India is a land of spirituality, culture, and religion. Home to numerous pilgrimage sites, India has been the destination for millions of devotees from all over the world, who come here to seek solace and enlightenment in the footsteps of their spiritual guides.
From riverbanks and hills to temples and shrines, this list contains some of India’s most sacred pilgrimage places that offer a serene experience and opportunity for spiritual growth. Read on to discover the 28 best pilgrimage places in India that will inspire you!
What is a pilgrimage?
A pilgrimage is a spiritual journey or search, typically undertaken to find spiritual guidance or to satisfy a vow. Pilgrimages have been a part of every major religion since time immemorial and continue to be an essential part of the spiritual practice of millions of people worldwide today.
India is home to some of the world’s most sacred and famous pilgrimage sites for Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains. From the Char Dhams of Uttarakhand to the Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu & Kashmir, many destinations offer devotees the opportunity to connect with their faith and achieve inner peace.
So, if you’re looking for a pilgrimage destination in India that best suits your spiritual needs, here is a list of some of the most popular ones:
Why do people go on pilgrimages?
There are many reasons why people go on pilgrimages. For some, it is a religious experience and a way to connect with their faith. For others, it is a cultural experience and a way to learn about other traditions. And for many, it is simply a way to see the world and explore new places.
Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that pilgrimage is an enriching experience. It is an opportunity to step out of your everyday life and into a different world. To slow down and appreciate the simple things in life. To connect with nature and with something larger than yourself.
What are the benefits of going on a pilgrimage?
There are many benefits to going on a pilgrimage, including gaining a sense of spiritual enlightenment, developing a stronger connection with God, and gaining a greater understanding of one’s religion.
Expeditions can also be physically and mentally challenging, providing an opportunity for personal growth. In addition, pilgrimages often take place in beautiful locations, providing a chance to appreciate the natural world.
How to choose the best pilgrimage place for you
When choosing the best pilgrimage place for you, remember a few things. India is home to many different religions, each with its own holy sites. You’ll want to consider your own religious beliefs and traditions when deciding.
In addition, think about what kind of experience you’re looking for. Do you want a quiet, reflective trip or a more lively one where you can interact with other pilgrims? There are pilgrimage sites to suit all kinds of travelers.
Finally, consider your budget and time constraints. India is a vast country with many different pilgrimage sites spread out across it. If you’re short on time or money, you’ll need to be selective about which ones you visit.
Consider all these factors when choosing the best pilgrimage site for you. With so many options available, you’re sure to find the perfect place to deepen your faith and connect with your spiritual side.
1. Shirdi Sai Baba
Shirdi, located in the Indian state of Maharashtra, is one of India’s most popular pilgrimage destinations. Every year, millions of devotees from all over the world come to Shirdi to seek the blessings of Sai Baba, a revered saint who lived here.
The town of Shirdi is home to several historical and religious sites, including the Sai Baba Temple, one of India’s most visited temples. Devotees also flock to the tomb of Sai Baba, located within the temple complex.
Other popular attractions in Shirdi include the Dwarkamai Mosque, where Sai Baba spent a lot of time meditating, and the Gurusthan Grove, where he is said to have attained enlightenment.
2. Vaishno Devi
Situated in Jammu and Kashmir, Vaishno Devi is one of India’s most popular pilgrimage destinations. It is also one of the “Char Dhams,” the four holiest Hindu pilgrimage sites. The temple is situated at an altitude of 5200 feet and within a cave.
Pilgrims usually undertake the journey to Vaishno Devi on foot, which takes around 3-4 days. However, there are also options to travel by helicopter or pony. The journey is considered holy; many pilgrims believe it cleanses them of their sins.
Once at the temple, pilgrims offer prayers and offerings to the goddess Vaishno Devi. They also generally take part in a special puja ceremony. After taking the darshan of the goddess, they return home with a sense of joy and satisfaction.
3. Golden Temple Amritsar
Amritsar is located in the state of Punjab in northwestern India. It is home to the Harmandir Sahib, also known as the Golden Temple, one of Sikhism’s most sacred sites. More than 100,000 pilgrims visit the temple daily to worship and pay their respects.
