Important Temples in India

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Sun temple (Konark, Odisha)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built by Narasimha Deva-I of East Ganga Dynasty in 1255 AD

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • Temple complex is in the form of a gigantic chariot of Sun god, Surya.
  • It has 12 pairs of stone wheels, and pillars and walls have elaborate carvings, where some are erotic images of Mithunas.
  • The temple is oriented towards the east so that the first rays of the Sun enters the main entrance.
  • The wheels of the temple act as sundials which can calculate time to the accuracy of a minute.
  • It has Odisha or Kalinga style architecture (Nagara Phamsana shikhara).
  • UNESCO world heritage site.

Lingaraja temple (Bhubaneswar, Odisha)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built-in 11th century CE by king Yayati Keshri of Somvansh. Some parts of the temple were built in the 7th century

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is the largest temple of Odisha.
  • It has Kalinga style architecture, its shikhar is of Nagara Phamsana type.
  • Built-in sandstone and laterite, it is east facing.
  • It is built in Deula style and has four components, the vimana (which contains the garbhagriha), jagmohana (which is assembly hall), nata-mandir (hall for dance and festivals), and bhoga-mandapa (hall of offerings).
  • The bhoga-mandir hall has a pyramidical roof of several horizontal layers and has on top an inverted bell and Kalasa.

Jagannath Temple (Puri, Odisha)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Constructed in the 12th century CE by Anantvarma Chodganga Deva of Eastern Ganga dynasty

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • Located on the eastern coast of India at Puri, the temple is dedicated to Lord Jagannath (incarnation of Lord Vishnu).
  • The temple deities are unique as they are made of wood which are replaced every 12th year.
  • It is one of the four dhamas (four divine sites) associated with Hindu faith and is associated with the famous ‘Rathyatra’.
  • The large temple complex contains over 120 temples and shrines. The main temple has four distinct structures: Deula (shikhar)garbhagrihamukhashala (frontal porch), nata-mandir, and bhoga mandap.

Siva Sagar Sivadol temple (Sibsagar district, Assam)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built in 1734 by Ahom king Swargdeo Siba Singha

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • It is a group of three temples-Sivadol, Vishnudol, and Devidol, located on the banks of the Sivasagar tank.
  • The temple has Ahom style of architecture. The spire of Sivadol is crowned with 8 high golden domes.
  • The Ahom style is also seen in Kamakhya temple (17th century) near Guwahati (Assam).

Terracotta temples of Bishnupur (Bankura district, West Bengal)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built by different Malla kings in the 17th & 18th century CE

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • These are a group of temples built by different kings of Malla dynasty, each having distinct features.
  • Rasmancha temple (1600 CE); dedicated to Radha Krishna has an unusually long pyramid-shaped shikhar. It has a number of adjoining turrets which are hut shaped.
  • Jor Bangla temple (1655); dedicated to Lord Krishna, has Chala style of Bengal architecture. It has beautiful terracotta carvings set in walls and roofs with the shape of the roof being curving and sloping quite unlike other temples.
  • Panch Ratna temple; dedicated to Lord Krishna, has a low square plinth. It has an ambulatory pathway with a porch opened by three arches. It has a five shikhars, the central shikhar being octagonal and the remaining being square.

Lakshmana temple (Sirpur, Chhattisgarh)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built-in 7th century CE

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the Lakshmana temple is an excellent example of a brick temple.
  • The temple is known for its unique symmetry and exquisite carvings on pillars.
  • Images of Vishnu and Krishna Leela are found on its walls and pillars.
  • The site has a number of Buddhist structures including viharas and statues of Buddha and Mahavira.

Khajuraho temples (Madhya Pradesh)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built by Chandela kings 950 CE to 1050 CE

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • The temple complex comprises a number of Hindu and Jain temples, the most famous being the Lakshmana temple (dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Kandariya Mahadeo temple (dedicated to Lord Shiva), the Chausath Yogini temple, and the Parsvanath Jain temple.
  • Temples are of typical Nagara style of architecture. The Lakshmana temple has five shikhars (Panchayatana style) with four smaller temples in the centre. The towers rise high and are topped with a fluted disc (amlak) and a kalash.
  • The walls are highly decorated with numerous erotic carvings signifying the importance attached to human experience in even spiritual pursuit.
  • It is a UNESCO world heritage site

Dashavatara temple (Deogarh District, UP)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built-in 500 CE in the late Gupta Period

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • It is among the earliest Hindu temples.
  • Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, it has the famous sculpture of Sheshayna Vishnu. Other important images are that of NaraNarayan, and Gajendra Moksha Vishnu.
  • It is a prototype of the Sarvatobhadra temple.

