By Swami Harshananda
Ākāśamaṇḍapa is literally translated as ‘hall open to the sky’.
The most essential part of a temple is the garbhagṛha or sanctum sanctorum. It is here that the image or the symbol of the deity is installed. In front of this garbhagṛha there is typically a hall (at least in the big temples) known as maṇḍapa or nṛtta-maṇḍapa or navaraṅga that is used for congregational purposes like singing, dancing, recitation of religious texts or religious discourses. This maṇḍapa can have walls or it can be just a shelter without walls. When the roof of this maṇḍapa is supported on pillars (w/o a wall) it is referred to as ākāśamaṇḍapa.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore