Top 10 Religious Destinations in India



India is a melting pot of many religions—Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and many others. Pause a while and listen; the Sanskrit slokas seem to blend seamlessly with the azaan while the sound of the church bells do not seem incongruous with the sonorous clashing of gongs that float in from a distant monastery. Religious tolerance runs deep and strong in India; a list of the top 10 religious destinations here will give you the idea.

10. Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa (Goa)

The Basilica of Bom Jesus houses the remains of St. Francis Xavier and his tomb. As such, the site is revered and visited by Christians from all over the world. The remains of St. Francis Xavier rest in a silver casket that was at one time studded with jewels and precious stones while his tomb is a three-tiered structure made of marble. The Basilica itself is an imposing structure made from granite and is considered one of the finest architectural specimens in India. The Basilica is more than 400 years old and is one of the oldest and most-visited churches in India.

Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa (Goa)715x310

9. Bodh Gaya, Bihar

An UNESCO World Heritage site, the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya is revered as the site where the Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. In fact, Buddhists from all over the world come to visit this place and it is said that the Bodhi tree in the temple complex belongs to the family of that very tree under which the Lord Buddha sat and meditated. The Mahabodhi complex also contains many other Buddhist temples and monasteries constructed by people from Bhutan, Sri Lanka, China, Japan, and Myanmar as a mark of respect for the site. Do make it a point to visit the Chinese temple where the statue of the Buddha is more than 200 years old.

Bodh Gaya, Bihar715x310

8. Amarnath Cave Temple, Jammu and Kashmir

Every year lakhs of Hindu devotees undertake a challenging route through the high Himalayan ranges to reach the Amarnath Cave Temple, regarded as one of the holiest of all Hindu shrines in India. Devotees of Lord Shiva visit the cave to pay homage to a stalagmite that they believe resembles the Shiva Linga. The annual Amarnath Yatra can be made on foot, either from Pahalgam or Srinagar. There is also a private helicopter service that will take you up till six kilometers from the cave. All along the way, there are tents that provide a place to rest and supply food free of cost to pilgrims.

Amarnath Cave Temple, Jammu and Kashmir715x310

7. Golden Temple, Amritsar (Punjab)

The Golden Temple or the Harmandir Sahib is widely held as the holiest of all Sikh religious sites in India. Dating back to the 16th century, the temple with its very distinctive golden color (it is partly covered in gold) presents a striking sight and the student of architecture cannot fail to notice the seamless synthesis of Hindu and Muslim influences strewn around the temple complex. Scholars believe that the temple architecture reflects the values of progressiveness, tolerance, and austerity that the Sikh religion upholds. The temple is open to one and all but remember to remove your shoes and cover your head when you are inside.

Golden Temple, Amritsar (Punjab)715x310

6. Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh)

The religious fervor and the spiritual air that hangs around Varanasi are palpable. It did not fail to touch American novelist Mark Twain who felt that the holy city is older than all of history, legend, and tradition put together. It even finds mentions in ancient Hindu scriptures like the Rig Veda, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata. The Hindus earnestly believe that those who die or are cremated in Varanasi are liberated from the earthly cycle of birth and re-birth, while bathing in the River Ganges that flows by the city purges all sins. It is thus for nothing that Varanasi is considered as one of the seven most sacred Hindu pilgrimage sites in India.

Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh)715x310

5. Shirdi Sai Temple, Mumbai (Maharashtra)

Sai Baba of Shirdi is venerated as a saint by both Hindus and Muslims and thus it is only natural that the shrine dedicated to his memory would be regarded as a holy place by people belonging to both these religions. The temple thus readily makes to any list that attempts to rank the top five religious destinations in India. It is a beautiful structure that has been constructed over Sai Baba’s last resting place. It is said that Sai Baba’s teachings are founded on the twin principles of faith and compassion; in fact, you can even feel these in the air around the temple complex. A visit to the Shirdi Sai Temple thus never fails to calm a troubled soul or fill a despondent heart with hope.

Shirdi Sai Temple, Mumbai (Maharashtra)715x310

4. Dargah of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti, Ajmer (Rajasthan)

The Dargah in Ajmer is undoubtedly the holiest of all Islamic pilgrimage sites in India but this mausoleum dedicated to the Sufi saint Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti is also visited by Hindus in droves. Legend has it that Khawaja Chisti had once granted Mughal emperor Akbar’s boon for an heir here. Since then, thousands of devotees have thronged this holy site hoping to have their prayers answered. But there are also many others who visit the Dargah Sharif to pay homage to Khawaja Chisti whose last remains are entombed in the mausoleum here. And then there are countless others who come here just to soak in the serenity and sanctity of the place and attain peace. A site so revered by Muslims and Hindus alike, thus not surprisingly finds mention amongst the top five religious destinations in India. The Ajmer Dargah is open every day from five in the morning. It is expected that devotees dress modestly when visiting and women should keep their heads covered.

Dargah of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti, Ajmer (Rajasthan)

3. Char Dham (Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, Badrinath), Garhwal

It is easy to understand why Char Dham (meaning “four abodes”) ranks right up with the top three religious destinations in India. The Garhwal Himalayas is revered as Devbhoomi or the land of the Gods and nowhere is this air of holiness more palpable than in Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath. The four dhams are nestled amidst the high mountains but are imminently accessible both on foot and on mules. The yatra or the pilgrimage is conventionally undertaken from the west to the east—the religious circuit commences at Yamunotri, then proceeds to Gangotri, next to Kedarnath, and culminates at Badrinath. The shrines are closed during the months of winter.

Char Dham (Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, Badrinath), Garhwal

2. Vaishno Devi, Jammu and Kashmir

Visited by over a crore religious devotees every year, the cave temple of Mata Vaishno Devi is one of the oldest of all shrines in India. It is nestled amidst the forested slopes of the Trikuta Hill in the mighty Shivalik range. The tranquil and breathtakingly beautiful mountainous environs and the air of spirituality around the place are balms for the troubled soul while it is widely held that if wished for earnestly and sincerely, no prayer goes unanswered here. The temple is ranked a popular second amongst all the religious destinations in India and it is not surprising to note that every year people of all castes, creeds, and religious beliefs visit the Mata’s shrine. The shrine is sometimes inaccessible during heavy winter snowfall; so inquire before making the pilgrimage.

Vaishno Devi, Jammu and Kashmir715x310

1. Tirumala Venkateshwara Temple, Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh)

Spirituality cannot be measured by numbers but nonetheless this temple in Tirupati, dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara who is an avatar of Lord Vishnu, is widely regarded as a top pick amongst all the popular religious destinations in India because of the sheer numbers of devotees who visit the site every year. The shrine is perched atop the Tirumala Hill and pilgrims have the choice of either taking the stairs or availing transport to reach the temple complex. Devotees fervently believe that even one glimpse of Lord Venkateshwara is all that they need to achieve spiritual enlightenment. The gates to this divine place are open from three in the morning till midnight.

Tirumala Venkateshwara Temple, Tirupati715x310


The afore-mentioned religious destinations in India draw Indians and foreigners in equal numbers. Some visit these sites to offer prayers and seek blessings while others are drawn in by the promise of attaining peace or having their spiritual questions answered. Some return from these sites with their boons granted while others come back armed with life-affirming messages. An amalgam of religious destinations is only to be expected in the ancient and holy land of India that has been the cradleto.many different people but the above-mentioned destinations also reflect the spirit of religious tolerance that pervades in the country.


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