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A Hindu temple, also known as a Mandiram (Sanskrit: मन्दिर, IAST: mɐnd̪irum), is a place of worship for followers of Hinduism. A characteristic of most temples is the presence of murtis (statues) of the Hindu deity to whom the temple is dedicated. They are usually dedicated to one primary deity, the presiding deity, and other deities associated with the main deity. However, some temples are dedicated to several deities, and others are dedicated to murtis in an iconic form. Many temples are in key geographical points, such as a hill top, near waterfalls, caves and rivers, as these are, according to Hinduism, sattvik places and make it easier to contemplate God.
Many Hindu temples are known by different names around the world, depending upon the language.
The word mandir or mandiram is used in many languages and is derived from a Sanskrit word, mandira, for house (of a deity by implication).
Temples are known as :
The oldest temples, built of brick and wood, no longer exist. Stone later became the preferred material. Temples marked the transition of the Vedic religion to Hinduism. Archaeoastronomy in India provides us with crucial clues to the evolution of the temple and its many cultural functions.
Mandir construction and mode of worship is governed by several Sanskrit scriptures called agamas, which deal with individual deities. There are substantial differences in architecture, customs, rituals and traditions in temples in different parts of India.  During the consecration of a temple the presence of Brahman is invoked into the main deity of the temple, making the deity and temple sacred.
According to practitioners of Hinduism, the temple, through which contacts or relations are established among the states of being (humans, spirits, and gods), is a combination of the data of yoga, astrology, and sacred geography. In the temple structure, there are diagrams similar to the ones described for chakras according to yoga experience, with proportions similar to those deriving from the position of the stars..
The main architectural styles are: the Dravida style of South India, and the Nagara style of North India, the mixed Vesara style. Other styles include: the Pahari architectures of Kashmir, Himachal, Uttarakhand, and Nepal; Kerala rainy style, Goa European style, Bali style, Khmer style, and the modern very basic style of a hall with an altar.
In Hinduism, altars generally contain pictures or statues of gods and goddesses. Large, ornate altars are found in Hindu temples while smaller altars are found in homes and sometimes also in Hindu-run shops and restaurants. The word for temple is mandir (san: मन्दिर), the altar (and that which contains it, even an alcove or a small cabinet) as hypostatised temple.
In South Indian temples, often each god will have His or Her own shrine, each contained in a miniature house (specifically, a mandir). These shrines are often scattered around the temple compound, with the three main ones being in the main area. The statue of the God (murti) is placed on a stone pedestal in the shrine, and one or more lamps are hung in the shrine. There is usually a space to put the puja tray (tray with worship offerings). Directly outside the main shrine there will be a statue of the god's vahana or vehicle. The shrines have curtains hung over the entrances, and wooden doors which are shut when the Deities are "sleeping." Some South Indian temples have one main altar, with several statues placed upon it.
North Indian temples generally have one main altar at the front of the temple room. In some temples, the front of the room is separated with walls and several altars are placed in the alcoves. The statues on the altars are usually in pairs, each god with his consort (Radha-Krishna, Sita-Rama, Shiva-Parvati). However, some gods, such as Ganesha and Hanuman, are placed alone. Ritual items such as flowers or lamps may be placed on the altar.
Shrines are usually made of wood and have tiled floors for statues to be placed upon. Pictures may be hung on the walls of the shrine. The top of the shrine may have a series of levels, like a gopuram tower on a temple. Each Hindu altar will have at least one oil lamp and may contain a tray with puja equipment as well.
Kalyani, pushkarini, kunda, sarovara, etc. are ancient Hindu stepped bathing wells. These wells were typically built near Hindu temples for bathing before prayer. Some are used for immersing Ganesha statues during Ganesha Chaturthi.
The customs and etiquette when visiting Hindu temples have a long history and are filled with symbolism.
Worshipers in major temples typically bring in symbolic offerings for the puja. This includes fruits, flowers, sweets and other symbols of the bounty of the natural world. Temples in India are usually surrounded by small stores called 'dukanam' (Telugu) or 'dukan' (Hindi) which offer them typically wrapped in organic containers such as banana leaves.
When inside the temple, it is typical to keep both hands folded together as a sign of respect. The inner sanctuary, where the murtis reside, is known as the garbhagriha. It symbolizes the birthplace of the universe, the meeting place of the gods and mankind, and "the threshold between the transcendental and the phenomenal worlds." It is in this inner shrine that devotees offer prayers and salutations to the presiding deities. Devotees may or may not be able to personally present their offerings at the feet of the deity. In most South Indian temples, only the pujaris are allowed to enter into the garbhagruh. In North Indian temples, however, it is more common for devotees to be allowed entrance.
