The two things that are most widely rejoiced in India are the game of cricket and religion. While many have heard about how obsessed Indians are over cricket, there is less awareness about how much religion means to them. There are temples in every nook and corner in India, some are small, and some are enormous pieces of art and architecture built over years of labour, and thronged by millions of people over the years to celebrate their belief in God. Fortunately, over my years in this incredible country I was able to visit some of the most beautiful and famous temples in India.
Tirupati Balaji Temple – Home to world’s richest God
It is indeed true! Tirupati temple is the most visited temple in India with over 40 million devotees visiting each year and is also the richest temple due to the staggering amount of donation. A staggering Rs 22 million is donated to the temple each day in the form of cash and gold. Another interesting and popular offering that devotees make is their hair. More than a ton of hair is donated daily and is then used for cosmetic purposes.
Tirupati Balaji Temple. Photo Credit: @the_observantt
Golden Temple – The shimmering temple of ‘Gold’
True to its name, the Golden Temple in the northwestern state of India in golden in colour. A sparkling encasement of engraved gold, topped by a dome of 750 kg gold, sits on top of a lower section made of marble. The Golden Temple is probably the holiest shrine in Sikhism with an intense atmosphere as the Guru Granth Sahib — the Sikh holy book — chant continues. The temple is also known as one of the largest free eateries in the world, called ‘Langar.’ Anyone and everyone regardless of religion or caste can eat here for free. I was lucky to be part of the ‘Langar,’ and it is truly inspiring to see that every service, from serving food to washing dishes, is carried out by the devotees.
The glittering golden temple at night
Praying overlooking the elegant temple at night. Photo Credit: @igers.rahul
Meenakshi Temple – Temple of the 1000 pillars
Meenakshi Temple is one of the most beautiful as well as the largest temples in South India. History says that the temple dates back to as early as the 6th century, and it is believed to be built by the survivors of Kumari Kandam, a mythical lost continent. The architecture of the temple is Dravidian with over 30,000 intricate, brightly coloured sculptures and 14 gateways. The most magical place in the temple is the hall of thousand pillars, which has two long rows of pillars with mythological creatures carved on them in great details.
Photo Credit: @inswaggram
Mahabodhi Temple – Home to Lord Buddha’s Bodhi tree
Mahabodhi Temple is one of the four holy places to worship the life of Lord Buddha. This place is even more special as it is where the Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment. Dating back to the 5th century, it is one of the earliest Buddhist temples ever built, with an enormous beaming black stone statue of Buddha, covered in gold. Inside the temple, you will be able to find several trees that are said to be the descendants of the original Bodhi tree where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment.
Photo Credit: navpuneet4u
The Bodhi tree where Lord Buddha attained enlightment
Akshardham Temple – The world’s largest extensive Hindu temple
Although built recently in 2005 in the capital state of India, New Delhi, the grandeur of the temple complex is breathtaking! It has already earned the title from the Guinness World Record as the largest Hindu temple in the world. The temple symbolises and epitomises the elegant and glorious architecture, tradition, culture, and spirituality of the past. This temple is a must-visit for anyone visiting the capital city of India! Be prepared to experience a journey through the 10,000 years of the country’s magnificent art, all assembled and built by 11,000 artisans. It also hosts a musical fountain show depicting the Circle of Life, 60 acres of sprawling lawns with exquisite bronze statues of India’s child heroes, warriors and great women personalities and a lotus-shaped garden showcasing spirituality as expressed by philosophers, scientists, and leaders across history.
Night view of Akshardham Temple
Photo Credit: @divinetravelconnextions
Vaishno Devi Temple – A religious trek
The experience of visiting Vaishno Devi temple is certainly one-of-a-kind: a 13-km uphill trek to the beautiful valley that hosts the Vaishno Devi Cave Temple. More than 10 million devotees visit the temple every year, making it one of the most visited shrines in India. The three naturally formed rock heads in the cave symbolise three different forms of Vaishno Devi. To be in time for sunrise at the temple, you need to start trekking in the middle of the night. For those who prefer a less tiring travel journey, there is a helicopter as well as a horse service to reach the top of the hill. Having done the night trekking, I found it really enjoyable with multiple eating, resting and shopping joints while overlooking the glittering Katracity below.
Trek to Vaishno Devi. Photo Credit: @katya_india
Kashi Vishwanath Temple – Faith for millions of Hindus
The Kashi Vishwanath temple, mentioned in an ancient Hindu scripture, is the core of faith for millions of Hindus. Located in Varanasi, the temple has two gold-plated domes, donated by the Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh. In this complex, you will discover a rare sight of a mosque and temple side by side. The original temple was destroyed and looted by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, and a mosque was built on the site. Later in 1780, the Rani of Indore commissioned reconstruction of the temple, which is the current temple we see. There is a superstition that by visiting the temple and taking a dip in the holy water of the Ganga River, one can liberate oneself from all sins and attain salvation.
Photo Credit: @jayprakashm
Photo Credit: @debjitbiswas
India is a land of diversity and the best place to witness this is in the temples of India, where one can find temples for different religions, be it Buddhist, Sikh or Hindu temples. Temples are a true representation of India’s culture, history & mythology and a must-visit when you travel to different regions of India.
Take me to India!