Northern region of India consists of the states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan and Union Territories of Chandigarh, Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. North India is one of the most climatically diverse regions on Earth. During summer, the temperature often rises above 35 °C across much of the Indo-Gangetic plain, reaching as high as 50 °C in the Thar desert in Rajasthan and up to 49 °C in Delhi. During winter, the lowest temperature on some of the plain region dips to below 5 °C, and below the freezing point on the higher altitudes. Heavy to moderate snowfall occurs in Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Ladakh and Uttarakhand. Much of North India is known for heavy fog during the winter season.
Northern region of India is well-known for its tourist spots and serene beauty. The ancient temples and spiritual places in the northern India are a real symbol of eternal faith. In the swaying chains of Himalaya endures this cave temple of Vaishno Devi, located in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Amarnath cave temple in Jammu and Kashmir is considered to be one of the holiest shrines and one of the 51 Shakti Peethas that commemorate the location of fallen body parts of Goddess Parvati (Sati).
Ranakpur Jain temple is known as one of the largest and most important temples of Jain culture. Dilwara Temples are a group of Jain temples located near the Mount Abu in Rajasthan. The Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir is one of the oldest and best-known Jain temples in Delhi.
Some of the major Buddhist Monasteries of the country’s northern zone include names like Phuktal Monastery and Thiksey Monastery in Ladakh, and Tsuglagkhang Complex in Himachal Pradesh. These not only showcase Buddhist aesthetics but are also a perfect scenic spiritual retreat.
Gurudwaras in North India are also a prominent pilgrimage attraction from every corner of the country. Golden Temple in Punjab, Gurudwara Shri Guru Nanak Ji in Himachal Pradesh, Hemkund Sahib, in Uttarakhand, Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in Delhi, Nada Sahib in Haryana, and Manikaran Gurudwara in Himachal Pradesh are known to be some of the most significant Gurudwaras and pilgrimage centers for the Sikhs devotees.
Temples, Shrines and Spiritual Places in Chandigarh
Chandigarh is a city and an Union Territory that also serves as the capital of the two neighbouring states of Haryana and Punjab. The city is unique as it is not a part of either of the two states but is governed directly by the Central Government of India. Chandigarh is one of the early planned cities in post-independent India and is internationally known for its architecture and urban design. Planned and designed by the renowned Swiss-French architect ‘Le Corbusier’ and known as ‘The City of Beauty’, Chandigarh is undoubtedly the best planned Indian city featuring grand architecture and plenty of greenery.
The name Chandigarh is derived from ‘Chandi Mandir’, an ancient temple dedicated to the Goddess Chandi, near the city in Panchkula District. The Chandi Mandir bustles with devotees especially during the Navratri festival. The city is also a center of various faiths as is evident from the numerous places of worship dotting the city.
One of the most famed temples in the city is the Sri Karthikeya Swami Mandir built in the Dravidian style of architecture and dedicated to Lord Murugan. Located in sector 31D, the temples features a stunning gopuram and exquisite carvings. The ISKCON Mandir situated in Sector 36B witnesses a heavy footfall of devotees, especially foreign tourists keen on gaining an insight into the Vedic way of life. Founded in the year 1979, the temple features daily sessions of bhajans and kirtans. The Shirdi Sai Baba Mandir in Sector 29A is another prominent site featuring a spectacular idol of Sai Baba. Established in 1995, the temple attracts hundreds of devotees mostly on Thursdays believed to be auspicious.
There are numerous legends about how the 550-year-old Jayanti Devi Mandir located on a hillock called the Jayanti Majri came into existence. While some believe that that temple was constructed by the Pandavas, others believe that it was commissioned by the King of Hathnaur. Houses in this area are single-storeyed, because it is believed that building bigger homes will invite the wrath of Goddess Jayanti Devi. Shri Sidh Baba Balak Nath Mandir in Sector 29A is a renowned temple dedicated to Baba Balak Nath who is believed to be Lord Shiva’s incarnation. The ancient Saketri Shiva Temple in Panchkula features a total of seven, splendidly created temples. The exceptional spiritual ambience of the temple fills one with peace and hope.
The prominent Buddhist presence in the city is the Garden of Silence situated along the pristine Lake Sukhna. Featuring a majestic statue of Buddha surrounded by circular stairs, the serene place with lush greenery has specifically been created to facilitate undisturbed meditation.
