The continent of Asia is an ancient and fascinating part of the world with prolific histories unique to each country. These accounts are told, in part, through the astounding architecture found all over the continent, including the remains of some of the world’s most awe-inspiring temples. People from all over the world visit these temples to soak up the glory of the past and marvel at their beauty. Let’s take a look at world’s top eight fascinating Asian temples for furthering visitors on the path of enlightenment.
World’s Top 8 Fascinating Asian Temples
Todaiji Temple – Nara, Japan
The Todaiji Temple Complex was built in the 8th century as the head Buddhist temple in all of Japan. Todaiji is a listed UNESCO World Heritage site and is also home to the largest wooden building on earth. Within the temple, you will also find the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha, which stands at nearly 50 feet tall.
Within the main hall, there is a pillar with a hole near the base which is said to be the same size as the nostril of the giant Buddha statue. Legend has it, that if you can fit through this hole you will be granted enlightenment in your next life. This classic example of elegant and dramatic Japanese architecture is a fascinating Asian temples destination you must make on the path to enlightenment.
Meenakshi Temple – Madurai, India
When we draw images of India to mind, they are often an explosion of culture and colour. The Meenakshi Temple does not disappoint. It is comprised of multiple gopurams (or gateway towers) which are adorned with colourful religious statues and sculptures in every shade imaginable.
The temple most likely dates back to the 7th century, although the current structure was built during the 17th century. This iconic and legendary temple is the true soul of the ancient city of Madurai. It brings visitors from all over the globe who are keen to pay respect to Meenakshi and Shiva, to whom the temple is dedicated. This towering eruption of colour is enough to elicit awe out of Hindu and non-Hindu alike. The temple is undeniably vibrant with flower sellers, musicians and even a decorated temple elephant.
Borobudur – Java, Indonesia
This ancient 9th century structure is not only a sight to behold, but is also the oldest Buddhist temple in the world. The temple, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, is covered in carvings, stupas, and no less than 504 statues of Buddha.
For centuries, this site was at the heart of pilgrimages for the faithful from neighbouring countries. Borobudur is still an active religious site, acting as both a site for Buddhist pilgrimages, as well as a shrine to the Lord Buddha. The temple is nearly a hundred feet tall. Climbing it at either sunrise or sunset is said to be a spiritual undertaking, leading pilgrims closer to enlightenment.
Shwedagon Pagoda – Yangon, Myanmar
This gold-gilded shrine, built more than two and a half millennia ago, is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar. The pagoda is said to house sacred relics, including hair of the Buddha. Covered in over 60 tonnes of gold leaf, the looming pagoda is a glimmering beacon in a cloudless sky.
Even the famous British author, Rudyard Kipling was astounded by Shwedagon. Of it, he wrote, “Then, a golden mystery upheaved itself on the horizon, a beautiful winking wonder that blazed in the sun, of a shape that was neither Muslim dome nor Hindu temple-spire.”
Exploring the site can be described in many words, but perhaps the most apt is bright: the glitter of gold leaf against pure white stone is reminiscent of Nirvana itself.
Pashupatinath Temple – Kathmandu, Nepal
This ancient and historically significant Hindu temple is the largest religious complex in all of Nepal. The temple is dedicated to Shiva, and is one of the most significant sites in all of Asia for those who worship him.
As another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pashupatinath is unique, in that it is still a very active place of worship today. The temple complex is built along both banks of the Bagmati River, a holy place for Hindus, which only furthers the religious significance of the site. Cremation Ghats, which are used for open air ceremonies, are dotted along the site. Though only members of the royal family were allowed to be cremated directly in front of the Pashupatinath temple.
Ananda Temple – Bagan, Myanmar
The ancient city of Bagan is one of the most significant archaeological sites in Asia, with endless fascinating Asian temples and pagodas dotting the vast flood plain of the Irrawaddy River. Bagan was likely founded in the second century, and throughout the ages it grew to be the epicentre of a thriving empire.
At the centre of this culture was religion – and as a result, over 10,000 religious monuments were built. The most intact and largest of these monuments is Ananda temple, which is revered as an architectural marvel. Each year, a week-long festival is held at Ananda, where a thousand monks chant from the scriptures for three days. Villagers by the thousands gather from all around to witness the festival, a truly spiritual and fascinating Asian temples experience.
Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic – Kandy, Sri Lanka
Within the royal place complex which was home to the former Kings of Kandy, stands the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. This temple is the most significant in Sri Lanka, as it is home to the tooth of the Buddha. According to Sri Lankan legend, whoever possesses the tooth will hold the power of the country.
The tooth is heavily guarded, although visitors and worshippers are allowed inside the temple during times of prayer. However, you cannot actually see the tooth. It is encased in an elaborate miniature stupa behind glass, an attempt to protect this most sacred relic.
Punakha Dzong – Punakha, Bhutan
The Punakha Dzong is not strictly a temple, rather a winter religious residence for monks. The temple is stationed along a peaceful riverfront and set against green hills. This is one of the most majestic religious buildings in the Bhutanese Kingdom.
The Dzong has played an important role in both Bhutanese religion and government since it was built over 400 years ago. Kings are still crowned here, and it was the location of the head of government until the mid-20th-century. The entire structure was designed and planned with religious significance in mind, and even houses religious relics in the form of sacred remains, murals which depict the life of Buddha, and golden statues of his image as well.
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