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India has lakhs of Hindu temples. You will find temples with different styles and architecture all across the country. There are so many of them where intricate carvings and the massive structure will fill you with awe. From the long list of the most beautiful and interesting temples in India, the author has made a selection of some of the most famous temples in the country. Team RetyrSmart
In the land of temples, see which of these famous temples beckon you?
- VAISHNO DEVI TEMPLE, JAMMU AND KASHMIR
Located on top of the Trikuta Mountains of Katra in the beautiful valley of Jammu and Kashmir, Vaishno Devi temple is a cave temple and one of the holiest pilgrim sites in India. The temple is also one of the most visited shrines in the country with nearly 10 million people visiting every year. Vaishno Devi is a form of Goddess Mahalakshmi and is also called Vaishnavi, Trikuta and Mata Rani. Devotees usually walk from Katra to the temple. The trek is about 12 km long. Instead of idols, the holy cave has three naturally formed rock heads, which are known as pindies. The pindies are said to be Vaishno Devis three forms — Maha Saraswati, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Kali.
It is said that Vaishno Devi decides who her visitors will be and calls them to her abode, which is open throughout the year. It is a common belief that only those devotees will be able to reach Vaishno Devi shrine who have been called by the goddess.
- KASHI VISHWANATH TEMPLE, UTTAR PRADESH
Located in the ancient city of Varanasi, Kashi Vishwanath temple is dedicated to Shiva. The temple is one of the holiest temples in India and the idol is one of the 12 jyotirlingas in the country. The other jyotirlinga are Grishneshwar at Aurangabad in Maharashtra, Rameshwar at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, Nageswar at Dwarka in Gujarat, Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga at Deoghar in Jharkhand, Triambakeshwar in Maharashtra, Bhimashankar in Maharashtra, Kedarnath in Uttarakhand, Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh, Mahakaleswar at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, Mallikarjuna at Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh and Somnath in Gujarat.
The original Kashi Vishwanath temple was destroyed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and a mosque was built on the site. In 1780, Rani Ahalyabai Holkar of Indore commissioned to construct the temple, which you can see today. The mosque built during the reign of Aurangzeb is also present next to the temple. Varanasi is also called Kashi and hence the name of the temple. The temple is situated on the western bank of the holy Ganga River. It is believed that by visiting Kashi Vishwanath temple and taking a dip in the holy water of the sacred Ganga River, human beings can liberate themselves from the burden of sins and attain moksha (salvation). Some others believe that the blessings received on visiting Kashi Vishwanath and seeing the jyotirlinga are equivalent to the merit or blessings earned from the darshan of the 11 other jyotirlingas scattered in different parts of the country. People follow a tradition of giving up at least one desire after visiting this temple. The pilgrimage to Kashi Vishwanath temple includes collecting water from the Ganges and taking it to Rameshwaram temple in Tamil Nadu to perform prayers there. While returning from Rameshwaram, devotees bring back sand from there.
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- KAMAKHYA DEVI TEMPLE, ASSAM
Dedicated to goddess Kamakhaya, the Kamakhya temple is the most popular attraction of Assam and one of the most prominent temples in India. The temple is located on the Nilachal Hill in the city of Guwahati in Assam. It is an important pilgrimage site, especially for tantric worshippers. The temple is among the 51 shakti pithas, which are divine places to goddess Shakti. According to legends, Satis father, Daksha, invited all gods except Shiva for a yagna. Nevertheless, Sati went to attend the yagna. There she was not given any respect and Daksha insulted Shiva. Unable to bear the insult towards Shiva, Sati immolated herself. On hearing about the incident, Shiva was enraged. He picked up Satis remains and performed the dance of destruction, tandav. Various body parts of Sati fell at many places across India and these places are now called Shakti pithas. Kamakhya temple is situated where her yoni fell. As per the Kalika Purana, the temple is located at the site where Sati used to spend time with Shiva.
The Kamakhya temple complex has several temples dedicated to ten mahavidyas, namely Kamala, Matangi, Bagalamukhi, Dhumavati, Chhinnamasta, Bhairavi, Bhuvaneshwari, Sodashi, Tara and Kali. The main temple inside the complex is Kamakhya temple, which dates back to the 8th century. Till the 17th century, the temple has been rebuilt many times. The temple does not have an idol of Kamakhya Devi, instead, a yoni-like stone with a natural spring flowing over it is worshipped. The sacrificial form of worship is still followed in this temple. Devotees offer goats to the goddess.
