India is a land of diversity that can be seen in her culture, religion, language and even geography. Indian civilization can be traced back to thousands of years and there is no doubt that India is culturally one of the most heterogeneous countries. Many kings have ruled over the land that we call India today. People have come to this country and made it their home. Religion and spirituality have always been an important part of the land. And this is witnessed in the multitude of places of worship and temples in India. Here people believe in their gods, differ in their opinions, yet live together in unity.
“India is the meeting place of the religions and among these Hinduism alone is by itself a vast and complex thing, not so much a religion as a great diversified and yet the subtly unified mass of spiritual thought, realization and aspiration.” – Sri Aurobindo, The Renaissance in India
The essence of India has been very beautifully summarized in a few words by Sri Aurobindo. To know more about him, you should take a visit to Auroville in Pondicherry.
Temples in India has not only been places of worship, but they are also a reflection of the era and time in which they were built. The temples of ancient and medieval India were not just religious and spiritual centres, they were also the mirror to the social, economic and political dynamics of the time. These temples were architectural feats built in magnificent ways. You cannot possibly complete your trip to the country without visiting some of these most famous and beautiful temples in India. So here is a list of some of the best temples in India of ancient, medieval and modern times that are a destination in themselves.
Famous Temples in India
Khajuraho Group of Temple
The Khajuraho Group of Temples or Khajuraho Temples is one of the most well known and most visited temples in India. The Khajuraho Temples are primarily known for their erotic sculptures, but the temples are much more than that. Infact, only 10% of the sculptures and carvings on the Khajuraho temples cater to the erotic genre. The rest are from mythological characters, gods and goddesses and the daily life and times of the period.
The temples were built by the Chandella Rajput dynasty of Bundelkhand region. There were initially 85 temples, but now only 30 are remaining. Each of the temples has an individual character, but all the temples essentially have a Garbhagriha, Mandapa (assembly hall) and Ardha-mandapa (entrance portico). The exterior of the temples has exquisite carvings and sculptures.
The grandest among these group of temples are undoubtedly the Lakshmana Temple and Kandariya Mahadev Temple in the Western Group and the Javeri Temple and Vamana Temple in the Eastern Group. Most of the temples are dedicated to Hindi Gods Shiva and Vishnu. But there are a few Jain Temples as well in the area.
The best time to visit Khajuraho is during the winter months. You can visit the temples between 8 AM to 5 PM. A Light and Sound Show is held in the western group every day that shows the history of these temples, the ruling kings and the area in general.
Khajuraho has a small domestic airport that is well connected with all the major Indian cities. The nearest major Railway station is at Mahoba, about 80 km away. Khajuraho also has a small railway station, but only a few trains run in this part. Jhansi is around 200 km from Khajuraho.
Konark Sun Temple
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Konark Temple is one of the most marvellous temples of eastern India. Dedicated to the Sun God, the temple is built in the form of a celestial chariot and is undoubtedly a masterpiece in architecture and sculpture. The temple is located at Konark in Odisha and was built in the middle of 13th century by King Narasimha Deva I of Ganga dynasty. The temple was designed in the form of a decorated chariot mounted on 24 wheels and drawn by 7 horses.
Konark Sun Temple is known for the exceptional carvings on the walls of the temple. The walls and roofs of the temple have erotic figures carved on them while at the base, there are images of animals, warriors on horses and other interesting figures depicting the life of those times.
Today, what is seen of the Konark Temple is only the entrance of the main Temple. Only a part of the temple could withstand the ravages of time. But what we have today is enough to awe its visitors. Just imagine how the entire temple would have looked!
Konark is about 72 km from Bhubaneswar and can be reached by car and buses from the capital city. Konark forms the Golden Triangle of Odisha along with Puri and Bhubaneswar. Usually, all these three places are visited together.
Contributed by Agni & Amrita from Tale of 2 Backpackers
The Kedarnath Temple, one of the Char Dhams of India, is located at 11,755 feet on the banks of River Mandakini in the Garhwal Himalayan range of Uttarakhand. It is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and is accessible only from May to October- November. The Temple can be reached only by an 18-20 kilometres trek or by taking services from ponies, palanquins or Pithus from Gaurikund.
The temple is believed to be built by Guru Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century whereas others claim it to be built by Raja Bhoj of Malwa in the 2nd century. According to Hindu mythology, the temple was initially built by Pandavas whereas another Hindu story says, a Hindu Deity Nar Narayana performed a severe act of austerity and on getting pleased, Lord Shiva appeared in front of them to grant their wish. So, the Deity requested Lord Shiva to stay here in the original form i.e. Jyotilingam for the welfare of humanity.
