It is not easy to define Hinduism, for it is more than a religion in
the Western sense, as our Ancient History Guide sees it. Also known to
practitioners as Sanatana Dharma, which means everlasting or eternal
religion/truth/rule, Hinduism can best be defined as a way of life based
on the teachings of ancient sages and scriptures like the Vedas and the
Upanishads. The word dharma connotes "that which supports the universe"
and effectively means any path of spiritual discipline which leads to God.
Hindu Dharma, as one scholar analogizes, can be compared to a fruit
tree, with its roots representing the Vedas and the Upanishads, the thick
trunk symbolizing the spiritual experiences of numerous sages and saints,
its branches representing various theological traditions, and the fruit
itself, in different shapes and sizes, symbolizing various sects and
subsects. However, the concept of Hinduism defies a definite definition
because of its uniqueness.
Hinduism does not have any one founder, and any one core doctrine to which
controversies can be referred to for resolution. There is also no point in
time when it could be said to have begun. It does not require its
adherents to accept any one idea, and thus is cultural, not creedal, with
a history contemporaneous with the peoples with which it is associated. It
is also marked by an attitude which seems to accommodate religious and
cultural perspectives other than one's own, and so is characterized by a
rich variety of ideas and practices resulting in what appears as a
multiplicity of religions under one term 'Hinduism'.
Hinduism is perhaps the only religious tradition that is so diverse in
its theoretical premises and practical expressions that it is like a
compilation of religions. According to philosopher Jeaneane Fowler,
Hinduism can never be neatly slotted into any particular belief system —
monism, theism, monotheism, polytheism, pantheism, panentheism — for all
these systems are reflected in its many facets.
According to historians, the origin of Hinduism dates back to 5000 or
more years. The word "Hindu" is derived from the name of river Indus,
which flows through northern India. In ancient times the river was called
the 'Sindhu', but the Persians who migrated to India called the river
'Hindu', the land 'Hindustan' and its inhabitants 'Hindus'. Thus the
religion followed by the Hindus came to be known as 'Hinduism'.
It is generally believed that the basic tenets of Hinduism was brought
to India by the Aryans who settled along the banks of the Indus river
about 2000 BC. According to one scholar, the evolution of Hinduism may be
divided into three periods: the ancient (6500 BCE-1000 AD), the medieval
(1000-1800 AD), and the modern (1800 AD to present). Hinduism is commonly
thought to be the oldest religion in the history of human civilization.
Hinduism lacks any unified system of beliefs and ideas. It is a
phenomenon and represents a broad spectrum of beliefs and practices which
on one hand are akin to paganism, pantheism and the like, and on the other
very profound, abstract, metaphysical speculations.
Since religion and culture are nearly interchangeable terms in
Hinduism, emotive expressions like 'bhakti' (devotion) or 'dharma' (what
is right) and 'yoga' (discipline) are used to depict essential aspects of
the religion. Hinduism believes in idol worship, casteism, reincarnation,
'karma', 'dharma' and 'moksha'. Some moral ideals in Hinduism include
non-violence, truthfulness, friendship, compassion, fortitude,
self-control, purity and generosity.
Two types of sacred writings constitute the Hindu scriptures: heard (sruti)
and memorized (smriti).
Sruti literature refers to the habit of ancient Hindu saints who led a
solitary life in the woods, where they developed a consciousness that
enabled them to 'hear' or cognize the truths of the universe. Sruti
literature are of two parts: the Vedas and Upanishads.
There are four Vedas:
The Rig Veda -"Royal Knowledge"
The Sama Veda - "Knowledge of Chants"
The Yajur Veda - "Knowledge of Sacrificial Rituals"
The Atharva Veda - "Knowledge of Incarnations"
There are 108 extant Upanishads, of which 10 are most important:
Isa, Kena, Katha, Prashna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taitiriya, Aitareya,
Smriti Literature refers to 'memorized' or 'remembered' poetry and
epics. They are more popular with Hindus, because they are easy to
understand, explains universal truths through symbolism and mythology, and
contain some of the most beautiful and exciting stories in the history of
religion world literature. The three most important of Smriti literature
The Bhagavad Gita - The most well known of the Hindu scriptures,
called the "Song of the Adorable One", written about the 2nd century BC
and forms the sixth part of Mahabharata. It contains some of the most
brilliant theological lessons about the nature of God and of life ever
The Mahabharata - The world's longest epic poem written about
9th century BC, and deals with the power struggle between the Pandava and
the Kaurava families, with an intertwining of numerous episodes that make
The Ramayana - The most popular of Hindu epics, composed by
Valmiki around 4th or 2nd centuries BC with later additions up to about
300 CE. It depicts the story of the royal couple of Ayodha - Ram and Sita
and a host of other characters and their exploits.
Hindu God and Goddess
Hindus view cosmic activity of the Supreme Being as comprised of
three tasks: creation, preservation, and dissolution and recreation.
Hindus associate these three cosmic tasks with the three deities,
Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Lord Brahma brings forth the creation and
represents the creative principle of the Supreme Being. Lord Vishnu
maintains the universe and represents the eternal principle of
preservation. Lord Shiva represents the principle of dissolution and
recreation. These three deities together form the Hindu Trinity.
Hindu religion is often labeled as a religion of 330 million gods.
According to the Hindu scriptures, living beings are not apart from
God, since He lives in each and every one of them in the form of atman
(BG 10.39). The number 330 million was simply used to give a symbolic
expression to the fundamental Hindu doctrine that God lives in the
hearts of all living beings.
Hinduism is supposed to be 'apauruseya', i.e., of impersonal origin
& so also are the Gods of Hinduism. They are eternal & though the
deities appear to be different & independent, they are really facets
of the same Brahman, the Supreme God.
As Sri Ramakrishna says, there can be as many spiritual paths as
there are spiritual aspirants & similarly there can really be as many
Gods as there are devotees to suit the moods, feelings, emotions &
social background of the devotees.
The Hindu scriptures were eloquent while describing the qualities
of God. He is all-knowing & all powerful. He is the very
personification of justice, love & beauty. He is ever ready to shower
His grace, mercy & blessings on His creation.
From the Rig Veda, we come to know of the vedic gods eight Vasus, eleven
Rudras, twelve Adityas, Indra & Prajapathi, being the Gods of earth, the heavens
& the space.
The main Hindu Gods as we accept today can be broadly classified as
Saiva Gods (Siva, His consort, His sons, His other forms), Vaishnava
Gods (Vishnu, His consort, His various avatharams)& Sakthi or Saktha
(Forms of Goddess Sakthi).
India, historically referred to the territory bound by the
Hindu Kush and the Himalayas, is a country full of wonderful
temples. These unmatched and artistic architectures contribute
richly to the Indian cultural heritage. Temples are found
everywhere in India, in villages and in towns. The earliest
temples are the rock cut and cave temples in India.
Ancient era was the witness when religious practices flourished
the most and temples became the world's storehouse of knowledge
and culture.. The ancient temples are more than mere places of
worship. These are sacred buildings of ultimate grace and eternal
The temples of the Medieval Era were varied architectural styles. The temples
and the religious places built then were symbolic of the ruler and his richness
and devotion. The seeds of experimentation in religious architecture were sown
in medeival temples.
India has many splendid temples that have found a place in
World Heritage list. These temples are cynosure of all for their
marvellous architecture. These pronounce the age old customs and
traditions of India. These include Sun Temple at Konark, Khajuraho
Temples, Ajanta Caves, Brihadeswara Temple, and Sanchi Stupas.
Here is a detailed discussion on the history, and stylistics of
some of the great temples of India. Although battered by the
destructive forces of time, weather, and invading forces, the
temples of India remain as the greatest legacy of the glory of the
ancient Indians. Here is an exclusive list of ancient temples that
have been a symbol of faith and religion for ages.