The main festival in this temple is the Ambubachi mela. This annual festival is celebrated around mid-June. It celebrates goddess Kamakhyas yearly menstruation period. According to legends, the goddess undergoes the yearly menstruation cycle during the monsoon. The mela is also called the Tantric fertility festival or Ameti. The festival attracts tantric worshippers from across the country. During the festival, the temple remains closed for a total of three days, after which the goddess is bathed. The temple doors are then reopened and a red-coloured cloth is distributed as Prasad. Devotees are allowed to worship the goddess on the fourth day.
- MAHABODHI TEMPLE, BIHAR
Located in the district of Gaya in Bihar, Mahabodhi temple is a Buddhist temple and a UNESCO World Heritage site. For people following Buddhism, this temple is the most revered site as it is said to be the places where Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment. People from across the world visit the Mahabodhi temple.
The temple is one of the oldest brick structures from the Gupta period. It was built in the 7th century but has undergone many restoration and repair works. The last restoration work was carried out by the Burmese King and Archeological Survey of India. The central tower of Mahabodhi temple is 55 meters tall and is surrounded by four smaller towers. The temple complex has delicately carved stone railings. There are two types of railings. The older railings date back to around 150BCE and are made using sandstone while the others are made of coarse granite and is said to be of the Gupta period. The temple has a huge statue of Buddha sitting in a cross-legged position. The statue is made of black stone and covered in gold. The shrine is similar to the Stupa originally built by King Ashoka.
The most important feature of the temple is the Bodhi tree under which Gautam Buddha meditated and attained enlightenment. The trees that you see today inside the temple complex are believed to be descendants of the original Bodhi tree.
- AKSHARDHAM, NEW DELHI
Located in the New Delhi, Swaminarayan Akshardham complex or Akshardham is a Hindu temple dedicated to Swaminarayan. The temple is an example of Indias ancient architecture, tradition, culture and spirituality. Akshardham means the abode of God. It is a spiritual-cultural campus dedicated to learning, harmony and devotion. A visit to Akshardham is a journey through 10,000 years of glorious art of the country.
Akshardham was presented with a Guinness World Record certificate for being the largest comprehensive Hindu temple in the world. The temple was built by 11,000 artisans and thousands of Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) volunteers and was inaugurated on November 6, 2005 by late APJ Abdul Kalam. Rajasthani pink sandstone and white Italian Carrara marble were used to build the temple, which features 234 beautifully carved pillars, nine ornate domes, a spectacular Gajendra Pith (plinth of stone elephants) and 20,000 statues.
- SOMNATH TEMPLE, GUJARAT
Located in Junagadh district in Gujarat, Somnath temple is one of the 12 jyotirlingas in India. Somnath means Lord of Moon. The temple is dedicated to Somnath, who was known as Shrilingeshwar in Dwapar yug, Shravanikeshwar in Treta Yug and as Bhairaveshwar in Sat Yug. It is an important religious and tourist site.
There are several stories about the temples origin. According to a legend, the Somnath temple was first built by the Moon God Som using gold after Shiva freed him of a curse given by his father-in-law, Daksha Prajapati. Somnath finds mention in the Hindu epic, Mahabharata and in the Puranas. According to a legend, Krishna was shot in the foot in the region. It is said that the descendants of Krishna, the yadav community in the region, fought amongst themselves and caused the downfall of the community. It is believed that the temple is also the place where the sacred Saraswati river meets the sea.
Throughout history, the Somnath temple has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. It was plundered by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1025 AD. The temple was last restored by the then Deputy PM of India Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in 1947 after the integration of Junagadh. As a mark of honour for his contribution towards the restoration of the temple, a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel has been placed in front of the temple.
- JAGANNATH TEMPLE, ODISHA
Located in Puri, Jagannath temple was built in the 12th century by Raja Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva to mark the shifting of his capital to central Odisha from the south. The temple is dedicated to Krishna in the form of Jagannath. It is one of the Char Dhams or the four holiest places of India and is situated on the Nilgiri Hill. The temple is known for its annual Ratha Yatra, which attracts millions of Hindu devotees every year. It is said that the mahaprasad of the temple is prepared under the scrutiny of goddess Lakshmi and is considered divine.
The 65-meter high temple is surrounded by a 20-ft high wall. The complex, which is one of Indias magnificent structures, includes 120 temples. The main deity of the temple is Jagannath who sits in between the idols of Goddess Subhadra (sister) and Balabhadra (brother). Most of the idols inside the temple are made of withered stone or metal, but the idol of Jagannath is made using wood. The wooden figure is replaced every twelve or nineteen years by an exact replica made using a sacred tree. The temple also has an 11-meter-tall, 16 sided monolith pillar known as Aruna Stambha, which was brought to Puri from the Sun Temple in the 18th century. The complex also has a pillared hall of dance, hall of offerings, shrine and a traditional porch.
