Temples are the quintessential of India’s ingrained culture; acting as a link of communion between highly revered gods and zillions of devotees across the country, these temples are the epitomes of divinity and faith.
Not only this, they are the testimonials of India’s resplendent architecture. Erected by royal patrons of art, these places of worship are visited by multitude of followers every year. Let’s have a peek-a-boo into some of the famous ones.
This Black Pagoda of Konark (Orissa) is a sheer example of unsurpassable beauty and outstanding architecture. It is the imposing structure and grandiosity that it has found a mention in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. The temple was constructed in 13th century by a ruler of Ganga dynasty, named, Narasimhadeva I. You will see an amalgamation of both Orissan as well as Dravidian culture over its architecture.
As the name suggests, the temple is a dedication to Sun deity and is built in the form of an exquisite chariot. The 24 wheels that are shown to be driven by 7 horses are carved elaborately in stone and look fantabulous. The interiors are ornate with thousands of images of gods and goddesses, in addition to several human and animal forms. Geometrical designs, flora & fauna, scenes from battles, and erotic images are the other attractions here. The temple is considered a jewel of Orissa; its treasure of invaluable sculptures is worth admiration.
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This religious hub of the old city of Madurai is a piece of excellence that epitomizes the glory of Hindu temples in India. A treasure trove of brilliance of art and architecture, it is standing majestically for the past 2500 years. Encompassing intricately carved gopurams, this temple of Lord Shiva (Sundareshwar) and Parvati glorifies the Dravidian architecture.
Shiva is presented in his famous Natraja form in Velli Ambalam court. The intricately carved Thousand Pillar Hall is worth mentioning here; you can have the glimpse of countless paintings and images here. As you go west from this mandapam, you will come across Musical Pillars each one of which produces a different chord when struck.
Another temple which is highly admired for its striking architecture is Brihadeshwar temple at Thanjavur. Also called Rajarajeswaram, after the mighty Chola king Raj Raj Chola, the temple is renowned for its colossal Vimana (tower) which carriers a height of about 66 meters. Built entirely in granite, this World Heritage Site reflects Dravidian style of art. The temple complex comprises of a pillared hall, a mandapa, several shrines, and the main temple.
Within the sanctum sanctorum, a Shiva lingam carved out of a rock (about 9 meter height) has been placed and is highly revered. Like in all temples reflecting Dravidian architecture, in Brihadeshwar too, the sanctum carries a path for circumambulation. As you enter the premises, be ready to be welcomed by a huge monolith of Nandi, the bull. Apart from Shaivism an influence of Vaishnavism and Buddhism is clearly seen upon temple’s style.
Dilwara Jain Temples
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A conglomerate of 5 unique temples, Dilawara showcases the architectural splendor of the highest order. Often compared to Taj Mahal for its enchanting beauty, these temples of Rajasthan belong to 11th century and were constructed by Chalukya kings over a span of about 200 years. The temples of Adinath, Neminath, Parsvanath, Rishabhdev, and Mahavir Swami are richly carved and nicely decorated.
Vimal Vashi (temple of Adinath) is built entirely in white marble. Inside, you will see a plentitude of mandapas, pillars, corridors, and chambers; ceilings are adorned with floral designs. Luna Vashi (temple of Neminath) houses a decorative pendant and more than 70 images of Jain Tirthankars. Parsvanatha Temple, the tallest of all the Dilwara temples, is a 3-stroey structure.
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Symbolizing the carnal desires of mankind, Khajuraho temples are a set of Hindu as well as Jain temples and portray eroticism in an aesthetic way. Thronged by a large number of national as well as international tourists, these temples of medieval period are considered structures of finest art. Built without mortar, these edifices of sandstone are segregated in Western, Eastern, and Southern groups. Chausath Yogini, Vishwanath Temple, Chitragupta Temple form the Western part, Parsvanath, Adinath, and Ghantai are the part of Eastern while Duladeo and Chiturbhuja form the Southern group.
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Nestled within the city of Bhubaneswara, this temple is yet another piece of gem in the history of architecture. Surrounded on all sides by 520 feet high walls, Lingraja is one of most spectacular monuments that were ever built in Bhubaneswara. This 180 feet high structure of 11th century is comprised of several manadaps like Bhog Shala, Yajna Shala, and Natya Shala. A dedication to Hindu deities, Vishnu and Shiva, the temple premises are also meant for worshipping Parvati (in the form of Bhubaneswari), Ganesha, and many others. Shiva and Vishnu are worshipped as Hari-Har.
Sitting nicely above the Nilachal Hill of Guwahati, Kamakhya temple is one of the important Shakti Peeths and worships Parvati (Shakti) in various forms like Tripuri, Chamunda, Bhubaneswari etc. Constructed in the shape of a beehive, this structure of 16th century is an example of medieval architecture. Segregated into western, middle and sanctum sanctorum, the temple’s exterior is adorned with images of many Hindu deities.
The image of Parvati is kept in the middle chamber while sanctum contains no idols. Devotees still observe the sacrificial practices to please the goddess. The other temples that are present within the complex are Sitala, Vana Durga, Rajrajeshwari, Kali, and Sankhesvari temples. Lord Vishnu is also worshipped in the forms like Pandunath, Gadadhara, and Kedara.
The temple is a manifestation of Aryan as well as non-Aryan cults. Tantra worship is in full vogue here. Important occasion like Durga Puja and Mansa Puja are big affairs for the devotees who celebrate them with much fanfare.
The temples of India are manifestation of the immense religious faith of Hindus in their deities; embodying spiritualism and mysticism, they are the true identifications of country’s cultural heritage. These pinnacles of glory have been a source of inspiration to many.