Sewu, an eighth century Mahayana Buddhist temple in Central Java, Indonesia

A Buddhist temple or Buddhist monastery is the place of worship for Buddhists, the followers of Buddhism. They include the structures called vihara, chaitya, stupa, wat and pagoda in different regions and languages. Temples in Buddhism represent the pure land or pure environment of a Buddha. Traditional Buddhist temples are designed to inspire inner and outer peace.[1]


Main articles: Buddhist architecture and Architecture of Indic religions

Its architecture and structure varies from region to region. Usually, the temple consists not only of its buildings, but also the surrounding environment. The Buddhist temples are designed to symbolize five elements: fire, air, water, earth and void (space).[2]


See also: Architecture of India, Ancient Indian architecture, Indian vernacular architecture, and Buddhist caves in India

The design of temples in India was influenced by the idea of a place of worship as a representation of the universe. For Buddhist temple complexes one tall temple is often centrally located and surrounded by smaller temples and walls. This center surrounded by oceans, lesser mountains and a huge wall.[3]

A Chaitya, Chaitya hall or Chaitya-griha refers to a shrine, sanctuary, temple or prayer hall in Indian religions. The term is most common in Buddhism, where it refers to a space with a stupa and a rounded apse at the end opposite the entrance, and a high roof with a rounded profile. Strictly speaking, the chaitya is the stupa itself, and the Indian buildings are chaitya halls, but this distinction is often not observed. Many of the early Chaitya were rock-cut, as in Karla caves or Ajanta.

Tall circular Buddhist temple, early 1st Century CE, Mathura Museum

Some of the earliest free-standing temples may have been of a circular type. Ashoka also built the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya circa 250 BCE, a circular structure, in order to protect the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha had found enlightenment. The Bairat Temple is also a round structure, which can be seen through archaeological remains. Representations of this early temple structure are found on a 100 BCE relief sculpted on the railing of the stupa at Bhārhut, as well as in Sanchi.[4] From that period the Diamond throne remains, an almost intact slab of sandstone decorated with reliefs, which Ashoka had established at the foot of the Bodhi tree.[5][6] These circular-type temples were also found in later rock-hewn caves such as Tulja Caves or Guntupalli.[7]


Main article: Candi of Indonesia

Borobudur in Central Java, the world's largest Buddhist temple

Buddhism is the second oldest religion in Indonesia after Hinduism, which arrived from India around the second century.[10] The history of Buddhism in Indonesia is closely related to the history of Hinduism, as a number of empires influenced by Indian culture were established around the same period. The oldest Buddhist archaeological site in Indonesia is arguably the Batujaya stupas complex in Karawang, West Java. The oldest relic in Batujaya was estimated to originate from the 2nd century, while the latest dated from the 12th century. Subsequently, significant numbers of Buddhist sites were found in Jambi, Palembang and Riau provinces in Sumatra, as well as in Central and East Java. The Indonesian archipelago has, over the centuries, witnessed the rise and fall of powerful Buddhist empires, such as the Sailendra dynasty, the Mataram and Srivijaya empires.

According to some Chinese source, a Chinese Buddhist monk I-tsing on his pilgrim journey to India, witnessed the powerful maritime empire of Srivijaya based on Sumatra in the 7th century. A number of Buddhist historical heritages can be found in Indonesia, including the 8th century Borobudur mandala monument and Sewu temple in Central Java, Batujaya in West Java, Muaro Jambi, Muara Takus and Bahal temple in Sumatra, and numerous of statues or inscriptions from the earlier history of Indonesian Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms.

Candi tinggi, a temple within the Muaro Jambi temple compound

During the era of Kediri, Singhasari and Majapahit empire, Buddhism—identified as Dharma ri Kasogatan—was acknowledged as one of kingdom's official religions along with Hinduism. Although some of kings might favour Hinduism over another, nevertheless the harmony, toleration and even syncretism were promoted as manifested in Bhinneka Tunggal Ika national motto, coined from Kakawin Sutasoma, written by Mpu Tantular to promotes tolerance between Hindus (Shivaites) and Buddhists.[11] The classical era of ancient Java also had produces some of the exquisite examples of Buddhist arts, such as the statue of Prajnaparamita and the statue of Buddha Vairochana and Boddhisttva Padmapani and Vajrapani in Mendut temple.

