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    India offers a mystical journey to those who seek to traverse through the spiritual, numinous and religious alleys of the country. A land of diverse religious faiths, languages, cultures, customs and traditions, India is an intriguing destination for those interested in studying and understanding its spirit. With thousands of temples dotting the Indian landscape, the country attracts mystics and spiritual followers by the score.

    From Chaar Dhaam to the Swami Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala, the temples of India offer a mysterious solace and tranquility to every distressed soul. Thousands of people, from all over the world, flock to these temples in India; some with tears in their eyes, some with prayers in their heart and some with gratitude on their lips.

    Here’s a look at top 25 temples in India that are a must-visit; because of their spiritual value and their architectural splendour :

    1. Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai

    Photo Credits: Ilavanji

    Situated on the banks of the River Vaigai, the Meenakshi Amman Temple is the heart of the city of Madurai and one of the most popular South Indian temples. Dedicated to Meenakshi, an avatar of Goddess Parvati, and her consort Sundareswarar, Lord Shiva, the temple is one of the biggest temples of India. It attracts as many as 15,000 people every day. On Fridays, when special poojas are held in the temple, the number of devotees that come to the temple to receive the deity’s blessings is well over 25,000.

    Besides being known for its spiritual value, the Meenakshi Amman Temple is also an architectural wonder. Surrounded by 14 gopurams, the temple has two golden sculptured vimana over the sanctum sanctorum. There are about 33,000 sculptures in the Meenakshi Amman Temple.

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    The temple complex is spread over 45 acres and houses a sacred temple tank, shrines of the deities Meenakshi and Sundareswarar and an expansive corridor which was used to train parrots to call out the name ‘Meenakshi’. Interestingly, the pond in the temple does not have any fish or aquatic creatures. It is believed that Lord Shiva had blessed the pond and so it is free of all aquatic creatures. One of the most striking architectural wonders in the temple complex is the Hall of Thousand Pillars.

    The most important festival held in the temple premises is the Meenakshi Kalyanam, which attracts large number of devotees from all over the country. Another 10-day festival called the Avani Moola Maha Utsavam is another attraction for mystics and devotees.

    An interesting festival called Margazhi is celebrated from December to January. Other important festivals observed at the Meenakshi Amman Temple include Ther Thiruvizha, Theppa Thiruvizha, Navratri and Shivaratri.

    Mentions of the Meenakshi Amman Temple in ancient Tamil literature indicate that the temple belongs to the 7th century. Besides being an important religious centre and an architectural wonder amongst South Indian temples, the Meenakshi Amman Temple is also historically significant.

    2. Golden Temple, Amritsar

    The Golden Temple, originally known as the Harmandir Sahib or the Darbar Sahib, is a Sikh Gurudwara situated in the city of Amritsar. Known for its distinct gold covered dome and walls, the Golden Temple was built by the Guru Arjan, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs and is considered to be one of the most auspicious and ancient temples in India.

    The Guru Granth Sahib, which was completed by the Guru in 1604, is also installed in the Golden Temple. With four gates in four directions, the Golden Temple welcomes all, irrespective of religion, caste and creed, into its fold. The Golden Temple was built to create peace between people from all walks of life and religions. More than one lakh people visit the Golden Temple every day.

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    Amritsar gets its name from the tank that was excavated by the fourth Guru of Sikhs Guru Ram Das. The Golden Temple is situated in the middle of this tank and the temple is regarded as the highest centre of Sikhism. The beautiful gold covered dome and walls look spectacular as they glisten in the rays of the sun. The ceiling is a stupefying work made with gold and precious stones. Amongst the ancient temples in India, this is definitely worth a visit.

    3. Sai Baba Temple, Shirdi

    This is one of the few temples in India which is held in high regard by both Hindus and Muslims in the country. Dedicated to Saint Sai Baba, the temple is situated in Shirdi, 296 km from Mumbai. The temple was built in 1922 to continue the services of Saint Sai Baba. Sai Baba is known and revered for his preachings. He emphasised on Shraddha meaning faith and Saburi meaning compassion.

    Sai Baba also strongly believed in the uniformity of religion. After his death, several disciples took on the onus of continuing his work and serving the masses. To this day, thousands of people visit the Sai Baba Temple in Shirdi every year. The temple witnesses an inflow of at least 20,000 devotees everyday and on special occasions the number crosses the 1,00,000 mark. Sai Baba’s disciples have spread the Shirdi Sai Movement in the Caribbean and other foreign countries such as the United States of America, Malaysia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and Australia.

    4. Vaishno Devi Mandir, Jammu and Kashmir

    The Vaishno Devi Maa Temple in the town of Katra, Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most important places of pilgrimage for Hindus of the country. One of the most significant temples in India, it is situated at an elevation of 5,300 feet and witnesses a huge inflow of devotees every year. It is considered to be a Shakti Peeth and hence Hindu devotees flocked to the temple in hundreds and thousands each year.

    According to Hindu mythology, Sati, often referred to as Ma Shakti, had set herself on fire after her husband, Lord Shiva, was insulted by her father King Daksha. Lord Shiva carried her body around the world in grief and pieces of her body fell in different parts of the country. The shrines built over these divine remnants are known as Shakti Peethas. The Vaishno Devi Mandir is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas in the country and is also one of the most important temples in India. This is the second most visited temple in the country, after the Tirumala Venkateshwara Temple.

