India needs no introduction as the land where religions like Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism took birth, while religions like Islam flourished. Today, there are innumerable holy places and pilgrimage centers in different states of the country, inviting devotees in thousands every year. Though it is difficult to narrow down the list, here are 5 top religious places that one should visit in a lifetime.
Located in the northernmost state of Jammu & Kashmir, this extremely sacred shrine is devoted to the incarnation of Mother Goddess. One needs to stay at one of the Katra hotels from where the trek of 12 km begins. The shrine, also called Bhawan, accommodates the stone forms (called pindis) of three forms of Goddess – Mahalakshmi, Mahakali and Mahasaraswati. It is believed that these deities bless the devotees who visit the shrine with full faith and devotion.
Ajmer, a small city in Rajasthan, is world-famous for its highly revered Dargah of Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti, a Sufi Saint. Popularly called Ajmer Sharif or Dargah Sharif, the pilgrimage center accommodates the grave of the saint and is visited by Muslims, Hindus and devotees form other religions. It is the extreme tranquility of the place that enforces the visitors to spend more time there. You may choose an Ajmer accommodation for stay, or choose an accommodation in Delhi from where regular trains operate to reach the holy dargah.
Honored as the Gateway to God, Haridwar in Uttarakhand is one of the holiest places in the world. The main attraction of visiting the city is participation in the evening aarti (prayers) of River Ganges. The astonishing scene of thousands of lamps lit to perform the ritual is a wonderful experience to have. Located near the city is another pilgrimage center called Rishikesh which accommodates a number of beautiful temples. In fact, you can think of staying at a resort in Rishikesh and enjoying adventure sports like rappelling, whitewater rafting and rock climbing.
One of the most ancient cities of the world, Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh is also known by names like Benaras and Kashi. The city is a well-known pilgrimage center with a number of ghats made on the banks of River Ganges. Apart from visiting the popular temples like Vishwanath Temple and Kaal Bhairav Temple, you can join the mesmerizing boat ride during the early morning hours. Varanasi accommodation options include hotels, guest houses and home stays.
Kerala, a southern Indian state, is well-known for arrays of Hindu Temples that are admired for their excellent architectural beauty and phenomenal structures. Shree Padmanabhaswamy temple, for example, is devoted to Lord Vishnu and flaunts the very popular Dravidian architectural style. There are hundreds of examples of such temples and it is easy to visit many of them due to their close locations. Bed and breakfast in Kerala is a good accommodation option.
The significance of these places is not limited to Indians only. No matter which religion you belong to, a visit to these pilgrimage destinations should boost your spiritual beliefs.