India is renowned worldwide for its diverse, unique cultures and traditions. The country also has a well developed spiritual heritage that flourishes to date.
Also, India is the only country in the world where four religions- Hindu, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism- were born.
The country welcomed followers of foreign faiths including Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam, among others. Further, the indigenous faith, broadly called Sanatan Dharma or Hinduism prevails in India since aeons.
Consequently, India is home to several amazing shrines of various faiths. The highest number of these shrines are Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh temples.
These temples are often visited on various significant occasions and festivals of India which are also the part of pilgrimages. Thus, these shrines are valued and respected both as a means of worship to god and as a way to uphold the rich Indian culture and reunite people.
Some were built thousands of years ago using unique architectural styles, contemporary to that historical era. Even the most famous Indian temples are a few hundred years old.
Should you wish to visit these ancient shrines, here is our list of 20 most famous temples in India which truly helps to detox your soul and attain spiritual bliss.
List of 20 Most Famous Temples in India
1. Khajuraho Group of Temples (Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh)
The most famous temples in India are the Khajuraho group of temples located in the eponymous city situated 600km away from New Delhi. They are found in the Madhya Pradesh state of India.
The Khajuraho group of temples consist of shrines of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain faiths. They figure on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List.
Khajuraho receives the highest number of foreign and Indian tourists compared over any shrine in India. All the 21 temples of Khajuraho were built between 9AD and 13AD.
The most famous among these are the intricately carved Hindu temples that depict deities in erotic postures mentioned in Kama Sutra.
The Buddhist and Jain temples in the complex have been built in different architectural styles. There were some 85 temples at Khajuraho. Some of them fell victim to natural hazards while foreign invaders destroyed others.
2. Sri Venkateswara Temple (Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh)
Sri Venkateswara Temple ranks as the second most famous temple in India. It receives estimated 50 million tourists every year from India and abroad.
The shrine is also one of the wealthiest in the country: its management reported an annual income of nearly Rs.28 billion in 2017. It is located around 300km away from Bangalore.
This Indian temple was built around 300AD. This shrine is dedicated to Hindu deity, Lord Vishnu.
According to legend, Lord Vishnu crushed the eye of a sage called Bhrigu who had come to meet him.
Offended by this act, his wife, Goddess Lakshmi left her divine abode and came down to Earth to pray as penance for her husband’s action. Lord Vishnu, upon hearing about his wife, went in her search disguised as human named Srinivasa.
After several twists and turns in the legend, Lord Vishnu went to Tirumala and married the daughter of a Chola ruler he had earlier cursed. Angered by his marriage, Lakshmi went to confront Lord Vishnu.
Dreading her arrival, he turned himself into a stone idol. Lakshmi followed suit. The Venkateswara Temple is built at the location where this incident is believed to have occurred.
3. Sri Sai Baba Temple (Shirdi, Maharashtra)
Till the mid-1970s, Shirdi was a nondescript village in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. It was also home to Sri Sai Baba, a 19th-century saint credited with performing several miracles.
A Bollywood movie depicting the life of Sri Sai Baba propelled Shirdi into fame. The Sri Sai Baba temple in Shirdi now receives millions of worshippers every year, from different faiths.
The popularity of Sri Sai Baba temple in Shirdi can be gauged from the fact that private tour operators from various states ply special buses daily for pilgrims visiting Shirdi.
Indian Railways has worked to provide better rail connectivity in 2009 by opening a new railway station, Sainagar Shirdi. The Maharashtra government has built an aerodrome in what is now a bustling city.
The popularity of this Indian pilgrimage can be gauged from the fact that The Sri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust ranks among the wealthiest temple organisations in India. It receives about 20 million pilgrims annually from India and abroad.
4. Sri Siddhivinayak Temple (Mumbai, Maharashtra)
Nearly 100,000 people from Mumbai, other parts of Maharashtra and India visit the Sri Siddhivinayak Temple located in this bustling city.
This ranks among the wealthiest temple in India. The Siddhivinayak Ganapati Temple Trust reportedly has an annual income of more than US$3 million. This temple is located in Prabhadevi district of south Mumbai.
It was built sometime between 1780 and 1810 AD by indigenous people of the city called Agris. The temple’s construction was funded by a woman named Deobai Patil to invoke divine blessings to bear a child.
