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Indian Temples


India is a true melting pot of cultures, religions, races and cuisines. But perhaps unlike other nations, culture in India is primarily defined by religion. Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and even Judaism all thrive in this nation of a billion. Places of worship are aplenty, often with temples, mosques and churches all within meters of each other.


The prominent religion is Hinduism and temples dedicated to Hindu gods are innumerable. With a pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, and a longer list of their multiple avatars, the average Indian is unclear at best about the innumerable temples in India and their individual architectural and traditional nuances. Confusing they definitely are, but let your curiosity rule and they make for interesting and fascinating explorations. Here's some basic knowledge about the Temples of India.


The prominent religion is Hinduism and temples dedicated to Hindu gods are innumerable. With a pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, and a longer list of their multiple avatars, the average Indian is unclear at best about the innumerable temples in India and their individual architectural and traditional nuances. Confusing they definitely are, but let your curiosity rule and they make for interesting and fascinating explorations. Here's some basic knowledge about the Temples of India.


A Temple Map

'Temple' in India is named differently in various regions of the country depending on the language spoken. In the north it is popularly known as Mandir (Sanskrit), while in the south you are most likely to come across the term Kovil (Tamil). No matter the dialect, temple in India, as in most parts of the world, roughly translates to House of God.


A Hindu temple is usually dedicated to one particular deity and this deity is usually represented in the form of an idol and is placed in an inner sanctum. Apart from the primary deity, a temple usually houses several other related or general deities, in smaller sanctums within the temple walls. These deities are usually made of stone, though materials such as silver and gold have also been used to construct idols.


Most of the temples in existence in India have fabulous tales of their origin, and more often that not are built on sacred ground. Temples also are prominent by sacred rivers, mountains and may also have been built around a sacred tree. The beginning of construction of temples and places of worship in India cannot really be exacted, though it is believed that temples might have existed in India as much as 2000 years ago.


Over time, the choice of material to construct temples almost universally became stone. Various forms of rock and even marble were and still are used to construct these elaborate homes for the Gods. Temples in India usually take on a triangular shape as they have wide bases and usually taper towards the sky. Everything about the architecture of a temple is religious, decorative and ornamental in feature, with most temples being carved and constructed by hand.


Temple architecture can also be defined by period as well as the reign of various dynasties. As Kings were the usually the ones who commissioned the construction of a temple, the style in which it was built can be attributed to the aesthetics of the era. Every pillar and every wall is usually carved to represent a scene from the life of the deity or even an ancient scripture. Temples in India are a visual treat and a testament to art and craftsmanship of the ancient inhabitants of the land.


The Gods and Goddesses

Each and every God or Goddess in Hinduism is worshipped in order to enhance or support a particular walk of life. For example, Lord Ganesh, perhaps the most popular deity in India, is identified as the God of Success or Wealth. On the other hand, it really isn't that simple! Lord Ganesh is also known as Ganapati, Vinayakar or Pulliyar. Each and every Indian God has multiple avatars, usually only differentiated by dress and their companions. So, to keep confusion to a minimum, it is best to recognize a god by features that are unique to them. In the case of Lord Ganesha, he is easily identified by his long trunk.


The deity is usually worshipped by the performance of a 'puja' or 'darshan', which is essentially a ritual that involves the cleansing, beautification and worship of the idol, as the head priest (known as a Pujari) chants mantras from ancient scripts. The priests are almost always male, and the puja is usually followed by the offering of blessings or 'prasad' (flowers, sweets etc.) to the devotees present. Devotees in turn may also make offerings of flowers, fruit, money and even adornments for the God. Devotees will also apply to their foreheads with either vermillion powder or ash provided by the priest, and bow down before the deity as they complete their prayers.


Temples also usually house holy animals such as cows, elephants and sometimes even peacocks. You will in all likeliness find an elephant at the doorstep of several Ganesh temples. These elephants are considered holy and usually bless you by placing their trunks on your head in exchange for an offering such as a banana.


