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Top 10 Holiest Cities in India

Updated on June 27, 2013

My Journey To This Hub...

“Live Like There Is No Tomorrow”. It is so proclaimed by many so called motivational speakers that if you live your life like today is your last then and only then will you be liberated and be able to break free from your moribund life. As the old saying goes in the end we all will find that the journey called life was more important than what we achieved or where we reached. In everyone’s life there is a purpose and in the journey to find that purpose I reached out to the almighty for help. This is when the pilgrim in me which was in a repose was liberated and now I understand the true purpose of my life and attained what I call a mini enlightenment. From this point on my perspective was changed and I was able to see India in a new light as a country of spiritual heritage and multidisciplinary cultures. As a country which had offered the world many things including a way of life that we call Yoga, than seeing it in the wrong light through the eyes of the corrupt and people who have no respect for women. I wanted to understand the spiritual heritage and accept what the country has to offer its and I became a pilgrim and thus be lead to rejuvenation. You can join me in this journey to these holy cities where the actual heritage is still intact in its pristine self and explore India and actually end up finding out more about ourselves.

10. Thiruvananthapuram{Kerala}- Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple

Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temple as per belief is located at a place that is considered as one of the seven Parasurama Kshetras and references of this temple are there in the Puranas viz. the Skanda Purana and Padma Purana. The Principal Deity, Padmanabhaswamy, is enshrined in the "Anantha-sayanam" posture (in the eternal sleep of Yoga-nidra on the serpent Anantha). This shrine is run by the Royal Family of Travancore and they are the principal caretaker. The temple came to the limelight recently because of the most spectacular archaeological find of the 21st century, billions in gold and jewels were uncovered in the secret sanctums of this centuries-old Indian shrine in series of kallaras{treasure vaults} and it is said to be worth more than an estimated value of at least twenty billion dollars which put it in the world map.

9. Kedarnath {Uttarakhand}-Kedarnath Temple

As per Hindu belief Kedarnath Temple is considered as the holiest Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and is located on the Garhwal Himalayan range near the Mandakini river in Kedarnath, Uttarakhand. Due to the hostile weather conditions prevailing there the temple is open to pilgrims only from end of April to usually the month of November. According to ancient beliefs the temple was built by the Pandavas and revived by Shri Adi Sankaracharya and is said to be one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest Hindu shrines of Shiva. Pandavas were supposed to have pleased Lord Shiva by doing penance in Kedarnath. Hence the place got its historical name from 'Lord of Kedar Khand’. The temple gained prominence due to the miracles during the 2013 flash floods. By the year 2013 the temple had become a hub for tourist and various developmental activities like buildings, complexes etc. were set up to promote tourism and thus in turn it disturbed the natural equilibrium of the region. During the 2013 flash floods temple complex and surrounding areas suffered extensive damage to a point of total annihilation. However, aerial photos showed that the temple itself was still standing among the surrounding debris and this was considered as a miracle. An another interesting event was the story of a 36 year old Tehri resident Vijender Singh Negi who hung from the Kedarnath temple bell while standing over floating corpses in neck-deep water for nine straight hours, proved a life saviour. Negi’s brother-in-law Ganga Singh Bhandari, a Delhi-based travel operator, said seeing him return alive was nothing short of a miracle.

8. Rishikesh

It is believed that Rishikesh is the birth place of India’s biggest contribution to the world i.e. Yoga and is now also a main contributor of Yoga to World. It is a small town of the state of Uttrakhand which is located among scenic beautiful hills and the river Ganges flows beneath the dense lush green forests. Millions still flock the city to study the art of yoga and attain Inner peace thus making this place is a hotspot for international as well as local tourists who seek spiritual awakening and learning. Due to its serine and pristine environment the place is considered perfect for pilgrimage along with meditation facilities and the meditation in Rishikesh is believed to help you achieve salvation{ deliverance or redemption from sin and its effects }.

7. Tirupati

The holy city of Tirupati is a major pilgrimage and cultural city in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. It is the largest city in the Rayalaseema region. Tirupati is famous for the Venkateswara Swamy temple dedicated to Lord Venkateswara, located about 20 kilometers north west of Tirupati in the Tirumala hills at an elevation of 853 metres . Tirupati is considered as one of the most important pilgrimage centers in the World, the temple draws millions of pilgrims and is now the busiest pilgrimage Centre in the world. Tirupati City itself has several other temples and is famous for its red wooden toys, copper and brass idols. Also, this has helped boot the city to a major economical and educational hub in the southern region of the state. There are several legends associated with the manifestation of the Lord in Tirumala. According to one legend, the temple has a murti (deity) of Lord Venkateswara, which it is believed shall remain there for the entire duration of the present Yuga namely Kali Yuga.

6. Bodhgaya

The significance of Bodh Gaya comes from the fact that it is the place where Gautama Buddha is said to have obtained Enlightenment (Bodhimandala). This is a religious site and place of pilgrimage associated with the Mahabodhi Temple Complex in Gaya district in the state of Bihar. The place-name i.e. Bodh Gaya, did not come into use until the 18th century. Historically, it was known as Uruvela, Sambodhi, Vajrasana or Mahabodhi. The main monastery of Bodh Gaya used to be called as the Pali, Now it is called the Mahabodhi Temple.

