The 35 Most Amazing and Famous Temples in India
India is a land of diversity, with varied cultures, festivals, and beautiful temples. Temples can be found everywhere—from the hilly areas of the Himalayas to the mountains of Ladakh and from the forgotten villages of Tamil Nadu to the caves of Maharashtra. You can even find them in the deserts of Rajasthan. Every street in India has at least one, be it big or small. This is because people in India are very religious, and most follow their religion avidly.
This devotion can be witnessed at yearly festivals where people come together and organize pandals (a temporary structure) to worship God. Mumbai's Ganesh Chaturthi and Kolkata's Durga Puja are the most famous. Many people in India also go to extreme levels to demonstrate their belief in God. Some leave their hometowns and walk as many as 25-30 days to visit a specific temple. Others leave everything they have and become sadhus (sages) or Khareshwari or Standing Baba, people who vow to stand for long periods of time without sleep as a punishment intended for self-enlightenment.
One could assert that India is the most religious and spiritual place in the world. In any case, it certainly has some of the planet's most spectacular temples. Below is a list of 35 of the most famous temples in India along with magnificent photos.
Famous Temples in India
- Meenakshi Amman Temple
- Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib)
- Sai Baba
- Vaishno Devi Mandir
- Tirumala Venkateswara
- Shravana Belgola
- Chennakesava Temple
- Hoysaleswara Temple
- Murugan Temple
- Temples of Kumbakonam
- Ramanathaswamy Temple
- Sun Temple
- Lotus Temple
- Akshardham Temple
- Jagannath Temple
- Sree Padmanabhaswamy
- Dwarkadhish Temple
- Siddhivinayak Temple
- Ranganathaswamy Temple
- Somnath Temple
- Kashi Vishwanath
- Virupaksha Temple
- Lingaraja Temple
- Sanchi Stupa
- Khajuraho Group of Monuments
1. Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai
The name of this spectacular temple is synonymous with the name of the town of Madurai. Madurai's Meenakshi temple is considered the largest temple in India as per the size and the area. Established in the sixteenth century, it is also one of the oldest temples in India.
It is the most famous temple of Tamil Nadu. There are nearly 14 gopurams, or gateways, that are magnificently carved out and beautiful paintings adorn the walls with thousands of stone figures. Out of the 14 towers, only four are considered the major ones. They are located on all sides (i.e the southern, eastern, western, and northern sides of the temple).
2. Golden Temple in Amritsar
The Golden temple, otherwise known as the Harmandir Sahib, is considered the holiest shrine in Sikhism. If you watch Bollywood movies, then you might have seen it.
Scores of people from all around the world and from all religions come to visit it each year. The temple is gold plated, and the interiors are decorated with marvelous architecture that will take your breath away.
The annual harvest festival of Baisakhi attracts tens of thousands of people and is celebrated with great warmth and intensity. The festival of Diwali is also celebrated with great excitement.
This temple is also the home of the largest free eatery, known as Langar (community kitchen), where people from any religion irrespective of their caste, creed, or economic background can come and eat for free. As many as 50,000 people eat here daily, and around 100,000 visit on weekends.
3. Sai Baba in Shirdi
With the message of Sabka Malik Ek Hai (One God Governs All), Sai Baba came to the small village of Shirdi. He taught people that there is one God and encouraged everyone to love, to be kind, and to help others selflessly.
The temple of Sai Baba is located in Shirdi—one of the major places of worship in Maharastra.
People who live more than 300-400 km away journey here yearly as part of their religious pilgrimage or padayatra (travel by walk). Don't be surprised to see people over 80 years of age or children under eight years old.
4. Vaishno Devi Mandir in Katra
This temple is dedicated to Mata Vaishnav Devi, and it is the second most visited temple in India. It is situated at a height of 5200 feet above land.
The temple is very significant among Hindus, and most try to visit it at least once in their lifetime.
If you are planning to visit, then it is mandatory to take the Yatra Registration Card (YRC) or Parchi. The YRC is available for free at the Katra bus station, which also happens to be the nearest bus stop. YRCs can also be obtained online from the official website by paying Rs. 50 per person. No private parties can issue the YRC.