    The journey to the Vaishno Devi temple is quite arduous as it requires a long uphill walk. However, ponies, palanquins and even helicopters are available for the journey. Despite the difficulties on the way to the temple, there is no decline in the number of devotees that visit the temple every year.

    5. Tirumala Venkateswara, Tirupati

    Photo Credits: klachak

    The Tirumala Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh is the richest pilgrimage centre of the country. It is also the most visited temple in the country and witnesses an inflow of 50,000 to 1,00,000 pilgrims every day. The temple is situated on the seventh peak of the Tirumala Hill and is the abode of the presiding deity Lord Venkateshwara. Situated on the banks of the River Sri Swamy Pushkarini, the temple hosts a special festival called the Brahmotsavam. During this festival as many as 5,00,000 pilgrims visit the temple, making it the most visited holy place in the world.

    There are several legends associated with the temple. It is believed that the deity called Mulaberam is self-installed. A large gold crown with an emerald in the centre adorns the deity. On special occasions, the deity is adorned with a diamond crown.

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    According to devotees, Lord Venkateshwara is an extremely loving and compassionate avatar of the Lord Vishnu and fulfils all desires of his followers. The temple also witnesses several interesting rituals such as head tonsuring, thulabharam, Arjitha Seva, etc which are done by devotees to appease the lord. A major source of income for the temple is the auctioning of hair collected from devotees and accounts to as much as $6 million in the temple treasury.

    The major festivals celebrated in the temple include the Vaikuntha Ekadasi, Ram Navami, Janmashtami, Rathasaptami and Vasanthotsavam. The Brahmotsavam is the most important ceremony conducted in the temple every September.

    6. Gomateshwara Bahubali, Sravanabelagola

    Sravanabelagola in Hassan district of Karnataka is best known for its 57-feet tall statue of Gomateshwara Bahubali. It is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations for Jains in India. Sravanabelagola has two peaks called the Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri.

    The gigantic statue is situated on the Vindhyagiri hill and attracts a large number of tourists and devotees from all over the country and the world, throughout the year. The statue is also the world’s largest monolithic statue. Sravanabelagola attracts millions of devotees during the Mahamastakabhisheka ceremony of the statue.

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    The ceremony is conducted every 12 years and the colossal statue is bathed in milk, ghee, saffron and gold coins. Amongst the famous temples of India that have immense historical significance, this is one temple that is worth visiting. The next Mahamastakabhisheka is scheduled in 2018. Sravanabelagola is of particular interest to those keen on studying the emergence and evolution of Jainism. A number of inscriptions have been found in the region, written in ancient Kannada, Marathi, Sanskrit, Konkani, Tamil and Marwari languages. These inscriptions have also played an instrumental role in helping scholars understand the evolution of Kannada language and literature.

    7. Chennakeshava Temple, Belur

    Originally known as the Vijayanarayana Temple, the Chennakeshava Temple was built on the banks of the River Yagachi by Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana. The deity Chennakeshava is believed to be another form of the Hindu god Lord Vishnu. The temple is noted for its religious significance and architectural splendour.

    The beautiful temple is built of soapstone and showcases excellent craftsmanship and fine detailing. The pillars inside the hall of the temple are an attraction for most tourists, especially the Narasimha pillar which at one time revolved around its ball bearings. Exquisitely carved, the interiors of the temple are a fine specimen of the fabulous craftsmanship of the artisans of that period.

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    There are a number of sculptures too in the temple. Some of the most important and beautiful sculptures that can be seen in the temple include that of Narasimha, Gajasura Samhara, which depicts Lord slaying a demon; Ganesha; Goddess Durga slaying Mahishasura; Kali etc.

    8. Hoysaleswara Temple, Halebid

    The Hoysaleshwara temple is more of architectural value than religious. It was built in 1121 CE by the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana. The temple fell under the attack of Muslim invaders in the 14th century and parts of it were destroyed in the attack. Also known as Dorasamudra or Dwarasamudra, the temple architecture is a fascinating combination of skill and perfection. Made of soapstone, the temple has two shrines and two superstructures dedicated to the King and his queen Shantala Devi. These two shrines are called Hoysaleswara and Shantaleshwara.

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    According to historians, the construction of the temple was taken up in competition with that of the Chennakeshava Temple in Belur. This temple is the largest temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, among all temples in South India.

    The Hoysaleswara temple is best known for its artistic sculptures. There are about 240 sculptures on the walls of the temples. Another interesting feature of the temple is the Garuda Stambha. The Garuda Stambha stands in memory of all the special personal guards, called Garudas, who were assigned the responsibility of guarding the king and his family.

    9. Lord Ayyappan Temple, Sabarimala

    Sabarimala is situated in the Western Ghat ranges in Kerala. Surrounded by 18 hills and dense forests, the Sabarimala temple is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world and witnesses the congregation of as many as 45 to 50 million devotees every year. It is believed that Lord Ayyappan meditated here after slaying the demoness Mahishi and hence is of great importance to Hindu devotees. An interesting fact about Sabarimala pilgrimage is that only men are allowed to enter the temple. Women between the age group of 10 and 50 are not allowed in the temple.

    Sabarimala pilgrims can easily be identified by their clothes, which are usually black or blue in colour. They do not shave or eat non-vegetarian till their pilgrimage is complete. The temple is open to devotees during the first six days of the Malayalam calendar. The major festivals of the temple include the Mandala Pooja, which is held from November 15 to December 26; the Makaravilakku, which is usually held on January 14 and Vishu.