In the long history of man's endeavor to grasp the fundamental
truth of being, the sages and profound thinkers of early India have
helped in solving the problems of the origin, the nature and the
destiny of man and the universe. Since then temple has acted as the
entrance of self-realization and God. Akshardham is not just a temple,
but a place of education, entertainment and enlightenment. There are
73 richly patterned and 63 partially carved pillars.
Spread across a 23-acres, this complex is flooded with shrines,
sculptures, parks, lakes and rides. All these come together to create
the most powerful experience of Indian culture ever to exist.
Dedicated to Lord Swaminarayan and inspired by Pujya Pramukh Swami
Maharaj, Akshardham is a miracle worked by the service and devotion of
thousands of volunteers.
The imposing 10 story high monument is made entirely of intricately
carved, 6000 tons of pink sand-stone from Rajasthan, with no steel or
cement used at all, ensuring that the monument will last for a
thousand years. More than 12 million man hours of 900 skilled
craftsmen have created this magnificent monument of 93 sculpted
pillars, 40 windows carved from both sides, and a feast of forms and
filigrees. Built inch to inch according to the ancient Sthaapatya
shastras of India, no steel has been used. Support beams are 22 ft.
single piece stone blocks. The pillars are poetry in stone, with
beautiful expression from foot to crown.
It is a very recent architectural marvel of the Bahai faith,
located in Kalkaji, south of Delhi. Shaped like a half opened Lotus
flower, this temple is made of marble, cement, dolomite and sand. It
is open to all faiths and is an ideal place for meditation and
obtaining peace and tranquility. Bahai's Temple is a marvel of modern
architecture, which is visible from several spots in south Delhi. The
lotus flower signifies purity and peace, a representation of the
Manifestation of God, to the people of India. This ancient symbol has
been given a modern and contemporary form in the structure of the
Bahai House of Worship drawing into its sanctum sanctorum people from
all races, religious backgrounds and culture from around the globe. It
represents the Bahai faith, - an independent world religion; divine in
origin, all embracing in scope, broad in its outlook, scientific in
its method, humanitarian in its principles, and dynamic in the
The Bahai Faith
The Bahá'í Faith is the youngest of the world's independent religions.
Its founder, Bahá'u'lláh (1817-1892), is regarded by Bahá'ís as the
most recent in the line of Messengers of God that stretches back
beyond recorded time and that includes Abraham, Moses, Buddha,
Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad.
The central theme of Bahá'u'lláh's message is that humanity is one
single race and that the day has come for its unification in one
global society. God, Bahá'u'lláh said, has set in motion historical
forces that are breaking down traditional barriers of race, class,
creed, and nation and that will, in time, give birth to a universal
civilization. The principal challenge facing the peoples of the earth
is to accept the fact of their oneness and to assist the processes of
One of the purposes of the Bahá'í Faith is to help make this
possible. A worldwide community of some five million Bahá'ís,
representative of most of the nations, races and cultures on earth, is
working to give Bahá'u'lláh's teachings practical effect. Their
experience will be a source of encouragement to all who share their
vision of humanity as one global family and the earth as one homeland.
Bahai Houses of Worship
Bahai house of worship are open to all peoples. Although their
architectural styles differ widely, the nine sides and central dome
common to all of them symbolize at once the diversity of the human
race and its essential oneness. Devotional programs are simple,
consisting of prayers, meditations, and the reading of selections from
the sacred scriptures of the Bahá'í Faith and other world religions.
Music is provided by unaccompanied choirs.
The Grand Structure of Bahai Temple
In the raising of the House of Worship in New Delhi traditional Indian
means of construction were employed coupled with the most modern
Western engineering design. Fariborz Sahba, Canadian architect of
Iranian origin, spent 10 years in designing and project management,
and with the help of a team of about 800 engineers, technicians,
artisans and workers brought to realisation one of the most
complicated constructions in the world. Rising pure and unsullied
above stagnant, muddy waters, the Indians have seen this flower as
worthy of emulation, teaching them to be detached from material
This temple joins six other Bahai temples around the world. Each of
these Houses while sharing some basic design concepts, has its own
distinct cultural identity embodying the principle of unity in
diversity. The structure of the House is composed of three ranks of
nine petals; each springing from a podium elevating the building above
the surrounding plain. The first two ranks curve inward, embracing the
inner dome; the third layer curves outward to form canopies over the
nine entrances. The petals, constructed of reinforced white concrete
cast in place, are clad in white marble panels, performed to surface
profiles and patterns related to the geometry. Nine arches that
provide the main support for the superstructure ring the central hall.
Nine reflecting pools surround the building on the outside, their form
suggesting the green leaves of the lotus flower. Translating the
geometry of the design, in which there are virtually no straight
lines, into the actual structure presented particular challenges in
designing and erecting the framework.
Not only was it difficult to align, so as to produce accurately the
complex double-curved surfaces and their intersections, but also the
closeness of the petals severely restricted workspace. Nevertheless
the task was carried out entirely by the local labourers. Thanks to
each one who contributed in its construction. To avoid construction
joints, petals were concreted in a continuous operation for
approximately 48 hours. Concrete was carried up the staging by women
bearing 50-pound loads in baskets balanced on their heads. All the
steel reinforcing for the shells of the lotus petals was galvanised to
avoid rust stains on the white concrete in the prevailing humid
conditions, guaranteeing the life of the delicate shell structure of 6
to 18 cm thick shells of the petals. India is well endowed with human
The architect believes that this design could not have been
executed anywhere else because it is rare to find the combination of
traditional craftsmanship, pride in one's work, empathy for spiritual
undertaking, perseverance under all odds and ample patience, as can be
found in the Indian sub-continent. As commented by progressive
Architecture of USA in their article on the Bahai Temple "It goes to
prove that high-tech concepts do not always demand high-tech
solutions." The Indian visitors, from the most sophisticated to the
most simple, expressed perplexity at the absence of any idols. It has
been a hard task since explaining to them that the all-pervasive
Almighty cannot be put in any limited form. Hence, over the years the
visitors from India have begun to understand that the purpose of the
Bahai House of Worship is to unite the hearts of the people and bring
them closer to their Creator.
Since its inauguration to public worship in December 1986, the
Bahai House of Worship has drawn to its portals more than 50 million
visitors, making it the most visited edifice in the world. People have
come regardless of the scorching summer heat of Delhi, which sometimes
rises above 40°C during the months of June to September, and have
braced the chill and cold rains that Delhi experiences during winter.
They have admired the beautiful lotus form of the Temple, and have
been fascinated by the teachings of the Bahai Faith, which believes in
oneness of God, oneness of religions and oneness of mankind.
The Laxmi Narayan Mandir (temple) built by B.D. Birla is a modern
Hindu temple dedicated to Laxmi (goddess of wealth) and Narayana (the
preserver). It was inaugurated by Gandhi with the stipulation that it
should be open to all castes (including the untouchables) and all
faiths, so it is more welcoming to foreigners than the average temple.
After visiting so many ancient Hindu temples, it was fun to see a
modern functioning one. The whole temple was quite garish, and noisy
with chants over the loud speaker system, but it was also strangely
peaceful. In the garden there was a tree wound with colored strings,
and two women were praying at the foot.
This temple was built over a six year period (1933 - 1939) and was
opened by Mahatma Gandhi.
The highest tower in the temple reaches a height of 165 feet while
the ancillary towers reach 116 feet. The Geeta Bhavan, a hall is
adorned with beautiful paintings depicting scenes from Indian
mythology. There is also a temple dedicated to Buddha in this complex
with fresco paintings describing his life and work. The entire
complex, especially the walls and the upper gallery are full of
paintings carried out by artists from Jaipur in Rajasthan. The rear of
the temple has been developed as an artificial mountainous landscape
with fountains and waterfalls.
