Hindu Temples: History, Significance, Mysteries, and Much More at AstroPush.

Hindu Temples

A Hindu temple, often called a “mandir” in India, is a special building where Hindus go to connect with their gods. It’s like a home, a place to sit, and a symbol of spirituality for them. Builders construct the temple in a manner significant to Hindus, employing symbols to express the ideas and beliefs of Hinduism.

The design and symbols in a Hindu temple come from olden Vedic traditions, which are very important in Hinduism. They use shapes like circles and squares to create the temple. These shapes have deep significance. The temple also shows the idea of things repeating and how the big universe is like the small universe, using numbers from the stars and special arrangements that connect the place and the god.

Inside the temple, you can find symbols and images that represent all features of the Hindu world, including good things, bad things, and people. It also shows the idea of time repeating itself and the meaning of life. Representatively, these concepts are embodied through concepts such as dharma (duty), kama (desire), artha (wealth), moksa (liberation), and karma (actions and their consequences). Thus, a Hindu temple emerges as a distinctive locale where these crucial ideas and theories find expression.

In our world, approximately 900 million people practice Hinduism, a religion that believes in many gods. Moreover, in India, thousands of special places, referred to as Hindu temples, serve as destinations for prayer and worship.

Furthermore, there are numerous remarkable Hindu temples in India, each boasting unique features. For instance, some are carved from giant rocks, while others shine with gold leaves. Additionally, a few temples even boast gravity-defying pillars. These temples hold special significance for Hindu people, serving as places where they can connect with their faith and traditions.

History of Temples

In early times, a very long time ago, during a period called the Vedic era, there were no structures like the temples we see today. Instead, people had a different way of showing their respect to God. They used a special fire that represented God. This unique fire was lit on a simple platform, outdoors under the open sky. People would give offerings to this fire as a sign of their deep respect and devotion.

Tracing its origins to antiquity, the history of Indian temples intricately links to the propagation of religion across diverse regions. Spanning the vast territory between the Hindu Kush and the Himalaya mountain ranges, India boasts an array of breathtaking temples. These temples are not only amazing architectural creations but also hold a significant place in Indian culture.

Whether they are grand, massive structures with towering spires or more modest and simple in design, Indian temples are unique and carry rich stories and history. Predominantly, archaeologists uncover the earliest temples and religious monuments as cave temples intricately carved into the rock faces of the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats.

Many ancient texts from India suggest that statues (murtis), temples (mandir), and shrines (tirth) have been a common feature in the Indian subcontinent for many, many years.

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Significance of Hindu Temples

 A Hindu temple is a special place where God is worshiped and honored. It’s like a sacred field where God resides, similar to how God exists in nature. Think of it as a small universe, a place where God’s divine play (leela) takes center stage. Devotees come here to connect with God, imagine being close to Him, and serve Him with love and devotion.

This temple is like a human-made creation within God’s creation. It reflects the core beliefs, values, way of life, and ideals of Hinduism, both in its physical appearance and its purpose. Symbolically, it represents both the universe and the human body.

Imagine the temple building as the outer shell, like the body of God or the material world (Nature). Inside the temple, in the sanctum, you find the deity, which represents the soul or the Supreme Self. In Hindu temples, various gods and goddesses represent different aspects of divinity. The tall tower structures, called gopurams, show how humans reach up to the gods, connecting Earth with Heaven. Stepping through the temple’s entrance is like entering a heavenly world.

Because so many devotees gather at temples to meditate on God, these places become powerful energy centers. When we focus on the Gods, we create mental images of them and give them life in our minds. The importance of temples in India is obvious by the fact that there are still many temples today, despite foreign attackers destroying over 40,000 temples in the past. Our ancestors persevered and rebuilt these temples, even if they were demolished multiple times—sometimes up to 20 times over centuries. It’s this unwavering spirit and determination that allowed Sanātana Dharma (Hinduism) and the Hindu civilization to survive until today, while many ancient civilizations disappeared due to imperialist ideologies disguising themselves as religions.

