Which is the oldest temple in India?

The history of India is very old and so is the history of Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma with which temples are associated. The construction of temples started somewhere 2000 years ago. But the question of finding an answer to the oldest temple in India is bit difficult. Each temple that is considered to be the oldest is questioned by another set of people claiming their temple to be the oldest one.

Worship and temple patterns have also evolved with India and its communities. Earlier Hindus used to worship cave temples so there was no need to construct temples. People used to bury their dead in these caves, which they used to cover with huge round stones. With the process of cremation, Chaitya caves came into existence, which then were the places of worship. But there was an end to it with Manu Smriti on which most of the Hindu orthodoxy is based. This brought in the tradition of worshiping Gods like Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh in temples. So the people started to worship these deities in the cave temples. The earliest example of this kind was a cave temple that was built in around 400 B.C. at Bhaje containing  images of learned Parasurama with Indra and Surya.

After this came the turn of stone temples, as brick and wood were perishable materials. With time different structures and deities got associated with worship styles in different parts of India. Now there was not one pattern but varied patterns of Hindu temples. Temples in South India were different from that of North India.

Islamic invasion led to the destruction of many temples in India especially North India, so the claim to prove the oldest temple in India became further difficult. This happened between the period 1200 AD to 1700 AD. Because of this reason temples in South India are still intact and perhaps one of the oldest.

The 2004 tsunami which hit the coast of Tamilnadu had released two temples near Mahabalipuram about 60 km from Chennai. It has been found out that a Pallava temple is almost 800 years old whereas bottom of it is about 2000 years old.

Then there is the Jagatmandir temple in the western state of Gujarat that has some oldest parts. It got reconstructed during the Gupta reign in 413 AD.

Some consider the Mundeshwari temple as the oldest temple in India which is located in Kaimur District of Bihar. This is the oldest temple in India which is still functioning. Archeological Survey of India has restored it and its construction probably dated back tom108 AD. It is from that time that rituals and worship is being done in this temple with same devotion. Mundeshwari temple is devoted to Lord Shiva and Shakti. The temple also has other idols like Ganesha, Vishnu, Surya and Mother Goddess.

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