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India's Ten Magnificent and Most Popular Temples
'Incredible India' is an ad tagline used for the promotion of tourism potentiality of country India. But any traveller who happened to visit this land would cheerfully agree one thing: India is really incredible!
India offers a grand experience to a tourist. ‘Unity in Diversity’ is what makes the nation a different and vibrant one. It has everything to please a traveller. Fine beaches, mountains, hill stations, dessert, forest, wildlife, rivers, snow and a rich history the country has everything. This is a country where all religious people such as Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists, and Jews live together harmoniously. And don’t be surprised when knowing that India houses the largest population of Hindus and the second largest population of Muslims in the world. My earlier article “Religious Diversity of India-A Study“ discusses the religious features of India in detail. You can read the same for more details.
Here what I present before you are some of the magnificent and popular temples of the country. These great shrines lure millions of pilgrims and tourists and offer them an unforgettable experience in their lifetime. The great architectural beauty of the ancient time, classic features of the old monuments and simply described these are nothing but poetry on the rocks. And now, let’s begin our great journey from the most famous and ancient Kashi Vishwanath Temple at Varanasi (Banaras) in Uttar Pradesh, a great religious hub of Hindus. This journey will take you through the length and breadth of India.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
The dream land for every Hindus, Kashi (also known as Varanasi or Banaras) is the place they wish to make a visit before their death. Kashi Vishwanath Temple is situated on the banks of the holy river Ganga and dates back to 1766. For the Hindus, the Ganga is not mere a river; it is their Goddess. The city Varanasi got fame thanks to the presence of this temple and holy Ganga. Millions of people visit the religious city and the temple every year. ‘Kumbamela’ is a great festival held here every 12th year attracting millions of believers and non-believers alike.
For more details, please read: Travel-to-Varanasi-and-the-Ganges
Siddhi Vinayaka Temple, Mumbai, Maharashtra
Siddhi and Vinayaka are the other names of Ganesha, the God of Obstacle Remover. Built about two centuries ago at a place called Prabhadevi area, the temple has 2.5 feet idol of Lord Ganesha in black stone. Here Ganesha’s trunk is on the right side as against the usual style of the left trunk. This temple attracts a large crowd every day and is one of the main attractions of Mumbai city. Famous Bollywood personalities are great devotees of Ganesha and they visit the temple usually. It is believed that prayers are easily answered (fulfilled) from here. The serpentine queue can at times be seen stretched to a distance of two kilometers. About 1.5 to 2 lakhs people visit the temple every Tuesday since Tuesday is being considered as an auspicious day for Ganesha pooja. For initiating every new venture, Hindus first worship Ganesha as he is the God of Obstacle Remover.
Shirdi Sai Baba Temple, Shirdi, Maharashtra
Sai Baba was a great saint India had ever seen. He lived and preached in Shirdi, a small village in Maharashtra and nearby regions during the late 19th and early 20th century. He stood for communal harmony and respected all faiths. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and all other religious people worship him.
The temple was built in 1922 after his ‘Samadhi’ on October 15, 1918. Shirdi is in Ahmed Nagar district of Maharashtra. Shirdi is a new hot spot on the religious map of India and the number of visitors is increasing every day. Revenue of the temple also is showing an increasing trend.
Vaishno Devi Temple, Jammu & Kashmir
This beautiful shrine is in Katra town in the beautiful state of Jammu and Kashmir. You need to climb to an altitude of 5300 feet to reach the spot, which is roughly 12 km away from Katra. (Katra is 45 km from Jammu). After Tirupati Tirumala Venkateshwara Temple, this is the most visited pilgrim centre. Every year about 8 million pilgrims reach here. The shrine contains three idols of Maha Saraswati, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Kali. The scenic beauty of the surrounding area is superb. Temperature is so cold most of the time and you need to carry the protective gears for smooth and trouble less journey. Now railway access is available till Katra from Udhampur. Nearest Airport is in Jammu.
For a detailed study, please read: Pilgrimage-to-Vaishno-Devi-Few-tips-to-make-your-journey-more-convenient
Tirumala Venkateswara Temple, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh
After the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, the temple often called Tirupati is the second richest temple in India. It is in Andhra Pradesh, a southern state of India. The temple is also known as ‘The Temple of Seven Hills’. Chennai is the nearest main city (138 km) and Bangalore is 291 km away.
The temple is situated on a hilltop, 853 m above sea level. Lord Venkateshwara is the presiding deity. The God is also known as Balaji, Govinda and Srinivasa. What makes Tirupati a vibrant temple is the large flow of pilgrims as well the great flow of income. Pilgrims offer cash and gold lavishly. No shrines of any faiths in the world receive such a huge sum as revenue as Tirupati does. One of the most popular rituals of the temple is hair tonsuring. The hair is exported to foreign countries. The income from this source amounts to approximately $ 6 million annually.
Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjab
Golden Temple is one of the most beautiful temples in India and the most sacred place for Sikhs. It is considered as a symbol of the magnificence and strength of the Sikhs all over the world. All religious people can visit the temple. There is but a condition for admission. You need to cover your head using a towel or cloth or cap. The beauty of the temple cannot be described through words as it is such a magnificent one. It has to be experienced. The whole building has golden coating. The shrine lies in the middle of the Sarovar (tank).
The architecture of the temple reflects a unique harmony between the Muslims' and Hindus' way of construction work. The temple building is often considered as the best architectural specimen of the world. A specialty of the temple is the serving of 24 hours free meals. The food is served to all people irrespective of their religion and nationality. It is approximately calculated that 40,000 visitors share the meals every day
For a detailed study, please read the article: A-Visit-To-The-Golden-Temple-Of-Amritsar-India
Akshardham Temple Complex, Delhi
Akshardham is a Hindu temple complex and a modern wonder built in 2005. Situated in Delhi, the complex attracts thousands of pilgrims and tourists every day. Some people even observe this building more beautiful than the world famous Taj Mahal. The former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited this modern architectural wonder a few years back and commented: Akshardham is not only a unique place in India but in the whole world. It is even more beautiful than what I had imagined. Taj Mahal is definitely beautiful but this place, along with beauty, has a beautiful message.
The building is made of Rajasthani pink sandstone and Italian Carrara Marble. The 141 ft high building a delight to eyes and the visitors fell in love with the marble marvel. It is the biggest hand carved structure in the world. The temple complex is located near the banks of river Yamuna. Don’t forget to visit this ‘modern wonder’ when you reach Delhi, the Capital City of India.
Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple, Kerala
The most favorite temple of Keralites is Guruvayoor Sri Krishna Temple. But when it comes to the number of pilgrims and revenue collection, Sabarimala stands first among the temples in Kerala. During the ‘Mandala Pooja’ (from Mid November to December end) millions of devotees reach the temple. Pilgrims are mainly from the four Southern states-Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. What makes Sabarimala very different from the rest of the temples in India is its strict ritual practice. The devotees have to observe a lot of harsh penance for making the pilgrimage. You also need to observe a dress code also during the pilgrimage. This temple holds the world record for receiving the most number of pilgrims during a particular season (Mandala Pooja).
For more information about the temple, you can read my article “Sabarimala-Ayyappa-Temple-Kerala-South-India-A-Unique-Hindu-Shrine-in-the-World“.
Maha Bodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya, Bihar
A UNESCO World Heritage site and a great Buddhist destination in India, the Maha Bodhi Temple is in Bodh Gaya in Gaya district in the state of Bihar. It is 96 km away from Patna, the capital of Bihar. Buddhists from across the world reach this holy place. All religious people can visit the temple and there is no restriction to anyone. The holiest Buddhist tree is there next to the temple and is one of the main attractions. Buddha is believed to have got enlightenment under the tree. The temple has diamond throne (Vajrasana) to mark the historic event. This is one of the earliest temples built in brick and still exists. Buddhist Emperor Asoka was the man behind the establishment of this holy shrine, approximately during 250 BCE.
Somnath Temple, Gujarat
This temple has got a great mention in history texts. This is one of the twelve ‘Jyotirlingams’ as mentioned in the ‘Shiva Purana’. The temple was attacked several times by the Muslim rulers and was renovated in the 11th century. In 1950, it was rebuilt. It is one of the greatest attractions of Gujarat.
People from across the country and outside visit the shrine. Nearly seventy to eighty lakhs (7,000,000 to 8,000,000) devotees visit the temple annually. Kartika Purnima, Shivaratri and Diwali are the great festivals being celebrated here.
Apart from the above ten temples, there are two more very famous and popular temples in India on its eastern coast. iPuri Jagannath Temple, Puri and Konark Sun Temple, Konark, Orissa are these great shrines. I have done a detailed story on these temples and titled: "What-Makes-Odisha-A-Different-Travel-Destination-in-India". Please read the same by clicking the above link to update your knowledge on the topic: Indian Temples..
Wish you all a happy journey!
Out of the above ten pilgrimage centers, which one you prefer to visit?
My Articles on the Sacred Places of Other Religions
- How to Reach Tirupati and Make A Comfortable Darshan
Tirupati in Andhra is the busiest pilgrim circuit in India. It is also world's one of the richest shrines. This article gives you certain guidelines on how to reach and make a pleasant darshan here.
- Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Dolours or Puthen Pally in Thrissur- A Must See Christian Church in K
Puthen Palli or Basilica of Our Lady of Dolours in Thrissur is an archaeological wonder of olden times. It is the third tallest Church tower in Asia. Pope John Paul II had visited it in 1986.
- Haji Ali Dargah, Mumbai-A Religious Monument of Communal Harmony
Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai is one of the landmarks of the city. The dargah attracts millions of people every year from different parts of India. Other religious people also visit and pray here.
- The World's Most Popular and Sacred Seven Pilgrimage Centers
Pilgrimage is a great experience with prayer and pleasure. All religions have important pilgrimage centers. Religious people visit these places, pray and find solace. The world's most famous pilgrimage sites of major religions are discussed here.
© 2013 Sunil Kumar Kunnoth