It is a painstaking task to take the thousands of temples in India and shortlist a few of them. India is the land of temples. Many famous philosophers and scientists have written about its spiritual richness. All the temples have mythological stories associated with them. Therefore, I am going to list down nine temples in India that are visited the most by devotees.
1. Shiv Khori, Jammu & Kashmir
This temple is not a building or structure but a cave. It is on top of a hill, and en route to the cave, there is a small river with a bridge over it. The climate is always serene, relaxed and calm. The entrance of the cave is huge, and as you proceed, the way becomes so narrow that you have to crawl literally.
Remember to take in a guide with you because there are many interesting mythological stories related to the place and knowing that makes the trip worthwhile. There is a small shiv-lingam within, and water keeps dripping from the walls of the cave on top of the lingam. The water is believed to be of the sacred river Ganga, and on Shivratri, milk starts to drip naturally on the lingam instead of water. It is a must-visit temple.
2. Vaishno Devi Temple, Jammu & Kashmir
I visit Vaishno Devi Temple every year. It is a famous religious site for Hindus. Thousands of devotees come her every day. The temple is located in Katra which is a small city in Jammu.
Just like in Shiv Khori, Vaishno Devi Temple is also a cave. Three rock structures or pindis are naturally carved out in the cave. These are believed to be the idols of three goddesses.
Scriptures say that unless you visit the Bhairo Temple at the top of the hill, your prayers will not come true. So most people visit that temple also. Try to learn other stories associated with the place. It is better if you go in the winter because that is when most caves in the hill are open to the public. You can also go to the top in a helicopter which is available at the base. A lot of accommodations and facilities are always open downhill.
3. Siddhivinayak Temple, Mumbai
Siddhivinayak Temple in the metropolitan city of Mumbai is a revered place for people belonging to all religions. This large temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesh.
The temple consists of a massive sized statue of the Lord. In the Hindu religion, Ganesh is said to prevent any impending doom. Thus, before starting a new venture or going for something important, people make sure to visit this temple as they believe that it brings good luck. Thousands of people come here every day, and it is very crowded on Tuesdays. It is common to spot Bollywood celebrities here.
4. Sanchi Stupa
Sanchi is a small city in Madhya Pradesh. It is filled with small stupas or dome-like structures that consist relics of Buddha and his followers.
These stupas were built by the great Emperor Ashoka as he was a devout follower of the Buddhist principles. Therefore, these structures also have a Mauryan touch in their architecture. Sanchi Stupa is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
5. Golden Temple, Amritsar
The Golden Temple in Punjab is a Gurudwara or a religious place of the Sikhs. The entire Gurudwara is built of gold, and it is splendid to see. There is a beautiful pool or “Sarovar” with beautiful fish inside the compound of the temple.
Sikhs believe in the ideology of courage, humanity and brotherhood. They try to resist the idea of division based on religion. As such, people of all faith, irrespective of anything, are allowed in the temple. Free langar or feast is given all day and night to anyone who comes there. People can also sleep in the Gurudwara if they wish to as there are accommodation nearby.
6. Khajuraho Temple, Madhya Pradesh
The Khajuraho Temple is one among the group of temples within the Khajuraho Group of Monuments.
The complex and monuments are declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it consists of both Jain and Hindu temples. Built between 10th and 12th century, the architectural expertise portrayed on the walls of these temples are just incredible. Images of female deities or women are carved on the walls with sexuality and eroticism being the major theme. In a world where representing sexuality is taboo now, these temples speak a different story altogether. The temples are nothing less than impressive.
The Akshardham Temple in Delhi is also one such temple. To read about it, click here.
7. Tirupati Balaji, Andhra Pradesh
Ever heard of a temple being rich? If not then let me tell you that Tirupati Balaji gets more than a million dollars as offerings by devotees each day. There was once a news that someone anonymously put a diamond worth crores in the donation box of the temple. Sounds crazy? Well, not for the people who come here every day.
The temple attracts thousands and lakhs of devotees every day in search of blessings from Lord Balaji, who is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Many rulers throughout history have come here to pray and offer money or gold. There is a belief among people of tonsuring their hair when visiting the temple. This is a religious ritual for the fulfillment of their prayers.
8. Temples in Vrindavan, Mathura
In this tiny city called Vrindavan, there exists a dozen of temples. The important fact is that all these temples are dedicated to one god, Lord Krishna.
Lord Krishna is probably one of the most famous Hindu gods, even in Western countries. Every day, thousands of tourists visit these temples to get the blessings of Lord Krishna. Vrindavan is believed to be the place where Krishna was brought up. As such, this place holds a special place in the hearts of all Hindus. Temples like Banke Bihari Temple, Madan Mohan Temple and Radharamana Temple were built centuries ago. The ones that are a decade old also add to the spiritual calmness of this place. The best time to visit Vrindavan is during Janmashtami (birthday of Krishna) as the place is full of energy, colour and vibrancy during this period with the celebrations.
Another curious place to visit here is the Nidhi Van (Van meaning forest). The place has a large number of trees, all of which are considered holy. The branches of these trees stand so close to each other that they appear almost peculiar. There is a strange belief among the locals that every night, all these trees take the form of Krishna’s gopis (girlfriends) and Krishna himself is believed to come here at night. No one is allowed to stay in the compound at night, and the main gate to it is locked. People who live nearby often claim of hearing voices of girls laughing from within the compound at night.
9. Sree Padhmanabhaswamy Temple, Kerala
I remember visiting this temple six years ago. We had a guide along with us. Initially, the temple appeared quite small and insignificant, but as we went in, we realised that it is majestic.
This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. There is no clue as to when this temple was built, but it is mentioned in many ancient scriptures. The most famous idol in the temple is that of Lord Vishnu sitting over his five-headed serpent. The king’s residence which is in the compound is very palatial. There are rumours of buried treasures within the temple. Many small rooms within the temple have remained locked since centuries, and no one knows why. People believe that it must have some significance and therefore, no one has ever tried to open them.