Chandigarh is home to numerous famous Sikh Gurdwaras as well. Gurdwara Baoli Sahib located along the Zirakpur-Kalka Highway is believed to have been established at the spot where Guru Gobind Singh performed the miracle of revealing a water source on the request of his disciple. Gurudwara Koohni Sahi and Nada Sahib Gurdwara are other Sikh places of worship in the city.
It is rare to find a city that can be described as serene. Chandigarh is a rare example of a tranquil city that continues to make rapid progress without compromising on preservation of nature and quality of life. Do include a visit to Chandigarh on your next trip to experience the best of divine spirituality, magnificent architecture and refreshing greenery.
Temples, Shrines and Spiritual Places in Delhi
Delhi officially the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT), is a City and an Union Territory, and New Delhi is the capital of India and an administrative district of NCT Delhi. This capital city is know for its great historical background and rich heritage. It is a very happening place with a delightful concoction of cultures and faiths.
The landscape of Delhi is rich with spectacular architectural structures of different religions, some that have existed from ancient times and have survived different periods of demolition throughout history. A visit to the famous temples in Delhi brings you closer to the ancient architecture, myriad cultures and serene spirituality that surprisingly continue to co-exist with the political upheavals in the city.
One structure that has transformed into a prominent landmark of Delhi is the renowned Lotus Temple, adorned with twenty-seven spectacular petals carved from marble. Established in 1986, the temple that represents the Baha’i religion now welcomes devotees of all faiths. The Chhatarpur Temple in South Delhi is a sprawling complex of temples built in the Vassar architectural style. This abode of Goddess Katyayani is famed for its intricate stonework.
The towering Kalkaji Temple in Delhi is believed to have been built by the Pandavas after the battle of Kurukshetra. Dedicated to Goddess Durga, the ancient temple offers a rare opportunity to explore history right from the era of Satyug. Another temple in Delhi believed to have been constructed by the Pandavas is the magnificent Yogamaya Temple dedicated to lord Krishna’s sister Goddess Yogamaya. This ancient temple survived invasion and demolition by various armies and continues to offer a tranquil ambience for thousands of devotees every year. One of the most recognizable sights in Delhi is the massive Hanuman statue of the ancient Hanuman Mandir believed to date back to the times of the Pandavas. The ceiling of this magnificent temple is adorned with numerous frescoes of Lord Rama.
The strong presence of Jainism in Delhi is evident from the 165 Jain temples towering over the city. Most famous of these is the Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir located in Chandni Chowk and dating back to 1656. It is interesting to observe the veterinary hospital attached to the temple that treats birds and small animals such as squirrels. It is the oldest Jain temple in Delhi, and features a majestic idol of Lord Parshvanath, enchanting carvings and splendid frescoes on walls and pillars. The Jain Shwetambar Temple near Kinari Bazaar is renowned for its brilliant artwork and sculptures. Naya Mandir in Dharampur and Ahinsa Sthal in Mahrauli are other renowned Jain temples in the city.
The culture of Delhi that also includes Buddhist elements has resulted in numerous Buddhist sites, temples and monasteries. The Ladakh Buddhist Vihar located in Majnu ka Tilla is the most famous Buddhist monastery in Delhi. Encircled by a quaint Buddhist settlement, a popular Tibetan market and vividly coloured prayer flags fluttering in every lane, the monastery has a serene ambience perfect for meditation. Other popular Buddhist sites in Delhi include the World Buddhist Center in East of Kailash, Buddhist Temple in Lakshmi Nagar and Buddha Vihar in Bhogal.
One can find a Gurdwara on almost every nook and cranny of the city. Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is one of the most prominent Gurdwara located in the Connaught Place. Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib in Chandni Chowk, Gurudwara Shri Rakab Ganj Sahib in Rakab Ganj, and Gurudwara Nanak Piao Sahib on Grand Trunk Road are some of the famous Sikh Gurdwaras popular among the devotees.
The political administration of the NCT of Delhi today more closely resembles that of a state of India, with its own legislature, high court and an executive council of ministers headed by a Chief Minister. New Delhi is jointly administered by the federal government of India and the local government of Delhi, and serves as the capital of the nation as well as the NCT of Delhi.
Through most of its history, Delhi has served as a capital of various kingdoms and empires. It has been captured, ransacked and rebuilt several times, particularly during the medieval period. Modern Delhi is a cluster of a number of cities spread across the metropolitan region. A tour of the temples in Delhi is more than a spiritual journey; it is a breathtaking insight into the tumultuous history and rich culture of the Country.
