Hindu Sanctuaries in India
Northern India
5th cent BC - 17th cent AD

For each section there exists a Google-Earth.kmz file which locates the places on the globe. These files open only in GE, which you must have on your hard-disc.
Northern India

Varanasi Cremation Ghats
550 BC - present

Early morning cremations at the Gats.
Photo from a Russian Website

Varanasi is a city situated on the banks of the river Ganga (Ganges). It is sacred to Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, and is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. People are coming here to bathe in the Ganges or to die. Cremations take place on certain ghats lining the crowded rive bank. Buddha Gautama taught his Sermon in the Deer Park across the river from the city in 550 BC.
Varanasi is an experience not an art museum. These are photos taken on an intense early morning at the ghats.

Varanasi, Laundry wallahs by the Ganges

Women after their bath.
Photos RWFG

Deogarh Dashavatara Temple
5th cent AD

Deogarh is a village near Lalitpur in Uttar Pradesh. Its Vishnu temple is one of the early surviving Hindu stone temples still in existence. It was built in the Gupta period (320-600 AD).

Photo harekrsna,com.

The small, square temple had a circumabulatory surrounding it, which allowed the worshippers to view the exceptionally fresh sculptural panels with Vishnu's deeds.

Vishnu reclining on the snake (south wall), - Photo harekrsna,com

Vishnu riding on Garuda rescues Gajendra, the King of the elephants from the Naga cobra. Northern Wall of the temple. Photo harekrsna,com

The penance of Nar and Naraynana (Tapasya), Photo harekrsna,com

Tigawa, Kankali Devi Temple, Hindu
5th cent AD

Photo indoarch.org

This square temple was a forerunner of the structural stone temples (not caves!) of the Gupta dynasty. It is very well preserved and is similar to Buddhist Temple 17 of Sanchi. It does not have a circumbulatory, but it does have an ardhamandapa, which was originally just a pathway. The walls on both sides of the ardhamandapa were attached later. The roof is flat and there is no shikhara. As in Sanchi, lions are sculpted on top of the pillars.

Nagda Temples Hindu
7th-10th cent AD

Nagda, Jain Adbudji and Sas-Bahu Temples
Photo monnee-kashyap.in

Nagda was the 7th - 8th century capital of the Mewar kingdom. Its main shrine is the Sas-Bahu temple dedicated to Vishnu and dating from the late 10th century

Chaunsath Yogini Temple,
Tantric Shaivite, 900 AD

Photo sourav_das, Panoramio

Dated to 900 AD Chausath (64) Yogini is the oldest temple of Khajuraho, and the earliest of four rare Tantric Shakti sanctuaries in India. Dedicated to the goddess Kali (Shakti) and the sixty-four Yoginis, which represented her aspects
Different from the other sandstone temples at Khajuraho it is built in granite. - The structure is rectangular and not circular as in other, later Chaunsat-Yogini sanctuaries. - The name "Chausath" (sixty-four) derives from the number of the 64 manifestations (Yoginis) which surround the Goddess Kali (Shakti). Built on a low rocky
hill, the temple is a rarely visited open-air sanctuary a few hundred meters south of the western group. It has a unique quadrangular plan and is partially ruined . Only 35 of the original 65 images have survived.

Khajuraho, Shaivite, Jain Temples
950 - 1050 AD
Khajuraho, 11 Shaivite (950 - 1050 AD) and 5 Jain temples

Khajuraho was the capital of the Chandela Rajputs, a Hindu dynasty that ruled this part of India from the 10th to the 12th centuries. The Khajuraho temples were built over a span of a hundred years, from 950 to 1050. The Chandela capital was moved to Mahoba after this time, but Khajuraho continued to flourish for some time.
Unlike other cultural centers of North India, the temples remained undiscovered by the Islamic Mughals and the British until a Victorian colonel happened upon them. He nearly fainted, but his boy-servant photographed the "sinful" sculptures, and that is how their fame spread
- as Victorian pornography...