Whereas the Geologist says that the Kedarnath temple remained hidden under the snow for 400 years during the Little Ice Age-era i.e. from 1300 to 1900 AD.
Kedarnath Temple is an old stone temple and has a stout architecture. It is 85 feet high, 187 feet in length and 80 feet wide. Its walls are 12 feet thick and are built from extremely strong stones.
The Temple is dark and gloomy from inside. The first hall houses statues of the five Pandava brothers, their consort Drapudi, Lord Krishna, Nandi- the vehicle of Shiva in the centre and Virabhadra (one of the guards of Shiva). The main hall has a conical or triangular-shaped stone in the centre considered to be the Dhad (Torso) of Lord Shiva. Whereas outside the Temple in front, there is a huge statue of Nandi, on both sides there are beautiful colourful doors and at the back is an Amrit Kund and Shri Divya Bhim Shila.
Temple Timings are: 4:00 am -9:00 pm
Contributed by Suruchi from AllGudThings
Dwarakadhish Temple, located near the bank of Gomti River is a world in itself. Dwaraka, the kingdom of Lord Krishna is a place that will transport you to the days of yore. The King of Dwaraka, Lord Krishna was known as Dwarakadhish and the temple dedicated to him is one of the most revered temples in India.
The temple is believed to have been built more than 2500 years ago by Vajranabh, the grandson of Lord Krishna. The current structure, however, is built between a span of 8th to 18th century AD. The giant temple stands at an elevation of about 80 metres. The towering Shikhara over the Garbhagriha is built in Nagara style architecture and is 43 m height. On top of the Shikhara is a huge flag made from 52 yards of cloth and is seen from a distance of 10 km. The architecture of the temple is Solanki style that is seen in the majority of the temples of Gujarat. The temple walls have beautiful carvings but not as much as the Brihadeeswara Temple or the Khajuraho group of Temples. The interior of the temple is however strikingly simple in design. The temple has a beautiful black coloured idol of Lord Krishna.
There are two main gates in the temple – the Swarg Dwar (Gateway to Heaven) and the Moksha Dwar (Door to Salvation).
The temple remains open from 7 AM to 12.30 PM and again from 5 PM to 9.30 PM.
The nearest airport is at Jamnagar, 137 km away from Dwaraka. Direct buses to Dwaraka are available from Jamnagar and Ahmedabad. There is also a railway station at Dwaraka on the Ahmedabad-Okha railway line.
Bhoram Deo Temple, Chhattisgarh
Located inside the picturesque dense forest, 1000 years old Bhoram Deo Temple is famously known as the Khajuraho of Chhattisgarh for its open art gallery on the outer walls displaying sculptures similar to Temples of Khajuraho and Konark. It was a lost and deep buried under mud and forest for many centuries before Lord Cunningham, the first Director-General of ASI, discovered this in late 19th century and found it to be the most stunning temple complex.
It exhibits intimate and sensuous poses from Kamasutra on exterior walls which give a glimpse to the social and cultural life of that era. The fine and skilful work is the testimony to the creative capability of the Indian craftsmen who built this outstanding structure under the patronage of Tribal Rulers of Nagvanshi clan. Nagvanshi rulers worshipped snake as the deity, considered Shiva as the supreme god and practised Tantric system of rituals. Erotic exterior and mystic interior of the temple gives a tantric aura to this temple which is a common feature to most of the temple of Chhattisgarh. Temple’s dark sanctum sanctorum is built below ground level and houses Shiva Lingam which is accompanied by Ganesha in unique warrior posture.
It is believed that the grand story of Indian Temple art started from this temple and achieved its peak in 200 years at Khajuraho before exhibiting its grandest form in the 13th century at Konark Temples. Orissa. The Maikal range of Mountains, dense forest and tranquil lake create a perfect setting to explore and experience the wonder called Bhoram Deo temple.
Contributed by Himanshu Barsainya from Everything Candid
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
According to Hindu mythology, Varanasi is said to be the first-ever city to be established by the Hindu Lord Shiva. This is why Lord Shiva is held in very high regard in the city of Varanasi. Shree Kashi Vishwanath Temple is the most famous temple in India that is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It’s also said to be one of the twelve holiest of Shiva temples.
