How much do you know about Hindu temples?

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By jwblackwell



9 Questions

What is the purpose of Hindu temples?

What is the Vastu-Sastra?

What is the garbha-griya in a Hindu temple?

What is the vastu-purusha-mandala in a Hindu temple?

What is the Shikhara or Vimana in a Hindu temple?

What is the namaste mudra in a Hindu temple?

What is the Silpa Prakasa of Odisha?

What is the purpose of Ghatikas or Mathas in Hindu temples?

What is the purpose of the temple board committee in India?


Hindu temples are structures designed to bring humans and gods together through worship, sacrifice, and devotion. They incorporate all elements of the Hindu cosmos, presenting the good, the evil, and the human, as well as the elements of the Hindu sense of cyclic time and the essence of life. Hindu temples are spiritual destinations for many Hindus, as well as landmarks around which ancient arts, community celebrations, and the economy have flourished.

Hindu temples come in many styles, are situated in diverse locations, deploy different construction methods, and are adapted to different deities and regional beliefs. They are found in South Asia, particularly India and Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, in Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Island of Indonesia, and countries such as Canada, Fiji, France, Guyana, Kenya, Mauritius, the Netherlands, South Africa, Suriname, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries with a significant Hindu population.

A Hindu temple reflects a synthesis of arts, the ideals of dharma, beliefs, values, and the way of life cherished under Hinduism. It represents the triple-knowledge of the Vedic vision by mapping the relationships between the cosmos and the cell by a unique plan based on astronomical numbers.

The appropriate site for a temple, according to ancient Sanskrit texts, is near water and gardens, where lotus and flowers bloom, where swans, ducks, and other birds are heard, where animals rest without fear of injury or harm. While major Hindu temples are recommended at sangams, river banks, lakes, and seashores, Brhat Samhita and Puranas suggest temples may also be built where a natural source of water is not present.

Ancient builders of Hindu temples created manuals of architecture called Vastu-Sastra. These contain Vastu-Vidya and Sastra meaning system or knowledge in Sanskrit. The Silpa Prakasa of Odisha, authored by Ramacandra Bhattaraka Kaulacara in the 9th or 10th centuries CE, is another Sanskrit treatise on Temple Architecture.

A Hindu temple design follows a geometrical design called vastu-purusha-mandala. The four cardinal directions help create the axis of a Hindu temple, around which is formed a perfect square in the space available. The circle of the mandala circumscribes the square. The square is divided into perfect 64 (or in some cases 81) sub-squares called padas.

Beneath the mandala's central square(s) is the space for the all-pervasive, all-connecting Universal Spirit, the highest reality, the purusha. This space is sometimes known as the garbha-griya – a small, perfect square, windowless, enclosed space without ornamentation that represents universal essence.

Above the vastu-purusha-mandala is a superstructure with a dome called Shikhara in north India, and Vimana in south India, that stretches towards the sky. Sometimes, in makeshift temples, the dome may be replaced with symbolic bamboo with few leaves at the top.

In larger temples, the central space typically is surrounded by an ambulatory for the devotee to walk around and ritually circumambulate the Purusa, the universal essence. Often this space is visually decorated with carvings, paintings, or imagesSymbolism and Social Functions of Hindu Temples

  • Hindu temples are designed to reflect Hindu philosophy and its diverse views on the cosmos and truth.

  • Hinduism has no traditional ecclesiastical order, no centralized religious authorities, no governing body, no prophet nor any binding holy book save the Vedas.

  • Hindu temples typically have a central core, which is a small, private space designed for the individual, a couple, or a family.

  • The central core of almost all Hindu temples is a symbolic space marked by its spire (shikhara, vimana).

  • From names to forms, from images to stories carved into the walls of a temple, symbolism is everywhere in a Hindu temple.

  • Hindu temples served as nuclei of important social, economic, artistic, and intellectual functions in ancient and medieval India.

  • South Indian temples managed regional development functions, such as irrigation projects, land reclamation, post-disaster relief, and recovery.

