Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mnajdra - Prehistoric Temples of Malta

Name :  Mnajdra

Location :

Mnajdra  is a megalithic temple complex found on the southern coast of the Mediterranean island of Malta. Mnajdra is approximately 500 metres from the Ħaġar Qim megalithic complex.

Description :

Mnajdra was built around the fourth millennium BCE; the Megalithic Temples of Malta are amongst the most ancient religious sites on Earth, described by the World Heritage Sites committee as "unique architectural masterpieces." In 1992 UNESCO recognized the Mnajdra complex and four other Maltese megalithic structures as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In 2009 work was completed on a protective tent.

Mnajdra is made of coralline limestone, which is much harder than the soft globigerina limestone of Ħaġar Qim. The main structural systems used in the temples are corbelling with smaller stones, and post-and-lintel construction using large slabs of limestone.

The cloverleaf plan of Mnajdra appears more regular than that of Ħagar Qim, and seems reminiscent of the earlier complex at Ggantija. The prehistoric structure consists of three conjoined but not connected temples: the upper, middle and lower.

The upper temple is the oldest structure in the Mnajdra complex and dates to the Ggantija phase (3600-3200 BC). It is a three-apsed building, the doorway of which is formed by a hole cut into a large piece of limestone set upright, a type of construction typical of other megalithic doorways in Malta. This temple appears originally to have had a vaulted ceiling, but only the base of the ceiling now remain on top of the walls. The pillar-stones were decorated with pitmarks drilled in horizontal rows on the inner surface.

The middle temple was built in the late Tarxien phase (3150 – 2500 BC) and, in fact, is the most recent structure. It is formed of slabs topped by horizontal courses.

The lowest temple, built in the early Tarxien phase, is the most impressive and possibly the best example of Maltese megalithic architecture. It has a large forecourt containing stone benches, an entrance passage covered by horizontal slabs, one of which has survived, and the remains of a possibly domed roof. The temple is decorated with spiral carvings and indentations, and pierced by windows, some into smaller rooms and one onto an arrangement of stones.

Functions :

The lowest temple is astronomically aligned and thus was probably used as an astronomical observation and/or calendrical site. On the vernal and the autumnal equinox sunlight passes through the main doorway and lights up the major axis. On the solstices sunlight illuminates the edges of megaliths to the left and right of this doorway.

Although there are no written records to indicate the purpose of these structures, archaeologists have inferred their use from ceremonial objects found within them: sacrificial flint knives and rope holes that were possibly used to constrain animals for sacrifice (since various animal bones were found). These structures were not used as tombs since no human remains were found. The temples contain furniture such as stone benches and tables that give clues to their use. Many artifacts were recovered from within the temples suggesting that these temples were used for religious purposes, perhaps to heal illness and/or to promote fertility.

Excavations  :

The excavations of the Mnajdra temples were performed under the direction of J.G. Vance in 1840, one year after the discovery of Ħagar Qim. In 1871, James Fergusson designed the first plan of the megalithic structure. The plan was quite inaccurate and hence in 1901, Dr. Albert Mayr made the first accurate plan which was based his findings. In 1910, Dr. Thomas Ashby performed further investigations which resulted in the collection of the important archaeological material. Further excavations were performed in December 1949, in which two small statues, two large bowls, tools and one large spherical stone, which was probably used to move the temple's large stones, were discovered.

Websites :

Hagar Qim - Prehistoric Temples of malta

Name : Hagar Qim (English: Standing/Worshipping Stones)

Location :

This megalithic temple complex found on the Mediterranean island of Malta, dating from the Ġgantija phase (3600-3200 BC).

