(Last Updated on : 16/09/2010)
Primarily carved out of rock, the ancient temples of India demonstrate the religious beliefs as well as the deft craftsmanship of an era long gone-by. While there are a number of Hindu temples scattered throughout the subcontinent, shrines dedicated to Lord Buddha are reminiscent of the diverse religious beliefs that are predominant in India. One of the most remarkable features of the ancient temples of India is their variety. While the temple building idiom of North, South, East and West India are markedly distinguishable, the Buddhist shrines stand out as well with their kind of architectural works. These unmatched and artistic architectures of the temples in India contribute richly to the Indian cultural heritage as well. Temples are found everywhere in India irrespective of every society, in villages or in towns.
The earliest temples in India are the rock cut and cave temples. These cave temples are directly cut out from the mountains. First scooped and then engraved, they tell the stories of the unparalleled talents of the very first artist of the ancient temple architecture. These magnificent ancient temples, some of which are in ruins speak of the golden time when India was at the precursor of civilisation. The Buddhist temples comprise the chaityas, pillars, viharas, etc. Most of these Buddhist temples from ancient India are to be found in North India. The Hindu temples of this region reflect the Nagara style of architecture.
The architecture of the ancient Hindu temples was very peculiar as well as typical. As far as the South Indian temples are concerned, a courtyard leads to the gopuram or gateway. The levels of the main sanctum, mandapa or hall, courtyard and gateway all are in descending order. The devotees gather in hall in large numbers to take part in the rituals and the chants. This is also the place where the dance is performed. Encircling the hall is a courtyard. Some of the courtyards have boundary walls and some are open. The garbhagriha
or the sanctum is the highest as it is believed to be the chamber of the deity and the most sacred place. A very little difference is observed to the temple architecture of ancient times. Since it is the God`s abode, all the ancient temples of India follow a common thread of design in all deviations. On the other hand, the east Indian temples from ancient India primarily followed an amalgamated style of Dravida and Nagara idioms of architecture.
In India, ancient era was the time when religious practices flourished the most and the Ancient Temples of India became the storehouse of culture and knowledge. Some of the prominent ancient temples of India regarded as the symbol of religion and faith for ages are Lepakshi Temple situated in Anantapur, Thousand Pillar Temple
in Warangal, Mahabodhi Temple
in Gaya, Somanth Temple in Patan, Sthaneshwar Mahadev Temple in Kurukshetra, Chamunda Devi in Kangra, Sabarimala Temple in Pathanamthitta, Dwarkadhish Temple
in Dwarka, Jhakhu Temple in Shimla, Jwalamukhi Temple in Dharamshala, Amarnath Temple in Pahalgam, Raghunath Temple in Jammu, Vaishno Devi Temple in Jammu, Bull Temple in Bengaluru, Cave Temple in Badami, Guruvayoor Temple in Trichur, Tiruvalla Temple in Alappuzha, Omkareshwara Temple in Karnataka
, Lingaraja Temple
, Orcha Temples in Orchcha, Ellora Caves in Aurangabad, Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad, Kailash Temple in Aurangabad, Mahalakshmi Temple in Kolhapur, Jagannath Temple
of Puri, Mukteshwara Temple in Bhubaneshwar, etc.