The top temples in Delhi, each of various religions, have special visual, educational, and cultural value. As such they are often popular locations for tourists who are interested in religion or who enjoy marveling at the architecture.
Tourists are more than welcome to visit but it's important to dress conservatively (cover your legs and shoulders) and be mindful of devotees. You'll find that photography is prohibited inside most of the temples. In addition, for security reasons, you may be required to leave your belongings in a storage locker at the entrance.
Swaminarayan Akshardham is the world's largest Hindu temple complex and one of the top attractions in Delhi. The complex, which is dedicated to showcasing Indian culture, was constructed over five years by the global BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha spiritual organization and more than 8,000 volunteers. At the heart of it, the magnificent main temple is made out of intricately carved sandstone and marble, with nine astonishingly ornate domes and over 200 pillars. It also has 20,000 statues. The complex is massive, so do allow half a day to explore it properly. The best time to be there is at dusk when the architecture is beautifully illuminated. A ticketed laser and water show follows.
Delhi's iconic Lotus Temple belongs to the Baha'í faith, which originated in Iran and promotes oneness. The faith aims to create world unity by eliminating all prejudices, including race and gender. Of particular interest is the temple's distinctive design resembling a lotus flower. It's ideally combined with a visit to other attractions in South Delhi such as the ISKCON Temple and Shri Kalkaji Temple nearby, Qutub Minar, or trendy Hauz Khas urban village. Find out more information and plan your visit with this essential guide to the Lotus Temple.
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is the largest and most prominent Sikh temple in Delhi. It's centrally located near Connaught Place and is worth visiting for a restorative dose of peace while sightseeing. The temple was originally the 17th-century residence of Mirza Raja Jai Singh (a king and commander of the Mughal army) and the eighth Sikh guru, Guru Har Krishan, stayed there.
Most remarkably, the temple feeds more than 10,000 people a day, for free. Volunteers are encouraged to help with its preparation in the community kitchen. Do visit the Sikh heritage multimedia museum and art gallery as well, to learn more about the religion. The temple is open 24 hours, however, sunrise and sunset are the most atmospheric times. Head coverings are necessary and are provided for those who don't have them.
Formally known as Sri Sri Radha Parthasarathi Mandir, this temple belongs to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (more commonly known as the Hare Krishna movement). It's dedicated to Lord Krishna (a powerful incarnation of Lord Vishnu) and his consort Radharani in the form of Radha Parthasarathi.
Spiritual seekers will appreciate the temple's Vedic Cultural Museum, and uplifting aarti (worship ceremony) and bhajans (singing of hymns). The aarti takes place several times a day. Another highlight is the lotus-shaped roof of the prayer hall, which is beautifully decorated with religious paintings. Do note that the hall remains shut from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Go around lunch or dinner time to enjoy a healthy vegetarian meal from the temple's Govinda's restaurant.
Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir
Opposite the Red Fort at Chandni Chowk, Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir (the Red Temple) is the city's oldest and best-known Jain temple. It was established during the Mughal era for Jain merchants and army officers, although the present structures date back to the 19th century. The temple's inner area of worship is strikingly embellished with ornate gold artwork. The temple also has a spectacular miniature model about Jainism and a comprehensive bookstore. Don't miss the bird hospital in a separate building within the compound.
All leather items, such as belts, must be removed before entering in accordance with the Jain belief of non-violence, including not killing animals.
The Birla industrialist family built this sprawling Hindu temple complex between 1933 and 1939. It was the first of a series of temples made by the Birlas across India, and the first large Hindu temple in Delhi. Mahatma Gandhi inaugurated the temple on the condition that people of all castes would be allowed. The temple's impressive architecture is a modern adaptation of the traditional north Indian Nagara style.
Inside the complex, the main shrine houses Lord Narayan (a form of Lord Vishnu, the preserver and protector) and Goddess Lakshmi (the goddess of prosperity). The writing on the temple walls, with quotes describing the nature of Hinduism, is especially engaging. Avoid the crowds by attending the morning aarti around sunrise.
India's second-largest Hindu temple complex is spread over 70 acres in South Delhi, not far from Qutub Minar. A relatively new complex, it was founded in 1974 by Hindu sage Baba Sant Nagpal Ji, who devoted his life to uplifting the poor and needy. The main white marble shrine is dedicated to Goddess Katyayani (the warrior goddess and sixth form of Mother Goddess Durga). However, there are temples of many other deities in the substantial complex, plus a huge statue of Lord Hanuman. The various styles of architecture are outstanding. Navaratri is the primary festival celebrated, and the complex is exclusively decorated for the occasion. It's also particularly evocative on full moon nights.