Nachna Kuthara temple (Panna District, Madhya Pradesh)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Two temples built in late Gupta period

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • It is among the earliest temple structures of ancient India.
  • The site is famous for two temples, the Chaturmukhlinga temple (it has Shivalinga with four faces) and the Parvati temple.
  • The Parvati temple built on a raised platform has walls over a metre thick and faces west towards the setting sun, making it unique.

Sun temple (Modhera, Gujarat)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built by Raja Bhimdev – I of Solanki dynasty in 1026 CE

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • Dedicated to Sun god, the temple faces east and at equinoxes, the rays of the sunshine directly on the main shrine.
  • It has a large rectangular stepped tank (Surya Kund) which is over 100 square meters and is the grandest temple tank with 108 miniature shrines carved in between the steps in the tank.
  • The architecture is unique as it has three axially aligned and integrated elements, viz. the Surya Kund (temple tank), Sabha mandap, and Guda mandap.

Dilwara temple (Mount Abu, Gujarat)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built-in 11th to 13th century CE. The Vimal Vasahi temple of this group was built in 1031 CE by Vimal Shah, minister of Bhimadev-I, a Chalukya king

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • It is a Jain group of temples which are world-famous for exquisite marble carvings.
  • It comprises five sets of temples, the most famous being Vimal Vasahi temple dedicated to Jain Tirthankara Rishabhnath.

Ranakpur temple (Pali district, Rajasthan)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built in 15th century CE

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • It is a Jain temple complex dedicated to the first Tirthankara Adinath (Rishabhnath).
  • The temple made in white marble is spectacular and has intricate carvings and statues.
  • Referred to as Maru Gurjara architecture, the temple is designed as ‘chaumukh’ with four faces.

Kailash temple (Ellora, Aurangabad district, Maharashtra)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built by Rashtrakuta king, Krishna-I in 8th century CE

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • It is the largest rock-cut temple carved from a single rock (monolithic structure)
  • Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple has a mandapa, gopuram, a courtyard, and a statue of Nandi carved out of stone.
  • It is a UNESCO world heritage site

Meenakshi temple (Madurai, Tamil Nadu)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built by Vishwanatha Nayakar, ruler of the Nayak dynasty in the 16th century CE

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • The temple is unique as it has 14 gopurams (towers of gateways) which are 45-50 metre high and are the most visible structures of the temple complex.
  • It has two golden sculptured vimanas under which the garbhagrihas with the main deity is present. The vimanas of the main deity is smaller in size as compared to the gopurams.

Brihadeeshwara temple (Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built by Raja Raja Chola I of Chola dynasty in 1009 CE

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is also known as the Rajarajeshwar temple and is made of granite rock.
  • The vimana of the temple is nearly 70m high and one of the largest and tallest temples of India. It has the largest Shivlinga.
  • It has Dravidian style architecture, with a large vimana, mandapa hall, statue of Nandi, and gopuram (which is smaller than the vimana).
  • UNESCO world heritage site.

Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple (Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built by king Rajendra Chola (successor of Raja Raja Chola) in the 11th century CE

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is a massive temple, only next in size to Brihadeeshwara temple but better than the latter in terms of quality of sculpture work.
  • A Dravidian architecture temple with vimana of 55m high which is nine storey high.
  • A huge Shiva linga 4m high is placed in the sanctum.

Shore temple (Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built during the reign of Pallava dynasty ruler Narsimha Varman II in 8th century CE

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • Built onshore facing east towards the ocean, it is a complex of three temples. Two of these are dedicated to Lord Shiva and one to Lord Vishnu.
  • Built with sculpted granite rocks it is a five-storied structural temple (and not rock-cut). It is a pyramidical structure nearly 60ft high built on raised platforms.
  • Along with other structures, it forms a part of the UNESCO world heritage site.