Temples, Shrines and Spiritual Places in Haryana
Haryana is famous for rich history, religious diversity and spiritual culture. The Vedic state of Brahmavarta is claimed to be located in south Haryana, where the initial Vedic scriptures were composed after the great floods, some ten-thousand years ago. The Vamana Purana states that King Kuru ploughed the field of Kurukshetra with a golden ploughshare drawn by the Nandi of Lord Shiva and reclaimed an area of seven Kosas. It was on this soil that great saint Veda Vyasa wrote Mahabharata.
The Shri Siddhi Ganesh Mandir at Gurugram(Gurgaon)is deemed as one of the most important temples by the devotees. Dedicated to Lord Ganesha, this temple also worships a pantheon of other Hindu deities. But what makes the temple unique is the sculpture of the statues in a South-Indian style, amidst Northern style temple design. The temple has been the breeding ground for ancient Indian cultural learning in the form of Vedas, Sanskrit, classical dance, music, retelling folklores, and art. Community services are also open for the welfare of the people.
Shri Geeta Birla Mandir, located in Dev Bhumi Kurukshetra, is worshipped as the most important temple of Kurukshetra. The Bhagavad Gita, inscribed on each of the walls adorns the glory of the place and the temple.
Banbhori Mandir, located at Banbhori village is designated as a historical Shaktipeeth. This 400-year-old temple houses a 24-hour Akhand Jyoti, continually burning. Legends suggest that the idol of the Mata Bhramari Devi was self-imposed and hurled from beneath the earth. Several other temples like the Sakeri Shiv Mandir at Panchkula, Mansa Devi Temple, Bhima Temple, etc. brings in spirituality among the crowded holy lanes of Haryana.
A strong grasp of Jainism is inculcated in the cities of Haryana, which is quite revealed by the presence of important temples like the Shri Digambar Rohtak Haryana(Atishay Kshetra). The main temple enshrines 8 alters of the Jain deities and pillars of sacrilege carrying beautifully sculptured statues. A monastery and museum are located nearby, carrying statues and relics of Jainism.
Shri 1008 Bhagwan Parshwant Digambar Jain Atishay Kshetra Punyoday Teerth Hansi Haryana alludes to historical and mythical significance. History narrates that about 57 Jain idols were buried for protection against the Turkey invaders. Excavations made in the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries reveal that among them 19 idols were dedicated to Lord Parshwanatha.
Owing to the spread of Buddhism by Emperor Ashoka, the Buddha Stupa Chaneti establishment unraveled its presence. The mentions of this stupa are even found in the accounts of the Chinese pilgrim, Yuan Chwang, who describes the stupa as a layered concentric brick stupa. New architectural changes such as the addition of four shrines in different directions and a new pathway were added in the Kushan period. Remains of the stupas and monasteries, found at Adi Badri, the foothills of the Sivalik Ranges imbibe piousness of spirit among the devotees. Other Buddhist pilgrim sites include Kurukshetra Stupas and the stupas and monastery at Agroha in Hisar.
Sikh pilgrim sites are perhaps the most commonly visited sites in Haryana. Some of these include the Gurdwara Lakhnaur Sahib. Originally, Lakhnaur was the place where Guru Govind Singh had accompanied his mother and stayed in his childhood. Later, the devotees commemorated it into a grand gurudwara, realizing its importance.
The Manji Sahib Gurudwara, located at Ambala is initially the ground in which the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargovind stayed on his visit at Ambala. Devotees claim to seek a blessing on taking a dip at the tank nearby and carrying Amrit with them from the Baoli, constructed by the Guru. Other Sikh pilgrim sites like the Panjokra Sahib, Sisganj Sahib Ambala, Gurudwara Govindpura mark the importance of the region.
Spirituality is the emphasizing relic in the minds of devotees, which is widely propelled by the piousness of Haryana. The Indus Valley Civilization sites at Rakhigarhi village in Hisar district and Bhirrana in Fatehabad district are said to be about nine-thousand years old, and amongst the world’s oldest and largest ancient civilizations. Replete with myths, legends and Vedic references, Haryana’s past is steeped in glory.
Temples, Shrines and Spiritual Places in Himachal Pradesh
The name Himachal Pradesh was coined from the Sanskrit words ‘Him’ (means snow), and ‘Achal’ (means land or abode). Paradise is the word that will come to mind on your first sight of Himachal Pradesh. As a host to the Dalai Lama, Himachal Pradesh has a strong Tibetan presence. This is reflected in its Buddhist Monasteries, as well as its vibrant Tibetan festival celebrations. Nestled amidst centuries of fascinating legends, the stunning temples of Himachal Pradesh with their incredible architecture and spiritual ambience continue to welcome devotees from across the world.
