10 Holy places in India worth a visit

However busy you and I are, when it comes to deity, everyone has time. Its amazing how people make and create time just to worship God. Visiting temples or churches or gurudwaras around the country is pious in a way and also a hobby for a few people like me. I for one, love going to religious places just for the sense of repose, relaxation and refreshment. Regardless of what belief I have, visiting places of different beliefs, does no harm. So I wanted to write about a few places which personally appealed to me at the very first sight. Well then, get ready get holy and here we go!!!

TIRUMALA VENKATESHWARA TEMPLE

The world’s most famous temple, temple of Tirumala Venkateshwara located on the hills of Tirupathi in Swarna Andhra, is one of the most sacred temples for Vaishnavites. It is said that Lord Venkateshwara, one of Lord Vishnu’s dhashavatar, is one of the most powerful gods and had come to earth to reside on the 7 hills and help mankind to get through the Kali Yuga. Legend has it that Lord Venkateshwara also came down to win back the heart of His lady, Goddess Lakshmi, after a feud. Goddess Lakshmi is present as Padmavathi. Interesting legends also tell that Lord Venkateshwara took loans from Lord Kubera for His marriage with Goddess Lakshmi. It is said that He will keep paying Lord Kubera back till the end of Kali Yuga.

Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam in Tirupati
Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam in Tirupati

This temple is maintained by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam or TTD. The “prasadam” offered there is world famous. It also has the world’s largest solar powered kitchen. All the houses, the kitchen and also the offices are run by solar panels kept on the hills. More than 75,000 devotees visit the temple everyday. On the disappointing side, people die because of stampede to look at the idol of Lord Venkateshwara and also in the process of getting the holy prasadam. But with the new rules and safety measures, the death rate due to stampede has been reduced very considerably.

The seven hills of Titupati
The seven hills of Titupati

This temple is located on 7 hills. It is known that devotees with special “mokku” climb up all the 7 hills on foot, to see Lord Venkateshwara and also contribute their hair to Him. The walk or ride on the hills is pretty amazing owing to the fact that it is a natural sanctuary for various animals and birds.

SRI KRISHNA TEMPLE

The Sri Krshna Temple in Guruvayur, Kerala, is one the most popular temples in the world. As the name already suggests, the main deity here is Lord Krishna who is also one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu. It is one of the most important temples for Hindus in Kerala. It is also referred to as Bhoolaka Vaikuntam or Vishnu’s heavenly abode on earth. The idol of Lord Krishna depicts the story of His birth as the 8th child of Vasudeva and Devaki. His birth reveals that Lord Kirshna is none other than Lord Vishnu Himself in one of His avatar.

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Guruvayur is commonly known as Dwaraka of South India and Krishna is called as Kannan or Guruvayurappan. Interesting fact is that, though the temple is considered very holy for Hindus, it is not one of the 108 Divya Dheshams of Lord Vishnu.

MEENAKSHI AMMAN TEMPLE

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The majestic Meenakshi Temple located on the banks of the river Vaigai near the temple city, Madurai, Tamil Nadu. This temple is dedicated to Meenakshi Amman, who is the consort of Sundareshwar, who is the avatar of Lord Shiva. Meenakshi Amman is a form of Parvathi. Legends tell that Indra, the Lord of the Devas, built a shrine for the Svayambu Lingam that he had found while He was on a pilgrimage to cure His misdeeds.

This temple was nominated in list of top 30 places for 7 wonders of the world. It also generates around 60 million rupees per year. The temple lost some of its ancient elements when the scandalous Malik Kafur invaded the temple. However tha first Nayak king, Vishwanantha Nayak took it upon him to rebuild the divine and beautiful temple and help it regain its past glory. This temple has a hall Aayiram Kaal Mandapam which is The Hall of Thousand Pillars but interestingly contains only 985 pillars. Each of the pillars in the hall have a monument carved on it which represent the Dravidian Sculptors.

1000 pillar hall in Meenakshi Temple
1000 pillar hall in Meenakshi Temple

KASHI VISHWANATH TEMPLE

Kashi Vishwanath Temple, located in Varanasi, is by far the most holiest existing places for Hindus in India. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple is situated on the banks of the holy river Ganges and is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, the holiest Shiva Temple. The main deity is known as Vishwanatha or Vishweshwara, meaning Ruler of the Universe. It is in the oldest living city in the world with 3500 years of documented history, Kashi. Hence the temple is called as the Kashi Vishwanath Temple.

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Kashi Vishwanathan Temple

 

It is said that a bath in the holy river Ganges will liberate a human being of all his/her sins of a lifetime. This temple is regarded with great respect because of two major reasons. Firstly it is the enshrinement as the twelve Jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva and 15.5 meters high gold spire and 3 domes constructed of pure gold. The temple has been referred to in Hindu scriptures for a very long time and is the central part of worship of Shaiva Philosophy. It had been destroyed and re-constructed many times. The last structure was demolished by Aurangazeb and Gyanvapi Mosque was constructed on its site.