The Different Parts of a Hindu Temple and What They Mean:

  1. The Dome and Steeple (Shikhara):
    • The steeple on top of the dome is called the ‘shikhara,’ representing the mythical ‘Meru,’ the highest mountain peak.
    • The shape of the dome differs depending on the region.
    • The steeple often takes the form of Lord Shiva’s trident.
  2. The Inner Chamber (Garbhagriha):
    • Inside the temple is the ‘garbhagriha,’ also known as the ‘womb-chamber.’
    • This is where the image or idol of the deity, called ‘murti,’ is placed.
    • Usually, visitors can’t enter the garbhagriha; only temple priests are allowed inside.
  3. The Temple Hall (Nata-Mandira):
    • Most large temples have a hall where people can sit and gather.
    • This area is also called the ‘nata-mandira,’ which means the ‘hall for temple-dancing.’
    • In the past, women dancers known as ‘devadasis’ performed dance rituals here.
    • Devotees use this hall to sit, meditate, pray, chant, or watch the priests perform rituals.
    • The hall is often adorned with paintings of gods and goddesses.
  4. The Front Porch:
    • As you enter the temple, you’ll usually find a front porch area.
    • Hanging from the ceiling here is a big metallic bell.
    • Devotees ring this bell when they enter and leave the temple, signifying their arrival and departure.
  5. The Reservoir:
    • If the temple isn’t near a natural water body like a river or lake, a reservoir of fresh water is built on the temple grounds.
    • This water serves multiple purposes, including use in rituals and keeping the temple floor clean.
    • Some people also take a ritual bath in this water before entering the temple, as a symbol of purity.
  6. The Walkway:
    • Most temples have a pathway around the walls of the inner chamber.
    • Devotees use this pathway for circumambulation, which means walking around the deity as a sign of respect.
    • It’s a way for worshippers to show their reverence to the god or goddess of the temple.

Temple Pandits (Priests)

 Temple priests, often known as ‘pandas,’ ‘pujaris,’ or ‘purohits,’ play an essential role in the daily operations of Hindu temples. Their primary responsibility is to conduct various rituals and ceremonies within the temple buildings. These rituals can range from simple daily offerings to rich festive celebrations.

Priests are well-versed in the religious scriptures, chants, and processes necessary for worship. They ensure that the temple is a place where devotees can come to connect with the heavenly. The rituals they perform are believed to maintain the harmony and holiness of the temple. Their presence and knowledge are important in maintaining the spiritual atmosphere of the temple.

In Hindu tradition, many temple priests originate from the Brahmin caste, regarded as the sacred caste within Hinduism. They are commonly associated with religious and academic pursuits, with their selection for these roles often grounded in their proficiency in sacred texts and rituals.

In modern times, there is a growing range among temple priests. Many non-Brahmin individuals have also taken up this profession, breaking away from the traditional norms. This change reflects a broader social change, highlighting skills and qualifications over caste-based roles.

Specialized Temples and Their Priests:

In India, there are countless temples dedicated to different Gods, groups, and beliefs. For example:

  • Shiva Temples: These temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva, and the priests who serve here are often well-versed in Shiva traditions and rituals.
  • Vaishnava Temples: Devoted to Lord Vishnu, Vaishnava temples have priests who specialize in the worship of Vishnu and his avatars like Rama and Krishna.
  • Tantrik Temples: Tantrik temples follow the Tantric tradition, which involves unique rituals and practices. The priests here are well-trained in these esoteric traditions.

Each of these temples may have its own set of priests who are experts in the specific practices and beliefs associated with that sect. In summary, temple priests, irrespective of their caste background, play an essential role in protecting the spiritual and cultural heritage of India. They are entrusted with the sacred duty of preserving the temple’s sanctity and guiding devotees in their spiritual journey, thereby enriching the vibrant world of Indian spirituality.

Hindu Temples Worldwide Reflect India’s Rich Heritage

 In today’s world, Hindu temples hold a special place in India’s cultural legacy and spiritual life. They can be found in nearly every country around the globe, replicating the extensive influence of Indian culture and beliefs. In modern India, there is a wealth of fabulous temples that add to the country’s rich cultural legacy.

One noteworthy example is the Akshardham temple complex, inaugurated in 2005 in New Delhi, situated along the banks of the Yamuna River. This remarkable temple is a testament to the dedication and hard work of 11,000 artisans and volunteers who came together to create its majestic grandeur. Another ambitious project is the proposed world’s tallest Hindu temple in Mayapur, West Bengal, which aims to achieve a similar level of architectural excellence.

In summary, temples today are often substantial structures with extensive grounds that may include various buildings. They can also take the form of dome-shaped structures, similar to igloos. The term “temple” has its origins in ancient Rome, where a “templum” referred to a sacred area designated by a pandit for religious rituals and ceremonies.

The Spiritual Heart of India: Must-See Hindu Temples

Badrinath Temple, Uttarakhand:

  • Situated in Uttarakhand.
  • Dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
  • One of the Char Dhams.
  • Open from April to November.
  • Celebrates Mata Murti-Ka-Mela and Badri-Kedar Festival.