    10. Murugan Temple, Palani

    The Murugan Temple at Palani is one of the most important sites of pilgrimage for Hindus in the country. The temple is dedicated to Lord Kartikeya, the son of Lord Shiva. It is believed that Karthikeya on losing the challenge posed by Lord Shiva to his brother Ganesha, came down to Palani. The temple is known for its panchamrit and Javaadu Vibhuti, which every pilgrim to the temple brings back with him.

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    The important festivals of the Murugan Temple in Palani include the Skanda Sasti, the Thaipoosam and the Panguni Uthiram. Millions of devotees from all over the country undertake an arduous padayatra or journey on foot to reach the temple and seek darshan of the deity.

    It is believed that the sculpture of the deity was created by Sage Bhogar, one of the greatest ascetics of Hinduism, using the Navapashanam, which are nine medicinal stones. Every day, panchamrutham made of Navapashanam is anointed to the deity and then distributed among devotees. One of the most common traditions at the temple is the tonsuring of heads that devotees believe will appease the deity.

    11. Ramanathaswamy Temple, Ramanathapuram

    The town of Rameswaram is one of the holiest places of pilgrimage for Hindus in the country. It is a part of the Char Dhams or four holiest places for Hindus in the country. Rameshwaram is located on the Pamban Island and is connected to the mainland through the Pamban Channel.

    The Ramanathaswamy Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is an important place of worship for both Shaivites and Vaishnavites. The temple is noted for its architectural splendour and its corridor is the longest among all Hindu temples in the country. It is also one of the 12 Jyotirlinga temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and here the God is worshipped as a Jyotirlinga or pillar of light.

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    According to popular belief, Lord Rama prayed to Lord Shiva here that all sins that he may have committed during the war with Ravana, be absolved. He needed a huge lingam for the purpose and hence sent Hanuman to get one from the Himalayas. Due to the delay in Hanuman’s return, his wife Sita built him a small lingam and this is believed to be enshrined in the temple. There are two lingams inside the shrine -- one the small lingam built by Sita called the Ramalingam and the other brought by Hanuman called the Viswalingam.

    12. Sun Temple, Konark

    The Sun Temple at Konark is a unique architectural wonder. One of the few temples in the country to be dedicated to the Sun God, this temple is more of architectural value than religious. It is believed to have been built by Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty around 1250 AD.

    The temple has been built in the shape of a chariot drawn by gigantic and exquisitely carved wheels, some of which are about three metres thick. The Konark temple was originally built at the mouth of the River Chandrabhaga and is positioned in such a manner that its principal entrance received the first rays of the sunlight.

    One of the most ancient  temples in India, Sun Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is visited by millions of tourists from all over the country and the world. The beautifully carved wheels and the erotic sculptures of Mithunas are the main attractions of the Sun Temple at Konark.

    13. Puri Jagannath Temple, Puri

    The Jagannath Temple is situated in the Puri district of Odisha. The temple is one of the Char Dham destinations where a Hindu is supposed to perform pilgrimage during his lifetime. The temple houses the deities Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra.

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    The most famous festival observed at the temple is the Rath Yatra when all the deities are taken on a ride on temple chariots. The event attracts millions of devotees and tourists from all over the country and the world. The deities of the Jagannath temple of Puri are visibly different from those found in the other temples of the country. With large eyes, peculiar complexions, the distinct forms of the deities of this temple have many interesting legends associated with them.

    The idols of deities are built using a particular kind of wood called the Daru Brahma which is found by the leading temple priest once in every 12 years. There are several restrictions to entering the temple. Only Hindus of Indian origin are allowed to visit the interiors and other practising Hindus of foreign nationalities are restricted. Buddhist and Jain groups are, however, allowed inside if they can provide evidence of their Indian origin.

    14. Akshardham Temple, New Delhi

    Photo Credits: Gaurav Trivedi

    The Akshardham temple situated in New Delhi is one of the most beautiful temples of India. Situated on the banks of the River Yamuna, the temple holds the Guinness record for being the World’s Largest Comprehensive Hindu Temple. The Akshardham Temple is often referred to as the Delhi Akshardham or Swaminarayan Akshardham and was developed by Pramukh Swami Maharaj of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha. Around 3,000 helpers of the BAPS helped 7,000 artisans develop the temple.

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    The temple, which has been built in compliance with Vastu Shastra and Pancharatra Shastra, attracts about 70 per cent of the tourists visiting New Delhi. Apart from exquisitely carved interiors and exteriors, the temple has a hall of values, a theatre, a musical fountain, and a garden called the Bharat Upvan. The temple is a fine reflection of India’s spiritual, architectural and Hindu and Indian culture.

    15. Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Trivandrum

    The Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is situated in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is one of the most famous temples of India. It is also one of the 108 Divya Desams, the principal places of worship of Lord Vishnu according to Vaishnavism.

    According to popular belief, the city got its names after the temple. The name Thiruvananthapuram means the sacred abode of Lord Anantha Padmanabha. In the temple, the presiding deity Padmanabhaswamy is enshrined in a reclining posture on the serpent Anantha.

    According to the Temple Entry Proclamation, only Hindus are allowed inside the temple and that too when dressed in the appropriate dress code. Inside the temple, there are two other shrines called the Thekkedom and Thiruvambadi dedicated to the deities Sri Yoga Narasimha and Sree Krishna Swami.

