Indian Himalayas have been home to intensive religious life since times immemorial. Sages, rishis, yogis came to hidden places to meditate. Indian sacred texts and epics tell stories about miracles and revelations that have happened here. Explore 10 most famous temples of Indian Himalayas with us. Most important of Himalayan mandirs (temples) lie along the ancient pilgrimage route Chota Char Dham including four major temples to visit: Badrinarayan, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Yamunotri.
Badrinarayan Temple is located on the Alaknanda bank and is dedicated to Vishnu, in particular to his incarnations — sages Nara and Narayana. Mahabharata tells that they have spent many years in austerity at this holy place. According to another legend, Vishnu has been meditating at this place for a long time and his beloved Lakshmi protected him from the sunlight until she turned to Badri-tree and her lord has been known as BadriNath since. Recognizing the importance of pilgrimage to Badrinarayan Temple Scanda Purana tells “There are a lot of sacred places on earth, in heaven and hell, but nothing compares to Badrinath”.
There is a warm spring Tapta Kund near the temple. The asnan (ablution) in it is necessary to get darshan from the Badrinath Saligram.
The site is open for six months yearly, between the end of April and beginning of November.
Gangotri Temple stands on the origin of the Ganges River. Most Hindus believe it to be the home of Ganga, Goddess of Wisdom and the sacred soul of river Ganga. It is another important point of Chota Char Dham yatra route. Today’s temple was built by warlord Amar Singh Thapa in the XVIII century.
According to Hindu sacred history, king Bhagiratha meditated at this place in order to earn the Goddess Ganga blessing able to absolve the sins of his predecessors. After austere penances Ganga took a form of a river to free their souls and grant them salvation.
Every April Goddess Ganga returns to Gangotri from her winter shelter. This day has been celebrated for almost 700 years with carrying on the palanquin the Goddess’s murti in red and green cloths.
Kedarnath Mandir, another major site of sacred Chota Char Dham path is named after King Kedar, whose daughter Vrinda was an incarnation of Lakshmi, Goddess of beauty, love and prosperity. The shrine was built in VIII century and it is one of the twelve temples, housing a Jyotirlingam, which is believed to release from misery everyone who sincerely worships Shiva.
This temple is very old, it’s even mentioned in Mahabharata, in the episode where the Pandavas were trying to please Shiva with their austerity to atone for their sins. There is a spring near the temple called Udar Kund, its water is believed to be a mixture of 5 oceans and to stay fresh for many years. This sacred water is often used in absolution rituals.
The temple in Yamunotri is located on the left bank of the river Yamuna named after river Goddess Yamuna. The temple usually opens in the end of April and can be visited till Diwali (mid-October – November).
There are two hot springs near it: Surya Kund with boiling water, where the pilgrims poach the rice for the Goddess, and Gauri Kund with warm water for ablution.
According to an ancient legend, sage Asit Muni bathed all his life in Ganges and Yamuna. When he was too old to go to Gangotri, a stream of Ganges appeared before him in Yamunotri.
Kashmir’s rocky mountains are home to Amarnath Cave Temple.
According to the legend, Shiva has given Gods immortality by blessing them with the celestial nectar. Hidden (and lost and forgotten during Middle Ages) in the tough region of Himalayas Amarnath cave is the place where Shiva explained the secret of immortal life to Parvati. Every yogi and Shaiva desiring to conquer maya, get freed of illusion, and become immortal dreams of worshipping the Lingam of Amarnath. Until recently, this yatra was considered the most dangerous in Hamalayas – few people had been able to perform it and for many saddhus this had been the last desired one-way life’s trip.
Inside the cave of Amarnath there are ice stalagmites: increate Shivalingam, to the left there is a block representing Ganesha and to the right – Parvati and Bhairava. They often change in size, reach the largest size during the full moon and begin to wane during the new moon.
Located at Kangra near Dharmsala in Himachal Pradesh Bajreswari Temple is dedicated to Devi who is one of the incarnations of Goddess Maa Parvati which killed a demon Kalikala with a Vajra (diamond scepter or a thunderbolt) later presented to Indra.
The annual festival of Makar Sankranti is celebrated near this temple and a holy tradition of applying ghee to the idol of Goddess, cold water washing for 100 times and decorating it with flowers is still performed.
Chintpurni Temple is a Shakti Peetha located near Jwalamukhi in Himachal Pradesh and is a revered shrine where Shakti is worshipped. The official priests of the temple are descendants of the establisher.
It is believed that Vishnu to calm down Shiva in his Tandava cut up Shakti’s body into 51 pieces and scattered them, and the part of her forehead fell at this place.
This temple is known for headless Goddess Chhinnamasta, who helps people to free their mind and consciousness from physical body. Pilgrims should bring sweets, fruits and flowers to please this Goddess. If you ask her something with a strong faith, she will make your wish come true.
Daksheswara Mahadev Temple is located on the banks of Ganges and is one of the most famous holy places in Haridwar. It is dedicated to Shiva and his first wife Sati.
According to Hindu mythology it is the same place where King Daksha, Sati’s father, conducted his famous Yajna. When Sati found that her father had spurned Shiva, she burnt herself in the Yajna fire, giving the start to Indian spouse self-immolation tradition. Finding out that Sati had burned herself Shiva took the life from King Daksha and was to start his fierce dance of universal destruction. Only Vishnu’s wisdom saved the world from complete destruction then.
Daksheswara Mahadev Temple is widely known for wild Shivaratri festivals, dedicated to the marriage of Sati and Shiva. They attract a lot of pilgrims every year.
Gurdwara Guru Gobind Singh is a Sikh temple located in Mandi in Himachal Pradesh.
Hindu history tells that Guru Gobind Singh came to Mandi on the invitation from Mandi ruler Raja Sidh Sen and stayed near the city at and ancient yogi hermitage for more than half a year for meditation.
When he was going to leave he said “If anyone tries to plunder Mandi, musket balls will rain from the sky”. Nowadays some of great Guru’s belongings are still preserved at this place: a holy bed, a rabab (musical instrument), a bandukh (weapon) and a talai (holy matters).
Located near Gupt Kashi in Uttar Pradesh Triyuginarayan Temple is dedicated to Shiva, Parvati and Narayan. It is known among pilgrims for its eternal flame.
Parvati was a daughter of King Himavan, she is considered the personification of Himalayas and an incarnation of Shakti. She had tried hard but failed to attract Shiva’s attention with her beauty, so she changed her tactics and won him by practicing strict penances. Shiva and Parvati got married at Shivaratri in the presence of holy fire, which is still burning at Triyuginarayan Mandir symbolizing the divine sacrament.
Before their wedding Shiva and Parvati bathed in three local springs, which have become very popular among pilgrims, for the springs are believed to cure infertility.
We’ve named just 10 most often visited mandirs of Indian Himalayas, there are hundreds times more of beautiful and holy shrines in this citadel of ancient religions. Find out their mysterious stories in our next material on famous Buddhist temples hidden in Himalaya Mountains.