Temples of India - part II

Madanakaias, bracket figure, Chennakeshava temple, Belur, Karnataka, 12th century. These are nayikas, or beautiful women, seen in Indic art from early times. They represent the fertile abundance of nature.

Hoysalesvara temple, Halebid, Karnataka, 12th century. The temple was built between A.D. 1121 and 1160. The area of Halebid, known as Dorasamudra, was the grand capital of the Hoysalas.

Lakshmana temple, Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, 10th century. This is one of the best-preserved temples in Khajuraho. An inscription at the base of the temple, which dates it to A.D. 954, says King Yasovarman erected a “splendid home of Vishnu… which rivals the peaks of the mountains of snow”.

Ratha, Vitthala temple, Hampi, Karnataka, 16th century. The stone chariot in the courtyard of the Vitthala temple is a unique sculptural representation of the wooden procession cars used to take the temple deities out into the streets.

Virupaksha temple, Hampi, Karnataka, 14th century. Located 350 kilometres from Bangalore, this group of monuments is a World Heritage Site. Virupaksha is a form of Siva. There are other temples dedicated to him, notably at Pattadakal, in Karnataka, another World Heritage Site.

Vishwanatha temple, Khajuraho, 11th century. It displays the analogy of the temple with mountain ranges. The soaring height of the tower represents the magnificence of the true knowledge to be found in the garbha griha.

Siva temple, Mitavali, Madhya Pradesh. This temple, situated on a high hill, is dedicated to the 64 yoginis. The circular construction, with a radius of 170 feet (51 metres), was the architectural inspiration for the Parliament building in New Delhi. There are 64 rooms attached to its circular verandah. At the centre, there is a circular temple dedicated to Siva.

Shivpuri temple, Madhya Pradesh. Located in the Gwalior division, the temple is situated at the crossroads of culture, in the tri-State junction of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

Raja Mahipal’s temple, or Sahastro-Baho temple, Gwalior Fort, Madhya Pradesh, 11th century. Misnamed the Sas-bahu temple, the 1,000-armed temple presents a vision of the beauty of creation. It is envisaged as a world, the richness of whose variety is endless, yet it is only a representation of the divine.

Pawapuri, Jaina temple, Bihar. In the 6th century B.C., Mahavira, the last of the 24 Jaina Tirthankaras, achieved moksha, or liberation, from the cycle of life and death. He was cremated at Pawapuri, also known as Apapuri (the sinless town). There was a great rush to collect his ashes, with the result that so much soil was removed from the place of his cremation that a pond was created. Now two Jaina temples, made of white marble, stand at Pawapuri.

Rumtek Buddhist monastery, near Gagtok, Sikkim., 8th century. Guru Padmasambhava of Nalanda University took Vajrayana Buddhism from Kashmir across the entire Himalayan belt. He converted the people of the Sikkim region to Buddhism. The Rumtek monastery is one of the most important centres of the Kagyupa sect of Buddhism, which traces its Buddhist teachings to the great teacher Tilopa (988-1089) from the eastern plains of India.

Meenakshi temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu. Also called Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple, it is located on the southern bank of the Vaigai river. It is dedicated to Parvati, the consort of Siva, depicted as Meenakshi, the fish-eyed beauty. The temple forms the heart of the ancient city of Madurai, which is built around it. The present structure was built between A.D. 1623 and 1655. It has 14 gateway towers, ranging from 45 to 50 metres in height. The tallest is the southern tower, which measures 51.9 metres.

Sumtsek, Alchi, Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, 11th-12th centuries. This three-storeyed temple is typical of the architecture of Kashmir of that time. Kashmiri architects and sculptors were invited to make the early chain of 108 monasteries across Ladakh, Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti and western Tibet. Alchi is among this beautiful chain of Buddhist temples.

Ranganathaswami temple, Srirangam, Tamil Nadu. The main gopuram, or gateway, of the temple is 73 metres tall and is one of the tallest religious structures in India.

Mangeshi temple, Goa, 18th century. Constructed in 1764 by Ramchandra Malhar, the temple has a striking lamp tower. Film playback singer Lata Mangeshkar hails from this region.

Gurdwara Baoli Sahib, Govindwal district, Punjab, 16th century. Govindwal, one of the most important Sikh sites, has the “samadhi” of Guru Angad Dev. The gurdwara here was founded by the third guru, Guru Amar Das. It presents an atmosphere of serenity and peace, which characterises Sikh shrines.

Shri Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar, Punjab. Popularly known as the Golden Temple, this is the most revered temple of Sikhs. It is said that Guru Amar Das found on the banks of the Amrit Sarovar (the tank of nectar) the desired herb for the skin ailment of Guru Angad Dev (the second Guru of Sikhs). It was decided by Guru Arjan Dev (who ascended the throne, in 1581) to build the temple in the centre of the tank. True to the pluralistic spirit of Indian culture, Guru Arjan and Mian Mir laid the foundation stone of the temple in 1588.

Shyama Raya temple, Bishnupur, West Bengal, 17th century. Bishnupur, located in Bankura district, is renowned for its terracotta temples. It was the capital of the Mallabhum kingdom. The temples in this area are adorned with elaborate carvings, giving an insight into the terracotta art of Bengal. The Shyama Raya temple is of the pancha-ratna type with five spires. Built entirely of brick, it is the most imposing of the two dozen or so temples to be found in Bishnupur. The temple was built in A.D. 1643 by King Raghunatha Singha, and is renowned for the decorative and narrative scenes and motifs on its walls.

Temple city, Palitana, Gujarat. The Shatrunajaya hill, rising out of the plains at a height of about 2,000 feet (600 m), has hundreds of Jaina temples. The main temple is dedicated to the first Jaina Tirthankara, Adinath. It is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Jainas and is one of the most spectacular temple cities anywhere in the world. Climbing up thousands of steps that lead to the hilltop temples, we leave the material concerns of the world far behind. It is an enchanted and ethereal environment here. In keeping with the pluralistic culture of India, the first shrine visited by the Jaina worshippers is dedicated to a Muslim saint.

Gurdwara Patna Sahib, Bihar, 18th century. The gurdwara marks the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of Sikhs. As in the case of many historical gurdwaras in India and Pakistan, this gurdwara, too, was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Sivadol temple, Sivasagar, Assam, 18th century. The temple, dedicated to Siva, was built in 1734 by Kuwori Ambika, wife of King Swargadeo Siba Singha.

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Madanakaias, bracket figure, Chennakeshava temple, Belur, Karnataka, 12th century. These are nayikas, or beautiful women, seen in Indic art from early times. They represent the fertile abundance of nature.
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