This is one of the landmarks in the nation's capital New Delhi. It
was built in the 20th century by the Birla family of industrialists
known for its many other temples in India. It is modern in concept and
construction. It attracts several devotees and international tourists.
The presiding deity here is Lakshmi Narain (Vishnu).
Other Shrines in the temple Durga and Shiva are the other major
deities housed in this temple. Mention must be made of the Buddha
temple in this complex. Access and Accommodation: Accomodation is
available in the temple guest house for out of town travellers
especially for international scholars pursuing knowledge in Sanskrit
or in the Hindu religion.
Situated in North Karnataka, Badami was founded by Pulakesin I in
the 6th century A.D and was once the capital of the Chalukya empire.
The Chalukyas are to be acknowledged with path-finding a new
architectural style, examples of which can be seen in Badami, Aihole,
Pattadakal and other neighboring areas. They built a number of
temples, and other monuments that marked the beginning of the Hindu
style of architecture. This new style combined the best of two
distinct styles - the North Indian, Indo-Aryan Nagara style and the
South Indian Dravidian style. Known as the Chalukyan style, this style
is manifested in many cave temples, dedicated to Brahmanical deities,
as well as the many Buddhist and Jain monasteries in the region.
The caves found here are as follows
Cave 1 :
The first cave made of red sandstone, dates back to 578 A.D. and was
probably the first to be carved. One has to climb up 40 odd steps to
reach the colonnaded verandah, a hall with numerous pillars and a
square shaped sanctum hollowed in the control back wall.
Cave 2 :
Dedicated to lord Vishnu depicted here as a dwarf or 'Trivikrama' of
awesome dimensions with one foot mastering the Earth and the other the
sky, the second cave is atop a sandstone hill.
Cave 3 :
Still going higher up one comes across this cave antedating 578 A.D.
The facade of the cave is nearly 70 feet wide, on the plinth one can
see the carvings of ganas. The sheer artistry and sculptural genius
makes this cave the highlight of Deccan art.
Cave 4 :
The only Jain cave, the construction of Cave four started in the 6th
century and completed after nearly 100 years later then the earlier
Situated in the capital of India, the Chattarpur Mandir is a fine
example which presents Delhi a place that has some spectacular Hindu
Temples to it's credit. 4-km away from Qutb Minar, stands the
flamboyant and rich temples of Chattarpur. Made of shining white
marble, these temples are very popular with the city's Hindus and the
queues during Durga Puja have to be seen to be believed. The main
temple dedicated to goddess Durga is built in South Indian style.
The temple complex is spread over a large area with beautiful lawns
and gardens. Though devotees visit these temples throughout the year,
the main attraction comes during the Navarathri festival, when
devotees come from far and near. During this time, there are special
bus services provided to the devotees.
Gujarat has been a gateway of commerce and culture between the East
and the West and is one of the oldest civilizations on the earth.
Dwarka is one of four most scared pilgrimage centers (Chardham) of
Hindu faith and is associated with Lord Krishna's life. The main giant
ornate shrine is situated on the western most tip of saurastra.
According to the epic Mahabharata, the city in due course was
submerged by the sea. The submergence of Dwarka and the cause of
submergence are of historical and oceanographic interest because of
historic Dwarka is likely to throw light on the Dark Age of Indian
Ornate, exquisite and majestic, Dwarkadhish Temple (Jagat Mandir)
is one of the most imposing five- storied structures of Hindu
architecture in Gujarat on the confluence of river Gomti and Arabian
sea. The five-storey high temple is built on seventy-two pillars. The
temple spire is 78.3m high. From the temple dome waves an eighty-four
foot long multicolored flag decorated with the symbols of the sun and
moon. Lord Krishna's grandson, Vajranabha, is said to have built the
original temple of Dwarkadhish over the hari-griha (Lord Krishna's
The sanctum of the temple is formed by the Jagat Mandir, or Nija
Mandir, which dates back at least 2500 years. The Jagat Mandir has a
tall tower and a hall of audience. There are two entrances to the
temple. The main entrance (north entrance) is called "Moksha Dwara"
(Door to Salvation). This entrance leads to the main market. The south
entrance is called "Swarga Dwara" (Gate to Heaven). Outside this
doorway are 56 steps that lead to the Gomati River.
Dwarka, on the west coast of Gujarat on the shore of the Arabian
Sea, features in most of the legends surrounding Lord Krishna. It is
from here that the grown Lord Krishna is supposed to have ruled his
kingdom. Dwarka is a significant pilgrimage site for the Hindus.
Dwarka is sanctified as the place where Lord Vishnu slew the demon
Shankhasura. The Puranas mention the 12 Jyotirlingas or columns of
light representing Lord Shiva which manifested in different parts of
the country. One of these is located in Dwarka and is known as the
Nageshwar Mahadev. The Jagat Mandir or Nij Mandir forms the sanctum of
the Dwarkadish temple and dates back to 2500 years. Jagat Mandir has
its own hall of audience and a conical spire. The roof of the hall is
supported by 60 columns and the main temple rises five storeys high.
The spire rises to a height of 157 feet and is richly carved. One of
the most popular temples in Dwarka is that of Rukmini, Krishna's wife,
considered an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth
and beauty. The Sharad Peetha, one of the four Maths established by
Jagatguru Shankaracharya, is also situated here.
Dwarka is situated in the extreme west of the Indian state of
Gujarat in the Saurashtra peninsula on the Arabian Sea. It lies on
20°22' north latitude and 69°05' east longitude. The city is built on
the right bank of Gamut creek.
Dwarka is an important pilgrimage center. It is steeped in legends,
being associated with the life of Lord Krishna. In Puranic times,
present-day Dwarka was known as Kushasthali or Dwaravati and enjoyed
pride of place as the most important spot on the Saurashtra coast. It
is said that Lord Krishna, after slaying Kansa, left his abode at
Mathura and traveled with the entire Yadava community to the coast of
Saurashtra where he founded a town and named it Swarnadwarika.
Vajranabh, Lord Krishna's successor and great grandson, is believed
to have built the present temple Dwarkanath, also called Trilok Sundar.
Many Hindus fervently believe that the temple was erected in one night
by a supernatural agency, under Vajranabh's direction. Legend has it
that when dying, Lord Krishna asked his devotees to leave
Swarnadwarika so that the sea could engulf it. Until this day, Lord
Krishna's city lies buried under the sea. Excavations have revealed
that the sea swallowed five settlements, the present-day Dwarka being
the sixth in line.
The temple of Dwarkadheesh, also known as Jagat Mandir, is built on
the north bank of the Gomti Creek. The temple dates back to 2,500
years. Architecturally the temple is constructed on the same plan and
system as most of the Hindu sacred edifices of antiquity. Sixty
columns support the roof of the audience hall of the Jagat Mandir. The
main temple is five-story high with the lavishly carved conical spire
rising to a height of 157 feet. There is the one-meter tall, four
handed black idol of Ranchhodrai, the ruler of Dwarika. Amongst the
large number of temples belonging to different periods in the history
of Dwarka, the most popular with pilgrims is the temple of Rukmini,
Lord Krishna's wife, who is considered an incarnation of Lakshmi, the
goddess of wealth and beauty.
In addition to its temples and legends, Dwarka is also sanctified
as the seat of Adi Shankaracharya, who established four seats (maths)
in four different directions in the country. Research work in Sanskrit
is carried on at the Shankaracharya's seat known as Sharad Peetha.
Rukmini Devi Temple
This small temple, 1.5km north of town, is an architectural
masterpiece. Rukmini is the most important of Krishna's 16,108 wives.
