20 Nov 7 Temples in Asia to Add in Your Wander List
The world is crowded with temples, where people flow together to bestow their prayers, acknowledge their fears, and ask for divine support in their dreams. If you are traveling and hiking in Asia, you should visit the following temples which will leave a permanent stamp in your memory.
1. Jele Dzong – Bhutan
Jela Dzong (a fort and a monastery) dates back to the 16th c, strategically located at an altitude of 3,450m on the mountainous path between Paro and Thimphu (the two largest cities of Bhutan). Through the centuries, the travelers could pause there to pray, rest and replenish their supplies. Like all places in the country, this monastery is also surrounded by a legend, according to which, Zhabdrung – the founder of Bhutan – being chased by the Tibetan army during the 15th c invasion and accompanied by the protective deity Mahakala, managed to escape to the mountains. At the precise location, the deity saw that Zhabdrung was safe, and, as a result, separated from him (apparently, “Je” means “separation”).
2. Tengboche Monastery – Nepal
Nestled at an altitude of 3,867m in the Khumbu valley of Eastern Nepal, Tengboche Monastery is accessible to the numerous hikers but not to the mere tourist. Built in 1916 at the site where Lama Sangwa Dorje, a clairvoyant spiritual master, left, a few centuries ago, a footprint on a rock while meditating, it is today part of the “Sacred Sites Trail Project” of the Sagarmatha National Park (a UNESCO Heritage site). Being the only shrine on the path to Everest, it has gained tremendous sentimental value for the Sherpas and mountaineers who attempt to summit the tallest peak in the world.
3. Temple of Literature – Hanoi, Vietnam
Built in 1070, the Temple of Literature in Hanoi is one of the several temples in Vietnam dedicated to Confucius and scholars. It consists of five courtyards constructed in linear form, i.e., one after the other, while maintaining the traditional components of balance and serenity. In the first two, the scholars could relax and disconnect from the outer world while resting among trees and gardens. The third courtyard includes the Thien Quang well, introducing the element of water to reinforce the harmony of the place. It is only after traversing this rectangular pond that the visitor can enter into the true sanctuary of the temple: the Stelae of Doctors, the fourth courtyard with the building where Confucius and his four disciples are worshiped, and the fifth courtyard, added in 1076, with the Imperial Academy.
4. Temple of Heaven – Beijing, China
Hordes of tourists flood the open spaces among the various buildings, posing for photos with the Hall of Prayer of Good Harvests – the familiar round-shaped temple – in the background, squeezing at the entrances for a hasty peek inside (maybe another photo too), or yelling “hello” while standing at the center of the Circular Mound Altar to confirm the quality of the famous echo effect.
Since the early 15th c, emperors – the representatives of heavenly authority on earth – have been standing in the same spots in much more seclusive ceremonies, to offer sacrifices to Heaven and pray for abundance in the harvest season, confident that the echo effect carries their words clearly to the welcoming ears of the gods.
5. Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque – Isfahan, Iran
Sheikh Lotfollah mosque was built at the beginning of the 17th c during the reign of Shah Abbas I of the Safavid dynasty. One of the four main attractions around the Naghsh-i Jahan Square in Isfahan, it easily stands out with its eloquently decorated dome reflecting everlasting grandeur under the sunlight. It was meant to be used only by the royal court and not the public (unlike the Imam Mosque nearby, on the same square); hence, it does not have minarets, and its structure is much smaller, limited to one dome, without interior iwans or courtyards.
6. Kirinda Rajamaha Viharaya – Sri Lanka
The temple is simple and modest. As per the myth, in the 2nd c. BC, King Kelanitissa (or Kawanthissa) was forced to sacrifice his daughter to calm the enraged waters that were flooding the island (possibly an ancient tsunami). Consequently, Princess Viharamahadevi was put on a boat and left alone at the mercy of the waves. Miraculously, the story has a happy ending, with the sea levels receding and the princess surviving, landing on the beach of Kirinda, where she got married to the local king. The temple is dedicated to her and commemorates the story of her sacrifice and survival.
7. Pura Desa Puseh Batuan – Bali, Indonesia
Pura Desa Puseh, situated in the highly artistic village of Batuan in the Gianyar region, is neither the biggest nor the most important temple on the island. However, it was the first one I visited and, hence, its impact remained clearer and its memory much more compelling than other Balinese shrines which might be aesthetically superior. Built at the beginning of the 11th c, it belongs to the type of temples (Pura Desa) reserved for the founders of a village and the worship of Brahma and Vishnu. Centrally located, it stands as the religious and ceremonial heart of the region, with traditional dances performed twice per month to please both the gods and the increasing number of tourists.
Planning to explore the temples in the list? It’s always better if you have a few language tricks up your sleeve. Start learning here.
About the Author:
Konstantina S. creates travelogues that reflect memories, knowledge, and insights acquired while traveling around the world. She has 20 years of corporate experience, having always at heart an affinity for the beauty of human nature.