The Megalithic Temples of Malta are amongst the most ancient religious sites on Earth, described by the World Heritage Sites committee as "unique architectural masterpieces." In 1992 UNESCO recognized Haġar Qim and four other Maltese megalithic structures as World Heritage Sites. Vere Gordon Childe, Professor of Prehistoric European Archeology and director of the Institute of Archaeology in the University of London from 1946-1957[5] visited Hagar Qim. His observation was:

    I have been visiting the prehistoric ruins all round the Mediterranean, from Mesopotamia to Egypt, Greece and Switzerland, but I have nowhere seen a place as old as this one.
    —Vere Gordon Childe, Professor of Prehistoric European Archeology

Hagar Qim's builders used globigerina limestone in the temple's construction. As a result of this, the temple has suffered from severe weathering and surface flaking over the millennia. In 2009 work was completed on a protective tent.

Excavation :

Ħaġar Qim was first explored in 1839 at public expense during the Governorship of Sir Henry Bouverie, by T.G. Vance of the Royal Engineers. Within two short months, that officer had made a plan of the buildings and sent to Valletta a stone altar, a decorated slab and seven stone statuettes which are now exhibited in the Valletta Museum. The account of his excavations was published in 1842. Further excavations were done in 1835 by Dr. A.A. Caruana.

In 17 September 1949, three statuettes and several pieces of a much larger stone statue were discovered buried beneath a rectangular stone. These statuettes, commonly known as the "fat ladies", are on display in the National Museum of Archaeology, Valletta.

The megalithic complex of Haġar Qim is located atop a hill on the southern edge of the island of Malta, on a ridge capped in soft globigerina limestone. All exposed rock on the island was deposited during the Oligocene and Miocene periods of geological time. Globigerina limestone is the second oldest rock on Malta, outcropping over approximately 70% of the area of the islands. The builders used this stone throughout the temple architecture.

The temple’s façade is characterized by a trilithon entrance, outer bench and orthostats. It has a wide forecourt with a retaining wall and a passage runs through the middle of the building, following a modified Maltese megalithic design. A separate entrance gives access to four independent enclosures which replace the north-westerly apse.

Features of temple architecture reveal a preoccupation with providing accommodation for animal sacrifices, burnt offerings and ritual oracles. Recesses were used as depositories for sacrificial remains. Excavation has uncovered numerous statuettes of deities and highly decorated pottery.

No burials exist in the temple or the area surrounding Ħaġar Qim, nor have any human bones been discovered in Maltese temples. Bones of numerous sacrificial animals have been found. It is theorized that the Ħaġar Qim complex was built in three stages, beginning with the 'Old Temple' northern apses, followed by the 'New Temple', and finally the completion of the entire structure.

500 metres from Ħaġar Qim stands the Mnajdra megalithic temple. The surrounding area is typical of Mediterranean garrigue in its starkness and isolation; it is designated as a Heritage Park. A few hundred metres from the temple is one of the thirteen watchtowers built by Grand Master Martin de Redin, called Ħamrija Tower. A memorial to General Sir Walter Norris Congreve, Governor of Malta from 1924–1927, is located nearby. The village of Qrendi is a further two kilometres southwest of the temple complex.

The Temple Complex :

The Ħaġar Qim complex consists of a main temple and three additional megalithic structures beside it. The main temple was built between 3600 and 3200 BC; however, the northern ruins are considerably older. The outside entrance serves as an interior passage and connects six large chambers. The right apse is constructed as an arch to prevent the upright slabs falling inward. The outside wall, built of huge upright blocks, projects inwards, thus creating an extremely solid building. This entrance passage and first court follow the Maltese megalithic pattern but as building progressed, this design was considerably modified. The northwesterly apse was replaced by four independent enclosures.

Ħaġar Qim shares its basic architectural design with the Mnajdra, Tarxien and Ġgantija temple complexes. The basic shape includes forecourt and façade, elongated oval chambers, semi-circular recesses and a central passage connecting the chambers. This configuration is commonly termed "trefoil". It is also suggested that the shape of the temple in some way mimics the sacred sculptures found within them.

