What Is a Hindu Temple Called? Unpacking the Meaning Behind a Place of Worship

Have you ever wondered what Hindu temples are called? Even if you’re not of Indian heritage or religion, you’ve likely seen photographs of these incredible structures with their towering spires and ornate carvings. Although there are numerous styles of Hindu temples found throughout India, they all share some common features and functions.

So, what is a Hindu temple called, exactly? In India, these places of worship are known as mandirs or devaalayas, which roughly translates to “abodes of the Gods.” They are considered to be the physical representations of deities, and as such, are treated with great reverence and respect. Inside the temple, worshippers can perform puja – a devotional ritual that includes offerings of flowers, incense, and food – to connect with the divine. Hindus believe that by performing these rituals, they can receive blessings and guidance from the Gods.

But a visit to a Hindu temple isn’t just about performing rituals. It’s also a communal gathering place where people can socialize, attend cultural events, and seek guidance from priests and other members of the community. Temples often have attached schools and libraries where children can learn about Hinduism and its rich history. In this way, Hindu temples serve not just a spiritual function, but also a cultural and educational one.

Hindu Temple Architecture

Hindu temples are an architectural marvel that showcase the intricate and diverse styles of India’s rich cultural heritage. These places of worship are considered not only as a sanctuary for prayer and meditation, but also as a symbol of art, devotion, and spirituality. Each temple is unique in its design, but all share a common set of fundamental principles.

The architecture of Hindu temples is guided by Vastu Shastra, an ancient Indian science of architecture that dictates the placement, design, and measurements of a building. As a result, Hindu temples follow a strict set of rules that dictate everything from the orientation of the building to the positioning of the deities within. Here are some key features that make Hindu temple architecture unique:

  • Mandapa: Mandapa is an open hall that serves as a gateway for devotees to enter the temple. It is usually situated before the main shrine and acts as a gathering place for people conducting ceremonies or chanting prayers.
  • Gopuram: Gopuram is a towering gateway that marks the entrance of the temple complex. It is usually decorated with intricate carvings of gods and goddesses and serves as a grand spectacle that inspires awe in visitors.
  • Garbhagriha: Garbhagriha is the inner sanctum of the temple where the main deity is housed. It is considered to be the holiest part of the temple and is usually a small chamber where the deity is placed on a pedestal.

One of the most striking features of Hindu temples is the intricate carvings and sculptures that adorn the walls and ceilings. These carvings depict scenes from Hindu mythology and provide a visual representation of the stories that are told in Hindu scriptures. The use of different materials like stone, wood, and brass in the sculptures gives the temple a vibrant and colorful look.

Style Features
Dravidian Style Tall and pyramidal gopurams. Pillared mandapas. Rectangular sanctum.
Nagara Style Curvilinear gopurams. Circular mandapas. Square sanctum.
Hoysala Style Intricate carvings and sculptures. Star-shaped ground plan. Pillared mandapas.

The different regions of India have their unique styles of temple architecture, but the most prominent styles are Dravidian and Nagara. The Dravidian style, which originated in the southern part of India, is characterized by tall and pyramidal gopurams, pillared mandapas, and rectangular sanctum. The Nagara style, which originated in northern India, features curvilinear gopurams, circular mandapas, and square sanctum.

In conclusion, Hindu temple architecture is a reflection of India’s rich cultural and artistic heritage. It combines intricate carvings, vibrant colors, and a strict set of Vastu Shastra principles to create a spiritual and meditative atmosphere that inspires awe and devotion in visitors.

