India’s spirituality is a very important element of the locals’ everyday life. This secular country gives equal yet, powerful importance to divinity, karma, forgiveness, purity and humanity. The pious culture of this land attracts tourists of various religion to take up a full-fledged pilgrimage destinations tourism.
India holds numerous ancient and modern religious spots and there are many cities dotted with numerous religious buildings. Many travel enthusiasts, pilgrims and photographers visit these destinations to learn more about the culture and appreciate it.
Here are the top 10 religious & pilgrimage destinations of India
This temple town has very close link with mythologies of India. This town is famous for many other elements like the Adam’s bridge, rail route over sea, Palk Strait and many others. This city is considered as the place where people wash off their sins.
Ramanathaswamy temple is the iconic Pilgrimage Destinations here. Apart from this, you can find Kothandaramaswamy temple, Gandhamathana Parvatham and many others. Four Shiva temples are located on four corners of India, which are important religious spots. The Ramanathaswamy temple is the southernmost one of those.
Benaras or Varanasi is the Hinduism capital of the country. This ancient city is dotted with numerous ancient and modern temples New Vishwanath temple, Dhanvantari temple, Durga temple, Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple, Kashi Vishwanath temple, Tulsi Manas temple and others. Apart from the temples, the city is contains 88 ghats which lead to the holy river, Ganges.
These ghats and the river are the iconic spots for many rituals including the famous Ganga Aarti. It is said that the city had 23,000 temples in the past. The city also holds 15 unique and ancient mosques.
Most unique mosques of the region are Abdul Razzaq, Bibi Razia, Hazrat Sayyed Salar Masud Dargah, Alamgir and others.
Varanasi Travel Guide
Read more – Complete Travel Guide of Spiritual City Varanasi
Sarnath holds many Buddhist monuments and temples. After enlightenment, Buddha reached Sarnath and gave his first sermon to fellow saints. The historic lion headed Ashoka Pillar is also found here. It is also the birthplace of religious leader of Jainism. You can find many monuments of Jainism in Sarnath. Usually Sarnath and Varanasi are covered under the same itinerary due to their proximity.
This historic town is famous for silk articles and temples. The town is lined with numerous ancient stone temples like Vaikunta Perumal temple, Kailasanathar temple, Varadharaja Perumal temple, Kumarakottam temple and others. This city holds numerous Shiva and Vishnu temples. The country’s tallest temple tower is found in this city in Ekambareswara temple. You can find Buddhism and Jainism temples here. 3rd century Trilokyanatha temple and Chandraprabha temple are iconic Jainism religious spots in the city.
There are several mutts in the city where tourists are welcome to stay and enjoy the culture. Although not a famous Islamic pilgrimage destinations, the city has two mosques of 17th and 20th century.
Also read – Top 10 Most Famous Temples in India
Most exotic honeymoon destination of India, Kashmir is also an important pilgrimage & religious spot. During the first half of the first millennium, the city was bubbling with Hinduism. Later, Buddhism and Islam spread in the city.
Today, Kashmir is an embodiment of all religions. Top temples of Kashmir are Shankaracharya temple, Sharika Devi temple, Awantipur and others. Shankaracharya temple was built in 250 BC and is an iconic religious spot here. Although in ruins, Sharika Devi temple is considered very sacred. The temple is surrounded by almond orchards and during April, the place will be filled with almond blossoms.
Kheer Bhawani is a small sacred spring where devotees visit in the month of May. When offered milk and delicacies, the water turns black as it wards off disasters, according to local belief. A temple dedicated to the Sun God, Anantnag is located here. This medieval temple is a beauty to watch. Apart from these, you can find many mosques and Sikh temples here.
People never consider Goa as a religious spot. Ironically, this city contains many ancient and modern churches and a Basilica. During the pre-independence time, Goa was under European influence and leaders of Goa built numerous churches, which are famous for its architectural excellence and peaceful environment.
Bom Jesus Basilica is famous for holding the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. Se Cathedral of Goa is the largest church in the country. The St. Francis of Assisi Church is famous for its Corinthian architecture.
Other interesting churches in the region are Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, St. Cajetan Church, St. Catherine Chapel, Lady of Rosary church, Monte Hill, St. Francis Xavier church and others. You can also explore some of the famous yoga retreat in Goa.
Goa Travel Guide
This is the holiest place for Sikhs. The Golden Temple of Amritsar receives more tourists than the Taj Mahal. The Golden Temple visit is considered as a very holy activity of the Sikhs. You can find a few temples in this region like Durgiana temple, Model town temple, Shivala Mandir and others. Pilgrimage Destinations prefer to dine at least once during their vacation in the community kitchen of the temple, which serves food for thousands of people every day.
