By Sohini Biswas
With billions of followers, Hinduism is not only restricted to India but is embraced by the world. Considered as one of the oldest paths toward meaningful living, its essence could be felt in its great history.
One way to feel the real meaning of this global religion is to reflect upon the beautiful temples which have been built across the world. Hindu temples are very scientific buildings which have been built based on the study of Agam Shastra which has three main divisions called the Shaiva, the Shaktha, and the Vaishnava.
Across the world places like Angkor Wat, Batu caves have enthralled the mystics and seekers alike. Here are a few more temples spread across the globe that hold special place in Hindu culture.
- Angkor Wat Temple, Cambodia
Angkor Wat is one of the largest religious monuments ever constructed and is a part of UNESCO world heritage centre now. First a Hindu, later transformed to a Buddhist, temple complex in Cambodia, was built by Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yasodharapura. The temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, is a replica of Angkor Thom art style.
It is generally accepted that Angkor Wat was a funerary temple and oriented to west to conform the symbolism between the setting sun and death. The bas-reliefs, designed for viewing from left to right in the order of Hindu funereal ritual, support this function. Buong Suong Tiyaie is a ritual followed here and is performed by five virginal dancers from the Nginn Karet Foundation.
- Prambanan, Central Java, Indonesia
Narrating stories of Vishnu’s incarnations, adventures of Hanuman the Monkey King, the Ramayana epic and other legends, with exquisite bas relief carvings this Hindu temple Prambanan in Yogyakarta is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
This temple was built in 850 CE, has 8 main shrines which are surrounded by 250 smaller ones. The inner square contains 16 temples dedicated to major Hindu deities, of which Shiva temple is the largest. Bhuta Yajna Ritual, is performed here a day before Nyepi, (New Years Day)
- Sri Subramaniar Swamy Devasthanam (Batu Caves, Malaysia)
Batu Caves are a series of limestone caves situated at a distance of 13 km north of Kuala Lumpur, in Gombak district. Outside India it is one of the most popular and tallest shrines of Lord Murugan, standing at 42.7 meters. In 1890, K. Thamboosamy Pillai, an Indian trader installed the Murugan statue and promoted the caves as a place of worship.
Yearly Hindu festival Thaipusm in Malaysia is celebrated in this temple complex. Thaipusam attracts a large number of pilgrims from Malaysia as well as from India, Australia and Singapore.
- Katasraj Temple in Chakwal, Pakistan
In existence since the days of Mahabharata, the Katasraj temple is located in the Chakwal district of Punjab near Lahore in Pakistan. The Pandavas are said to have taken refuge here during their days of exile. Legend has it that when Lord Shiva’s wife, Sati, died. He cried so much that two pools were created. One is located in Pushkar in India and the other was formed here.
The temple here is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Pakistan Government is considering nominating the temple complex for World Heritage Site status.
- Munneswaram Temple, Sri Lanka
This temple is dates back to the time of Ramayana. It is believed that here Lord Rama prayed to Lord Shiva and won the battle against Ravana. It is a temple complex comprising of five temples. This temple is also dedicated to Lord Shiva.
This temple has been destroyed twice in the past by the Portuguese before it was finally handed over to the Jesuits who rebuilt it. This temple celebrates Shivratri and Navratri with a lot of grandeur.
- Shiva Vishnu Temple in Livermore, California
One of the biggest in the bay area, this temple incorporates the best of both North and South Indian Hindu temples, with respect to its architecture. In 1985 Tamil Nadu government donated most of the deities here. The temple has deities of innumerable Gods and Goddesses –Shiva, Ganesha, Durga, Aiyappa, Lakshmi etc. The famous Hindu festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi and Durga puja is celebrated here
There are other temples of Shiva Vishnu in Denver, Colorado, Washington D.C. and South Florida.
- Shiva Vishnu Temple in Melbourne, Australia
Fourteen acres of land, worth $72,300 was purchased in Carrum Downs to build a Shiva temple at Melbourne in Australia . The first puja here was performed in early 1986 following which the construction of the two primary shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva and Vishnu began in 1987.
Since then, after years of planning by the Hindu Society of Victoria and the hard work of a team of skilled craftsmen from India, the Shiva Vishnu Temple at Carrum Downs was opened to devotees in 1994. This temple’s architecture is the combination of Hindu and Australian traditions.
Thirty two deities are worshipped based on elaborate rituals and Indian festivals like Holi and Diwali is also celebrated.
- Sri Venkateswara Balaji Temple (Tividale, England)
Designed to replicate the Tirupati Thirumala Temple in Tirupati, India, Sri Venkateswara Balaji Temple was opened in August 23, 2006. . It was the first temple of Lord Venkateswara in Europe. The main shrine houses 12ft statue of Lord Venkateswara, incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
- Tanah Lot Temple, Indonesia
Pura Tanah Lot, is a pilgrimage temple off the Indonesia island of Bali. The temple sits on a large offshore rock which has been shaped continuously over the years by the ocean tide. Purnama Kesanga, or full moon in Bali is always a special day for ceremonies and festivities which are celebrated in this temple.
The Tanah Lot temple was built and has been a part of Balinese mythology for centuries. The temple is one of seven sea temples around the Balinese coast. Each of the sea temples was established within eyesight of the next to form a chain along the south-western coast. In addition to Balinese mythology, the temple was significantly influenced by Hinduism.
- Pashupatinath Temple (Kathmandu, Nepal)
Pashupathinath Temple is one the most important temples of Lord Shiva in the world. It is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu. It was constructed in 753AD by Jayadeva, but it was reconstructed in 12th century and 17th century due to extensive damages caused by termites. The temple has unique architecture, different from traditional Hindu temples of India.
It has a Nepalese Pagoda style of architecture. Only followers of Hinduism can enter the main temple, but all the other buildings are available for foreigners to visit. It is also very common to meet sadhus in Pahsupathinath. This temple is also on UNESCO world heritage site.