The existence of large number of temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras and monasteries in India makes the traveler tolerant, spiritual and one of the most diverse to visit the country. Having the upper hand in the country, spirituality has transformed many of the common sites in India into important religious sites.
Now we will get acquainted with an alternative and important part of the country and can learn about these interesting and famous religious places of India.
Here is the list of 20 famous religious & pilgrimage destination in India : –
1. Vaishno Devi Temple, Jammu Kashmir
- Recognized as one of the Shakti Peethas, Maa Vaishno Devi Temple is situated in the folds of the Trikuta Hill, in Jammu and Kashmir.
- This abode of Goddess Durga is supposed to be one of the wish fulfilling places, where millions of devotees from India and abroad gather to receive Mata Vaishno Devi’s blessings, every year.
- In Hinduism, Vaishno Devi, also known as Mata Rani and Vaishnavi, is a manifestation of the Mother Goddess Maha-Kali, Maha-Saraswati, and Maha-Lakshmi.
- The Aarti/Pooja (or Worship) of the Goddess is performed twice a day. Once in the morning before the sunrise and the second in the evening after the sunset.
2. Jagannath Temple, Puri
- The greatest attraction of Puri is the world-famous temple of Jagannatha.
- Today, Puri has become a hot favourite tourist spot because of the beach and the famous temple. The largest crowd in Puri is seen during the Car Festival of Jagannath which takes place every year in the months of June-July.
- Lord Jagannatha is regarded as the supreme god and the sovereign monarch of the Odishan empire.
- It was constructed on the Puri seashore by a famous king of the Ganga Dynasty namely, Ananta Varman Chodaganga Deva and dates back to the 12th century.
- The entire ritual pattern of Jagannatha has been conceived keeping such twin aspects in view.
3. Golden Temple/Swarn Mandir/Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar
- Also known as Harmandir or Darbar Sahib, the temple is a majestic white and gold building.
- Its foundation was laid by the Muslim saint, Mian Mir, an admirer, and friend of Guru Arjun.
- The top structure of the temple is covered with pure gold, hence, the popular name, Golden Temple.
- The Holy Book of the Sikhs, The Guru Granth Sahib is kept in the temple during the day and in the Akal Takht or Eternal Throne at night.
- The spiritual focus is the tank, the Amrit Sarovar, which surrounds the glistening central shrine. Embraced by marble stairways, this tank is believed to have healing powers that can cure many diseases.
- Amritsar takes its name from this Amrit Sarovar which was excavated in 1577 by the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das.
4. Somnath Jyotirlinga, Gujarat
- Somnath has been a pilgrimage site from ancient times on account of being a Triveni Sangam (the joining of three rivers — Kapila, Hiran, and the mythical Sarasvati River).
- Lord Shiva at Somnath is enshrined as a Jyotirlingam; i.e. a resplendent column of cosmic light or simply put, the Moon.
- Soma, the Moon-god, is believed to have lost his lustre due to a curse, and he bathed in the Sarasvati River at this site to regain it. The result is the waxing and waning of the moon, no doubt an allusion to the waxing and waning of the tides at this seashore location.
- The name of the town Prabhas, meaning lustre, as well as the alternative names Someshvar and Somnath (“lord of the moon” or “moon god”), arise from this tradition.
5. Tirumala Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati
- Lord Venkateswara Temple at Tirumala (Tirupati) is one of the most famous temples in India.
- With more than 35 million pilgrims visiting the temple every year, it is one of the most-visited holy places and also one of the richest temples in the world.
- Built on the Venkata Hill, which is a part of the famous Seshachalam Hills, Tirupati Temple is considered as one of the holiest shrines by the Hindus.
- According to a legend, Lord Vishnu assumed the form of Sri Venkateswara to save mankind from the adversities of Kali Yuga.
- Many ancient texts, including the Rig Veda, mention the existence and prominence of the temple.
6. Hemkund Sahib
- Situated at a height of over 15,000 feet above the sea level in the Himalayan ranges of northern India, Sri Hemkunt Sahib has emerged as a popular centre of Sikh Pilgrimage which is visited by thousands of devotees from all over the world every summer.
- According to Bachitra Natak, the autobiographical account of the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, it was at Hemkunt ‘adorned with seven snow peaks’ that he meditated in his previous birth.
- Hemkund Sahib also houses a scenic lake, in the water of which, the devotees take a dip.
