More than a quarter of all people in the world belong to Eastern religions, which include Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Taoism. These people worship in temples, which are architecturally as diverse as the religions are different from each other. From the ancient ruins of Ankor Wat to the distinctly modern Wat Rong Khun, there are hundreds if not thousands of amazing temples in the world.
Tiger’s Nest Monastery
The monastery, formally called Taktshang Goemba, was built in 1692 and reconstructed in 1998 after a fire. Now, the monastery is restricted to practicing Buddhists on religious retreats and is off-limits to ordinary tourists.
Wat Rong Khun
Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai, Thailand is unlike any Buddhist temples in the world. The all-white, highly ornate structure gilded in mosaic mirrors that seem to shine magically, is done in a distinctly contemporary style. It is the brainchild of renowned Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat.
Nearly all the walls of the temple are covered in exquisite bas relief carvings, which narrate stories of Vishnu’s incarnations, adventures of Hanuman the Monkey King, the Ramayana [wiki] epic and other legends.
As if all that gold wasn’t enough, the spire of the stupa or dome is covered with over 5,000 diamonds and 2,000 rubies (there’s even a 76 carat diamond at the very tip!). And oh, the temple housed one of the holiest relics in Buddhism: eight strands of Buddha’s hair.
Temple of Heaven
Image: elbisreverri [Flickr]
The site of the Temple began with a small lake that was so peaceful that even Buddha came there to meditate. Thousands of years later, Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism also lived and meditate by the lake.
Vishnu Temple of Srirangam
The temple complex is massive: it encompasses an area of over 150 acres (63 hectares) with seven concentric walls, the outermost being about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) long! The walls demarcate enclosures within enclosures, each more sacred than the next, with the inner-most enclosure is forbidden to non-Hindus.
The Temple of Srirangam is famous for its gopurams or entrances beneath colorful pyramids. The temple has 21 gopurams total, with the largest one having 15 stories and is nearly 200 feet (60 m) tall.
Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Bayon
Angkor Wat [wiki] was built in the early 12th century in what is now Cambodia. The world famous temple was first a Hindu one, dedicated to Vishnu. In the 14th or 15th century, as Buddhism swept across Asia, it became a Buddhist temple.
Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple
Potala Palace [wiki], built on top of the Red Mountain in Lhasa, Tibet, China was built by the first emperor of Tibet in 637 CE. The current palace was re-constructed in the mid-1600s by the fifth Dalai Lama.
The city of Lhasa has three concentric paths that pilgrims use to walk to Jokhang Temple. Many actually prostrate themselves along these routes in order to gain spiritual merit!