Pracheen Hanuman Temple at Connaught Place is regarded as one of the oldest Hindu temples in Delhi and is dedicated to monkey god, Lord Hanuman. It's said to have been built by Maharaja Man Singh I of Amber during the reign of Mughal emperor Akbar (1542-1605), and later reconstructed by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur in 1724. The temple is also one of five temples in Delhi that's connected to the great Hindu epic "The Mahabharata".
The temple's continuous 24-hour devotional chanting, ongoing since 1964, has been recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records. If you don't like crowds, avoid visiting on Tuesdays and Saturdays, as large numbers of devotees throng the temple day and night.
The colossal 108-foot-tall statue of Lord Hanuman that rises above the railway tracks at Karol Bagh shows the contrast between traditional and contemporary Delhi, with the world-class Metro train whizzing past. It's part of the Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple and is one of the tallest Hanuman statues in India. The temple's unusual entrance is through the cavernous mouth of a monster, slayed by Lord Hanuman, at the base of the statue. It's believed to ward off bad luck. During the morning and evening aarti on Tuesdays and Saturdays, the statue's chest opens to reveal images of Lord Ram (whom Hanuman is an ardent devotee of) and his wife Sita.
This historical Sikh temple in Chandni Chowk commemorates the martyrdom of the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, who was beheaded on the spot in 1675 by ruthless Mughal emperor Aurangzeb for refusing to convert to Islam. The temple was established by Sikh military general Baghel Singh Dhaliwal after capturing Delhi in 1783, although its current structure was more recently built in the early 20th century. Inside, the temple's gilded prayer hall has a very soothing ambiance. Venture up to the rooftop for captivating views over the Old City. As is the case with all Sikh temples, Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib is open 24 hours a day, free food is served, and head coverings are required (and provided).
Continue retracing the history of the Sikh religion at Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Sahib, situated opposite Parliament House in Delhi. This temple was also founded by Baghel Singh Dhaliwal, on the spot where the body of Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur was cremated. The story behind the temple is well-documented and signposted. While you're there, spend some time enjoying the melodious kirtan (devotional singing) and serene garden setting.
The self-manifesting form of Goddess Kali at the ancient Kalkaji temple draws Hindu pilgrims from all over India to seek blessings and get their wishes fulfilled. The temple is believed to be more than 3,000 years old. Its exact history remains a mystery though, as the temple and its records were destroyed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the 17th century. The Marathas subsequently reconstructed the temple in the 18th century, and wealthy merchants of Delhi modernized it in the 20th century. Do be prepared for rather unruly crowds and unclean surroundings.
Surrounded by Mughal-era monuments in South Delhi's Mehrauli neighborhood, this calm Jain temple is at the site where the second Dada Guru (the supreme teacher who greatly influenced the direction of the Jain religion) Manidhari Jinchandra Suri was cremated in the 12th century. The current temple complex dates back to the 19th and 20th centuries. Spectacular ornamental silver and mirror work, distinctive carved white marble arches, and murals depicting stories from the guru's life are extraordinary features. Photography is permitted inside the temple.
The Odia community, from eastern India, founded this gleaming white temple in 1969 as a hub of Odia culture. Situated near Hauz Khas in South Delhi, it was built in traditional Odisha-style similar to the Jagannath Temple in Puri. However, unlike the Puri temple, non-Hindus are allowed to go inside this one. It's a clean and quiet temple that's renowned for its annual Rath Yatra chariot festival in June or July.
This vibrant south Indian temple complex in R.K. Puram is a must-visit for anyone interested in South Indian culture. The complex has several shrines reflecting different styles of South Indian temple architecture. The main shrine, dedicated to Lord Swaminath (a form of Lord Murugan, the Hindu God of war and son of Lord Shiva) was completed in 1973 and inspired by the Chola-style. What's really incredible is that the 900 rocks used in its construction are held together without cement or water. Keep an eye out for the peacocks that live as pets in the compound. They're regarded as Lord Swaminath's vehicle in Hindu mythology.
The Ramakrisha Mission in Delhi is a branch of the worldwide spiritual organization established by Swami Vivekananda (the chief disciple of Shri Ramakrishna) in 1897. Teachings are based on the system of Vedanta, which combines Hindu religion and philosophy. However, the Mission recognizes all religions equally as paths to the realization of the same thing. Followers are encouraged to manifest divinity by thought and action, involving practices such as japa (mantra repetition). The many activities of the Mission's temple include prayers, Vedic chanting, discourses, and the celebration of diverse festivals. Aarti ceremonies are performed at sunrise and sunset.