The temple walls are decorated with beautiful paintings depicting her
pastimes with Krishna. This temple is said to date back to the 12th
The story behind this temple is that one day, Durvasa Muni, who is
easily angered, was invited by Lord Krishna and his wife, Rukmini, to
dinner. When a person is invited to dinner, etiquette dictates that
the host should not eat until the guest has been satisfied. On the way
to dinner, Rukmini became thirsty and asked Krishna for help. Krishna
then put his foot in the ground and the Ganges waters flowed forth
from the earth while Durvasa was not looking. As Rukmini was drinking
the water, however, Durvasa turned and saw her drinking without his
permission. He became angry and cursed her to live apart from Lord
Krishna. That is why Krishna's temple is in the town and hers is
located outside the town.
Gomati Ghat Temples
Gomati, the descended Ganges, meets the sea at Chakra-tirtha Ghat. To
take bath where the Gomati meets the ocean is said to offer
liberation. If you go out the back entrance of the Dwarkadish Temple,
you can see the Gomati River. The temple is located almost at the spot
where the Gomati meets the ocean.
The Samudra Narayana Temple (Sangam Narayana) is an imposing temple
at the confluence of the Gomati and the sea. Panchanada Tirtha
consists of five sweet-water wells surrounded by seawater. At Chakra
Narayana, Lord Vishnu was manifested as a stone marked with a chakra
on the seashore. The Gomatiji Temple has an image of the Gomati River
in it, said to have been brought down from heaven by Vasistha Muni.
Other Pilgriamge Attractions
Nageswara Mahadeva Temple contains one of the twelve Siva Jyotirlingas
in an underground sanctum. It is located 10km from Dwarka.
Gopi-tallava is the kund (pond) where Lord Krishna met the gopis
when they came to see him at Dwarka. The sacred clay from Gopi-tallava
is known as gopi-candana and is used by devotees of Krishna to make
the tilak marks on their bodies. It is 20km north of Dwarka on the way
to Bet Dwarka.
The spot where Lord Krishna was mistaken for a deer and struck by a
arrow hile sleeping in a deerskin. It is said Lord Krishna was
cremated at Dehotsarga at Triveni Ghat.
Closeby lies Somnath with its shrine built by Soma, the Moon God.
The Majestic monument as it stands today is a recent replication of
the earlier construction. It is said that the original temple built by
the Moon God was of gold. After it was razed to the ground it was
rebuilt by Ravana in silver. When the silver temple was knocked down
it was reconstructed in wood by Krishna and when this was pulled down
an edifice of stone was erected by Bhimdev. Relics of the old Somnath
shrine have been preserved in a museum housed in a temple. An
interesting Sun Temple is also located in Somnath. Somnath is also one
of the 12 Jyotirlingas or Shiva shrines in India.
Janmashtami (birthday of Lord Krishna), celebrated in the month of
August/September, is a major festival of Dwarka.
Known as the protector deity of Mewar, Eklingji Temple is located
about twelve miles to the North of Udaipur in Rajasthan. This deity
was regarded as the pragmatic ruler by the Maharajas of Mewar - who
considered themselves to be regents (Dewans) under Eklingji. A
beautiful town, Eklingji attracts thousands of visitors throughout the
year. This temple is said to have been founded by Acharya Viswaroopa a
contemporary of Adi Sankaracharya and is linked with the Sharada Math
at Dwaraka founded again by Adi Sankaracharya.
The temple occupies an area of about 2500 sq. feet and is about 65
feet in height. The temple area is fortified and a strong wall runs
around it. The main entrance to the temple on the Western side
welcomes visitors into a big hall resting on profusely carved pillars.
In this hall, is a silver image of Nandi. There are two more Nandis in
the temple, one made of black stone and the other of brass.
Other deities housed in the temple complex include Parvati, Ganesh,
Ganga, Kartikeya, Yamuna and Saraswathi. There are also small temples
dedicated to Ambamata, Kalka Mata and Ganesh in the temple complex.
There is another temple called Nathon Ka Mandir in the temple complex
with inscriptions dating back to the 10th century CE. No worship is
The Golden Temple or Darbar Sahib, situated in Amritsar, Punjab, is
the most sacred temple for Sikhs. It is a symbol of the magnificence
and strength of the Sikh people all over the world. In the evolution
of the Darbar Sahib, is entwined the history and ideology of Sikhism.
In its architecture are included, symbols associated with other places
of worship. This is an example of the spirit of tolerance and
acceptance that the Sikh philosophy propounds. The history of the
Darbar Sahib starts with Guru Amar Das, who took the first steps
towards building a shrine. Around the Golden Temple, the holy city of
Amritsar came into being. His successor, Guru Ram Das, came to live
near this tranquil and peaceful site, and started building the
pilgrimage centre around the small pool, (later to become the Sarowar)
which had intially drawn Guru Amar Das.
By the time of Guru Ram Das' death, the pre eminence of the Darbar
Sahib among the sikh devotees was unquestionable.
The Harmandir Sahib, or the sanctum sanctorium, was envisoned by
Guru Arjan Dev. This was concieved by him to reflect the resoluteness,
clarity and simplicity of the Sikh relegion. The Harmindir Sahib today
stands as the hallowed symbol of the indestructability of the Sikh
The gilding, marble, mirror and inlay work on the Harmandir Sahib
came much later. It was the nineteenth century during the reign of
Maharaja Ranjit Singh, that the proud people of Punjab lavished their
wealth on their shrine in Amritsar.
The Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs, was installed in the
Harmandir Sahib in 1604, three years after its completion. The
location of the Granth Sahib here, adds to the sanctity & reverence of
the Harmandir Sahib. Here lies the heart of Sikhism. This symbol of
abiding faith and tolerance is held in high esteem by every Sikh. And
this is the place which every Sikh dreams, ever so often, of visiting.
The fourth biggest temple in India in terms of the number of
devotees per day, Guruvayoor Temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. Though
the devotees worship him as Lord Krishna, the deity is that of a
complete man incarnation of Lord Maha Vishnu with four arms. This
shrine is popularly known as the Dwaraka of south and is in the form
of a rectangle. There are a lot of mural paintings around the Shrine.
Being one of the most sacred and important pilgrim centres of Kerala,
it is probably the only temple in the state that hosts the maximum
number of marriages and rice feeding ceremony, the ritual first meal
The Guru along with his disciple Vayudeva (god of air), found a
place which was recommended by Lord Paramashiva. Thus the Guru and
Vayu installed this deity and Paramashiva named the place as
Guruvayoor. The idol is carved out a stone called 'Pathala Anjana Sila'
and is utmost sacred. The place selected for the installation was
suitably sacred by the presence of Lord Shiva.
The outer enclosure has a 33.5-m tall gold-plated flag post and
there is also a 7 m high pillar of lamps, whose thirteen circular
receptacles provide a truly brilliant spectacle, when lit. The square
'Sreekovil' is the sacred sanctum sanctorum of the temple, housing the
main deity. Within the temple, there are also the images of Ganapathy,
Sree Ayyappa and Edathedathy Kavil Bhagavathy. Only Hindus are allowed
inside the temple.
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is the founder acharya of the
hare krishna movement. Completed in 1998, this is a complex of
temples. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
was initially raised as a spiritual society in New York to Propagate
the message of the Bhagwad Gita. It was founded by Swami Prabhupada.
In India there are about 40 ISKCON temples. Contemplating the
traditions of the ancient Vaishnava tradition, its philosophy and
practice, these spiritual temples have left a mark on all mankind.
Visiting these temples proves to be a pleasant and revealing
ISKCON temples are dedicated to Lord Krishna and were built by the
Hare-Rama Hare-Krishna cult followers. These complexes are elegantly
built and are few of the largest temple complexes in India. There are
beautiful paintings of Russian artists on the different past times of
Radha Krishna, Sita, Ram, Laxman, Hanuman and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Special programmes like Kirtan, Aarti, Pravachan and Prasadam are held
ISKCON Temple, Delhi
For many this is just a temple, for finding solace, peace and quiet.