In contemporary Indonesian Buddhist perspective, Candi refers to a shrine, either ancient or new. Several contemporary viharas in Indonesia for example, contain the actual-size replica or reconstruction of famous Buddhist temples, such as the replica of Pawon[12] and Plaosan's perwara (small) temples. In Buddhism, the role of a candi as a shrine is sometimes interchangeable with a stupa, a domed structure to store Buddhist relics or the ashes of cremated Buddhist priests, patrons or benefactors.


Buddhist temple of Kinkaku-ji, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO

Main article: Buddhist temples in Japan

Japanese Buddhist temples typically include a Main Hall.

A distinctive feature is the chinjusha, a Shinto shrine devoted to the temple's kami. Buddhism co-existed with Shinto, but in the 8th century Buddhism became the state religion and Buddhist temples were built. High concentration of important Japanese Buddhist temples can be found in Japanese culture heartland of Kansai region, especially in Nara and Kyoto.


Wat Benchamabophit

Main article: Thai temple art and architecture

Buddhist temples in Thailand are known as wat, from the Pāḷi vāṭa, meaning "enclosure". Wat architecture adheres to consistent principles. A wat, with few exceptions, consists of two parts: the Phutthawat and the Sangkhawat. The Phutthawat (Thai: พุทธาวาส) is the area which is dedicated to Buddha. While the Sangkhawat is the area which is dedicated to Sangha Buddhist monastic community.

Sri Lanka

Jetavanaramaya tallest stupa in the ancient world

See also: Buddhism in Sri Lanka and List of Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka

Buddhist temples in Sri Lanla are known as 'Pansala' or 'Viharaya' in Sinhalese. Common features in Sri Lankan temples include Stupa, Bo Tree and Temple Buildings. Oldest living human-planted Bodhi Tree in the world Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi and some of the largest Stupa in the world including Ruwanwelisaya, Jetavanaramaya and Abhayagiri vihāra located in Sri Lankan temples.

See also


  1. ^ "New York Buddhist Temple for World Peace". 1997-08-01. Archived from the original on 2012-06-11. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  2. ^ "Buddhism: Buddhist Worship". BBC. 2006-04-10. Archived from the original on 2018-10-02. Retrieved 2017-03-06.
  3. ^ O'Riley, Michael Kampel (2013). Art Beyond the West. Pearson Education. p. 61.
  4. ^ "Sowing the Seeds of the Lotus: A Journey to the Great Pilgrimage Sites of Buddhism, Part I" by John C. Huntington. Orientations, November 1985 pg 61
  5. ^ Buddhist Architecture, Huu Phuoc Le, Grafikol, 2010 p.240
  6. ^ A Global History of Architecture, Francis D. K. Ching, Mark M. Jarzombek, Vikramaditya Prakash, John Wiley & Sons, 2017 p.570ff Archived 2023-07-02 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Buddhist Architecture, Huu Phuoc Le, Grafikol, 2010 p. 233–237. Archived 2023-10-31 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Hardy, Adam (1995). Indian Temple Architecture: Form and Transformation: the Karṇāṭa Drāviḍa Tradition, 7th to 13th Centuries. Abhinav Publications. p. 39. ISBN 9788170173120. Archived from the original on 2023-10-31. Retrieved 2019-11-11.
  9. ^ Le, Huu Phuoc (2010). Buddhist Architecture. Grafikol. p. 238. ISBN 9780984404308. Archived from the original on 2023-10-31. Retrieved 2019-11-11.
  10. ^ "Buddhism in Indonesia". Buddha Dharma Education Association. Buddha Dharma Education Association. 2005. Archived from the original on 2002-02-14. Retrieved 2006-10-03.
  11. ^ Archived 2010-02-12 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Replika Candi Pawon". Vihāra Jakarta Dhammacakka Jaya. Archived from the original on 2023-08-14. Retrieved 2020-10-31.