Ancient Temples of India

“We can’t draw them on paper and they did on rocks”

Whenever I explore any part of India, I always try to visit old temples.
I am not a very religious person but I like to peek into the grand history and culture of our beautiful country. I feel our ancestors spent generations building these beautiful temples.
We can definitely spend a few hours to soak into their tranquility.
I will keep on adding more to the list as and when I visit more such place

1) Kailasha Temple – ( Ellora – Maharashtra)

  • Kailasha temple is definitely one of the wonders of the ancient world. Carved out of single rock and drilled down from top to bottom this 8th-century temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
  • This rock-cut temple is the largest monolithic structure in the world and took only 2 decades to build. Around 200000 tons of rock was removed with just hammer and chisel.which is a daunting task even in this era with all the modern facilities.
  • Temple walls are beautifully carved depicting many events of Ramayan and Mahabharat. Every corner of this temple tells a story – all you have to do is to sit and observe. 
  • Mughal ruler Aurangzeb tried to vandalize it with 1000 men for 3 years, but all he could do was minor damage here and there which speaks volumes about the craftsmanship of our ancestors. 
  • I visited it around sunset climbed the hill surrounding it and sat there wondering how that era must have been like, how many craftsmen might have worked day and night to finish it in just 20 years with zero precision of error.
  • In its full glory when decorated with diyas it would definitely have been the most beautiful sights to witness. If there is only one temple in your wishlist to visit in India, it has to be this one.

Tip: A little climb to the top of the hill will give you a splendid view of the grandeur of this massive temple.

2) Dilwara Group of Temple ( Mount Abu – Rajasthan)

  • Dilwara is a famous pilgrimage of the Jain community. There are five shrines within the huge complex dedicated to different gods.
    These temples are made of white marble and were built between the 11th to 13th centuries.
  • One can witness intricately carved beautifully designs on ceilings, entrance, and pillars. You can get lost in each and every design especially the ones carved on ceilings.
  • No camera or mobile phones are allowed inside the temple complex, this allows you to be present in the current moment and admire these beautiful monuments and experience-rich culture of Jainism.

3) Martand Sun Temple – (Kashmir)

  • This 8th-century temple is dedicated to the Sun god ( Martand means Sun in Sanskrit) and was built by ruler Lalitaditya of the Korkota Dynasty. The foundation of the temple complex was laid somewhere between 35- and 500 CE.
  • It is known as the most elegant structures ever built in the world during that period due to its breathtaking architecture and grandeur.
  • Constructed in limestone the entire temple complex is built on top of the plateau. 
    Write H. Gotezi ” The temple of Martand set the model for Kashmir Hindu Art in all the following centuries. Thus Lalitaditya must be regarded as the founder not only of the short-lived empire but also of six centuries of Kashmir Hindu Art.”
  • Muslim ruler Sikandar Butshikan destroyed it in the 15th century. It took his army 13 months to fully damage and destroy it, and in the end, his army left the temple burning for many days. It stood in ruins since then and even today one gets surprised over the art and skill of the builders by looking at its ruins.
  • I visited Martand temple in 2009 and have lost all the photos from that trip, hopefully, soon I will get to visit Kashmir again.
    You can check the glory of this temple in this Bollywood song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ul3wufPJ4UE

4) Hampi group of temples

I have consolidated list of all the Hampi ruins and temples in this blog post –https://rahgeir.blogspot.com/2019/11/ruins-of-hampi.html

5) Chennakeshava & Halebidu Temples ( Hassan – Karnataka )

  • Chennakesava temple is a Vishnu temple on the banks of river Kaveri while Halebidu Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Both of these temples are grandest examples of Hoysala architecture.
  • These temples were built in the early 12th  & 13th Centuries, during this period Belur was the capital of the Hoysala Kingdom until annexed by Allauddin Khilji. The Hoysala Dynasty ruled over three centuries from the 10-14th century and built many beautiful temples in Karnataka.
  • These temples have vast complex and beautifully carved structures giving them an old-world charm. Walls are adorned with many important events from Mahabharat and Ramayan.
  • It took 3 generations and around 100 years to build the Chennakeshava temple. Idols are carved so beautifully that they shine and almost look like grillwork.

6) Shravanabelagola Temple ( Karnataka)

  • The Gomateshwara statue is a 57-foot high statue dedicated to the Lord Bahubali. Built around 983 A.D it is the world’s largest monolithic statue. Chandragupta Maurya spent the last few years of his life here post converting to Jainism.
  • Located on Vindhyagiri Hill one has to climb around 600+ stairs without shoes to reach the main temple. On August 5, 2007, the statue at Shravanabelagola was voted by the readers of Times of India as the first of the Seven Wonders of India.

