India can be referred to as a land of temples, or a land of religious structures, as one can find a temple every 3 km or so. For most Indians, going to a temple to pay obeisance to the lord is a daily ritual. Also, many of these temples are centuries-old with amazing architecture, and thus are a prominent part of India’s cultural heritage. There are also many legends associated with these temples that add to their significance. There are thousands of temples in India that are a must-visit owing to their place in history and mythology and also because these are architectural marvels, that are symbols of India’s rich cultural past.
Of the lakh and more temples that are worth a visit, here are top 25 temples in India that are considered as the most famous and most revered temples in India. Devotees from all over the world throng these temples not just on special occasions but daily to offer prayers, with complete faith and reverence.
1. Vaishno Devi Temple, Jammu
It is situated in Katra town in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir and one of the most revered temples in India and one of the unique ones too. Located at a height of 5,300 feet, it needs a long trek of about 12 km, to reach the temple situated at the peak. The trek is long and arduous but for those who are unable to walk that long distance, can take a pony ride or a palanquin or even a helicopter to reach the shrine. The temple is actually located in a cave and there is no statue here but three rock heads, called as pindies. Millions of visitors visit the Vaishno Devi temple every year. The temple is open throughout the year.
2. Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand
Dedicated to lord Shiva, the Kedarnath temple which is located in the Himalayan ranges in the Garhwal district in Uttarakhand is one of the most sacred temples in India. This temple is believed to have been built by the Pandavas and is one of the oldest temples of the country. It takes a trek of 14 km to reach the temple on the hill. During winters, it gets very cold in the region and hence the temple is open only from April to November. During those months the temple is closed, the deity is taken to Ukhimath for worship. When the whole region was ravaged by floods, the Kedarnath temple remained unaffected and remains one of the main pilgrimage centres of India.
3. Golden Temple, Punjab
Though popularly known as Golden temple, it is actually known as the Harmandir Sahib or even called as Darbar Sahib which is a gurudwara, a place of worship of Sikhs, located in Amritsar in Punjab. It is called as the Golden temple because the dome and walls of the temple are covered with gold and literally and figuratively, it is a golden temple. It was built by the fifth guru of Sikhs, Guru Arjan and is one of the oldest temples in India. The Guru Granth Sahib, by Guru Nanak, is placed in the temple. Another unique feature of the Golden temple is that it welcomes people from all walks of life. There is no restriction to anyone. People from all faiths visit the temple and pay their respects.
4. Shri Padmanabha Swamy Temple, Kerala
Located in the capital city of the state, Thiruvananthapuram or earlier known as Trivandrum, Shri Padmanabha Swamy temple has a magnificent idol of lord Vishnu in the reclining position over Anantha or the five-hooded serpent. Also, the idol displays the three trinities, lord Brahma and lord Shiva, as the third deity is lord Vishnu himself. One can see that a lotus emerges from the navel of the idol, on which lord Brahma is seated. That is why, the lord is known as Padmanabha (padma means lotus and nabha means navel). On the idol’s right palm, emerges Shiva Lingam. The temple is one of the most important Vishnu temples in the country.
5. Badrinath Temple, Uttarakhand
Badrinath temple is one of the temples in Chaar Dhaam, the holy pilgrimage of Hindus. Located at a height of 10,170 feet, it is a long trek to reach the temple. Another interesting feature of Badrinath temple is its marvellous architecture, with stone façade, arches, and special rooftop.
6. Dwarkadish Temple, Gujarat
One of the temples of Char Dham, the Dwarkadish temple is one of the most revered pilgrimage centres in India. The temple is believed to be more than 2500 years old. Dedicated to lord Krishna, the temple consists of five stories and the amazing part of the structure is the presence of 72 pillars which provide the support. The Gomti creek flows beside the temple. The entry door is known as Swarg Dwar or the door to heaven and the exit door is called as Moksh Dwar or the door to liberation. There are 56 steps to reach the entry door. The idol of the deity is built in black marble and is decorated beautifully. The height of the idol is 2.25 feet. It is one of the most famous Krishna temples in India and definitely a must-visit not just for ardent devotees but anyone with interest in spirituality. The temple is open in the morning and evening but closed in the afternoon.
