The 23 Most Amazing Temples In The World

Sep 18, 2014

Category: Living

According to some estimates, there are around four thousand different religions in practice around the world. The exact number depends on your definition of religion. Once you get into the thousands, your definition can be said to be fairly loose. So loose that it’s probably falling off your shoulders, if not down around your ankles. A more realistic number, one that considers only the more significant of the world’s religions, might be somewhere around twenty. For most of these, maybe all, houses of worship are built, temples where followers of the faith can gather to pray, sacrifice, perform rituals, or whatever it else it may be that the religion might require. These buildings are often ambitiously imagined, to such an extent that we decided it’s worth taking a closer look at some of them. Here are 23 of the best and most amazing temples in the world.

Prambanan Temple Indonesia

Prambanan Temple, Indonesia

Built in the 10th century, Prambanan is not one temple, but a compound consisting of 240 temples. It is the largest temple complex in Java, and dedicated to the three great Hindu deities, who represent the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction: Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer. [Details]

Stonehenge England

Stonehenge, England

We’ve included Stonehenge because one of the theories for its existence, and there are many, is that it is some kind of ceremonial complex and temple to the dead. That was all we needed. This theory came after hundreds of human bones were found at the site, covering a span of more than a thousand years, and showing signs of cremation before burial. [Details]

Gawdawpalin Temple Myanmar

Gawdawpalin Temple, Myanmar

A Buddhist temple built in the 12th century, Gawdawpalin was badly damaged in a 1975 6.5 magnitude earthquake. The nearby Bagan museum houses many of the images and treasures that were damaged. [Details]

Thatbyinnyu Temple Myanmar

Thatbyinnyu Temple, Myanmar

The neighbor of Gawdawpalin, and built around the same time, Thatbyinnyu is the tallest temple in Myanmar. The word “Thatbyinnyou” means omniscience, which describes the state of the Buddha after he entered, serenely and without breaking a sweat, enlightenment. A statue of Buddha sits on the throne in the upper terrace. No, not that kind of throne, a lotus throne. [Details]

Medinet Habu Egypt

Medinet Habu, Egypt

In its heyday it was no doubt an impressively imposing structure. Today though, it looks like it might have been built by a four-year-old on a sandy beach. Okay, a four-year-old with fairly advanced architectural design skills, and pretty good with a paint brush, but the point is it’s not what it once was. But then it is somewhere around 3000 years old. The site is close to the Valley of the Kings, and is the mortuary temple of Ramesses III, built in celebration of his reign. [Details]

Taktsang Palphug Monastery Bhutan

Taktsang Palphug Monastery, Bhutan

More popularly known as Tiger’s Nest, the Paro Taktstang temple complex is lodged into the side of the cliffs in Butan’s upper Paro valley. If you haven’t caught on to the fact that the number 3 holds religious significance, this is the monastery that will help fix that. It’s built around the site of the cave where Guru Padmasambhava is said to have meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days, and three hours. Mr. Padmasambhava is credited with the not insignificant achievement of introducing Buddhism to Butan. [Details]

Temple Of Heaven Beijing

Temple Of Heaven, Beijing

The Temple of Heaven is a complex of religious buildings dating from the 15th century. It is considered a Taoist temple, but it was used by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for the annual prayer to Heaven to help with the harvest. Heaven worship, a ritual of sacrifice and worship at an altar of Heaven – the most famous of which is this one – predates Taoism. [Details]

Borobudur Temple. Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia.

Borobudur, Indonesia

The largest Buddhist monument in the world, Borobudur is the most-visited tourist site in Indonesia, often included among the Seven Wonders of the World. It is from the 8th century, which relative to other religious structures is early. [Details]

The Colossi Of Memnon Egypt

The Colossi Of Memnon, Egypt

The Colossi were built to guard the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III, who if he were still alive he’d be about 3000 years old. The temple itself is pretty much gone now, so these guys might just as well go home, really. Although, they’re not doing too well themselves, and probably wouldn’t get too far if they tried. [Details]

Golden Temple India

Golden Temple, India

The Golden Temple is a gurdwara, which literally means, gateway to the guru, a place of worship for Sikhs. This is considered one of the holiest places in Sikhism, because the Adi Granth, the first draft of what is basically the Sikh equivalent of the bible, the Guru Granth Sahib, was installed here. More than 100,00 people worship at the Golden Temple every day. [Details]

