A land of mystical wonders and deep-rooted tradition, India is a plethora of glorious religious shrines! Although dominantly a Hindu nation, the democracy celebrates the Muslim, Parsi, Sikh, Jain, and Christian religion’s equally and also sees preserved ancient churches, mosques and synagogues in all parts of the country. Very few people in the country are atheists, so you will find a sacred structure or figure of the mythical lords at every nook and corner. There many ancient exquisite religious places in the country, each a masterpiece. However, if you had to pick the top five religious places to see before you die, it has to be these –
Chota Char Dham, Uttarakhand
Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri and Gangortri are all a part of a Hindu pilgrimage called the Chota Char Dham located in Uttarakhand. These pious marks are the spiritual source of four holy rivers namely Alakananda, Mandakini, Yamuna and Ganga respectively; Hindus from all corners of the country believe that this pilgrimage should be embarked upon to complete their life. The temples here date back to the 8th and 9th century; Kedarnath Temple is one of the twelve jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva while Badrinath is regarded as the holiest Vishnu Temple in India. Apart from the fact that these temples are the most divine temples and the epitome of purity, the scenic beauty takes your breath away! With a backdrop of the stunning snow-capped mountains and a trek up to almost 200 kilometres from the Hrishikesh, this journey is enlightening in every sense!
Vaishno Devi, Jammu
From the head of India, inside a cave, beckons the manifestation of Goddess Durga, deity Vaishnav Devi. Perched in the Trikuta Hills in Jammu, the Vaishnav Devi darshan is a trek of close to 13kms. The worship place is small and slender – you enter a narrow tunnel wherein flows the chilled waters of Charan Ganga and there right in front of your eyes if the celestial “Mata Rani.” Vaishnav Devi pilgrimage has one of the highest footfalls in the country. It is recommended to walk up to the shrine; however options of ponies that carry to up or a quicker helicopter ride is also available.
This is the gateway to the house of Gods – the colours, the people, the energy, the carvings, the nature – Haridwar is definitely one of the places to see before you die! In Hindu mythology, it is believed that “Amrit” (elixir or nectar) happened to plummet into this place which is why Brahma Kund is the most sacred sides of the bank to offer prayers. Thousands of floating lamps, the sounds of bhajans and the vibrations of pure Godly devotion in Haridwar will take you to a level of (almost) nirvana!
Tirupati & Tirumala
Lord Venkateswara, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, resides on the hills of Seshachalam range in the famous temple of Tirumala. Considered to the wealthiest God of all, the devotion towards Him is unparalleled. Similar to the tradition of dipping yourself in the holy waters of the Ganga, there is a unique tradition that takes place at the Tirupati Temple – that to shaving the hair on your head off to pay your respect to Lord Venkateswara. So apart from donating millions of rupees on each visit, devotees also shave of their head as another offering to the Lord. The temple is known for its brilliant architecture and even more of its cleanliness.
Golden Temple, Amritsar
A scared centre of the Sikhs, the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, Punjab, is the most important pilgrimage sight for the Sikhs. It is popularly known as the Golden Temple because the upper floors are covered in gold. The extraordinary aura of the golden creation in the middle of a lake is so magically gripping – it is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in India ! It is for the pious pleasure and breathtaking scene of the shining yellow reflection that over 100,000 people visit this shrine every day. Dipping yourself in the lake is considered holy and auspicious.