Pancha Rathas (Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built-in 7th century CE during the reign of Mahendra Verman-1 and his son Narsimha Verman of Pallava dynasty

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • It is located at a separate monument complex from the shore temple.
  • The pancharathas are monolithic rock-cut temples.
  • They resemble and represent the five rathas of Pandavas, the largest being the Dharmaraja-ratha and the smallest one was the Draupadi-ratha. The others were Arjuna-ratha, Bheema-ratha, and NakulaSachdeva-ratha.
  • The site is famous for the bas-relief or the large sculptural panel nearly thirty metres long and fifteen metres high. This tableau has a large number of images, the most famous, being the image of Arjuna’s penance.
    Some scholars interpret it is as the story of the descent of Ganga from heaven to earth and Bhagirath’s penance for that.
  • Along with other monuments, it is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Srirangam temple (Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built by Chola kings around 10th century CE

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • It is the largest functioning temple complex in the world, spread in 156 acres, second in size only to Angkar Vat complex (however the latter is not functioning as a temple).
  • It is a typical Dravidian style temple. It has 7 concentric walls (called prakarmas), 21 gopurams, 39 pavilions, fifty shrines, and several tanks/water bodies inside.
  • The vimana over the main deity (Ranganatha Swamy, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) is shaped like Om and is gold plated.
  • It has a 1000 pillared hall. The pillars have sculptures of various animals and other figures.

Durga temple (Aihole, Karnataka)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built-in 7th & 8th century CE by Chalukyan kings

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • The temple is unique as its plan is oblong or apsidal and is similar to the earlier Buddhist chaitya halls. It employs Gajprishta architecture.
  • The temple is surrounded by a circumambulatory verandah and has a shikhar similar to Nagara architecture. Thus, elements of Dravidian and Nagara style is incorporated.

Virupaksha temple (Pattadakal, Karnataka)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built-in 745 CE by Loka-Mahadevi, queen of Vikramaditya-II of Chalukya dynasty

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • This temple is the largest temple at Pattadakal group of monuments (a UNESCO world heritage site).
  • Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it has a typical Dravidian temple architecture and is famous for sculptures of Lingobhava, Nataraja, and Ugra Narasimha.
  • The Kailash temple at Ellora was modelled as per the Virupaksha temple.

Chennekeshva temple (Somnathpuram district, Mysore, Karnataka)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built-in 1268 CE under Hoysala king Narasimha III

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, this temple is of Dravidian style of architecture and is unique as it has a number of projecting angles appearing like stars (called a stellate plan).
  • The material used for construction is soapstone (greenschist) which is a relatively soft stone, making the intricate sculpture possible (as seen in the jewellery of deities).
  • Temple is built on jagati (a raised platform and is trikuta (triple shrine). The vimanas have a vestibule connecting each to the main mandapa.
  • The walls of the temple have scenes of Ramayana and Mahabharata depicted on them

Hoysaleshwar temple (Halebid, Karnataka)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Built by Hoysala King Vishnu Vardhan in 1150 CE

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • The temple architecture has a mix of Dravidian and Nagara features. Thus, it has a Vesara temple architecture.
  • Dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is depicted as Nataraja, the temple has two buildings (Dvikutavimana) which is a plan with two shrines and two superstructures. It has a long mandapa (hall) for music and dance.
  • It has a stellate plan with star-like projections and fine carvings.

Jageshwar temples (Almora District, Uttarakhand)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Temples built between 9th century CE to 13th century CE

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • The temple complex comprises nearly 124 temples of which Mahamritunjay Mahadev is the oldest and largest one and the Tarun Jageshwar is the principal temple. Both are dedicated to Lord Shiva.
  • It has Nagara style architecture.

Lakhsna Devi temple (Chamba, Himachal Pradesh)

Dynasty and Period of Construction

Constructed in 680 CE by Raja Meru Verman

Style of Architecture, Salient Features, Important sculptures/Images

  • It is famous for the image of goddess Durga, in four-armed form of Mahisasura Mardini.
  • It has Nagara style architecture and has features of old wooden architecture with the richly carved entrance.
 

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