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Explore Temples, Shrines And Spiritual Places Across The Globe

Spirituality amidst the daily chaos of life is the flickering light driving serenity, peace and consciousness among people. The birth and growth of civilization paved the way for different religious and spiritual practices to spring up. India is the Cradle of Spiritualism since time immemorial, and known as the birthplace of some of the world’s major religions like Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism), Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.

The term ‘Globalization’ is largely used with the economic and trade relations, but its impact on religion and culture cannot be ignored. Globalization and religion have always shared a complex co-dependent relationship. Globalization brings a culture of pluralism, and the spread of religion is one of the major reasons for the migration and interaction between different communities and cultures. This migration and interaction lead to further dissemination of various religious ideologies and practices. India is an amalgamation of various thoughts and ideologies and ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ is a famous Sanskrit phrase found in Indian scriptures, which means ‘the World is One Family’. It is the broad-nature of Indian civilization that it assimilated different characteristic features from various other cultures which it was exposed to, and molded them in its own way without any hesitation.

Religions that originated from Indian subcontinent have similar philosophy, and has a history of peaceful assimilation and co-habitation with other religions and faiths. The origin of an idea and the place where it manifests might not be related, but the belief and the allegiance of people bring them together, no matter how far they are. That is how the Hindu ideology of harmony, Jainism concepts of nonviolence, the Buddhists contribution to meditation, and Sikhism principles of truthful living have flourished in almost every corner of the world.

The spread of these religions have amassed across the world, leading to the emergence of several Sacred places, Temples, Monasteries, and Gurdwaras, which are known for their architectural excellence and spiritual zeal. When visiting these holy sites, some people might feel connected with the divine soul, others might acknowledge the antiquity, and some might cherish the architecture.


Architecture of Hindu Temples

The architectural marvel of Hindu Temples across the world is mesmerising. Hinduism is more often regarded as the way of life, which has attracted masses of devotees across the globe. Hindu Temples serve as the centre for religious, intellectual and social functions.

One of the stunning claims of architectures happens to be the Pashupatinath Temple of Kathmandu, Nepali. Originally this marvellous piece was constructed in the year of 753 AD, under the reign of King Jaydev. What makes this Temple unique is the use of Nepali pagodas embedded in traditional Hindu Temple architecture. Several smaller Temples daunt across the main Temple.

Angkor Wat, located in Cambodia is one of the most important religious places for Hindus and Buddhists as well. Constructed in the 12th century is this beautiful religious building which has dozens of Khmer Temples around it. But in contrast to the other smaller Temples, Angkor Wat faces opposite to the direction of the rising sun. Initially, this spiritual piece of architecture was dedicated to Lord Vishnu but a major residential part of it is converted to a monastery. The basic Temple architecture is comprised of two patterns- the pyramid and concentric galleries. The main pyramid is in the shape of three stepped terraces with each step being bordered uniquely along with all directions. The galleries at each step lead the way towards the main shrine.

Another unique and mystifyingly beautiful Temple is the Prambanan, which is located on the Java island of Indonesia. This Temple was constructed in the 9th century CE and is labelled as one of the largest Temples in Southeast Asia. The Temple is dedicated to the ‘tri-murti of Hinduism’-Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The construction of the Temple follows the traditions and patterns of the Vastu Shastra and encloses around 224 smaller Temples in the Temple compound. The main Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is 47m tall. It is highly bejewelled and is decorated by intrinsic wall carvings, depicting scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The main shrine of Shiva sits around a mandala framework created by the pattern of other Temples.

The Aruglmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple in Malaysia is designated as the only glass Temple in the world. The structure is not very tall but a hut-like architectural pattern is followed. The mosaic glass interiors decorate the interiors of the temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple has 10 gold furnished detailed scriptures.

Some other Temples like the Katasraj Temple in Pakistan has been existing since the age of Mahabharata. Though the Temple is in ruins, the religious and historical importance attached to it makes it one of the most important Temples.

Religious scriptures are found at almost all Hindu Temples across the globe which reveal the idea of making devotees more aware of their religion and native practices. The grandeur of the Temples signifies the rich patronage it received to pay honour and homage to different Hindu gods.


Architecture of Jain Temples

The origin of Jainism has its roots along the banks of Eastern India and preaches to lead a simple life devoid of harmlessness to others. It spread across the world after the 5th century, and it brought variations and cultural alterations along with architectural changes to the Jain Temples outside India.

The Kobe Jain Temple is one of the most important pilgrim sites in Japan. The architecture was initiated by the settled Indian community in Japan and is much replicated from the Angkor Wat. The Temple is furnished with white marble and the entrance is sculptured with detailed tiny elephants. The doors and windows follow the traditional Indian architectural pattern and are quite elaborately designed. The main shrine is positioned on the second floor. The main entrance is guarded by exotic flowers.

The Shri Chintamani Parsvanatha Derasar is one of the elegant, modern Jain Temples in Ipoh, Malaysia. Being situated in the Northern isolated suburbs of Ipoh, the location of the Temple plays a vital role in amplifying serenity and spirituality. The Temple has a traditional Shikar at the top, mingling with modern architecture and marble is used for the gabharo on which the pratimaji of Bhagwan Parshvanath, Mata padmavati and Mata Saraswati is placed. It is said that the Pratimaji of Bhagwan Parshvanath was sculptured by the renowned artisans of Rajasthan. A large hall for the prayer of the devotees is constructed on the interior quarters.

