Two Million Temples in India
Two Million Temples – one in every Street
The evidence of Indian civilization can be traced back to thousands of years. No other place can vouch for the sort of diversity, which fills every nook and cranny of this incredible country. The various religions, cultures, languages, dialects, traditions, festivals, customs and temples provide many facets of the majestic country called India. 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 devotion can be witnessed at yearly festivals where people come together to worship God. Mumbai's Ganesh Chaturthi and Kolkata's Durga Puja are the most famous ones. 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. The geographic land of India has several marks of faith spread all across its length and breadth. Certain structures have several centuries of devotion backing them, granting more authenticity and reverence.
“India has two million gods, and worships them all. In religion all other countries are paupers; India is the only millionaire.” – Mark Twain
Indian religions, especially Hindu faith, offer numerous Gods and Goddesses to seek blessings from. Here are a few of the spectacular temples – it’s a tiny selection and you’ll find many many more, no matter which part of India you’ll visit.
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.
Golden Temple in Amritsar
The Golden temple, otherwise known as the Harmandir Sahib, is considered the holiest shrine in Sikhism. 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 marvellous architecture that will take your breath away.
The 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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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. This is one of the most sacred places of Jainism. It is a 57-feet-tall statue. Mahamasthakabhisheka is a festival which takes place every twelve years – the last one was in February this year. At this festival, the statue is embrocated with milk, oil, ghee, and sandalwood, etc. On August 5, 2007, the statue was voted as the first of Seven Wonders of India.
Hoysaleswara Temple in Halebidu
This temple is a marvellous 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.
Sabarimala in Kottayam
The Sabarimala temple is surrounded by 18 hills. It boasts the largest annual gathering of pilgrims (50 million people). It is only open 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 touching a woman. They are only allowed to eat food once during the 41 days and bathe twice.
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. 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 wisdom. 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.
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.
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. The architectural designs features intricate artwork, iconography, and themes, including erotic kama and mithuna scenes.
Lotus Temple in New Delhi
Delhi has so many historic places as well as a large number of modern architecture, including the Lotus Temple, which is the most popular. The name comes from the shape of the building, which is identical to a lotus flower.
Akshardham Temple in New Delhi
The Akshardham temple was awarded the title of the world's largest comprehensive temple by Guinness World Records.
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.
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram
After a treasure was uncovered at this temple, it became the world's richest temple after Tirupati Balaji. The treasure is estimated to be worth more than one lakh crore, and there is still one chamber yet to be opened. Many temples of South India may still have such "treasures" hidden inside. But even before the treasure was discovered, this temple was a destination for millions of devotees.
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.
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.
Siddhivinayak Temple in Mumbai
The Siddhivinayak temple is the most famous and richest temple in Mumbai. 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.
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.
Mahabodhi in Bodh Gaya
This temple 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.
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. The temple is open from April to November but closed during the rest of the year due to extreme cold weather conditions.
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.
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.
Travel to India with Namaster Retreats India and discover and enjoy the magnificent temples of this amazing country – wherever you go, you are bound to find some amazing ones.