The followers of Hinduism visit a temple to perform their rituals. The Hindu temple is specifically reserved for religious and spiritual activities. In Hindi, a Hindu temple is called Mandir. In Tamil it is known as Kovil or Alayam in Tamil.

This section will explore many aspects like classification and architecture of Hindu Temples.

Classification of Hindu Temples

Classified by Deity

    * Temples for Lord Ganesh
    * Temples for Lord Vishnu
    * Temples for Lord Shiva
    * Temples for Shakti
    * Temples for Other Deities

Architecture of Hindu Temples

A basic Hindu temple consists of an inner sanctum, the garbha griha or womb-chamber, in which the image is housed, often with space for its circumambulation, a congregation hall, and possibly an antechamber and porch. The sanctum is crowned by a tower-like shikara. At the turn of the first millennium CE two major types of temples existed, the northern or Nagara style and the southern or Dravida type of temple. They are distinguishable by the shape and decoration of their shikharas (Dehejia 1997).

    * The Nagara style (North India): The tower is behive shaped.
    * The Dravida style (South India): The tower is progressively smaller storeys of pavilions.

It should be noted that the earliest Nagar temples are in Karnataka (e.g. Galaganath at Pattadakal) and some very early Dravida-style temples (e.g. Teli-ka-Mandir at Gwalior)are actually in North India. A complex style termed Vesara was once common in Karnataka which combined the two styles.

Elements of worship

Although the devotee is free to worship in any manner as long as it is respectful and not offensive, some common elements of worship in a mandir are darshan, puja, bhajan, pradakshina and prasad.

Basic norms to be followed in a Hindu Temple

Most priests take elaborate measures to maintain mental and physical purity of the temple. While most devotees cannot maintain such regimens, there are some basic rules that must be followed in all Hindu temples:

    * Most Important One is that Footwear is not allowed inside.
    * Modest clothing should be worn. Many women and some men cover their heads as a sign of respect.
    * Non-vegetarian food, alcohol, tobacco and intoxicants should not be brought inside the temple.
    * Garlic and onion should be avoided.
    * Smoking is not allowed.

Some Hindu temples may follow the norms mentioned below:

    * Feet should not be pointed toward the deities. Feet are preferably folded.
    * One must not sit with back towards the sanctum sanctorum.
    * Women should not enter the mandir in the first four days of their menstrual cycle.
    * One must not enter the sanctum sanctorum or touch the murti without permission.

Prominent Hindu Temples

Shaivite Temples

    * The 12 Jyothir Linga Shrines (12 Temples)
    * The 275 Paadal Petra Stalas (275 Temples)
    * Panchabhoota Stalams (5 Temples)
    * The Ashta Veeratta (8 Temples)
    * The Cosmic Dance Halls of Shiva (5 Temples)
    * The Saptavitanka shrines (7 Temples)
    * The Panchalinga shrines (5 Temples)
    * The Arama shrines (5 Temples)

Vaishnavite Temples

    * The 108 Divya Desams

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