sacred sites india

The most visited sacred sites in India: Information and advice for foreigners

India is proud of being a multicultural country where most of the world’s major religions are represented. Throughout the centuries, sacred sites and buildings have been erected by believers all over the country and in some cases, have even become some of India’s 38 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Considered now both places for prayer and meditation and national treasures, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Muslim, and other temples attract millions of visitors every year. Whether they travel from elsewhere in the country or arrive on an Indian visa from the other side of the world, visitors are amazed by the fine decorations, extraordinary architecture, and holiness of these sites.

However, after having booked their plane, applied for their Indian visa, and read about the different regions of the country, deciding what temples to visit in India can feel overwhelming.

Not only foreigners who enter India as tourists visit the temples. Many who are in the country for different purposes (for example, traveling to India for business) decide to make a detour just to see the ancient and world-famous temples. Many complete a short pilgrimage for devotion and good luck (for example, those who are in India for medical care). This page is intended as a short guide to Indian temples for all travelers who wish to explore the best that India has to offer during their time in the country, with a focus on the most internationally famous and visited sites. It will also answer some of the most common questions about popular Indian temples.

Is the Golden Temple made of real gold?

Surrounded by water, the enchanting Sri Harmandir Sahib (commonly known as Golden Temple) is the most sacred site for Sikhs and a pilgrimage destination for believers.

The Golden Temple derives its name from its upper level, inlaid with copper covered in gold plates, that is 750 kg of pure gold. It was inspired by the values of friendship and brotherhood and for that reason, its four doors open on all sides inviting devotees from all directions.

The Golden Temple is located in Amritsar, Punjab.

How can I go to Kedarnath?

The Kedarnath temple is one of the holiest and most visited sites dedicated to Shiva. It’s part of the famous Chota Char Dham, a Himalayan pilgrimage itinerary that takes Hindu devotees across four holy sites.

Pilgrims need to walk over 14 km at over 3,500 meters of altitude surrounded by glaciers and snowy peaks in order to reach the temple. However, tourists can decide to ride a pony to the temple instead. The sight is dramatic and likely to make it an experience to remember. Please note that due to extreme weather conditions, the temple is closed during the winter.

The Kedarnath temple is located in the Garhwal Himalayan range.

How old is Brihadeeswara temple?

Also dedicated to Shiva, the Brihadeeswara temple was built in the 11th century by Emperor Raja Raja Chola I. The Cholas are remembered for their great design and architecture skills and the grandeur and opulence of their buildings. It is likely that at the time of construction, the Brihadeeswara temple was one of the tallest buildings in the world.

Made entirely of granite stone, the Brihadeeswara is a magnificent construction that was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Dance festivals are celebrated in honor of Shiva every year at the temple.

The Brihadeeswara temple is located in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.

Basilica of Bom Jesus: facts and miracles

The Basilica of Bom Jesus is the most popular church in the country and was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site.

The construction of the Basilica started in 1594 when Old Goa was the capital of the Portuguese colony in India. The church was built in baroque fashion with fine marbles and precious stones. Christians, as well as other believers, flock here attracted by the remains of St. Francis Xavier, who was said to have miraculously healing powers.

The Basilica of Bom Jesus is located in Old Goa, Goa.

Why is the Mahabodhi temple sacred?

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Mahabodhi temple is an ancient Buddhist temple, originally ordered by Emperor Asoka in 250 BC. The original monastery has been rebuilt and restored throughout the centuries but some parts of it remain — like the Diamond throne, which is now at the center of many of the temple’s festivities.

According to Buddhism, a descendant of the very Bhodi tree, where Buddha reached enlightenment, now grows on the temple’s grounds. That’s why the Mahabodhi temple is one of the most famous Buddhist sites in the world.

The Mahabodhi temple is located in Bodh Gaya, Bihar.

All the above temples can be entered by religious and non-religious visitors alike (although some areas may be restricted). Please note that this is not true for all temples in India. Some only grant entry to believers and/or Indians. This means that even though you have a valid visa and have met all the Indian visa requirements, you may be denied access to certain Indian religious sites. It’s advisable that foreigners make sure they’re allowed to visit the site before they travel.