Trudge through the mighty mountains and you shall experience divine presence or traverse through the meandering alleys, where spirituality combined with history waits to greet your spiritually thirsty souls. The pious soil of the country constantly keeps you in contact with a Supreme Power that dwells in different forms. The existence of a large number of temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras and monasteries in India beckons the traveler to visit a country that is tolerant, spiritual and most of all diverse yet united.
Having an upper hand in the country, spirituality has propelled many ordinary destinations into significant religious places in India. As a result, along with a large number of pilgrims that visit these religious destinations once a year, many travel enthusiasts have started to throng these hubs. Tourism has grown manifold and so has the fame of India. Let us together get acquainted to a different and vital side of the country and learn about these fascinating religious tourism places in India:
Vaishno Devi Temple, Jammu Kashmir:
From high up in the mountains Mata Vaishno Devi calls out to her devotees… Situated on the Trikuta Hills in Jammu, the abode of Mata Vaishno is amongst the most popular pilgrimage in India. Experience an indescribable delight in taking an arduous trek that further leads to the caves where the goddess presides over and bestows countless blessings. Beautiful landscape, pervading divinity and thrilling adventure…this is one journey in India that will remain etched in your memories forever.
Golden Temple/Swarn Mandir/Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar:
The unparalleled reflection of the pious golden edifice onthe ambrosial nectar (lake) and the horde of pilgrims loitering in the shrine complex urge one to visit this popular religious place in India. Built by the fourth Sikh Guru, Ramdass Sahib Ji, Gurudwara Harmandir Sahib is the most important Sikh pilgrimage site to visit in India. The golden gilded temple commemorates a number of Sikh historical events. A bringer of peace, the Golden Temple is nothing short of a legacy in India.
Sun Temple (Surya Mandir) in Konark:
The masterpiece of Indian architecture, Sun Temple is the epitome of exquisite architecture and unmatched spirituality. Situated in Konark, Odisha, the Sun Temple boasts of a massive size and is an incredible example of genius. The Sun God sitting on a majestic chariot depicts the victory of King Narsimhadeva I (who defeated a number of Muslim invaders). The incredible architecture that includes 12 pairs of carved wheels, hall of offering, imposing pyramidal roof and erotic scenes have been the key driving force for art lovers and travel enthusiast who visit here, thereby making the Sun Temple one of the best places to see on a religious tour in India.
Jagannath Temple (Jagannath Mandir) in Puri:
An important pilgrimage in India, Jagannath Temple is the finest monument in Odisha. The main deities presiding over the temple are Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra. Although a popular pilgrimage, Jagannath Temple comes to life during the annual Rath Yatra when a very large number of people throng the temple. The sacred shrine is believed to be the authentic reflection of Indian culture.
Somnath Jyotirlinga, Gujarat
Reckoned to be the first Dwaadash Jyotirlinga (Pillar of Light) of Lord Shiva, Somnath Jyotirlinga in Gujarat holds an important place in India. The survivor of many attacks in the past, Somnath Jyotirlinga has been a source of divinity and spirituality for many Hindu pilgrims. Situated on the shores of Arabian Sea, this sacred shrine calls out to devotees from afar and blesses innumerable times. Feel the power of spirituality and lose yourself in the devotion at this holy place in India.
Humility is the greatest virtue and Jainism preaches just that! Situated in Ranakpur village in Rajasthan, Ranakpur is one of the best places of Indian pilgrimage tourism. The Ranakpur temple is one of the oldest Jain temples in India and thus holds a lot of importance for devotees. Pilgrims from all over the world pay a visit to this temple that has majestic architecture and beautiful surroundings. Imbue yourself in the tranquil ambiance here and you shall definitely seek divinity that does not match anything ordinary.
Tirumala Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati:
The earthly abode of Lord Venkateswara (incarnation of Vishnu), Tirumala Venkateswara Temple is situated on the last hill of the Seshachalam range in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh. Like many temples in south India, this holy temple is known for its exquisite architecture. It is also amongst the most visited Hindu temples in India as it is said that the temple attracts 60,000 pilgrims each day. One must attend the Puja that is accompanied by many hymns and praises giving it a touch of unmatched divinity. The Laddoo Prasadam is yet another attraction of Tirumala Venkateswara Temple.