7. Amarnath Cave Temple, Jammu & Kashmir
One of most revered Hindu Pilgrimage sites in the world, Amarnath cave temple is marvellous and magical. The Shivalinga is formed here on its own from ice. There are also two smaller lingams, believed to be forms of lord Ganesh and Goddess Parvati. The cave stands at a height of 3,888 meters and is surrounded by snowy mountains. It is situated in a narrow gorge in the Lidder valley and is around 141 km from Srinagar, the state capital. The temple is open only from June to August. It takes an arduous trek braving harsh climate and long walk to reach the cave. It takes at least 5 days of trek. Believed to be more than 5000 years old, the Amarnath cave temple is visited by millions of devotees every year. The reference about the temple can be found in ancient texts such as Nilamata Purana and Rajatharangini.
8. Tirupati Balaji Temple, Andhra Pradesh
The actual name of the temple is Tirumala Venkateswara temple of Tirupati, in Andhra Pradesh. It is estimated that at least a lakh or more devotees visit the temple daily. It is located in Tirumala hills and is dedicated to lord Venkateshwara, an incarnation of lord Vishnu, also known as lord Balaji. The ‘Brahmotsavam’ festival is one of the most famous events of the temple held in September, which is attended by millions of devotees from all over the world. Offering own hair is a ritual here and hence many devotees, both male and female, get their head tonsured as an offering to the Lord. Laddoos, a sweet, the prasadam or the offering of the temple is also as famous.
9. Somnath Temple, Gujarat
The Somnath temple is an important temple in India as it is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas. Situated in Saurashtra in Gujarat, it is also one of the oldest temples in the country and references of Somnath temple can be found in ancient Hindu texts. It is also referred to as ‘Shrine Eternal’ as it was rebuilt many times after it was damaged during attacks at different points of time.
10. Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Uttar Pradesh
Kashi Vishwanath temple is definitely one of the holiest and oldest temples in India. Dedicated to lord Shiva, it is built on the banks of Ganga and is located in the city of Kashi in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. It is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in the country and hence has special significance for Hindus. It is believed that devotees who after bathing in the Ganges, visit the temple and offer prayers achieve Moksha or attain salvation. The temple has a huge Shivalinga, which is about 60 cm tall and 90 cm wide.
11. Gangotri Temple, Uttarakhand
Believed to have been built in the 18th century, the Gangotri temple is the spot from where Ganga originates. Located in the Uttarkashi district, the Gangotri temple is where it is believed that lord Shiva accepted Ganga in his hair. Built of white granite, the temple is one of the most pious pilgrimage centres of India. The temple is open only once a year, either during April or May during which the idol is brought to the Gangotri temple from the Mukkyamath temple where it is kept for the rest of the period.
12. Sabarimala Temple, Kerala
Located on the Western Ghat, the Sabarimala temple in Kerala is situated atop a mountain and surrounded by 18 hills and dense forests. It is also one of the largest annual pilgrimage centres in India and it is estimated that around 50 million or more devotees from all walks, religions, caste and creed visit the temple every year. The Sabarimala temple is dedicated to lord Ayyappa, the son of lord Shiva and Mohini, the female form of lord Vishnu. It is believed that it was on these hills that lord Ayyappa meditated after killing Mahishi, a demoness who was harassing the residents of the region. It was at the instance of lord Ayyappa, that his foster father, the king of the region built the temple at the spot. The temple is open only to men but women until the age of 10 and after 50 can visit. Devotees who visit the temple undertake a fast and abstain from alcohol and non-vegetarian food. The Sabarimala temple is open on January 14 on the occasion of Makar Sankranti and during the Mandala Pooja during the month of November-December. The temple is also open to devotees for a few days in the month of August.
