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  Religious Institutions
• Churches  • Buddhist Temples  • Hindu Temples  • Sikh Temple  • Mosques

Religion and religious beliefs have a large impact on the personal lives of most Indians and influence public life on a daily basis. Indian religions have deep historical roots that are recollected by contemporary Indians. The ancient culture of South Asia, going back at least 4,500 years, has come down to India primarily in the form of religious texts. The artistic heritage, as well as intellectual and philosophical contributions, has always owed much to religious thought and symbolism. Religion, then, is one of the most important aspects of Indian history and contemporary life.

Most of the world religions originated in India, and others that started elsewhere found fertile ground for growth here. Devotees of Hinduism, a varied group with philosophical and devotional traditions, are officially numbered 687.6 million people or 82 percent of the population in the 1991 census. The ancient monastic traditions, Buddhism and Jainism, have had a major influence on Indian art, philosophy, and society and remain important minority religions of the twenty first century. Buddhists represented 0.8 percent of the total population while Jains represented 0.4 percent in a recent survey.

Islam spread from the West throughout South Asia, from the early eighth century, to become the largest minority religion in India. With 101.5 million Muslims (12.1 percent of the population), India has the second largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia. Sikhism, which started in Punjab in the sixteenth century, has spread throughout India and the world since the mid-nineteenth century. With nearly 16.3 million adherents, Sikhs represent 1.9 percent of India's population.

Christianity, represented by Catholics and Protestants, traces its history in India back to the time of the apostles and counted more than 20 million members in India. Minorities, mostly concentrated on India’s west coast, represent Judaism and Zoroastrianism, arriving originally with traders and exiles from the West.

:::::::::: Churches ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Basilica of Bom Jesus, Panaji, Goa

One of the most visited churches in India; the Basilica of Bom Jesus is located in Panaji, Goa. It is famous for the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier, kept in a silver casket. It is the most popular and famous of all churches in Goa. It was constructed in the year 1605 and is considered as a world heritage site.

Church of Sacred Heart, New Delhi

The Church of Sacred Heart is located in the south end of Bhai Vir Singh Margh in the city of New Delhi. The English man Henry Medd constructed it in the year 1927.

Cathedral Church of Redemption, New Delhi

The Cathedral Church of Redemption is located east of Indian Parliament House in New Delhi. The famous architect Henry Medd constructed the church in between 1927 and 1935.

St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh

The St. Joseph’s Cathedral is one of the oldest churches in South India. It is located in the Gunfoundry Area in Hyderabad. Built in 1860 AD, the church retains its glory till now.

Church of Our Lady of The Rosary, Panaji, Goa

Built in between 1544-1549 AD, the Church of Our Lady of The Rosary is located at Holy Hill, Old Goa. The type of construction is medieval and is well placed in the map of world heritage sites.

Christ Church and St Michael's Cathedral, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh

The Christ Church and St Michael’s Cathedral is located at Shimla city, the capital of Himachal Pradesh. Constructed in the 19th century by Colonel Dumbelton, the church retains its medieval style architecture and is considered as one of the must visit monuments of Christianity.

Malayatoor Church, Kerala

The Malayatoor Church, located 52 kilometers from Cochin at Kurisumudi, is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites of Christianity in Kerala. The church is placed 609 meters above sea level and is famous for a life-size statue of St. Thomas and the imprint of the feet of the Apostle on a rock. The first Sunday after Easter is considered as the festival day of the church.

Velankanni Church, Tamil Nadu

Located 12-km south of Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu, the Velankanni Church is dedicated to St. Mary. It is believed that St. Mary dispensed her miracles to mankind from here. The Velankanni is a famous pilgrimage center in India irrespective of religion, caste, and creed.

Santhome Cathedral Basilica, Chennai

The Santhome Cathedral Basilica is located at 24 Santhome High Road-Mylapore, Chennai. It was here that St. Thomas one of the Apostles of Jesus Christ was killed and buried.

