13 Amazing Hindu Temples

Minakshi Sundareshvara Hindu Tempel - Madurai -Indien
© Steve Allen | Dreamstime.com

Hinduism is a fusion of various Indian traditions that began around 500 BC. The number of its followers is estimated at about 900 million. Hindus do not have a uniform faith. Thus, depending on the region, different deities – for example, Shiva or Vishnu – are worshipped. Contrary to popular belief, the cow is not revered as sacred by all Hindus. However, it is considered an important religious symbol.

The actual Hindu Temple develops from the Vedic altar, a block of baked bricks that act as an archetype of the earth, purified by fire.

The temple is the characteristic artistic expression of Hinduism and the focal point of both the social and spiritual life of the community it serves. Temples have been built in all parts of India at different times. The temple reflects the ideals and the way of life of those who built it and for whom it is a bridge between the world of man and the world of the gods. The place for the temple must be close to a place recognized as sacred and must be characterized by natural beauty and a peaceful atmosphere.

1. Kanchipuram Temples

Kanchipuram, the city of 1000 temples, is one of the seven holy cities of India. From afar, one can already see its numerous gopurams, which testify to the abundance of Hindu temples. On the outskirts of the city is the Kailashanatha Temple, built at the end of the 7th century, which is still in very good condition and is a masterpiece of Dravidian architecture.

Kanchipuram Temples
© Shafik Khan | Dreamstime.com

Unlike other temples, non-Hindu visitors are allowed to enter the Saint of Saints. To the north-west, the 59-meter high Gopurams and its wall indicate the temple of Ekambareshvara on the main Salai Road. Inside is the famous hall with a thousand pillars. Head again towards the south-east of the city, where you will find the temple of Vaikuntha Perumal with its corridor lined with columns decorated with lions. After leaving Thirukatchini Nambi Koli Rd behind, you can catch sight of the pavilion with 96 sculpted pillars (mandapa) of Varadaraja Swami Temple.

2. Tanah Lot

A unique atmosphere surrounds it, the Pura Tanah Lot temple in Indonesia. It is an impressive and extraordinary sea temple in Bali. Tanah Lot is one of the best sights in Bali and is located on a small rocky island near the coast. When the water level is high, the temple is surrounded by the sea on all sides.

Tanah Lot Hindu temple in I
© Trubavin | Dreamstime.com

Because of this location, Tanah Lot is one of the most sought-after photo motifs on Bali – especially at sunset. In the high season, however, you will encounter numerous other visitors at almost any time of day who have also come to enjoy this beautiful view.

3. Brihadeeswarar Temple

Brihadeeswarar Hindu Temple
© Jeyaprakash Mariaselvam | Dreamstime.com

If you are interested in Dravidian architecture, you should visit Thanjavur and its Brihadesvara temple. The temple is located on the outskirts of the major southern Indian city of Thanjavur. Built in the early 11th century to honor Shiva, it has several small temples and a main shrine. The latter is surmounted by a Vimāna, a 13-story dome 63 meters high, whose purpose is to protect the holy of holies.

4. Khajuraho

Erotic art to glorify the gods. The temples of Khajuraho in central India still cause outrage or confusion among many visitors.

The temples of Khajuraho
© Luciano Mortula | Dreamstime.com

The more than 2,000 sculptures on the outer walls of the temples depict gods, celestial dancers, angels, mythical animals, and maithunas: couples in the act. Kaimur sandstone allowed the sculptors to create the most precise details. In a burst of creative energy, they created an exuberant glorification of life, an opulent, sensual and serene clash of the divine and profane worlds. But in the context of Hindu mythology, the erotic representations must be interpreted appropriately. In the act of love is seen not only the union of man and woman, but also the procreative act of the creation of the world by the gods.

Of the former 85 temples built 1000 years ago, 25 are still preserved today. They are among the artistic wonders of the world. Each temple was built according to set rules, following the structure of the human body.

5. Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei
© Markha40 | Dreamstime.com

The citadel of beauty – so aptly the name Banteay Srei can be translated and thus already captures the essence of the famous sight in Cambodia. Artistic decorations such as magnificent ornaments make the Banteay Srei an eye-catcher and testify to the artistry of the Khmer. Be enchanted by the expressive temple, which is located only a few kilometers away from Angkor Wat. Even today, the citadel, built in the 10th century, with its finely crafted bas-reliefs and numerous decorations, still possesses a beauty all its own that captivates visitors.

6. Sri Ranganathaswamy

Temple at Sri Ranganathaswamy
© Checco | Dreamstime.com

The temple at Sri Ranganathaswamy is one of the largest Hindu temple in the world still visited by devotees for religious purposes. Built in honor of Ranganatha, an avatar of the patron god Vishnu, it stands in Srirangam, which is located on a small island enclosed by the Kaveri and Kollidam rivers. Take time to look around the 63-acre island at your leisure among its many shrines, gopurams and pavilions.

