Exploring Spiritual Diversity: Iconic Temples of India
From the serene shores of Somnath in Gujarat to the majestic heights of Kedarnath in Uttarakhand, more than 6 lakh temples of India unfold unique stories of devotion, history, and artistry.
Join us as we travel to the corners of India visiting landmark temples and learning the stories behind them. Let’s uncover the rich history, architectural marvels, and spiritual significance of these revered landmarks.
Kedarnath temple in the North
Situated in the lap of the Garhwal Himalayan Range at an elevation of 3,583 m is the Kedarnath temple, one of the holy sites of India. It’s one of the Char Dhams of India that hold profound religious significance in Hinduism with the others being Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. Pilgrims believe that visiting these sacred sites fulfils a spiritual journey, ensuring moksha or liberation.
The ancient temple of Kedarnath boasts a history spanning over 1,200 years and holds the esteemed status of being one of the twelve jyotirlingas it is a sacred representation of Lord Shiva. The term "Jyotirlinga" translates to "pillar of light."
According to Hindu mythology, these divine representations showcase the infinite nature and formless aspect of Lord Shiva.
The Mythological Story Behind Kedarnath
The origin tale of the Kedarnath temple intertwines with the Mahabharata, a monumental epic narrative that encompasses philosophical and mythological teachings and is centred around the Kurukshetra War between two factions of a royal family, the Pandavas and the Kauravas.. Following their victory in the Kurukshetra, the Pandavas, burdened by the sins of killing their kin, were advised by Lord Krishna to seek redemption from Lord Shiva.
Lord Shiva, who was initially unwilling and angry with the Pandavas because of all the bloodshed caused by their war, assumed the form of a bull wandering through the Garhwal mountains. Among the Pandavas, only Bheem could identify Lord Shiva in his bull incarnation. Determined to seek forgiveness, Bheem grasped the bull's tail to prevent it from disappearing into the earth.
In the struggle, the bull's hump detached, and at that spot eventually, Lord Shiva manifested himself to grant forgiveness to the Pandavas, leading to the establishment of a jyotirlinga. It was during this divine moment that Lord Shiva conveyed his decision to reside in the lingam (a Sanskrit word meaning sign or symbol and is often depicted as a cylindrical pillar or a rounded column) at the temple, signifying the sanctity and significance of the Kedarnath shrine.
Also adding to the significance is the fact that the samadhi of the first Shankaracharya, Vedic scholar and teacher Adi Guru Shankaracharya lies near the Kedarnath temple.
Jagannath Temple in the East
The Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha is a highly esteemed Vaishnava place of worship in India. It is among the oldest Hindu temples that remains actively utilized. Constructed in the tenth century by Anantavarman of the Chodaganga dynasty who was the monarch of the Kalinga and later the Odisha region.
There are many interesting stories around the temple. Let’s take a look at some -
- The temple's design ensures it casts no shadow throughout the day, whether this phenomenon is an engineering feat or solely an outcome of divine influence is still unknown.
- Another enigma is that the Jagannath temple has four doors, with Singhadwaram as the main entrance. Entering through Singhadwaram, you hear waves. However, if you pass through and turn back, the wave sounds cease. Inside the temple also the wave sounds are no longer audible.
- Each day, a priest climbs the temple tower, equivalent to a 45-story building, to replace the flag. This uninterrupted tradition spans 1800 years. According to belief, neglecting this ritual could result in the temple being closed for the subsequent 18 years.
- The Sudarshan Chakra the legendary and powerful discus or circular weapon associated with Lord Vishnu, standing at 20 feet and weighing a ton, is mounted atop the temple. Intriguingly, this chakra is visible from every corner of Puri city. The engineering enigma behind its placement remains unsolved, as regardless of one's position, the chakra is oriented towards the observer.
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Padmanabhaswamy temple in the South
Dating back to the 8th century, the temple is among the 108 Vishnu temples scattered across India. Situated in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, it stands as one of the wealthiest temples globally. Surrounding the temple are numerous legends and stories, and within its confines lie six chambers brimming with riches. The history and renown of this temple are steeped in mystery, with tales revolving around gold, diamonds, and a particularly mysterious unopened vault.
The tale of Padmanabhaswamy temple
There was a sage near the Ananthapuram Temple who was deeply engrossed in prayers to Lord Vishnu. Vishnu, taking the form of a mischievous boy, unintentionally defiled the sage's idol. Furious at first, the sage later realized the divine nature of the boy and sought forgiveness. Vishnu, in response, directed the sage to the forests of Anathavana, where the sage obediently ventured. Subsequently, Vishnu manifested as a majestic idol with Adi Sheshnag.
Guided by the sage, the royal family of Travancore then proceeded to construct a temple at this sacred site.
In the 18th century, Anizam Thriulam ascended the royal house of Travancore and ordered the temple's renovation.
Following this, he symbolically surrendered the throne to Lord Padmanabhaswamy a manifestation of Vishnu who resides in the "Anantashayana" posture, perpetually immersed in yogic slumber atop his serpent mount proclaiming that he and his family would serve as caretakers.
Currently, the responsibility of overseeing and administering the temple lies with the royal family of Travancore.
Somnath Temple of the West
Situated in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat the Somnath temple is one of the 12 jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva.
With stories going back nearly 2000 years, the original Somnath temple has faced destruction by various rulers, undergoing subsequent rebuilding and renovations. In 1947, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel pledged to reconstruct the temple, a vision realized in 1995.
The legend behind the temple
The moon God Chandra was married to the 27 daughters of Daksha Prajapati. Chandra, however, favored only one wife named Rohini. This preference upset Prajapati, leading him to curse Chandra, predicting that he would lose his shine and lustre. Distressed by the curse, Chandra fervently prayed to Lord Shiva for relief. Impressed by Chandra's devotion, Lord Shiva instructed him to take a dip in the Saraswati River. Miraculously, Chandra's shine was restored, freeing him from the curse. In gratitude, Chandra built a temple at the very spot where Lord Shiva had appeared.
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From elaborate architectural styles to intricate carvings India is filled with heritage and historical temples.
These temples narrate tales of bygone eras, embodying not only spiritual significance but also serving as architectural marvels that stand as timeless symbols of the nation's rich history and cultural legacy.
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