This ancient temple has a tremendous history. From being demolished or destroyed by multiple Mughal and/or other Muslim rulers to being rebuilt those many times, to receiving donations in the form of silver and gold from various rulers to build the temple exteriors, this temple has a massive history behind it. The temple is located in a lane called Vishwanath Gali in Varanasi, U.P., India along the banks of the holy river Ganga. Visitors are required to dress modestly and carrying electronic items inside the temple is prohibited due to security reasons. The temple is a sight in itself with the main deity circumferenced in a silver altar. This impressive temple consists of a dome made of gold, one spire also made of gold and a second spire made of gold located atop Lord Vishwanath carrying a flag and a trident. There’s a new Vishwanath temple inside the BHU (Banaras Hindu University) campus that mimics the original temple, where visitors are free to roam freely and photograph the temple.
Contributed by Soujanya Rai from The Spicy Journey
Kamakhaya Temple is dedicated to Goddess and one of the oldest of the 51 Shakti Pithas in India. According to the ancient record, the Kamakhya temple was built around the 5th Century by the Varman kings. Based on the archaeological evidence it was a grand temple in the 8th-9th century. In the 17th century when Ahom kings came to power in Assam, they renovated and rebuilt the temple.
It is made in The Nilachal type is a type of Hindu temple architecture that is mostly found in Assam.
Temples open at 8.00 AM and closes at 8.30 PM. It remains closed for 3 days in the month of Hindu calendar Ashaad, which falls in June. This is the major festival of this temple and it is believed that goddess menstruates during these days. The red fluid that comes out of the temple is distributed to devotees as Prasad during the festival.
Temple is situated on a Nilachal hill slightly outside the Guwahati. There are buses between the temple to the main market of Guwahati but it is better to take an autorickshaw or app-based cab service which is more convenient and doesn’t cost too much. Wear comfortable shoes, as you have to climb stairs to reach the temple.
Temple is dedicated to Goddess and it is also believed that tantric practices are performed here. Animal sacrifice is also performed in the temple. If someone approaches you for some special Pooja don’t fall for it because they can scam you.
There is no special dress code but it is advisable to dress modestly.
Contributed by Sapna Kapoor from My Simple Sojourn
Rajasthan is known for its palaces, forts and temples. Not only from India, but from all parts of the world, people visit Rajasthan throughout the year to see them. Bhandreshwar or Bhandasar Temple in Bikaner is one of them. It has a very interesting story. The ornate two-storied temple was built in 15th century by a merchant named Bhandasa Oswal and hence the name. It was built during a drought situation and he was requested not to use water. So 40,000 Kg of pure ghee was used in its foundation. It is said that the ghee seeps through the walls during summer and shines the floor. What is more attractive is the stunning temple interior with vibrant paintings which have gold leaf patterns and ornamented mirror work. Intricate work on the pillars keeps people charmed. Also used are red sandstone and yellow stones.
While visiting the temple, one should take care of the following: Leather items such as belt, wallets and purse are not allowed inside the temple. Do not carry any kind of food inside the temple. Dress modestly. There is no need for a guide, the temple priest speaks 10 languages and is happy to explain things. It is advised not to take a car, rather take rickshaws as the locals do.
Contributed by Nisha and Vasu from Lemonicks
Karni Mata Temple (Deshnok, Rajasthan)
Karni Mata Temple in Deshnok houses more than 20,000 rats which are venerated by the Hindus, making it one of the most peculiar places in India. The temple’s story is built around Karni Mata requesting Yama, the God of Death, to reincarnate her son who died of drowning. Yama then gave Karni Mata the power to reincarnate her clan into rats.
Devotees offer milk and sweets to the rats and believe that this will bring them good fortune. Pilgrims also aspire to see rare white rats among the black rats. White rats are considered to be manifestations of Karni Mata and her sons.
The temple was built in the 1900s by Maharaja Ganga Singh under the influence of Mughal architecture, a fusion of Islamic, Persian and Indian design. The main gate is an ornately designed silver door while the façade is made of intricate marble carvings.
The best time to visit the temple is during the Navratri Festival, held in honour of the goddess Durga, which happens from March to April and September to October. Karni Mata is believed to be Durga’s incarnation. Visitors are advised to dress conservatively and must walk barefoot through the temple.
If you are in Bikaner for a camel safari, you might as well visit Karni Mata Temple, located 30 kilometres from Bikaner town proper. You can ride a public bus for about an hour or hire a taxi from Bikaner to get to the temple.
Surprisingly, the rats did not smell bad unlike the rats found elsewhere. Maybe it’s because rats inside the Karni Mata Temple are fed with milk and grains. Just outside the temple are numerous vendors of special rat food which the devotees can buy and offer to the rats when they pay a visit to the temple.
