India is the land of religion, and not just Hinduism, but of Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and several others too. And it’s been like this for centuries. So it’s no wonder that there are countless temples and other religious places spread across the length and breadth of the country. In fact, every city, neighborhood, village, and almost every street in India has one. You’ll rarely come across one that doesn’t. And some of them are very big and famous ones as well. Although India is a secular country, the majority population here consists of Hindus and therefore you can find numerous Hindu temples in India, sometimes even at a distance of half to one kilometer!
So as you can understand, it’s a challenge creating a list of the top 10 famous temples of India. But that’s what we are trying to do here. So let’s find out what should make it into this coveted list.
Top 10 Hindu Temples of India that are Famous Worldwide
Here is the list of top 10 famous temples of India- the Hindu temples of India.
#1 – Kedarnath Temple
The temple at Kedarnath in the Garhwal Himalayas is among the most sacred temples in India. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is said that the Pandavas themselves built this temple because they wanted to free themselves from the sins of the battle with the Kauravas. They felt sad as they had to kill their own relatives in the battle. However the present structure is not the one that the Pandavas constructed. That one is close to the current temple. Today’s Kedarnath temple was made in the 8th century by Adi Sankaracharya.
It sits high in the Himalayas in Kedarnath, close to the Mandakini River. The Kedarnath temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, which is considered one of the holiest Hindu shrines of Lord Shiva. You cannot reach this temple by a car or bus as there is no motorable road. You have to trek for 14 kilometers from Gaurikund. However pony services are available for those who cannot walk the distance. The temple complex and the surrounding town were badly affected by the flash floods of 2013.
#2 – Badrinath Temple
The Badrinath temple, like Kedarnath, also sits high in the Garhwal Himalayas. It is in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, in the town of Badrinath, and thus the name. This temple is the home of Lord Badrinath. This is the holy shrine of Lord Vishnu. Together with Kedarnath, Gangotri and Jamunotri, Badrinath makes up the famous Char Dham of India. There is mention of this temple in the ancient Hindu religious texts such as Skanda Purana and Vishnu Purana. Interestingly, some people have claimed that this temple was actually a Buddhist shrine till the 8th century. It was the Adi Shankara who converted the structure into a Hindu temple.
Most pilgrims visiting this famous temple would first take a bath in one of the many hot sulphur springs that are located just below the main temple before visiting it. This is considered a necessity. These springs are referred to as Tapt Kund. The springs have medicinal properties, but the more important reason for the bath is to purify the soul.
Two festivals are held here – Mata Murti-Ka-Mela in September and Badri-Kedar Festival in June.
#3 – Gangotri Temple
The River Ganges or Ganga is much more than a river in India. It gives the country life and floods its plains to allow cultivation and civilization to prosper. No wonder, the river is considered holy in India. The river originates in Gaumukh in the Gangotri Glacier in the Himalayas or Uttarakhand. Gangotri Temple is located 19 kilometers downstream. Of course the river is called Bhagirathi here. It gets the name Ganga only once it reaches Devprayag where it meets the Alaknanda.
Gangotri is very important for Hindus because it is believed that this is where Lord Shiva entangled Ganga in his hair. The temple was constructed sometime during the 18th century by a Gurkha general by the name of Amar Singh Thapa. It is made of white granite and stands tall amid the towering cliffs. The temple is opened on Akshaya Tritiya and closes down for the winter. Every year, thousands of pilgrims come here to offer their prayers and do the 19 kilometers trek to visit Gaumukh.
#4 – Tirupati Balaji Temple
Tirupati Balaji or the Tirumala Venkateswara is probably the most important temple in south India. This is a famous Vedic temple in Andhra Pradesh in the small town of Tirumala. It is dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara, popularly known as Balaji. Hindus believe that Lord Venkateshwara is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Tirupati Balaji is the most visited temple in the world, and also among the richest. Donations pour in from all across the world in cash and gold. The inner temple is called “Vimanam”. This is where the main deity is located.
It is believed that anything between 50,000 and 100,000 people would visit this temple every day. This number can go up to 500,000 on special days. There are always long queues at the temple. However you could jump the queue if you opt for one of the special plans here.
There are quite a few festivals at the temple, including the famous Brahmotsavam, which is also called “Salakatla Brahmotsavam”. This is held over nine days. Laddoos are given away as prasadam.
#5 – Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Varanasi is the holiest city in India, and naturally, the city would be the host to one of the most important temples in the country. There are hundreds, probably thousands of temples in this ancient city in the state of Uttar Pradesh, but its most famous one is Kashi Vishwanath. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is also known as Vishweshwara or Vishwanath, which means emperor of the universe.
There are several small shrines within the temple complex, which is inside a small lane that is known as the Vishwanatha Galli. The main linga is 60 centimeters tall and 90 centimeters in circumference. It is placed inside a silver altar. There are smaller temples all around it. However the main Kashi Vishwanath temple was destroyed by Aurganzeb during his rule. He constructed the Gyanvapi Mosque on its site. The present day temple was constructed by the Maratha ruler Ahilya Bai Holkar in 1780.