Symbolism in Hindu temples

Hindu temples are not just places of worship but are also considered to be representations of the universe and the human body. These temples are built using a complex system of mathematical and scientific principles that are rooted in Hindu philosophy and symbolism. Hindu temples are full of symbolism and meaning that are often hidden in their intricate designs and artwork. Here are some of the symbolism found in Hindu temples:

Number 2

The number 2 is considered to be an important number in Hinduism and is often found in Hindu temples. The significance of the number 2 can be seen in the dualistic nature of existence – good and evil, day and night, life and death, and so on. The number 2 is also associated with balance and harmony, as it represents the balance between opposing forces. The number 2 can be seen in many aspects of Hindu temples, including:

  • Two main deities – Most Hindu temples have two main deities, known as the presiding deities, which are usually located in the inner sanctum of the temple. These deities are often represented as a male and female, such as Shiva and Parvati, and symbolize the balance between male and female energies.
  • Two main entrances – Most Hindu temples have two main entrances, which are located on opposite sides of the temple. These entrances are known as the east and west entrances and are said to represent the dualistic nature of existence.
  • Two pillars – Many Hindu temples have two pillars located in front of the main entrance. These pillars represent the balance between the material world and the spiritual world.

The number 2 is just one example of the many symbols found in Hindu temples. Hindu temples are full of symbolism and meaning, which can be seen in their architecture, artwork, and overall design.


Hindu temples are not just places of worship, but they are also symbols of Hindu philosophy and spirituality. The intricate designs and artwork found in Hindu temples are full of symbolism and meaning that reflect the dualistic nature of existence and the balance between opposing forces. By understanding the symbolism and meaning behind Hindu temples, one can gain a deeper understanding of Hindu philosophy and spirituality.

Symbolism Meaning
Number 2 Dualistic nature of existence
Main deities Balance between male and female energies
Main entrances Dualistic nature of existence
Pillars Balance between material and spiritual world

Overall, Hindu temples are not just a place where people go to worship, but they are also a representation of the universe and the human body. The symbolism found in these temples is a reflection of Hindu philosophy and spirituality, and by understanding this symbolism, one can gain a deeper understanding of Hinduism itself.

Purpose of Hindu temple rituals

Hindu temples hold a significant place in the spiritual and cultural life of the people. These temples are not just buildings but are divine abodes that are built to honor and worship the deities of Hinduism. The intricate rituals and ceremonies performed in these temples hold a lot of importance and are believed to bring the devotees closer to the divine. Through these rituals, devotees seek to attain spiritual connectedness and inner peace.

  • Offering prayers and performing puja: One of the primary rituals performed in Hindu temples is puja. It is a form of worship in which priests make offerings, chant mantras, and perform aartis to invoke the blessings of the deity. The devotees offer flowers, fruits, and sweets to the deity as a gesture of respect and devotion.
  • Observing fasts: Fasting is an integral part of Hindu temple rituals. Some devotees fast for an entire day, while others observe fast during specific festivals. Fasting is believed to purify the body and mind, and help in focusing on spiritual pursuits.
  • Celebrating festivals: Festivals are an essential aspect of Hindu temple rituals. Every temple celebrates various festivals throughout the year, and these festivals are marked by elaborate ceremonies and poojas. These festivals are celebrated with much fervor and enthusiasm, and people from all walks of life come together to participate in these celebrations.

Hindu temples are not just places of worship but also centers of cultural and social activities. They serve as a meeting place for devotees, where they can share their spiritual experiences and strengthen their bonds of friendship. It is through these rituals that the true meaning and essence of Hinduism is preserved and passed down from one generation to the next.

Another important aspect of Hindu temple rituals is that they help in promoting a sense of community among the devotees. People from all castes, creeds, and social backgrounds come together to participate in these rituals, and this fosters a feeling of unity and oneness.

The significance of prasadams in Hindu temple rituals

Prasadam is an essential aspect of Hindu temple rituals. It refers to the food that is offered to the deity during the puja ceremony. This prasadam is then distributed among the devotees as a blessing from the deity. The prasadam is believed to have divine properties, and consuming it is considered to be an act of receiving the deity’s grace. The prasadam can be in the form of fruits, sweets, or other food items, and it is distributed freely to everyone who visits the temple. This act of distributing prasadam is considered to be an act of charity and is believed to bring good karma to the devotees.

Benefits of consuming prasadam:
1. Purification of the mind and body
2. Removal of obstacles and negative energies
3. Attainment of spiritual blessings and grace
4. Improvement in physical and mental well-being

Prasadam is an integral part of Hindu temple rituals, and it is believed that consuming it can bring about significant positive changes in a person’s life. It is also a way of honoring the deity and expressing gratitude for the blessings received.

