This is from verse 16, chapter 7 of Shrimad Bhagavad Gita where Lord Krishna informs Arjuna that 4 types of men make their service to me, the best one among the Bharatas. They are the depressed, the ones who want to have more money, the inquisitive ones and the one who is in constant search of absolute knowledge.
There are 2 conceptions of god in life according to Hinduism. One is the Brahma nirguna, which is a god without any appearance, and the other is the Brahma shagun, which means the embodied version of god. And so it became the key strong force for constructing temples for gods and goddesses so that human beings could focus on the embodied form of god. Purity and concentration of mind were an important factor in creating union with the Absolute and hence the temple offered such an environment.
Temples did not exist during the Vedic period, and they worshipped fire and believed it served god. In an open atmosphere, the holy fire was lit on a platform and it was continuously worshipped by people and made their daily offerings and oblations. They believed that temples became important with time and as race advanced as they acted as a sacred meeting place for different spiritual forces and to share views and revitalize themselves. Gradually huge temples were built up hills, sea coasts, on top of river banks. The Indian cities right from Amaranth to Ayodhya, Brindavan to Banaras or from Kanchipuram to Kanya kumari are, in reality, extremely well known for their beautiful temples.
An Architectural Marvel of Hindu Temples
The construction of the Hindu temples took over 2000 years to evolve. Temples are of different shapes and sizes, with combinations of dome and gate forms. Even southern India’s temples vary from those of northern India, yet each temple in its own way looks special and magnificent. Given these differences, most temples have some things in common. Some of them are:
The shikhara–Shikhara or summit is a dome steeple and signifies the mythological Meru or the highest mountain top. The steeple in most temples is usually in the form of the Shiva trident and the dome often differs from place to place.
Garbhagriha– Garbhagriha or the inner temple chamber is also known as the womb chamber is the place where the murti or deity is placed and decorated. This place is considered extremely sacred and therefore only the priests of the temple are allowed to enter the area, not the tourists.
Hall-Many temples have a wide space where devotees can sit and pray. It was also named in olden days as the nata Mandira where dancers or the devadasis would perform their dance rituals in the woman. Devotees are able to meditate, recite the slokas, pray, and watch the priest conduct the rituals peacefully. The hall is adorned with god and goddess paintings to create an atmosphere for devotees to rejuvenate themselves.
Bell-In In most temples the temple entrance has a giant metal bell hanging from the ceiling. Each time they enter and exit the temple premises, the devotees ring the bell.
Water source-In ancient days, they believed that water in the temple premises was very important to bring purity to the temple, to expel the bad waves of energy and even for a ritual bath just before entering the temple. And therefore if the temple was not built on a natural water body source they ensured that a freshwater reservoir was established near the temple premises.
Walking area-Most of the temples have a walking path around the temple as a mark of respect to the Almighty.
The Origin of Hindu Temples
It is believed that temples did not exist during the Vedic period, according to ancient history. A French archaeologist found the earliest temple structure in Surkh kotal, which was a location in Afghanistan during the year 1951. But the temple was dedicated to King Kanishka from 121-151 AD later on, however. The importance of idle worship gradually began to gain significance towards the end of the Vedic period and thus the idea of temples came to light.
During ancient times, the temples of the group were built of clay with roofs made of straws and leaves. Often cave temples existed in some remote places and mountainous terrain. Just stones and bricks were made in later times. The earliest structures which indicate idol worship can actually be traced back to the 4th or 5th century AD. Between the 6th and 16th centuries, there was significant growth and rise of the Hindu temples and much of it can be attributed to the various dynasties that ruled India during that time. They found building temples to be an extremely pious act and therefore rulers, wealthy men were willing to put down their hands and assist in building temples for their growth and conduct different religious activities.
South India Hindu Temple
The Pallavas who reigned between 600-900 AD assisted in constructing Mahabalipuram’s rock-cut chariot temple. During this period, even the famous temples on the coast, the Kailashnath, and Vaikunath Perumal in Kanchipuram, happened. The architectural style of Pallavas began to evolve as the sculptures became more complex and the statures started to look more natural than before. Even during the times of the Cholas (900-1200 AD), the Pandyas (1216-1345 AD), the Vijayanagar kings (1350-1565 AD), and the Nayaks (1600-1750AD), this persisted. Even the great Chalukyas who ruled between 543-753 ad and the Rashtrakutas who ruled between 753-982 ads made significant contributions to the architecture of the temples in southern India. The cave temples of Badami, the Virupaksha temple at Pattadakal, the Durga temple at Aihole, the Kailasantha temple at Ellora are some of the prominent temples still embedded in our minds for their outstanding architectural marvels.
During the Chola period, the South Indian temple-building style reached its peak and the Pandyas followed their footsteps and tried and improved on their Dravidian form, as is clearly evident in Madurai and Srirangam temples. Finally, the Vijayanagar kings took over the practice and proved it in the brilliant Hampi temples.
However, it is the Nayaks who took after the kings of Vijayanagar and brought in the idea of hundreds or thousands of pillared corridors, the tall and ornate Gopurams which formed the gateway to the temples.
Hindu Temples of the West, East and Central Part of India
Coming to the eastern part of India, a lot of beautiful temples were built particularly in Orissa between 750-1250 AD and in the central part of India between 950-1050 AD. Some of the temples that enhance Orissa’s architectural heritage include Bhubaneshwar temples at Lingaraja, Puri temple at Jagannath, Konark temple at Surya. Even the temples of Khajuraho and of central India’s Modhera and Mt Abu temples have their own stamp mark. The Aath Chala or the eight-sided pyramid, along with its terracotta architectural styles, and the gabled roof of the temples in Bengal were extremely popular.