Rishikesh is famous as the Yoga Capital of the country. It is a pilgrimage destinations, which is visited by sages from ancient times for meditation and learning. Top temples in Rishikesh are Nilkanth Mahadev temple, Kunjapuri temple, Parmarth Niketan temple, Geeta Bhawan temple, Bharat temple, Tera Manzil temple and others. Triveni Ghat of Rishikesh is a spot where three mountain streams join. This is a holy spot where you can find many rituals and other activities. Haridwar, a city close to Rishikesh is also an important Hindu pilgrimage & religious spots.
Before being the capital of the country, Delhi was an iconic region in Mughal reign. Today, it stands as an important pilgrimage & religious spots for Muslims. Delhi holds Jama Masjid, the largest mosque of the country. The Qutub Shahib Dargah is another esteem religious site where. You can find many graves of eminent rulers of the reign. It is customary for anyone who wishes to become a saint to tie a thread near the grave. Every Mughal monument holds a small mosque in it. The marble shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah is another notable spot here.
The adventure capital of the country has a little more to offer other than the ever-ending list of adventure activities, exotic locations, mountain passes and others. Ladakh is filled with numerous monasteries of varying styles. People trek or hike to these monasteries to enjoy the culture of the land. It is also the place where, you can find numerous monks practicing Buddhism.
Ladakh Travel Guide
Read more – Complete Travel Guide To Plan Your Ladakh Trip
11. Char Dham Yatra
The four religious places in Uttarakhand (Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath) is known as the Chota Char Dham which is very popular among religious tourists. A six-hour drive from Rishikesh, Uttarkashi is among the important pilgrimage destinations in India.
It is also a test of your devotion and patience. Extreme climate and unexpected landslides make the journey to this holy region both challenging and thrilling at the same time. Also known as the gateway to Gangotri, Uttarkashi is a devout getaway for those looking for a saintly abode.
Gangotri and Yamunotri are located in the Uttarkashi region. Kashi Vishwanath Temple on the banks of river Bhagirathi, Yamunotri Temple, Saptrishi Kund, Surya Kund, Divya Shila, Gangotri Temple, Bhagirath Shila, submerged shiva lingam, and Pandava Gufa are some of the religious attractions. Extend your trip to Rudraprayag and Chamoli to complete the Char Dham Yatra, the most revered pilgrimage destinations in India.
12. Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Trivandrum
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple stands tall in the Thiruvananthapuram, capital of Kerala. It is one of the 108 Divya Desams, the principal centers of worship in Vaishnavism. Divya Desams are the holy abodes of the great Lord Vishnu. The temple worships a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. It is one of the very few famous temples in India where the entrance is only granted to Hindus. The mystery and grandeur of the temple leave you awestruck in its magnanimous beauty. The premises of the temple echo tranquillity and feels like a soul-cleansing experience.
Built as a replica of the Adikesavaperumal Temple in Thiruvattar, the Padmanabhaswamy temple is lost in antiquity. Even after detailed research and study, archaeologists are unable to determine the exact age of this ancient temple. With its references in the Puranas, we know that the temple holds great importance in the history of Hinduism. The Bhagwad Gita iterates that the great Balarama visited this temple, bathed in Padmatheertham and made several offerings to the Lord. They say that this temple was established on the first day of Kali Yuga, over 5000 years ago.
The temple is known for its strict rules of worship and has specific dress codes to be followed by devotees. Despite all of this, devotees gather in large numbers to get a glimpse of the deity and attain peace of mind.
Suggested read – Complete Travel Guide to Trivandrum, Kerala
13. Tirumala Venkateswara -Tirupati
The ancient city of Tirupati is famous among st pilgrims for the Tirumala Venkateswara or Tirupati Balaji Temple. Situated in the state of Andhra Pradesh, the temple is dedicated to Lord Venkateswara who is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Around 80,000 devotees visit the Tirupati Temple every day and attend the Puja. It is equally important for the pilgrims visiting here to get the ‘Laddoo Prasadam.’ Brahmotsavam festival (October) is the best time to visit Lord Venkateswara Temple. The celebration attracts millions of pilgrims from all over the world.
The temple has an amazing architecture with gold plated tower housing the main deity, Bangaru Vakili, Padi Kavali, Vendi Vakili and Garbh Gruha. Various Vaishnava festivals are celebrated here which draws even more crowd of pilgrims to the place. As per a legend, the presiding deity, Lord Venkateshwara is believed to be staying here until the end of Kaliyuga. The awe-inspiring 8-ft tall idol of Lord Venkateshwara is majestic and overwhelming.
Spread over an area of 26 km, the temple is referred to as the Temple of Seven Hills, as it is located in Tirumala, a little hill town which comprises of seven peaks. The Sri Venkateshwara Temple is situated on the seventh hill where thousands of people come to pay their respects every day. This temple is the wealthiest in the entire Indian subcontinent, owing mainly since it receives a staggering number of donations each day. Standing under a gilded dome and looking up at the gigantic idol of Lord Venkateshwara adorned with flowers, gold and diamonds is a spiritual experience. It is much like chancing upon serenity amidst a lot of chaos, and it is a feeling you won’t forget anytime soon.
