India, the birthplace of Vedic culture and Hinduism, is home to about 1 billion adherents, making up 80.5 percent of India and 15 percent of the world’s population. With that many Hindus, there will also be a lot of temples, so we’ve narrowed them down to the Top 5.
Located on the coast of Gujurath, Somnath is believed to be the first of the 12 jyotirlingas where Shiva was said to have appeared in a column of fire. Its name translates to Shiva’s title as “Lord of the Soma,” referencing the ancient, hallucinogenic beverage whose main ingredient is still unknown.
Brihadeeswarar Temple, Tamil Nadu
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the “Great Living Temples” built by the Chola Dynasty. Rajaraja Chola I was commanded to build the temple in a dream, which was built with Tamil’s unique Dravida architecture. Brihadeeswarar celebrated its 1,000th birthday in 2010.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Uttar Pradesh
Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and home to Kashi Vishwanath, located on the western banks of the Ganges, India’s holy river. It was originally built more than 1,000 years ago, destroyed by invading kings and rebuilt several times during its history.
Khajuraho Group of Monuments, Madhya Pradesh
This complex is a collection of religious sites dedicated to Hindu and Jain philosophy, indicating the region’s respect for diverse religious views. Only 20 of the original 85 temples are still standing, but the surviving work is filled with detailed, Nagara-style architectures. Khajuraho is also famous for its erotic and sexually-themed artwork.
Venkateshwara Tirupati Balaji, Andhra Pradesh
Located in the small hill town of Tirumala, this temple is dedicated to Lord Venkateswara, incarnation of Vishnu. It is one of the most venerated temples in India, taking in up to 100,000 pilgrims a day. On religious occasions, that number shoots up to 500,000, making Tirupati the most visited holy site in the world.
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