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Rasulullah pernah berkata: "Manusia itu diumpamakan seperti unta. Daripada 100 ekor unta, belum tentu ada seekor yang dapat dijadikan tunggangan". Tidak ada yang lebih baik dari 1000 perkara, melainkan manusia. Biar pun seribu kapal tenggelam di tengah lautan, tetapi cita-cita manusia jangan pernah padamkan.

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Temples have been built across cultures since there have been human settlements, from the massive Egyptian temples, to the ornate examples in the Indian sub-continent, to the palatial edifices in the Far East.

Temples are not just places of worship, but also an enduring testimony to humanity’s faith in the sublime and the infinite. Some temples are humble structures, but others are humbling.

Here are 10 spectacular temples that take the breath away and inspire in us a sense of wonder.



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Tiger’s Nest Monastery

1. Tiger's Nest Monastery (Bhutan)

Perched precariously on a 3,000m high cliff above Paro Valley, Tiger’s Nest Monastery is one of the holiest places in Bhutan and its most spectacular. It is not especially big but its beauty and dangerous-looking location never fail to take the visitor’s breath away.

Tiger’s Nest appears to float in midair, especially on a misty day. Its Shangrila-like setting makes it look like a surreal dream palace rather than a place of worship. Amazingly, it was completed in 1692 without the aid of modern technology. Even today the place is accessible only by foot.

Its official name is Taktshang, but it is more popularly know as Tiger’s Nest because it is said that the great sage and guru Padmasmabhava flew there, once upon a time, seated on a tiger.



Wat Rong Khun

2. Wat Rong Khun (Thailand)

Wat Rong Khun in Chiangmai is unlike any Buddhist temple in the world. It is pristine white, as opposed to the riot of colour that is the traditional Thai temple with its signature red, gold and green roofs, multi-coloured deities and guardians.

This relatively new temple was initiated by one of Thailand’s most famous artists, Chalermchai Kositpipat, in honour of the King of Thailand. Work is still ongoing, and it is expected that three generations of artists will take another 60 years to complete painting the artwork inside.

Chalermchai, 53, expects to devote another 20 years of his life to the project, which now attracts some 1.8 million visitors annually.


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Prambanan Temple


3. Prambanan (Indonesia)

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Prambanan is the biggest Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva in central Java. Built in 850AD, it has eight main shrines and many smaller ones that reportedly make up a grand total of 1,000.

Many visitors are overwhelmed by its elegant spires and refined architecture, which seem both ancient and modern. Quite a few have compared it to the Petronas Twin Towers!

Legend has it that Princess Lara Jonggrang demanded that her suitor, Prince Bondowoso, build 1,000 temples within a single night if he wanted to win her hand in marriage. Evidently, she did not fancy him and thought the task an impossible one.

But her determined suitor summoned supernatural spirits to do his bidding and was just one temple short of reaching his goal when Princess Lara lit a bonfire and roused the cockerels, which began crowing even though it was not yet dawn. The spirits, thinking morning had arrived, fled back into the bowels of the earth.

Gleeful, the princess laughed at her suitor, and this so infuriated him that he turned her into stone. Her statue, apparently, can still be found in the vicinity of the temple.



Shwedagon Pagoda


4. Shwedagon Pagoda (Myanmar)

Shwedagon was first built in the 6th century when Yangon (or Rangoon) was still known as Dagon. Its name shwe dagon means “Golden Dagon”, and this is due to the fact that the temple is filled with thousands of statues of the Buddha in solid and plated gold.

One, in particular, is said to be so efficacious in granting wishes that crown princes were forbidden from entering its chapel lest their wish for the king’s speedy demise was granted!

Still in use, Shwedagon is the holiest temple in all of Myanmar and comparable in splendour to Angkor and Borobudur. The main stupa reached its present height of 98m in the 15th century. Its tip glitters gloriously from 5,448 diamonds (totaling 1,800 carats) and 2,317 Burmese rubies. The pinnacle is crowned by a flawless, 76-carat diamond and the entire edifice is plated with 24-carat gold.

Shwedagon is said to be the only temple to contain relics from all the four known Buddhas, including eight strands of hair from Gautama Buddha. The last and fifth enlightened being, the Buddha of the future, is called Maitreya and will appear to save humanity in its darkest hour.



Temple of Heaven


5. Temple of Heaven (China)

The Temple of Heaven is a Taoist temple in Beijing. It was the most important temple for the emperors of yore because it was here that he came twice a year to commune with heaven.

The temple was constructed in the 14th century by Emperor Yongle during the Ming Dynasty. In keeping with the yin-yang concept, there is also a Temple of Earth — a clone of Temple of Heaven. In addition, the Temple of Sun and the Temple of Moonhelp to complete the four cardinal points.