Bramton Jain Temple, or more popularly known as 1008 Adinatha Swamy Jain Temple, located in Canada is one of the finest specimens of traditional Indian architecture. This Temple is known for having a ‘manastambha’ or the indicator of the loss of pride and vanity before entering the Temple.

There is a unique quality of Jain Temples, the Jain shrines honour multiple deities, instead of one main idol. It is also noticeable that most Temples cluster into small Temple complexes. Over time, Jain Temples across the globe have emerged as the centre of practising tradition and learning and influencing people to lead a life of selflessness and virtue.


Architecture of Buddhist Temples

Buddhism has highly influenced several parts of the world. But the most dominant influence seems to have been focussed around the Asian nations of the globe. One such exemplifying evidence is Tibet which embeds Buddhist architectural patterns in buildings of historical and national importance. The Buddhist prayer wheel along with two large, colourful dragons can almost be noticed in every Temple.

Samye is regarded as the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet. The architecture has Indian influence and is almost a replica of Odantapuri in Bihar. The main assembly for prayer is surrounded by a tall, circular wall, enclosing four different Temples in a mandala pattern.

The Hanging monastery of Xuan Bong Si in China is an architectural marvel that reveals the beautiful motherly bond between humans and nature. The location of the Temple is an awe-striking feature for the world as it is situated 58m above the riverbed and is perched on the side of Heng Shan Mountain. The monastery is the culmination of the beliefs of Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. The method used for suspending the monastery from the high gorge followed the high-skilled engineering technique of using chiseled openings in the rock on which thick and ductile wooden beams were inserted. The wooden beams acted as the base for the building foundation on which boards and pillars were attached to construct walls and floor. The monastery is fairly large and hosts 40 rooms, for residence and devotional purposes.

The Temple of Heaven is a Chinese architectural zenith, symbolizing the meaning that ‘the earth is square and heaven is round’. It has three massive buildings along a straight line. The main building is of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, having three concentric circles of wooden columns, symbolizing ‘the four seasons, 12 months and 12 hours.’ The other two buildings are mainly Imperial Vault of Heaven, which is possibly constructed without any crossbeams, and the Circular Mound Altar.

Some fascinating monasteries also include the Taung Kalat in Burma, which is built at the topmost perch of an extinct volcano. The Erdene Zuu monastery of Mongolia is one of the oldest surviving Buddhist monasteries of the world, featuring 100 stupas.

Besides having a religious influence upon the devotees, the architectural efficiency of the monasteries serves as a residence for the monks, who strive to walk along the path of salvation. The doors of the monasteries are always open for the afflicted and destitute, serving as a reminder to harness kindness in every walks of life.


Architecture of Sikh Temples

Sikh Dharma was founded about 600 years ago in the 15th century, but the devotional zeal of Sikhism found its way in heart of a large number of people. Initially, most Gurdwaras in the Western world were an architectural initiative of the citizens of Indian origin, hence simplistic Indian architectural patterns are followed. But with time, Gurdwaras stand as a monument of importance, serving and standing by the people irrespective of beliefs and faiths.

Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall, that is situated in Havelock Road, in London, is designated as the largest Sikh Temple in London and it has a large capacity to host ground of more than 3000 devotees. The interior architecture consists of a Dining Hall and a community center. There are mainly two congregation rooms and a huge community kitchen that is always open for all. It also houses a religious library and few smaller rooms for residential purposes. The exterior architecture is minimalistic and follows a traditional Indian Gurdwara pattern.

One of the most important Gurdwaras in the world is the Gurdwara Janam Asthan, which is located in the city of Nankana Sahib, Pakistan, the place where the birth of Sikhism took place. It is built upon a large area and houses the main square, Saroor Sahib or the holy water pool, Sardar Lachman Singh’s memorial, Sikh Saaheedi, dining space, and a huge community kitchen. The Gurdwara also has more than 500 rooms for the residence of the pilgrims. The entrance of the Gurdwara is huge and features a golden main square gate, with distinctly carved symbols depicting the life of the various Sikh leaders. The memorial walls are a pictorial manifestation of the initial life and brutal murder of Sardar Lachhman Singh.

The Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara, located at Kent in England is fairly a large pilgrim spot, hosting a prayer hall of approximately 12000 devotees. Other Gurdwaras like the Khalsa Diwan Sikh at Hong Kong and Gurdwara Cleveland at Ohio remain as evidence of devotion with the simplistic architectural feature.

Gurdwaras are of great social, literary, and emotional significance, besides having religious implications. The architectural efficiency of the construction of large halls for prayer reveals the importance of community worship which teaches the Sikhs to walk in the path of life and channel efforts to become a true human amidst the darkest situations.


Significance of Temples

Temples, Monasteries, and Gurdwaras are the places of culminating spirituality in the mind and devotion in the heart. While across the globe, the practicing of Indian norms brought forth the evidence of preaching Indian culture and traditions, it also seeks to define peace of mind and body.

The earliest records of the temples suggest that they have been built where people felt the maximum quality of positivity. Temples stand as an embodiment to shun negativities of life. What tames an unruly mind is the holiness of thoughts, that is infused by the spirituality of religious places. These historic, magnificent, serene, splendid, and sacred places of the world will leave you awed with their architecture brilliance and splendor.