(Last Updated on : 13/04/2013)
Buddhist temples in India are the manifestations of the religion that originated in India. There are four major Buddhist pilgrimage sites where most of the Buddhist temples and holy places are found. The most important of these are located mainly in the Ganges Valley of India. The history of Buddhist temples dates back to the era of king Ashoka
. Getting converted into Buddhism
Emperor Ashoka laid the foundation of Buddhist temples and stupas.
The Buddhist temples spread far and wide in the country. Some of the major Buddhist temples in the Indian land are Ajanta and Ellora Caves
, Sanchi Stupa
, Bodhi Temple, Mahabodhi Temple
, Guru Ghantal Monastery
Temple, Rumtek Monastery
, Pemayangtse Monastery
, Bomdila Monastery
Monastery, Enchey Monastery
, Urgelling Monastery
Temple, Spituk Monastery
and Hemis Gompa
The Buddhist form of architecture had originated during the reign of Ashoka. Buddhist temples and stupas built by the king bears testimony to the Buddhist philosophy and ideals. The Buddhist temples were primarily used as seats of worship and also for religious teachings. Generally it has been found that the Hinayana
sect of Buddhism, concentrated in the southern and the western parts of the country, used more of stones instead of bricks for the construction of their temples.
The common trend among the Hinayana
Buddhists was to build a temple in a secluded region by cutting out walls in mountains. On the other hand the Mahayana Buddhists
were more adventurous in nature because they tried to build temples out of a single piece of stone. The famous example of such a construction is the Buddhist temples of the Ajanta Cave
and the Ellora.
It has been seen that the Indian Buddhist temples bear close resemblance to the Hindu styles and ways. The very first Buddhist temple in India was built in the western parts of the country. The temples were built within cave structures and the entrance of the cave led to a large open space where the worshippers could sit and worship the stupa or statue of Lord Buddha
. Sometimes the stupa of Lord Buddha was also kept in a separate room similar to the pattern of garbhagriha
in Hindu temples. The Indian style of Buddhist temple architecture has had a widespread influence throughout the world.
Bodh Gaya is the most important place of pilgrimage for the Buddhists is situated in Bihar
. It was the place where Gautama Buddha
had achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. Presently in reverence to the Lord the Mahabodhi temple has been constructed in the exact place of his enlightenment. The temple has an enormous statue of Lord Buddha around where a large number of monks are found reading the Holy Scriptures with absolute dedication.
Sanchi in the state of Madhya Pradesh
is a collection of number of Buddhist temples, monasteries, stupas and pillars. It was built by the great Mauryan Emperor Ashoka to honour the greatness of the Lord. An important feature of Sanchi is that it does not have any images of Lord Buddha in the human form. Rather the Lord has been represented with the help of symbols like foot prints, wheels and lotus. Sarnath
houses one of the most important Buddhist temples of the twentieth century. The main Buddhist temple in Sarnath is Mulagandhakuti Vihar. This Buddhist temple is 110 feet high and has a statue of Lord Buddha. The walls of the temples are decorated with beautiful paintings by a Japanese artist. It also contains the relics of Buddha which were found in Taxila
The Nirvana Temple
of Uttar Pradesh
is also a major site of Buddhist pilgrimage. It has a six meter high statue of Lord Buddha which was found in the excavations of 1876. Nalanda
in Bihar houses the remains of eleven monasteries and several Chaitya
s till date and the walls also include a number of images of Buddhist as well as Hindu divinities.
The Karla caves in Maharashtra
are the living instances to the Buddhist architecture and serves presently as a place of tourist attraction. Another important form of Buddhist architecture can be witnessed in the design of Buddhist monasteries.
The monasteries closely follow the Gandhara
form of architecture and are characterized by irregular designs. They generally follow the pattern of a fort and are surrounded by stone walls. The Buddhist monastery houses rooms for the monks and prayer halls which follow a specific design. One of the famous monasteries in India is the Rumtek Monastery of Sikkim
. The monastery serves as a home to a number of monks where the monks practice their religious customs. Apart from the religious rituals the monasteries also comprises an Institute of Higher Buddhist Studies and a Golden Stupa.