Sitting amongst Lord Krishna and his devotees with Hare Krishna
chants going around is indeed an experience. But for those who are
seeking more, there is so much to learn and see, than what meets the
ISKCON Temple, Bangalore, Karnataka
The ISKCON Temple was built recently by the International Society
for Krishna Consciousness. As you climb the granite steps you will
encounter three small shrines before the main temple. The three
idols of Lord Krishna in the main shrine are made of brass.
ISKCON Temple, Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh
It is located within the premises of the Krishna-Baldev Temple in
Vrindavan. Beautiful paintings depicting the life of Lord Krishna
adorn the galleries leading to the main temple. ISKCON devotees from
various parts of the world can be spotted manning the library or
ISKCON book stalls and partaking in temple rituals.
ISKCON Chandradoya Mandir, Mayapur, West Bengal
This is the international headquarters of ISKCON. Surrounded by: a
Vedic city, the main Deities are Sri Radha Madhava. The Deities are
larger than life-size. There are also eight Gopis, four on each side
of Radha-Madhava. Also on the main altar is a small set of Radha-Krishna
Deities. On the left altar are Deities of the "Pancha-Tattva-Advaita
Acarya", Lord Nityananda, Lord Chaitanya, Gadadhara, and Srivasa
Thakur. To the left of this altar is another altar with an
impressive Deity of Lord Narasimha.
Situated on the eastern coast along the blue waters of the Bay of
Bengal, Orissa offers to magnificent temples, sunny beaches, colourful
wildlife, traditional tribal culture and a rich heritage. While
several temples have vanished or have declined in importance, the
great temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri is still a living and vibrant
temple. Over the centuries it has attracted kings, conquerers,
religious teachers, devotees and pilgrims. In the minds of the
millions of Indians, Orissa is the land of Jagannath. This temple of
Lord Jagannath at Puri is one of the most sacred pilgrimage spots in
India, one of the four abodes (dhamas) of the divine that lie on the
four directions of the compass.
The temple of Jagannath Puri is a rekha dwell with curvilinear
tower on a pancha ratha plan and was built by Ananta Barma Chodaganga
Dev during 12th century A.D. and was completed by Ananga Bhima Dev.
This temple is one of the tallest monuments in the country, height is
about 214 feet from the ground level. It stands on an elevated
platform of stone measuring about 10 acres, which is located in the
heart of the down town and presents an imposing sight.. The temple has
four gates at the eastern, southern, western northern midpoints of the
Meghanad Prachir and are called Lions gate, Horse Gate, Tiger Gate and
the Elephant Gate respectively.
Lord Jagannath, the symbol of universal love and is worshiped in
the Temple along with Balabhadra, Subhadra, Sudarshan, Madhaba,
Sridevi and Bhudevi on the Ratnabedi or the bejewelled platform. The
Deities, Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Chakra Sudarshan are
made of margosa wood.
Maha-prasada is pure vegetarian spiritual food offered to Lord
Jagannath. Just by eating this maha-prasada one makes great spiritual
advancement. Every day, fifty-six varieties of prasada are offered to
Lord Jagannath. The main offering of the day becomes available
anywhere from 3 to 5 pm (sometimes later). The offering times are not
exact and change day by day.
One of the 51 Shaktipiths of India, the temple of Jwalamukhi is in
Jwalamukhi town which is about 70 kilometers from Dharamsala.
Jwalamukhi is a famous temple of Goddess Jwalamukhi, the deity of
flaming mouth, believed to be the manifestation of the Goddess Sati.
The building is modern with a gilt dome and pinnacles, and possesses a
beautiful folding door of silver plates. The Devi appears in the form
of nine different flames. The principal one is believed to be Mahakali.
The other eight flames at different places in the temple represent the
following Goddesses Annapurna, Chandi, Hing Laj, Vidhya Vasini, Maha
Lakshmi, Maha Sarswati, Ambika and Anjana.
In princely times, temple affairs were guided and supervised by the
princely state of Nadaun. In 1809, Maharaja Ranjit Singh visited the
temple and after dyeing his hand in saffron, stamped an agreement in
the temple premises with Raja Sansar Chand-the local ruler. Later
after tasting success in the Afghan war, Maharaja Ranjit Singh gilded
the roof of the Jwalamukhi temple as a thanksgiving. His son Kharak
Singh, presented to the temple a pair of silver plated folding doors.
The deity is- offered Bhog of Rabri or thickened milk, Misri or
candy, seasonal fruits, milk and arti is done. The puja has different
'phases' and goes on practically the whole day. Arti is done five
times in the day, Havan is performed once daily and portions of "Durga
Saptasati" are recited.
Kailash Temple is situated at Ellora and is believed that it was
constructed by excavating approx. 200,000 tones of rock and is
possible the world's largest monolithic structure. Representing
Shiva's Himalayan home, the temple is exquisitely sculpted and is
considered as one of the most astonishing 'buildings' in the history
of architecture. A crowning glory of the art, Kailash temple at Ellora
is indeed unique. Instead of carving down into the face of a cliff and
creating underground halls which had been the practice, the
sculptors/architects set aside all convention and created a full
temple, identical in every detail to a structural, 'built-up' example,
by carving vertically down into the living rock.
The scheme of the Kailash temple is basically divided into four
main parts: the body of the temple itself, the entrance gateway, an
intermediate nandi shrine and the cloisters surrounding the courtyard.
Much of the imposing character of the main shrine is due to its
substantial plinth, which on first examination seems to be a floor by
itself. Above and below this, the sub-structure is heavily molded,
while the central space is occupied by a frieze of elephants and
The Kailash temple is not only the single largest work of art
executed in India, but as an example of rock-cut architecture it
stands unrivaled. One gradually becomes aware of the stupendous labor
that it involved (over a hundred years), and finally, the sculpture
that adorns it. Standing within its walls, one cannot help but be
aware of the spiritual energy that went into its creation - a jewel
hewn out of the rock itself.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
The oldest living city in the world, Varanasi is the ultimate
destination of all Hindu pilgrims searching for moksha from the cycle
of birth and re-birth. The word 'Kashi' originated from the word 'Kas'
which means to shine. Kashi is mentioned repeatedly in the scriptures
- the Brahmanas, Upanishads and the Puranas. It is the oldest center
of learning and the University here is still widely respected for its
Sanskrit, Philosophy, and Arts faculties. Hyuen Tsang, the Chinese
traveler visited Varanasi in the 7th century.
Stepped in tradition and mythological legacy, Kashi is the
'original ground' created by Lord Shiva and Parvati. The Kashi
Vishwanath Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple was destroyed
in the various invasions and was rebuilt in 1776 by Rani Ahilyabai of
Indore. Hundreds and thousands of pilgrims flock to Varanasi to offer
homage and wash away their sins.
Vishweshwara jyotirlinga has a very special and unique significance
in the spiritual history of India. Deeply and intimately implanted in
the Hindu mind, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple has been a living
embodiment of our timeless cultural traditions and highest spiritual
values. The Temple has been visited by all great saints- Adi
Shankaracharya, Ramkrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekanand, Goswami
Tulsidas, Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati, Gurunanak and several other
Once a great chandela capital, Khajuraho is now a quiet village.
The town of exotic temples, Khajuraho is one of India's major
honeymoon attractions. They are India's unique gift to the world,
representing a melody to life,which encompasses all emotions ranging
from love, to joy. Life, in every form and mood, has been captured in
stone, testifying not only to the craftsman's artistry but also to the
extraordinary breadth of vision of the Chandela kings.
The architecture of the temples are unique, being very different
from the temple prototype of their period. The erotic carvings of
temples, make it a must-see. Originally there were 85 temples, but
many were destroyed by the British. Today, only 22 are in fair
Khajuraho temple complex site is one the most popular places both
foreign and Indian tourists. Temples of Khajuraho hold the attention
of a visitor with their sculptural art, which is so exquisite and
intricate, that one cannot even dream of cloning it now. The artist's
creative instincts have beautifully captured various facets and moods
of life in stone. The temples at Khajuraho are divided into three
The Western Group is the largest, compact and centrally located
group in Khajuraho, includes some of the most prominent monuments,
built by the Chandela rulers. The Lakshmana Temple, the Matangesvara
Temple and the Varaha Temple form one complex and the Visvanatha and
Nandi temples are not far from this complex.