:::::::::: Buddhist Temples :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Bodhi Temple, Bihar

The Bodhi Temple is one of the oldest temples of Buddhist faith in the world. The temple is located in Bodh Gaya, Bihar. Constructed in the 3rd century B.C by Emperor Ashoka, the temple is considered as a major pilgrimage center of Buddhism. Bodh Gaya is famous as the place where Lord Sakyamuni (Gautam Buddha) entered into meditation after being moved by the sufferings of mankind.

Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra

The Ajanta caves located in Aurangabad, Maharashtra is considered as one of the ancient pilgrimage centers of India. Constructed during the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C, the caves are dedicated to Gautam Buddha. Ajanta caves consist of 30 caves including the unfinished ones, dating back from 200 BC to 250 AD. The caves are listed under the national heritage site and to visit the same, the authority has fixed entrance fees. (For Indians above 15 years: Rupees. 10/- per head, for others above 15 years: US$ 5 or corresponding to Rupees. 250/- per head).

Ellora Caves, Maharashtra

Similar to Ajanta Caves, Ellora is also located at Aurangabad in Maharashtra and is dedicated to Gautam Buddha. Constructed between AD 600 and 1000, the caves illustrate the spirit of tolerance that was characteristic of ancient India. 34 monasteries and temples of which 12 are Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain, extending over more than 2 km, were dug juxtaposed in the wall of a high basalt cliff.

:::::::::: Hindu Temples ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Thousand Pillar Temple, Warangal, Andhra Pradesh

Constructed in the 12th century by King Rudra Deva, the Thousand Pillar Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Surya. The Hindu temple is famous for its richly carved pillars, screens, and detailed sculptures.

Tirupati Temple, Andhra Pradesh

Tirupati Temple is one of the ancient temples in South India constructed in the 12th century. It is dedicated to Sri Venkateswara and is the world’s richest temple. Major festival of the Tirupati Temple is “Brahmotsavam”, which is celebrated on a grand scale for nine days in the month of September.

Dwarkadhish Temple

The Dwarkadhish temple located in Dwarka, Gujarat is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. It is believed that Lord Krishna’s grandson, Vajranabha, originally constructed the temple. In the 15 or 16th century the temple was reconstructed. Major festival of the temple is Sri Krishna Janmashtami.

Amarnath Temple, Jammu Kashmir

Amarnath Temple is located on the snowcap of India, Jammu & Kashmir. It is 46 kilometers from Pahalgam and is a must visit pilgrimage site. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva where in He narrated the secret of immortality to his wife parvati. The major festival of the Amarnath temple is the Maha Shivarathri during the month of February.

Vaishno Devi Temple, Jammu & Kashmir

The Vaishno Devi Temple is an ancient pilgrimage center dedicated to Vaishno Devi (a devotee of Lord Vishnu). It is located near Katra town, 61 kilometers north of Jammu. One has to trek 12 kms from Katra town to reach the temple.

Sabarimala Temple, Kerala

The Sabarimala Temple is located in the hilly district of Pathanamthitta, Kerala. The temple is dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, the incarnation of both Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. It is believed that Parasurama-the mendicant who exalted Kerala from the sea by throwing his axe, installed the idol of Ayyappa at Sabarimala for the public to offer prayers. All roads to the temple end at the banks of holy river Pamba, from here one has to trek 4 - 5 kms to reach the “Sannidhanam”, where the temple is situated.

Guruvayoor Temple, Kerala

Situated 100 kilometers from Cochin, the Guruvayoor temple is an ancient temple of South India dedicated to “Guruvayoorappan” or Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Lord MahaVishnu. Here one can witness many hindu weddings and “Annaprasanam” or “choroon” (the first feeding ceremony of a child) every day. Constructed in the 16th century; the temple conducts several offerings to the Lord. The most expensive and elaborate offering is 'Udayastamana' pooja or 'Thulabharam' where a devotee is weighed against offering of bananas/sugar/jaggery/coconuts/flowers or at times, gold/silver depending upon the financial status of the devotee. It should be noted that only Hindus are allowed inside the temple.