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    This South Indian temple has a 100-feet tall gopuram which was built in 1566. The major festivals of the Padmanabhaswamy temple include the Every day, panchamrutham made of Navapashanam is anointed to the deity and then distributed among devotees. celebrated in the months of October and November; the Painkuni festival celebrated in March and April; the Navratri festival, which is one of the most important festivals of the temple.

    The most attractive festival of the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple is the Laksha deepam when one lakh oil lamps are lit in and around the temple premises. The festival is celebrated once in six years and in preparation for the festival, chanting and prayers and recitation of the three Vedas is done for 56 days.

    16. Badrinarayan Temple, Northern Dham

    Another important dham among the Char Dham temples of India, Badrinath is a small town and one of the holiest places for pilgrimage for Hindus. One of the most important ancient temples in India, it is situated on the banks of the River Alakananda in the Garhwal district of Uttarakhand. It is situated at an elevation of 10, 170 feet and devotees usually walk on foot to reach the famous Badrinath temple.

    It is believed that the saint Adi Shankara found an idol of Lord Vishnu made of Salagrama stone in the Alakananda River. He initially enshrined the idol near the hot springs of Tapt Kund, but later on the King of Garhwal re-installed the deity in the Badrinath Temple. The temple is an architectural wonder with stone facade, walls and arches and a gold gilt rooftop. The designing makes the temple resemble a Buddhist vihara. Badrinath is well connected by rail, road and air. The temple and its nearby areas are approachable by road.

    17. Dwarkadhish Temple, Western Dham

    The Western Dham of the Char Dham pilgrimage centres, the Dwarkadhish Temple is situated in Dwarka in Gujarat. It is believed to have been built after the legendary Dwaraka city, which was the capital of Lord Krishna and submerged into the city after the Mahabharata War. The temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna and is a five-storied building, supported by 72 pillars.

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    The present temple at Dwarka is believed to have been built in the 16th century while the original was built by Lord Krishna’s grandson, Vajranabha. There are some specialities about the temple such as a flag is tied atop the temple and shows the sun and the moon. This flag is changed five times a day. The cleanliness of the temple and its surroundings has won it a nomination in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

    18. Siddhivinayak Temple, Mumbai

    The Shri Siddhivinayak Ganapati Mandir is one of the richest temples in Mumbai. It is dedicated to Lord Ganesha and was built by Laxman Vithu and Deubai Patil. It is one of the most famous temples of India as leading politicians and Bollywood celebrities often visit the temple for seeking the deity’s blessings.

    The temple has a small shrine for the deity. The inner roof of the sanctum is plated with gold and the wooden doors leading to the hall have carved images of Ashtavinayak or eight manifestations of Lord Ganesha. There is a Hanuman temple too situated near the Siddhivinayak temple. Millions of people include Siddhivinayak as a part of their temple tour itinerary.

    19. Guruvayoor Temple, Kerala

    The Guruvayoor Sri Krishna Temple is situated in the Guruvayur town in Kerala. It is one of the most famous temples of India, especially for Vaishnavites. It is dedicated to Lord Krishna and is often referred to as ‘Bhooloka Vaikuntam’, which means holy abode of Lord Vishnu on Earth.

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    The temple is one of the most famous Krishna temples of India. Lord Krishna is called Guruvayoorappan in this temple town. The idol of the deity at the Guruvayoor Temple is made of stone called black antimony and is believed to have magnetic and medicinal properties. There is a strict dress code for people who wish to enter the Guruvayoor Temple. Men are to wear mundu and remain bare backed. Women can wear saris, salwar kameez or long skirts. Several devotees flock this divine abode for an authentic temple tour experience.

    20. Karni Mata Temple, Rajasthan

    The Karni Mata Temple is situated in Deshnoke in Rajasthan and is a Hindu temple. It is dedicated to Karni Mata, who was a Hindu sage and is believed to be an incarnation of goddess Durga. The temple was built by Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner. The temple was further adorned with silver gates and marble carvings donated by a Hyderabad-based jeweller in 1999. Besides, the beautiful architecture, carvings and adornments, the most striking feature of the Karni Mata temple is the presence of about 20,000 black rats.

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    According to folklore, one of Karni Mata’s sons had fallen into the Kapil Sarovar while trying to drink water from it. Karni Mata summoned the God of death Yama and asked him to revive her son. Yama allowed all sons of Karni Mata to come back to life in the form of rats. These rats are considered to be holy and are given protection in the temple. If any of the rats die, it is to be replaced with a gold rat. There are also some white rats that are believed to be Karni Mata herself and her four sons.

    21. Khajuraho Temple, Madhya Pradesh

    Known for its beautiful sculptures and carvings, the Khajuraho group of temples and monuments is located in Madhya Pradesh. The site has the largest groups of Jain and Hindu temples of the medieval era. The Khajuraho Group of Temples has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is believed to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

    It is believed that the locals in the area always knew about the temples and had maintained in the best possible way they could. It was pointed out to the British when the jungles started causing damage to the temples. The temples are grouped into the Southern, Eastern and Western groups.

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    The temple is built of sandstone and the joints have been fixed with mortise and tenon and they are held together by gravity. The most striking feature of the Khajuraho temple is the exquisitely carved set of erotic sculptures outside the temple and near the deities.

    22. Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand

    The Kedarnath Mandir is one of the most sacred temples in the country and is situated in the state of Uttarakhand. Flanked by the Mandakini River on one side, the temple is open only from the month of April to the month of November. During the winter season, the deities of the Kedarnath Temple are taken to Ukhimath and worshipped there for six months. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is worshipped as the Lord of the Kedar Khand. The region was known as Kedar Khand earlier.