The mantras spoken are typically "Om Namo Narayana" or "Om Namah Shivaya" which mean "Obeisance to Narayana (vishnu)" or "Salutations to Shiva". These are followed by a series of shlokas or verses from the holy texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads or Vedas. Upon the conclusion of prayer, devotees get down on their knees or even fall flat on their stomach and bow before the symbol of the deity. If a pujari is present, they are likely to provide sacred symbolically blessed food, prasad to the devotee. He may also apply a holy red mark called 'tilak' to the forehead of the devotee symbolising blessings.
Finally the worshiper or visitor walks clockwise around the innermost sanctum, or garbhagriha, stop once on each side, close their eyes and pray to the All Loving Being. The worshiper may receive a sprinkling of the water from the holy river Ganges while the 'pujari' states "Om Shanti" which means "peace be unto all".
During religious holidays, temples may be swarmed with devotees chanting and praying loudly. There may be facilitators called 'paandaas' who help visitors navigate through the crowds and complete the pujas quickly.
Temple management staff typically announce the hours of operation, including timings for special pujas. These timings, due to the vast diversity in Hinduism, vary from temple to temple. For example, some temples may perform aarti once or twice per day, while other temples, such as those part of Swaminarayan movement, may perform aarti five times per day. Additionally, there may be specially allotted times for devotees to perform circumambulations (or pradakshina) around the outside of the temple. There are also timings for devotional songs or music called bhajans, which are accompanied by a dholak or tabla soloist and/or harmonium soloist. There are dates and times for devotional dances such as the classical Bharata Natyam dance performed by accomplished performers.
Visitors and worshipers to Hindu temples are required to remove shoes and other footwear before entering. Most temples have an area designated to store footwear. Additionally, it may be customary, particularly at South Indian temples, for men to remove shirts and to cover pants and shorts with a traditional cloth known as a Vasthiram.
The Hindu religion teaches that all life-forms are created by Brahma and that humankind needs to share the world with the animal kingdom. It is common to see stray dogs, cows, monkeys, and birds congregated at temples.
Most temples in North Indian rituals are very simple in stark contrast to South Indian temples which have elaborate rituals due to constant attack from Muslim in North India. Also North Indian temples often tend to be less orthodox and in many cases everybody are permitted to enter the innermost sanctum of the deity and worship the deity personally. In such cases, the deity is not adorned with valuable jewelry. The innermost heart of the temple is the sanctum where the deity (usually of fixed stone) is present, followed by a large hall for lay worshipers to stand in and obtain "Darśana" or divine audience. There may or may not be many more surrounding corridors, halls etc. However there will be space for devotees to go around the temple in clock wise fashion circumambulation as a mark of respect. In North Indian temples, the tallest towers are built over the sanctum sanctorum. Many old and big temples were destroyed during Islamic Rule in India.
One example of a type of more elaborate North Indian temple is the style of temple known as the Shikharbaddha Mandir found in Northern and Western India, and particularly famous in the Swaminarayan Hindu tradition. These temples have towers, or shikharas, built over the sanctum sanctorum, in which the deity is installed.
A significant Stone Cut Architecture was evolved in Maharashtrian Temple style in 1st millennium. The Temples are carved out from single stone as complete temple or will be carved in as Cave which would look like interior of a temple. Ellora Temple is 1example of former while Elephanta Caves would be example of latter style. Ellora (Marathi: वेरूळ Vērūḷ) also known as Ellooru, is an archaeological site, 29 km (18 mi) North-West of the city of Aurangabad in the Indian state of Maharashtra built by the Rashtrakuta dynasty. Well known for its monumental caves, Ellora is a World Heritage Site. The Elephanta Caves (Marathi: घारापुरीची लेणी, Gharapurichya Lenee) are a network of sculpted caves located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri (literally "the city of caves") in Mumbai Harbour, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) to the east of the city of Mumbai in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The island, located on an arm of the Arabian Sea, consists of two groups of caves—the first is a large group of five Hindu caves, the second, a smaller group of two Buddhist caves. The Hindu caves contain rock cut stone sculptures, representing the Shaiva Hindu sect, dedicated to the god Shiva.