Carved from a hill, the ancient Baba Balak Nath Cave Mandir in Kasauli is one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in the state, especially for devotees who come to seek blessings of parenthood. Dedicated to Babaji, a Lord Shiva’s devotee, the temple offers breathtaking views of the mighty, snow-capped Himalayas. The sacred Chamunda Devi Mandir in Kangra valley is believed to be the spot where the Goddess Chamunda slayed two demons.
The Sankat Mochan Mandir in Shimla dedicated to Lord Hanuman is a prominent tourist attraction in the state that also features shrines of Lord Shiva and Lord Rama. The heavenly abode of the world’s largest idol of Lord Hanuman is the captivating Jakhoo Hanuman Mandir in Shimla that is situated 2450 meters above sea level. Tread along the superb ropeway to reach this temple believed to be located at the spot where Lord Hanuman rested on his way to collect Sanjeevani plant for Lakshman.
An excellent instance of architectural brilliance in wood is the splendid Hidimba Mandir dedicated to Hidimba, Bhima’s wife. The temple is completely constructed in wood and is home to exquisite wooden carvings. Nowhere in India except Himachal Pradesh will you find an abode of the Goddess of stars, Tara. Located amidst the heavenly settings of the Himalayas, divine tranquility reigns supreme in this unique temple. The 4000 year old Vashisht Mandir near Manali is dedicated to sage Vashisht who is believed to have meditated here. The temple is now renowned for its natural hot springs that is said to possess miraculous curing powers.
Considering the serenity and natural beauty of the place, it is not surprising that many Buddhist Monks established their Monasteries in the high terrains in the state. The Lahaul-Spiti district features a number of Buddhist Monasteries and Cave Temples renowned for their unique hill architecture.
The presence of Sikhs in Himachal Pradesh has been recorded since 16th century, and therefore there is no dearth of Sikh Gurdwaras in the state. The Paonta Sahib Gurdwara is a prominent pilgrimage center in Sirmour situated along the spectacular River Yamuna. The Resalwar Gurdwara is another holy destination of the Sikhs. Do not miss the pristine spirituality at the Manikaran Gurdwara located close to natural hot springs. The Gurdwara was built to commemorate Guru Nanak’s period of meditation in this place.
Beautiful climate, enchanting hill stations and spectacular scenery is just the beginning of the magnificent Himalayan sights that awaits you. Stunning sights, divine serenity and spiritual ambience – the temples of Himachal Pradesh have it all. Plan your next pilgrimage to this delightful state to return with pleasant memories and divine blessings for a lifetime.
Jammu and Kashmir
Temples, Shrines and Spiritual Places in Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is an union territory located in northern region of India. Jammu and Kashmir is named after the two regions it encompasses – the Jammu region and the Kashmir Valley. Srinagar is the summer capital, and Jammu is the winter capital of Jammu & Kashmir.
The Kashmir valley is famous for its beautiful mountainous landscape, and Jammu’s numerous shrines attract lakhs of Hindu pilgrims every year. It is located mostly in the Himalayan mountains, and shares borders with the states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab to the south.
Popularly known as the “Paradise on Earth” the state is world famous for its scenic splendour, snow-capped mountains, plentiful wildlife, exquisite monuments, hospitable people and local handicraft.
Temples, Shrines and Spiritual Places in Ladakh
Ladakh is an union territory located in northern region of India. It is bordered by the Tibet Autonomous Region to the east, the state of Himachal Pradesh to the south, and the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir to the west.
The largest town in Ladakh is Leh, followed by Kargil, each of which headquarters a district. The Leh district contains the Indus, Shyok and Nubra river valleys. The Kargil district contains the Suru, Dras and Zanskar river valleys.
Temples, Shrines and Spiritual Places in Punjab
Punjab is a state in northern India bordered by the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir to the north, Himachal Pradesh to the east, Haryana to the south and southeast, Rajasthan to the southwest, and the Pakistan occupied province of Punjab to the west. Chandigarh is the joint capital of Punjab along with Haryana, and Ludhiana is the largest city in the state of Punjab.
The region of Punjab was originally called Sapta Sindhu, the Vedic land of the seven rivers flowing into the ocean. The Sanskrit name for the region, as mentioned in the Ramayana and Mahabharata for example, was Panchanada which means “Land of the Five Rivers”. The word Punjab is a compound of the Persian words ‘panj’ (five) and ‘ab’ (waters), “the land of five rivers”. The five rivers are the Sutlej, Beas, Ravi, Chenab and Jehlum.
