One of the surprising features of India is the variety of religions and how they are reflected in their temples. In the north of India there is a great amount and variety of temples of which we select the five that we recommend the most visited.
- The temple of the 1444 columns – Rankapur Jain Temple
The temple of 1444 columns or Ranakpur is located 90 km from Udaipur, in Rajasthan. It is one of the most important Jain temples in India and consists of 29 rooms, three temples and 1444 columns carved with different motifs. The main temple is intended for Adinath and was built in 1439, while the other two are dedicated to Neminath and Parasnath. It is worth spending some time to carefully observe the carvings in the columns.
Jainism emerged in the 16 century BC and was founded by Mahavira, a contemporary of Buddha.
The devotees of this religion believe that liberation can be achieved through the absolute purity of the soul. For that it is necessary to be free of all Karman, a state generated by one’s own actions and that oppresses the soul. If one follows the vows of austerity one can get rid of Karman and purify the soul. It is essential to practice nonviolence of thought and not harm any living being.
The entrance to the complex is free and to enter it is necessary to have the shoulders and knees covered. In addition, you must enter barefoot.
- The Golden Temple
The Golden Temple is located in the city of Amritsar and is the most important and famous temple for the Sikhs. The Sikhs are those who practice one of the many religions that we can find in India and which, it is estimated, has more than 23 million followers. Most live in the northern state of the country known as Punjab. This religion emerged as a way to confront the Hindu caste system and aims to unite the best of Hinduism and Islam. In the architecture of the temple it is possible to observe elements of these two religions. The golden dome that it is built with more than 700 kilos of pure gold represents an inverted lotus flower, as it is considered a symbol of pure life that followers of this religion seek to achieve. The temple is located in the center of the sacred Amrit Sarovar pond and is accessed through a footbridge, known as the bridge of the Gurus.
Every day the opening ceremony of the book takes place, at approximately 5:00 am in the morning, and the closing ceremony of the book, at 9:00 p.m.
One of the visible characteristics is that men do not cut their hair (some do not wear a beard) and wear colored turbans to cover their hair.
As one of its pillars is the equality between people (as proclaimed by other religions) everyone is welcome to the Golden Temple complex. Every day, thousands of people come to visit this place. The Sikhs must visit him at least once in his life and “purify” himself in the waters of the lake that surrounds the temple.
To enter the temple complex it is necessary to cover the head. Also, before entering the area of the sacred lake you have to take off your shoes and wash your feet. It is possible to eat for free in the dining room (as thousands of people do per day) and to sleep for free in dormitories. Tourists have a reserved place, with shared bathroom, at the Sri Guru Ram Das Niwas (a building within the complex). Although it is free, donations are accepted and it is suggested not to stay more than three nights in order to leave the place to other travelers.
- Temple dedicated to Brahama, in Pushkar
Pushkar is a small town, 11 km from Ajmer, which grew around a sacred lake and is one of the five dhams or sacred places of pilgrimage for Hindu devotees. The Hindus believe that the gods released a swan with a lotus in its beak. Where the swan would drop the lotus, the four-headed god Brahma would make a great iagna (or yagna, sacrificial ritual). The place where the lotus fell was called Pushkar.
In this locality is the unique temple of India dedicated to Brahma, one of the main representations of Brahmán (the other two are Vishnu and Siva). Legend has it that Brahma needed to play out a custom in the lake and, as his better half Savitri did not go to, he wedded another lady. Savitri, in revenge, swore that Brahma would not be venerated anywhere else. The site is marked by a red spiral and at the entrance there is a hans (goose that symbolizes Brahma).
For Hinduism everything that exists emanates from Brahman and will return to it. The Brahaman is the One, the ultimate reality, is reportless and eternal. The infinity of deities that hinduism has are only manifestations of this entity.
- The temples of Khajuraho
Khajuraho was the religious capital of the Chandella, a dynasty that ruled this part of India between the 10th and 12th centuries. In the temple complex only 22 of the original 80 temples are kept in good condition. They were discovered in 1838 by an engineer of the British army, since they were left abandoned and covered by vegetation. Many temples had already been destroyed by the Mughal Empire.
The temples of the Khajuraho complex are considered by Unesco as World Heritage since 1986 and are famous for their erotic sculptures. It is not known with certainty what was the reason why the temples were decorated with these motis, but there are different versions. One of them is that the decoration had an educational motive that was to teach the kamasutra to the youngest ones. Another version maintains that the temples are a tribute to the marriage between Shiva and Parvati. And a third version raises the theory that the sculptures representing lovers served as protection, as they scared off evil spirits and lightning.
But not only erotic sculptures are decorated temples, but there are five different types:
– geometric and floral drawings, used in the ceilings, moldings and in the decoration of the columns.
– sculptures that represent the life of the court, such as dances or music, as well as everyday activities.
– figures of animals, which are usually placed to break the monotony of human figures.
– images of gods and goddesses, which are usually located at the back of the temple
– female figures and those representing lovemaking couples.
- Lotus Temple or House of Prayer, Delhi
The Lotus Temple is located in the south of the city of Delhi and has the peculiarity that it was built by followers of Bahai philosophy, which revolves around universal peace and the elimination of prejudice..
The idea of the construction of Houses of Prayer as the Temple of the Lotus (named for the shape of its architecture that has 27 petals covered in marble) is to have a place of meditation and prayer for the followers of all religions, for therefore, there are no representative figures of any religion and all creeds are welcome. People pray the way they usually do and it is forbidden to talk so as not to interrupt the meditation or the prayer of the other.
Admission is free and you must enter barefoot.
- Karni Mata Temple
30 km from the town of Bikaner, in the north of Rajasthan, is the Karni Mata Temple, better known as the Temple of the Rats. It is that there, these rodents are free to come and go wherever they want: it is their temple, their house. According to legend, Karni Mata, an incarnation of Durga, asked the god of death, Yama, to resurrect the son of a narrator. When Yama refused, Karni Mata reincarnated all the dead narrators in rats so that Yama would be left without the souls of the humans.
To enter this temple it is necessary to do it barefoot and follow the consequences of the rats walking your feet. It is considered good luck to see a white rat, although most are brown and quite ugly. We could not visit this temple, but it is another option in the interesting state of Rajasthan.
It can be reached by bus from Bikaner and it takes about 40 minutes.