The large Kandariya Mahadeva Hindu Temple (1050 AD) devoted to Shiva.

Interestingly, despite their often erotic postures the sculptures do not display significant musculature or tensions, which distances them from Greek sculpture.

The lower bands depict worldly life, a caravan of elephants, an army of warriors....

Not all maidens are active, these two are half asleep.

The sculptures of the Jain temples are less exalted.

Numerous Sardulas, symbols of desire, hide in the shadows between gods and men. This one has its teeth cleaned by a miniature earthling. Photos can be found at RWFG, Khajuraho
nother website with hundreds of black and white photos of the sculptures: vishwakala.org

Hirapur 64-Yogini Temple Tantric Shaivite
8th - 11th cent AD

This temple is dedicated to the sixty-four ("chaunsath") yoginis (Tantric goddesses), whose exquisite sculptures are set into exterior and interior niches. The temple faces east; its circular form is typical of goddess temples in India. Only four such sites have survived: Hirapur, Khajuraho (900 AD), Bheragat (10th cent) and the Temple to Durga Kamakhaya in Guwahati, Assam (1674)
This is the only "yogini" temple that has female figures on its outer walls, and their distinctive qualities lead one to conclude that this was, at least at one time, a Buddhist shrine: There are nine exterior niches, each home to a dakini sculpted in sandstone poised above large severed human heads. Each holds either her characteristic curved knife or spear in one hand, and her skull cup in the other.
It is generally accepted that the Hirapur temple was constructed during the reigns of Bhauma and Somavamsi (mid-8th to mid-10th century,) since the figures resemble the style of those in the Mukteshwar temple in Bhubaneswar dating to the 9th century. That period is known as Orissa's Golden Age as a consequence of the dynasty's patronage and eclecticism in the arts, and tolerance in religious matters. However, it might be located at the site of a far older sanctuary.

The chaunsat yogini temple of Hirapur is roofless. 64 dakinis circle its sacred enclosure in the center of which once stood Bhairava on a platform, who is now missing.

Hirapur, the inside of the sanctuary with the 64 soapstone yogini sclptures

A Tantric female Ganesh

Bheraghat Chaunsath Yogini Temple Shaivite Tantric
1025 AD

Temple bell and the entrance to the Durga Temple at the center of the circle visible in GE, 12th cent - Photo Panoramio

Situated atop a hill rock and approached by a long flight of steps,the Chausat Yogini Temple commands a singularly beautiful view of the Narmada flowing through the jagged Marble Rocks. Dedicated to Goddess Durga, this 10th century temple has exquisitely carved stone figures of deities belonging to the Kalchuri period. According to a local legend,this ancient temple is connected to the Gond Queen Durgavati's palace through an undergroung passage. - Notice that the GE map shows 2 circular structures next to each other!

Photo Panoramio

Photo Panoramio

As in Hirapur the actual shrine is roofless. The Yogini are placed under the circular overhang on the periphery. Most are damaged. These two are among the better preserved sculptures.

Bubaneshvar Brahmasvara Temple
1060 AD

The towers of the Brahmeswar temple. The Brahmesvara Temple is a pancharatna (5 shrines), which includes small shrines with square shikharas. - Photo indoarch

Bubaneshwar Lingaraj Temple, Shaivite
11th cent AD

Bhubaneshwar began as the Shailodbhava capital in the 7th century; major temple-building activity continued under the Bhauma Kara (8th century) and Somavamshi (9th-11th century) dynasties. There are also some later temples, from the Eastern Ganga (12th -14th century) and Gajapati (14th-15th century) periods.
The large number of well-preserved temples, many with outstanding sculptural decoration, allow to study the of Hindu temple architecture from the 7th to the 15th century.