Amritsar was founded in 1577 by Guru Ram Das, the fourth guru of the Sikhs. The city’s name comes from the nectar pool (amrita) surrounding the Golden Temple. Amritsar is also home to the Akal Takht, the highest seat of authority for Sikhs worldwide.
Sikhs believe that anyone who visits the temple will be blessed with peace and happiness regardless of their religious beliefs. The temple is open to all visitors, and there is no charge for entry. However, donations are welcome and used to support the running of the temple and its many charitable initiatives.
The best time to visit the temple is early morning when the sun rises over the building and casts a beautiful golden glow on its exterior. This time also coincides with the daily recitation of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib, which can be heard throughout the complex.
4. Ajmer Sharif Dargah
Ajmer is one of the best pilgrimage places in India and is also known as the Ajmer Sharif Dargah. It is situated in Ajmer in Rajasthan and is the final resting place of the Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.
People from all over India and abroad come to visit this dargah. The dargah complex comprises several tombs, mosques, and a large courtyard. The main tomb belongs to Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti and is considered very holy by the devotees.
There are many stories and legends associated with this dargah. One of the most popular ones is that it will surely come true if you make a wish at this dargah.
Thousands of people come here yearly to make their wishes and leave behind chadars (sheets) and flowers as offerings. If you plan to visit Ajmer, spend some time exploring this Holy Dargah.
Kedarnath is a holy town in the Indian state of Uttarakhand and has been a popular pilgrimage destination for Hindus for centuries. Located in the Garhwal Himalayan range near the Mandakini river, Kedarnath is home to the Kedarnath Temple – one of the twelve Jyotirlinga temples dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Pilgrims from all over India flock to Kedarnath to seek blessings from Lord Shiva. The temple is only accessible by foot or pony/doli and is open for six months yearly (between April and November). The rest of the time, it is covered in snow and inaccessible.
A visit to Kedarnath is considered incomplete without also visiting the nearby lakes of Saraswati and Vishnu. These lakes are said to have sacred waters that can cleanse away all your sins.
Badrinath is a Hindu pilgrimage town in Uttarakhand, India. It is one of the four main Char Dham pilgrimage sites. The temple of Badrinath is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is one of the 108 Divya Desams, holy shrines for Vaishnavites. The town is located at an elevation of 3,133 meters (10,279 ft) above sea level on the right bank of the Alaknanda River.
The image of the Badrinath temple complex, along with that of the deity installed inside it, is carried on a palanquin during processions held during special occasions like the Makar Sankranti festival, which falls on 14 January every year.
Badrinath is one of the “Chota Char Dham” pilgrimage sites, which includes Yamunotri, Gangotri, and Kedarnath. It is also one of the four “dhams,” or religious centers considered essential for all Hindus. The other three dhams are Puri, Rameswaram, and Dwarka.
Adi Shankaracharya built the Badrinath temple in the 8th century CE. It has undergone several renovations over the centuries. The present structure of the temple was built by Maharaja Ranbir Singh of Jammu and Kashmir in the 19th century CE.
The Badrinath Temple is open from April to October every year as it is located in a high-altitude region that experiences heavy snowfall during winter. During this period, the idol of Lord Badrinarayan was taken to Joshimath and worshipped there for six months.
The temple complex also includes hot springs known as Tapt Kund
The temple of Yamunotri is situated in the westernmost part of the Himalayas. It is the first temple of the Char Dham Yatra.
The shrine is dedicated to Goddess Yamuna, one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites for Hindus. The temple opens only a few months a year, and lakhs of devotees visit the shrine yearly.
One of the most popular pilgrimage sites in India is Gangotri. Located in the state of Uttarakhand, Gangotri is the source of the River Ganges.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Hindus pilgrimage to Gangotri to bathe in the holy waters of the river.
It is a Hindu pilgrim town situated on the banks of the river Bhagirathi. It is the starting point of the holy river Ganges. This town is located on the Himalayan Range and at the height of around 3100 meters, i.e 10200 ft.
As per the popular Hindu legend, Goddess Ganga came here when Lord Shiva released the vast river from his hair.