Jagannath Temple, Puri, Orissa

Constructed in the 12th century AD by RajaAnanta Varman Chodaganga Dev, the Jagannath temple at Puri in Orissa excels as an ancient temple. The temple is dedicated to Lord Jagannath and other deities are Goddess Subhadra and Lord Balbhadra. The temple is considered as one of the four holiest places (Dhams) of India. Puri offers a number of colourful fairs and festivals such as Chandan yatra, Snan yatra (Bath festival), Ganesh Puja, etc., but it is the Chariot Procession (Rath yatra), an annual sojourn of the three deities riding their lofty chariots to their respective huge chariot--14 meters high, 10 meters wide and supported on 16 giant wheels, each over two meters in diameter that marks the climax. These chariots or Rathas are pulled along the Bada Danda or the Grand Road by thousands of devotees to Gundicha temple, situated over a kilometer from here.

Mahabalipuram Temple, Tamil Nadu

Built during the reign of Pallava dynasty, between 839 and 1100 AD, the temple at Mahabalipuram is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is a prominent pilgrimage site for the Hindus.

Meenakshi Temple, Tamil Nadu

The Meenakhshi temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu is an ancient Hindu temple constructed by the Pandyan King, Kulashekhara. Built in the 16th century the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Meenakshi in the memory of their marriage. According to the legend, Madurai is the place where the marriage between Shiva and Meenakshi took place. Major festivals of the temple are Meenakshi Kalyanam in April/May and the Teppam festival.

Kedarnath Temple, Uttaranchal

Located in the hilly state of Himachal Pradesh at an altitude of 3,581 meters above sea level, the temple at Kedarnath is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Kedarnath is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas (idols) of Lord Shiva. Constructed in the 8th century AD by Adi Shankaracharya, the temple is a must-visit site.

Badrinath Temple, Uttaranchal

The temple at Badrinath is located at an altitude of 10,279 feet. Founded in the 9th century by Sri Sankaracharya, the temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Badrinath is one of the holiest Hindu spots in India and together with Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, forms the Four Holy Shrines (Char Dham).

:::::::::: Sikh Temple (Gurudwara) :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Golden Temple, Amritsar

The Golden Temple is located at Amritsar in the western state of Punjab. Guru Ram Das constructed it in the year 1574 AD. The temple is sacred for the Sikhs in India and across the world and is one of the most famous Gurdwara in India. The Golden Temple is a blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture.

:::::::::: Mosques :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Ajmer Sharief, Rajasthan

The Ajmer Sharief is considered as one of the leading mosques in the Indian sub-continent. It is located in the southwest of Jaipur in Rajasthan. The Mughul Emperor, Akbar constructed the Sharief. The mosque is famous for the birth anniversary of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti.

Jamma Masjid, New Delhi

The Jamma Masjid is one of the biggest Mosques in the world. Located in the Sadar Bazar of Old Delhi, the Masjid was constructed in the year 1658 by the great Mughul ruler Shah Jahan.

Mecca Masjid, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh

Located hundred yards southwest of the historic Charminar, the Mecca Masjid is a medieval mosque constructed by Mohammed Quili Qutub Shah in the year 1694 AD.

Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, Nizamuddin, New Delhi

Built by Muhammad Tughlaq of the Delhi Sultanate during the year 1562-63 AD, the Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya is an architectural glory of the medieval age. It is considered as one of the leading pilgrim centers of the Islam faith.

Beema Palli, Trivandrum, Kerala

Located 5 kilometers south west of Trivandrum city, the Beema Palli is one of the leading Muslim pilgrim centers in South India. It is a medieval Mosque built in the memory of Beema Beevi, a pious and devoted Muslim lady who was gifted with divine powers. The Mosque is famous for the Chandanakkuda Mahotsavam (festival), which draws a large gathering of devotees irrespective of caste, religion and creed.

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