The 10 Best Ancient Temples In India You Must See
India is a culturally rich and religiously diverse country. While people have the right to practice any religion in the country, 85% of the Indian population are Hindus. If you are traveling to India for the first time, the number of temples you can see will amaze you. Some of them are many centuries old and have interesting stories that make them popular. Tons of devotees visit the temples every year to seek blessings and attain moksha (liberation from the cycle of life).
Here are top 10 temples in India worth visiting for new travelers.
1. Vaishnodevi Temple
Vaishnodevi temple is one of the most popular pilgrim sites in the country. It sits on the Trikuta Mountains located in the scenic Jammu and Kashmir. It is considered as the abode of Goddess Vaishno Devi, also known as Trikuta, Vaishnavi, and Mata Rani. It is a tradition for devotees to walk to the temple from Katra, which is a 12-km long trek to seek blessings. There are many modes of transport and free accommodation in dharamshalas (religious sanctuary) available for new travelers. You may also choose to stay in one of the hotels in the area.
2. Kamakhya Devi Temple
This 8th-century temple is a sacred pilgrimage site dedicated to Goddess Kamakhya. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions situated on Nilachal Hill in Guwahati, Assam. Legions of travelers visit the temple every year to offer sacrifices and prayers. The temple is famous for Ambubachi Mela, a 3-day festival that is celebrated in mid-June. Tantric worshippers visit the temple during this time to seek the blessings of Goddess Kamakhya. We would advise new travelers to avoid visiting the temple during the event as finding an accommodation and traveling around can be difficult.
3. Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Located in Varanasi, the temple is devoted to Lord Shiva and is one of the top 10 temples in India. It is also the location of one of the 12 jyotirlingas (sign of Lord Shiva). Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb destroyed the original temple and built a mosque in its places. However, it was constructed again in 1780 by Rani Ahalyabai Holkar of Indore. The three gold covered domes are one of the most distinguishing aspects of the temple. Every year, legions of travelers visit the temple to seek moksha (liberation from the cycle of life) and perform yoga and meditation to discover their spirituality.
4. Akshardham Temple
This ancient temple located in New Delhi is dedicated to Lord Swaminarayan. The Akshardham complex that houses the temple is a beautiful example of the country’s ancient tradition, culture, and architecture. This spiritual abode of God is used as a place to teach yoga and meditation. As you walk through the temple premises, you can discover the ten-thousand-year-old art and architecture of the country. There are many exhibits, gardens, and a theatre in the temple complex.
5. Mahabodhi Temple
This is a world-famous Buddhist temple where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. It is situated in the city of Gaya, Bihar; and is also considered as a World Heritage site. This 7th-century temple built during the Gupta period is one of the oldest structures and it has undergone several repair and restoration work. Inside the temple, you can see a big statue of Lord Buddha in a cross-legged position. One of the biggest attractions is the Bodhi tree where Lord Buddha performed meditation.
6. Somnath Temple, Gujarat
Located in Gujrat, the Somnath templeis one of the 12 jyotirlingas (sign of Lord Shiva) sites that attract tons pilgrims annually. The temple is believed to have been built by Somnath, the God of Moon who used the gold given to him by Lord Shiva to make the temple. It is one of the important tourist attractions in Gujarat. The temple was demolished, plundered, and then rebuilt several times in the past. It was last restored by Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, the Deputy Prime Minister of India in 1947.
7. Tirupati Balaji Temple
Also regarded as the Temple of Seven Hills, this temple dedicated to Shri Venkateshwara Swamy is one of the most revered temples in India. It is also considered as the second richest temple that receives over 40 million visitors annually. Located on the Tirumala hills in southern India, the temple is dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara, who is the incarnation of Vishnu. It was built by Krishnadeva Raya and stands as a rich example of Dravidian architecture.
8. Jagannath Temple
This is a 12th-century temple built by King Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva when she shifted the capital from south to central Odisha. The ancient architecture and religious significance of the temple as the abode of Jagannath, Lord Krishna’s avatar makes it one of the four highly revered temples in India. It is known worldwide for rath yatra that takes place every year and attracts millions of devotees from across the world. During this event, the Lord Jagannath idol is placed in a scared chariot and pulled by devotees.
9. Meenakshi Temple
Located in Tamil Nadu, Meenakshi temple is the abode of Meenakshi Amman, who is an avatar of Goddess Parvati. This ancient temple is constructed as per the ancient building manual called Shilpa Shastra. As per Hindu relics, the temple was originally built in the sixth century. After the invasion by Malik Kafur, it was restored back in the sixteenth century by Vishwanatha Nayakan.
It is one of the top 10 temples in India that has the highest number of visitors during the annual event called Meenakshi Thirukalayanam. Devotees visit the temple during this time to witness the divine marriage of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareshwar that takes place on the day of the festival.
10. Siddhivinayak Temple
Located in Maharashtra and dedicated to Lord Ganesha, the temple is one of the popular ancient temples in the country. Originally constructed in 1801, the temple has undergone several renovations to make it what it looks like today. Although the temple is open for all throughout the year, it witnesses an influx of devotees on Tuesday.
Whether you are visiting India for the first time or you wish to visit again to relive the experience, make sure you include as many temples from above in your itinerary. These ancient temples will take you on a memorable journey back in time and help you discover your spiritual self. Please bear in mind that these temples are spread across different parts of the country, so you need to properly plan your travel.