The earliest temples are the rock cut and cave temples in India, which are more than mere places of worship. These are sacred buildings of ultimate grace and eternal happiness.
Here is a detailed history and stylistics of some of these great temples of India. Although battered by the destructive forces of time, weather, and invading forces, these temples remain a symbol of faith and religion for ages.
Note: This Hemadpanthi-styled temple is beautifully carved on stones and is said to be constructed by Shilahara king Chhittaraja. It was later rebuilt by his son Mummuni. The temple is on the bank of Waldhuni river. It is also believed by some people that the temple was built by the Pandava brothers in just one night with a huge single mass of stone.
This temple has 20 steps to go down in the main room called ‘gabhara’ (sanctorum); and there is one Shivling at the center of the room. On the occasion of Mahashivaratri, a big fair is organised in Ambarnath to get blessings from Lord Shiva.
It is one of the largest temples in India and is an example of Tamizh architecture during the Chola period. Built for Raja Raja Chola I, the temple turned 1000 years old in 2010.The architect and engineer of the temple, Kunjara Mallan Raja Raja Perumthachan is revered today as a father figure to all craftsmen in his homeland, Kerala. The temple is also a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the ‘Great Living Chola Temples’.
The Kailash Temple is notable for its vertical excavation—carvers started at the top of the original rock, and excavated downward. The traditional methods were rigidly followed by the master architect, which could not have been achieved by excavating from the front.
It is a structural temple, built with blocks of granite at Mahabalipuram, a village south of Chennai in the state of Tamil Nadu. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
This legendary temple has been destroyed and rebuilt 17 times by Islamic and Hindu kings. Most recently, it was rebuilt in November 1947, when Vallabhbhai Patel visited the area for the integration of Junagadh and mooted a plan for restoration. It is also believed that this is the place where Krishna ended his lila on earth and left for his heavenly abode.
Built on the banks of Yagachi River in Belur, by the Hoysala Empire King Vishnuvardhana, it 220 km from Bangalore. These temple complexes have been proposed to be listed under UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Known to be built in the 8th Century, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The unstable temple is not directly accessible by road and has to be reached by a 14 km uphill trek from Gaurikund. The structure is believed to have been constructed when Adi Shankara visited.
The Lingaraja temple is the largest temple in Bhubaneswar. The central tower of the temple is 180 ft (55 m) tall. The temple complex has 50 other shrines and is enclosed by a large compound wall. There is evidence that part of the temple was built during the 6th Century as mentioned in some Sanskrit texts.
According to tradition, the original temple was believed to have been built by Krishna’s grandson, Vajranabha, over the hari-griha (Lord Krishna’s residential place). The temple became part of the Char Dham pilgrimage after Adi Shankaracharya, the 8th Century Hindu theologian and philosopher, visited the shrine.
The temple is one of very few existing temples dedicated to the Hindu creator god Brahma and remains the most prominent among them.