Religion in India is diverse. The largest religion in the country is Hinduism. But there are several others with sizeable populations. Islam and Christianity both have followers in India. Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism are present too. Due to all this spirituality, many places in India have religious significance. If you want to visit a religious travel destination, you could choose a monument or temple. There are also whole towns or regions which have particular significance to some religions. You can find places that are interesting to each of the main religions in India. Look at the following list to find the 17 religious travel destinations to visit in India.
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Religious Tourism Destinations in India
Hinduism is the primary religion in India. The majority of the population belong to it. About 80% of Indians are Hindu. This means there are many places of spiritual significance around the country. There are temples and towns that should appeal to anyone who wants to learn about Hinduism. Or perhaps you want to follow your own spiritual path.
1. Somnath Jyotirlinga, Gujarat
Somnath Jyotirlinga is a place of pilgrimage for Hindus in India. It is thought to be the first Pillar of Light of Shiva. There are eleven more of them around the country. As well as having religious significance it is also important culturally and historically. It has been destroyed by Islamic kings and rebuilt by Hindu kings a number of times. It can be found on the coast of the Arabian Sea, making it a beautiful place to visit.
2. Tirumala Venkateswara Temple, Tirupati
This temple is the home of an incarnation of Vishnu, Lord Venkateswara. It is one of the most frequently visited temples in India, with up to 60,000 pilgrims visiting it each day. It also receives more donations and has more wealth than any other temple in the world. If not visiting the temple for spiritual experience, many people go for the architecture. Hindu temples are often stunning and intricate in their construction. The hill town of Tirumala is a beautiful place to visit.
Some people may want to visit whole towns or cities that are of religious significance. If you are looking for places that are important to Hindus, you might decide to go to Varanasi. This Hindu place of pilgrimage receives many visitors. It can make for some large crowds. It is a colorful place where people go to cleanse their sins. Watching the Ganga Aarti ritual being performed at dusk is a popular thing to do.
Rishikesh is another holy city in India which is important to Hindus. The city is surrounded by some stunning nature, so it’s a great place to get in touch with the Earth. Rishikesh is often seen as the gateway to the Ganges, as well as the yoga capital of the world. Many people do not realize that the origins of yoga come from a spiritual place. People who visit Rishikesh can also watch the Ganga Aarti on the Ganges. There are many ways to explore your spiritual side in Rishikesh, but there are other things to do too. Many people enjoy activities such as white water rafting and trekking.
The last of the three Holy Cities, Haridwar is another location where you can watch the Ganga Aarti. Many pilgrims come to the city to bathe in the Ganges. This is particularly true during pilgrimage season. The Magh Mela religious festival is also held in Haridwar. It commemorates the origin of the universe and pilgrims come to bathe and wash away their sins. The Ardh Kumbh Mela happens every six years, and the huge Kumbh Mela takes place every twelve years.
Madurai is sometimes called a temple town. Pilgrims have visited the site for many centuries and continue to do so. The legend goes that the town got its name from a dream the king of the region had. Shiva appeared in the dream and drops of honey fell from his hair. “Madurai” may be derived from the word for sweetness. The city is home to the Meenakshi Amman Temple, which is one of the best-known temples in the country.
Islam is the religion with the second largest population in India. More than 14% of the population is Muslim. So there are several important destinations for Islam. These include mosques and shrines, as well as other places that have religious significance.
7. Hazratbal Shrine, Shrinagar
This shrine in Kashmir has a hair which is said to belong to the prophet Mohammed. It’s the most important place to Islam in Kashmir. The building is made with stunning white marble and is a beautiful piece of architecture. Viewing the prophet’s hair is only allowed once a year, making it a busy time to visit the shrine. Thousands of people come during this time, and not just Muslims.
8. Jama Masjid, Delhi
Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India. This makes it an attractive place for both Muslims and others to visit. The mosque was built in 1650 and is made from yellow sandstone. It has two minarets that feature red sandstone and white marble. The mosque is a great place to visit if you are already in Delhi.
9. Ajmer Sharif, Rajasthan
The shrine at Ajmer is one of the most popular places to go for Muslims in India. Many people believe that it is the place to go if you want your prayers to be answered. The Ajmer Sharif is a Dargah, a shrine built on the grave of a religious figure. At this site, Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti is buried. Believed to be a direct descendent of the prophet Mohammed, the place of his burial has great religious significance.
There is also a Christian community in India. Between 2% and 3% of Indians are Christian. Although it may seem like a small amount, it is still a fairly large population. There are several important Christian sites in India to visit.