Many famous people have visited the Kashi Vishwanath, including Adi Shankaracharya, Gurunanak, Swami Vivekanand, Tulsidas, and many more.
#6 – Lord Jagannath Temple
The Lord Jagannath temple is located in Puri in the state of Orissa. It is believed that this temple was constructed during the 12th century, and thus, it is almost 1000 years old. This sacred Hindu temple is dedicated to Jagannath or Jagat-Nath, which means “Lord of the Universe. This temple is particularly important for those who worship Lord Vishnu and Krishna. It’s different than most other temples in the country in one way. In most places, the deities are made of metal or stone. However in Puri, the image is made of wood.
Once in every twelve years, the wooden deities of Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra are ceremoniously replaced. There are intricate rituals at these times. Balabhadra is the brother of Jagannath, and Subhadra is his sister. Once every year the three idols are taken on a chariot to their aunt’s place in Puri. This is the famous Ratha Yatra.
Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the Jagannath temple of Puri. This has created quite a controversy, but the temple authorities are adamant in their decision.
#7 – Shirdi Sai Baba Temple
The Shirdi Sai Baba temple is another famous temple of India. Constructed in 1922, it is located in the small town of Shirdi in Maharashtra, about 300 kilometers from Mumbai. This small town is otherwise nondescript, except for its famous temple. The Sai Baba of Shirdi was a saint, a spiritual master. His disciples and devotees regard him as a fakir, sadguru and an avatar of God, because he had several miraculous powers, which he used for the welfare of his people and all humans. Sai Baba lived and died here. He spread the message of forgiveness, charity and love, and was thus regarded as a pure soul. He is worshipped around the world.
The temple is spread over an area of 200 square kilometers, and the main shrine has been constructed over the grave or Samadhi of Sai Baba. About 25,000 devotees come for Baba’s darshan everyday. The figures are obviously much higher on special occasions. It can go up to lakhs. Major festivals held here are Vijayadashami, Guru Purnima, and Ramnavmi.
#8 – Somnath Temple
The Somnath temple in Saurashtra, Gujarat, is among the oldest pilgrimage centers in India. It is also believed that Lord Krishna breathed his last somewhere close to where the Somnath temple stands now. And thus, the entire region is holy.
There is mention of Somnath in the ancient Hindu scriptures like the Shreemad Bhagvat, Skandpuran and Shivpuran. It is first among the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines of the god Shiva, and is thus considered very important. Som here refers to the “Moon God”, and so Somnath means “Protector of the Moon God”. It is said that the Moon God got this temple constructed to honor Lord Shiva, because it was the Lord who cured his illness, inflicted by the father in law of Som.
The temple has been destroyed and constructed many times. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel visited the area just after independence and said that the temple should be reconstructed. The work was finally taken up soon after by the Government of India. The present day structure of Somnath temple is in the Chalukya style.
#9 – Meenakshi Temple
There are many names for the Meenakshi temple of Madurai, Tamil Nadu – Meenakshi Amman, Meenakshi Sundareswarar, Tiru-aalavaai, and the Meenakshi Amman Kovil. This temple is dedicated to the Goddess Parvati, who is also called Meenakshi, and thus the name. Goddess Parvati is the companion of Lord Shiva. It is only apt that this temple is located in Madurai, as it is considered to be one of the oldest living cities in the world. Madurai is said to be 2500 years old. However the present day structure of the temple was constructed between 1623 and 1655.
The most unique thing about this temple is its huge gateway towers that are visible from a long way away. These towers are between 45 and 52 meters tall, and have become quite a symbol of the city, much like what the Taj Mahal is to Agra. The southern tower is the tallest one. It stands at 51.9 meters or 170 feet. Another outstanding feature of the temple is its sculptures. There are about 33,000 of them.
About 15,000 people visit the Meenakshi temple daily. This goes up to 25,000 on Fridays. The Meenakshi temple of Madurai was on the list of the top 30 “New Seven Wonders of the World”.
#10 – Kamakhya Temple
The Kamakhya temple is located on the outskirts of Guwahati, just across the Brahmaputra River on the Nilachal Hill. This temple is dedicated to the Mother Goddess Kamakhya, an important Hindu Tantric goddess. The earlier manifest of the goddess Kamakhya is said to have been destroyed but it is believed that this earlier manifest of the goddess is kept in a remote hill forest in Himachal. In the present Kamakhya Temple, the lost manifest is now replaced in the form of a stone yoni (female generative organ) that is symbolic of the goddess whose name means “renowned goddess of desire”. Kamakhya is one of the oldest of the 51 shakti pithas of the Hindu religion. This is an important Hindu religious place for those who are Tantric worshipers.
There are individual temples inside the complex for the ten Mahavidyas. They are Bagalamukhi, Bhuvaneshvari, Tripura Sundari, Chinnamasta, Kali, Tara, Dhumavati, Bhairavi, Kamala, and Matangi. They are all images of Devi Durga or the Goddess of Shakti. Kamakhya is a young goddess. She is just 16 years old. She has twelve arms and six heads of different colors. This represents a powerful goddess who is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. She wears a red sari, red flowers, and opulent jewelry. You will not find such an idol anywhere else in India.