Some of the most beautiful architecture in the world can be found in religious structures, be it cathedrals, churches or temples. While a visit to Europe will enable you to see some of the most extravagant churches like the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, Notre Dame de Paris, St. Peter's Basilica and so many more…. How much do you know about famous religious buildings outside of Europe?
According to Merriam-Webster, a temple is a structure reserved for religious practice, such as praying and any other religious activity. This article focuses largely on temples of Hindu and Buddhist fate and highlights the beauty that exists in architecture we don’t often get to see or hear about. Whether you love learning about religion, are an architecture buff or a history lover, there’s something to learn for everyone. A little bonus, some of these temples are associated with really interesting anecdotes, myths or magical phenomena!
25 Vaishno Devi Temple
Vaishno Devi Temple is located in the Trikuta mountains which touches both Jammu and Kashmir, two Indian states (Wikipedia). This temple acts as a shrine for the Hindu goddess Shakti and devoted followers of the Hindu faith often adventure to this temple to gather the blessings of this deity (vaishnodevitemple). While it is largely established as a temple that has the ability to grant wishes, it is not an easy path to get there. Vaishno Devi Temple is tucked away in the mountains and is nearly a 14 km trek to get there (Wikipedia).
Jetavanaramaya is a Buddhist monument in which sacred relics are held, otherwise known as a stupa (Wikipedia). This stupa is located in Anuradhapura, a sacred city found in Sri Lanka. Jetavanaramaya is particularly important as it represents the two oldest schools of Buddhism: Theravada and Mahayana (themysteriousworld). It has an incredibly rich history, having been built in the fourth century and towering over 400 feet high, it shortly became recognized amongst the tallest buildings in the world, at the time. Within Jetavanaramaya, over 10 000 Buddhist monks can be found (themysteriousworld). This is clearly an indicator of its impressive size and significance.
23 Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple
Sri Ranganathaswamy is a temple located in Tamilnadu, India (Wikipedia). According to themysteriousworld, this specific temple is dedicated to Vishnu, a Hindu deity. This Hindu temple is the largest one in the country, spreading out over 150 acres of land (themysteriousworld). It was constructed using Dravidian architecture, a classic style used for temples in India (Wikipedia). While this architectural style is extremely popular, this temple is easily recognizable considering that it’s the main tower, or gopura in Hindu is made completely out of gold (themysteriousworld).
22 Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven is located in Beijing, China and is incredibly large, covering nearly 3 million square metres (themysteriousworld)! It’s one of the largest temples in China. The Temple of Heaven was made as a way to revere the sky and the heavens. The structure of the temple is composed of circular walls and rectangular walls as a way to symbolize both heaven and earth. This temple was built in the 15th century and was later declared a world heritage site by UNESCO (themysteriousworld).
21 Shwedagon Pagoda
Shwedagon Pagoda is a Buddhist temple located in Yangon, Myanmar in Asia (Wikipedia). It was built nearly 3000 years ago, while the Buddha was alive. The builders of this temple actually got to meet and interact with Buddha while constructing the temple, how neat! According to themysteriousworld, 8 pieces of hair from the Buddha himself are kept in this temple. These hairs were given the builders, Taphussa and Bhalika, to add in the temple (themysteriousworld). Shwedagon Pagoda was covered in gold plates and adorned with diamonds making it an ultra-visible symbol of religiosity.
Prambanan is a series of three Indonesian temples, devoted to three Hindu gods: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (Wikipedia). According to Wikipedia, these three structures make up the largest temple in Indonesia and ranks amongst the largest in all of Southeast Asia as well. The temples are tall structures with distinctly pointed tips, a classic style of architecture used for Hindu temples. Of the three structures, the central temple, dedicated to Shiva, is the largest one (Wikipedia). It was built in the 10th century and still stands today (themysteriousworld)!
19 Temple of Christ the Saviour
The Temple of Christ the Saviour is situated in Moscow, Russia and has an incredibly turbulent history. It was initially built in 1839 following the defeat of Napoleon but was later destroyed in the 1930s during the Soviet era (touropia). The temple was initially destroyed to make place for a soviet temple, but this never did happen. In the later 20th century, the Russian Orthodox Church began rebuilding the temple which was completed in the year 2000. It is the tallest Orthodox temple in the world and is incredibly beautiful.