Famous South Indian temples are :
The most world famous temples i.e. Jagannath temple at Puri, Sun temple at Konark, Lingaraj temple at Bhubaneswar are found in Odisha. These temples are over 1,200 years old. In Bhubaneswar, around 10,000 temples are present which represents strong Hinduism in Odisha. Bhubaneswar is known as temple city (mandira malini nagri) of India
See also : List of temples in Bhubaneswar
The temple architecture of Goa is quite unique. As part of Inquisition of Goa, the Portuguese demolished more than 1000 temples on Island of Goa. New temples were later built in the areas in Goa which were not parts of Portuguese kingdom, and were under reign of Hindu princely states. Thus these temples are not more than 500 years old, and are a unique blend of original Goan temple architecture, Dravidian, Nagar and Hemadpanthi temple styles with some British and Portuguese architectural influences. Goan temples were built using sedimentary rocks, wood, limestone and clay tiles as well as copper sheets were used for the roofs. These temples were decorated with mural art called as Kavi kala or ocher art.The interiors were decorated with such murals as well as exquisite wood carvings depicting scenes from the Hindu mythology.
In West Bengal and Bangaladesh, temple architecture has assumed a unique identity and evolved into the Bengali terra cotta temple architecture. Due to lack of suitable stone in the alluvial Gangetic delta, the temple makers had to resort to other materials instead of stone. This gave rise to using terracotta as a medium for temple construction. Terracotta exteriors with rich carvings are a unique feature of Bengali temples. The town of Vishnupur in West Bengal is renowned for this type of architecture.
Usually a part of the intended total motif was carved by hand on one side of a brick and then baked. While under construction, these carved bricks were arranged to make up the entire motif.
The Bengali style of temple is usually not luxurious. Rather, most are modeled on simple thatched-roof earthen huts used as dwellings by commoners. This can be attributed to the popularity of bhakti cults which taught people to view gods as close to themselves. Thus, various styles like do-chala, char-chala, and aat-chala sprang up. However, there is also a popular style of building known as Navaratna (nine-towered) or Pancharatna (five-towered) in Bengal which is more luxurious than the Chala buildings. A typical example of Navaratna style is the Dakshineswar Kali Temple.
Angkor Wat (Khmer) is the largest Hindu temple complex in the world. The temple was built by King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yasodharapura (Khmer, present-day Angkor), the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum. Breaking from the Shaiva tradition of previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation – first Hindu, dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist. The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. It has become a symbol of Cambodia,  appearing on its national flag, and it is the country's prime attraction for visitors.
Hindu temples of ancient Java, Indonesia, bear resemblances with temples of South Indian style. However later ancient Javanese art and architecture developed its own style. The fine example of 9th century Javanese Hindu temple is the towering Trimurti temple of Prambanan in Yogyakarta. In Bali, unlike the common towering indoor Indian Hindu temple, Pura (Balinese temple) is designed as an open-air worship place within enclosed walls, connected with series of intricately decorated gates to reach its compounds. The design, plan and layout of the holy pura is followed the "Trimandala" concept, three mandala zone arranged according to the hierarchy of its sacredness.
Many members of the South Asian diaspora have established Hindu mandirs outside India as a means of preserving and celebrating cultural and spiritual heritage abroad. Describing the hundreds of mandirs that can be found throughout the United States, scholar Gail M. Harley observes, “The temples serve as central locations where Hindus can come together to worship during holy festivals and socialize with other Hindus. Temples in America reflect the colorful kaleidoscopic aspects contained in Hinduism while unifying people who are disbursed throughout the American landscape.”
Numerous mandirs in North America and Europe have gained particular prominence and acclaim. The Shiva-Vishnu Temple at Livermore in San Francisco Bay Area, for example, attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year for a variety of cultural and religious events. The B.A.P.S. organization has built over sixty mandirs in North America, as well as numerous temples in Europe. The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir London, for example, has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest traditional Hindu temple outside India, and has been constructed according to Vedic architectural standards. The temples constructed in this traditional style of temple architecture are known as Shikharbaddha Mandirs.
Another example of a Swaminarayan Shikharbaddha Mandir is the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Toronto, which is the largest Hindu temple in Canada. The Radha Madhav Dham temple, established by Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj, is one of the largest Hindu Temple complexes in the Western Hemisphere, and the largest in North America.
The Archeological Survey of India has control of most ancient temples of archaeological importance in India.
However since independence, the autonomy of individual Hindu religious denominations to manage their own affairs with respect to temples of their own denomination have been severely eroded. State governments of many states in India (and especially all the states in South India) have gradually increased their control over all Hindu temples. Over decades, by enacting various laws which have been fought both successfully and unsuccessfully up to the Supreme court of India, politicians of the ruling parties especially in the southern states control every aspect of temple management and functioning. The Harekrishna temples made a land mark of 108 temples during the days of its founder-acharya SrilaPrabhupada.
Media related to Hindu temples at Wikimedia Commons