The Eastern Group comprises of five detached sub-groups in and
around the present village of Khajuraho. The eastern group of
monuments, situated in close proximity to the Khajuraho village,
includes three Brahmanical temples known as Brahma, Vamana and Javari
and three Jain temples, the Ghantai, Adinath and Parsvanath.
The Southern Group is the most distant one comprising of two main
monuments near and across the Khudarnala. The southern group of
monuments comprises the Duladeo and the Chaturbhuja temples. The
Duladeo is about a kilometre south of the Khajuraho village and half a
mile southwest of the Jain group of temples. The Chaturbhuja Temple is
Dance Festivalmile further south and is close to the Khajuraho
Visitors are also drawn to a dance festival, celebrated in March,
which attracts some of the best classical dancers in the country - the
floodlit temples provide a spectacular backdrop during the event. In a
setting where the earthly and the divine create perfect harmony, it is
a spectacular event that celebrates the pure magic of the rich
classical dance traditions of India.
Konark Sun Temple is located , in the state of Orissa near the
sacred city of Puri. The sun Temple of Konark is dedicated to the sun
God or Surya. It is a masterpiece of Orissa's medieval architecture.
Sun temple has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.
The Konark temple is widely known not only for its architectural
grandeur but also for the intricacy and profusion of sculptural work.
The entire temple has been conceived as a chariot of the sun god with
24 wheels, each about 10 feet in diameter, with a set of spokes and
elaborate carvings. Seven horses drag the temple. Two lions guard the
entrance, crushing elephants. A flight of steps lead to the main
The Nata Mandir in front of the Jagamohana is also intricately
carved. Around the base of the temple, and up the walls and roof, are
carvings in the erotic style. There are images of animals, foliage,
men, warriors on horses and other interesting patterns. There are
three images of the Sun God, positioned to catch the rays of the sun
at dawn, noon and sunset.
The temple city of Konark is situated in the eastern state of
Orissa at a distance of around 65 km from Bhubaneswar and 35 km from
Puri. The city extends between longitude 86.08°E and latitude 19.53°N.
Konark derives its name from Konarka, the presiding deity of the
Sun Temple. Konarka is actually a combination of two words, Kona
(corner) and Arka (sun), which, when combined, means the sun of the
corner. Konark was one of the earliest centres of Sun worshipping in
India. The place finds mention in the Puranas as Mundira or
Mundirasvamin, a name that was subsequently replaced by Konaditya or
Konarka. Apart from the Puranas, other religious texts also point
towards the existence of a sun temple at Konark long before the
Konark was once a bustling port of Kalinga and had good maritime
trade relations with Southeast Asian countries. The present Sun Temple
was probably built King Narashimhadev I (AD 1238-64) of the Ganga
dynasty to celebrate his victory over the Muslims. The temple fell
into disuse in the early 17th century after it was desecrated by an
envoy of the Mughal emperor Jahangir.
However, legend has it that the temple was constructed by Samba,
the son of Lord Krishna. It is said that Samba was afflicted by
leprosy, brought about by his father's curse on him. After 12 years of
penance, he was cured by Surya, the Sun God, in whose honour he built
The massive structure of the temple, now in ruins, sits in solitary
splendor surrounded by the drifting sands. The entire temple has been
designed in the shape of a chariot carrying the Sun God across the
heavens. The huge intricate wheels of the chariot, which are carved
around the base of the temple, are the major attractions of the
temple. The spokes of these wheels serve as sundials, and the shadows
formed by these can give the precise time of the day. The pyramidal
roof of the temple, made of sandstone, soars over 30 m in height. Like
the temples at Khajuraho, the Sun Temple at Konark is also covered
with erotic sculptures.
The Temple Chariot of the Sun God
Standing imperiously in its compound of lawns and casuarina trees,
35km north of Puri on the coast road, this majestic pile of oxidizing
sandstone is considered to be the apogee of Orissan architecture and
one of the finest religious buildings anywhere in the world. The
temple is all the more remarkable for having languished under a huge
mound of sand since it fell into neglect three hundred or so years
ago. A team of seven galloping horses and twenty-four exquisitely
carved wheels found lining the flanks of a raised platform showed that
the temple had been conceived in the form of a colossal chariot for
the sun god Surya, its presiding deity.
Lady drummer of Sun Temple
The temple is a brilliant chronicle in stone, with thousands of images
including deities, the Surasundaris, heavenly damsels, and human
musicians, lovers, dancers, and different scenes from courtly life.
Maituna - Sun Temple
Equally as sensational was the re-discovery among the ruins of some
extraordinary erotic sculpture. Konark is plastered with loving
couples locked in ingenious amatory postures drawn from the Kama Sutra
- a feature that may well explain the comment made by one of great
poet of Mughal Dynasty,Abdul Fazl, in the sixteenth century: "Even
those who are difficult to please," he enthused, "stand astonished at
A stone's throw away from Konark beach lies the sacred pond where
Samba was cured of leprosy - the miracle that allegedly inspired the
founding of the sun temple. For a couple of days every year during the
full or "white" moon phase of Magha (Jan/Feb), chandrabhaga is also
the site of a big religious festival, the Magha Saptami Mela.
The Chandrabhaga Mela or Magha Saptami mela in the month of
February, is a grand religious festival. Thousands of pilgrims
converge on the pool, on this day to take a holy dip in its curative
waters, and then shuffle off to the beach where, in accordance with an
age-old custom mentioned in the puranas, they watch the sun rise over
the sea. The event is followed by the puja of the Navagraha.
Those interested in attending the Konark Dance Festival, held in
the Open air Auditorium north of the Sun Temple, should visit during
the first week of December. Konark Dance Festival A dance festival is
held in an open-air theatre built near the Sun Temple every year in
the month of December. Known as the Konark dance festival, the event
brings together eminent classical dancers of India who perform various
dance forms like Odissi, Bharatnatyam, Manipuri, Kathak and Chhow. The
classical extravaganza is a journey through ecstasy, and a visit to
Konark during this time offers you with a combination of art, craft,
fun and frolic.
Magha Saptami (Sun Festival) is held at Konark on the seventh day (saptami)
of the bright half of the month of Magha (January/February). During
this festival, the pilgrims bathe in the sea before sunrise and then
proceed to the temple to worship.
The Vijayanagar Empire caused a number of monuments to be built and
patronized in the State of Andhra Pradesh. The ornate Lepakshi temples
being one of the popular temples of that era. Lepakshi is a small
village, which lies nine miles east of Hindupur in Anantapur District
of Andhra and is famous for its temple of Veerabhadra, and is also a
renowned place where the best specimens of the mural paintings of the
Vijayanagar kings are available.
The flat stuccoed granite ceilings of the Vijayanagar Empire
provided a suitable background for frescoes as seen at Lepakshi. This
temple is a notable example of the Vijayanagar style of architecture,
and is built on a low rocky hill, which is called Kurmasaila so called
because the bill is like a tortoise, in shape. An inscription on the
exit of the outer wall of the temple records that one Virupanna
constructed it in the 16th century.
The beautiful sculptures on the prakaram attract the pilgrims'
attention. These include 14 forms of Siva, like Dakshinamurthi,
Ardhanareeswara, Tripurantaka etc. The hall of creepers is another
excellent work of art, which has provided perennial inspiration to
textile designers over the years. About 500m, North-East of the temple
stands India's largest monolithic Nandhi, measuring about 8.25m long
and 4,60m high.