Contributed by Jing Calonge from Finding Jing
Sun Temple, Modhera
Located at Modhera town near Ahmedabad, Sun temple is mainly dedicated to Lord Surya [Sun] built by King Bhimdev of Chalukya dynasty in 11th Century. It is built on the banks of river Pushpavati in AD 1026-1027. The Sun Temple in Modhera is built in complex Maru- Gujar style and the place is also said to be blessed by Lord Rama.
The interesting thing about this temple is that there is no idol of Sun now in the temple premises and so no worship is offered here. There was once a golden idol of Sun with a chariot in the temple and also a chamber with gold. But it was plundered by Mahmud of Ghazni who damaged the idols as well. The temple is known for its beautiful and detailed architecture with sculptural patterns of Gods, Goddesses, birds and flowers etc.
The hall or Garbhgriha is designed in such a way that idol gets the first ray of sun on equinoxes. Every pillar and walls of the temple contain beautiful carvings of sexual and amorous acts which tech how to lead social life in reality from child-birth to death.
This temple not only depicts history and grandeur of Solanki Patrons but is simply engineering marvel of Gujarat.
You can reach to Modhera by Bus from Ahmadabad which is well connected by air, bus and road from major cities of India.
Modhera Dance Festival is organized every year which is visited by art and dance lovers from all across the world.
Contributed by Mayuri from Fernwehrahee
Golden Temple, Amritsar
The Golden Temple in Amritsar is not only one of the most revered pilgrimage sites for the Sikhs but is also a symbol of brotherhood and equality. Located in the city of Amritsar in Punjab, the place is a symbol of serenity and peace. The Golden Temple as we see in the pictures is just a small part of a huge Gurudwara complex known as Harmandir Sahib. The golden coloured central shrine is surrounded by Amrit Sarovar, the ancient pool or tank from which Amritsar takes its name.
The architecture of the Golden Temple is a mix of both Hindu and Islamic styles. The lower level is built of marble adorned with flower and animal motif while the shimmering second level is gilded with gold panels. The shrine is topped with a dome that is gilded with 750 kg of gold.
There are other shrines along the edge of the compound. The Golden Temple is a place for peace and you can feel the piousness of the place once you visit there.
Amritsar is well connected by train from almost all the major railway stations of India like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Agra, Ahmedabad and Chandigarh.
Somnath Temple, Gujarat
The Somnath Temple located in the western coast of Gujarat is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva in India. Somnath means “protector of the Moon God”. Legend has it that Moon God Chandra or Soma was too proud of his radiant beauty. Also in spite of having 27 wives, he favoured only one, Rohini. This angered King Daksha (all the 27 wives of Soma were his daughters) and he cursed Soma that he would lose his eternal beauty and wane into the darkness. Soma was scared and prayed to Lord Shiva for repentance. Lord Shiva blessed him that he would regain his radiance every time he lost it. This is why the moon wanes, but again grows and shines in an eternal cycle! It seems Indian mythology has answers to every natural phenomenon!
Somnath Temple is known as the “Shrine eternal” as the temple has been invaded and destroyed six times and consequently rebuilt six times!
Somnath Temple was considered to be one of the richest temples and was so the target of the invaders as well. The temple has a 150 feet Shikhara topped by a Kalash that weighs around 10 tonnes. The temple is built in the Chalukya style of architecture. Located just near the seashore, the Somnath Temple is one of the most beautiful and revered temples in India.
Lingaraj Temple, Bhubaneswar
The Lingaraja Temple located in Bhubaneswar is one of the oldest and finest examples of Odisha temple architecture. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva or Tribhuvaneswar. Te word “Lingaraj” means “the king of Lingas” where Linga is the phallic form of Lord Shiva.
Lingaraj Temple has a typical architectural style of the temples found in Odisha with a towering Deul (the main tower) built entirely of stone on top of the Garbhagriha. The outer surface of the temple has exuberant sculptures of gods and goddesses, nymphs and other celestial beings. Lingaraj Temple was built in the 11th century by King Jajati Keshari though some parts of the temple are believed to be from the 6th century. Sprawled over an area of 25000 sq feet, the towering Lingaraj Temple and its subsidiary shrines are one of the most famous attractions of Bhubaneswar city.
Bhubaneswar is well connected by air, railways and road from all the major cities of India.
The Lingaraj Temple remains open from 5 AM to 9 PM every day. It receives a large number of visitors during Mahashivratri.
How many of these temples have you visited? Which one is your favourite temple and why do you like it? Tell us in comments below.
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