Bodhgaya is one of the most important and sacred Buddhist pilgrimage center in the world and attracts both Buddhist’s and believers of Buddhism worldwide to this holy location. The temple is an architectural amalgamation of many centuries, cultures and heritages. This can be envisaged from the evidence of its architecture which has a distinct stamp of the Gupta era, it has later ages inscriptions describing visits of pilgrims from Sri Lanka, Myanmar and China between 7th and 10th century AD.

5. Madurai

The Beautiful Madurai city is famous for the Meenakshi Amman Temple (Other names : Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple or Tiru-aalavaai or Meenakshi Amman Kovil)and the city is located in the southern bank of river Vaigai,Tamil Nadu. Madurai is the third largest city and the second largest municipal corporation in the state of Tamil Nadu.

The Temple is dedicated to Goddess Parvati who is known as Meenakshi and her consort, Lord Shiva, named here as Sundareswarar. Meenakashi is an avatar of the Hindu Goddess Parvati - the consort of Lord Shiva. She is also one of the main Hindu female deities to have a major temple devoted to her. The name "Minachchi" means fish eyed and is derived from the words "mina" meaning fish and "akṣi" meaning eyes. According to a Hindu legend, in order to answer the prayers of the second Pandya king Malayadwaja Pandya and his wife Kanchanamalai, Parvati appeared out of the holy fire of the Putra Kameshti Yagna (sacrifice for childhood) performed by the king. There is also another version of this story i.e. the goddess herself gave a boon to Kanchanamalai in one of her previous births that she would have the privilege of mothering the goddess.

4. Varanasi

Varanasi is also called as kashi or benares. This holy city is called as the spiritual capital of India and is located in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Varanasi is declared by pilgrims as the city of Lord Shiva. According to Hindu devotees they believe that anyone who dies in this spiritual place attains moksha without following the cycle of reincarnation. More than 3000 years have passed since this religious Centre was discovered. Many of its temples were plundered and destroyed by Mohammad Ghauri in the 12th century and thus only a small fragment of yester year’s knowledge and culture still resides with us now. The temples and religious institutions in the city now are dated to the 18th century and it has been more than 3000 years have passed since this religious Centre was discovered.

3.Ajmer

The holy city of Ajmer is the 5th largest city in Rajasthan and is the Centre of Ajmer District and the beautiful city is surrounded by the Aravalli Mountains.

The Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti’s Dargah Ajmer Sharif is located in Southwest of Jaipur. It is a holy place for Muslims. But devotees and devotees of Islam from all over the world and religion visit this place. The tomb of a highly revered Sufi saint was constructed by the Mughal emperor Humayaun. Moinuddin Chishti introduced and established the order in the subcontinent. The initial spiritual chain or silsila of the Chishti order in India, constitutes the great Sufi saints of Indian history today, millions of pilgrims go here to obtain the Saint’s blessings. It is said to be the most prominent pilgrim center after the holy city of Mecca.

2. Amritsar-Golden Temple

The Harimandir Sahib(The abode of God), informally known as the The Golden Temple. The reason why I this temple is one of my personal favorite is because is openness of the Sikhs towards all people and religion which is symbolized by the four doors to get into the Harimandir Sahib. The most interesting fact about the Golden Temple is that the foundations of this holy place were laid by Hasrat Mian Mir, a Muslim saint which reiterates my earlier point. This sacred destination is fully alive with religious passion and purity. One of their most important festivals is the Vaisakhi, which is celebrated in the second week of April (usually the 13th). Sikhs celebrate the founding of the Khalsa on this day and it is celebrated with fervor in the temple.

1.Haridwar

And at last my personal favorite, the holy city of Haridwar. The city is located in state of Uttarakhand in the foothills of the Himalayas. It is one of the most visited spiritual destination in India. It is believed to be our way to God i.e. Haridwar means” gateway to God” in Sanskrit and Hindi. This is one of those rare places which we find is blessed by three Hindu Gods: Lord Brahma (‘sristhi’), Vishnu (‘stithi’), Shiva (‘samhara’) and it I also rich in religious culture and an embodiment of ancient heritage of the country. The belief of the pilgrims who come here is that a visit to this very holy place and a dip in holy river Ganga washes away all their sins . Similarly it is believed that if we pour the ashes of a person in the holy river he/she is said to have attained moksha. The most important festival here is the Kumbh ka Mela, which is arranged once in 12 years and draws millions of devotees all over the world who come to take bath in the holy River Ganga.

Which Is your Favorite Holy Place

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    • Akriti Mattu profile image

      Akriti Mattu 2 years ago from Shimla, India

      How lovely :)

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 2 years ago from India

      Well written hub. Pictures are also beautiful

      Voted up and shared

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 2 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Amazing and truly incredible. I am lucky that I have visited some of these holy places. I will definitely cover all the places mentioned here. Thank you for sharing. Voted up and shared.

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      vandana monga 3 years ago

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    • Abhay Gopinath profile image
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      Abhay 4 years ago from Ernakulam

      @zanaworld great to know my work was accurate interested in knowing which city you would have put in the top position.

    • zanaworld profile image

      SA Shameel 4 years ago from Bangalore

      Great hub Abhay. I was thinking of writing a similar list on Indian's holiest cities. You did it. My list is almost similar to one you have written.

    • Abhay Gopinath profile image
      Author

      Abhay 4 years ago from Ernakulam

      Thank you George happy you liked it :)

    • georgescifo profile image

      georgescifo 4 years ago from India

      nice hub Abhay!! Really a well compiled list of the holy sites in India.