Situated in the ancient capital of the Kalinga empire,
Bhubaneswar's, the Lingaraja Temple is probably one of India's most
remarkable ancient, architectural achievements, with a 54-meter tower
dominating the landscape. Encapsuled by high walls on all sides, the
Lingaraja temple or the Bhubaneshwar is one of the most well known
temples in Orissa. It is one of the best and splendoured examples of
the architectural excellence which the artists had achieved during the
The outer walls of the temple exhibit unparalled carvings. The
beautifully carved and sculpted images of various God and Goddess are
unrivalled. The temple complex has three compartments and each one has
a temple each. Towards south of the entrance to main temple is image
of Lord Ganesha, at the back is the image of Goddess Parvati and to
north is Lord Kartikya. The Lingaraja temple has got various pillars
and halls which add to its beauty.
The vast Bindu Sagar lake is the center around which are located
the multitude of temples of Bhubaneshwar. The Lingaraja temple is
located in a spacious courtyard covering over 250000 sq feet and is
bounded by fortified walls. Its tower rises up to 180 feet and is
No text can do justice to the Meenakshi temple. The gigantic temple
complex, the statues exploring the entire range of human emotions,
everything here is larger than life. The Meenakshi temple complex is a
city temple - one of the largest and certainly one of the most
ancient. According to legend Madurai is the actual site where the
wedding between Shiva and Meenakshi took place. The soaring and
exquisitely carved towers enclose the temple dedicated to Meenakashi.
The south gateway contains the twin temples of Shiva and Meenakshi and
is about nine storeys high.
The Sri Meenakshi Sundareswara temple and Madurai city originated
together. According to tradition, Indra once committed sin when he
killed a demon, who was then performing penance. He could find no
relief from remorse in his own kingdom. He came down to earth. While
passing through a forest of Kadamba trees in Pandya land, he felt
relieved of his burden. His servitors told him that there was a
Shivalinga under a Kadamba tree and beside a lake. Certain that it was
the Linga that had helped him; he worshipped it and built a small
temple around it. It is believed that it is this Linga, which is till
under worship in the Madurai temple. The shrine is called the "Indra
Once Dhananjaya, a merchant of Manavur, where the Pandyas had
arrived after the second deluge in Kumari Kandam, having been
overtaken by nightfall in Kadamba forest, spent the night in the Indra
Vimana. When next morning he woke up, he was surprised to see signs of
worship. Thinking that it must be the work of the Devas, he told the
Pandya, Kulasekhara, in Manavur, of this. Meanwhile Lord Shiva had
instructed Pandya in a dream to build a temple and a city at the spot
Dhananjaya would indicate. Kulasekhara did so. Thus originated the
temple and city.
Paranjothi Munivar wrote the Tiruviayadal Puranam in the sixteenth
century. It is regarded as the temple's Sthalapurana. An earlier work
adds a few celestial sports not included in the latter. These are, or
rather were painted on the walls around the Golden Lily Tank. Some of
the painted wooden panels are in the Temple Museum.
The earliest references available to any structure in this temple
is a hymn of Sambhandar's, in the seventh century, which refers to the
"Kapali Madil". The present inner walls of the Lords shrine bear this
name today. In the early times the entire temple must have been
confined to the area between these walls, and the structures must have
been of brick and mortar.
In the 14th century an invasion by Malik Kafur damaged the temple.
In the same century Madurai was under Muslim rule for nearly fifty
years. The temple authorities closed the sanctum, covered up the Linga,
and set up another in the Ardhamandapa. When the city was liberated,
the sanctum was opened, and, tradition says the flower garlands and
the sandalwood paste placed on the Linga were as fresh as on the first
day, and two oil lamps were still burning.
Ashta Sakthi Mandapa is a convention in this temple, different from
that followed in others, that the devotee offers worship first to
Goddess Meenakshi. Therefore, while there are four other entrances
into the temple, under huge Gopuras in the four cardinal directions,
it is customary to enter not through any of them but through a Mandapa,
with no tower above it. This entrance leads directly to the shrine of
This Mandapa is an impressive structure, with a hemispherical
ceiling. It is 14m long and 5.5m wide. There are bas-reliefs all over
the place. Over the entrance one of them depicts the marriage of
Goddess Meenakshi with Lord Somasundara. The Mandapa derives its name,
the "Ashta Sakthi", from the fact it contains sculptures of the eight
Sakthis (also spelt as Shakti). Those of the four principal Nyanmars
were added during renovation of the temple in 1960-63.
A smaller Mandapa connects the large one with another large one
with another large hall, called the "Samagam Meenakshi Naicker Mandapa",
after its builder, a minister of Vijayaranga Chokkanatha (1706-32),
who erected in 1707. In former times the temple's elephants camels and
bulls used to be stabled here. A brass "Tiruvatchi" holding a thousand
and eight lamps stands here, 7.6m high. Marudu Pandya, one of the
early opponents of the growing British power, installed it.
The Meenakshi Naicker Mandapa is a huge hall, 42.9m long and 33.5m
wide. It contains 110 stone columns, each 6.7m high. There are yalis
in the capital and delicate reliefs below. Some of the carvings are
The Mudali Pillai Mandapa follows the Chitra Gopura. Added in 1613,
it is 183m long and 7.6m wide. On its wall are many puranic scenes. It
used to be without any natural light, but windows were added in the
The lovely and historic Golden Lily tank then comes into view. It
is from its banks that most popular photographic views of the temple
are taken, showing the gigantic south outer Gopura. The northern
corridor leads directly to the shrine of the Goddess. On its pillars
are the images of some of the Sangam poets, of Kulasekhara Pandya, the
first builder of the temple, and of Dhananjaya, who figures in the
traditional story of its origin. There is no fish in the tank.
The corridors around the tank are rightly called the "Chitra
Mandapa", for the walls carry paintings of the divine sports of the
Lord, as narrated in the "Tiruvilayadal Puranam". They have been
renewed from time to time. A short while ago there were paintings on
wooden panels affixed over an older series. They have since been
removed to the Temple Museum in the thousand-pillared Mandapa, leaving
some dilapidated murals to view. It is impossible to ascertain the
date of these.
It was in the sixteenth century that the corridors and the steps
leading down to the tank were constructed; the northern corridor and
steps in 1562, those on the east in 1573, and those on the south five
Two Mandapas, the Unjal and the Kilikatti, stand on the farther way
to the shrine of the Goddess. On their ceilings are more paintings. A
celebrated mural, opposite to the entrance of the shrine, depicts the
marriage of Goddess Meenakshi. The Kilikatti Mandapa derives its name
from the fact that there are parrots in a cage here. On its walls are
carvings of the divine sports. The most ornamental of the temple's
Mandapas, it was built in 1623.
A Gopura of three tiers stands over the entrance from this Mandapa
into the shrine of the Goddess. Built in 1227 by Vambathura Ananda
Tandava Nambi, it is named the Vambuthurar Gopura after him. The
shrine consists of a square sanctum, an Ardhamandapa and a
Mukhamandapa. In the niches on the walls of the shrine are images of
Iccasakthi in the south, Kriyasakthi in the west, and Jnanasakthi in
the north. There are shrines of Vinayaka and Subramanya in the outer
Prakara. They probably belong to the fifteenth century.
There are a number of historic shrines in the Prakaras. Opposite to
an entrance into the first from the Mahamandapa there is one of Lord
Sabhapathi. This is the famous Velliambalam where one of the Lord's
divine sports took place when, at the request of the sages, Patanjali
and Vyagrapadha, He danced as Lord Nataraja.
In the second Prakara a shrine, now called that of the Sangam
poets, contains images of many of them. In the same Prakara there is a
shrine apparently dedicated to Kariyamanikka Perumal, but now empty.
Also in the same Prakara there is a row of fourteen small shrines,
called the "isvarams". Many of them contain Lingas.
