddhism including the endless knot, lotus, dharma chakra, and

Naturally, the front doors of houses differ from region to region. Many houses in Amsterdam have doors with glass panes – one can see inside the house. According to our guide, there are two main reasons for this: one, the Dutch are very ‘open people’ – friendly and transparent. Secondly, there is wonderful scenery to look at – usually a river or a stream, lots of flowers, and clean streets, and no Peeping Toms.

On the other hand, houses in most countries have solid doors as personal privacy is strictly guarded. Shani Shingnapur may be one of the few exceptions where a village is made of buildings that do not have doors. There are said to be no thefts here despite that.

Then there are doors that are so ornate that one can easily surmise that they were made for a specific purpose.

The doors leading to the Royal Box in the Opera House at Budapest, Hungary, where only Heads of State and dignitaries can sit, is a case in point. While we were given a tour of the Opera House, we were not allowed to go into the Royal Box; the area was in fact cordoned off. Our guide mentioned that the
only ‘commoners’ allowed through those doors were the cleaners!

There was however one door that sent shivers down my spine even though it was behind a locked glass case.

It was the door to the Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany - a simple iron gate like structure with the words ‘Arbeit macht Frei’ (work sets you free). As I looked at it, I could only imagine the fear and hopelessness that those entering this hell on earth would have experienced.

But there is one door that most of us feel relieved to pass through. As we open the door of our home at the end of the day, we can finally be ourselves and drop the masks of other roles that we don while outside.

(The author can be reached on

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