Rameswaram, located in Tamil Nadu, is one of India’s most important pilgrimage sites. It is situated on an island in the Gulf of Mannar and is considered a holy place for Hindus.
According to Hindu mythology, Rameswaram is where Lord Rama built a bridge to Lanka to rescue his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana. The Ramanathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Lord Rama, is one of Rameswaram’s most popular tourist attractions.
Dwarka is one of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism and is situated on the western coast of India. The city was established by Lord Krishna and was known as the capital of his kingdom. Dwarka is also mentioned in the Mahabharata and is said to have been submerged by the sea.
Today, Dwarka is a popular pilgrimage destination for Hindus from all over the world. The city has several temples and shrines that pilgrims visit throughout the year. Some famous temples in Dwarka include the Dwarkadhish Temple, Nageshwar Temple, and Gomti Ghat.
11. Puri – Sri Purushottama Dharma
Puri is one of India’s four major pilgrimage sites, also known as Sri Purushottama Dharma. It is located on the eastern coast of India in Odisha and is home to the world-famous Jagannath Temple.
Every year, millions of pilgrims flock to Puri to participate in the annual Rath Yatra festival, which sees devotees pulling massive chariots carrying the statues of Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra, and sister Subhadra through the streets of Puri.
Haridwar is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in India. Located in the state of Uttarakhand, Haridwar is situated at the Himalayas’ foothills on the River Ganga banks.
Every year, millions of pilgrims visit Haridwar to take a dip in the holy river and wash away their sins. The city is also home to many temples and ashrams, making it an important religious center for Hindus.
Kanchipuram is a city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is located on the Palar River in the southeastern state. The city is about 80 kilometers (50 mi) from Chennai and 550 kilometers (340 mi) from Tirupati. Kanchipuram has been inhabited since at least the 2nd century BC and was a citadel of the Chola dynasty in the medieval period.
Kanchipuram is known for its temples and silk sarees. The city houses Varadharaja Perumal Temple, Ekambareswarar Temple, Kamakshi Amman Temple, and Ulagalantha Perumal Temple, some of the major Hindu temples in Kanchipuram.
Of these, Varadharaja Perumal Temple and Ekambareswarar Temple are among the five significant abodes of Mahavishnu (Pancha loga sthalams). Kailashnath temple, Jain fortification ruins Sittannavasal, Rock cut Shiva Temples, and Thirupparankunramare some other notable religious attractions in the Kanchipuram district.
The city’s historical monuments include Kailasanathar Temple, Kachapeswarar Temple, and Vaikunta Perumal Temple. The archaeologically important site of Keezhaperumpallamis, also located near Kanchipuram
Mathura is a holy city located in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. It is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna and, thus, is an important pilgrimage site for Hindus. Mathura is home to several temples and shrines dedicated to Krishna and other deities.
The most important temple complex is the Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple, which is said to be the precise location where Krishna was born. Other notable temples include the Dwarkadhish Temple, Vishram Ghat, and ISKCON Mathura.
Vrindavan is a town in the Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh, India. It is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Hindus and is considered a sacred place by Vaishnavites.
It is believed that Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu, was born in Vrindavan and spent his childhood there. The town is home to many temples dedicated to Krishna and Radha, including the famous ISKCON temple.
16. Dwarkadhish Temple
The Dwarkadhish Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Krishna, also known as Dwarkadhish, or “King of Dwarka.” It is located in the city of Dwarka, Gujarat, India. The temple is one of the four main temples of Krishna in India and is considered the most sacred.
The temple was built by Raja Bhattaraka of the Anarta dynasty in about the 15th century CE. However, the present structure of the temple was constructed by Vallabhacharya in the 16th century CE. The temple has a black granite idol of Lord Krishna, about 2.1 meters tall. The idol is adorned with gold and jewels.
The temple complex also includes a museum with a collection of artifacts related to Krishna and his life. There is also a library on the premises, which has a collection of religious texts.
The Dwarkadhish Temple is one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in India. Thousands of pilgrims visit the temple yearly to offer their prayers and worship Krishna.