- TIRUPATI BALAJI TEMPLE, ANDHRA PRADESH
Venkateshwara Swamy Temple or Tirupati Balaji temple is one of the most visited temples in India with about 40 million visitors every year. The temple, which is also known as the Temple of Seven Hills, is located on the seventh peak of the Tirumala hills in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh and is dedicated to Venkateshwara, an incarnation of Vishnu. The temple was built under the reign of Krishnadeva Raya and has Dravidian architectural style. Tirupati Balaji temple is the second richest temple in India due to the amount of donation it receives from the devotees (Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple is the richest).
According to legends, Balaji sought a loan of one crore and 11.4 million gold coins from Kubera for his marriage with Padmavathi. Devotees from across the country visit the temple and the money donated is believed to be a payback for this loan. Around Rs 22.5 million is received by the temple in a day as donation! Apart from money, devotees offer gold. 3,000 kg of gold was deposited by the temple with SBI bank in April 2010.
Another interesting ritual followed by the devotees is hair tonsuring. Many devotees shave their heads, which is also known as Mokku when they visit Tirupati Balaji temple as an offering to the god. As per a legend, a small part of Balajis head became bald after being hit on the head by a shepherd. Neela Devi, a Gandharva princess, saw this and thought that there should not be any flaw on such an attractive face. So, she cut a portion of her hair and fixed it on Balajis head with her magical power. Touched by her sacrifice, Balaji promised she will receive all the hair donated by his devotees at his temple. Every day, more than a ton of hair is collected at the temple and it is sold to international buyers. The hair is used as hair extensions and for cosmetics.
The prasadam of the temple is another interesting part of the visit. The prasadam of this temple is a laddu, which has a Geographical indication tag. Only the temple organisation is allowed to make or sell Tirupati laddus.
- SIDDIVINAYAK TEMPLE, MAHARASHTRA
Dedicated to Ganesha, Siddhivinayak temple is the most prominent temple in Maharashtra. The temple is located in Prabha Devi, Mumbai. Siddhivinayak sees the maximum number of devotees on Tuesday. The temple is open on all days throughout the year. Siddhivinayak temple is one of the Ashtavinayak temples in Maharashtra. The other seven temples are located in different parts of the state. Siddhivinayak is also known as Navasala Pavanara Ganapati or Navasacha Ganapati.
The temple was constructed in 1801 by Deubai and Vithu Patil. Earlier, the temple was not big and it had a small black stone idol of Ganesha. Now, the wooden doors of the temple have images of Ashtavinayaka and the inner roof of the shrine is gold plated. The sanctum sanctorum has a small mandapam where the idol of Siddhivinayak is placed. The most important feature of the idol is that the trunk of the god is on the right side. Almost all other idols of Ganesha have their trunks to the left. The idol of this temple has four hands holding prayer beads, a small axe, a lotus and a bowl of modaks. Riddhi and Siddhi, Ganeshs consorts are placed on either sides of the idol. There is a statue of Mushak, Ganeshas vahan or ride, inside the temple. It is believed that your wish will come true if you whisper it into the mushaks ears. The temple is popular among Bollywood actors, who usually visit the temple before the release of their movie. Most recently, Apple CEO Tim Cook visited the temple during his visit to India.
- MEENAKSHI TEMPLE, TAMIL NADU
Located on the banks of Vaigai River in Madurai, Meenakshi Amman Temple or Meenakshi temple is dedicated to goddess Parvati in the form of Meenakshi and Shiva as Sundareshwar. This Hindu temple has the largest temple complex in Tamil Nadu.
The temple is built as per the Shilpa Shastra, the ancient Indian building manual. According to a legend, originally the temple was constructed in the 6th century by the survivors of Kumari Kandam, a mythical lost continent. As per Hindu scriptures, the shrine was built by god Indra to atone his misdeeds. The temple was looted in the 14th century by Malik Kafur, the Mughal Muslim Commander. After the temple was destroyed by the commander, only the shrines of Sundaresvara and Meenakshi were intact. The temple was rebuilt in the 16th century by Vishwanatha Nayakan, who was a Nayak ruler.
The temple complex has 33,000 sculptures and 14 gopurams or gateway towers. There are two golden sculptured vimanas. The structure has many halls. One of the most famous halls is the Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam or the hall of thousand pillars. It has two rows of pillars and 985 of them have mythological creatures carved on to them. The temple has Dravidian architectural style and is brightly colored. The complex also has the Golden Lotus tank, which is considered auspicious. According to a legend, Shiva created the tank and it is older than the temple. One of the main features of the temple is the massive sculpture of Nataraja, the dancing form of Shiva. The statue is enclosed in a big silver altar. Another feature is that the main idol of Meenakshi has a parrot in her right hand.