7) Jagdish Temple ( Udaipur- Rajasthan)

  • Built around 1651 Jagdish temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is an architectural marvel of Mewar dynasty, The temple is in the heart of the city close to most of the tourist places in Udaipur.
  • The temple consists of beautiful carvings on the walls and ceilings and is raised on a tall terrace

8) Mahadev Temple Tambi Surla (Goa)

  • This 12th Century Shiva Temple is the oldest temple in Goa. One of the few temples which survived religious intolerance during Muslim & Portuguese attacks due to its remote location in the deep forest.
  • If you want to explore something offbeat in Goa then you should definitely add this to your list.

9) Ranakpur Temple ( Rajasthan)

  • Located in the lush green Aravali mountain range and built-in the 15th-century is this beautiful Jain temple. It was built using white marble and is one of the largest and most important temples of Jain culture.
  • Walls and pillars are carved with intricate designs and is a masterpiece of architecture. Ranakpur is near Udaipur and can be easily covered in a day’s trip from Udaipur.
  • detailed post here http://triponcards.com/ranakpur-treat-to-eyes-and-soul/

10) Samadeeshwara Temple (Rajasthan)

  • Temple is dedicated to lord shiva and was built by Raja Bhoja in 11th Century AD. Trimurti Shiva is enshrined in the sanctum and the interior and exterior of the temple are elaborately carved with many beautiful sculptures.
  • On the backside of the temple is sacred Sunder Kund.

11) Lepakshi Temple ( Andhra Pradesh)

  • Lepakshi is famous for its temples dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva, and Veerabhadra. During the exile of Lord Ram when Ravan was forcefully carrying Sita away to Lanka, Jatayu tried to protect Sita and was wounded in that fight. When Lord Rama reached the spot, he saw the bird and compassionately said  “Le Pakshi” — ‘rise bird’.
  • The temple is also famous for the hanging pillars which are only suspended from the roof and don’t touch the ground. Don’t miss the massive Nandi statue a few meters away from the temple.

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Chittorgarh

Chittorgarh a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest fort in India. Chittor was the capital of “Kingdom of Mewar” till the Royal family moved to Udaipur. Chittorgarh is a symbol of Rajput Chivalry resistance and bravery and has witnessed a lot of bloodsheds over centuries due to its strategic position and importance.

The Ruins run chills down the spine. Stories traveling as folklore fill you with gratitude and immense respect for Rajput Chivalry, who fought selflessly and protected our ancestors from conversion and massacre.

The freedom we have today is at the cost of countless sacrifices.

The Fort is built on a 180-meter high hill covering 700 acres and has seven gates. The fort houses many palaces, temples, towers, and historically significant monuments.

Glimpse of its history which is soaked in blood.

1303 (First Jauhar of Chittor)

  • In 1303 Chittor was ruled by King Ratan Singh of the Guhila dynasty. Delhi ruler Allahudin Khilji captured Chittor after an eight-month siege.
  • He immediately ordered the massacre of Chittor’s population. According to Amir Khusrau, 30,000 Hindus were “cut down like dry grass” as a result of this order.
  • To avoid the wrath of the barbaric and bloodthirsty Army, Hindu Women of Chittor led by their queens committed Jauhar (mass self-immolation).
  • Hammir Singh of the Mewar dynasty finally managed to capture the fort, he is even credited with turning the Mewar dynasty into a military machine.
  • Mewar dynasty flourished into a stronger military force under the reign of another Mewar King Rana Kumbha.

1535 (Second Jauhar of Chittor)

  • Post Rana Sanga’s death in 1528 Chittorgad weakened due to weaker Kings, it directly came under regency of window queen Rani Karnavati as her sons were still minors.
  • Thinking of it as a good opportunity Sultan of Gujarat Bahadhur Shah sacked the fort with his Army.
  • When Chittorgad started facing attacks by Sultan Rani Karnavati sought the assistance of the Mughal emperor Humayun by sending him a rakhi.
  • Humayun responded graciously but before he could reach Chittorgarh, Bahadur Shah sacked the fort for the second time.
  • Rani Karnavati refused to flee and post sending her sons to Bundi she shut herself with 13,000 women with gunpowder, lit it and thus committed mass suicide While all the men wore saffron clothes and went out to fight till death.
  • Rani Karnavati was the grandmother of legendary Maharana Pratap.
  • Special mention to maid Panna Dhai ( Nursemaid) who took Rani’s son Udai Singh to Kumbhalgad.
  • When Udai still an Infant was attacked by his uncle Bhanvir, Panna pointed at the bed, occupied by her son, and watched as he was murdered. Panna Dai sacrificed her own son’s life to protect the prince of Mewar.

Many years later King Udai Singh and a considerable force from Mewar, marched into Chittor to reclaim his throne.

