There are so many ancient temples built across the world, it’s nearly impossible to pick out a handful of them. India is home to quite a few.
Each of them is unique in their very own way. Each of them has a story to tell. And each ancient temple is home to ancient histories lost to time.
But while their exact purpose and origin may be shrouded in myths, each of them has a story to tell, written in stone.
Built thousands of years ago, some of these temples defy the very understanding and capabilities of ancient civilizations that existed on earth during a time before history was even written.
In this article, we take a look at three of the most fascinating temples that involved transporting massive blocks of stone across hundreds of kilometers, or laser-like cuts that defy our understanding of ancient technology.
But all of them point in one direction: Ancient civilizations–no matter where they were located–managed to build some of the most impressive ancient structures history has ever seen.
Ancient Building techniques
Many ancient temples are like structures out of a Hollywood movie. Built without modern tools, some of these temples are so precisely built, carved, and designed, that it is hard to believe they were built in ancient times.
This “mystery” leads many authors to question whether ancient civilizations had a kind of technology thousands of years ago, that has been lost in history.
After all, it is beyond impressive knowing that thousands of years ago, cultures across the world managed to transport, without issues, blocks of stone weighing up one hundred tons.
Some of the ancient structures feature intricate details that that were made with laser-like precision.
Other temples were carved out of the mountain, which is an impressive feat on its own.
The Kailasa Temple
One of the most impressive ancient temples in the world is the Kailasanatha temple, or Kailasa Temple, located in Ellora, Maharashtra, India.
The temple is best described as one of the most impressive and largest rock-cut temples on the surface of the planet.
This behemoth of a temple was carved, thousands of years ago, from the solid mountain.
It is acknowledged as one of the most remarkable temples in India, mostly because of its architecture, design, and sculptural treatment.
Its importance is even greater when you realize that the Kailasa temple is just one of the 34 cave temples and monasteries within the so-called Ellora Caves, a complex set of structures carved into the bedrock.
Although the age of the caves is debated, most scholars agree that the construction of the Kailasa can be traced back to the eighth century, when the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I ruled the land.
Strangely, the Kailasa temple has been found to completely lack dedicatory inscriptions, although experts like Kannal Deepak argue it was built, without a reason of a doubt, in honor of a Rashtrakuta ruler. Researchers believe the Ellora caves had three important building periods: an early Hindu period (~550 to 600 CE), a Buddhist phase (~600 to 730 CE) and a later Hindu, and Jain, phase (~730 to 950 CE).
Scholars argue that the builders of the Kailasa temple adopted a vertical excavation method in order to accomplish what they did.
They began at the top of the primary boulders and worked their way downwards forming one of the most captivating ancient temples on Earth.
But although experts argue they used a vertical excavation method, it still remains a mystery how they did it.
What did the builders of the Ellora caves use to excavate the temples, and where is all the remaining material, what kind of tools were used? And what types of technologies were known to them?
Archaeologists maintain that the builders of the intricate temples had at their disposal hammers, chisels, and picks, and no more than that.
The Padmanabhaswamy Temple and its Secret Door
Another fascinating ancient temple, and another one dating back to ancient Indian cultures.
Located in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India, the Padmanabhaswamy Temple is one of the most impressive, and richest temples of ancient India.
The facade of the Padmanabhaswamy temple was built in a Dravidian style and its principal deity Vishnu is enshrined in it.
Its existence is mentioned in a number of ancient Hindu texts, including the Mahabharata. Considered one of the 108 primary Holy Abodes in Vaishnavism, this temples is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, a collection of 4,000 Tamil verses composed by the 12 Alvars, and was compiled in its present form by Nathamuni during the 9th – 10th centuries.
Its name can be traced back to 500 BCE and 300 CE, where it is mentioned in the Sangam Period of Literature. While the temple is wealthy today, it is believed to have been extremely rich thousands of years ago, the reason why one of its names was “The Golden Temple.”
It is estimated that the temple possesses around 22 Billion worth of gold, jewels, and statues dating back hundreds of years. In fact, it was reported in 2011 that the treasure trove of the temples was the largest of its kind in India.
According to reports, there are eight known vaults within the temples, located on the western side designated Vaults; A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H.
The Padmanabhaswamy temple is also home to a mysterious door (vault?) that features no bolts, not latches, and has no visible means of entry.
It is believed to have been sealed shut in ancient times via sound waves from a secret chant that has been lost in time. Two massive protective cobras adorn the door.
The Konark Sun Temple
Another wonder of ancient design and architecture, the Konark Sun Temple is truly a wonder of ancient times. This ancient temple was designed as a chariot consisting of 24 such wheels. Each wheel has a diameter of 9 feet, 9 inches, with 8 spokes.
Located in on the coastline of Odisha in India, this ancient temple is attributed to Narasingha Deva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty about 1250 CE.
The temple’s name derives from Sasrkin meaning corner or angle and sun: Kona means angle or corner and Arka means Sun.
Erected in honor fo the Dungi Sund god Surya, the structure was designed and eventually built in the shape of a thirty-meter high chariot, featuring massive horses and wheels, all carved from stone.
The ancient builders of the temples used a number of different stones, among which Chlorite, Laterite, and Khondolite stand out. It is noteworthy to mention that none of these stones came from quarries located nearby.
Somehow, the massive blocks of stone were transported from their original quarries to the construction site. Once finished, the temple is thought to have stood over sixty-one meters in height.
Like many other ancient structures, this temple too is now in ruins; mostly its shikara tower which stood over the sanctuary. The exact reason why the temple was partially destroyed remains an enigma to experts. Some experts argue that the temple is not damaged but that it was never finished.
Among the many intricate carvings, some of the most famous is the erotic kama and mithuna scenes.
However, one of the most incredible design elements of the temple, which by itself is already mind-bending, is a massive stone wheel engraved into the walls of the temple. The temple is still a major pilgrimage site for Hindus.