Outstanding Hindu temples and other monuments
Hinduism is ancient religion and part of its monuments nowadays belong to archaeological monuments. Here are listed those monuments, which have been in more or less uninterrupted use since their construction. Monuments arranged by area and age.
There are a lot more Hindu temples than most people can imagine and each of these temples is much revered up to this day and contains unique values. Author has done his best to select some of the most interesting ones but is fully aware that this list can not include all temples worth mentioning.
- Badrinath temple - Uttarakhand. One of holiest Hindu shrines, devoted to god Vishnu. Built in the 9th century AD. Ornate, brightly painted shrine with hot sulphur springs below it.
- Khajuraho Temple City - Madhya Pradesh. Large group of beautiful Hindu and Jain temples, famous for their erotic sculpture. Built in 950 - 1150 AD.
- Vaishno Devi - Jammu and Kashmir. One of most revered sites in Hinduism devoted to goddess Shakti. Visited by million pilgrims each year.
- Jagannath Temple in Puri - Orissa. One of most important Hindu temple complexes, built in the 11th century. Fortified, contains 120 temples and shrines, most of them - magnificent and very diverse buildings.
- Konark Sun Temple - Orissa. Temple complex built from sandstone in the 13th century. Exceptional structure of exquisite architecture, covered with beautiful stone carvings.
- Ellora Caves, Kailasanatha Temple - Maharashtra. One of highest achievements not only in Hindu architecture but in ancient structural engineering of the world. Group of rock-cut temples, including the glorious Kailasanatha Temple cut of whole rock. Built sometimes around 550 - 1000 AD.
- Elephanta Caves - Maharashtra. Group of beautiful rock-cut temples, built around the 5th - 8th c AD. Great Cave includes famous sculpture of Trimurthi.
- Dwarakadheesh temple (Dwarkadhish temple) - Gujarat. One of main Krishna's temples, according to legend existing here since around 400 BC. Current temple built in the 16th century, 51,8 metres high and very ornate.
- Arunachaleswara Temple (Annamalaiyar Temple) - Tamil Nadu. One of largest temple complexes in India, devoted to Shiva and associdated with fire. Temple here exists at least 2000 years, current one built in around the 4th century. Four very impressive gopurams - gate towers.
- Tirumala Venkateswara Temple - Andhra Pradesh. One of most important Hindu temple complexes, founded in the 4th century (?). Most visited religious site in India, with some 6000 people as temple staff. Incredibly rich decorated temple complex behind wall.
- Chidambaram Temple - Tamil Nadu. One of holiest Shiva temples, representing akasha - aether. Ancient temple, it is known that it has been renovated in the 5th century and also around 1213.
- Badami Cave Temples - Karnataka. Group of beautiful rock-cut temples, made in the 6th - 7th centuries AD. Located in the ancient capital of Early Chalukyas. Art of temples witnesses the search for distinct style.
- Aihole Temple City - Karnataka. Group of more than 125 Hindu temples from the 7th century in various styles. Considered to be a laboratory of architectural and artistic experiments where the glorious Chalukyan style was created.
- Mahabalipuram Temple City - Tamil Nadu. Group of the 7th - 9th century Hindu temples. Most structures cut in live rock. Numerous unique architectural and artistic achievements witnessing the highly successful search for original Pallava style in arts.
- Pattadakal Temple City - Karnataka. Group of the 8th century Hindu temples and other monuments, contains numerous important temples, including the beautiful Virupaksha Temple.
- Doddabasappa Temple - Karnataka. Impressive temple from the 12th century of unusual architecture - it is shaped as a 24-pointed star.
- Sri Meenakshi Amman temple - Tamil Nadu. Important temple, dedicated to god Shiva, built in 1600 AD, temple here first mentioned in the 7th century. One of most ornate Hindu temple complexes, includes 14 beautiful and colourful Gopurams - ornate towers up to 51,9 metres high.
- Rameswaram Temple complex - Tamil Nadu. One of important pilgrimage sites, oldest buildings from the 12th century. Contains a group of temples in rich Southern Indian style, including 1 219 metres long pillared corridor.
- Thanjavur Brihadeeswarar temple (Brihadishwara Temple, Brihadisvara Temple) - Tamil Nadu. One of most beautiful temples with 70 metres high tower. Built in the 11th century, made of granite and is considered to be one of highest achievements of Indian art and architecture.
- Gangaikonda Brihadeeswarar temple - Tamil Nadu. The only remaining and usable structure in past capital of powerful Cholas. Ornate temple contains some of the most beautiful sculptures in South india.
- Airavatesvara Temple - Tamil Nadu. Beautiful temple from the 12th century - although comparatively small but contains sculptures of extremely hig detail.
- Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple - Tamil Nadu. One of largest and grandiose religious complexes in world, largest in India, covers 63 hectares. Includes 72 metres high Gopuram - ornate tower.
- Pashupatinath Temple - Kathmandu. Largest and most sacred Shiva temple in the world. First temple here established in the 5th century AD.
- Prambanan - Indonesia, Central Java. The largest Hindu temple in Indonesia. Built around 850 AD, one of the highest achievements of Indonesian architecture.
- Angkor Wat - Cambodia, Siem Reap. Considered to be the single largest religious complex in the world, built in the ancient capital of Khmers in the early 12th century. Considered to be one of greatest achievements of humankind in architecture. Initially built as a Hindu monument, later converted into Buddhist temple complex.
- Mother Temple of Besakih - Indonesia, Bali. One of the most important Hindu temples in Bali, founded in the 14th (?) century. Consists of 22 beautiful temples.
Map of described Hindu shrines
Hinduism is one of the oldest religions - possibly the oldest one among contemporary religions. Sometimes it is disputed whether the diverse religious traditions of enormous and diverse India form this single religion. Some other Indian religions - such as Jainism - in many respects are close to Hinduism. Hindu temples belong to most impressive religious buildings in the world.
Hinduism evolved from more ancient religious practices in Northern India and exact date of origin can not be determined. Hinduism to great extent is based on Vedas composed sometimes around 1500 - 800 BC. Ancient Hindu scripts were written in extinct Pāli and Sanskrit languages and nowadays these languages are used as lithurgical languages.
Contemporary Hinduism evolved around the 4th century AD, as the importance of Buddhism in India decreased. In the 2nd - 10th century AD there increased influence of India in Southeast Asia and here spread also Hinduism - magnificent Hindu monuments were created in Cambodia, Sumatra, Java and elsewhere. Nowadays Hinduism is confined almost solely to India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and also on the distant Bali island.
Hindu temples can be categorised in two large groups - northern or Nagara style and southern or Dravida style. Main difference is in the form of the structure - tower crowning the sanctuary. Nagara style temples in general have beehive shape. Dravida style temples have more slender towers, consisting of progressively smaller stories. There is also intermediate - Vesara style, combining characteristics of both. This style seems to originate in Central India (Deccan) and has well spread outside India. It has been magnificently represented in such archaeological monuments as Angkor Wat (Cambodia, Angkor), Prambanan (Indonesia, Central Java). In India it is represented by still active Brihadeeswarar temple (Tamil Nadu).
In Southern India temples often have magnificent gate towers - gopurams. These towers often are literally packed with colorful statues and certainly belong to some of the most heavily garnished structures in world.