Saka – In Rajputs during the war, when the defeat in the war was certain and seeing this woman decide to jump into the jaws of Jauhar, men don saffron robes with the determination to fight till their last breath. Either they will win victorious or else they will destroy more and more of the enemy army while fighting for the last hope of victory in the heart. It is called as Saka.

1567 (Third Jauhar of Chittor)

  • In 1567 Chittorgarh was ruled by Rana Uday Singh II.
  • Mughal Emperor Akbar had eyes on Chittorgad, he attacked the fort with his massive Army to what he called ” humble the arrogance of the brave and fierce Ranas” as few brave kings of Mewar had resisted him.
  • When gates of the fort opened 8000 Rajput fought bravely and were sacrificed in the battle which lasted 4 months. 20000-25000 civilians too were massacred by Akbar’s Army post the seize and many women committed Jauhar to protect their modesty.
  • According to David Smith, when Akbar entered the Chittorgarh fort in 1568, it was “nothing but an immense crematorium”.

Rising pillars of smoke soon signaled the rite of Jauhar as the Rajputs killed their families and prepared to die in a supreme sacrifice. In a day filled with hand-to-hand struggles until virtually all the defenders died. The Mughal troops slaughtered another 20-25,000 ordinary persons, inhabitants of the town and peasants from the surrounding area on the grounds that they had actively helped in the resistance.— John F. Richards, The Mughal Empire[7]

Main Places to Visit

7 gates of Chittorgarh

From the base to the hilltop, the Paidal Pol, Bhairon Pol, Hanuman Pol, Ganesh Pol, Jorla Pol, Laxman Pol, and Ram Pol, the final and main gate.

Rana Khumba Palace

Now in complete ruins, this palace was rebuilt by Maharana Kumbha on a ruined palace which was built in the 734 AD by Bappa Rawal.

Maharana Kumbha lived most of his life in this palace.

The founder of Udaipur Rana Udai Singh was born here.

Krishna devotional poet-saint MeeraBai lived here most of her life.

Kirti Stambh

Chittor has a history of Jain culture going back several centuries. In 12th-century a tower was built by Jain merchant. Built-in Solanki architecture standing 72ft high and is adorned with beautiful carvings.

Vijay Stambh

Rana Kumbha, in 1448 to commemorate his victory over the combined armies of Malwa and Gujarat led by Mahmud Khilji. The tower is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The topmost story features an image of the Jain Goddess, Padmavati. Rana Kumbha also had the word Allah carved in Arabic nine times in the third story and eight times in the eighth.

Our guide told us the intention to carve Allah on the third and eight floors was to protect it from any Islamic Invasions in the future.

Padmini Palace
Meerabai Temple
Kumbh-Shyam Temple

Samadhishwar Temple

Dedicated to Lord Shiva and built-in the 11th century. The main sanctum is enshrined with three-faced Shiva.

Ruins of the ancient temples destroyed during many invasions.

Tridev Temple

On the north of the temple is Gaumukh Kund.

Gaumukha Kund
Jauhar Place
protests against Padmavat movie at one of the gates

We visited Chittorgarh on 4th Dec 2017, just before the release of the movie Padmavat. There we protest going on against the cast and director of the movie by Rajputana community.

We all have read about the multiple invasions, Jauhar and Chittorgard in our history books, but sitting here witnessing the ruins and the untold stories which our guide shared with us filled my heart with rage and sadness at the same time.

Across multiple wars, more than 1 lakh people were massacred or burnt alive here. Our guide told us when Khilji and his army finally entered the fort, they mercilessly butchered every person they saw. Breastfeeding kids were snatched from their mothers, killed in front of their mothers who were then raped and killed. They destroyed temples, some ruins of these temples are still preserved.

How to reach

  • ~ 3 hours drive from Udaipur.
  • ~ 2.5 hours drive from Khumbhalgad.
  • ~ 3 hours drive from Mount Abu.

Where did we stay

We didn’t stay in Chittorgarh, we covered it on the road trip from Kumbhalgad to Udaipur.

Travel Tip

  1. Please hire a guide, this place has historic significance. You need a good guide to explain all this.
  2. Most of the guides will push you into visiting shops that sell Chandan Saris, You can avoid it by politely refusing.
  3. Chittaurgarh can be easily covered in a day trip from Udaipur. Leave Udaipur by 10 am have lunch on the way and reach around 2 pm.
  4. If you are interested in history then don’t make it a hasty visit, keep 4-5 hours to explore all the places in the fort.
  5. I would suggest reaching here around 3 pm since it is very hot during the day.
  6. Nov – Feb will be the best time to visit.
  7. Chittor Fort is huge so covering all the places on foot is a bit daunting. Please book a car which can take you to all the monuments.
  8. Don’t miss witnessing the sunset from Rana Kumbha palace.
  9. We couldn’t find any decent restaurant nearby, so please eat on the way.