5. Tirumala Venkateswara in Tirupati
Also known as the Tirupati Balaji, this temple is the most visited temple in India, and it also happens to be the most visited place of worship in the world. It was once considered the wealthiest temple in the world until a treasure was found at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy in Kerala.
People travel here to make wishes: some pray for wealth, some come to donate their wealth, some wish to have a child, and others come to get married.
The temple gets nearly 50,000 daily visitors and an annual count of 40 million visitors. Devotees often offer huge amounts of cash and gold when they come. As an estimate, the annual gold offered here is more than 3000 kgs.
6. Shravana Belgola in Hassan
Shravana Belgola is the name of the place where the tallest monolithic statue in the world stands. This statue, called Bahubali or Gommateshwara, is highly revered by Jains observers. There are also many other statues that are taller than this one, such as Hanuman Murti at Paritala, Andhra Pradesh.
This is one of the most sacred places of Jainism. Sharavana Belgola, or Sravanabelgola as it may be pronounced, has two hills, namely Vindyagiri and Chandragiri. The statue is located in the Vindyagiri hills. It is a 57-feet-tall statue.
Mahamasthakabhisheka is a festival which takes place every twelve years. At this festival, the statue is embrocated with milk, oil, ghee, and sandalwood, etc. Thousands of people visit for this festival. The ceremony last took place in 2006, and the next is scheduled in 2018.
7. Chennakesava Temple in Belur
This temple and the Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebidu are close to Shravan Belgola. Whoever visits Shravan Belgola also visits the Chennakesava and the Hoysaleswara temple. It is actually located in a complex with the Chennakesava temple at the center, flanked by many smaller temples on its left and right.
It is definitely one of the finest examples of excellence in architecture. Built in the 11th century, it still stands firmly today.
8. Hoysaleswara Temple in Halebidu
This temples is not far from the Chennakesava temple and is another marvelous piece of architecture. It belongs to the erstwhile empire of the Hoysala, which ruled most of South India from the 10th to the 14th century.
Legend has is that this temple was never completed as every time the construction started, it was attacked from invaders from North India.
Though it may be incomplete, the beauty and eloquence of the structure is mind blowing. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and has numerous finely carved statues and pillars. You can also go back in time and visit the ancient town of Halebidu.
9. Sabarimala in Kottayam
The Sabarimala temple is surrounded by 18 hills. It boasts the largest annual gathering of pilgrims (50 million people). It is not opened all year round but only for 41 days between the month of November and December—the day of Makar Sankranti, the Vishu, and first six days of every Malayalam month.
For the annual pilgrimage, lakhs of devotees fast for 41 days and refrain from any material consumption. This fast is one of the toughest, and devotees are required to abstain from alcohol and sex (touching a woman is not permitted). They are only allowed to eat food once during the 41 days and bathe twice. Women in their menstrual age are not allowed here.
10. Murugan Temple in Palani
This temple is located in the small town of Palani, which is famous for its temple more than anything else. It is one of the most important of Lord Karthik's six abodes. The other famous one is at Thiruchendur.
There is a fascinating short story about how Lord Karthik choose Palani as his abode. The story goes that Narad Muni gives Lord Shiva a gift, the fruit of wiseness. Lord Shiva, being an affectionate father, wants to divide the fruit between his two sons, Lord Ganesha and Lord Karthik. But Narada Muni opposed this.
So Lord Shiva proposed that whichever son returns first after circling the world thrice would get the fruit. Lord Karthik started to circle the world on his peacock. But Ganesha decided instead to circle his parents, thereby declaring that his world is his parents. Thus, Lord Shiva awarded the fruit to Ganesha. This didn't go down well with Karthik, so he decided to leave the mountains of Kailash and settle in his abode in Palani.