Southeast Asia Hindu Temples
Many of the countries of Southeast Asia were ruled by the Indian monarchs and constructed some wonderful temples between the 7th and 14th centuries AD. It has really been spoken about so often and has become a tourist attraction spot. Some of them were the temples of Angkor vat founded during the 12th century by King Surya Varman II. Certain important temples include Cambodia’s Chen la temples, Dieng’s Shiva temples and Java’s Gadong Songo temples and Java’s Prambanan temples, Angkor’s Banteay Srei temples, Bali’s and Panataran’s Gunung Kawi temples, and Besakih’s mother temple in Bali.
Hindu Temples in Modern Day
India has bristled with magnificent temples in today’s world. In fact, the largest temple complex was inaugurated on the banks of the Yamuna River in New Delhi in 2005. The majestic temple of Akshardham is proposed to be the world’s highest Hindu temple in Mayapur in West Bengal, requiring the efforts of nearly 11,000 artists and volunteers to complete and make this project a success.
For many Hindus, they consider the religious path as bhakti or devotion to their personal god. There is often widespread acceptance of the other wide variety of gods despite having an ishta devata or a specific devotion to one deity. In other words, it can be said that most of the devotees are polytheists who worship from the vast range of deities all or part.
Puja at Temples
The worship of the Almighty is performed on a daily basis or on special days when ceremonial sacrifices and prayers are made in devotees before the deity. Puja has a set of ritual stage sand it is suggested to be performed in a particular way to get full benefits right from personal purification and God’s invocation to give flowers, food and then later followed with fervent prayers. While some of the devotees like to perform the puja at home, others prefer to go to temples and offer prayers to the all-powerful with the aid of the temple priest who collects offerings from the devotees and presents it to the god in turn. The gifts are considered sacred once they come into contact with the images of the Almighty, and are thus received by the worshippers as the Ultimate Prasada. When the puja is over, a lot of devotees smear sacred ash or saffron powder on their foreheads.
This is again from the Srimad Bhagavad GitaVerse 34, Chapter 6 which means the mind is chaotic, stubborn and very powerful, and it is more difficult to control and subdue than wind control, o Krishna.
Hindu temples were seen as a medium and hub for communicating with the god and conveying the concerns of the almighty and trying to find a solution to them. It is said that the temple atmosphere creates a psychological effect and helps to improve the focus while at the same time addressing the god with the utmost modesty, without any sense of pride, complete self-control, a sense of pleasure and steadiness. When you enter the temple, it is said that you eventually leave behind the sense of the evil of birth, false perceptions, fears, depressions, diseases and enter a completely different world where everything else is unimportant.
All of us must have learned that ego is man’s greatest enemy and in seconds, it can kill him. It can even cause lust and rage. However, once you reach the temple premises and remain among hundreds of devotees, the whole environment will change itself and gradually the false sense of ego begins to evaporate. This feeling is the best state to give puja where both the body and the mind remain in one.
It is believed that the deity resides in the individual’s religion and that a temple is a place where devotees believe there is god. In their lifetime, the struggles that one faces make their will stronger to make every effort to reach the ultimate and receive his blessings.
Why should we visit Temples?
There are big pilgrimage centers in India. We are Badrinath, Dwaraka, Rameshwaram, and Puri. The others are the Kedarnath, Kashi Vishwanath, Tirupathi Balaji, Vaishno Devi, Shirdi Dham. For many years it’s been a common practice where devotees go to the Kumbh Mela and take bath in the holy river. In reality, it is the largest area of human gathering where devotees are immersed in humanity’s environment and remain in a state of trance.
The environment created in the temple is usually different and the homas performed by the priest of the temple, and the slokas chanted by them will take the devotee to a completely different level. Even the utensils used for worship are mainly made of copper and brass and are considered extremely beneficial. The main purpose of garbha griha or Sanctorum’s dim light environment is to create a spiritual feeling and help the devotee concentrate and remain that way for a long period of time. Many say it tells us that the only light in the darkness is Allah. He is the only fountain of hope.
Temples are locations where we do mass feeding. Also known as Bhandara, it is seen in nearly every major temple including Amritsar’s golden temple, Shirdi dam, Tirupati Dham where devotees are never made to leave empty-handed temple premises.
Organizing marriages and fulfilling society’s demands is not feasible for many communities. Since temples also arrange group marriages and have become an ideal hub for low-cost marriage solemnization.
Most of us will go through a transition phase throughout our lifetime and this is dependent on the earth and our star’s rotation and location. Astrologers also recommend remedies and specific pujas for graham shanty that is the worship of the earth and certain other similar poojas to reduce the effect on any particular dosha in the horoscopes. And conducting such rituals in temples is so much more convenient.
Many Hindus have a traditional practice of cutting first hair often called boring hair. Tirupati Balaji and Rishikesh are important places to hold and are considered propitious for this ceremony.
Some temples known for their intricate marvelous sculptures have attracted a large number of tourists from all over the world, particularly those in southern India.
Hindu temples are an Energy embodiment. And when we pray in the form of mantras reciting, singing bhajans or even meditating, studies have shown that an energy surge has been generated. Once we go to a temple the main goal or ultimate goal is to meet with the supreme Lord and receive his blessings. So when many people think of this one popular motive and make a sincere effort, a positive environment is naturally created and transmitted through every person present there.