- As per the Hindu mythology, Hemkunt Sahib was known as Lokpal, which is a lake that was a meditational grounds of Lakshman, the brother of Lord Rama.
7. Dargah Gharib Nawaz in Ajmer
- Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Hasan Chishti is also known by different names as, Khawaja Gharib Nawaz, “Sultan-Ul-Hind”, Khwaja Baba, Khwaja Gharib Nawaz Ajmeri, Khwaja Sahib, Khwaja Saheb, Khwaja Ajmeri Saint Moinuddin Chishty.
- It is old saying that people who visit Ajmer Sharif and pray with pure faith and loyalty at his Dargah will free their souls.
- The Dargah Khawaja Gharibnawaz has several tombs, buildings, Dalaans, and courtyards of Mughal architecture.
- The temple is reported to be over 5000 years old and has been mentioned in ancient Hindu texts. The stories in the epics narrate how the temple was formed.
- Once, a great sage called Bhrigu was travelling through this region and saw a cave. He was drawn to go inside and was struck with wonder when he saw the huge ice lingam within.
- He is said to have been the first to have Darshan of the Holy Cave with the image of Shiva, in the form of a Lingam. It is a stalactite, which starts growing with the waxing of the moon in the month of Ashada (July/August) and reaches its full size on the day of the full moon in the month of Shravana (August/September). By its side are two more Ice Lingams, which are thought to be those of Parvati and Ganesha.
- Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with settlements dating back to the 11th century BC.
- Many Hindus believe that dying in Varanasi brings salvation/nirvana and so they make the trip to the city when they realise that they are close to death.
- However, the scene of pilgrims doing their devotions in the River Ganga at sunrise set against the backdrop of the centuries-old temples is probably one of the most impressive sights in the world.
- It is a paragon of Indian culture, philosophy, traditions and spiritual ethos since times immemorial.
- In the field of learning, especially of Religion, Philosophy, Yoga, Ayurveda, Astrology, Dance and Music, the city is certainly unparalleled.
- The Banarasi Silk Sarees and Brocades are known worldwide for its elegance.
- Varanasi is full of surprises abounding every corner; the more one explores it, the more one falls in love with it!
- Ever since the Beatles visited the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late ’60s, Rishikesh has been a magnet for spiritual seekers.
- The most tranquil place in northern Uttarakhand, surrounded by hills and bisected by the wide and sluggish Ganges, it is often claimed as the `Yoga Capital of the World’.
- It is rightly called the gateway to the Himalayan Shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri.
- It is said that the sage Raibhya Rishi did severe penance here and as a reward, God appeared to him in the form of Hrishikesh, hence the name.
- Rishikesh has numerous ashrams, some of which are internationally recognized as centres of philosophical studies, yoga, and meditation.
- Located in the western part of Uttar Pradesh, Mathura is a jumble of never-ending lanes teeming with folks, rickshaws, and glittering shops. The city is dotted with magnificent temples, most of them dedicated to Lord Krishna, the city’s presiding deity and its first citizen.
- The land is daubed with an enchanting culture, which is enough to capture your heart and touch your soul.
- Mathura is one of Hinduism’s seven sacred cities and attracts floods of pilgrims, particularly during Janmashtami (Krishna’s birthday) in August/September and Holi in February/March.
- The town is dotted with temples from various ages and the stretch of the sacred Yamuna River that flows past here is lined with 25 ghats.
- The town of Vrindavan is where the young Krishna is said to have grown up. Pilgrims flock here from all over India and the world, as it’s the centre of the Hare Krishna community.
- Dozens of temples, old and modern, dot the interesting backstreets and come in all shapes and sizes, making a visit here more than just your average temple-hop.
- In 1515, the Bengali saint Chaitanya visited Vrindavana on pilgrimage, wandering through the sacred forests in an attempt to spiritually locate the original sites associated with Krishna.
- He is said to have succeeded in this, and most of the modern pilgrimage sites are based on his identifications.
- Haridwar, also spelt Hardwar, city, northwestern Uttarakhand state, northern India.
- Haridwar lies along the Ganges (Ganga) River, at the boundary between the Indo-Gangetic Plain (south) and the Himalayan foothills (north). It is the site of the headworks of the Ganges Canal system.
- Haridwar’s chief object of pilgrimage is Har-ki-Pauri—the bathing ghat, or steps, along the river—which has what believers consider to be a footprint of Vishnu impressed into a stone.
