Contrary to other organized religions, it’s not required that a Hindu visit temple. Hindus usually only visit temples on special occasions and during religious festivals, as every Hindu home has a small shrine called ‘puja rooms’.
Although Hindu temples do not play an important role in weddings or funerals, they are often used as the place to gather for religious discourses and ‘bhajans’ and ‘kirtans (devotional songs) and chants).
History of Temples
There were no temples during the Vedic period. The fire that represented god was the main object of worship. We lighted the holy fire from a platform under the skies, and we made offerings of oblations to it. It isn’t known when the Indo-Aryans built temples of worship.
Perhaps the idea of idol worship was simultaneous with the building of temples.
Temples located in various locations
Temples were important as they provided a place for people to gather and renew their spiritual energies. In most cases, large temples were built in picturesque locations, such as on river banks, hilltops, or on the coast. You can find smaller temples and open-air shrines almost anywhere, by the roadside or under the tree.
Temples are a hallmark of holy places in India. The amazing temples of India are well-known in Indian towns, including Kanchipuram, Kanya Kumari, Brindavan, Banaras, Kanchipuram, Kanya Kanya, and Amarnath.
Over a more than 2,000-year period, the architecture of Hindu temples has evolved. There is great diversity in this architecture. There are many types of Hindu temples: semicircular, rectangular, and octagonal. They also have different sizes and different types of gates and domes. The style of temples in southern India is different from those in the north. Although temples of Hinduism have a variety of architecture, there are many commonalities.
The 6 Parts of a Hindu Temple
1. The Dome and Steeple. The steeple of a dome call shikhara (summit). It represents the mythological Meru or the highest mountain peak. The dome’s shape varies from one region to the next. The steeple often takes the form of the trident of Shiva.
2. The Inner Chamber: This is the inner chamber of the temple, also known as ‘garbhagriha’ or ‘womb-chamber.’ It is where the idol or image of the deity (‘murti) is located. The garbhagriha is a restricted area in most temples. Only temple priests and visitors permitted to enter.
3. The Temple Hall: Large temples usually have a large hall where the audience can sit. This hall known as the ‘nata mandira’ (hall of temple dancing). It was where women dancers, or ‘devadasis, used to perform ritual dances. The devotees use the hall to meditate, pray, chant, or watch the priests performing the rituals. The hall often decorated with paintings depicting gods or goddesses.
4. The Front Porch: A large metallic bell hangs from the ceiling in this area of the temples. To announce their arrival or departure, worshippers entering and exiting the porch ring this bell.
5. The Reservoir: A water reservoir is constructed on temple grounds if the temple isn’t close to a natural water source. It uses to cleanse the temple floor or ritual baths before entering the holy abode.
6. The Walkway: Many temples have a walkway that runs around the inner chamber to allow devotees to circumambulate the deity as a sign of respect for the god or goddess of the temple.
Temple priests salary workers hired by temple authorities to perform daily rituals. They are not the self-sacrificing’swamis’. They are traditionally from the Brahmin priestly caste. However, many priests are not Brahmins. Temples can also be set up in different sects or cults, such as the Vaishnavas, Shaivas, and Tantriks.
A History of Hindu Temples
In Surkh Kotal in Afghanistan, the remains of the oldest temple structure found by a French archeologist who discovered them in 1951. It not dedicated as a temple to any god but to King Kanishka’s imperial cult (127-151 CE). Temples may have been a form of worship because of idol worship’s popularity at the end of the Vedic age.
The earliest Hindu temples
The first temple structures did not use bricks or stones. They made from clay. The ancient world’s public or community temples likely made from clay with straw- or leaf-torched roofs. Cave temples were common in mountainous areas and remote locations.
Historians claim that Hindu temples didn’t exist in the Vedic period (1500-500 BCE). The earliest evidence of idol worship can be traced back to the 4th to 5th centuries CE, according to historian Nirad C. Chaudhuri. Between the 6th and 16th centuries CE, temple architecture underwent major development. This growth phase of Hindu temples records its rise and fall along with the fate of various dynasties in India during that period, which contributed to the construction of temples in South India.
The Hindus regard the construction of temples as a highly pious act that brings great religious merit. Swami Harshananda notes that wealthy men and kings were keen to finance the construction of temples. The various steps involve in building shrines consider religious rites.
Temples of South India (6th-18th century CE)
600-900 CE, the Pallavas sponsored the construction of the Mahabalipuram rock-cut chariot-shaped temples, including the famous Kailashnath and Vaikuntha Permal temples in Kanchipuram, southern India.