History of Hindu Temple Construction

The construction of Hindu temples has a rich and fascinating history dating back millennia. These temples serve as spiritual sanctuaries for Hindus to connect with their deities and perform religious rituals and ceremonies. Each temple is believed to radiate spiritual energy, or shakti, that is meant to benefit the community in which it is located.

  • Origins: The earliest Hindu temples were constructed in India around 2,000 years ago. These were simple structures made of wood, brick, and stone, and were built to enshrine images of various deities.
  • Style and Design: Over time, the design and style of Hindu temples evolved, eventually giving rise to the distinct architectural styles of North and South India. North Indian temples are characterized by their square or rectangular shape and elaborate domes, while South Indian temples feature towering, intricately carved gopurams, or entrance gateways.
  • Symbolism: Hindu temples are replete with symbolism, both in their design and the deities they house. For example, the temple structure itself is often seen as a manifestation of the human body, with different parts of the temple corresponding to different parts of the body. Similarly, the deities enshrined within the temple are believed to represent different aspects of the divine.

The construction of a Hindu temple is a complex and highly ritualized process involving many different stages and actors. The temple is often built using traditional construction techniques and materials, and may take many years to complete. Once it is finished, the temple is consecrated in a ceremony known as prana pratishtha, during which the spiritual energy of the deity is said to infuse the temple and its surroundings.

Materials and Techniques

The construction of Hindu temples typically involves the use of local materials and traditional building techniques. Stone, brick, and wood are the most common materials used, although some temples may incorporate other materials such as bronze, gold, and marble. The craftsmen who build the temples, known as sthapatis, are highly skilled in a variety of construction techniques, including carving, sculpture, and painting.

Materials Techniques
Stone Carving, sculpting, polishing
Brick Molding, firing, laying
Wood Carving, joinery, lacquerwork

Many Hindu temples incorporate intricate sculptures and carvings depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. These sculptures are often created using the same materials and techniques as the temple itself, and may take years to complete.

Daily activities in a Hindu temple

Hindu temples are not mere places of worship – they are also community centers that provide religious and cultural services. These temples are usually large and well-organized complexes, managed by priestly orders or local committees, with several daily activities that take place. Here are five daily activities in a Hindu temple:

  • Puja: Puja is a ritual worship ceremony, performed several times a day in a Hindu temple. It involves making offerings to the deities, chanting mantras, and performing rituals to invoke the blessings of the gods and goddesses. The puja ceremonies are done by the temple priests, who are highly trained in Hindu rituals and mantras.
  • Arati: Arati is a devotional ritual of waving lamps with burning wicks at the temple deity while singing praises and reciting prayers. It is performed to symbolize the removal of ignorance and darkness from the devotee’s life. Arati is commonly performed twice a day in Hindu temples – once in the morning and once in the evening.
  • Bhajan and Kirtan: Bhajan and Kirtan are devotional singing sessions, where devotees gather and sing hymns in praise of the gods and goddesses. These songs are usually accompanied by traditional instruments like the harmonium and tabla. Bhajan and Kirtan are typically held in the evenings, during festivals, or on special occasions.
  • Offering Flowers and Prasad: Offering flowers to the deities is a common Hindu ritual. Devotees bring flowers to the temple and offer them to the idols. They also receive prasad – food that has been blessed by the temple deity – as a token of blessings. Prasad is considered to be a form of divine food, and it is believed to have healing properties.
  • Teaching and Learning: Hindu temples are often centers of learning, where priests teach about Hindu spirituality, traditions, and culture. They conduct classes and workshops on Hindu scriptures, yoga, and meditation. These teachings are not limited to just Hindus; they are open to people of all faiths.

The bottom line

Hindu temples are an integral part of Hindu culture and tradition, serving not just as places of worship but also as community centers. The daily activities in a Hindu temple reflect the rich and diverse spiritual practices of Hinduism. From offering flowers and prasad to chanting mantras and worshipping the deities, each activity is designed to connect devotees with their gods and goddesses. Visiting a Hindu temple can be a highly spiritual and fulfilling experience for anyone interested in Hindu culture and traditions.