Main Temple

Beyond the temple entrance is an oval area 14.3 m (47 ft) long and 5.5 m (18 ft) wide with large slab walls, originally topped by courses of masonry. The two apsidal ends are separated from the central court by two vertical slabs pierced by rectangular openings. These openings are thought to have been adorned with curtains to limit access to the side apses. Visual access from the apses seems to have been limited to porthole slabs.

Past the first pair of apses, the temple interior is more firmly screened off than is usual at other temple sites. The central area is paved with well-set smooth blocks, and along the walls are low stone altars, originally decorated with pit-marks. Some of these blocks are discolored by fire. In 1839, archaeologists discovered important objects in this court, now shown in the Valletta Museum. These include stone statuettes, a detailed altar-stone with deep carvings representing vegetation, a stone slab with spirals in relief and a displaced sill-stone, illustrating a pair of opposing spirals similar to those of the Tarxien Temples.

On the outer side of the north flank of Hagar Qim a open-air shrine has been inserted into the wall, whose facade combines the suggestive symbols of the male and female generative organs. There is also the unique four-sided altar. Various facades of the temple have been interpreted as symbolically depicting male and female reproductive organs.

The right-hand apse contains a setting of low orthostats forming a pen, theoretically intended for the corralling of animals. The left-hand apse has a high trilithon altar on its left, two others on right with one in a smaller chamber. It also serves as a passage, admitting access to an additional chamber combining a central court, niche and right apse. A low-standing pillar stands at the end of the apse.

The entrance to the enclosure is well-paved and neatly flanked by slabs on end. A threshold is provided by a couple of conical pits connected at the apex, demonstrating the "rope holes" seen in many other Maltese temples. Heavy slabs form a Niche to the left of the entrance, to the right a cell contains an altar constructed out of a single block of stone and deeply discolored by action of fire. This space is theorized to have been the most sacred in the temple.

Northern Temple :

The northern temple is the oldest part of Ħaġar Qim, containing an oval chamber with a semi-circular apse on each side. Following the second doorway is another chamber with similar apses.

The northern temple uniquely has three insulated layers of flooring. The pavement on the topmost level is not marked by sacrificial fires, unlike the lower floors. Due to the different methods used in polishing the stone, scholars have theorized that the three layers of pavement illustrate three major shifts in construction at Ħaġar Qim.

Stone balls of different sizes are located alongside the walls of the northern temple and other parts of the structure. These are theorized to have been the rollers used to transport the megaliths. Excavations have revealed such rollers buried beneath the megaliths, thus contributing to a solid foundation.

Il- Misqa - The Watering Place 

Il-Misqa (English: the Watering Place), is a flat area of bare rock atop a hill nearby the temple complex. It contains seven bell-shaped reservoirs that still retain rain-water during any winter with an average rainfall. Of the seven, five wells hold water; the three wells which no longer hold water are the deepest and are joined as a single tank through subterranean channels. A monolith surmounts one of the dry holes and is theorized to have been used in drawing water from the well. An eighth well exists but is blocked up by a mature fig tree.

The water-channels cut in the surface of the rock distribute rain-water into the wells individually and the level of water in any well is kept relative to that of the immediately adjoining well. 

Women's Chamber 

The Northern Temple's first recess contains a round stone pillar and a rectangular slab held vertically ahead of the pillar. Resting on the slab are spherical hollows which may have served as holders in which to stand small libation jars. Jars excavated from the site are characterized by a specifically oval base, designed to stand upright when placed in the slab.

Remnants of the vertical blocks which once flanked the recess are still observable today. To the right of this chamber is another recess, containing an acoustic opening called the "oracle hole". Sound passed from the main chamber into the recess, and vice-versa. The hole has also been linked to alignments of the Summer solstice. On the right side of the chamber is a horizontal block that may have served as seating.