Further, the Pallavas style flourished as the structures grew in stature, and the sculptures became more elaborate and intricate under the rule of the dynasties that came after them, especially the Cholas (900-1200CE), the Pandyas Temples (1216-1345CE), the Vijayanagar Kings (1350-1565CE) and the Nayaks (1600-1750CE).
The Chalukyas (543-553 CE) and the Rastrakutas (753-982 CE) made significant contributions to the development and architecture of temples in Southern India. The magnificent cave temples exemplify this era at Badami, Pattadakal’s Virupaksha temple, Durga Temple, Ellora, and the Kailasanatha statue at Ellora.
The sculptures at Elephanta Caves and Kashivishvanatha Temple are other important architectural wonders from this period.
The Chola period saw the height of South Indian temple building techniques, as evidenced by the impressive structures of the Tanjore Temples. The Pandyas continued in the footsteps of the Cholas and improved upon their Dravidian style, as evidenced by the elaborate temple complexes in Madurai or Srirangam.
The Vijayanagar kings carried on the Dravidian tradition after the Pandyas. This is evident in the magnificent temples at Hampi. The Vijayanagar kings follow by the Nayaks of Madurai, who brought in busy corridors with hundreds or thousands of pillars and tall, ornate ‘gopurams. These monumental structures formed the gateways to the temples.
Temples of East, West, and Central India (8th-13th century)
Many beautiful temples constructed in Eastern India, especially in Orissa, between 750-1250 CE (and in Central India between 995-1050 CE). Orissa’s proud heritage seen in the temples of Lingaraja and Jagannath in Puri and the Surya temple at Konarak.
The Khajuraho temples known for their erotic sculptures. The Central Indian style of Abu is theirs. Bengal’s terracotta architecture lends itself to temples. It also known for its gabled roofs and eight-sided pyramid structure, the “aathchala”.
The Dravidian style of temple architecture of South India pioneered by the Pallavas who reigned in parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and northern Tamil Nadu until the ninth century.
Although they were mostly Shaivite, several Vaishnava shrines also survived from their reign.
The early buildings generally attributed to the reign of Mahendravarman I, a contemporary of the Chalukyan king, Pulakesin II of Karnataka.
Narasimhavarman I, also known as Mamalla, who acceded to the Pallava throne around 640 CE, is celebrated for his architectural works. Trimbakeshwar Jyotirlinga temple is made up of black basalt stone
The main features of this style of temple architecture are:
- The Dravida temple encloses by a compound wall.
- The front wall has an entrance gateway in its center, which known as a Gopuram.
- The shape of the main temple tower known as vimana in Tamil Nadu is like a stepped pyramid that rises up geometrically, rather than the curving shikhara of North India.
- In the South Indian temple, the word ‘shikhara’ use only for the crowning element at the top of the temple which usually shaped like a small stupika or an octagonal cupola— this is equivalent to the Amalek and kalasha of North Indian temples.
- Fierce Dvarapalas or the door-keepers guarding the temple adorn the entrance to garbhagriha
- It is common to find a large water reservoir, or a temple tank, enclosed within the complex.
- At some of the most sacred temples in South India, the main temple in which the garbhagriha is situated has, in fact, one of the smallest towers. This is because it is usually the oldest part of the temple.
Temples of Southeast Asia (7th-14th centuries)
Many temples build in Southeast Asia by Indian monarchs between the 7th-14th centuries. These are still very popular tourist attractions. The most well-known of these temples is the Angkor Vat, built by King Surya Varman I in the 12th century.
still, some major Hindu temples left in Southeast Asia, including the Chen La temples in Cambodia (7th-8th centuries), the Shiva temples at Dieng in Java (8th-9th centuries), the Prambanan temples in Java (9th-10th centuries), the Banteay Srei Temple at Angkor (10th century), the Gunung Kawi temples at Tampaksiring in Bali (1st century), and the Panataran (Java (14thcentury) and the Mother Temple of Besakih (14thcentury).
Hindu Temples of Today
Today, there are many Hindu temples around the world, thanks to India’s spiritual and cultural support. There are Hindu temples found in almost every country globally, and modern India is brimming with beautiful temples that greatly contribute to its cultural heritage.
India’s arguably largest temple complex opened on the Yamuna River banks in New Delhi in 2005. The culmination of 11,000 volunteers and artisans made the Akshardham temple’s majestic glory a reality. It is an amazing feat that the world’s highest Hindu temple, Mayapur, West Bengal, also hopes to achieve.