18 Tiger's Nest Monastery
Tigers Nest is a monastery that is tucked away in the Paro Valleys in Bhutan (Wikipedia). It is a sacred site, as Guru Padmasambhava, otherwise known as the second Buddha, meditated in this area in the Paro Valleys (themysteriousworld). While it is very popular, it is not easy to get to this temple, as it was built over 3000 metres above sea level (themysteriousworld). In order to visit this secluded structure, one must hike for hours uphill for quite a while. It certainly takes lots of effort and devotion to see, but it’s certainly worth it.
17 Golden Temple
The golden temple is a Gurdwara, meaning a Sikh temple, situated in Punjab, India (Wikipedia). You can easily recognize this temple as it is surrounded by a man-made pool. It was sadly destroyed several times, but continually rebuilt by Sikhs and eventually remodelled with marble, copper and a gold overlay in the 19th century (Wikipedia). According to themysteriousworld, the golden temple possesses the holiest book in the Sikh faith: the Guru Granth Sahib (themysteriousworld). This temple also offers free meals to anyone who is in need, how heartwarming! This temple actually manages to feed nearly 35 000 people a day (themysteriousworld).
16 Angkor Wat
According to Wikipedia, Angkor Wat is one of the largest religious structures in the world! It is situated in Cambodia and was originally a Hindu temple but over the years gradually became a Buddhist temple in the 12th century. Aside from its religious meaning, this temple complex has gained cultural significance, as it is now featured on the Cambodian flag (Wikipedia). There are many beautiful sculptures that decorate the grounds of this religious complex, making it unique from others (themysteriousworld).
15 Wat Rong Khun
Wat Rong Khun is also referred to as the white temple, for obvious reasons. The white colour is intended to symbolize the purity of the Buddha, while the glass accents within the temple walls represent the Buddha's wisdom (themysteriousworld). It is located in Chiang Rai, Thailand. While this is a Buddhist temple, its construction uses a mixture of Hindu and Buddhist architecture. To this day, artists are still decorating the walls of this temple with paintings honouring the Buddha. Despite it being incomplete, this temple certainly is a work of art.
14 Jwalaji Temple
Jwalaji Temple is one of the most ancient temples and is located in Kangra, India. This temple acts as a shrine devoted to Jwalaji, a Hindu goddess (Wikipedia). Interestingly enough, an eternal flame burns within the walls of this temple and no one is able to extinguish it. Plenty of research has gone into deciphering the source of this flame, however geologists and scientists remain dumbfounded (speakingtree). The third emperor of Mughal even commissioned people to try to extinguish this flame but was unsuccessful (speakingtree). It is quite a mystery!
13 Gawdawpalin Temple
Gawdawpalin Temple is a Buddhist temple that is located in Bagan, Burma. It is quite an ancient temple, considering it was built in the 12th century (Wikipedia). Its architecture is in the gu-style, meaning that it is mainly used for meditation and Buddhist rituals (Wikipedia). Despite its old age, this temple is fairly small and is actually the second smallest temple in Bagan (Wikipedia). Unfortunately, this beautiful temple was severely damaged in 1975 after experiencing an earthquake of a magnitude of 6.5 (hiconsumption). It was repaired and reconstructed afterwards and still stands today.
12 Medinet Habu
This Egyptian temple is nearly 3000 years old (hiconsumption)! It is located near the Valley of Kings where Egyptian royalty such as Tutankhamun and Seti I were buried (nationageographic). Medinet Habu is a mortuary temple which was built in order to commemorate Ramesses III (Wikipedia). Inscriptions on the walls on this temple depict a battle that occurred between Egyptians and the historically mysterious sea people (Wikipedia). This site provides much insight into Egyptians way of life, beliefs and struggles, but is also a beautiful temple to admire.
Borobudur is the largest Buddhist monument in the world and is also the site most visited by tourists in Indonesia (hiconsumption)! Some people include it in the list of the Seven Wonders of the World, mainly due to its impressive construction and beauty. It was built in the 9th century and is composed of 9 platforms, stacked one on top of the other to form this impressive monument (Wikipedia). It is established today as a UNESCO world heritage site and operates as a shrine for the Buddha (Wikipedia).
10 Abu Simbel
Abu Simbel is composed of two Egyptian temples that are devoted to Ramesses II and Nefertari (hiconsumption). This temple was carved out of a mountain and commemorates Ramesses’ victory at the Battle of Kadesh (hiconsumption). This temple has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site, as these rock figures have become truly famous worldwide (Wikipedia). In the ’60s these sculptures were relocated from their original site to an artificial hill above Aswan High Dam reservoir (Wikipedia). This tricky operation was done as a means to preserve the temple from being submerged by Lake Nasser.