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    According to popular belief, the temple was built by the legendary Pandavas and revived by the saint Adi Sankaracharya. The temple can be reached only through a long, arduous trek from Gaurikund. The temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas in the country and is also one of the most important sites of the Chota Char Dham Yatra undertaken by Hindus in India.

    The temple has to bear the onslaught of the recent floods in Uttarakhand. Although major parts of the temple complex had to bear severe damage, the Kedarnath temple has remained unharmed.

    23. Kashi Vishwanath, Varanasi

    Situated in the holy city of Varanasi, the Kashi Vishwanath temple is one of the holiest temples for Hindus in India. The Kashi Vishwanath temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and stands on the banks of the River Ganges.

    The city of Varanasi is the holiest cities for Hindus and is an important part of all religious tours in India. Hindus consider it essential to visit the city once in their lifetime and cremate their ancestors in Varanasi. The city of Varanasi is believed to be about 3,500 years old and was also known as Kashi, hence the temple is called Kashi Vishwanath.

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    The Kashi Vishwanath temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in the country. It is believed that by visiting the temple and by bathing in the River Ganges, a person can achieve Moksha. The linga in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple is about 60 cm tall and 90 cm in girth. There are several other temples in the complex. There is a small well in the complex which is called the wisdom well. It is believed that the Jyotirlinga was hidden in this well to protect it during the time of invasion.

    24. Somnath Temple, Gujarat

    Another one of the Jyotirlinga temples, the Somnath temple is an important destination for religious tourism in India. It is situated on the Western Coast of Gujarat and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas in India. Jyotirlinga shrines are places where Lord Shiva is worshipped as an endless and fiery column of light. It is believed that there were 64 Jyotirlingas originally. As a part of the temple tour itinerary, Somnath Temple is definitely worth making a pit stop.

    The temple is also known as the ‘Shrine Eternal’ as it was destroyed during several invasions and rebuilt, the latest being in 1947. The temple is built in the Chalukya style of architecture and its main spire called shikara has a height of 150 feet. The most remarkable feature of the temple, as pointed out by inscriptions on the Baan Stambh, is that there no land falling in a straight line between the Somnath shore and Antarctica.

    25. Ranakpur Jain Temple, Rajasthan

    The beautiful Ranakpur Jain Temple is a fine example of splendid architecture, superb carvings and spectacular sculptures. Dedicated to Adinath, this stunning Jain temple is situated in between Jodhpur and Udaipur. The temple has beautiful domes, cupolas, turrets and a Shikhara.

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    The most remarkable feature about the temple is that it has as many as 1,444 pillars and it is believed that it is impossible to count all the pillars. Each pillar has a distinctive carving on it. All the sculptures have been carved in such a manner that they face one or the other idol in the temple. Furthermore, there is a beautiful carving made out of a single marble rock and depicts about 108 heads of snakes. Interestingly, it is impossible to find the tails of these snakes. There are thousands of people including this temple in their itinerary as a part of their temple tour vacation. The temple has been designed with four faces or chaumukha, which symbolises the Tirthankaras conquest of all four directions.

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Attractions

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Pangong Lake

Rather, the most sought after tourist destination is Pangong Tso in Ladakh region. It is the highest among the high altitude lakes in India which is filled with saline water but provides some awe-struck moments to the visitors with the unbelievable phenomenon of changing colours quite a number of times a day.

The reflections of the towering Himalayan peaks in the water add more charm to the lake. Currently, Pangong Tso is the favorite location for tourists as the banks of the lake give soothing bed to relax and the nearby places are enhanced by the beauty of this particular lake. The quiet lake is 134 km in length and 5 km in width is situated at an altitude of 14270 meters. But the major share of the lake lies in the area of China. Now, its recognition is spread everywhere in the world because it is termed as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.

The highly saline water does not accommodate any water species not even micro-organisms. But the banks of the lake give space for several birds and animals very rarely seen in the other parts of India. It is an important breeding ground for many migratory birds as well.

Height: The lake is located at an altitude of 4250 meters above the sea level.

Location: Pangong Tso is easily accessible as it can be reached after a five hour drive from Leh and the travel would be on a rough and dramatic mountain road. You will cross the villages of Shey and Gya during the tour and go through Chang La as well.

Best time to visit: The months from May to September are the ideal time to visit the lake as the other seasons may cause challenges due to the heavy snowfall.

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Nubra Valley

Something divine makes Nubra Valley close to heart and it is not an exaggeration but a fact that experienced and shared by the countless tourists visited the paradisiacal location in Jammu and Kashmir. Without touching the spectacular roads of Nubra Valley, a Ladakh tour will not be complete. The tri armed valley has Diskit Village as its capital. Ldumra, a magnificent name is the original name of the valley as the local scholars insist. Ldumra means Valley of Flowers. The large valley is formed after the merging of Shyok River with Nubra or Siachen River causing the separation of the Ladakh and the Karakoram Ranges. The valley is located 10000 feet that is 3048 meters above mean sea level and those who cross the Khardung La Pass can easily come to Nubra Valley from Leh.