Sun Temple, Odisha:

  • Located in Konark, Odisha.
  • Dedicated to Lord Surya (Sun God).
  • Shaped like a chariot drawn by horses.
  • Built by King Narasimhadeva in the 13th century.
  • Legend of Samba’s devotion to Surya.

Brihadeeswara Temple, Tamil Nadu:

  • In Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.
  • Built by Chola Emperor Raja Raja Chola I.
  • Made of granite stone as per Vaastu Shastra.
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Somnath Temple, Gujarat:

  • Located in Prabhas Kshetra, Gujarat.
  • Associated with the Moon God, Soma.
  • One of the 12 jyotirlingas.
  • Somnath museum, Junagadh gate, beach, and light show.

Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand:

  • Himalayan shrine in Garhwal, Uttarakhand.
  • Linked to the Pandavas of Mahabharata.
  • Restored by Adi Sankaracharya.
  • Closed in winter; idol shifted to Ukhimath.

Sanchi Stupa, Madhya Pradesh:

  • Houses relics of Lord Buddha.
  • Built by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BC.
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Four toranas symbolize different emotions.

Ramanathaswamy Temple, Tamil Nadu:

  • Located in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu.
  • Associated with Lord Rama.
  • Two lingams: Ramalingam and Vishwalingam.
  • Ritual of worshiping Vishwalingam first.

Vaishno Devi Temple, Jammu and Kashmir:

  • On Trikuta mountain in Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Legend of Vaishno Devi and Bhairon Nath.
  • Pilgrimage includes visiting Bhairon Nath Temple.

Siddhivinayak Temple, Maharashtra:

  • In Mumbai, dedicated to Lord Ganesha.
  • One of the eight Ganesha Temples in Maharashtra.
  • Known for removing obstacles (Vighnaharta).
  • Famous for its prasadam and Tuesday visits.

Golden Temple, Punjab:

  • Sri Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar.
  • Central place for Sikhism.
  • Open to all regardless of faith.
  • Guru Granth Sahib placed here.
  • Symbolizes humility and universal brotherhood.

Mahakal Temple, Ujjain:

  • Located in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh.
  • Dedicated to Lord Shiva as Mahakaleshwar.
  • One of the 12 jyotirlingas.
  • Known for the Bhasma Aarti, where the deity is adorned with ash.
  • Draws devotees and tourists for the grand procession during the Maha Shivaratri festival.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Uttar Pradesh:

  • Situated in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
  • One of the most revered temples dedicated to Lord Shiva.
  • Part of the twelve jyotirlingas.
  • Non-Hindus typically cannot enter the inner sanctum.
  • Varanasi is one of the world’s oldest cities and holds immense spiritual significance.

These are some of the most famous and revered temples in India, each with its unique history, legends, and significance.

Why Bells Ring in Hindu Temples and the Science Behind It:

  1. Rich Meaning in Hindu Customs: Hindu customs and traditions are deeply meaningful. Every item used in these customs, including bells, plays an important role in our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
  2. Bells in Temples and Ceremonies: When you visit a Hindu temple or take part in a religious ceremony, you might notice the ringing of bells. These bells, called “ghant” or “ghanti” in Sanskrit, hold a special place in Hindu religious practices.
  3. Inviting Divine Presence: Before starting worship in a temple or performing a home ritual (puja), ringing the bell is a symbolic act. It’s a way to welcome and awaken the presence of Gods and Goddesses.
  4. Creating a Sacred Sound – “” (Om): Indeed, the sound produced by the ringing bell is no ordinary sound. Rather, it’s the sacred sound “ૐ” (Om), which carries immense spiritual significance. This sound not only fills the space with positive vibrations but also frequencies that help create a sacred atmosphere.
  5. Symbolism in the Bell: The bell is perceived as a spiritual abode for Gods and Goddesses. Its structure holds profound symbolic meanings: the body represents infinity (अनन्त), the tongue symbolizes Goddess Saraswati, and the handle embodies vital life energy or “प्राण शक्ति.”
  6. Harmonizing Energy Flow: The vibrations generated by the bell’s ringing are not solely pleasant to the ears; they serve a deeper purpose. Specifically, they purify the body’s energy centers, known as chakras.
  7. Bell’s Unique Composition: The bells used in Hindu rituals are not ordinary bells. Craftsmen craft bells with precision using an alloy of five metals: copper, silver, gold, zinc, and iron. They carefully choose these metals because they symbolically represent the five fundamental elements of the universe – earth, water, fire, air, and sky.