Website :

Ġgantija - Prehistoric temples of Malta

Name :  Ggantija
Location :
The largest megalithic complex in the Maltese islands, Ggantija stands high on the southeast slope of Xagħra hill, overlooking Ramla valley, southern Gozo, and beyond to Malta, five miles away. The site is composed of two temples spanning more than 120 feet, and enclosed by a single huge outer wall, which reaches almost twenty feet in height.
Legend :
According to an ancient legend, the temple walls were built in one day and one night by a female giant named Sunsuna, who did it while nursing a baby. Ggantija is Maltese for "giant's grotto." 

According to archaeologists, the Ggantija temples were dedicated to the Great Earth Mother, a goddess of fertility. Evidence indicates there was an oracle here, as at the much-later Temple of Apollo at Delphi. A priestess prophesied while in a trance, possessed by the spirit of the goddess. Ggjantija also seems to have been a place to pray for healing

In ancient times, the temples dedicated to the Mother Goddess at Ggantija drew pilgrims from across the island and even from North Africa and Sicily. 

Description :
The two temples of Gjantija are estimated to be 5,800 years old (built between 3600 and 3000 BC). One of them is the oldest stone structure in the world, predating Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids by hundreds of years. Round in shape and containing statues of full-figured goddesses, the Ggantija temples were dedicated to the Great Earth Mother and probably included an oracle. The site was a place of pilgrimage for the ancient inhabitants of Malta.
What to see : 

In addition to being the oldest, the Gjantija temples are the most complete shrine complexes on Malta. The two temples cover a total of 10,000 square feet. They are surrounded by a common wall, which reaches up to 17 feet, and they share a forecourt. 

As with many megalithic sites, it is hard to imagine how these ancient peoples were able to hoist stones weighing several tons into place. The slabs may have been rolled into place on "roller stones" about the size of cannon balls, which have been found on the site.

The Ggjantija complex is characterized by round, curved architecture, reflecting a powerful, full-figured Mother Goddess. The two shrines themselves suggest the body of the Earth Mother, with broad hips and full breasts. The ritual rooms are round, and it is thought that the priestess entered symbolically into her Mother's womb and returned reborn. The temples were roofed with great domes, painted in red on the inside. 

Each temple consists of five apses connected by a central corridor that leads to the innermost trefoil section. The first temple to be built is larger and has niches with altars, relief carvings and libation holes. The second has none of these features. 

The large common forecourt may have been where congregations gathered to attend rituals, while the inner rooms of the temple were reserved for the priestess. 

Many of the doorway slabs have round holes carved in them. The purpose of these is uncertain, but they may have held wooden rods on which fabric was draped to create curtains or screens. More holes can be seen in some floor slabs, but these do not go all the way through and were almost certainly libation holes for holding liquid offerings.

The altars in the larger temple are trilithons; that is, made of three stones to form a vertical surface. There is evidence of animal sacrifice on these altars, most of which have been reconstructed. Another interesting feature is the evidence of a sacred fire - a stone hearth, some paving stones of which have been reddened by fire, can be seen on the floor of the inner right-hand niche of the larger temple. 

A few artifacts have been found at the site, which are now displayed in the national museum. They include a small clay figure of a full-figured sleeping goddess that was found in an egg-shaped chamber. Some architectural decoration can still be seen in its original position in the temple, including three stone blocks with spiral carvings and several stones with decorative pitting.
Website :
Full details with visitor information can be seen at website below


Name : Haeinsa Temple

Location : 

Haeinsa is a head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism in the Gaya Mountains, South Gyeongsang Province South Korea.

Legend and History :

Tradition says that Haeinsa was first settled in 802 by the monks Suneung and Ijeong, who had just returned from China. The name, meaning "Temple of Reflections on a Smooth Sea," derives from a verse in a Buddhist sutra that compares the Buddha's wisdom to a calm sea. When the mind is freed from the wild waves of worldly desires and follies, it will attain a calmness in which the true image of all existence is clearly reflected.
Soon after, the temple was built by a grateful King Aejang after the monks healed his wife. According to legend, the monks tied one end of string to the queen's tumor and the other end to a tree, chanting Buddhist verses. Miraculously, the tumor vanished as the tree withered and died

Hundreds of years later, 13th-century Korea was at war with the Mongols. The Korean government, in exile on Ganghwa island, commissioned a copy of the Buddhist scriptures in hopes of earning the Buddha's intervention in the war. The resulting Tripitaka Koreana (carved 1237-48) is considered the best copy of the scriptures in Asia. According to tradition, the woodblocks were made of white birch first soaked and then boiled in sea water for three years, then dried for three years in the shade.