13. The Konark Sun Temple, Odisha
The Konark Sun temple is unique in many ways, it is dedicated to lord Sun, one of the few such temples in the world. It is also renowned as a tourist centre owing to its magnificent architecture. It is built in the shape of a chariot with huge and delicately engraved wheels which offers a marvellous sight. Located in the Puri district in Odisha, it is also one of the most ancient temples in India and is believed to have been built around 1250 AD. Also, another unique feature of the way it is built is that the first rays of the sun fall on the entrance of the temple. Another attraction of the temple is the unique sculptures. The Konark Sun temple is also listed under the UNESCO’s world heritage list.
14. Shri Jagannatha Temple, Odisha
Shri Jagannatha temple is another famous temple not just in Odisha but in the entire country and the world. It is situated in the district of Puri in Odisha. It is one of the most revered religious sites of Hindus, as it is one of the temples of Char Dham, or the sacred pilgrimage to four temples in the country. The temple is dedicated to lord Jagannath or lord Krishna and also houses lord Balabhadra and Subhadra. The annual Rath Yatra during which the three deities are believed to ride the chariot, is the most important festival of the temple, which is attended by lakhs of devotees from all over the world. Only Hindus are allowed inside the temple.
15. Shirdi Sai Baba Temple, Maharashtra
Built in the memory of Saint Sai Baba, Shirdi Sai Baba temple also houses the Samadhi of the saint. Located in a small town Shirdi in Maharashtra, it is one of the few temples in India which welcomes people from all faiths. Sai Baba preached unity and peace and his teachings are still listened to and read by devotees. One of the famous quotes of Sai Baba is ‘Shraddha-saburi’ which means faith and compassion. Thousands of devotees visit the temple daily to pay respect to one of the simplest and revered saints of the country.
16. Yamunotri Temple, Uttarakhand
Along with Gangotri, Yamunotri is another temple which is also a must-visit. This temple, as the name suggests, is dedicated to Yamuna river and is also located close to the Gangotri temple. It is also one of the oldest temples in India as it was built in the 19th century. Over the time, the temple got damaged due to natural disasters but was rebuilt every time. The temple is located at an elevation of 3291 m and has an idol of goddess Yamuna built from black marble. Another attraction of the temple is the many hot water springs around it. Also, devotees have to undertake a long trek to reach the temple as there is no other way to reach it.
17. Khajuraho Temple, Madhya Pradesh
There are many temples here and that is why, it is referred to in plural, as in Khajuraho temples. There are both Jain and Hindu temples here. There are many distinguishing feats to the temple, one it is listed under UNESCO world heritage list and also is one of the seven wonders of the world. One of the other unique features is its splendid architecture, comprising elegant sculptures and carvings. Built of sandstone, it is designed in such a way that the temple is held by gravity, a marvellous feature and which shows how advanced was the architecture in the ancient times. It is also one of the most popular tourist sites in the country and also a pilgrimage centre. The many erotic sculptures engraved are also special attraction.
18. Sanchi Stupa, Madhya Pradesh
It is a Buddhist temple and one of the world heritage sites of UNESCO. Sanchi Stupa is also one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the country and was built in the 3rd century by Emperor Ashoka. It is located in the village of Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh in the district of Raisen and also called the Great Stupa. A unique feature of the temple is the four gateways which are splendid forms of architecture and are intricately designed. Each gateway is said to be representing love, trust, courage and peace. It houses the relics of Buddha and is about 16 m tall and about 37 m in width.
19. Siddhivinayak Temple, Maharashtra
Siddhivinayak temple is one of the most famous temples in Maharashtra dedicated to lord Ganesha and one of the most revered in India. It is situated in the Prabhadevi area of Mumbai, the capital of the state and is visited by devotees from all over the country. The temple is situated on the main road and is easily accessible. On tuesdays, which is considered to be an auspicious day for lord Ganesha, there is a serpentine queue of devotes for darshan or a glimpse of the deity. The wooden door of the sanctum has inscriptions of Ashtavinayak or the eight manifestations of lord Ganesha.