9 Temple Of Confucius
Temple Of Confucius was built around 500 BC in Qufu, China. This temple is the most renowned temple for Confucius in East Asia and was built in the town where Confucius lived. Unfortunately, this temple was destroyed several times by fire, and vandals. It was rebuilt in the mid-18th century but underwent 15 major renovations and several smaller reparations it ints lifetime (Wikipedia). There are many beautiful sculptures that can be found at this site and many pavilions that are pay tribute, in some way, to Confucius’ teachings.
8 Mahabodhi Temple
The Mahabodhi Temple is devoted to the Buddha, as it was built on the place where the Buddha supposedly reached enlightenment. A descendant of the original Bodhi tree, under which the Buddha meditated, is found on the western side of the temple (hiconsumption). This temple is located in Bodh Gaya in India and is a significant part of the Buddhist religion. Buddhists have made pilgrimages to this site for thousands of years, as a way to pay homage to the Buddha (Wikipedia). This temple has been restored endless amounts of times, but the original structure was believed to have been built in the 7th century (Wikipedia).
Karnak is the largest religious site of the ancient world and is situated in Egypt (hiconsumption). It is a complex composed of three temples, one of which is the famous Hypostyle hall. Hypostyle Hall is famous for its 134 humongous columns that are 60 feet high and 10 feet wide (Wikipedia)!! This massive temple took approximately 1500 years to build but remained an important place of worship for Egyptians throughout the years (Wikipedia). It is the second most visited site in Egypt, as it is only slightly behind the Giza pyramids.
6 Temple Of Hephaestus
This temple is incredible despite having been built about 2500 years ago, it is still in pristine condition (hiconsumption). This temple is located in Athens, Greece atop Kolonos Hill and was a place of worship for those who follow the orthodox faith (Wikipedia). Its name comes from the name of the Greek god, Hephaestus, who was the god of craftsmanship (Wikipedia). Due to this, the temple hosted several workshops, teaching people who to do pottery and metalwork! How practical!
5 Lotus Temple
The Lotus Temple is located in Delhi, India and was recently built in the ’80s (Wikipedia). It’s famous for its flower-like shape, as it is composed of a series of marble petals that are constructed to resemble a lotus. This temple is a Baha'i house of worship, meaning it is not open only to one single religion but is open to everyone regardless of the god they worship (Wikipedia). In 2001, CNN referred to the Lotus Temple as the most visited site in the world.
4 Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple
Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple is a hindu temple that was built in 2005 (hiconsumption). Believe it or not, this temple was actually awarded a Guinness World Record in 2007 and was named the World's Largest Comprehensive Hindu Temple (Wikipedia)! Approximately 70% of all tourists that visit Delhi visit this temple, showing how incredibly popular it is (Wikipedia). In addition to being a religious site, this temple also features a theatre, musical fountain, robotics, and even a food court (hiconsumption)! No wonder tourists love it here!
3 Philae Temple
Philae Temple was estimated to have been built in 400 BC (hiconsumption). It was decimated to the goddess of the sacred islands of Lake Nasser, and travellers made pilgrimages to this site for centuries to pay their respects (planetware). The walls of these temples are decorated with drawings that provide insight into the lives of the ancient Egyptians. This sacred temple was revered in the Greek, Roman and Byzantine eras and was later saved by UNESCO from submersion under water. The site was moved from Philae island to Agilika island where it still stands today (planetware).
2 Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Kashi Vishwanath Temple is situated in the holiest city in India, Varanasi (hiconsumption). Varanasi is the spiritual capital of India, it’s no wonder it’s home to one of the most famous Hindu temples (Wikipedia). Kashi Vishwanath Temple is devoted to Shiva and is referred to in Hindu scripture as a central part of the worship of this deity (Wikipedia). Endless amounts of important saints have visited Kashi Vishwanath. It is believed that by visiting this temple and then bathing in the Ganges river, one will be on the path towards liberation (Wikipedia). Definitely worth a try.
1 Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir
The Sri Digambar Jain Lal Temple is one of the oldest and most popular Jain temples in India (Wikipedia). This temple was built in the mid-17th century and is the source of several interesting legends (hiconsumption). It is located in New Delhi and aside from being a temple, it also houses a veterinary hospital in a nearby building! This veterinary hospital specializes in healing birds and takes care of upwards of 15000 birds each year (Wikipedia). How kind!