Let me start with a prelude to religion and power of faith in a country as vast and diverse as India.
India is land of Temples. There are some mighty structures with intricate decorations and carvings and then there are some hidden beneath the ground such as various cave temples in India.
Choosing top 10 temples is a difficult ask I know. A list talking about top 10 often generates a lot of buzz sometimes very angry reaction of the offended individuals whose favorite are not included. This list of top 10 temples in India might also incite such extreme reactions.
But alas, I had only 10 slots and after considering and measuring several temples from across the country I arrived at this conclusion when I compiled the list of 10 of the best temples in India.
Faith is an important aspect which generates veneration in human mind for new thinking and lead to its acceptance as their path or religion. In a vast country like India where there is vast diversity of cultures and religion exists, the faith that people hold becomes one of the reasons why people travel to India.
Mentioned below is the list of top ten temples in India sprinkled across diverse terrains of this wonderland.
1. Khajuraho Temple in Madhya Pradesh
A group of monuments standing as a proof that sensuality was not a taboo subject in India, Khajuraho temples are renowned for their erotic carvings on the outer walls.
But when you’ll enter the complex, the interiors or temples are exact opposite. Well carved, calm and serene.
Built during the reign of Chandela dynasty, these temples are fondly frequented more due to its artistic brilliance and less due to the religious fervor.
The temples are divided into four groups- western, eastern and southern. While western and southern group of temples are largely dedicated to two Hindu deities- Shiva and Vishnu, the eastern group is highly influenced by Jainism.
The best time to visit these temples is Khajuraho festivals which depicts several classical dance performances by dancers in the backdrop of magnificent Khajuraho temples.
2. Somnath Temple in Gujarat
Somnath temple has got the recognition of first jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva and adorns the vibrant state of Gujarat. The word ‘Somnath’ means Lord of the Moon.
Mythology says that Somnath temple was first built by the moon God after Lord Shiva listened to his prayers and partially freed him from the curse of waning given to him by his father in law Daksh.
The boon Lord Shiva is considered to be the reason behind waxing and waning period of moon between full moon and New Moon. Over the course of history, the temple has been ransacked and rebuilt several times prior to its last restoration in 1947.
3. Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Built by Ahilyabai Holkar in 1780, Kashi Vishwanath temple is one of the holiest and revered temples of Varanasi, dedicated to Lord Shiva.
It is said that a bath in the holy waters of Ganges and a visit to this temple can liberate a human being from the sins of lifetime.
The temple is being venerated for two major reasons- first is its enshrinement as one of the twelve jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva and second is the 15.5 meters high gold spire and 3 domes constructed using pure gold.
4. Lord Jagannath Temple in Puri, Orissa
Situated in the northern coast of Orissa, Lord Jagannath temple was built by Raja Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva in the 12th century. The temple is dedicated to the Lord Jagannath and is famous for its annual Ratha yatra which is attended by millions of Hindu pilgrims every year.
Housed with 120 shrines and temples and encompassed by a soaring fortified wall, the temple complex is one of the magnificent structures of India. The Mahaprasad served in the temple is a pure vegetarian meal cooked without using onion and garlic.
It is believed that food is prepared under the scrutiny of Goddess Mahalakshmi and those who have it attains spiritual advancement.
5. Venkateshwara Tirupati Balaji in Andhra Pradesh
Considered as the second richest pilgrimage center after Sree Pdmabhaswamy Temple, Tirupati Balaji is the largest visited temple in India with its annual visitors touching 40 million.
Built in Dravidian architectural style, the temple was built during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya. During special occasions such as Ram Navami, Janmashtami and Brahmotsavam, the number of pilgrims coming to the temple can mount up to 5, 00,000 per day.
6. Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Situated in the Madurai district of Tamil Nadu, Meenakshi Sundareshwar Temple is a historic Hindu temple dedicated to the Goddess Meenakshi (Parvati) and her consort Sundareshwar (Lord Shiva).
The temple structure is a foremost example of Dravidian style and houses 14 gopurams which are painted in bright colors and bejeweled with figures of animals, gods and demons.
7. Siddhivinayak Temple in Maharashtra
8. Akshardham Temple
Akshardham or the Swaminarayan Temple is a Hindu temple complex in Delhi. This magnificent temple complex displays millennia of traditional Hindu and Indian culture, spirituality, and architecture.
The idea of Akshardham Temple Complex was conceived and developed by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual head of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha.
During the construction of this temple, around 3,000 volunteers of Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha helped 7,000 artisans construct Akshardham. This temple id visited by 70% of all tourists who visit Delhi making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Delhi.
9. Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab
A perfect symbol of religious tolerance and spiritual freedom, Harmandir Sahib aka Golden Temple in Amritsar is the most famous Sikh pilgrimage in India.
The foundation of this Sikh shrine was laid by Guru Arjuna Dev and was later refurbished by Maharaja Ranjit Singh who bejeweled it with pure gold and transformed it into an architectural masterpiece. The sacred pool known as Amrit Sarovar has a great spiritual significance and is believed to have curative medicinal powers.
10. Brihadeshwara Temple in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu
Designated as World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Brihadeeshwarar Temple is one of the most prominent temples in south India owing to its religious significance and artistic brilliance. Built during the reign of Chola dynasty, this temple structure is purely built in granite. This magnificent temple flaunts exquisite carvings which are supreme examples of artistic creativity.