India, the country of many beliefs and religions, is home to many unique temples. And some of them are really very unique. You will find temples inside caves, those with some amazing sculptures and carvings, two temples that give wine and noodles as prasadam, another one that disappears under water every day, and one where believe it or not, rats and humans co-exist without harming each other. Truly, India is a strange land, and the temples here could sometimes be stranger.
So here is a list of some truly unique temples of India. This list will surely make happy reading. Read through, and find out how many of them you were aware of.
#1 – Unique Konark Sun Temple in Puri
The Sun temple is located at Konark near Puri in the Indian state of Orissa. It is a couple of hours by road from Puri and Bhubaneswar. As is evident from the name itself, this temple is dedicated to Lord Sun or Surya Dev. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this was constructed sometime in the 13th century by king Narasimhadeva the 1st of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty. It is located just beside the sea and was something no sailor could miss. The European sailors used to call it Black Pagoda. This name is used sometimes to refer to this temple to this day.
So what’s so special about the Konark Sun temple? You might be surprised to know that it is designed like the chariot of the Sun God. There are twelve wheels as well to drive the chariot. Each stone wheel is of three meters. There are seven horses driving the chariot. Orientation of the temple is to the east to make sure that the first rays of the Sun go through the main entrance.
According to one legend, King Narasimhadeva’s sun was cursed by Lord Krishna, and he subsequently had leprosy. The king turned to the Sun God in the hope of penance. Finally his son was cured of the disease after 12 years. There are erotic sculptures on the walls all through this temple. It’s not clear why these sculptures were created.
Puri is in fact, most famous for two things- Jagannath Rath Yatra and this unique Konark temple!
#2 – Unique Golden Temple in Amritsar
Yes, there is a temple that is made completely of gold in India, and it’s a huge one too. Darbar Sahib or the Harmandir Sahib is informally referred to as the Golden temple because it is made of gold. It is located in the city of Amritsar in Punjab, and is among the most pious pilgrimage places of the Sikhs.
Guru Ram Das, who was the fourth guru of the Sikhs, excavated a tank in 1578, and subsequently this came to be known as Amritsar, which means “Pool of Immortality”. Sri Harmandir Sahib came up in the middle of this tank later on. Harmandir Sahib means “the abode of God”, and this is why it is such an important place for the Sikhs. The tank is today known as “Sarovar”.
Gold plating work on the gurudwara was started by Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab. The work was finished in 1830. But there are other attractions here too apart from the gold. For instance, there is some exquisite marble work inside this holy place. But of course, it’s most important to the Sikhs because of the religious significance to the Sikhs.
The controversial Operation Blue Star was carried out here by the Indian military in 1984. Infantry, artillery, and tanks were made to enter the temple to put down Bhindrawala. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated in retaliation within six months after this by her own Sikh bodyguards.
#3 – Unique Amarnath Cave Temple in Himalayas
The Amarnath temple is located high up in the Himalayas in Jammu and Kashmir. This is located 141 kilometers from Srinagar, the state capital, and can be reached from the resort town of Pahalgam. You will have to walk for five days from Pahalgam to reach this cave temple. The temple is located within an ancient cave, which is believed to be more than 5000 years old. There are snowy mountains all around. In fact, the cave itself remains covered by snow almost throughout the year, except for a short duration during the summer. This is the time when pilgrims can make the tough trek to reach Amarnath. Thousands of devotees will do this challenging trek to reach Amarnath every year.
Inside the cave there is an ice stalagmite that looks like a lingam. It is a natural formation. Amarnath is located 3,888 meters above the sea level.
Hindus believe that this is the place where Shiva explained the secret of life and eternity to Parvati. That is probably because the lingam grows and shrinks, depending on the phases of the Moon. There are two other ice formations nearby, representing Parvati, and their son, Lord Ganesha.
Devotees have been visiting Amarnath for thousands of years. There is even reference to the legendary king Aryaraja visiting the cave and offering his prayers in 300 BCE.
#4 – Unique Vaishno Devi Temple in Jammu
Mata Vaishno Devi is a temple close to the city of Jammu in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. This temple, like Amarnath, is also located inside a cave up in the Himalayas. And like Amarnath, there is no idol inside the cave here. Instead, what you will get is three rock heads that are referred to as “Pindies”. Vaishno Devi is among the most important religious places for Hindus because it is one of the 108 Shakti Peethas. Chanddi up-purana tells the story of Vaishno Devi in detail.
The journey to Vaishno Devi starts from the small town of Katra, which is 45 kilometers from Jammu. There is no road to this temple. You will have to walk 12 kilometers to reach the cave once you have got the Yatra Parchi. It is a steep and long uphill trek and isn’t easy. However ponies and palanquins are available for those who cannot make it on foot. There are resting places all along the road. Helicopter services have also become available in recent times.
It is believed that all your wishes come true if you make the journey to Vaishno Devi. And so, thousands of devotes go to this holy cave every year. Interestingly, it is said that Maa Vaishno Devi decides whom she wants to meet. Thus, you will feel the need to visit the cave only when Mataji calls you.