14. Lord Jagannath – Puri
The Lord Jagannath temple is located in the sacred coastal town of Puri in Orissa. Shree Jagannath is a Hindu temple and one of the fourth pilgrimage destinations for Char Dham. The Rath Yatra of Jagannath Puri temple is a famous annual festival celebrated in June.
The temple is dedicated to Lord Jagannath and it was built in the 11th century by King Indradyumna. This glorious temple is the abode of Lord Jagannath, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It is the most revered pilgrimage destinations for Hindus and is included in the pious Char Dham Yatra with Badrinath, Dwarka and Rameshwaram. Apart from the main shrine, many minor temples within the complex will make you feel like you have entered God’s home.
The splendid Oriya architecture of the Temple is cherry on the cake. It covers an area of approximately 4,00,000 sq. ft and is enclosed by two rectangular walls. The outer wall Meghanada Pacheri is 20 ft. high. The inner wall Kurma Bedha surrounds the main temple.
The gates are beautifully designed with intricate carvings. The scrumptious Mahaprasad of the temple is something one should not miss. In one of the largest kitchens of India, the lip-smacking food is cooked in earthen pots every day and offered to devotees. The vibrant religious festival of the town allures tourists in large numbers. The most awaited festival of Rath Yatra is celebrated with immense gusto. The colorful ambiance, rituals, and vigor of the pilgrims are worth witnessing.
15. Somnath Jyotirling, Gujarat
Somnath meaning ‘lord of the moon’ is a pilgrim center and is home to one of the 12 Jyotirlingas. The majestic seaside temple of Somnath Mahadev is truly awe-inspiring. It is well-known as the first of the Dwadash Jyotirlinga shrines of Lord Shiva. It is a major spiritual place for Hindus. Situated on the western coast of Gujarat, Somnath Jyotirlinga has survived many attacks and still has not lost its beauty. The temple was looted and destroyed as many as seventeen times by Mughal emperors such as Mahmud Ghazni, AlauddinKhilji, and Aurangzeb. The temple is an eternal shrine owing to its perseverance against the test of time.
One of the oldest temples of the country has been mentioned in ancient texts like Shreemad Bhagavat Gita, Skandpuran, Shivpuran and Rig-Veda which signifies the importance of this temple as the most celebrated pilgrimage destinations. The temple stands on the ancient Triveni Sangam or the confluence of three rivers – Kapila, Hiran, and Saraswati.
In 1951, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel helped the revival and reconstruction of the present-day temple which still serves as a notable edifice of the original Somnath Temple. It attracts millions of devotees throughout the year.
16. Dwarka, Gujarat
Famous for one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, Dwarka is best known as the “home of Lord Krishna”. Located on the western tip of the Saurashtra peninsula in Gujarat. The name Dwarka translates to Dwar meaning ‘door’ and ka meaning ‘moksha’ meaning the ‘door to salvation
It is also one of the sites of the famous Char Dham yatra. Dwarka is located in Gujarat and is visited by thousands of Krishna devotees every year. Dwarka boasts of being the only city that is a part of both Char Dham (four principal holy shrines) and also Sapta Puris (seven holy cities) mentioned in the Hindu religion. For this reason, it enjoys a remarkable religious significance and attracts thousands of pilgrims all year round.
Apart from this, the town is replete with grandeur temples, marvelous architecture and places of cultural significance. It is a home to the Jagat Mandir, also known as Dwarkadheesh Temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. Legend has it that the city was once engulfed by the sea and recent excavations reveal that a city did exist here.
Dwarkadhish Temple or Jagat Mandir is constructed according to a Chalukya style architecture. The history of Dwarka dates back to the Kingdom of Dwaraka in Mahabharata. The five-storied shrine is grand and marvelous which is constructed of limestone and sand. The 2200-year-old architecture was built by Vajranabha, who constructed it over the land reclaimed from the sea by Lord Krishna.
The magnificent black idol of Lord Krishna is so appealing that devotees feel the presence of the Lord before them. The temple has intricate sculptural detailing done by the ancestral dynasties. There are other shrines within the temple which are devoted to Subhadra, Balarama and Revathy, Vasudeva, Rukmini and others.
The devotees take a dip in the Gomti River before proceeding into the temple through the Swarg Dwar. The festival of Janmashtmi is the most special occasion in Krishna temple. The temple is adorned by thousands of devotees chanting prayers and rituals. The shrine is a hive of colours, voices and faith transforming into inner silence and sanctity.
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Apart from these, there are numerous other pilgrimage destinations in India like Bodhgaya, Dwaraka, Shirdi, Badrinath and others. It is best to visit these destinations during any religious festivals to enjoy many interesting rituals.