  • Hindu temples over time became wealthy from grants and donations from royal patrons as well as private individuals.

  • Hindu temples also acted as a refuge during times of political unrest and danger.

  • Hindu temples served as centers where ancient manuscripts were routinely used for learning and where the texts were copied when they wore out.

  • Inscriptions from the 4th century CE suggest the existence of schools around Hindu temples, called Ghatikas or Mathas, where the Vedas were studied.

  • Hindu mathas and temples had by the 10th-century attached medical care along with their religious and educational roles.Overview of Hindu Temples: Styles, Arts, Historical Development, Destruction, and Customs

  • Hindu temples have been centers of worship, social gathering, and charitable activities for thousands of years in India and beyond.

  • Hindu temples come in diverse locations and styles, including stepwells, rock-cut structures, and stone-built superstructures with intricate carvings and decorations.

  • Ancient Hindu temples feature a profusion of arts, from paintings to sculptures, from symbolic icons to engravings, and from thoughtful layout of space to fusion of mathematical principles with Hindu sense of time and cardinality.

  • Hindu temples may or may not include a murti or images, but larger temples usually do. Personal Hindu temples at home or a hermitage may have a pada for yoga or meditation, but be devoid of anthropomorphic representations of god.

  • Ancient Indian texts suggest the prevalence of murtis, temples, and shrines in the Indian subcontinent for thousands of years, and the oldest temples were built of brick and wood, while stone became the preferred material of construction later.

  • With the start of Gupta dynasty in the 4th century, Hindu temples flourished in innovation, design, scope, form, use of stone and new materials, as well as symbolic synthesis of culture and dharmic principles with artistic expression.

  • Many Hindu temples have been destroyed, some, after rebuilding, several times. Deliberate temple destruction usually had religious motives, and there exist both Indian and Muslim traditions of religious toleration.

  • The customs and etiquette vary across India, but devotees in major temples may bring in symbolic offerings for the puja, and when inside the temple, devotees keep both hands folded (namaste mudra).

  • Temple management staff typically announce the hours of operation, including timings for special pujas, and visitors and worshipers to large Hindu temples may be required to deposit their shoes and other footwear before entering.Regional Variations in Hindu Temples

  • Hindu temple architecture varies by region and local materials available for construction.

  • North Indian temples are called Nagara style and have a sanctum sanctorum, surrounding corridors, and space for circumambulation.

  • West Bengal has Bengali terra cotta temple architecture, with terracotta exteriors and rich carvings.

  • Odisha temple architecture is known as Kalinga architecture, with three styles: Rekha Deula, Pidha Deula, and Khakhara Deula.

  • Goa temples are a unique blend of original Goan temple architecture, Dravidian, Nagar, and Hemadpanthi temple styles with some British and Portuguese architectural influences.

  • South Indian temples have a large gopuram, a monumental tower, usually ornate, at the entrance of the temple, and a large vimanam (towering roof).

  • Kerala temples have a different architectural style with tiled sloped roofs, square walls, and innermost shrines enclosed in four walls.

  • Temple construction in Tamil Nadu reached its peak during the rule of Pallavas, Cholas, and Nayaks.

  • Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, Nepal, is built in a pagoda style and is surrounded by hundreds of temples and buildings built by kings.

  • Ancient Hindu temples in Indonesia are called Candi and were constructed between the 5th to 15th century.

  • Thailand has many notable Hindu temples, including the Sri Mariammam temple in Bangkok and Phanom Rung.

  • Many members of the diaspora from the Indian subcontinent have established Hindu temples outside India.

  • The day-to-day activities of a temple in India are managed by a temple board committee that administers its finances, management, and events.


Test your knowledge of Hindu temples with this informative quiz! From the different styles and construction methods to their social and cultural significance, this quiz will challenge your understanding of Hindu temples. Explore the regional variations of Hindu temple architecture, the symbolism and customs associated with them, and the historical development and destruction of ancient temples. Whether you are a devotee or a curious learner, this quiz is a great way to expand your knowledge of Hindu temples and their role in Hinduism.

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