Think temples are not for you? Think again. You might not be religious but that doesn’t mean you have to stay back when others have darshan plans. Love history? Architecture? Ancient carvings? Or even adventure? Here’s our list of temples that check all the right boxes:
Location: Saurashtra, Gujarat
Significance: The history, the legend and the entire setting of Somnath, will take your breath away. The first Jyotirling amongst the twelve, this Shiva temple has been destroyed and reconstructed seventeen times and still stands tall as the symbol of prosperity.
Look forward to: Standing at the Baan-stamba (the arrow pillar). Gaze at the vast Arabian sea playing wildly in front of you and know that there is no land in between this point and Antarctica.
When: The best time to visit Somnath is from October to March.
2. Golden Temple
Location: Amritsar, Punjab
Significance: The most important of all Gurudwaras in Sikhism, the Golden Temple (Sri Harmandir Sahib) is all about equality and acceptance. It has the world’s largest soup kitchen – serving food everyday to lakhs of people, regardless of their caste, race or beliefs.
Look forward to: The amazing architecture, covered in 750 Kgs of pure gold. Be ready for jaw dropping sights on Diwali night as the whole temple is illuminated with diyas and fireworks, adding charm to the golden dome.
When: Golden temple is mostly visited in the winters (November to March)
3. Dilwara Temples
Location: Mount Abu, Rajasthan
Significance: Dilwara is a cluster of five magnificent Jain temples, built on a hill of Mt. Abu. One of the most famous Jain pilgrimages, Dilwara is known for the splendid marble carvings which are fortified by forested hills on all sides.
Look forward to: The finest marble carvings you will ever come across. It is said that the artists were paid according to the amount of dust they collected. The carvings here are so intricate that the marble is almost transparent at some places.
When: You can visit Dilwara anytime as Mt. Abu stays pleasant all round the year.
4. Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram
Location: Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
Significance: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, these Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram are known for the impressive architecture dating back to 7th-8th century AD. This complex is all about the fine sculptures on rock-cut and structural temples from the Pallava period.
Look forward to: The charms of this ancient granite architecture as it plays the backdrop for the annual Indian Dance Festival.
When: Try avoiding the summer heat (March-May) as this coastal town gets too hot. The best time would be in winters, especially during the Dance Festival (which takes place in December-January).
5. Konark Sun Temple
Location: Konark, Odisha
Significance: Dedicated to the sun god Surya, Konark Sun Temple is shaped like his chariot with 12 pairs of wheels, pulled by 7 horses. The history of this temple is as fascinating as the architecture. Though it is in ruins, the Konark Sun temple is an UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its intelligent structure.
Look forward to: The exceptional sight of the first sunrays hitting right at the main entrance. Also the 12 pairs of wheels are sundials which tell you the exact time to the minute.
When: The best time to visit here is from November to March.
6. Lenyadri Ganpati
Location: Junnar, Maharashtra
Significance: Girijatmaj or Lenyadri Ganapati is one of the Ashtavinayakas. Like the other Ashtavinayakas, even Lenyadri Ganapati was naturally formed and has it’s sanctum in a cave. Even though there is no record of when people started worshipping here, the caves date back to 1st century AD.
Look forward to: Climbing up to the series of caves along with the view of the Sahyadris and the rock-cut architecture.
When: Anytime except summer (March-May) is good. Climbing up in the heat might get really tough.
Location: Bagalkot, Karnataka
Significance: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the finest examples of Chalukya style architecture. Pattadakal is a complex of 10 temples of various deities, built in different styles making it a perfect place for history and architecture enthusiasts.
Look forward to: Marvel upon the beautiful architecture for an entire day. The Virupaksha temple is the best of the lot with a dedicated shrine for Nandi right in the front of it.
When: The best time to visit Pattadakal would be from October to February. Summers (April-May) could get really hot.
8. Bhimashankar Temple
Location: Khed, Maharashtra
Significance: Even though the temple looks new because of the several renovations, the shrine dates back to 13th century. One of the 12 Jyotirlings, Bhimashankar is located in middle of a wildlife sanctuary, in the western ghats.
Look forward to: The amazing trek to the temple through wilderness. Even though one can easily drive to the temple, many choose to trek all the way up.
When: The best time to visit Bhimashankar is from August to March. The monsoons are ideal for a trek here because of the countless waterfalls on the way.
9. Meenakshi Temple
Location: Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Significance: Dedicated to goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva, Meenakshi Amman Temple is a 2000 year old work of art. After being looted of its treasures, it was rebuilt in 16th century and houses 14 gopurams (towers), all sporting vibrant colours.
Look forward to: The various halls of the temple and the story behind them. There is a story to every part of temple.
When: Late October to early March has the best weather conditions but a visit during the famous Meenakshi Thirukalyanam Chitirai (Divine marriage of Meenakshi) festival is a must for culture lovers (April/May).
10. Group of Monuments at Hampi
Location: Hampi, Karnataka
Significance: The perfect haven for all the architecture and history lovers, Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its massive ruins from the Chalukya period. The Group of Monuments from Hampi has pillared halls, civil and military buildings along with famous structural temples from 9th century AD.
Look forward to: The musical pillars of Vittala temple is the finest architectural marvel here. One of the earliest temples where worshipping still continues is the Virupaksha temple; the best example of grandeur from the Chalukya period.
When: Hampi involves a lot of walking around, and there is little to no shelter from the sun. It’s best to visit here when the sun isn’t harsh!
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