Famous Temples in India Or Indian Temple
Cave Temples at Ajanta & Ellora
Cave Temples at Ajanta & Ellora (Aurangabad, Maharashtra): Fashioned out of rock by little more than simple hand-held tools, the cave temples at Ajanta (created by Buddhist monks between the 2nd and 7th c.) and Ellora (a marriage of Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain temples, created between the 4th and 9th c.) are the finest examples of rock-cut architecture in India, and deserving of their World Heritage status. The zenith is Kailashnath Temple, effectively a mountain whittled down to a free-standing temple.
Lord Gomateswara Monolith (Sravanabelagola, Karnataka)
One of the oldest (ca. A.D. 918) and most important Jain pilgrimage sites, this 18m (60-ft.) statue of the naked Lord Gomateswara—a representation of Bahubali, son of the first Jain tirthankara, said to have sought enlightenment by standing naked and motionless for an entire year—is the tallest monolithic statue on Earth.
Scattered among the Henri Moore–like boulders in the heart of Karnataka’s rural interior, Hampi was once the royal seat of the powerful Vijayanagar kingdom, its size and wealth drawing comparisons with imperial Rome. Today, the city has crumbled away to a few starkly beautiful leftovers, but the remote setting couldn’t be more romantic.
The Temples of Mamallapuram (Tamil Nadu)
A visit to this oncethriving port city of the Pallava dynasty, who ruled much of South India between the 4th and 9th centuries A.D., is an essential stop on Tamil Nadu’s temple tour. The earliest examples of monumental architecture in southern India (the celebrated Arjuna’s Penance is the largest relief-carving on earth), these rock-cut shrines are best explored in the morning, leaving you time to unwind on the pleasant beach and dine on succulent seafood at village cafes for a song.
Shri Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar Temple (Madurai, Tamil Nadu)
Alive with prayers, processions, garland- makers, and joyous devotees who celebrate the mythological romance between the beautiful threebreasted goddess and her mighty Lord Shiva, this colorful and lively complex of shrines, halls, and market stalls is almost Disneyesque, marked as it is by numerous entrance towers tangled with colorful stucco gods, demons, beasts, and mythological heroes. It truly embodies the spirit of Tamil Nadu’s deeply embedded temple culture.
The Temples of Khajuraho (Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh)
Built between the 10th and 12th centuries by the Chandela Rajputs, these World Heritage Site monuments are most famous for the erotic sculptures that writhe across the interiors and exteriors. But even the temple designs— their soaring shikharas (spires) serving as metaphoric “stairways to heaven”— are striking, and are considered the apotheosis of medieval Hindu architecture.
Jain Temples of Rajasthan & Gujarat (Ranakpur and Mount Abu, near Udaipur, Rajasthan, and Palitana, Gujarat)
The Jains put all their devotional passion (and not inconsiderable wealth) into the creation of the most ornate marble temples; with exquisitely detailed relief carvings covering every inch, they are all jawdroppingly beautiful. Make sure you visit at least one while you’re in India, preferably either Ranakpur Temple or Dilwara Temple in Rajasthan. Or head for Palitana, in Gujarat, where 850 Jain temples and 1,000 shrines top sacred Mount Satrunjaya, “the hill that conquers enemies.”
Golden Temple (Amritsar, Punjab)
Arguably the greatest spiritual monument in India. The name derives from the central gold-plated Hari Mandir— the inner sanctuary featuring goldplated copper cupolas and white marble walls inlaid with precious stones—which sits at the center of the “Pool of Nectar.” Every day thousands of disciplined devotees pay their respects, touching their heads to the glistening marble floor while singing devotional songs continuously—a wonderful, welcoming, and humbling experience.
The Sun Temple at Konark (near Bhubaneswar, Orissa)
An enormous war chariot carved from a massive chunk of rock during the 13th century, this masterpiece of Indian temple art is covered with detailed sculpted scenes, from the erotic to the mythological. Guarded by stone elephants and lions, the immense structure is seen as the gigantic chariot of the sun god emerging from the ocean, not far from Orissa’s 500km (300-mile) beach.