The Science Behind Hindu Temple Bells:

  1. Special Bell Materials: Temple bells are not made from just any metal. They contain a mix of various metals, including cadmium, lead, copper, zinc, nickel, chromium, and manganese.
  2. Tailored Sound Production: Craftsmen carefully guard the combination of these metals as it’s not random; it’s a meticulously crafted scientific secret. Each bell they meticulously craft serves a specific purpose, producing a unique and harmonious sound.
  3. Enhancing Brain Function: When a temple bell rings, it emits a sharp and sustained sound that resonates for about seven seconds, echoing throughout the surroundings. This sound has a remarkable effect on the brain, encouraging better coordination between its left and right hemispheres.
  4. Mental Clarity and Focus: Beyond its spiritual significance, the resonating sound of the bell has practical benefits. It momentarily clears the mind of all thoughts, aiding concentration and mental clarity.
  5. Activation of Energy Centers: The sound waves produced by the bell are not just heard but felt. They impact and stimulate the seven energy centers, or chakras, within the body, contributing to overall well-being.

In conclusion, the act of ringing bells in the Hindu Mandir’s serves both spiritual and scientific purposes. It is a way to invite divine presence, promote positivity, and enhance mental clarity. The unique blend of metals in the bell’s construction symbolically connects it to the fundamental elements of the universe, underscoring its profound spiritual importance. Additionally, the science behind these bells offers insight into their capacity to synchronize brain functions and activate the body’s energy centers for greater well-being.

Discover the Spiritual Significance Behind Hindu Temple Traditions:

Some profound reasons attribute sacredness to Hindu temples. Believers consider these places filled with pure and positive energies, and various customs associated with them serve specific purposes.

Upon entering Hindu temples, worshipers commonly remove their shoes. Temple floors conduct positive energy, generating strong vibrations. Going barefoot allows these vibrations to enter the body, inducing feelings of relaxation and focus while keeping out dirt and germs that might disturb the temple’s positive energy.

A bell typically hangs at the temple entrance, signaling worshipers to ring it before entering. The ringing produces sound vibrations designed to engage the sense of hearing. Strategically positioned, these bells balance the left and right brain hemispheres. The resonance, lasting at least 7 seconds, spreads throughout the room, opening all seven energy centers in the body simultaneously.

Worshipers often sport a kumkum or tilak mark on their foreheads, applied by the temple’s priest. This mark targets the brow’s nerve concentration, crucial for energy flow. It acts as a protective barrier against energy loss and absorbs further energy depletion. Additionally, it influences blood supply to facial muscles, contributing to overall energy balance.

Overall, these customs and practices aim to cultivate a harmonious and positive environment within Hindu temples, enriching spiritual experiences and fostering well-being.

The Importance of Rituals for Spiritual Connection:

The inside of a temple is often quite dark, especially where the idol is kept. When you pray, you usually close your eyes. But when you open them, you see the light from the camphor used for the Aarthi ceremony in front of the idol. This light in the darkness helps activate your sense of sight.

After offering your prayers, you may be given the camphor used in the ceremony. People often place their hands over the camphor to warm them up, and then they touch their eyes. This action helps make sure your sense of touch is active.

Next, you might drink theertham, which is holy water. It’s best to drink it from a silver or copper vessel. The theertham is usually water that has Thulasi leaves soaked in it, and it’s been stored in the copper vessel for at least eight hours. According to Ayurveda, water stored in a copper vessel can help balance the three doshas in your body (vata, kapha, and pitta) because it positively charges the water. When you drink this Thulasi water, it activates your sense of taste.

Drinking Thulasi water from a copper or silver vessel also has other benefits. It can help with sore throats, fever, common colds, coughs, respiratory problems, and even reduce the chances of kidney stones and heart disorders.

Mysterious Hindu Temples of India

India is home to some of the most mysterious temples that will leave you baffled. Legends and rituals shroud these intriguing places of worship, presenting narratives and practices nothing short of extraordinary.

  1. Kamakhya Devi Temple, Assam:

    This temple, located atop the Nilachal Hill in Guwahati, Assam, is one of the oldest of the 51 Shakti Peethas in India. It is unique because it doesn’t have a traditional idol for worship. Instead, it houses the yoni or vagina of Devi Sati, covered with a red silk sari. Every year during the monsoon, believers hold that the goddess menstruates, prompting the temple to close for three days. This period coincides with the Tantric fertility festival, recognized as Ambubachi Mela. Devotees receive a piece of the red cloth as a sacred offering.