During the period when the epic Mahabharata was written, around 800–400 BCE, Punjab was known as Trigarta and ruled by Katoch kings. The Indus Valley Civilization spanned much of the Punjab region with cities such as Ropar. The Vedic Civilization spread along the length of the Sarasvati River to cover most of northern India including Punjab. This civilisation shaped subsequent cultures in the Indian subcontinent.
Temples, Shrines and Spiritual Places in Rajasthan
Rajasthan, literally meaning the ‘Land of Kings’, represents an exotic mixture of rich heritage, vibrant culture, architectural glamour, ancient temples and spectacular scenic beauty. It echoes the tales of valour and bravery of its glorious historical past. Pilgrims of all faiths seek solace in their hearts by the rich melange of temples, monasteries, and gurudwaras.
The Brahma Mandir in Pushkar is designated as one of the most important pilgrim sites of the Hindus. This 2000-year-old temple, dedicated to Lord Brahma, holds the most important position among the other surrounding 500 temples in Pushkar. Legend suggests that the Lord descended and performed yajna at the present temple premises. The inner sanctum houses the idols of Lord Brahma and his wife, Gayatri.
The Karni Mata Mandir, dedicated to Mata Karni, one of the incarnations of Durga Maa follows the 20th century Mughal Style architectural glamour. The unique feature of these temples is that the ‘Rats’ hold the second most important position other than the goddess herself. It is believed that rats are the reincarnation of humans and vice-versa. Hence, devotees leave behind milk, bread, fruits etc. for the rats housing there.
Other Hindu Temples like the Parshuram Mahadev Mandir is considered a mythical marvel for their creation moulded by nature. The Salasar Balaji Mandir, dedicated to Lord Hanuman is regarded as Swayambhu or self-created and Shakti Stal or site blessed with ultimate power. Temples like Rani Sati Mandir at Jhunjhunu, Tanot Mata Mandir at Jaisalmer etc. bear religious and spiritual importance.
Several Jain temples adorn the city-states of Rajasthan. One of them is the Ranakpur Jain mandir, a marvellous sight that one cannot miss in his lifetime. This Jain temple is an amalgamation of aesthetics and is constructed with four facing directions in the shape of quadruple, indicating the Tirthankaras takeover over the cosmos, and bringing peace and spirituality. The cynosure of the main temple is the 6ft. tall statue of Lord Adinath, the first Tirthankara.
Other temples such as the Dilwara Temples at Rajasthan-Mount Abu is set in beautifully sculptured marble architecture, daunting upon the hills. The Mirpur Jain Mandir in Sirohi, the most important Jain Temple of Rajasthan is a globally acclaimed site that reveals the amalgamation of Hindu mythology with the emergence of Jainism.
Most of the Buddhist pilgrim sites at Rajasthan emerged in the form of cave temples and ancient ruins. The Hathiagor Buddhist Caves, located at the village of Pagaria are the most important monasteries of Rajasthan and is comprised of a set of five stupas emerging as a laterite excavation enclosing a stupa near the adjoining caves. The Binnayaga Buddhist Caves is a set of 20 laterite caves and is deemed quite important y the Buddhists. Other Buddhist sites include the Kolvi Caves etc.
Sikhs can find spiritual solace at the various Gurdwaras in the state. Gurdwara Pehli Patshahi at Pushkar was initially the site visited by Guru Nanak Dev and Guru Govind Singh, later commemorated into a Gurdwara for serving the people. Kolayat holds importance as the meeting ground of the first and last Gurus. But owing to the lack of Sikh settlements, gurdwara was not constructed till 1968, but later the land was blessed with the Gurdwara Sahib Kolayat Bikaner.
Another crucial religious shrines of the Sikhs is the Gurudwara Buddha Johad Shahab in Shri Ganganagar district. It is the site where Sukha Singh and Mehtab Singh brought the head of the guilty Mir Musalul Khan (Massa Ranghar) and hung it there as a treatment meted out to the forfeiture of religion.
The kaleidoscopic lanes of Rajasthan call for spirituality so do the realms of unvanquished culture and history. The north western portion of Rajasthan is generally sandy and dry, and most of this region is covered by the Thar Desert (also known as the ‘Rajasthan Desert’ and ‘Great Indian Desert’) which extends into adjoining portions of Pakistan. The Thar Desert and the Aravalli Range runs through the state from southwest to northeast, almost from one end to the other, for more than 850 kilometres. Mount Abu lies at the southwestern end of the range, separated from the main ranges by the West Banas River.