17. Jagannath Temple
The Jagannath Temple is one of India’s most sacred and famous pilgrimage sites. It is located in Puri, Odisha, and is dedicated to Lord Jagannath, who is considered to be a form of Lord Vishnu.
The temple complex covers an area of over 10 acres and includes many shrines and temples. The complex’s main attraction is the main temple, built in the traditional Oriya style. The temple complex also houses the famous chariot festival, which occurs every year in July or August.
18. Konark Sun Temple
The Konark Sun Temple is one of India’s most popular pilgrimage destinations. It is situated in Odisha and was built in the 13th century.
The temple is dedicated to the sun god, Surya, and is a significant tourist attraction. Konark Sun Temple is also known for its unique architecture and sculptures.
The Konark Sun Temple is a 13th-century Hindu temple dedicated to the sun god Surya. It is located in the state of Odisha, India. The temple is situated on the banks of the Chandrabhaga River. It was built by King Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty in 1255 CE.
The Konark Sun Temple is renowned for its architecture and sculpture. The temple’s main attraction is its chariot-shaped structure with twelve pairs of wheels and seven horses. The walls of the temple are adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of India.
Every year, thousands of pilgrims visit the Konark Sun Temple to offer their prayers and worship the sun god Surya.
19. Mahabodhi Temple
The Mahabodhi Temple, also known as the Great Awakening Temple, is a Buddhist temple in Bodh Gaya, Bihar. It is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Buddhists, as it is where Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, attained enlightenment.
The current temple complex was built in the 5th century CE and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple is surrounded by several other historical and religious sites, making Bodh Gaya a popular tourist destination.
20. Mansarovar Lake
Mansarovar Lake is a freshwater lake in the Tibet Autonomous Region. The lake is considered sacred by Buddhists, Hindus, and Jains. Pilgrims visit Mansarovar to take a dip in the holy waters and pray for world peace.
Mansarovar Lake is situated at an altitude of 4,590 meters (15,060 ft) in the Himalayas. The lake is round and has a circumference of 88 kilometers (55 mi). The lake’s depth varies from 20 to 140 meters (66 to 459 ft).
The water of Mansarovar Lake is crystal clear and has a bluish tinge. The shores of the lake are covered with sandy beaches. The lake has nine islands, which are believed to represent the nine planets of Hindu mythology.
Mansarovar Lake is fed by four rivers – the Indus, Sutlej, Brahmaputra and Karnali. The lake has no outlet, so the water evaporates completely every three years. This results in a significant increase in the salt content of the water, which is then replenished by fresh water from the rivers.
Mansarovar Lake is home to many fish species, including carp, trout, and yak dung-feeding nematodes. Birds such as ducks, grebes, gulls, and cormorants can also be found on the lake.
21. Mecca Masjid
Mecca Masjid, Hyderabad, is one of India’s oldest and largest mosques. It is located in the city of Hyderabad in the southern state of Telangana. The mosque was built in the 16th century by Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the fifth ruler of the Qutb Shahi dynasty.
The mosque has a large central prayer hall with a capacity of 10,000 people. It also has a courtyard with a fountain and a massive granite pillar in the middle. The mosque is named after the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Islam’s birthplace.
22. Omkareshwar Temple
The Omkareshwar Temple is one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in India. The temple is situated on an island in the Narmada River and is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlinga temples, considered among the most sacred shrines in Hinduism.
The Omkareshwar Temple attracts devotees from all over India and is a popular tourist destination. The temple complex includes several smaller shrines and temples, a large pond, and a garden. The temple is open daily from early morning until evening, and there is no charge for entry.
Padmanabhaswamy is a Hindu temple located in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is one of the 108 Divya Desams, holy abodes of Vishnu. It is also one of the 20 Vaishnavite temples held in high esteem by Sri Vaishnavites. The temple is situated on the southern side of Thiruvananthapuram city.
The city of Thiruvananthapuram (earlier Trivandrum) derives its name from the Malayalam word Thiru-Anantha-Puram (‘holy abode of Anantha’), referring to the deity of Padmanabhaswamy Temple. The temple has been dubbed “One of the wealthiest temples in the world” due to its numerous gold and jewelry offerings.
