India is a country of many religions. Its hold an immense wealth of culture and history. Also revered as the unique land of ‘unity in diversity’, the country has a lot to offer to its visitors. Religion in India is characterised by diverse religious beliefs and practices among its residents. The Indian subcontinent is the birthplace of four major religions of the world; namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. In the early 7th century, Islam came to India through Arab traders in Malabar coast of Kerala. During the Muslim rule in the Indian subcontinent, it turned into a major religion and Islam spread in India under the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire.
With so many different religions followed, religious places in India are in abundance. These sacred destinations are very popular among tourists of various faiths nationally and internationally. Spiritual sites in India have attained huge popularity among people of all ages, gender, and faiths. Right from the exquisite locales to ideal frames for photography, and mystical history, these places are a must visit for all.
Listed below are top 10 popular religious destinations in India:
1. Vaishno Devi Temple, Jammu Kashmir
Mata Vaishno Devi calls out to her devotees from the topmost part of the mountains. One of the most famous religious places in India, Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu Kashmir is beautifully nestled in the Trikuta Hills of Jammu, the official abode of Mata Vaishno. Once here, you will experience delight and peace that’s indescribable. Pilgrims prefer taking the route of an arduous trek that leads them to the caves where the Goddess resides and bestows countless blessings on her devotees. People of all faiths visit the place. Panoramic landscape, unparalleled divinity and thrilling adventure will make your trip a memorable journey. A tour that will be etched in your memories for a lifetime.
2. Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar
The holiest site for Sikhs, Golden Temple or Harmandir Sahib is a prominent Gurdwara. It is also ranked as one of the most historical heritage monuments of India situated in the city of Amritsar, Punjab. Sri Harmandir Sahib is encircled by a beautiful lake and four magnanimous doors. A visit to this sacred site will let experience inner peace, delight and an indescribable connection with the almighty.
3. Moinuddin Chishti Dargah Ajmer
Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti was a popular Sufi saint in Indian Subcontinent. Located in Ajmer, the Dargah of Moinuddin Chishti is regularly visited by Muslim pilgrims, Sikhs and Hindus. According to an old saying, people visiting Ajmer Sharif and praying with pure faith and loyalty at this Dargah will free their souls.
4. Sun Temple, Konark
Also revered as the masterpiece of Indian architecture, a visit to the famous Sun Temple of Konark will make your religious trip to India a huge success. It is the epitome of magnificent architecture and exceptional spirituality. The temple is beautifully located in Konark of Odisha state and boasts mammoth size, which is an unprecedented example of architectural marvel. Here, the Sun God sits majestic chariot depicting the victory of King Narsimhadeva I. The king defeated a huge number of Muslim invaders to the place. The exemplary architecture encompasses 12 pairs of carved wheels, erotic scenes from Kamasutra, , hall of offering, and imposing pyramidal roof.
5. Velankanni Church, Tamil Nadu
Your religious journey in India is incomplete without a visit to Velankanni Church. Located in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu, Velankanni Church (also known as the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health) is a gothic style churches integrated with graceful architecture. The major attraction of tourists is the construction history of this church. Built by a Portuguese sailor who was believed to have survived a violent sea storm as a gratitude to the Supreme Power, the church is indeed one of the most important pillars of faith in India. The Feast of the Nativity of Mary is widely celebrated in the state and is attended by several millions of devotees from across the world.
6. Haridwar, Uttar Pradesh
Nestled beautifully in the lap of mystical Uttarakhand, this sacred site is the gateway to almighty (Hari=Lord, Dwar=gate). An empyrean for the Hindus, the pious city is situated by the holy river Ganga. This sacred town will offer peace of mind to the visitors. The flickering Diyas float on the silver sparkling river along with the energetic and sacred Ganga Aarti in the evening. Har ki Pauri will let you seek unparalleled divinity in Haridwar. The Kumbha Mela, which occurs once in every 12 years is the major attraction here. It draws millions of people to the city.
7. Sai Baba, Shirdi
A sacred and most sought after site for all Sai Baba devotees. The most popular temple of Sai Baba is located at the Shirdi town in Maharashtra. Also known to be the most beautiful shrine built over the Samadhi of Shri Sai Baba, people belonging to all faiths, including Hindu, Zoroastrian and Muslim from all around the world visit the site.
6. Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya
The Gaya district in the state of Bihar is popular for the Mahabodhi Mahavihara Bodhgaya Temple. It is the world famous Buddhist temple and a place where Lord Buddha had attained enlightenment. The complex of Mahabodhi Temple comprises of a holy Bodhi tree. It also encompasses the Bodhimanda Vihara monastery.
7. Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai (Tamil Nadu)
This beautiful place will look like a dream once you visit it. Visitors are taken over by the heartwarming ambiance of Temple Town (Madurai) in Tamil Nadu state. According to a legend, honey drops fell from Lord Shiva’s matted hair who had appeared in the dream of the then King of Madurai. This is also how this beautiful city got its name (Madur means as sweet as honey). Since centuries, Madurai has served as a significant learning centre as well as a Hindu pilgrimage site across the country. Also famous for the main Meenakshi Amman Temple, one of the most famous temples in India, the place welcomes you to have a soulful walk through the alleys of Madurai. You will literally be able to soak yourself in the sheer power of divinity.
8. Amarnath, Jammu and Kashmir
The Amarnath Yatra is the most sought after pilgrimage for Lord Shiva devotees. Amarnath Cave of Kashmir state is celebrated among devout pilgrims and tourists from all over the world for the great Shivling of Ice. It appears each year in varied size and shapes. After taking up an intriguing trek, devotees receive blessings from Baba Barfani. The holy Amarnath Cave is located can only be reached after a rigorous trekking expedition. The legend has it that this is the place where Lord Shiva revealed the secret of immortality to Goddess Parvati, his consort. The secret was overheard by a pair of pigeons. According to a belief, a pair of pigeon can be seen still seen in the cave. Amarnath is also widely revered for the sacred Linga naturally by ice here each year. The famous Amarnath Yatra is a yearly event where pilgrims are allowed to trek to the cave temple.
9. Leh, Ladakh
Widely revered and worshipped by adventure seekers, Leh is more than adventure. It also serves as the paradise for those seeking inner peace. The place is beautifully dotted with a huge number of Tibetan monasteries. So you can expect to get drenched in the soul soothing rain of inner peace and spirituality. Monasteries in Leh are home to a huge number of statues, stupas, wall paintings, swords, Thangkas, and gigantic pillars engraved teachings of Buddha. You just can’t ignore these mesmerising, sanctified structures which promise to take its visitors on a spiritual tour. Some of the most popular monasteries include Hemis, Shey, Lamayuru, Thiksey, and Alchi are some of the most popular monasteries in the pious land of Leh.
India is celebrated as the most religiously diverse nations across the world. A visit to the above listed religious sites of India will leave you mesmerised!