Goa was influenced by the Portuguese occupation of the area. As a result, there are a number of churches in the city that you may wish to visit. The architecture of these churches adds to the landscape of Goa. It also adds to the country’s architectural legacy. There are several churches that are popular to view in the city. For example, there’s the Basilica of Bom Jesus and the Church and Convent of St Francis of Assisi.
Kerala is also an excellent choice for anyone looking for Christian religious sites. The city has a Christian population of around nine million. This means it has a number of attractive churches. For example, there is the Santa Cruz Basilica, which is one of eight basilicas in Kerala. This Portuguese basilica was elevated to a cathedral by Pope Paul IV is 1558. After being destroyed by the British, a new building was constructed in 1887. It was made a basilica in 1984 by Pope John Paul II. There are other churches and important Christian buildings to visit around Kerala too.
Almost 2% of the population of India follow the Sikh religion. Although the percentage is small, this means there are still many Sikhs in India. In fact, some of the most recognizable religious sites in India are Sikh.
12. Golden Temple, Amritsar
The Golden Temple in Amritsar is one of the most popular religious places for people to visit in India. As its name suggests, it is a shining golden building that is impossible to miss. Many pilgrims choose to visit this site to marvel at its structure and to worship there. In fact, it is usually viewed as the most important pilgrimage site for Sikhs in the country. It was built by the fourth Guru in the sixteenth century. Its construction was completed at the beginning of the seventeenth century. The upper floors of the Gurdwara are covered with gold and have been since the nineteenth century.
13. Hemkund Sahib
Hemkund Sahib is notable for its unique structure. It is shaped in a pentagon, which is unusual for Sikh places of pilgrimage in India. However, it isn’t just the shrine itself that makes the site worth visiting. The stunning natural landscape around it is also a thing of beauty. It sits among snow-capped mountains on a glacial lake. The temple is dedicated to Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Guru. The name Hemkund comes from the Sanskrit for “snow and “bowl.” In fact, the site is not accessible in the winter, from October to April. Snow and glaciers get in the way, so it can only be visited in spring and summer. Pilgrims get to the site in May to help repair the paths leading to the gurdwara.
Buddhism is another religion in India, which has been important historically. However, the presence of the religion in the country has declined. However, there are still some important Buddhist sites in India. If you want to learn about the religions of India, it is worth visiting some of these Buddhist sites.
It is believed that Buddha was enlightened in Bodhgaya (or Bodh Gaya) and Buddhist pilgrims visit the site every year. They meet to pray and participate in meditation too. They go to the Mahabodhi Temple Complex, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site has a Bodhi tree. It is a descendent of the one under which Buddha experienced enlightenment. The temple was once in decline but underwent restoration to save it. There are other temples in the area that are popular for Buddhists to visit. Many of them have built by Buddhists from other nations, such as China, Bhutan, Japan, and Nepal. It’s a fantastic way to see Buddhism from many cultures in one place.
Leh has a number of Tibetan monasteries, so it is another popular place for Buddhists to visit in India. It lies in the Himalayas and was once the capital of the kingdom of Ladakh. It was once an important place to stop on trade routes. Today, it is often visited by adventurous travelers. It is also home to non-local workers and traders. In stark comparison to the general Indian population, more than 40% of Leh is Buddhist. There are also Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim populations. Leh Palace is also an interesting place to visit. It was built in the seventeenth century.
Jainism originated in India, but even so, less than 0.5% of India’s population are Jains. It is in the same religious group as Buddhism. There are still some places to visit in India that are significant to Jainism. It may be one of the lesser religions in India, but it is still important. Like Buddhism, it has declined, but there are still almost five million Jains in India.
16. Ranakpur Temple
If you go to Ranakpur village in Rajasthan, you will find a temple dedicated to Jainism. It is one of the oldest Jain temples in the country and a popular place of pilgrimage for Indians and visitors. The architecture of the temple is impressive, and it is in a beautiful setting too. Construction of the temple began in the fifteenth century. So it is older than many temples and churches from other religions. There was a sun temple that dated to the thirteenth century, but it was unfortunately destroyed.
17. Girnar and Shatrunjaya in Gujarat
These two places in Gujarat have so many temples that they are called temple cities. There are also many shrines to be found in these two cities. There is one temple at the top of Mount Girnar which is more than a thousand years old. Shatrunjaya is a place of pilgrimage for Jains, with many temples and shrines. Although many places were destroyed by Muslim occupation, repairs were made in the sixteenth century. The land was officially given to the Jains who lived and worshiped there. There are even newer places to see. A temple complex was built in the 1970s, for example.
There are hundreds of religious travel destinations to visit in India, no matter which religion you want to learn about or practice. There are so many places to choose from. Did we miss out on any? Do let us know in the comments below.