The Ming and Ching emperors wore special robes and abstained from eating meat for a week before coming here to offer prayers to heaven for a good harvest. The famous Echo Wall in the temple vicinity spans 193m and is an acoustic marvel. A person listening at one end would be able to hear words whispered at the other end.

At 2.7 million sq m, the temple’s overall area is bigger than the Forbidden City’s, and this was because the Son of Heaven dared not live in premises larger than the heavenly realm.


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Chion-in Temple


Interior Chion-in Temple

6. Chion-in Temple(Japan)

Chion-in Temple was built in 1234 to honour the priest Honen, founder of Jodo (Pure Land) Buddhism, who fasted until death here in 1212. This famous temple in Kyoto is considered one of the most important in Japan.

Honen taught that everyone could be reborn into the Pure Land and escape the cycle of rebirth. His simple teachings and practical advice made the Jodo branch of Buddhism one of the most popular in the Land of the Rising Sun.

The temple’s two-storey main gate is a famous landmark that moviegoers may be able to recognise since it appeared in the 2002 blockbuster, The Last Samurai, standing in for Edo Castle. The bell in Chion-in is Japan’s heaviest at 74 tons, and requires 17 priests to ring it during the New Year ceremony.




Borobudur


Borobudur

7. Borobudur(Indonesia)

One of the wonders of the world, Borobudur was built with 55,000 cubic metres of stone and boasts 504 Buddha statues and 2,700 relief panels that tell a story as they are viewed in clockwise direction as you walk towards the top.

The main dome at the apex of this nine-tier monument has 72 life-sized Buddha statues, each seated inside a perforated stupa. However, the central stupa is empty, denoting the state of nirvana when everything is one and all is nothing.

Built in the 9th century when Mahayana Buddhism was at its peak, Borobudur fell into disrepair in the 14th century when Java embraced Islam. The temple was reclaimed from the jungles in 1814 when Sir Stamford Raffles was notified of its existence.

This Unesco World Heritage site is still used as the focal point of a pilgrimage route once a year during Wesak Day. Borobudur is Indonesia’s single biggest tourist attraction and requires at least four hours to explore.



Golden Temple of Amritsar


A devotee lights candles at the holy Sikh
shrine of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India;


8. The Golden Temple of Amritsar(India)


Shimmering like a golden dream on a lake, the Harmandir Sahib (Abode of God) or simply the Golden Temple of Amritsar in Punjab, India, is the most sacred shrine of Sikhism. The Adi Granth or Holy Book of the Sikhs is kept here and constantly recited within its walls.

Also known as Temple of God or Divine Court, the Golden Temple, conceived by Guru Arjan Sahib, the 5th Guru Nanak, was completed in 1601.

The temple has four main doors that are always open. They represent the four compass directions and welcome everyone from everywhere regardless of caste, creed, religion or sex. The temple is open 24/7.




Sri Ranganathaswany Temple


9. Sri Ranganathaswany Temple (India)


Sri Ranganathaswany Temple in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu, encompasses 156 acres and is the largest functioning Hindu temple in the world. Dedicated to Lord Raganatha, a manifestation of Vishnu, the temple is considered the first and most important of the 108 holy abodes of Vishnu.

It is enclosed by seven concentric walls stretching over six miles and guarded by 21 towers. The celebrated Hall of 1,000 Pillars actually has only 953 and is considered a masterpiece of Hindu architecture. Non-Hindus can visit up to the sixth wall but may not enter the gold-topped inner sanctum. Devotees believe Lord Narayana actually resides here.



Angkor Wat


Angkor Wat


The many faces of Buddha that adorn the
towers of Bayon Temple in Cambodia.



10. Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Last but not least is the largest and perhaps most breathtaking temple in history — Angkor Wat.

Its architecture is simply amazing. Unlike other Khmer temples, Angkor Wat faces west instead of east, giving rise to speculation that it was also meant as a tomb for its builder, King Suryavarman II, who ruled from 1113 to 1150.

Angkor was originally meant as a capital city, palace and state temple dedicated to Vishnu. It is meant to represent Mt Meru, the celestial abode of the gods in Buddhism and Hinduism. By the 15th century, it had become a Theravada Buddhist temple.

Angkor is the most spectacular of among more than 100 temples here but the famous, enigmatic smiling faces of Suryavarman II carved in stone are at the nearby Bayon Temple. Angkor’s fame lies in its graceful architecture and its elaborate stone friezes which detail scenes from Buddhism and Hinduism.

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Mahasiswa undang-undang di Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (IIUM) Gombak. Berusia 20 tahun, amat berminat dengan sejarah, isu agama, isu fiqh dan isu politik. Tiada yang lebih bermanfaat, lebih baik berbanding ilmu yang bermanfaat.

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