As if having hundreds of deities wasn’t enough, Indians have been redefining idol worship by building temples for real life personalities, including actors, politicians and sportsmen.
1. Mahatma Gandhi Temple, Odisha
In a small village called Bhatra near Sambalpur, Odisha is a temple dedicated to the Father of the Nation. Built in the 1970s with the intention of promoting communal harmony, the temple sees visitors all religions and castes. The idea of building it came from ex-MLA Abhimayu Kumar as he wanted to provide a temple for Dalits, who were not allowed to enter other temples due to their ‘untouchable’ status. The head priest, who performs the morning and evening arati at the temple, is a Dalit. Gandhi’s teachings are also read daily at the temple.
2. Sonia Gandhi, Andhra Pradesh
Located in Mallial town in Karimnagar district is a temple built in 2014 to honour Sonia Gandhi as the creator of Telangana State – a token of gratitude to the party president from Congress members in the state. The temple has a marble statue of Sonia Gandhi as well as portraits of other members of her family, including Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
3. Narendra Modi, Gujarat
Followers of Prime Minister Narendra Modi built a temple for him in 2015 at Kothariya Village near Rajkot. The main movers behind this initiative were a group of BJP leaders and state ministers, including Govind Patel and Vijay Rupani, who wanted to celebrate Modi’s journey to success starting as a first time contestant at the Rajkot assembly polls to finally becoming the country’s leader.
4. Amitabh Bachchan, South Kolkata
It’s only natural that the icon of Bollywood should have a temple in his name! In Old Kolkata’s Ballugung area, is a temple dedicated to Amitabh Bachchan. The two roomed temple is a museum of sorts with a collection of photographs from the superstar’s films in the first room, while the inner sanctum has a green throne like chair that was featured in Amitabh-starring supernatural thriller Aks. On the chair rests the white shoes that star wore in the movie Agnipath. Sanjay Patodia, who worships Bachchan like a devotee rather than a fan, built this temple in 2003. The rituals and ceremonies in this place of worship are conducted like in any other Hindu temple in India.
5. Rajnikanth, Karnataka
Unlike other celebrity temples, this one is different as it does not have an idol of the Tamil superstar Rajnikanth, but rather a special ‘Sahasra lingam’ installed by his fans, for the health and prosperity of their favourite star. This is a part of the Kotilingeswara Temple in Kolar district, Karnataka – a famous Shiva temple that allows installation of lingams for a price. Like with all other lingams in this temple, the one for Rajni was installed by the temple priests after special prayers and Vedic chants.
6. Sachin Tendulkar, Bihar
A temple to India’s cricket god Sachin Tendulkar is being constructed in Kaimur district in Bihar by Bhojpuri singer-actor Manoj Tiwari. The temple will feature a life-sized white marble statue of Tendulkar.
7. MGR, Thirunindravoor, Tamil Nadu
Perhaps no other state in India worships film actors as much as Tamil Nadu. In Nathamedu village in Thirunindravoor in Chennai district is a temple built for M G Ramachandran, a former Chief Minister of the state and a popular actor. The temple was built in 2011 by Kalaivanan, a great fan of the actor, using his own money as well as donations from other MGR devotees.
8. Kushboo, Thiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu
Tamil movie heroine Kushboo had a temple built for her in Trichy by her fans in 2001. However, her status as Mother Goddess was short lived as the temple was demolished by angry fans in 2005 following her controversial stance on premarital sex.
9. Namitha, Tamil Nadu
The second Tamil movie actress to have the honour of temple built in her name is Namitha, whose fans constructed one for her in Tirunelveli District.
10. Mayawati, Uttar Pradesh
In Mahoba District in Bundelkhand, Uttar Pradesh, a temple is being built for Dalit leader, Mayawati. The temple is located on land owned by a Mahoba-based lawyer, Kanaihya Lal.