“India has two million gods and worships them all. In religion all other countries are paupers; India is the only millionaire.” – Mark Twain (American author)
Indian religions, especially Hindu faith, offer numerous Gods and Goddesses to seek blessings from. Below is a list of famous pilgrimage places in India, which stand gloriously, pouring blessings over the mankind:
The Konark Sun Temple
The Sun temple is situated in the small town of Konark, which is situated in the Puri district of Odisha. This marvel of architecture is dedicated to Lord Sun. And resembling his carriage, the temple has been built in the shape of a chariot, which has twelve wheels and is shown as being dragged by the seven horses. The temple is believed to be constructed in the 13th century by a king called Narasimhadeva. Like with most things in India, this temple too has connections with a few legends. As per one of the legends, God Krishna cursed one of his own sons with leprosy. To seek penance, Samba worshiped Lord Sun (Surya) for a period of twelve years. Pleased with his devotion, Surya healed him. Samba made the Sun temple in return to express his gratitude.
Also known as Peruvudaiyar Kovil and RajaRajeswaram, this 11th-century temple was built by the Chola emperor Raja Raja Chola I. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Brihadeeswara temple is the largest temple in India that is situated at Thanjavur city of Tamil Nadu.
Cholas are known for their majestic and splendid scale of structures. The opulence and artistic proficiency of Cholas are well reflected in the grand and magnificent architecture of the temple. Made entirely of granite stone, it was built as per the principles of Vaastu Shastras and Agamas. The most remarkable thing related to the architecture of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is that it doesn’t leave any shadow on the ground at the noon time. The millenary celebrations of its construction took place in 2010 amid many enthusiastic and grand cultural events.
Situated in the Himalayan range of Garhwal area (Uttarakhand), Kedarnath temple is one of the most sacred Shiva temples in the world. This holy abode of Shiva is said to be built by the Pandavas to atone for their sins committed during their battle with Kauravas. The temple was restored by Adi Sankaracharya in the 8th century. It is one of the Chota Char Dhams of Uttarakhand and requires a pilgrim to walk a distance of 14 kms over the hilly surface. One can make use of a pony or manchan to simplify the journey.
Surrounded by the glaciers and snow-covered peaks and standing at a height of 3,583 m, the temple is closed during winters due to severe cold conditions. Even the idol of Lord Shiva is shifted to Ukhimath and worshiped there throughout the 5/6 months for which the extreme conditions prevail.
Sri Harmandir Sahib (also known as Darbar Sahib or Golden temple) is the most pious pilgrimage place for Sikhs. The temple was built on the values of universal brotherhood and equality. The four doors, opening in the four prominent directions, openly welcome people from any faith or race to seek religious and spiritual contentment. The structure, revered for its superb architecture, is built on a level lower than that of the immediate surroundings, symbolizing the value of humility.
The holy scripture of Sikhs, Guru Granth Sahib, was first placed in Sri Harmandir Sahib after its compilation and first Granthi (or head priest) of this Sikh pilgrimage center in India, was Baba Buddha Ji.
Amarnath Cave Temple
The holy cave of Amarnath is located at an altitude of 3,888 meters in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Engulfed with ice-clad mountains, the cave is also covered with layers of snow most times of the year. In the summer season, (June to August) it becomes accessible and hence opens up to receive the pilgrims.
The cave is believed to be around 5000 years old. As per a popular legend, Buta Malik (a Muslim shepherd) met a holy man who handed him a bag full of coal. On reaching home, he found that the coal has got converted into gold. Moved by the miracle the shepherd went in search of the saintly man and instead found the sacred abode of Lord Shiva. The pilgrimage towards Amarnath consists of a 5-day trek in which the devotees brave tough and uncertain climatic conditions and walk for 40 miles (distance covers the journey from camp-holy cave-camp).
Khajuraho is a town in the state of Madhya Pradesh, which houses several temples built between 10th to 12th centuries. Spread across an area of 20 sq km, the monuments of the town are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temples are built of sandstone and dedicated to the deities of Hindus and Jains.
The temples are world famous for the erotic cravings, which can be seen along with other cravings depicting the activities of routine life. It is believed that there were over 75 temples in the area but right now about 20 exist. The temples have been divided into three zones – eastern, western and southern. The Western zone consists of the most famous temples; the largest temple of Khajuraho, Kandariya Mahadeva Temple, falls under this zone.
Situated in the Shravanabelagola town of Karnataka, Gomateshwara temple is dedicated to Lord Bahubali also known as Gomateshwara. Built in the 10th century it is one of the most important pilgrimage places for Jains. The statue inspires awe among people world over because of its unique structure. Standing at an enormous height of 58.8 ft the idol is carved out of a single granite rock. This monolithic structure stands at such a great height without any external support. The base of the Bahubali idol has got inscriptions written in three different languages – Marathi, Kannada and Tamil.
The most important event occurs in the temple after every 12 years. It is called Mahamastakabhishek and is a very important festival for Jains. In which Lord Bahubali is bathed and smeared with various things like saffron paste, sugarcane, turmeric, milk and vermillion and offered various precious stones and coins (like gold and silver).