Except the river beds, every other place in the valley shows scant vegetation and low precipitation levels. Most of the villages in the valley are occupied by Nubra skat speakers and in the villages, one can find lush greenery and farming which happen through the regular irrigation. Diskit is the place where native people are seen in abundance and Diskit Monastery is the entre of attraction as well. The Shyok River flowing on one side of Diskit has a captivating effect on the visitors. Nubra Valley unwinds a lot of surprising sights when you visit it and an unbelievable fact is that the valley was open to the public till Hunder until 2010. Beyond Hunder, it was the greener region in the lower altitude where the Turtuk village exists. Till 2010, the Government did not allow tourists to mesmerize themselves in the magnificent beauty of Turtuk where numerous apricot trees and other vegetation along with the tribal community were preserved as a virgin.

Height: 3048 meters above the sea level

Location: The paradisiacal Nubra Valley is located at a distance of 140 km from Leh and the main road access to the valley is through Khardung La pass where you have to show the photocopies of your travel permit to the soldiers camping.

Best time to visit: The months from June to September is the perfect period to visit Nubra Valley

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Khardung La

Controversies regarding the proclamation that Khardung La is the highest motorable pass in the world is not yet diminished but Ladakh travelers still believe that it is the highest and most adventurous pass in the world. Despite the controversies, Khardung La keeps on attracting hundreds of adventure seekers every year, be it bikers, trekkers or visitors. Nestled amidst the most reverberating surrounding, the ‘Pass of Lower Castle’ is located at an altitude of 17582 feet. Near to the pass, the collection of awesome valleys will lure you and along with the natural extravaganzas, the Tibetan prayer flags are an additional charm.

The pass was constructed in the year of 1976 and later in 1988, it was opened to public and from then on, the pass was inviting uncountable bikers, trekkers and tourists. It is maintained by the Border roads Organization as the pass is highly significant and important to India because it was once used to carry supplies to the Siachen Glacier. Recently, Khardung La became the hot potato of the town with a happy news that a ten member team of visually impaired people is going to conquer the pass through cycling in 2017.

Height: Khardung La is located at an altitude of 5359 meters. But there is an incorrect proclamation on the signboards appear here saying that the height of the pass is 18379 feet.

Location: The highest motorable pass in Ladakh is lying about 39 kms away from Leh. By road, one can reach the pass. The first 24 kms of the road are paved and from there to the North Pullu check post, the 15 kms of the road are filled with loose rock, dirt and occasional rivulets formed after the melting of snow.

Best time to visit: The season between May to October is the best time to visit Khardung La.

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Tso Moriri Lake

It won’t be exceeding at all how much you describe the beauty of Tso Moriri in Ladakh, a highly protected lake in Changthang Region and a significant portion of Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve.  It is the largest of all high altitude lakes in India especially in Ladakh and is located at an altitude of 4522 meters above the sea level. The length comes to 26 km north to south and 3 to 5 km is the width and the water is wholly brackish. 

The water to feed the lake comes from the springs and melted snow from the nearby mountains. There are two major stream systems to lead the water to the lake. One in the north part of the lake and the other comes in the southwest part. Huge, extensive marshes are seen at both the entrances of the lake. Rupshu Valley, a breathtaking area is the guardian of Tso Moriri along with an array of the lofty Himalayan Mountains in the surrounding.

The number of people come to witness the beauty of this splendid lake is lesser when compared to that of Pangong Lake. It is because of the secluded location of the lake. Hence, it is a favorite home town for many migratory birds. They come to breed here especially birds like great- crested grebe, the brown-headed gull and the Brahmin duck. The rare Himalayan hares are also abundantly seen near the lake. Thus, the declaration of the lake as a reserved area is a right option to protect these species from extinction. Less human interference would keep their lives strong.

Height: The lake is situated at an altitude of 4522 meters.

Location: You can reach Tso Moriri via road from Leh. It is 150 kms away from Leh Airport. Kalka Railway station is the nearest one to the lake. You will get buses and taxis from the station as well.

Best time to visit: May, June, July and August are the peak season when tourists come to Tso Moriri in large numbers and other months will be filled with snow and have extreme cold conditions.

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Shanti Stupa

The white dome of Shanti Stupa is clearly visible from a far distance when you are on a tour of Leh. Peace Pagoda got its name like that because of many reasons mainly the silence persists in and around the pagoda always. This Buddhist prayer center is the most beloved attraction in Jammu and Kashmir. At a height of 4267 meters, the two storied stupa stands holding its head high and overlooks the bustling Leh town. The uneven mountain terrains in the surrounding gives the pagoda a remarkable shining. It is at a location which is 5 km away from Leh town and one who visits the stupa has to climb five hundred steps. The exotic view of the Himalayan peaks turns the beauty of the stupa also, a peace lover would dedicate his life to have such overjoying moments.

History

The stupa was constructed by both Japanese and Ladakh Buddhists. The construction was started in 1983, many Buddhists and Indian Government officials have supervised the procedures throughout.

Structure of the stupa

Among the two structures of the pagoda, the first level depicts the central relief of Dharmachakra which has deer on each side and the turning wheel of Dharma also has a golden image of Buddha at the center. The second level displays images which show the birth of Budhha and the death as well. In addition, both the level have smaller images of Buddha meditating. The stupa came into existence in order to spread the word of peace and harmony among people and it came into establishment as a commemoration of the valuable 2500 years of Buddhism.

Location: Any one can reach the stupa via road from Leh, only 5 kms from the town, a walk of fifteen minutes would require.