7. Virupaksha Temple

Virupaksha Temple
© Juan Vilata | Dreamstime.com

In an unreal landscape of fantastic beauty lies one of the most fascinating ruined cities in the world – Vijayanagar (now known as Hampi). The entire ruins area measures 26sqkm, divided into two distinct groups. The first, probably the most revered group, is located at Hampi Bazaar and the nearby river bank. The Virupaksha temple, dating back to the 9th century, is dedicated to Shiva and still serves the faithful for daily aarti (prayer ceremony). The visit during these times is also allowed to tourists and shows the temple most impressive.

8. Prambanan

Prambanan Temple is a Hindu temple from the 9th century. Prambanan is the largest Hindu complex in Indonesia. It is located on the Muslim island of Java, although Bali is much more closely associated with the Hindu religion. It is the second largest Hindu temple complex in all of Southeast Asia after Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Prambanan is the largest Hindu complex in Indonesia
© Aliaksandr Mazurkevich | Dreamstime.com

Little is known about its early history, but it is believed to have been built to mark the return of a Hindu dynasty in Java after decades of Buddhism. Prambanan lay completely in ruins for years. Reconstruction began in the early 20th century and is far from complete.

The Prambanan temple complex consists of 3 major temples to the main Hindu gods. Shiva is the destroyer of the universe, his 47 meter high temple stands in the center of the complex. Smaller temples honored Vishnu, the preserver of the universe, and Brahma, the creator of the universe. The complex originally had more than 250 temples.

9. Meenakshi Amman Temple

The main attraction of Madurai is the Minakshi Temple in the old city. Around 20,000 visitors are said to visit the temple every day. No wonder, it is not only the most famous sight of the city, it also attracts with its colorful statues of deities and its enormous size. The temple grounds cover an area of 258 × 241 meters or 6.2 hectares. Minakshi Temple is the most important Hindu temple in the country. It is dedicated to the goddess Minakshi, an incarnation of Parvati.

Meenakshi Amman Temples
© Michal Knitl | Dreamstime.com

The temple contains the shrines to the god Shiva and his consort Minakshi. Shiva is one of the main gods of Hinduism. He is considered the destroyer and the renewer and can be recognized by his trident. The Indian gods can appear in many different forms. They can be found in incarnations regionally. Minakshi is a manifestation of the goddess Parvati in this region. Shiva is worshipped here as Sundareshvara, which means beautiful lord.

10. Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat as a monument steeped in history is the most important landmark of Cambodia. It is therefore no coincidence that the temple with its striking five towers, reminiscent of lotus blossoms, is depicted in many places. For example, on the bills of the Cambodian currency Riel and the official national flag.

Angkor Wat Aerial View
© EPhotocorp | Dreamstime.com

The size of Angkor Wat is gigantic, the architecture unique in the world. The temple mountain consisting of 3 terraces symbolizes the sacred Mount Meru, the center of the universe. Together with the surrounding moat, which represents the primeval ocean, the site covers the enormous area of 200 hectares. That is 2 square kilometers and is roughly equivalent to 185 soccer fields.

11. Sun Temple Konark

The Sun Temple is the absolute crowning glory of the temple architecture of ancient Orissa. Centuries-old myths and legends buried its history.

To this day, the question remains unanswered as to what purpose and why this archaic-looking monument was erected here in particular, far from any major settlement and in the immediate vicinity of the sea.

 Sun Temple Konark
© Oscar Espinosa Villegas | Dreamstime.com

The temple complex was built in the middle of the 13th century under King Narasimha Deva (1238-1264) to document his victory against the Muslim conquerors advancing from the west.

12,000 people are said to have worked on this temple for 12 years. The temple construction is not only colossal and richly ornamented. Although over the centuries the temple base was buried under masses of sand due to the enormous weight resting on it, this would later prove to be a stroke of luck, as it preserved the unique stone reliefs. Among other things, the almost three-meter high chariot wheels surrounding the base of the temple are impressive. Uniquely, the Hindu temple was built as a gigantic battle chariot of the sun god.

12. Kailasa Temple Ellora

The Kailasa Temple, formed from a single block of excavated stone, is considered one of the most magnificent cave temples in India. The huge structure is one of 34 cave temples and monasteries, which together are also known as Ellora Caves.

Kailasa Temple at Ellora Caves
© Lu Yang | Dreamstime.com

The caves are located in western Maharashtra and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They include monuments dating from between 600 and 1000 A.D. While there are many impressive structures on site, it is the megalithic Kailasa Temple that is probably most famous.

13. Akshardham Temple Delhi

The huge complex of Swaminarayan Akshardam Temple in New Delhi is a superlative temple. Its name means, the eternal resting place of Bhagwan Swaminarayn (1781 – 1830), a torchbearer of Indian culture and spirituality.

Akshardam Temple in New Delhi
© Pablo Hidalgo | Dreamstime.com

More than 20,000 small and large sculptures were created for the monument. 148 elephants, 125 human figures and 42 animals adorn the perimeter of the temple. It took about 4 years to create the 326m long base with the elephants and the other animals. The temple was opened on November 6, 2005.