The main attraction inside Padmanabhaswamy Temple is the sanctum sanctorum, which houses the image of Padmanabhaswamy in a reclining posture on Adishesha, with his right hand resting on Sridevi and his left hand on Bhu Devi.
His consort Lakshmi resides on his chest. In front of this image is a Naga Pushpa Yantra, an instrument used to propitiate Nagaraja, considered a powerful deity who protects devotees from evil spirits. There are also several others.
24. Somnath Temple
The Somnath Temple, located in Gujarat, is one of India’s most famous pilgrimage sites. The temple is said to have been built by Lord Krishna and is one of the twelve Jyotirlinga temples dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The temple is situated on the shores of the Arabian Sea and is a significant tourist attraction. Every year, millions of pilgrims visit the Somnath Temple to offer their prayers and seek blessings from Lord Shiva.
25. Tirupati Balaji
Tirupati Balaji is one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in India. It is located in Andhra Pradesh and is known for its Venkateswara Temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is one of the 108 Divya Desams, which are the holiest abodes of Vishnu. Every year, millions of devotees from all over India and abroad come to Tirupati Balaji to seek the blessings of Lord Venkateswara.
The temple complex at Tirupati Balaji is vast and has several shrines and gopurams. The main shrine houses the image of Lord Venkateswara, which is made of black granite. The idol is said to be self-manifested or Swayambhu, and it is believed that anyone who worships at this temple will be blessed with good fortune and prosperity.
Pilgrims can also have darshan of other deities like Sri Rama, Sri Krishna, Sri Hanuman, and Goddess Lakshmi at Tirupati Balaji. There are also several holy tanks and lakes in the temple complex where pilgrims can take a dip to wash away their sins.
Apart from the Venkateswara Temple, many other temples are worth visiting in Tirupati. These include the Govindaraja Temple, Kapileswaraswamy Temple, ISKCON Tirupati, and Kaliya Mardana.
26. Khajuraho Temples
The Khajuraho temples are a group of Hindu and Jain temples in Madhya Pradesh, India, about 175 kilometers southeast of Jhansi. They are one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. The temples are noted for their erotic sculptures.
The Chandela dynasty built the Khajuraho temples between 950 and 1050 CE. The temples are in two groups: the Western and Eastern. The Eastern Group has six temples, including the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple, the largest and most well-known temple at Khajuraho. The Western Group has five temples, including the Lakshmana Temple and the Varaha Temple.
The Khajuraho temples were rediscovered in 1838 by a British officer on a hunting expedition. They have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986.
27. Ganga Sagar Mela
Ganga Sagar Mela is an annual Hindu pilgrimage at the confluence of the River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal. It is one of the largest religious gatherings in India, with an estimated 10 million people attending each year. The mela lasts for three days and is held on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, a Hindu festival that marks the beginning of spring.
During the mela, devotees dip in the Ganges’ holy waters to wash away their sins. Several rituals, such as puja (worship) and havan (sacred fire), are also performed. The mela is also an opportunity for pilgrims to meet spiritual gurus and get their blessings.
The Ganga Sagar Mela is a truly unique experience and one that should not be missed if you visit India during Makar Sankranti.
28. Manikaran Gurudwara
Manikaran Gurudwara is one of the most popular pilgrimage places in India. It is located in the state of Himachal Pradesh and is visited by hundreds of pilgrims yearly. The Gurudwara is situated at an altitude of 1760 m and provides stunning views of the Pir Panjal range.
The Gurudwara was built in 1558 by Guru Nanak Dev Ji and is a beautiful example of Sikh architecture. The main attraction of the Gurudwara is the holy spring which is believed to have medicinal properties. Pilgrims take a dip in the spring to wash away their sins.
The Gurudwara also has a langar (community kitchen) which serves free food to all visitors irrespective of caste, creed, or religion. Manikaran Gurudwara is genuinely a place of peace and religious harmony.
How to dress when visiting holy places
When visiting holy places in India, it is essential to dress modestly and respectfully. Both men and women should avoid wearing shorts or revealing clothing. It is also necessary to remove your shoes before entering a holy place.