Timings: 05:00 am to 09:00 pm

Highlights: The sunset and sunrise views from the stupa are inevitably beautiful


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Magnetic Hill

Magnetic Hill is still a mystery yet a famed attraction that pulls the adventure lovers on a large scale toward it. A mystifying phenomenon which stunts the science and fiction together and exists as a magic to the normal people visiting here. Magnetic Hill is a trump card of every Ladakh tour because of the awe-struck moments it would promise the travelers. There is a sign board placed which says that the hill defies gravity completely and inviting everyone to experience the magical phenomenon.

 If you keep your vehicle in neutral at a position marked on the road and wait, you will be surprised to see the vehicle starts moving uphill at 10-20 km per hour. And this is the unexplainable feature of Magnetic Hill that confuses the world of science. It is located on Leh-Kargil-Baltic Highway and on the east, the beautiful Sindhu River is flowing calmly. Near the hill there is a Sikh Gurudwara maintained by the Indian Army. Due to the natural attraction as well as the human architectural brilliance, the hill has gained popularity in a short term. 

Not just the vehicles hitting the road but the aircrafts and helicopters crossing the radius which Magnetic Hill comes in would feel the same magnetic effect. If the aircrafts are going on a slow pace, then it starts jerking while they are in the circumference of the hill. So the only solution to escape from the clutches of this phenomenon is that the crafts should move at a greater speed.

Height: Magnetic Hill is located at an elevation of 14000 feet above the sea level.

Location: To reach the hill, you can hit the Leh-Kargil-Baltic National Highway and it is situated at a distance of just 30 kms from Leh town.

Best time to visit: The best time to visit the Magnetic Hill is from June to October.

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Chadar Trek

For some years, adventure seekers all around the world have been talking about Chadar Trek in the Zanskar Region. Until this year, hundreds of people have experienced the thrill hidden and the mind blowing sights around Chadar frozen river. In fact, Chadar Trek is the most sought after and one of the breathtaking treks in the Himalayas. The winter trek is so special for those who are ready to have adventure at the maximum level. 

The river trek starts from Chilling where the river begins to freeze and mostly, travelers choose February as the best time to cross the frozen river as the ice sheets will be comparatively stable. The precarious snow-flakes would pose severe threats during the trek but in some other time, the challenges would be kind to the trekker. The surrounding of the river are completely vertical cliffs tall up to 600 meters. The Zanskar River is a tributary of the Indus and is 5 meters long. 

A trekker would have to cover 16 kms per day to complete the Chadar Trek. Usually, people opt for 10-15 days of trek depending on the climatic conditions persisting here. The temperature at Chadar will come to the lowest at -35 degree Celsius during winter and thus Chadar Trek becomes more intimidating. Approximate trekking distance one would have to cover in total is 75 kms.

Maximum altitude: 11123 feet is the height at which Chadar Trek would lead you to.

Location: To take part in Chadar Trek, one should arrive in Leh and from Leh, the journey starts and goes to Chilling, the beginning of the Zanskar River in the frozen state. From Leh it would take about 65-70 kms to reach Tilad via Chilling, the base camp of the trek.

Best time to visit: January end to February is the best time suitable for trekking in the frozen river of Chadar. Quality and safe trekking gears and highly warm clothes are required.

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Markha Valley Trek

Adventure lovers always had an affection to Markha Valley and still it fulfills the dreams of a trekker or adventure seeker with the unrivalled collection of natural spectacle. Long day trekking tours are offered by a lot of tour providers all over India which promise a journey through the most scenic locations and villages. The awesomely exciting feature of this trek is that it will let the trekker cross two high altitude passes in Ladakh; Gandala La at 4980 meters and Kongmaru La at 5276 meters.

 Being one of the diverse treks in Ladakh region, Markha Valley trek offers a lot of adventurous moments throughout. The barren land of Ladakh and the Buddhist temples found throughout the journey make the trek special. The route winds past the Ladakhi villages and it goes to Hemis National Park where the chances to spot some rare wildlife species are comparably high. The nomadic groups of people will be a unique picture to keep in heart. The symbols of Buddhism like ‘chortens’, stupas, multi colored prayer flags and numerous monasteries narrate the story of Buddhist culture embraced Markha centuries ago. Another interesting fact heard about Markha Valley trek is that it is also called ‘tea house trek’ due to the accommodation provided in parachute tents in most of the villages during the tour.

Maximum altitude: 15000 feet is the maximum altitude the trek will cover.

Location: In most of the cases, the trek starts from Leh. The trail usually goes through Chilling, Skyu and then to Markha. From Markha it would take the trekker to reach Hankar and Nimaling and finally return to Leh. The ideal trekking distance is 75 kms and it would be graded as difficult.

Best time to visit: The months of June, July, August, September and October are recommended as the best time to do Markha Valley trek.

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Stok Kongri Trek

Stok Kangri, Ladakh is one of the most popular places for high altitude trekking in India. Although the beauty of Ladakh draws in innumerable tourists and trekkers from all over the country and the world, the Stok Kangri trek isn’t really suited for anyone and everyone.

It is advisable that only experienced trekkers set out on this expedition as the climatic and geographical conditions of the place may not suit novice or amateur trekkers. Nonetheless, Stok Kangri is one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in the country. It is for this reason that the Stok Kangri trek forms an inevitable experience while trekking in India.

The trek begins from Leh, which is noted for its natural beauty as well as the warm and hospitable people. During the first couple of days of the trek, you can move around Leh, go sightseeing and get acclimatized to the weather of the region. These couple of days will prepare you for the trek ahead. You will next be taken to Chang Ma via Stok Village by road.

