India's vast expanse is studded with architectural wonders that have withstood the tests of time, weathering invasions, and witnessing epochs unfold. Beyond their religious significance, these temples embody India's oldest temple in Kerala, the spiritual depth of the oldest Hindu temple in India, and the cultural richness of the oldest temple in South India.
Most ancient temple in India
1. Konark Sun Temple, Odisha
Located in Konark, Odisha, this 13th-century temple is a masterpiece of Kalinga architecture. Designed in the shape of a colossal chariot with intricately carved stone wheels, it's dedicated to the Sun God, Surya. In most ancient temples in India, intricate carvings depict various aspects of daily life, celestial beings, and the eternal dance of the universe.
2. Dilwara Jain Temples, Mount Abu
Nestled amidst the lush hills of Mount Abu in Rajasthan, the Dilwara Temples are renowned for their unparalleled marble artistry. Dating back to the 11th-13th centuries, one of the oldest Hindu temples in India dedicated to Jain Tirthankaras showcases intricate carvings, ornate ceilings, and majestic pillars, making them architectural marvels.
3. Dakshineswar Temple, Kolkata
Situated on the eastern bank of the Hooghly River, this temple complex is dedicated to Goddess Kali. Established by Rani Rashmoni in the 19th century, it comprises 12 shrines, courtyards, and a bathing ghat. The temple gained prominence due to Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a revered saint who achieved spiritual enlightenment here.
4. Tirupati Balaji, Andhra Pradesh
Perched atop the Tirumala hills, this temple is dedicated to Lord Venkateswara, an incarnation of Vishnu. Renowned for its Dravidian architecture, the temple that began construction in 300 AD, witnesses millions of devotees annually. The Laddu Prasadam from this shrine is famous worldwide.
5. Badami Cave Temples, Karnataka
Carved out of sandstone cliffs, the Badami Cave Temples dating back to the 6th century is one of the oldest temples in South India. Dedicated primarily to Shiva and Vishnu, these caves feature intricate carvings, frescoes, and sculptures depicting various mythological narratives.
6. Amarnath Cave Temple, Jammu and Kashmir
Nestled in the Himalayas, the Amarnath Cave is a significant Hindu pilgrimage site dedicated to Lord Shiva and has been a centre of devotion since the 15th century. Accessible only during specific times of the year, the naturally formed ice lingam here symbolizes the oldest Shiva temple in India.
7. Brihadeeswara Temple, Tanjore
Built by the Chola king Rajaraja I in the 11th century, this temple is an architectural marvel. The oldest Shiva temple in India, its grandeur lies in its towering vimana (temple tower) and intricate sculptures.
8. Tungnath Temple, Uttarakhand
Tucked amidst the Garhwal Himalayas, Tungnath is the highest temple in the world and the oldest Shiva temple in India. Accessible only via a trek, this temple is the highest of Panch-Kedars temples, and holds immense spiritual significance among devotees and offers panoramic mountain views.
9. Jagatpita Brahma Mandir, Rajasthan
Situated in Pushkar, this temple, built in the 14th century, is one of the few dedicated to Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe, in India. With a distinct red spire and serene lake views, it's a focal point of the annual Pushkar Fair.
10. Vittala Temple, Hampi
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Vittala Temple in Hampi boasts Dravidian architecture. Dedicated to Lord Vittala, it's renowned for its iconic stone chariot, musical pillars, and intricate carvings.
11. Lingaraj Mandir, Bhubaneshwar
Dating back to the 11th century, Lingaraj Mandir is a significant Shiva temple in Odisha, the oldest Hindu temple in India. Its towering spire, vast courtyard, and sacred pond attract devotees and architectural enthusiasts alike.
12. Kailash Temple, Ellora
Carved out of a single rock, the Kailash Temple exemplifies ancient Indian rock-cut architecture. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, its intricate carvings, and vast structure make it a marvel of craftsmanship and devotion.