#5 – Unique Khajuraho Temple in Madhya Pradesh
Contrary to what most people believe, Khajuraho is not the temple of sex. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is considered to be the God of fertility, and thus the hundreds and thousands of inscriptions of all types of sexual poses on the walls here. But this is not just a single temple. There are many of them here, spread over an area of 20 square kilometers. There used to be 75 temples once made of sandstone. But only 20 of them stand now.
Khajuraho is located in the state of Madhya Pradesh, close to the state’s border with Uttar Pradesh. It is believed that these temples were constructed between the 10th and the 12th centuries during the rule of the Hindu kings Dhanga and Yashovarman. The monuments here have been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Only about 20% of the structures here are erotic, but they are very descriptive and often embarrassing. These images have been photographed thousands of times. The rest of the sculptures depict daily life, but they are not as famous because of obvious reasons.
The Khajuraho Dance Festival is held every year here, in the first week of February. It’s a fantastic classical dance event against the backdrop of the Vishwanath and the Chitragupta temples.
#6 – Unique Brahma Temple in Pushkar
Pushkar, close to the city of Ajmer in Rajasthan is famous for two reasons – the Pushkar Lake, and the annual camel festival. Thousands of photographers come to this small town to take pictures of all those camels and Rajasthanis in their traditional dresses, and the lake and its ghats. But there’s one more reason that makes this city famous. It’s the only place in the world where you will find a temple that is dedicated to Lord Brahma. This is strange because Brahma is one of the most important Hindu Gods.
According to legend, Lord Brahma married a Gurjar girl to complete a puja as his wife Savitri could not be present. Savitri arrived late at the place and found this girl sitting next to the Lord. She got angry and cursed Brahma, saying that he would never be worshipped. However he still had a few temples. But those were destroyed by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. The temple at Pushkar was somehow spared.
#7 – Unique Kal Bhairav Nath Temple in Ujjain
The city of Ujjain is in Uttar Pradesh. Here you will find a really unique temple – the Kal Bhairav Nath. This is a temple for Kala Bhairava, a fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva. The bizarre thing about this temple is that the deity here drinks wine.
What would you call a God who drinks hundreds of bottles of liquor every day? Devotees offer liquor to the God, and Lord Shiva drinks it happily. Hundreds of bottles arrive daily as it’s a very popular temple. Priests keeps a plate filled with this liquor close to the mouth of the deity. The Lord sucks this slowly from the plate. The priest takes back the plate when the liquor is gone and refills it. Hundreds of visitors to this temple have seen this strange phenomenon with their own eyes. Wine is also the only prasadam served to the devotees. So be prepared to taste it if you are planning to visit this temple. Wine shops are allowed to remain open 24×7, all 365 days a year outside the temple.
#8 – Unique Stambheshwar Mahadev Temple in Gujarat
Can you imagine an entire temple that completely disappears for several hours in a day and then reappears suddenly from the blue? This is exactly what happens at Kavi Kamboi in Gujarat. The Stambheshwar Mahadev temple is located about 70 kilometers from Baroda in Gujarat. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is within the small town of Kavi Kamboi, along the Bay of Khambat.
You will be able to visit only when the tide is low. At high tide, almost the entire temple gets submerged in the waters of the Arabian Sea. Only a little portion of it remains on top of the water, allowing people to see where it once stood. It’s naturally a bewitching sight. As you can imagine, hundreds of people visit the site to witness the submerging or reemerging of this temple.
#9 – Unique Chinese Kali Temple in Kolkata
Many people know that there is a significant population of Chinese people in Kolkata, particularly in and around the Tangra region in the eastern part of the city. This part of the city is fondly called “Chinatown”. But how many know that many of them have taken to the Hindu religion now, and even if they haven’t, they are now actually offering their prayers to the revered Hindu Goddess Kali? Of course, most of the Chinese people are either Buddhists or Christians. There are so many people of this community here that the temple receives more Chinese than Hindu Indians.
You will see many offering their prayers on any day. Even the Chinese will take off their shoes, as is the Hindu custom and offer their prayers to the deity. The most important day here is of course the day of the Kali Puja or Diwali. On this day, residents of the locality, many of them Chinese, would visit the temple and offer their prayers. The most bizarre thing is that, they offer the deity noodles and chopsuey, which is then offered as prasadam or as the Bengalis say, bhog. Rice and vegetable dishes are also offered.
#10 – Unique Ravana Temple in Vidisha
There are countless temples of Lord Rama throughout India. He is known to have slayed the demon king Ravana and freed his wife from Lanka. But did you know that there is a temple dedicated to Ravana as well? This unusual temple is located in the village of Ravangram in the district of Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh. As you can see, even the name of the village is after the Lankan king. The people of this village don’t consider Ravana as the villain. In fact, they offer prayers to him. There is an ancient 10 feet idol of Ravana in reclining position inside this temple. It’s quite a sight. Interestingly, there is another such temple in the city of Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh.
These temples are famous for their uniqueness but there are many other temples in India that are famous for various other reasons. If you want to know about such temples too, here are Top 10 Famous Temples of India