The golden dome
The golden dome

During religious occasion of Shivarathri, Kashi Naresh (King of Kashi) is the chief officiating priest and no other priest or person is allowed to enter the sanctum or the sanctorum. It is only after the religious functions are performed by him, people are allowed in.

HARMANDIR SAHIB

Harmandir Sahib or also Darbar Sahib and informally known as the Golden temple is the holiest Sikh Gurudwara, located in  Amritsar, Punjab. The city was founded by the 5th Sikh Guru, Guru Ram Das . On 3rd January 1588 he laid the foundation of the Harmandir Sahib. By 1604, he completed the Adi Granth, which is the holy scriptures of Sikhism and installed it in the Gurudwara.

The holy Harmandir Sahib
The holy Harmandir Sahib

The temple has 4 four doors which symbolize the openness of Sikhs towards all religions and all people. The present temple was rebuilt in 1764 by Jassa Singh Ahluwalia with the help of other Sikh Misis. In the early 19th century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh  secured the temple with gold to resist from foreign attacks. This gives the temple its distinctive appearance and its English name. The holiest text of the Sikhs, Guru Granth Sahib is present inside the Harmandir Sahib. Its construction was mainly intended to build a place of worship for men and women from all walks of life and all religions to come and worship God equally. Around 100,000 people come and worship god everyday.

Sé CATHEDRAL SANTA CATERINA

This church is one of the largest churches in India and is located in Goa. This cathedral is dediacted to Catherine of Alexandria. This church was built to honor the victory of Portuguese under a Muslim army, which led to the capture of the city of Goa.  Since the victory happened incidentally on the feast of St. Catherine, this cathedral is dedicated to her.  The actual construction began in 1562 and was completed in 1619 and sacred in 1640. The church is 181 feet in breath and 250m in length.

Se' Cathedral in Goa
Se’ Cathedral in Goa

On account of the rich tone of the bell in the Cathedral, it is known as the “Golden Bell”. It is known to be one of the best bells in the world and the largest in Goa. On the main Altar, there are several old paintings and it is dedicated to Catherine of Alexandria. On the right, there is a chapel, where it is believed that a vision of Christ is said to have appeared in 1919. This chapel is also known as Cross of Miracles.

Interior of Se' Cathedral
Interior of Se’ Cathedral

VELANKANNI CHURCH

This is one among the most sacred churches for the Christians across the globe. Velankanni town is located at the beach of Bay of Bengal. It is famous for the shrine, Basilica which is dedicated to ‘Lady of Health’. It has been proved for centuries that Velankanni is known as the “Lourdes of the East”. It is believed that when worshipers offer candles to the Mother, their illness is cured and candles are in different shapes like heart, lungs etc. based on the ailment a person has, they light the candle of that shape. This shrine is a great combination of multicultural, international and religious harmony. There are many other child churches of Velankanni located near Nellore and other places. It is interesting that these churches are all usually located on the coast of Bay of Bengal.

Velankanni Church
Velankanni Church

JAMA MASJID

The Masjid-i-Numa or commonly known as Jama Masjid is the most important mosque of Old Delhi. Started by the Mughal emporer Shah Jahan, it is the best known mosque in India. Its construction began in 1650 and was completed in 1656.

Jama Masjid in Delhi
Jama Masjid in Delhi

The name Jama Masjid refers to the weekly Friday noon congregation of Muslims. Jummah which are usually done in a mosque, the congregational mosque or the Jama Masjid. The courtyard of this mosque can hold upto 25,000 people who come to perform the holy Namaaz.  The antique copy of the holy Quran is inscribed on deer skin and kept in the Jama Masjid.

Congregational Namaaz in Jama Masjid
Congregational Namaaz in Jama Masjid

MAKKAH MASJID

Mecca Masjid or Makkah Masjid is located in Hyderabad, Telangana State. It was constructed by the fifth ruler of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, Mohmmed Quli Qutb Shah. Makkah Masjid is one of the largest mosques in India and is listed as a site of heritage of Hyderabad. It is located very closely to historical places like Chowmahalla Palace, Laad Bazar and Charminar.

Makkah Masjid in Hyderabad
Makkah Masjid in Hyderabad

It is said that Mohemmed Quli Qutb Shah had commissioned to make bricks from the soil brought from Mecca which is the holiest place of Islam, and build the central arch of the mosque, thus giving the mosque its name. It formed the center piece around which the whole city of Hyderabad was planned by Mohemmed Quli.

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These are just 1% of religious destinies of India. There are more than a 1000 places where devotees regularly go and pray. Hence, India also one of the Holy Lands, for all religions.

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