One of Orissa's most famous temples, Lingaraja Temple, draws both pilgrims and tourists to Bhubaneshwar. The Shiva shrine was built around 1000 A.D.
Photo by James P. Blair, Nat. Geographic

Konark Surya Temple
1258 AD

Photo by Galen-Frysinger

The astonishing Surya temple at Konarak was built by King Narasimha I (1238-1264) of the Eastern Ganga dynasty as an offering, it is said, to commemorate the king's military victories, greatness, and piety. Konarak had long been a center of sun worship, which is rare in India. Even in its present badly eroded state the temple exudes grandeur in its size, its design concept, and in the detail and excellence of its carvings. Its enormous sanctuary tower collapsed in the 19th century; its large pyramidal roof covers only the temple's jagamohan, or entrance hall. The sanctuary tower was about twice as tall.
The temple faces east It was conceived as the chariot of the
Sun God, Surya, carried upon twelve pairs of wheels representing the months, and drawn by seven horses representing the days of the week The idea of a temple as the chariot of its god is not unique to Konarak, although this is certainly the most splendid example

One of the better preserved wheels on the west side.

Surya riding on a horse

Naga, snake godesses in the niches of the chariot.

A Sardula, the beast of lust and sensuality (see Khajuraho)
Photos from a Russian Gallery

Rajgir Lakshmi Narayan Temple
14th cent?

Rajgir is sacred to the memory of the founders of both Buddhism and Jainism and associated with both the historical Buddha and Mahavira. The Tapodarama Monastery was located on the site of the hot springs. Now a Hindu temple is constructed there, called the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir. In ancient times, hot springs used to be the site of the Tapodarama, a Buddhist monastery at the time of Gautama Buddha. Also King Bimbisara used to take his bath there sometimes

Lakshmi Narayan Temple
Photo Panoramio

Devotees bathing in the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir.
Photo Wikipedia

Guwahati Kamakhya Temple Tantric

Tantric Shakti Temple to Durga Kamakhaya in Guwahati, Assam
Photo Panoramio

The Kamakhya Temple is a shakti temple situated on the Nilachal Hill in western part of Guwahati city in Assam, India. It is the main temple in a complex of individual temples dedicated to different forms of the mother goddess as the Dasa Mahavidya, including Bhuvaneshvari, Bagalamukhi, Chinnamasta, Tripura Sundari and Tara. It is an important pilgrimage destination for general Hindu and Tantric worshipers.
The current temple structure was constructed in 1565 by Chilarai of the Koch dynasty in the style of medieval temples. The beehive middle chamber leads to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple in the form of a cave, which consists of no image but a natural underground spring that flows through a yoni-shaped cleft in the bedrock. During the Ambuvaci festival each summer,the menstruation of the Goddess Kamakhya is celebrated. During this time, the water in the main shrine runs red with iron oxide resembling menstrual fluid.
It is likely that this is an ancient Khasi sacrificial site, and worshiping here still includes sacrifices. Devotees come every morning with goats to offer to Shakti.
Text Wikipedia

Mahoba Chakra Math Temple
16th cent AD?

Mahoba was the capital of the Chandela Rajputs, who ruled Bundelkhand from the 10th to the 16th centuries.

The ruins of the Chakra Math temple, Chandela 16th cent.
Photo Panoramio

Dakshinkali, Nepal, Tantric Sanctuary
11th cent AD - present

The Sanctuary of Dakshinkali — the ultimate, old-fashioned Southern Kali Shrine
south of Patan, Nepal

Dakshinkali, one of Nepal's most popular Hindu shrines lies in a lovely valley below Pharping. Kali the giver and taker of life is still celebrated with "red sacrifices" there. The poor bring roosters, the rich rams, both are being dispatched with a single stroke by a priest, who stands to his ankles in blood. The decapitated animals are washed, skinned, roasted on open fires, and eaten by he devotees.
Not for the fainthearted, even Indian Hindus shudder. You will be disappointed, piety kept me from photographing this precedure.

The sacrifical animals, cocks and rams are being handled by the men.
Women and Brahmins are permitted a gentler offering of throwing flowers into a sacred fire:

The faithful streaming down the stairs to the sanctuary in the valley

The side show - a Nepali Madonna feeding her baby at Dakhsinkali.

A young girl
Photos RWFG