This temple is dedicated to Hindu deity, Lord Ganesha. Sri Siddhivinayak Temple is under massive, round-the-clock surveillance by police and para-military forces since crowded areas of Mumbai have been targets of Pakistani trained and sponsored terrorists.
Once a small neighbourhood shrine, the Sri Siddhivinayak Temple ranks among the topmost temples in India.
5. Badrinath Temple (Badrinath, Uttarakhand)
Badrinath Temple is located in an eponymous township. It figures as a shrine in the Char Dham Yatra and Chota Char Dham Yatra- two pilgrimages performed by devout Hindus.
According to figures released by the Uttarakhand government, over 1.1 million tourists visit the shrine as part of Char Dham Yatra and Chota Char Dham Yatra during the main pilgrimage season during the months of May and June, September and October.
Individual and smaller groups of pilgrims visit the shrine throughout the year. Badrinath Temple is also called Badrinarayan Temple. It is dedicated to Hindu deity, Lord Vishnu.
This temple is believed to rank amongst the oldest temples in India. Records indicate it was built sometime between 1750BC and 500BC. According to legend, Lord Vishnu went to a spot near the temple to meditate during winter.
His consort, Goddess Lakshmi wanted to protect her husband from cold and assumed the form of a ‘badri’ (Jojoba) tree and stood beside him. Hence the name Badrinath. The temple lies at the foothills of Himalayas.
6. Kedarnath Temple (Kedarnath, Uttarakhand)
Kedarnath Temple is dedicated to Hindu deity Lord Shiva. This shrine is among the four visited by pilgrims during the Char Dham Yatra and Chota Char Dham Yatra.
Kedarnath temple ranks as the most visited temple in India. It is located on banks of the river Mandakini. The shrine cannot be directly accessed by road.
Hence, pilgrims have to trek for about 18km from a location called Gauri Kund. Kedarnath temple is believed to be built by the Pandavas, during their reign after the Mahabharata war.
However, there are no records that can attribute its construction to the Pandavas. In fact, who built this shrine, when or why remains unclear.
The main shrine has a Shivalinga while adjoining temples also contain idols of other Indian deities including Lord Krishna.
The Kedarnath temple witnessed tragedy during the pilgrimage season in June 2013. On June 16 and June 17 that year, flash floods swept Uttarakhand, trapping thousands of tourists. The Indian Army had to evacuate these pilgrims by air.
7. Rishikesh Temple (Rishikesh, Uttarakhand)
Another famous temple in India is the Rishikesh temple in Uttarakhand state. It is located about 300km away from New Delhi.
Pilgrims also visit Rishikesh temple during the Char Dham Yatra and the Chota Char Dham Yatra. In fact, it is the starting point for most pilgrims performing the Char Dham Yatra.
The township of Rishikesh is home to several Hindu temples in India. According to legend, Lord Rama performed penance for slaying Ravana, the king of Sri Lanka and a devotee of Lord Shiva.
This penance was performed at Rishikesh since the town is located on banks of river Ganga. There are no records about who built the famous Rishikesh shrine dedicated to Lord Rama.
According to legend, the first shrine was built by followers of Lord Rama shortly after his penance. Others claim the Rishikesh temple and other shrines of the town were developed over centuries by various rulers.
8. Vaishno Devi (Katra, Jammu & Kashmir)
Vaishno Devi is a famous Indian temple dedicated to Goddess Durga. Located near Katra town in Jammu & Kashmir state of India, this Hindu temple is also called Mata Rani, Trikuta and Vaishnavi.
Access to Vaishno Devi temple is by a small road that involves passing through a narrow tunnel in the Trikuta mountains. Sanctum sanctorum of this temple is located in a cave, which is now part of the shrine complex.
Pilgrims can access the shrine by walking, riding small electric vehicles or by riding ponies. There are several interesting stories about Vaishno Devi’s origin.
The cave containing the original idol was lost for several centuries. It was discovered about 700 years ago. Devout Hindus believe, one has to be summoned by Goddess Durga especially to visit Vaishno Devi shrine.
Without this call, nobody can undertake the pilgrimage, regardless of whatever resources they possess.
Pilgrims on the way from Katra to Vaishno Devi shrine chant “Jai Mata Jee” and “Jai Mata Dee” (Hail our Divine Mother).
