Pilgrim Places in South India

Religious Places in South India

Though India is a modern country, it’s also rich in history and culture. The most notable part of Indian history is the pilgrim places built throughout the country. South India has many such pilgrim masterpieces that have deep spiritual roots and also represent the ancient architecture of the land.

The emergence of dynasties like the Cholas, Pandyas, or Pallavas led to an unprecedented construction of a variety of temples in South India. This was supported by a new era of religious purity with its roots stemming from the Bhakti Movement that emerged during this time as well. Large or small temples can be found all over South India with carvings and sculptures set in stone.

South India is a place where people of all beliefs come together to share and enjoy their faith. Beyond the beautiful temples, the region also boasts of splendid Churches, Dargahs (Islamic shrines), and Mosques. It allures followers from different religious backgrounds.

Some of the most popular pilgrimages in South India are Badami Cave Temples, Guruvayoor, Sabarimala, Lepakshi, and Shravanabelagola. Santhome Basilica, Santa Cruz Basilica, Sebastian Church, and Se Cathedral are prominent pilgrimages of Christians. Nagore Dargah, Cheraman Juma Mosque, and Pazhayangadi Mosque are frequently visited by followers of Islam.

The monuments of South India are an artistic wonder, beginning with Dravidian architecture and evolving into the Vijayanagar style of architecture. They just don’t lure pilgrims, but also historians, architects, and explorers from across the globe. Some of them are exciting beachside destinations while others are set amidst the picturesque hill stations of South India. Here is a list of the must-visit pilgrim places in South India.

1. Rameswaram

Rameswaram Temple, Pilgrim Place in South India
Rameswaram Temple, Pilgrim Place in South India (courtesy: plutogno)

Rameshwaram is a beautiful island at the southernmost tip of India. Located in the Gulf of Mannar, it is one of the holiest places in India. The mention of the island can be traced back to the times of Ramayana. The holy epic mentions that Rameswaram is the place where Lord Rama, according to Hindu mythology, created a bridge across the sea to reach Lanka.

Also known as the Pamban Island it is a part of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.  The sacred waters of Rameswaram and the five-faced Hanuman temple hold a special place in the life of Hindus.

A major attraction of the island is the Ramanatha Swamy temple. Spread over 15 acres, it is the largest temple in the town. You can witness massive sculptured pillars on either side are a major highlight of this place.

Pilgrims perform poojas to their ancestors at Agni Theertham. Another interesting fact about the place is the floating stone which was used to build the bridge between India and Sri Lanka.

Rameswaram is a living memoir of the Ramayana. There are many prominent places to visit in Rameshwaram. This beautiful island in the Indian Ocean attracts tourists for both – its natural beauty and religious importance. The temples in Rameswaram instill our belief in stories from The Ramayana we’ve heard since childhood.

Riding over Pamban Bridge to this ‘Dham’ of Hindus is a lifetime experience for spiritual seekers and explorers. Separated from the mainland by a channel, the ride here along the bridge offers stunning views and unforgettable memories.

2. Tirupati

Tirumala, Tirupathi - Pilgrim Place in South India
Tirumala, Tirupathi – Pilgrim Place in South India (courtesy: balasubramaniyanar)

Tirupati, a city in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh is known for its famous Lord Venkateshwara Temple. The temple is mentioned even in ancient Vedas and Puranas as the holy abode of Govinda. Located amidst the Tirumala hills, a range of seven hillocks within Tirupati.

Surrounded by the lush green Seshachalam Hills of the Eastern Ghats, Tirupati showcases a unique geological feature – the natural arch known as Silathoranam. The natural grandeur of the park attracts tourists from across the country. The region also boasts of an impressive waterfall called Talakona and one of India’s largest zoos.

The most popular pilgrimage in Tirupati is Sri Venkateswara Temple, the majestic shrine has a spiritual vibe with non-stop chanting of ‘Om Namo Venkatesaya’. It houses an 8 feet tall idol of Lord Tirupati Balaji. The temple is built in an area of over 26 kilometers and welcomes over 50 thousand visitors every day.

There are many other temples you can visit in Tirupati, including the Sri Kalahasti temple, Sri Govindarajaswami Temple, Sri Kodanda Rama Mandir as well as Parashurameshwara Temple. ISKCON’s temple also lies near these landmarks. 

Swami Pushkarini Lake, Akasaganga Teertham, Tumbhuru Teertham, and Kapila Teertham are holy water bodies. Most of these lakes and waterfalls are located near the major temples of Tirupati. The water is considered holy and pilgrims bathe in them to get rid of their sins and ailments. Other than these, there are many popular tourist attractions to visit in Tirupati.

3. Madurai

Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple - Pilgrimage Places in South India
Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple (courtesy: melissakumaresan)

The cultural capital of the state of Tamil Nadu, Madurai is one of the oldest and continuously inhabited cities in India. Its architecture and temples are remnants from centuries past dating back to when it was ruled by Pandya kings for longer than any other place.

It is also called the ‘Lotus City’ as its streets were laid out like a lotus flower with Meenakshi Amman Temple at its center. Dedicated to goddess Meenakshi along with her consort Sundareswarar, this ancient temple is an architectural masterpiece.

Another ancient temple at Madurai is Thiruparankundram. Dedicated to Lord Muruga, this is an important place of worship that dates back to the pre-Christian era. It is located on a hillock 8 km from the city and holds great cultural heritage due to its trade ties with Rome in antiquity.

You can shop at the local markets here. They are bustling with activity and you can enjoy fantastic street food as you walk through the old parts of town. This place promotes Tamil language and preserves its culture as well.

A pilgrimage to Madurai is not complete without visiting the temples & popular tourist attractions in Madurai. There are many temples found in and around this city. There are approximately 10 main temples and over 20 small temples. These temples were built by different dynasties like the Cholas, Pandyas, and Nayaks.

They are spiritual centers with magnificent architecture with beautiful carvings and sculptures depicting various ancient stories from Hindu mythology such as Ramayana.