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Om Namah Shivayah – 12 Magnificent Shiva Temples

Mahashivaratri, is a festival dedicated to Lord Shiva is celebrated in India by fasting and taking a pilgrimage to 12 Jyotirlingas. Jyoti symbolizes the light of Shiva’s soul. On this spiritual day, wanderfirst takes you on the journey of 12 Shiva temples which unlike the Jyotirlingas, are not so frequently visited.

1. Saptkotishwar Temple, Narve, Goa

Saptkotishwar, a manifestation of Shiva was the titular deity to the Kadamba dynasty of Goa. This temple has a great history of destruction and restoration. It was first time destructed by the Bahamani army to be restored by Vijayanagar King Harihara. During the Portuguese rule, it was demolished again. However the shrine was shifted to its current location and a small shrine was constructed. The inscription placed on the outer walls of the temple, mentions that Chatrapati Shivaji got it renovated to revive its ancient glory.

Saptakoteshwar Temple

Saptakoteshwar Temple. By Salil Konkar [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Nagesh temple, Goa

Nageshi a small village in Ponda, Goa is named after the presiding deity Nagesh, the lord of the serpents. An inscription from the Vijayanagar era lying in the temple premises marks the date 1413 C.E, suggesting this temple be one of the oldest surviving ones. The holy tank and farms in the vicinity just add to the beauty! The combination of serenity and spirituality make this a lovely temple to visit.

Shri Nagesh Temple

Shri Nagesh Temple. By Drbiplabhmch [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

3. Kopeshwar Shiva temple, Khidrapur, Maharashtra

A temple crafted by the Shilahar and later Yadava dynasty to perfection is a truly an architectural gem. Famous for its “Swarga Mandap”, literally a hall which is open to the Heavens. This hall was used for the Nrutya performance and the open ceiling let the gods witness it. Along with the swarga mandap, the Apsaras or Sursundaris carved on the outer walls are worth seeing.

Swarga Mandap at Kopeshwar Shiva temple, Khidrapur

Swarga Mandap at Kopeshwar Shiva temple, Khidrapur. By Shailesh.patil [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

4. Kailash leni, Ellora

The abode of Shiva carved out of monolithic basalt at Ellora is one of the largest rock-cut sites in the world. Sculptural heritage depicts the craftsmanship of Indian artists. Different moods of Shiva and stories from the Epics in miniature panels captivates you with its beauty. Though the temple not being in the worship anymore there are no rituals performed here, but, to imagine its grandeur as a living shrine in the ancient times you must visit this place once in your lifetime.

Kailash leni, Ellora

Kailash leni, Ellora. By Y.Shishido [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

5. Ambarnath Temple, Thane, Maharashtra.

Located on the outskirts of a busy town like Mumbai, this temple has its own charm. Designed in the Bhumija style of temple architecture is one of the oldest examples of this style in Maharashtra. Antiquity of this temple goes back to 1060 AD. Visit this almost 1000-year-old temple for some peaceful moments away from your daily hustles.

Shiv Mandir at Ambernath

Shiv Mandir at Ambernath. By Mony Panicker [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

6. Madhukishwar Temple, Banvasi, Karnataka.

Banvasi, a town located in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka served as the capital city of the Kadamba dynasty of Banvasi branch. This temple is probably as old as 5th century AD. The beautiful Nandi Mandap was later added by the Chalukya dynasty. There is also a small archaeological museum in the temple premises that houses artifacts recovered from the excavation.

Madhukeshwara temple at Banavasi

Madhukishwara temple at Banavasi. By Ajaya.n.g [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

7. Virupaksha Temple, Hampi, Karnataka

Virupaksha or Pampapati , the principle deity of the Vijayanagara Empire now stands amidst the ruins of this glorious city. But the legend says it has been continuously functioning ever since its sthaphana. Renovated by one of the legendary kings of India, Krishnadevraya this temple is must see for lovers of Indian culture and heritage.

Virupaksha Temple at Hampi

Virupaksha Temple at Hampi. By Saranya Ghosh (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

8. Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram, Tamilnadu

This temple dedicated to the Nataraja, Lord Shiva’s manifestation as the cosmic dancer. Visit this temple to lose yourself in the Anand Tandava, the blissful dance of Shiva depicted on through the sculptures and paintings. Along with this sculpture, the temple is also famous for its magnificent Gopuram, golden roof, and the Pushkarini.

Natraja Temple Chidambaram

Natraja Temple, Chidambaram. By Raghavendran, via Wikimedia Commons

9. Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur, Tamilnadu

This temple constructed by Raja Raja Chola in 1010 CE is another finest example of Indian architecture for its superstructure being one of the tallest in the world. The Shiva Linga in the main shrine is also one of the tallest in India. Thanjavur is also famous for its finest paintings, stone  sculptures, and Chola bronzes. Through its art, this temple tells the stories of how great an empire was the Chola empire!

Brihadeeswara Temple Thanjavur

Brihadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur. By Mcasankar [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

10. Eklingaji Temple, Udaipur, Rajasthan

Temple dedicated to Eklingaji, the ruling deity of Mewar is one of the fascinating temples of Rajasthan. Lord Shiva in the form of Eklingaji rules the region with the Maharaja being his Deewan. The shrine is as old as 8th-century, however, the current temple dating back to the 15th century depicts the meticulous depiction of Nagara i.e the northern style of Temple Architecture. Experience the beautiful combination of art, history, and beliefs at one place.

Eklingji Udaipur

Eklingji Udaipur. By Dennis Jarvis (Flickr: India-7366) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

11. Kailashnatha Temple, Kanchipuram, Tamilnadu

Kanchipuram, the capital of the mighty Pallavas of south India is famous for its silk and temples. Kailashnatha temple at Kanchipuram constructed around 7th-8th century is dedicated to the lord of the Kailash is believed to have been  modeled on the idea of Kailash temple at Ellora. The magnificent superstructure, rows of smaller shrines, ferocious lions on the walls and the depictions from the Shiva Puran add to the splendor of this complex.

Kailasanathar Temple

Kailasanathar Temple. By Keshav Mukund Kandhadai (Flickr: Kailasanathar Temple) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

12. Hoysaleshwara, Halebidu, Karnataka

This temple dedicated to Lord Shiva has two shrines Hoysaleshwar and Shantaleshwar named after the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhan and his wife, queen Shantala. Famous for its panel depictions and friezes on the temple folds Hoysaleshwar temple at Halebidu, Karnataka is one of the finest examples of Indian architecture and technology.

Hoysaleshwara temple in Halebidu

Hoysaleshwara temple in Halebidu. By Anks.manuja [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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