A Hindu temple (Sanskrit: mandir, prāsāda) is a house of god(s). It is a space and structure designed to bring human beings and gods together, infused with symbolism to express the ideas and beliefs of Hinduism. A Hindu temple, states George Michell, functions as a place of transcendence, where man may cross over (do tirtha) from the world of illusion to one of knowledge and truth.
The symbolism and structure of a Hindu temple, states Stella Kramrisch, are rooted in Vedic traditions. A temple incorporates all elements of Hindu cosmos - presenting the good, the evil and the human, as well as the elements of Hindu sense of cyclic time and the essence of life - symbolically presenting dharma, kama, artha, moksa and karma.
The spiritual principles symbolically represented in Hindu temples are given in the ancient Sanskrit texts of India (for example, Vedas, Upanishads), while their structural rules are described in various ancient Sanskrit treatises on architecture (Brhat Samhita, Vastu Sastras). The layout, the motifs, the plan and the building process recite ancient rituals, geometric symbolisms, and reflect beliefs and values innate within various schools of Hinduism. A Hindu temple is a spiritual destination for many Hindus (not all), as well as landmarks around which ancient arts, community celebrations and economy flourished.
Hindu temples come in many styles, diverse locations, deploy different construction methods and are adapted to different deities and regional beliefs. Yet, almost all Hindu temples share certain core ideas, symbolism and themes. They are found in South Asia particularly India and Nepal, in southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam and islands of Indonesia and Malaysia and countries such as Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana, Suriname, South Africa, Europe and North America with a significant Hindu community. The current state and outer appearance of Hindu temples reflect arts, materials and designs as they evolved over several millennia; they also reflect the effect of conflicts between Hinduism and Islam since the 12th century.