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Evolution of Hindu Temples: A Historical Overview



  Jan 19, 2024

Evolution of Hindu Temples: A Historical Overview



Origins of the Term ‘Temple’:

The term “temple” was initially used by European Christians for religious edifices of non-Christian religions. In Indian English, it is generally not used for Sikh gurdwaras or Muslim mosques. Early Religious Practices and Absence of Temples:

Vedic rituals were conducted in temporary structures, and domestic rituals were performed at home. The Dharmashastras and other texts from 3rd century BCE onwards mention terms like devalaya, devayatana, and devagriha, indicating structures for divinity. However, the exact nature of these structures and their uses remains somewhat unclear. Temple’s Role in Early Hinduism:

Initially, monumental religious architecture was associated with Buddhism, not Hinduism.
Hindu temples began to appear around the 1st or 2nd century CE, with no archaeological evidence for Hindu temples before the Kushan era.
Mainstream Brahminical texts largely ignored or opposed temple-based rituals, focusing instead on domestic religious practices.
Ritual specialists associated with temples, called devalakas, were looked down upon in these texts.

The Role of Divine Images:

Installation of iconic or aniconic divine images is central to temples, but early Brahminical texts do not acknowledge them.
The act of “taking darshan” of the divinity in the image is significant, yet early texts show little interest in this practice.

Location and Function of Early Temples:

Early temples or shrines were often located far from human habitations, primarily serving as shelters for wandering ascetics.
They were not central to the religious life of the common people or the ascetics.

Rise of Hindu Temples:

By the Gupta period (5th century CE), Hindu temples became more common and central to various Hindu traditions.
Temple architecture developed, resulting in diverse regional styles.

Continued Importance of Domestic Rituals:

Despite the rise of temples, religious activities prescribed by the Dharmashastras continued to be performed at home.
This historical perspective reveals the gradual evolution of the Hindu temple as a central religious institution, contrasting sharply with its earlier marginal role in religious practices.

SRIRAM’s


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