Famous Hindu temples around the world

Hinduism has a rich cultural heritage and boasts of a plethora of temples spread across the globe. Let’s take a look at some of the most famous Hindu temples around the world that attract devotees from all over.

  • Angkor Wat – Located in Cambodia, it is the world’s largest temple complex and was constructed in the early 12th century. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, one of the Hindu trinities.
  • Tanjore Brihadeeswara Temple – Also known as the Peruvudaiyar Kovil, this temple is located in Tamil Nadu, India. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Prambanan Temple – This temple is situated in Indonesia and is dedicated to the Hindu trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. It is one of the largest Hindu temples in Southeast Asia.

In addition to these, there are many other famous Hindu temples around the world like the Chhatarpur Temple in Delhi, India, the Pashupatinath Temple in Nepal, the Batu Caves Temple in Malaysia, and the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London, UK, to name a few.

Apart from their religious significance, these temples also attract tourists from all over the world due to their architectural splendor and historical importance. Many of these temples have been built centuries ago and have undergone multiple renovations, yet they still retain their unique charm and continue to be an important part of Hindu culture.

Community involvement in Hindu temples

Hindu temples are not just centers of religious and spiritual activity, but also serve as community hubs where people come to connect, interact, and celebrate together. The involvement of the community is a crucial component of the functioning and sustainability of any Hindu temple.

  • Volunteering: Hindu temples rely heavily on volunteer support from the community. Whether it’s organizing events, maintaining the temple grounds, or helping with outreach, community members play an integral role in the day-to-day operations of the temple.
  • Fundraising: Another important aspect of community involvement is fundraising. Hindu temples are mostly self-funded and do not receive regular support from the government. Thus, the community plays a significant role in contributing to the upkeep and maintenance of the temple through regular donations and fundraising events.
  • Celebrations and festivals: Hindu temples mark numerous festivals and celebrations throughout the year, giving the community a chance to come together and celebrate their culture and faith. These events are often organized with the help of volunteers and bring together people from all walks of life, helping to foster a sense of community and belonging.

In addition to these aspects, Hindu temples also serve as important centers for community service and outreach. Many temples organize various programs that benefit the larger community, such as food drives, health camps, and educational initiatives.

Hindu temples, therefore, serve not just as religious institutions but as vital community centers that help connect people, foster a sense of belonging, and promote social good.

What is a Hindu Temple Called FAQs

1. What is a Hindu temple called?

A Hindu temple is known as Mandir in Sanskrit and other Indian languages.

2. What is the purpose of a Hindu temple?

The purpose of a Hindu temple is to provide a place for devotees to worship and perform religious rituals. It also serves as a community center and a place for cultural activities.

3. What are the different types of Hindu temples?

There are various types of Hindu temples, such as Shiva temples, Vishnu temples, Devi temples, and more. Each temple is dedicated to a specific deity in the Hindu pantheon.

4. What are the features of a typical Hindu temple?

A typical Hindu temple has various features such as a tower (shikara), entrance gate (gopura), sanctum sanctorum (garbhagriha), and a hall (mandapa) for gatherings and religious ceremonies.

5. How do Hindus worship in a temple?

In a Hindu temple, worshippers offer prayers, perform rituals and make offerings to the deity. They also meditate, sing devotional songs and read religious texts.

6. Who is allowed to enter a Hindu temple?

In general, anyone is allowed to enter a Hindu temple, regardless of their religious beliefs. However, there are some temples that are restricted to only Hindus or specific castes.

7. Where can I find a Hindu temple?

You can find Hindu temples in many places around the world, especially in India and other South Asian countries. They can also be found in other countries where there is a significant Hindu population.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for taking the time to learn about what a Hindu temple is called and its significance in Hinduism. The temple is not only a place of worship but also plays an important role in the cultural and social life of the community. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please visit us again later for more informative articles.