In every major city in India, you’ll likely find at least two to three temples. So, you’ll likely be visiting temples in India when you travel the country.
The types of temples vary, from centuries-old incons, such as Kailashnath Temple in Ellora, to new temples lsuch as the Akshardham Temple in Delhi, from temples in caves like the Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra, to ones dotting mountain peaks, like Kedarnath Temple in Uttarakhand.
Whether you’re visiting temples in India for religious reasons or to appreciate the architecture and heritage of these stunning masterpieces, please remain respectful at all times and be aware of some basic tips and before entering.
Tips for Anyone Visiting Temples in India
1) Remove Your Footwear
In all the temples in India, you have to remove your shoes, sandals or flip flops outside. People might be removing shoes outside the temple but it’s better to find the counter where they will keep your shoes and give you a token. Otherwise, there are high chances of losing your shoes.
I generally wear cheap shoes or flip flops, which are easily available in India at a very cheap price. This way even when I lose my footwear I don’t feel that bad.
I’ve noticed some people also play the trick of putting one shoe in one place and the other shoe in another place. This is because hopefully no one will steal only one piece of the pair.
2) Respect the Dress Code
You don’t need to wear a dhoti or a saree to visit a temple. But it is always preferable to wear nice clothes covering your arms and legs. Gurudwaras (Sikh Temples) require you to also cover the head with a scarf or a handkerchief. If you wish to try out traditional Indian clothes, temples are the best place where you can wear them without getting judged by anyone. In fact, people will be happy to see a foreigner in the traditional Indian clothing.
3) Offerings in The Temple
It is not compulsory to offer something in the Temple, but if you wish you can offer sweets, garlands, coconut or money. There will be many pundits looking for money in the temple. I would recommend not giving money to them. I prefer to give some food to the poor sitting outside the temple instead of offering it inside the temple.
4) Poor People Outside Temples
More often than not, you will find poor people sitting outside temples. They will be looking for anything from money to anything to eat. In my opinion, it is always better to give food instead of money. Begging for money has been abolished in India, and giving money to anyone doesn’t serve the best purpose.
5) Meditation in Temples
Some of the temples are very calm, whereas some will be highly chaotic. So if you think temples are the best place to meditate, then you may face some disappointment. With the floor of many temples being sticky because of sweets falling on the floor, while being offered to the main idol, it can also be tough to find a good spot to sit and meditate. Ear plugs is a good way to cut off all the noise around you if you want to try meditation inside the temple.
Whenever you are inside a temple, it is advisable that you fold your hands in front of the idol or main sanctum. Folding hands is a way of showing respect in the temple. Just don’t walk past the idols, stand for a few seconds and fold your hands.
7) Do a Bit of Research
There are many kinds of temples in India. Do a bit of research before going to any of them. Some temples don’t allow women to enter like Sabarimala in Kerala. Some don’t allow non-Hindus to enter without prior permission like Somnath Temple in Gujarat. Some temples are different, like Karni Mata Temple in Bikaner with 20,000 black rats running freely around. So if you are afraid of rats, this is not the temple for you. Some temples in South India require men to take off their shirt. So prepare accordingly.
You can’t ignore visiting temples in India, be it for their religious vibes or their architectural wonders or the history and stories associated with them. I hope my tips will help you further explore the great temples of India.