  2. Kodungallur Bhagavathy Temple, Kerala:

    This temple is the earthly abode of Goddess Bhadrakali, a gentler form of Goddess Kali. It hosts a peculiar seven-day festival called the Bharani Festival. During this festival, devotees, both men and women, dressed in red attire, enter a trance-like state. They hit their heads with swords, causing blood to flow. Within the temple, offerings diverge from the conventional method; rather, they are hurled towards the goddess’s statue. Subsequently, it shuts down for seven days following the festival for thorough cleaning, necessitated by the presence of bloodstains.

  3. Stambheshwar Mahadev, Gujarat:

    Situated near Vadodara in Gujarat, this temple is unique because it appears and disappears with the tides of the Arabian Sea. Worshippers revere Lord Shiva at this temple, accessible solely during low tide hours. As the tide rises, the temple becomes entirely submerged beneath the sea, only to resurface as the water retreats.

  4. Kal Bhairav Nath Temple, Varanasi:

    In Varanasi, renowned as the city of spirituality, Lord Kal Bhairav Nath, an incarnation of Lord Shiva, resides. What sets this temple apart is that the sole offering made to the deity is alcohol, encompassing whiskey and wine. Devotees directly pour alcohol into the deity’s mouth and distribute the same to other devotees as Prasad. Unlike other temples that sell flowers and sweets, this temple’s stalls exclusively offer alcohol.

  5. Nidhivan Temple, Vrindavan:

    Dedicated to Lord Krishna, this temple stands majestically in Nidhi Van, a dense forest abundant with mystical allure. Amidst the intertwined trees, verdant foliage persists year-round, defying the arid climate that envelops the region. The gnarled trunks, intricate roots, and the well, all hollowed from within, captivate the curiosity of countless visitors. It is a place where legends intertwine with reality, where locals fervently believe that post-sunset, Lord Krishna descends to partake in the divine raasleela, an ethereal dance with the gopis. Some even profess to catch faint echoes of the melodious ghungroo, the celestial anklets, resonating through the nocturnal stillness.

  6. Mahendipur Balaji Temple, Rajasthan:

    Located in Dausa district, this temple draws thousands of devotees seeking to rid themselves of evil spirits, ghosts, and demons. People offer extreme acts of penance, such as pouring boiling water on themselves, hanging from the ceiling, and banging their heads against walls. Priests perform exorcisms here, making it one of the few places in India where such rituals still occur.

  7. Venkateshwara Temple, Andhra Pradesh:

    This temple, one of the wealthiest in India, has an unusual source of income – human hair. Lord Vishnu is the presiding deity here and accepts human hair as a symbol of sacrifice. Pilgrims daily shave their heads, yielding tons of hair annually, which they then sell to Italian wig manufacturers and Chinese companies utilizing hair extracts for food preservation.

  8. Veerabhadra Temple, Andhra Pradesh:

    Also known as Lepakshi Temple, this 16th-century marvel features 70 massive pillars depicting the Vijayanagara style of architecture. One pillar, in particular, leaves visitors in awe. It hangs from the roof and doesn’t touch the ground, creating a space underneath. Visitors often test it with a cloth to confirm its mysterious suspension, adding to the temple’s enigmatic reputation.

These mysterious temples in India are a testament to the country’s rich cultural and religious diversity, where traditions and beliefs take on unique and unexpected forms.

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What is the purpose of a temple?

Answer: Temples serve different purposes. For instance, the Sharada Peeth in Kashmir was a center of wisdom and culture. Some temples, like Vaishno Devi, Bhadrinath, and Kedarnath, worship nature as gods and goddesses. Places like Kashi, Prayaga, Haridwara, and Rishikesh focus on liberation and spiritual practice. There are also energetic spots like the 12 jyotirlingas that stabilize and elevate energy. Temples are more than places of prayer; they’re built with wisdom and consciousness. Sages devoted their lives to this science, following guidance like the agama shastra. Temples serve as showcases for art and architecture, meticulously designed with principles such as Vaastu Shastra. Often constructed on hilltops, these temples aim to elevate spirits and dissolve ego, thereby guiding individuals towards higher spiritual planes.

Why is it called a temple?

Answer: The word “temple” originally originated from Ancient Rome. In Rome, a priest or augur would designate a special area known as a “templum” for religious purposes. This term is closely connected to “template,” resembling a plan utilized in building preparation. So, a temple is a place for religious activities, and its name has a link to the idea of planning and marking out a sacred area.

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