India, historically referred to the territory bound by the Hindu Kush and
the Himalayas, is a country full of wonderful temples. These unmatched and
artistic architectures contribute richly to the Indian cultural heritage.
Temples are found everywhere in India, in villages and in towns. The
earliest temples are the rock cut and cave temples in India.
They are traced at Barabar Hills in Bihar, Elephanta, Bhaja, Karla,
Kanheri, Nasik and Ellora all in Maharashtra, Badami in Karnataka, and
Pallavaram and Mahabalipuram in Tamilnadu. They belong to the 3rd and the
2nd century B.C. These are the caves directly cut out from the mountains.
First scooped and then carved, they narrate the stories of the unmatched
talents of the very first artists from the dawn of time.
Since that very time Hindu temple architecture follows a set of fundamental
rules. The sanctum containing the statue or symbol of the deity is a square
cella. A pyramidal structure rises above that which symbolizes the Meru
Mountain, the abode of the Hindu gods. This part of the temple is the
holiest of all. In this part the rituals are performed by the Brahmins. In
front of this central tower is a hall open from three sides, held on
beautiful pillars carved intricately. In this hall the devotees gather in
large number to participate in the rituals and the chants. This is where the
dances are also performed. Surrounding the hall is a courtyard with or
without boundary wall.
This courtyard is reached through a gopuram or gateway. The levels of the
main sanctum, mandapa or hall, courtyard and gateway are in descending
order. The garbha-griha or the sanctum is the highest as it is believed to
be the chamber of the deity. To this basic architecture, little variations
can be observed but to see a temple totally different in design is not
possible. Because above all else, it is the residence of god, that has to
bear a common thread of design in all variations.
Exclusive Temples of Ancient India
Ancient era was the witness when religious practices flourished the most
and temples became the world's storehouse of knowledge and culture. Here is
an exclusive list of ancient temples that have been a symbol of faith and
religion for ages.