World's Most Amazing and Fascinating Buildings: The Foundations of Religions

Even a small Hindu shrine can be seen from anywhere in a village because of the tall carved shikhara above it. The shikhara represents a holy mountain that is thought of as a staircase to the heavenly world.

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World's Most Amazing and Fascinating Buildings: The Foundations of Religions

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As early as 2500 BC, great civilizations flourished south of the Himalayan mountains, in what is now India. Three world religions began there-Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. All three teach that life, like a circle, has no end. It returns again and again as do the seasons. They believe that a person’s soul comes back to live another life in a new body. This is called reincarnation. Hinduism began about 1500 BC. Hindus worship alone on most occasions, and many make pilgrimages to temples to pay homage to their gods. Hindu temples have richly decorated exteriors and pilgrims worship outside. The most important part of a temple is a small shrine with no windows, which is the home of the god. A tall curved shikhara or tower rises above the shrine, and a series of open porches are used for assemblies and religious dancing.

Sri Ranganatha

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This tower in Mysore, India is one of 15 giant gateways through the five walls that enclose a Hindu shrine. The gateways were built between the eleventh and seventeenth centuries. The shrine itself is quite small and crowded by the priests’ houses and the assembly rooms for pilgrims.

Ranakpur Temple

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The Ranakpur temple honors Mahavira, the founder of Arianism. Jains believe that a person lives many lives, including those of animals. Jains try not to hurt any living creature. One of Ranakpur’s large corbelled domes rises above the courtyard. The dome rests on two storeys of columns and is surrounded by smaller domes.

Temple Floor Plan

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Mathematical rules control the design of Hindu temples. Many small squares make up the floor plan of the temple. A square, which never changes, symbolizes the heavenly world.

Myths in Stone

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The lively sculptures on the outside of Kandariya Mahadeo represent many of the figures in stories from Hindu mythology.

Kandariya Mahadeo Temple

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More than 1,000 carved figures cover this eleventh-century temple in Khajuraho. At first glance it looks like a mountain of rock covered with rows of sculpture. The temple stands on a high platform with the shrine under the tall shikhara at one end and a deep entrance at the other. Processions move through a passageway, which wraps around the halls and shrine.

Building in Rock

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In the second century BC, Buddhist monks built a monastery at Ajanta by cutting artificial caves into the cliffs above the river. Carvers chipped off unwanted rock and carried it away leaving a building behind. The columned entrance of the vihara, where the monks lived, led to a rectangular room surrounded by galleries. Each monk had a square cave that opened onto a gallery. Stone walls and ceilings were rubbed smooth then covered with paintings or carved with sculpture. The monastery also had a chaitya or meeting hall where people gathered to worship and study.

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Did You Know?

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Even a small Hindu shrine can be seen from anywhere in a village because of the tall carved shikhara above it. The shikhara represents a holy mountain that is thought of as a staircase to the heavenly world.

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deepblue
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