Ancient history said that temples did not exist during the Vedic period. The concept of idol worship started to gain importance at around the end of Vedic period. Initially temples were made up of clay with thatched roofs of straws and leaves. As well as cave temples existed. It was only later with the dawn of new civilization that temples were made out of stones and bricks. Hence the earliest structures that indicate idol worship can be traced back to 4th or the 5th century AD. History says that there was a significant growth and rise of the Hindu temples between the 6th and 16th century.
There are thousands and lakhs of temples existing in India and around. Exactly spotting out the oldest seems not possible. But still according to the reports of archaeological excavations as well as the history associated. According to the archaeological survey of India; Mundaeshwari Devi temple is to be the oldest temple in India; which is still functional.
Mundeshwari Devi Temple, Bihar
Mundeshwari devi temple is known as oldest temple in India; located in Kaimpur district of Bihar. It is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva and Shakti. This temple has sculptures of other Gods and Goddesses as well which includes Lord Ganesha, Surya and Vishnu. Many say it to be the oldest temple in world to be functional till now. According to the archaeological survey of India this ancient temple is dated back to 108 AD.
The temple, built of stone, is on an octagonal plan which is rare. It is the earliest specimen of the Nagara style of temple architecture in Bihar. There are doors or windows on four sides and small niches for the reception of statues in the remaining four walls. The temple shikhara or tower has been destroyed. However, a roof has been built, as part of renovation work. The interior walls have niches and bold mouldings which are carved with vase and foliage designs. At the entrance to the temple, the door jambs are seen with carved images of Dvarapalas, Ganga, Yamuna and many other murtis. The main deities in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple are of the Devi Mundeshwari and Chaturmukh (four faced) Shiva linga. There are also two stone vessels of unusual design. Even though the Shiva linga is installed in the centre of the sanctum, the main presiding deity is Devi Mundeshwari deified inside a niche, which is seen with ten hands holding symbols riding a buffalo, attributed to Mahishasuramardini. The temple also has murtis of other popular gods such as Ganesha, Surya and Vishnu. A substantial part of this stone structure has been damaged, and many stone fragments are seen strewn around the temple. However, under the jurisdiction of ASI, it has been the subject of archaeological study for quite some time.
How to Reach
This temple can be reached by road via Patna, Gaya, or Varanasi. The nearest railway station is at Mohania – Bhabua Road railway station from where the temple is 22 km by road. Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport, Varanasi is the nearest airport, located at a distance of 102 km from the Temple. Indian carriers including Air India, Spicejet, and international carriers like Air India, Thai Airways International, Korean Air and Naaz Airlines operate from here. Daily flights to Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata are available from here.
It is believed that rituals and worship have been performed here without a break, hence Mundeshwari is considered one of the most ancient Hindu temples in India. The temple is visited by a large number of pilgrims each year, particularly during the Ram navami, Shivratri festivals. A big annual fair (mela) is held nearby during the Navratri visited by thousands
Changu Narayan Temple in Kathmandu
Changu Narayan Temple belongs to 325 AD during the reign of Licchavi King Hari Datta Verma. It is considered as one of the oldest Hindu temple. This temple is said to be one of the richest structures in Nepal because of the history associated with it. It is a pagoda style temple and is rich in the artistically inscribed forms. It holds many different monuments and structures of Nepalese art from 5th to 12th century. History states that this was considered to be an extremely sacred site during the 3rd century.
According to Indian mythology this is the place where Lord Vishnu stood as a Champak tree due to the curse given to him for killing Sudarshan’s father. Unknowingly a Brahmin and a cow boy chopped the tree off to find that they freed Lord Vishnu from the curse. After the incident they both constructed this temple to worship the Almighty.
Temples have always been a place of sacred recreation for people and the history associated with it brings belief and affection for God. In this era of modern science, the existence of these monuments is currently the only source of eternal peace and satisfaction. Let’s cherish the history of these magical places ad refrain them from getting destroyed.
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