Golden Temples of India

We humans often wish to offer the best they can in the service of the divine.  Sometimes, this has led to creation of "Golden Temples".
Babylon, Egypt, Mexico, Peru, Japan, China, India and all the countries in-between have created temples made of "precious" metals / materials at one time or another.


Indian temple are known for their exuberance and rich display of wealth. 
Architecturally, this wealth is displayed in the form of intricately carved sculptures, quality of stone used, painted frescos and large size of the temple complex.  Temples doors are often covered in bronze, copper, silver and gold to show its wealth and prominence.  Even temples with modest incomes display gilt kalash (pot / vase) on the top of their spires and domes.  The flag poles are also often covered in precious metals to make sure everyone can see their glint and glitter from miles around.


When we mention the word, "Golden Temple", the first (and probably the only) name that comes to everyone's mind is the Sikh shrine in Amritsar.
Infact, there are several "Golden Temples" in India.  Here are 5 most well known ones currently in existence.


1) Sikh Temple at , Harmandir Sahib
Housing the “Adigranth” of the Sikhs, Harmandir Sahib is a marble temple set in a placid lake of Amtrisar (pool of nectar).
Between 1802 - 1830, Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Lahore donated a ton of gold to the temple.  Large portion of this was used to create gilded copper sheets which are used to encased the upper structure of the temple, giving it the distinct golden appearance.


Harmandir Sahib's website



2) Tirupati Balaji in the Sheshadri hills
An 8 foot tall statue of Lord Vishnu stands under a granite spire covered in gold sheets by kings of various dynasties over the centuries. 
Lord Tirupati's temple has a considerable income and is one of the richest in the world.  There are plans to now cover the rest of the temple in gold too.  However some devotes are concerned that such a plan will conceal many archaeological details of the temple including some ancient carvings.


Tirupati Devasthanam



3) Chit Sabha of Nataraja at Chidambaram
Lord Shiva dances "Anand Tandav" under a roof made of 21,600 tiles covered in gold..
The inner shrine to Shiva as Lord of Dance - NataRaja - stands in a vast temple complex with some of the most beautifully carved pillars and statues of South India.


Chidambaram temple's official site



4) VishwaNath temple at Varanasii
An ancient Jyotirling, two foot high, sits in a silver covered base under a spire covered in a ton of gold donated by the Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Lion of Punjab.

Forced by Aurangzeb to relocate in the 17th - 18th Century, the current temple is a fraction of its original size.


Further information on Wikipedia



5) SriPuram temple near Vellore

In 2007, a MahaLakshmi temple was built with 1500 kg of gold.
Layers of gold foil are applied on copper statues, pillars and walls of this glittering modern temple built in ancient style.


SriPuram temple's own site



Internationally -

Before the communist Chinese invaded Tibet, its temples and monasteries were regularly roofed in gold.  Gold is easy to pan in the alluvial deposits of Tibetan rivers.  Piles of precious stones and gold were often just left in front of their deities.  Sadly, communist invaders have looted the Tibetan religious institutions and such wealth is no longer to be seen.


Many Buddhist stupas in South-East-Asia are still regularly covered with gold leaf by their followers.
In Thailand, some Buddhist temples are covered in intricate mirror work and gold.


Many churches around the world have ornate altars. 
Some Catholic churches of Baroque and Rococo style use an inordinate amount of gold leaf on the carvings around their altars and paintings. 
Stain glass is another way churches display their wealth.


Next time you visit a particularly exuberant place of divine worship, remember it is simply our way of offering the best we have in the service of the divine.


Further Reading -

Due to their wealth, Indian government is looting Hindu religious institutions

Architectural development of temple through the ages

Do we have to visit a temple to be a good Hindu ?

Key to successful funding of temples.

Some sacred sites around India

(there are plenty more article on the site)


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