India is a country where temples have always been viewed from a perspective which goes beyond the realms of worship. A temple in India represents a beautiful amalgam of sages and their devotees by bringing them under a single roof. Apart from spiritual development, temples in India also play a major role in economic and social development of the country.
India is a land of varied religions, customs, faiths and dialects. Yet, one can proudly say that our sacred places have always tied us together as a united nation.
Without exploring the rich heritage of temples in India, any visit to this country would be called ‘incomplete’. In a country that worships 2 million gods, establishing the magnificence of one temple over the other can never be a glib task. In spite of such situation, history has showered on us, enough facts that have made few temples the majestic symbols of faith for thousands of years. Let us talk about the magnificent temples of India that have been the centers of devotion from centuries.
- 1. The Golden Temple
Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Sikh Guru, laid the foundation of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab. Its construction was carried out on the periphery of a lake, which is today known as ‘Amrit Sarovar’. Also known as ‘Shri Harmandir Sahib’ or ‘Darbar Sahib’, the Golden Temple is one of the ‘costliest’ temples in India because of the expenditure incurred in its construction.
Guru Granth Sahib, the holiest text of the Sikhs, was first placed in the Golden Temple. Since the day of its inception, Darbar Sahib has been the epitome of religious harmony and even today, the four doors of the temple welcome people with an open heart, irrespective of their religion, faith or ethnicity. It is believed that the ‘Sarovar’ in the temple compound has medicinal powers. The pilgrims who visit the temple never forget to take a dip in the holy water.
- 2. Venkateshwara Tirupati Balaji Temple
State: Andhra Pradesh
Popularly known as ‘Tirupati Balaji’, this temple is often termed as one of the richest temples on the Indian soil. As the name suggests, Venkateshwara Tirupati Balaji temple is dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara, an avatar of Lord Vishnu.
Among numerous festivals that are celebrated in the temple, ‘Brahmotsavam’, a 9 day festival, is the most celebrated one. Tirupati is also widely known for a unique ritual in which devotees get their heads tonsured in large numbers. Interestingly, the temple earns about 6.5 million USD through hair auction on an annual basis.
- 3. Siddhivinayak Temple
Built in 1801, Siddhivinayak Temple in Maharashtra is dedicated to Lord Ganesha, who is widely known as the destructor of pathologies. In Hindu culture, Lord Ganesha, the supreme deity of Siddhivinayak Temple, is believed to be the first one to be worshipped before the initiation of any work.
The inner walls of the temple are plated with gold and wooden entries are carved with the different avatars of Lord Ganesha. Siddhivinayak Temple is most visited by celebrities including Bollywood stars, cricketers and politicians.
- 4. Kashi Vishwanath Temple
State: Uttar Pradesh
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, or ‘Vishwatma’, Kashi Vishwanath Temple is believed to be the prime centre of worship for the Hindus. Of the twelve ‘Jyotirlings’ of Lord Shiva that exist in India, one has been enshrined in this holy temple.
Located on the banks of river Ganga, Kashi Vishwanath Temple has been believed to be powerful enough to liberate human beings from the sins of their life. In Hindu culture, it is believed that a visit to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple can help one attain the ultimate liberation of the soul.
- 5. Khajuraho Temple
State: Madhya Pradesh
Built in the 10th century, the temple of Khajuraho is famous for its erotic carvings and paintings. Despite of being a temple, the architecture is known more for its consummate artistry and less for religious purposes.
The temple of Khajuraho represents a unique amalgam of Hinduism and Jainism. Out of three groups that the temple is divided into, Southern and Western portions are dedicated to Hindu deities: Shiva and Vishnu. The eastern part, on the other hand, is dedicated to Jainism and attracts more followers from this sect.
- 6. Akshardham Temple
Location: New Delhi
This modern day Hindu temple, which is situated on the banks of river Yamuna, was constructed on the principles of Vastu Shastra. Dedicated to the principle figure of Swaminarayana faith, Lord Swaminarayan, this temple has recently become one of the most visited places in India. It is said to attract 70% of all tourists who visit Delhi.
The temple showcases movies, books and statues related to the Swaminarayana sect during the day time. Unlike other Hindu temples, Akshardham Temple attains a magnificent form during the night with its famous light and sound show that attracts visitors in large numbers.
- 7. Lord Jagannath Temple
Built in the 12th century, Lord Jagannath Temple a.k.a Lord Krishna Temple is housed with 20 shrines of Hindu deities. Restricted entry for non-Hindus is one of the most eccentric features of the temple. Lord Jagannath Temple is famous for being one of the four holiest places (Char Dhams) of the Hindu devotees. The annual ‘Rath Yatra’ of the Jagannath Temple is the biggest event of the temple and is attended by millions of Hindu devotees every year.
Even after hundreds of years of their inception, our magnificent temples still stand strongly as the centers of belief in the country. One simply cannot think of traveling across India without visiting these majestic symbols of faith. As Mark Twain has rightly said on India – ‘In religion, all other countries are paupers and India is a millionaire’.