Last weekend, I did what most Norwegians like to do when the autumn is on its way and it starts to get cold; I went to do some trekking in the mountains.
On the way to our cabin we passed one of the most famous churches in Norway; Heddal Stavkyrkje. I can easily admit that religion is not my biggest interest, but I do think it is a bit interesting to compare different religious monuments from different times and religions. So when we stopped at this church, I got to think about the different churches and religious monuments that I have seen in India. The one that obviously came to my mind was Taj Mahal, and I will write more about that later. But it also strikes me that Hinduism doesn’t really have a lot of those huge monuments. And to be clear; this is not something I say out of disrespect to the Hinduism, maybe rather the opposite.
In the area where I used to live in Mumbai, there were a lot of mosques, which is off course not at all any Hinduism monuments, but rather Muslim. There is one temple for the Hindu God of Hanuman close to my former home, but even that one is quite small compared to the mosques that were around in that area. And yes, I have also been to some of the Hindu temples in places like Rishikesh. And in Chennai there were quite a few Hindu temples. In Mumbai I think the biggest Hindu temples are for the God Krishna (please correct me if I’m wrong). And during the Ganesh festival there are off course a lot of Ganesh Idols placed in mandals all around the city. But these are not really temples. And the same is the case during Navratri and Durga Poja. There are a lot of idols placed around in the city, but most of them are on open areas and removed after the festival is over.
So let me tell you more about the Stavkyrkje (stave church). The church we visited is about 800 years old, which makes it quite a bit older than for example Taj Mahal. It is said that the church was built by only five (5, not kidding) farmers! At that time around 1200 it was quite common to build churches in this way, by wood. This in itself is a big difference in how buildings are built in Norway and in India in general. Norway is recognized as a mostly Christian protestant country, which means that most of the religious building here are churches and not mosques or temples.
Taj Mahal at the other hand was built between 1631 and 1653. This is recognized as one of the finest examples of Mogul architecture. It was built by Emperor Shah Jahan (I mean; it was ordered by him, I don’t think he did much himself). Due to the sheer size and the number of years it took to build it, I think it is quite obvious that it was more than five people involved in the building process. It was constructed in memory of his favorite wife Arjumand Banu Begum. Taj Mahal is now on the UNESCO list of world heritages and it is also recognized as one of the modern wonders of the world. There is also one stave church on this list, but that is not the one in Heddal, but Urnes Stavkirke.
If you have a chance, I can absolute recommend a visit to any of these places.
Thanks a lot!
Talk to you soon!