Pakistan sponsored and trained terrorists have tried to disrupt the Vaishno Devi pilgrimage several times during the last few years. The Indian Army thwarted Their efforts.
9. Dwarkeshwar Temple (Dwarka, Gujarat)
Dwarkeshwar or Dwarkadeesh temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna. It ranks among the most ancient temples in India.
Part of this temple is found on the coast of an eponymous city while the other part is partially submerged in the Arabian Sea.
Dwarkeshwar temple also figures on the list of the complete Char Dham Yatra, the holiest pilgrimage of Hindus. According to legend, the original shrine was built by Vajranabh, great-grandson of Lord Krishna.
There are several intriguing legends about various shrines dedicated to Lord Krishna and his wife Rukmini, in Dwarka city. The Dwarka city itself ranks among the oldest in India. The temple is believed to be about 2,300 years old.
The current temple structure is relatively modern and was built around the 15th Century by Chalukyan rulers. An intriguing feature of the Dwarkeshwar temple are the two entrances.
While the Moksha Dwara (Door to Salvation) can be accessed through a flight of stairs in the city, the Swarga Dwara (Door to Heaven) has stairs leading to river Gomati.
The city of Dwarka was attacked by Pakistan Navy ships during the 1965 Indo-Pak War. Despite heavy shelling of the town, there was no loss of life or property in Dwarka.
Instead, all the shells did not explode and were found in open fields the next day. Locals of Dwarka call this incident a miracle to date.
10. Sri Jagganath Temple (Puri, Odisha)
Built-in 10th Century, the Sri Jagganath Temple is part of the full Char Dham Yatra. It is located in Puri in India’s eastern state, Odisha.
This temple has withstood and survived many sieges by foreign invaders of India. The shrine is dedicated to Sri Jagganath, a reincarnation of Lord Krishna.
Several fascinating legends are surrounding this temple too. Once states, King Indradyumna wanted to worship a specific deity but could not find its shrine. Disappointed, he observed a fast unto death.
During the fast, a celestial voice informed the king that gods were pleased by his devotion while instructing him to construct a megalithic temple. King Indrayumna built the temple and invoked Lord Brahma to consecrate it.
The Sri Jagganath Temple is one of the very rare shrines where non-Hindus are not permitted inside. The temple shot into fame after its Rath Yatra or procession in which an idol of Lord Krishna is taken ceremoniously around the city in a palanquin.
The size of this procession and palanquin awed British authors. This led to coining and inclusion of the word Juggernaut in the English vocabulary and dictionary to signify a massive, ceremonial procession.
11. Jagatpita Brahma Temple (Pushkar, Rajasthan)
Traditionally, followers of the Hindu faith do not worship Lord Brahma, who is credited as the creator of this universe. Consequent, there are few temples in India that are dedicated to Lord Brahma.
The most famous among these is Jagatpita Brahma Temple located in Pushkar, Rajasthan. In ancient texts, Jagatpita Brahma Temple is mentioned as the sole shrine dedicated to Lord Brahma, despite being the creator.
This is attributed to the curse put on Brahma by Lord Shiva for falling in love with a beautiful woman he had created named Kshatarupa (hundred beauties).
According to legend, Lord Shiva commanded that Brahma had committed sin and hence was unworthy of worship.
In Pushkar though, there is one temple also dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, legendary consort of Brahma.
An important fair called Pushkar Jatra is held in the town every year in honour of Lord Brahma. The fair, held in October-November, is visited by thousands of foreign tourists and Indian devotees.
American online publication, International Business Times calls Jagatpita Brahma Temple and Puskar as one of the top five holiest places in the world and top 10 spots of pilgrimage for Hindus.
12. Konark Sun Temple (Konark, Odisha)
Konark Sun Temple is actually a complex housing shrine dedicated to the Sun and various Hindu deities. It is known to be one of the biggest temples in India.
This temple is at the centre of several mysteries. According to some modern researchers, there are several similarities between the Konark Sun temple in India, an ancient shrine dedicated to Ra, the old Sun-god of Egyptians and a similar temple in Peru.
The earthly alignment of these monuments is claimed to be on lines of the Orion’s Belt constellation that consists of three stars. It is hypothesised that the three shrines indicated the exact distance in light years between cosmic bodies of the Orion’s Belt.