The journey from Leh to Stok Village takes you to witness the amiable yet fictional setting which includes lush greenery, glistening snow peaks and scenic splendor of the region in this stretch. On reaching Chang Ma, you reach a snow covered region and begin trekking. You will need to climb on for about three hours. From here you will head on to Manokorma, which is at an elevation of 14200 feet.

During the trek, you will be able to view some very beautiful peaks such as the Gulap Kangri, Parcha Kangri, etc. The base camp of the trek is at an elevation of 16, 300 feet. From here, the journey continues till you reach the Stok Kangri. The rewarding scenery from the top is what draws trekkers from all over the world to high altitude trekking in India. The trek back to Leh is a bit arduous and you may need to be careful while climbing down the mountainous terrain.

Best Season: June - October

Difficulty Level: Medium

Max. Elevation: 5000 m

Number of Days: Maximum 10 days of trek can be done here

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Manali

From Manali, breathtaking views of the Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal ranges are a perennial specialty. This is the place where mountain adventures takes on a new dimension. A haven for tourists, Manali is replete with scenic quotients offering trekking enthusiasts an experience of its own kind.

Attracting visitors from all over the world all year round, this is a place for backpackers to explore the serene settings of the Himalayas. It is also the place where adventure tourists can enjoy exhilarating activities such as paragliding, rafting and skiing while on Manali to Leh Road trip.

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Roopkund Trek

Counted among the best treks in India, the Roopkund trail is a trekker’s paradise. Roopkund’s topography is complete with verdant forests, acres and acres of open meadows, trickling brooks, and the celestial snow of course. Roopkund also comprises of the eerie Skeletal Lake, and is great for one’s initiation into high-altitude trekking. Pre-monsoon and post-monsoon seasons make Roopkund one of the compulsory trekking places near Delhi.

Distance from Delhi: 308 Kilometres approximately

Nearest Railhead: Kathgodam Railway Station

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Kuari Pass Trek

Kuari Pass which signifies doorway is one of the best treks in Uttaranchal. It is also known as Curzon trail as this trekking trail was discovered by Lord Curzon in 1905. The panoramic views of the eastern slopes of the majestic Garhwal Himalayas, Neelkanth, Mana, Hathi Ghori Parvat, Bertholi, Trishul, Dronagiri, Kamet and Nanda Devi peaks can be experienced on Kuari Pass Trek.

The trek has dense deodar, ok and rhododendron forests which present a picturesque view. Rare and protected flora and fauna can be found on this trail.  The trek passes via major rivers like Mandakini, Kaliganga and Dhauli Ganga .The ideal time to visit here is in summers.

Best Season: December - January
Duration: 6-8 Days
Max. Elevation: 4,264 m

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Dodital Trek

Dodital trek is a short trek and must to do when you are on trekking in Uttaranchal tour. Difficulty ranges from easy to moderate through thick forests and across majestic Himalayas landscapes, large meadows and stream crossings.  

The trek begins from Sangamchatti (kalyani) road near Uttarkashi and completes at the Hanumanchatti. From Dodital Lake, you will need to trek uphill to reach the Darwa pass, also called as Bakaria Khaga pass. The alpine meadows of Kanasar are an ideal place for camping.

Best season: May - October
Duration: 10 Days
Altitude: 4150 m

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The Castle Manali

Built in 1460 AD, the Naggar Castle has a unique architecture that comprises of stones and wood. About a century ago, this castle of Raja Sidh Singh of Kullu was converted into a rest house, and presently it is being taken care by the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation.

In its rechristened avatar, the castle is now The Castle Heritage Hotel. Naggar Castle came into the limelight after a bollywood movie was shot here. A grand Tibetan carnival dance was shot here and hence this castle grew in touristic prominence.


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Van Vihar National Park

One of the most frequent places to visit in Manali, the Van Vihar National Park attracts visitors mainly because of its ideal location, which is bang on the Mall road in Manali. The park is a welcome respite from the crowds and the pollution with its tall and shady groves of Deodar, birch and pine. There are a number of wooden and concrete benches within the park, which provide rest, relaxation and recreation to its visitors.

Take off your shoes and take a leisurely walk across the garden paths of this wonderful haven of nature. You could also have fun cruising around in a boat that sails in the small pond within the vicinity of this park. Set amidst beautiful and verdant environs, the park is a perfect respite for anyone who chooses to visit it and makes up for a great place for a spontaneous picnic or simply a long walk!

Timing:

08:00 am – 07:00 pm (summer)

08:00 am – 05:00 pm (winter)

Entry Fee: 10 INR per Person

Photography Allowed: Yes

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Gyuto Monastery

Gyuto Monastery is one of the most famous and popular monasteries in Tibet. This monastery is well known for its tantric meditation and people there study a lot about this subject. It is also known for its various tantric ritual arts and Buddhist philosophy. Gyuto monastery was founded in the year 1474 by the prime disciple of the 1st Dalai Lama.

Location: It is situated in the town of Dharamshala which is easy to reach through road, rail as well as airways. Transportation is not a major issue while visiting the place.

Highlights: You can find majestic statues of Buddha with a backdrop of snow clad mountains covering it. If you want to have a nice afternoon, it is the most peaceful and serene place to be at.



Best time to visit: Since this is a monastery, there is no particular season that makes any difference. However, if you are planning a full trip of the place, April-May has to be the best months.