- Large numbers of pilgrims gather there annually at the beginning of the Hindu solar year in April.
- Kumbh Mela (a Hindu religious festival) is held every 12th year in Haridwar.
- The Daksha Mahadev Temple, another important pilgrimage site, lies 2 miles (3 km) downstream at Kankhal.
- One of the four pilgrimage places of Char Dham of India, it modestly invites followers of Lord Shiva from everywhere to pay a visit at least once in their lifetime to the Jyotirlinga installed in the Ramanathaswamy Temple.
- Located in Ramanathapuram district, the town is a part of Pamban Island also known as Rameshwaram Island being associated with the legendary temple built in the marvellous Dravidian style of architecture.
- A visit to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh is not considered complete in terms of pilgrimage if not coupled with a trip to Rameshwaram which is said to be the Varanasi of South.
- Badrinath is in the Garhwal hills, on the banks of the Alaknanda River, at an elevation of 3133 m.
- The famed town of Badrinath is among the four dominant Char Dham pilgrimage sites of India as well as the Chota Char Dham.
- It is perched at an average elevation of 3,300 meters about 10,827 feet above sea level on the banks of Alaknanda River.
- This holy town is named after the Badrinath temple dedicated to the preserver, Lord Vishnu.
- The temple is stated to be of Vedic origin and over the aeons has undergone many renovations.
- Madurai Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple or Meenakshi Amman Madurai Temple is located in the holy city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India.
- It is dedicated to Lord Shiva (in the form of Sundareswarar or Beautiful Lord) and his consort, Goddess Parvati (in the form of Meenakshi).
- Many historical pieces of evidence of the temple have been found dating back from early A.D.
- The temple was almost destroyed in the year 1310 following the invasion of the Islamic conqueror Malikkafur.
- As kings who were followers of Islam were noted for their intolerance towards other religions, the invaders destroyed most of the ancient sculptures of the temple.
- The temple was restored to its pristine glory in the late 14th century when the Hindu Kings came back to power in Madurai.
- Bodhgaya, the most important site of Buddhist pilgrimage in the world, is situated in the state of Bihar.
- The place is a sacred site of the first order, and its central temple, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Mahabodhi Temple, is an obligatory stop on the Buddhist pilgrimage.
- Adjacent to the Mahabodhi Temple is the Bodhi tree itself under which Gautama Buddha is said to have attained Enlightenment 2,500 years ago.
- Bodh Gaya or Uruvela, as it was known during Buddha’s times, is also a major pilgrimage centre for Hindus as Buddha is considered to be the ninth incarnation of Vishnu.
- Shirdi is a town in North Maharashtra, India.
- It is located 185 km east of the Arabian Sea shoreline. Shirdi was where the saint Sai Baba lived till his samadhi in 1918.
- Today, it is a pilgrimage centre and millions of his devotees from all over the world come each year to pay their respects.
- The small town is filled with religious spots and activities which will soothe and calm your soul on its visit.
- The air here carries chants lingering with spirituality and the whole grandness about the same too will leave you spellbound.
19. Velankanni Church
- Declared as a holy city by the Pope himself, Velankanni in Tamil Nadu houses the Velankanni Church.
- The town is popular for the Shrine Basilica that is dedicated to the ‘Lady of Health’.
- The shrine is a great combination of international, multicultural and religious harmony.
- Velankanni is fondly known as the ‘Lourdes of the East’.
- There is an interesting practice carried out by the worshippers that involve offering a specifically shaped candle according to their ailments, that they offer to the Hole Mother. (For example : A heart-shaped candle in case of a heart ailment, lung shaped in case of a lung problem).
- It received the highest honour of the status of Basilica for its style of architecture and service!
20. Ranakpur Temple
- The Ranakpur Jain Temple excels all other building forms in Rajasthan as an exquisite work of art and architecture.
- There are many beautiful and delicately carved sculptures in this shrine that defy comparison.
- The temple is an eloquent testimony to India’s cultural heritage, its unique architecture and the vision and acumen of its master artists.
- The temple is said to have been built by Seth Dharna Sah (a Jain businessman) with the aid of Rana Kumbha, who ruled Mewar in the 15th century.
- In the complex, there are several temples including Chaumukha temple, Parsavanath temple, Amba Mata Temple and Surya Temple.
- Amongst all of them, Chaumukha Temple is the most important and as the term Chaumukha suggests, this temple is four-faced.