Another intriguing part of Konark Sun temple is its chariot like structure. The stone carvings depicting wheels tap Fraunhofer lines or spectrum of sunlight.
During a total solar eclipse, shadows cast by the Sun on spokes of these wheels create an optical illusion that shows the chariot is moving. The effect is visible throughout a total solar eclipse.
13. Meenakshi Temple (Madurai, Tamil Nadu)
Meenakshi Temple in Madurai is also called as Meenakshi Amman Temple. In Tamil, the term Amman means ‘mother.’
The shrine is dedicated to Meenakshi, a form assumed by Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva. At this temple, Lord Shiva is also worshipped as Sundareshwar. The massive temple complex in Madurai was built in the 13th Century.
Over centuries, it was plundered and damaged by Muslim invaders of India. However, locals and rulers of ancient Madurai always restored the shrine to its earlier glory. The main feature of the Meenakshi temple is its main entrance.
It has an intricate, colourful carving of gods, goddesses and various mythical personalities that depict ancient scriptures. The temple complex is built in Dravidian style.
How ancient architects and engineers managed to create such a magnificent temple remains a mystery.
It is widely believed, those who designed and built the temple had access to technology that has become extinct over centuries.
14. Kumbakonam Temples (Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu)
Kumbakonam is a significant pilgrimage destination in India for the majority of Hindus, mainly from South India. There are more than 24 temples located in this small city, located some 275km from Chennai.
Of these, five temples are dedicated to Lord Krishna and his various incarnations while 12 shrines are of Lord Shiva and his forms.
Other temples include those dedicated to various Indian deities, goddesses and one to the nine stellar bodies (Navagraha) that are said to affect human lives on Earth.
Each Kumbakonam temple was built at different times of history by various dynasties that ruled the region. All temples are an architectural marvel.
Additionally, there are about a dozen temples located a short distance away from Kumbakonam. Collectively, these temples rank among the most famous shrines of India.
15. Somnath Temple (Veraval, Gujarat)
This hindu temple is dedicated to Indian deity Lord Shiva. Somnath means Lord of Soma (Moon). It is one of the most ancient and famous temples in India. The exact date of construction of Somnath temple remains unknown.
The original shrine was a victim of several invasions by Islamic invaders and Portuguese colonials. It was almost razed to the ground on several occasions by Muslim invaders.
The original temple had silver pillars that were plundered and taken to Lahore by Mahmood Shah. These were returned after Mahmood Shah was defeated in war by Maratha ruler, Mahadajee Shinde.
The sandalwood gates were recovered by British rulers. In 1951, it was reconstructed to replicate Chalukyan architecture.
Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel inaugurated the renovated shrine. The Somnath temple is one of the 12 important Jyotirlingas of the Saivite stream of Hinduism.
It is one of those rare locations where Lord Shiva appeared as a pillar of fire to his devotees. Hence, it is considered one of the most important temples in India.
16. Kamakhya Temple (Guwahati, Assam)
Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati is dedicated to Mother Kamakhya, an incarnation of Indian goddess Shakti or Kali.
It is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas in India and hence, a significant place of worship among followers of Goddess Kali.
The temple is very ancient and is believed to be constructed around 200AD. However, it was ignored by various dynasties that once ruled the region now known as Assam.
The site of this Indian temple is believed to have been a ground where locals once sacrificed goats and other animals to Goddess Kali.
Celebrations of Navaratri and Durga Pooja are important festivals at the Kamakhya Temple. Since this shrine is located in urban Guwahati, it receives millions of worshippers from West Bengal and other North Eastern states of India.
17. Lotus Temple (New Delhi)
The Lotus Temple is a very modern structure which is a popular tourist place in India. It resembles the Opera House of Sydney, Australia. In reality, the Lotus Temple is a Baha’i house of worship where people of all faiths can come together and pray.
The Lotus Temple was formally opened in December 1986. It figured on the itinerary of New Delhi sight-seeing tours and was built at the cost of US$10 million.
In line with the Baha’i faith, everyone is permitted inside the Lotus Temple. The only requirement is to maintain silence while praying.
Women and men volunteers silently guide visitors to seats inside the temple. The Lotus Temple of New Delhi is the only major shrine of the Baha’i religion in India.
The temple has won several international awards for its architecture, illumination and other features.