11. Temples of Kumbakonam
Kumbakonam is a temple town, and there are many famous ones here. Some of the most visited are the temples of:
- Adi Kumbeswarar
- Kasi Viswanathar
- Temples at Thirunageswaram
- Thiruvalanjuzhi Vinayakar
- Sri Vijayeendra Tirtha Moola Brindavanam
- Sri Sitaram Bhavani Sankarar
- Sri Rama Bhajanai Sabha
- Thirbuvanan Sarabeswarer
12. Ramanathaswamy Temple in Rameshwaram, Ramanathapuram
This temple is dedicated to god Shiva and located on Rameswaram island in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. It is the location of the Char Dham pilgrimage.
Just traveling to the temple is in itself a fulfilling experience because you have to cross a bridge from the mainland to reach this temple. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Rama built this bridge to rescue Sita from Ravana. Unlike other shorelines, the shorelines of this island are very quiet. Legend has it that the sea god promised Lord Rama he would stop the waves to help Lord Rama build the bridge.
13. Sun Temple in Konark
This temple is dedicated to the sun god Surya. It has been named a UNESCO world heritage site and is among the seven wonders of India in a poll conducted by NDTV.
The architectural designs features intricate artwork, iconography, and themes, including erotic kama and mithuna scenes.
14. Lotus Temple in New Delhi
Delhi has so many historic places as well as a large number of modern architecture, including the Lotus Temple.
Of the many places to visit in Delhi, the Lotus Temple is the most popular. The name comes from the shape of the building, which is identical to a lotus flower.
15. Akshardham Temple in New Delhi
I was uncertain about which Akshardham I should put on this list—the temple in Delhi or the one in Gujarat. It was a tough decision, and but I have chosen the one in Delhi because it was awarded the title of the world's largest comprehensive temple by Guinness World Records. The Akshardham of Gandhinagar is also great, so definitely check that one out as well.
16. Jagannath Temple in Puri
This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and located in the coastal city of Puri. There are more than 100 different festivals observed in this temple.
If you happen to visit, then you should also visit the Sun Temple nearby to enhance your experience. I also recommend sitting by the shoreline to watch the sun rise and set off the Puri beach. You might also see some tremendous sand art by Sudarshan Patnaik.
17. Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram
After a treasure was uncovered at this temple, it became the world's richest temple behind Tirupati Balaji. The treasure is estimated to be worth more than one lakh crore, and there is still one chamber yet to be opened.
For many historians, the treasure was no surprise because they believe that many temples of South India may have such "treasures" hidden inside.
But even before the treasure was discovered, this temple was a destination for millions of devotees. I recommend you watch the video to see the temple illuminated with awesome lights.
18. Badrinarayan Temple in Badrinath
The Badrinarayan is one of the holiest shrines of Hinduism, and is also part of the Char Dham and the Chota Char Dham. This mini Char Dham draws followers from all parts of the country.
The Badrinarayan temple, the Kedarnath temple, Gangotri, and Yamonotri form the Chota Char Dham.
Visiting Badrinath is a great way to escape from the hullabaloo of city life. The spiritual journey feels like you are falling into the arms of God.
19. Dwarkadhish Temple in Dwarka
This temple of 2500 years old is dedicated to Lord Krishna. Like Badrinath of the north, Rameshwaram of the south, and Jagannath Puri of the west, Dwarkadhish is part of the Char Dham pilgrimage in the west.
It is a five-story structure supported by 72 pillars, and it is immaculately clean and pure, considering that the temple was built nearly two-and-a-half centuries back.
20. Siddhivinayak Temple in Mumbai
The Siddhivinayak temple is the most famous and richest temple in Mumbai. It has a sort of "celebrity status."
On Tuesdays, many devotees from in and around Mumbai visit it. Some come barefoot and walk throughout the night. Special occasions, such as Diwali, New Year's Day, and the Ganesh Chaturthi festival attract thousands of devotees. The darshan could take as much as six to seven hours.
Heavenly Escape in the City
21. Kamakhya Temple
Also known as the Kamrup-Kamakhya, this temple is dedicated to the Hindu mother goddess Kamakhya. It is located in Nilachal Hill, Guwahati. It is the center for Tantra worship, so you will witness thousands of tantra devotees attending the festivals of Ambubachi Mela and Manasha Puja.
22. Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam
Ranganathaswamy is a Tamil-style Hindu temple dedicated to Ranganatha. It has 50 shrines, 21 towers, 39 pavilions. The festival of Margazhi (December–January), which is held here, attracts 1 million visitors each year, and it is one of the most illustrious Vaishnava temples in South India because of its history and legend.
23. Somnath Temple in Prabhas Patan
The Somnath temple is believed to be one of the 12 jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva, where he appeared as a fiery column of light. It has been destroyed and reconstructed many times in the past and is currently built in the Chalukya style.
24. Brihadeshwara in Thanjavur
This temple, dedicated to Shiva, is also known as Rajesvara Peruvudaiyar or Brihadeeswarar. It is over a thousand years old and is one of the largest South Indian temples built in the Tamil architectural style. This temple is part of the Great Living Chola Temples and is a UNESCO wold heritage site.
25. Kashi Vishwanath
This temple, which stands on the bank of the holy Ganges river, is one of the most popular sites dedicated to Varanasi. In ancient Hindu texts, this site is referred to as a central part of worship of the Shaiva philosophy. Besides being one of the holiest places of worship, it is also an architectural marvel.
26. Virupaksha Temple in Hampi
The temple is dedicated to Virupaksha, a form of Shiva and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In February, the annual chariot festival is celebrated here, and it is also a popular site for Virupaksha and Pampa, marriage and betrothal festivals.
27. Lingaraja Temple in Bhubaneswar
This is one of the oldest Hindu temples in Bhubaneswar and is the main temple for the celebration of Shivaratri. But even on non-festival days, this temple receives about 6,000 visitors. Impressive!
28. Ekambareswarar in Kanchipuram
Also known as Ekambaranathar, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and it is of particular significance to the Saivism sect. It is associated with the five elements of the Pancha Bhoota Stalas: land, water, air, sky, fire. The most famous celebration here is the festival of Panguni Uthiram.
29. Mahabodhi in Bodh Gaya
All of the temples on this list have been Hindu temples, but this one is dedicated to Buddhism. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because this was the site where Buddha is believed to have gained enlightenment. A descendant of the Bodhi tree, under which Buddha sat to attain enlightenment, is located here, and it draws hundreds of thousands of Buddhist pilgrims annually.
30. Kedarnath Temple
Located on the Himalayan range, this Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is part of the Chota Char Dham. It is not accessible by road, so visitors have to make an 18 km trek uphill, but the beauty of the temple is worth the climb. If you plan to visit, make sure to do so only from April to November. The temple is closed during the rest of the year due to extreme cold weather conditions.
31. Sanchi Stupa
This Buddhist monument is one of the oldest stone structures in India. It has been on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list since 1989 and was built in the 3rd century BC by great emperor Asoka. The structure is surrounded by four gateways that each represent love, peace, courage, and trust.
This is a majestic 15th century Jains temple dedicated to Lord Adinatha. It is believed to have been constructed as a symbol of Jains cosmology because a marble image of snakes faces all four cardinal directions, which represents conquest of all four directions of the world, and hence, the cosmos.
33. Yamunotri in Garhwal
This temple sits at an altitude of 3,291 meters and is dedicated to the Goddess Yamuna. It is one of the holy sites visited on the Char Dham pilgrimage circuit. Although it is only reachable by foot, once you arrive, you can relax in the many hot springs surrounding the site.
34. Amarnath Temple
Amarnath Temple is a Hindu shrine located in a large cave in Jammu and Kashmir. The cave is covered with snow most of the year, and the trek up into the cave from ground level takes five days and 40 miles, but pilgrims still brave the strenuous paths and cold weather to visit this holy site.
35. Khajuraho Group of Monuments
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this group of Hindu and Jains temples covers an area of 20 square kilometers and is famous for its erotic art depicting tantric sexual practices described in the Kama Sutra.
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© 2012 Kannan Reddy