20. Ramanathaswamy Temple, Tamil Nadu
Ramanathaswamy temple is one of the temples included in the holy Char Dham and is located in Rameshwaram, a small island in Tamil Nadu. It is sacred because it is believed that it was here lord Rama and Sita first reached after defeating Ravana, who had abducted Sita. There are two Shiva Lingams here, one is the Ramaligam and the other is the Vishwalingam. The Ramalingam was made by Sita and the other lingam was brought here by lord Hanuman. It has amazing architecture and the longest corridor. It is also one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of the country, hence the temple has special significance and is visited by lakhs of devotees daily.
21. Karni Mata Temple, Rajasthan
Located in Deshnoke in Rajasthan, the Karni Mata temple is one of the most revered temples in the state and visited by lakhs of devotees all the year around. Dedicated to a sage by the name Karni Mata, who is believed to be an incarnation of goddess Durga, the temple holds another significance that is not to be seen in any other temples. You will find thousands of rats all around and inside the temple. These rats are protected and are revered as there is a legend associated with it. It is believed that Karni Mata ordered lord Yama or the god of death to bring back to life her dead sons and the lord agreed to revive them in the form of rats. That is why, rats are also worshipped here at the temple and are never killed.
22. Banke Bihari Temple, Uttar Pradesh
This famous Krishna temple is located in Vrindavan, a town in Mathura District in Uttar Pradesh. It is one of the most sacred places in India as it was here that Lord Krishna spent most of his childhood. There are many famous temples in Vrindavan and the Banke Bihari temple is one of the more popular temples in the town. The temple was founded by Swami Haridas, one of the famous saints of the time and believed to be the guru of Tansen, the renowned singer at Akbar’s court. It is said that Swami Haridas sang a beautiful devotional song and during his singing, lord Krishna and his consort appeared before him. Swamy Haridas requested them to stay and the couple merged into a beautiful black idol. It is the same idol that is worshipped even today. Festivals of Janmashtami and Holi are celebrated with much zeal and people from all over India visit the temple during the time. The special feature about the temple deity is that it is worshiped as a child.
23. Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple, Uttar Pradesh
Mathura being the birth place of Lord Krishna has many famous temples but of all, the Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi temple is the most famous as it is believed that the temple was built exactly where lord Krishna was born. The sanctum sanctorum is the prison cell where the lord was born. During archaeological excavations, many items related to lord Krishna were found which prove the claims and beliefs. It is believed that temple was built at the site in 1814. During Janmashtami, lakhs of devotees offer prayers at the temple. Even on other days all through the year, the temple is visited by devotees from all over the world.
Just in Mathura and Vrindavan, there are many temples that are worth a visit. Also, in India, there are many temples that were built at least centuries ago. Apart from the traditional rituals and temple festivals, the architecture of the temples in India also offers an insight into the craftsmanship of yesteryears. That is why, these temples of India are a must-visit for anyone who is interested in the history of mankind.
24. Guruvayoor Temple, Kerala
Dedicated to Lord Krishna, The Guruvayoor Shri Krishna temple in the Guruvayoor town of Kerala, is one of the prominent pilgrimage centres o the country. The lord is known as Guruvayoorappan among local devotees. It is also considered a pious temple to get married. Many marriages are held in the temple. Only Hindus are allowed inside and devotees have to follow a dress code. Men are not allowed to wear shirt inside the temple, a practice followed in all Kerala temples.
25. Meenakshi Temple, Tamil Nadu
Located in the town of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, the Meenakshi temple is an architectural marvel and one of the most famous temples of south India. It is dedicated to goddess Meenakshi or goddess Parvati and her husband, lord Shiva. The unique features of the temple are its 14 gopurams, thousand pillars, a golden vimana over the sanctum and around 33,000 sculptures. The temple is also one of the largest in terms of size as it is spread around 45 acres.