India is a country where people of various religions reside. There are many temples, churches, mosques, gurdwaras (for Sikhs) and other holy places for followers of different religions. Even in narrow bylanes, small shrines can be found. Pilgrimages are taken by the devout worshippers of all classes. While those who are well-off can afford to travel comfortably, many pilgrims even walk for days and months to their place of pilgrimage. Its fair to say that India has hundreds if not thousands of holy sites that may be considered worthy for pilgrimage to different groups and sects.
Our list of pilgrimage sites for Hindus are popular choices among locals and visitors.
Haridwar and Rishikesh
Located about 25 km from each other in the state of Uttarakhand, both Haridwar and Rishikesh are important pilgrimage spots. The river Ganges flows through both these places and devotees take a dip in the holy waters to wash away their sins. Haridwar contains many temples such as the temples dedicated to Chandi Devi and Mansa Devi. Besides, a sacred ghat is located here, where it is believed a few drops of Amrit (the liquid granting immortality) fell. Rishikesh too contains temples and ashrams.
Also located in the state of Uttarakhand on the banks of the Alaknanda river is the Badrinath Temple. It takes about two days to reach this temple from Kedarnath. It is believed that Shankara found a black stone image of Badrinarayan which he placed inside a cave. Later, this stone was placed in the current temple which resembles a Buddhist temple in its architectural style.
Rameshwaram is also a holy place for the Hindus as it is believed that Lord Ram built a bridge to Lanka from here. Located in the state of Tamil Nadu, there is a Ramanathaswamy Temple located here where Lord Shiva is worshipped.
The Jagannath Temple is located at Puri in the state of Orissa. The idol of Lord Jagannath, a reincarnation of Lord Krishna, is worshipped here along with idols of his brother Balaram and sister Subhadra. This temple is very crowded during the annual Rath Yatra, a time when these idols are placed in huge chariots that are dragged by hundreds of devotees to what is believed to be their ancestral home.
Varanasi, also known as Kashi or Benaras, is a city full of temples. As it is located along the banks of the river Ganges, it gives pilgrims a chance to offer prayers at the temples as well as bathe in the holy waters. Some famous temples located in Varanasi include the temple dedicated to Kashi Vishwanath, the Durga Temple and so on.
Located in Jammu, the Amarnath Temple is a cave temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. This area is bitterly cold, covered with snow for most of the year. Hundreds of thousands of devotees cover very tough terrain annually to visit this holy site and see an ice stalagmite representing the lingam of Lord Shiva.
Shirdi, located in Maharashtra, is the home of the revered leader Shirdi Sai Baba. A beautiful temple has been built here around the samadhi of this leader. Scores of devotees from across the globe offer their prayers here and seek blessings. Although this site is not solely a Hindu temple, as all religions are incorporated are welcomed and accepted, it is considered among the popular holy sites in India.
The Vaishno Devi Temple, located in the hills of Vaishno Devi in Jammu, is dedicated to goddess Shakti. Devotees have to enter a cave to reach the idol of the goddess. The journey to this temple is quite arduous. The distance upto Katra can be covered by road but the last 13 km needs to be covered on foot or on a pony. This is one of the most popular pilgrim spots.
Tirumala Venkateshwara Temple
This temple, located in Andhra Pradesh, is dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. The Tirumala temple is one of the richest temples where devotees have offered prayers and generous donations for centuries. The temple is richly decorated, with several deities installed here, apart from the idol of Lord Venkateshwara.
Even for those who are not very religiously inclined, a trip to any of these holy spots will leave them feeling calm. One may also visit these spots to admire the different architectural styles of the structures and observe the rituals performed in different temples.
Last updated 22 August 2012