Visiting a temple in India

  • Always remove your footwear before entering a Hindu temple. This is a sign of respect for holy ground. Your footwear is very likely to be safe on the temple steps, or there might be a check-in area for your footwear, where they are taken care of for a token fee.

  • It is considered respectful to enter a temple with your right foot first.

  • Dress modestly. While there is no set rule for the length of your skirt or the tightness of your shirt, temples are a place of worship and modest dressing is always appreciated on part of the temple goers and even the priests.

  • Several temples prohibit non Hindus from entering the inner sanctum. Hinduism as a religion does not believe in such discrimination, but those in charge of these temples impose such rules for their own reasons.

  • When offered a 'prasad' or blessing, always receive it with your right hand.

Every temple has its own fascinating story, and in some ways it represents the history of the region in the best way possible.

Indian Temples
Search through our pages on India

Indian Temples Indian Temples - Information about temples in all their architectural grandeur

Belur Hoysala Temples Belur Hoysala Temples - Poetry in Stone

Chola Temples Chola Temples - Revisit the past glory of the mighty Cholas

Madurai Meenakshi Temple Madurai Meenakshi Temple - One of the Biggest temples

Tirupati temple Tirupati temple - Lord of the 7 Hills

Rameshwaram Temple Rameshwaram Temple - Sethu Yathra

Swamimalai Temple Swamimalai Temple - The Son who taught his Father

Guruvayur Temple Guruvayur Temple - Bhuloka Vaikunta

Sabarimala Temple Sabarimala Temple - Makara Jyothi

Padmanabha swamy Temple Padmanabha swamy Temple - Ananthasayanam

God in Himalaya Mountains God in Himalaya Mountains - Abode of Shiva and his consort Shakthi

Char Dham Char Dham - Most revered 4 temples of Hindu Pilgrimage in Himalayas

Yamunotri Yamunotri - Yamunotri - dedicated to Goddess Yamuna

Gangotri Gangotri - Holy destination that embodies the origins of the Ganga

Kedarnath Kedarnath - Kedarnath on the Garhwal Range built by Adi Shankaracharya

Badrinath Badrinath - Badrinath dedicated to Vishnu - supreme God of Vaishnavites

Temples in Mathura and Vrindavan Temples in Mathura and Vrindavan - Temples dedicated to Lord Krishna

Temples in Dwarka Temples in Dwarka - legend and lore that surround the temples in Dwarka

Amritsar Golden Temple Amritsar Golden Temple - In the Pool of the Nectar of Immortality

Vaishno Devi Temple Vaishno Devi Temple - Shakti - Source of all Power

Konark Sun Temple Konark Sun Temple - Intricate sculptural work

Khajuraho Khajuraho - Breathtaking sculptures of Khajuraho

Puri Jagannath Temple Puri Jagannath Temple - 12 century Hindu Temple

Kashi Vishwanath Temple Kashi Vishwanath Temple - Temple in the oldest living city

Shirdi Temple Shirdi Temple - White marble temple

Thiruvannamalai temple Thiruvannamalai temple - Padal PetraSthalam

Saradamba Temple Sringeri Saradamba Temple Sringeri - Sringeri Temples

Ranganatha Swami Temple Ranganatha Swami Temple - Largest Temple in the World

Udupi Krishna Temple Udupi Krishna Temple - Kanakanakindi

Vaitheeswaran Koil Vaitheeswaran Koil - Prime center for naadi shastra

Sripuram Golden Temple Sripuram Golden Temple - Temple of Gold

Sakshi Gopal Temple Puri Sakshi Gopal Temple Puri - Witness by God

Srikalahasti Temple Srikalahasti Temple - Kailas of the South

Kanchipuram Temple Kanchipuram Temple - Ancient Pallava built Temple

Palani Temple Palani Temple - Temple dedicated to Tamil God

Thiruchendur Murugan Temple Thiruchendur Murugan Temple - Part of the 6 Abodes of Murugan


Indian Temples