18. Devaki-Krishna Temple (Marcel, Goa)
Devaki-Krishna Temple is the only temple in India where Lord Krishna is depicted along with his earthly mother, Devaki. This shrine is located in Marcel town in Ponda region of North Goa.
According to legend, Lord Krishna escaped to Gopakaparbat or Gomanchal modern-day Goa from Dwarka, to save the city from repeated sieges by King Jarasandha.
His earthly mother, Devaki, fearing that some misfortune had befallen her son, was desperate to meet him. After several attempts, Devaki managed to contact Krishna.
The two decided to meet at a location called Chodan- an island. However, Devaki was unable to recognise Krishna since he was grown up. She suspected it was an impostor claiming to be Krishna.
However, Krishna miraculously assumed the form of an infant and appeared before Devaki. Recognising her son, she took Krishna in her arms. Her other son, Balarama was also at the meeting.
Locals of Chodan recognised the significance of this meeting and commemorated it with a statue. The statue shows Devaki holding Krishna in her arms with Balarama standing beside.
Portuguese invaders razed the original temple at Chodan. Local devotees fled with the idol to Marcel and consecrated it at the house of a local resident. The temple stands at this house that was built in the 17th Century.
19. Mathura Temples (Mathura, Uttar Pradesh)
Mathura is a city located on the Agra-New Delhi highway. Though Mathura is a very modern city by any standards, it also ranks among the most ancient temples in India.
Mathura is mentioned in Ramayana. More importantly, Mathura has the unique distinction of being the birthplace of Lord Krishna.
Hence, the city has several temples- ancient and modern- dedicated to Lord Krishna. The most prominent shrine of Mathura is Sri Krishna Janmasthan Temple Complex.
The complex is located on or around the exact location where Sri Krishna was born to his earthly parents, Vasudev and Devaki.
The original temple at this location was reportedly built more than 3,000 years ago.
It was a small shrine dedicated to Lord Krishna. However, the place assumed religious significance among Hindus by 6th Century AD.
Consequently, the small temple saw several developments. Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and other invaders of ancient India attacked the Sri Krishna Janmasthan frequently.
In 1803, control of Mathura was seized by the British East India Company. They auctioned the land where the original temple was located. It was bought by a wealthy local banker, Raja Patnimal.
A temple could not be built at the location due to several court litigations. The plot was disputed between descendants of Raja Patnimal and an organisation that operated a Muslim shrine nearby.
Eventually, a ruling by the Allahabad High Court went in favour of Raja Patnimal’s descendants who began developing the complex.
20. Golden Temple (Amritsar, Punjab)
The Golden Temple is the holiest shrine of the Sikh faith. It is located in Amritsar, one of the primary cities of India.
The original name of this shrine is Sri Harmandir Sahib (House of God), the Punjabi pronunciation of Sri Hari Mandir. It derives the name Golden Temple due to gold foil coating its sanctum area.
According to Sikh records, the location for this shrine and Amritsar city, also called Gurudwara was personally chosen by Guru Amar Das, the third leader of the Sikh faith.
It was built between 1574 and 1604. The entire Golden Temple complex is constructed around a humanmade pool built in 1577.
The Harmandir Sahib welcomes devotees of all faiths. It is one of the most famous temples in India and receives millions of domestic and foreign tourists every year.
Other than being a shrine, the Harmandir Sahib is also a historical monument in India and seat of learning for persons wanting to learn about the Sikh faith.
It was from Golden Temple that protestors marched to Jallianwala Baug and got martyred at the hands of British invaders of the Indian subcontinent.
Thousands of visitors to Sri Harmandir Sahib are fed daily at the Guru Ram Das Langar, in line with the Sikh traditions of hospitality.
The Final Thought
As we mention earlier, there are countless shrines and pilgrimage centres in India, each with a wide following. According to Hindu tradition, followers of the faith generally associate themselves with one or two temples like those of their family deities.
Others visit temples to satisfy their spiritual quests. Temples are an integral part of Indian culture. Hence, you will find them in every nook and cranny of this country, including small shrines along highways dedicated to esoteric deities.
The temples we mention rank as most famous in this country. While some are famous within and outside India, others receive followers from specific regions only.
Yet each temple is unique in its own way. The next time you travel to any state, look for some of these famous temples in India to include in your itinerary.