More than a quarter of all people in the world belong to Eastern religions, which include Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Taoism. These people worship in temples, which are architecturally as diverse as the religions are different from each other. From the ancient ruins of Ankor Wat to the distinctly modern Wat Rong Khun, there are hundreds if not thousands of amazing temples in the world. So here are some most amazingly beautiful temples of the world.
Wat Rong Khun
Wat Rong Khun, well known among foreigners as the White Temple, is an unconventional Buddhist temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Designed in 1997 by noted Thai painter-turned-architect Chalermchai Kositpipat, this magnificent temple is a bizarre blend of traditional Thai architecture and the surreal. The main building is painted white to symbolise Buddha’s purity, and is covered in mosaics of mirrors, sparkling in the sun. All around the complex are intricate sculptures of demons, skulls, severed heads hanging from trees and other bizarre objects.
Built between roughly A.D. 1113 and 1150, and encompassing an area of about 500 acres (200 hectares), Angkor Wat is one of the largest religious monuments ever constructed. Its name means “temple city.” Originally built as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu, it was converted into a Buddhist temple in the 14th century, and statues of Buddha were added to its already rich artwork.
Its 213-foot-tall (65 meters) central tower is surrounded by four smaller towers and a series of enclosure walls, a layout that recreates the image of Mount Meru, a legendary place in Hindu mythology that is said to lie beyond the Himalayas and be the home of the gods.
Kinkaku-ji is a Zen temple in northern Kyoto whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Formally known as Rokuonji, the temple built at the end of the 14th century, was the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and according to his will it became a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect after his death in 1408. Kinkakuji was the inspiration for the similarly named Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion), built by Yoshimitsu’s grandson, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, on the other side of the city a few decades later.
‘Akshardham’ means the divine abode of God. It is hailed as an eternal place of devotion, purity and peace. The mandir is a humble tribute to Bhagwan Swaminarayan (1781- 1830), the avatars, devas and great sages of Hinduism.
The traditionally-styled complex (New Delhi) was inaugurated on 6 November 2005 with the blessings of HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj and through the devoted efforts of skilled artisans and volunteers.
Akshardham mandir (Gujrat) was conducted by Pramukh Swami on 14 December 1979, and the foundation was completed in 1981.
East of Nehru place, this temple is built in the shape of a lotus flower and is the last of seven Major Bahai’s temples built around the world. Completed in1986 it is set among the lush green landscaped gardens.
The structure is made up of pure white marble. The architect Furiburz Sabha chose the lotus as the symbol common to Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam. Adherents of any faith are free to visit the temple and pray or meditate.
Around the blooming petals there are nine pools of water, which light up, in natural light. It looks spectacular at dusk when it is flood lit.
Made of white marble imported from Italy, the distinctive bòht (ordination hall) of Wat Ben, as it’s colloquially known, was built in the late 19th century under Rama V. The base of the central Buddha image, a copy of Phitsanulok’s revered Phra Phuttha Chinnarat, contains his ashes.
The structure is a unique example of modern Thai temple architecture, as is the interior design, which melds Thai features with European influences: the red carpets, the gold-on-white motifs painted repetitively on the walls, the walls painted like stained-glass windows and the royal blue wall behind the central Buddha image are strongly reminiscent of a European palace.
This famous Buddhist temple, dating from the 8th and 9th centuries, is located in central Java. It was built in three tiers: a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces, the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms and, at the top, a monumental stupa. The walls and balustrades are decorated with fine low reliefs, covering a total surface area of 2,500 m2. Around the circular platforms are 72 openwork stupas, each containing a statue of the Buddha. The monument was restored with UNESCO’s help in the 1970s.
Archaeologists estimate that it was built between the 6th and 10th century. When people say “golden temple” they usually mean that the structure is golden in color. But when it comes to the Shwedagon Pagoda, golden literally means covered in gold! In the 15th century, a queen of the Mon people donated her weight in gold to the temple. This tradition continues until today, where pilgrims often save for years to buy small packets of gold leafs to stick to the temple walls.
As if all that gold wasn’t enough, the spire of the stupa or dome is covered with over 5,000 diamonds and 2,000 rubies (there’s even a 76 carat diamond at the very tip!). And oh, the temple housed one of the holiest relics in Buddhism: eight strands of Buddha’s hair.
Built around 1190 AD by King Jayavarman VII, Bayon is a Buddhist temple but it incorporates elements of Hindu cosmology. The temple sat at the center of Angkor Thom, a walled city that served as the capital of the Khmer Empire. Given the centrality of Buddhism in the Khmer Empire, the Bayon Temple stood at the center of Angkor Thom. Unlike the other temples built by the Khmer, Bayon Temple is unique in that it was the only state temple built primarily as a Mahayana Buddhist shrine dedicated to the Buddha. After the death of Jayavarman, the features of the Bayon Temple were altered according to the religious belief of his successors, thus containing Hindu and Theravada Buddhist elements that were not part of the temple’s original plans.
The Gawdawpalin Temple was built by King Narapatisithu after building the Sulamani Temple. But the king did not complete the construction. It was completed by his son Htilominlo. It is located about 3 miles south of the Bu Pagoda on the bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. It is about 180 feet high and the structure is common like the Sulamani temple. Gawdawpalin is counted as one of the largest shrines of Bagan.
Kiyomizudera (literally “Pure Water Temple”) is one of the most celebrated temples of Japan. It was founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the wooded hills east of Kyoto, and derives its name from the fall’s pure waters. The temple was originally associated with the Hosso sect, one of the oldest schools within Japanese Buddhism, but formed its own Kita Hosso sect in 1965. In 1994, the temple was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites. Kiyomizudera is best known for its wooden stage that juts out from its main hall, 13 meters above the hillside below.
Wat Chaiwatthanaram is a Buddhist temple located within the ancient city of Ayutthaya, Thailand. Identified by cultural historians as the structure most emblematic of Buddhism’s influence on Thai society, the temple was commissioned in 1630 by King Prasat Thong in the traditional Khmer style. Wat Chaiwatthanaram was deserted and subject to decay and looting until 1987 when the Thai Department of Fine Arts began conserving the site. In 1991, it was designated a World Heritage Site.
Included on UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2000 as part of the Potala Palace , the Jokhang Temple is located in central Lhasa. With an area of 25,100 square meters (about six acres), it is the ultimate pilgrimage destination for Tibetan Pilgrims. King Songtsem Gampo built it in 1647.
The Byodo-In Temple is located at the foot of the Ko’olau Mountains in Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. It was established on June 7, 1968, to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. The Byodo-In Temple in O’ahu is a smaller-scale replica of the over 950-year-old Byodo-in Temple, a United Nations World Heritage Site in Uji, Japan.
There are over 31200 Buddhist temples spread around Thailand. In Thai these are called wat. One of these, the Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn, is named after Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn. Sitting majestically on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River, the legendary Wat Arun is one of the most striking riverside landmarks of Thailand. Despite the name, the most spectacular view of the glittering monument can be seen from the east side of the river at sunset, when the spires of Wat Arun make an impressive silhouette against the skyline. Although the temple had existed since at least the seventeenth century, its distinctive prang (spires) were built in the early nineteenth century during the reign of King Rama II.
Tanah Lot Temple is one of Bali’s most important landmarks, famed for its unique offshore setting and sunset backdrops. An ancient Hindu shrine perched on top of an outcrop amidst constantly crashing waves; Tanah Lot Temple is simply among Bali’s not-to-be-missed icons.