Haeinsa suffered a devastating fire in 1817, in which nearly all the wooden temple buildings were destroyed. Only the Tripitaka library at the rear of the complex, built in 1488, escaped damage. The main worship hall was rebuilt in 1818 during the late Joseon (Chosôn) dynasty, on the foundations of the one built a thousand years earlier by Haeinsa's two original monks.

The library hall and its woodblocks of scripture were designated a Korean national treasure in 1962 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

In the late 20th century the monks of Haeinsa entered the computer age, painstakingly inputting the contents of the Tripitaka Koreana into electronic form from 1992 to 1994. The ancient text is now stored on a CD-ROM and the monks have further plans to provide a parallel translation into modern Korean and extensive cross-referencing and other indexes.

 Haeinsa is one of the Three Jewel Temples of Korea, and represents Dharma or the Buddha’s teachings. It is still an active Seon practice center in modern times, and was the home temple of the influential Rev. Seongcheol, who died in 1993.

 What to see :

Haeinsa's magnificent Tripitaka consists of 52,382,960 classical Chinese characters carved on 81,258 double-sided woodblocks in 6,802 volumes. It is said to be the oldest and most complete copy of the Buddhist scriptures in the world, and also one of the most beautifully made. It is displayed on floor-to-ceiling shelves in the oldest building at the temple (1488), called the Janggyeong Panjeon.

The Janggyeong Panjeon building is notable in itself. It is one of the oldest buildings constructed specifically for the storage of artifacts and it exhibits "remarkably effective solutions developed in the 15th century to the problems posed by the need to preserve woodblocks against deterioration" (UNESCO).

The main worship hall, Daejeokkwangjeon (Hall of Great Silence and Light), was rebuilt 1818 on ancient foundations. Unusually, it houses a Vairocana Buddha statue, carved in 1769, instead of the usual Seokgamoni. One of the Five Celestial Buddhas, Vairocana represents the center of the universe. Behind the statue are wall paintings of the Buddha's life.

Website :

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mandher Devi Temple in Mandhradevi

Name :  Mandher Devi Temple at Mandhardev hill

Location :

Mandher Devi Temple that is famed as “Kalubai temple” in Mandhradevi nearly at the place Wai, District of Satara, Maharashtra, India, situated on a hill about 4,650 feet above sea level and just some 20 km far from Satara.

Description :

The temple is popular among Hindus who undertake the annual Kalubai Jatra pilgrimage over a ten day period every January. The main event is a 24-hour-long festival on the day of the full moon that includes animal sacrifices to the demons of goddess whom she killed. The goddess is offered (Nivad) of Puran Poli - a sweet and also Curd-Rice. The religious event usually draws more than 300,000 devotees. The annual fair is in honour of Kaleshwari Devi, fondly called Kalubai by the faithful. Over 300 devotees died there in a stampede in 2005.

The idol of Kalubai sports two silver masks and silk finery. The masks are carried in a procession by members of the Gurav family, seen as the hereditary custodians of the shrine. Members of this family take turns to conduct rituals.

Devotees attribute miraculous properties to a grove around the shrine. Local lore has it that the temple is more than 400 years old and was built during Shivaji's Maratha rule. However, no definite date on the temple's construction is available.

The title of the land is in the name of Lord Mandeshwar and Kaleshwari Devi. After the festival most of the year there is little tourist traffic here. The nearest primary health centre is six kilometres away and a major hospital is at Satara town.

Website :


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