Situated in one of the most scenic locations in the country, Hemkund Sahib adds charm to religious tour in India. Unlike other Sikh pilgrimages in India, Hemkund Sahib has a pentagonal structure. The scenic beauty of the place is worth mentioning as this shrine is nestled amidst lofty hills that are covered with snow. One shall be stunned with the kind of devotion that the pilgrims show here despite the adverse climatic conditions. The spiritual ambiance at Hemkunt Sahib may pursue you to stay a bit longer here.
Ajmer Sharif in Ajmer:
Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti lay in peace here, listening to people’s wishes and fulfilling them. Once you enter through the gate of the Dargah a queer peace takes over you. A sacred shrine in Ajmer, Dargah Sharif is visited by millions of devotees every year from all over the world. The Dargah for many reasons captivates one’s heart; there is certainly something that is magical about this place that people from different faith come and worship here. Although the dargah is always crowded, the best time to visit Ajmer Sharif is during the Urs festival. The place comes to life during this festival that is held annually.
Religious tour in India would be incomplete if you miss out on Velankanni Church, situated in the Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu. Like many gothic style churches Velankanni Church or the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health has graceful architecture but what attracts tourists the most to this church is the construction history of the Church. Believed to have been built by a Portuguese sailor who survived a violent sea storm as a gratitude to the Supreme Power, this church is indeed one of the important pillars of faith in India. Each year The Feast of the Nativity of Mary is celebrated here and is attended by millions of devotees from around the globe.
Baba Barfani calls out to his devotees spread all over the world to first take up an enthralling trek and then receive bountiful blessings from him. The holy Amarnath Cave is situated in the beautiful state of Jammu and Kashmir and can only be reached after a rigorous trekking expedition. The cave holds importance as one of the ancient pilgrimages in India. The legend has it that Lord Shiva revealed the secret of immortality to his consort Goddess Parvati here, which was overheard by a pair of pigeons. It is also believed that even today, a pair of pigeon can be seen in the cave. Amarnath is famed for the Linga that is created naturally by ice here every year. The Amarnath Yatra is an annual event in which pilgrims are allowed to trek to the cave temple.
A centre of faith for the Hindus, Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh is a famous pilgrimage in India. Incredibly colourful and sacred, the beauty of Varanasi lies in the crowd of devotees who throng here every single day from one part of the country or the other. The holy Ganga meandering through the city undoubtedly amplifies the sanctity of Varanasi. Also the Ganga Arti performed ritualistically every morning and evening enhances the divinity. Devotees keeping faith in the power of the city to provide Moksha and cleansing their sins keep Varanasi always a favourite religion places in India.
Goa by no means is a cliché pilgrimage destination in India; however, the number of churches in Goa justifies why it should be in the list of religious tourism places in India. A legacy of the Portuguese civilization that ruled the state for over a very long period, the Churches in Goa are worth exploring. Along with being an epitome of Christian faith, these edifices contribute largely to the architectural collection of India. Amongst the most famous churches in Goa are Basilica of Bom Jesus, Church of the Lady of Immaculate Conception, Church of St. Lawrence and Church and Convent of St. Francis of Assissi.
Situated on the western tip (Gujarat) of India, Dwarka is the land of unparalleled spirituality. Once, the capital of Lord Krishna, when he escaped from Mathura, Dwarka is one of the sites of the Char Dham Yatra. The white attire of local men keeps up with the sanctity of the place. A fascinating town, the holy city shall take you back in time of the Mahabharta.
The emerald Ganga, innumerable Hindu temples and the heavy settlement of yoga centres, in Rishikesh divinity has been redefined. Preserving the ancient Hindu practice called Yoga, Rishikesh opens a door to a different level of spirituality in India. At Rishikesh one can praise nature in its truest forms and take a chance to lose himself in it. Therefore this exceptional city makes for an incredible religious place to visit in India.
The birthplace of the Hindu God Krishna, Mathura in the state of Uttar Pradesh can rightly be called a blessed land. Today, the town is dotted with a large number of temples including the Krishna Janbhoomi Temple that is thronged by a large number of devotees all through the year. However, Janmashtami is one festival during which this small town becomes overcrowded yet full of colours.
Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh is the city where Lord Krishna spent his childhood. Boasting about innumerable flashes from the historical pages, Vrindavan offers a journey back in time when Bal Gopal becoming Kanha and then finally Lord Krishna. Each meandering alley has traces of holiness and is blessed with small and big temples that are dedicated to Radha and Krishna. As sweet as the Peda of Mathura is to the tongue, so is the ‘Radhe Radhe’ of Vrindavan to the ears. Inarguably one of the popular pilgrimage destinations in North India, Vrindavan lets you experience the spiritual illumination.
Haridwar, located in the lap of mystical Uttarakhand is nothing short of an empyrean for the Hindus. Located by the holy river Ganga, the sacred town offers a great peace of mind. Watch the flickering Diyas floating on the sparkling river along with the energetic Ganga Aarti in the evening and loiter around Har ki Pauri to seek unmatched divinity in Haridwar. The Kumbha Mela, which happens once in every 12 years attracts millions to the city; nonetheless the city remains crowded with devotees all year round.
Rameshwaram in the state of Tamil Nadu is one of the sites of the pious Char Dham yatra in India. Situated on an island called Mannar, this sacred destination is believed to be the place where Lord Rama worshipped and repented after killing Raavana. Spirituality is set deep in Rameshwaram and the best place to experience it is at Ramanathaswamy temple. This beautiful temple is known for its incredible architecture that weaves divinity and culture together.
Nestled in the pristine Himalaya, Badrinath in Uttarakhand is a door to unmatched spirituality. It is the place where everything is cuddled by divinity. Badrinath is believed to be the home of Lord Vishnu or Badrinathji, who had come here to meditate after being rebuked by Narad for being too indulgent in worldly affairs. Thus, today Badrinath offers confinement from the materialistic world and takes you a step closer to the Supreme Power. It is the vital destination for Chardham yatra in India and Chhota Chardham in Uttarakhand.
In the ruins of Hampi (Karnataka) lays innumerable temples that not only stuns but take you on a spiritual journey. Not all temples are in ruins in Hampi, as there are still some temples that sing the glory of the magnificent architectural designs and innovative ideas. Hampi is indeed the perfect destination for spiritual tourism in India as it allows a peek inside the rich Indian culture, of which religion was an essential part. Virupaksha Temple is amongst the most famous temple in Hampi.
Heart-warming is the ambiance of Madurai (Tamil Nadu), which is also rightly known as the ‘Temple Town’. Legends have it that drops of honey fell from the matted hair of Lord Shiva who had appeared in the dream of the then King of Madurai and that is how the city got its name. For centuries Madurai had been an important learning centre and a Hindu pilgrimage site in India. Madurai is also known for Meenakshi Amman Temple, which is one of the most famous temples in India. Walk through the alleys of Madurai and soak yourself in the sheer power of divinity.
Witness the historical place called Bodhgaya in Bihar, where Lord Buddha is believed to have been enlightened. Bodhgaya offers Buddhist pilgrims the ultimate place to pray and meditate. The feelling of being on the land where Budhha once himself walked on is truly commendable. Mahabodhi Temple along with several other temples in Bodhgaya are frequented by many pilgrims that visit here from all over the world.
Forget about religion, caste, creed and other forms of discrimination, Shirdi in Maharashtra is the gateway to sheer spirituality. All his life the highly revered Sai Baba preached about One God (Sab Ka Maalik Ek) and thus earned himself many followers. Today, his native place, Shirdi is thronged by multitude of devotees irrespective of religion, color or creed seeking peace, spirituality and paying homage to this great saint. Therefore, Shirdi is one of the most visited religion places in India.
Leh is not only the haven for adventure seekers, it is also the paradise for those seeking inner peace. Dotted with a large number of Tibetan monasteries, Leh in Ladakh lets you drench in the rain of spirituality. Most of the monasteries in Leh contain numerous stupas, statues, wall paintings, Thangkas, swords and large pillars that are engraved with the Buddha’s teachings. While you are in Leh you cannot ignore these sanctified structures that often take you on a spiritual journey. Shey, Hemis, Lamayuru, Alchi and Thiksey are some of the most popular monasteries in Leh.