Abu Simbel Egypt

Abu Simbel, Egypt

The two temples of Abu Simbel are monuments to Ramesses II and his queen, Nefertari. They were carved out of the mountainside, built to commemorate his victory at the Battle of Kadesh, possibly the largest chariot battle ever fought, involving some five or six thousand chariots. During the 1960s the temples were cut up into massive blocks and moved, in order to avoid damage from the rising waters caused by the Aswan Dam, about 200 miles away. [Details]

Temple of Confucius China

Temple of Confucius, China

Built in 479 BC, this is the original, the largest, and the most famous of all the Confucius temples. It is located in Confucius’ hometown of Qufu. In 1994 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. [Details]

Mahabodhi Temple India

Mahabodhi Temple, India

Sometime around 530 BC a weary Siddhartha Gautama sat down under what was then called a peepul tree. Three days and three nights later, and without getting up, he reached enlightenment. He then changed his name to the Buddha, and the rest, as they say, is history. The Mahabodhi Temple marks the location of the event, and on its western side is the tree where Siddhartha meditated, now called a Bodhi tree. Somehow, we don’t think it can be exactly the same tree. [Details]

Angkor Wat Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Not to be confused with the Texan thrash metal band, the biggest tourist attraction in Cambodia started out Hindu, then became Buddhist, largely because of the sitting. Cambodia is proud of this temple, it appears on the national flag. Angkor Wat is also the largest temple complex in Cambodia, and lays claim to being the largest religious monument in the world. [Details]

Karnak Egypt

Karnak, Egypt

Karnak is the largest ancient religious site in the world, a complex made up of three main temples. One of its most famous features is the Hypostyle Hall, which has 134 massive columns that rise up to 60 feet in height, and ten feet across. Karnak was not a quick build. It took fifteen hundred years or so to complete. [Details]

Temple of Hephaestus Greece

Temple of Hephaestus, Greece

Perhaps the most amazing feature of this temple is the condition it’s in, which is close to when originally built, around 2,500 years ago. It was named after Hephaestus, who is, or at least was, the patron god of metal working and craftsmanship. Before this, he was the patron god of pizza making. [Details]

Lotus Temple India

Lotus Temple, India

Built in 1986 and designed to look like a lotus blossom, the Lotus Temple is a Bahai house of worship. When it comes to other religions Bahai has a kind of open door policy, and doesn’t particularly care about your particular religious preference. It’s still perfectly okay for you to worship God. Hence, anyone and everyone is welcome to the Lotus Temple. Bahai is second most widespread faith behind Christianity, and one of the fastest growing. [Details]

Ness Of Brodgar Scotland

Ness Of Brodgar, Scotland

Excavation of a 5000-year-old temple in Orkney is changing what we thought we knew about our Neolithic ancestors. The site is thought to be part of an extended community that includes other ancient sites in Orkney, all of which suggests that people of the time were more sophisticated and handier with a hammer than was previously thought. The temple at Brodgar is believed to be about 500 years older than Stonehenge. [Details]

Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple India

Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple, India

Sitting on 59 acres of religious turf, Akshardham is said to be the largest Hindu temple in the world. However, New Jersey is currently working on a bigger one. Akshardham means the forever home of the supreme God, so if you’re still searching for the one true deity, this is where he lives. It was only finished in 2005, so where he was before this we don’t know. The complex contains features you might not expect to find in a temple. There’s a theater, a musical fountain, lifelike robotics, and a food court, to name just a few of the attractions. [Details]

Philae Temples Egypt

Philae Temples, Egypt

The oldest remains of the temples at Philae are around 400 BC, and were dedicated to the goddess, Isis. She is generally considered to be the primary goddess of these sacred islands of Lake Nasser. [Details]

Kashi Vishwanath Temple India

Kashi Vishwanath Temple, India

The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and located in Varanasi, which is not only the spiritual capital of India, but the holiest of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism, and  believed by Hindus to be the oldest town in history. Mind you, Ness of Brodgar might be challenging that.  A visit to the temple and a quick dip in the Ganges is believed to put you on the path to liberation. Or failing that, the hospital. [Details]

Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir India

Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir, India

The oldest temple of the Jain religion, built in 1656. Before entering you must remove your shoes and all leather goods. So if you’re planning a visit, probably best not to wear the leather pants. [Details]

Nauvoo Illinois Temple Illinois

Nauvoo Illinois Temple, Illinois

The second temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, more often known as the Mormons. The original was destroyed by fire in 1848, and then if that wasn’t enough, hit by tornado in 1850. The present building was completed on June 27, 2002, the 158th anniversary of the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, the founders of the Mormon church. [Details]

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