The famous festivals held at Madurai, include Teppam festival, the
annual Float Festival, wherein the images of Sri Meenakshi and Lord
Sundareswara (also spelt as Sundreshwara) are mounted on floats, and
taken to Mariamman Teppakkulam Tank, where for several days they are
pulled back and forth across the water in the middle of the tank, on
an illuminated raft embellished with flowers, before being taken back
to the main temple.
The annual solemnization of the marriage of Meenakshi with Lord
Sundareshwar (Shiva) is one of the most spectacular temple festivals
at Madurai's famous Meenakshi temple in Tamil Nadu. Car processions of
the goddess and the god are some of the colourful features of this
Meenaskhi Kalyanam, the wedding festival of Goddess Meenakshi and
Lord Sundareshwar is celebrated for twelve days from the second day of
the lunar month (i.e. two days after the new moon). This is a
spectacular festival celebrated in the month of Chaitra (April-May).
The festival is characterized with royal decorated umbrellas, fans
and traditional instrumental music. Scenes from mythology are enacted
and the deities of Lord Shiva, Goddess Shakti and Goddess Meenakshi
are taken out in a colourful procession. Thousands of devotees from
all over the country gather in the city of Madurai on this occasion.
Built in the year of AD 950, Mukteswara temple is dedicated to Lord
Shiva, and is carved with figures of ascetics in several poses of
meditation. The highlight of the temple, is the magnificent torana -
the decorative gateway, an arched masterpiece, reminiscent of Buddhist
influence in Orissa.
This temple is considered to be the gem of Orissan architecture.
The sculptured gateway, the Jagamohana with diamond shaped latticed
windows and decorated interiors and the plethora of sculptural work
all deserve mention in this temple dedicated to Shiva Although it is
only a small monument rising to a height of 35 feet. Literally every
inch of its surface is carved. This temple has also been described as
a dream realized in sandstone and it is a monument where it is said
sculpture and architecture are in complete harmony with one another.
This temple dates back to the 10th century.
The sculptural decoration of the Mukteswara is exquisitely
executed. The beautiful sculptures eloquently speak of the sense of
proportion and perspective of the sculptor and their unique ability in
the exact depiction of the minutest objects. The builders of
Mukteswara Temple introduced new architectural designs, new art motifs
and new conceptions about the icnography of the cult images. There are
a number of depictions of skeletal ascetics among the sculptural
images, most of them shown in teaching or meditation poses, which
seems appropriate as the name Mukteswara means "Lord who gives freedom
The Goddess Naina Devi is worshipped as a single selfborn pindi.
There is another pindi of Ganesha and a third established by the
Pandavas. This is believed to be the 'shakti pita' where Sati's eye
fell. Naina means eye. The temple is also known as Mahishapitha
because of it's association with Mahishasur.
This area was the capital of Mahishasur. Mahishasur was given a
boon by Brahma, the creator, that he could only be defeated by a
maiden. His story is a major section in the Devi Mahatmya and can be
found in greater detail in the Devi Bhagavata Purana. He enslaved the
Gods and made life impossible for the righteous people of that time.
To save themselves the Deva's got together and combined their shakti's
(Goddess power within them) to create a new Devi powerful enough to
defeat him. She stationed Herself on a nearby hill called Mahishapith.
Hearing of Her unearthly beauty Mahishasur wanted to marry the Divine
maiden. She agreed to the marriage on the condition that he could
defeat Her in battle. She defeated his armies and finally Mahishasur
himself. She plucked out both his eyes and gave his skull to Brahma.
The Gods showered Her with flowers and cried out "Jay Naina" and hence
Another story claims that a cowherd named Naina, found a cow
dripping milk onto a pindi with eyes on it. That night Devi Ma
appeared to the cowherd in a dream and told him that the pindi was Her
own form. He was told that he should build a temple there and worship
the pindi. He did so and later a larger temple was built.
Situated on the banks of the Narmada, Omkareshwar is one of the 12
revered Jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. It is located at a distance of
about 12 miles from Mortakka in Madhya Pradesh. The river Narmada
spits into two and forms an island Mandhata or Shivapuri in the
center. The shape of the island resembles that of the visual
representation of the Omkara sound, Om. There are two temples here,
one to Omkareshwar and one to Amareshwar. Legend has it that the
Vindhya mountain prayed to Shiva - Omkareshwara and was blessed here.
Legend also has it that upon the request of the Devas, the Shivalinga
split into two, one half being Omkareshwara and the other Amaleshwara
or Amareshwar. King Mandhatha of the Ishvaku clan is believed to have
worshiped Shiva here. The Omkareshawar temple is built in the North
Indian style of architecture, with high spires. Devotees consider
worship to Panchamuga Ganesha, to be very auspicious.
Shri Omkar Mandhata
The main temple with detailed carving in soap stone stands on a mile
long and half mile island.
A frieze of elephants carved on a stone slab is the main draw of this
example of early medieval Branmhatic architecture.
A cluster of Hindu and Jain temples in varied architecture modes.
A group of 10th century temples.
Perhaps the best known pilgrimage destination in Kerala, Sabarimala
is situated high up in the Sahyadri Mountains. Sabarimala Sri
Dharmasastha Temple is the most famous and prominent among all the
Sastha Temples. It is believed that "Parasurama Maharshi" who uplifted
Kerala from the sea by throwing his axe, installed the idol of Ayyappa
at Sabarimala to worship Lord Ayyappa. The temple attracts pilgrims
not only from the southern states of India, but also from other parts
of the country and abroad.
Various legends explain the birth of Ayyappa, among them that he
was born to battle the demons of Kerala's hill tribes. Brought up by a
childless tribal king, Ayyappa performs many miracles. After
fulfilling the purpose of his incarnation, Ayyappa entered the inner
sanctum of the ancient temple upon sacred Mt Sabari and disappeared.
During his life, Ayyappa reportedly kept the company of tigers and
The Sabarimala temple attracts the maximum pilgrims on the first
day of the 'Makharam' month on January 17, when a celestial light
appears on top of a nearby hill. Thousands arrive just to see the
light, which is considered sacred. All the devotees, after taking a
holy dip in the river, trek to the hilltop temple. Before beginning
the pilgrimage to Sabarimala, pilgrims prepare themselves with 41 days
of rigorous fasting, celibacy, meditation and prayer. The standard
items that are carried to the temple include a coconut filled with
ghee and two other coconuts that are broken in front of the temple.
Kashmir has produced a galaxy of great saints, seers and savants
who have enriched, elevated and refined life and helped the people at
large in distress. This is perfectly showcased in the Shankracharya
Temple. The temple shows the early Kashmiri style. It tries to
introduce the early Sihara style and has still one-storeyed gable
pediment which is evident even now. Here we find the early specimen of
the horse shoe arch, prominent in the final stages of this
architecture, as, for example, in Martand.
It was first built by Jalauka, the son of great Emperor Ashoka,
about 200 B.C. The temple was later rebuilt and dedicated to
Jyesthesvara by Gopaditya, who ruled from 253 A.D. to 328. The hill
was called Gopadri and the village at its foot on the south is still
called Gopkar. It is also said that once Shankaracharya, a famous
Hindu saint, came to Kashmir from South India to revive Hinduism. He
stayed on the top of the hill for sometime and the hill thus came to
be known as Shankaracharya hill.
This temple stands on a solid rock and consists of an octagonal
basement of 13 layers. Each of the four sides has two projections
which terminate in pediment and agable, the latter intersecting the
main roof half way up its slope. The body of the temple is surrounded
by a terrace enclosed by a stone wall or parapet, 3.5 feet high. This
in following the outline of the basement, preserves its octagonal
shape. From the terrace another flight often steps leads to the door
of the temple. The interior is a chamber, circular in plan, with a
basin containing a lingam. The whole of the building is of stone,
which is laid throughout in horizontal courses, no cement appearing to
have been used.