In Delhi, the delirious capital city of India, home of 25 million people, taking a tour of the beautiful temples is the perfect way to experience the diversity of the people and the faiths that define their lives.
On my second trip to India, Nick and I spent 5 days in Delhi with our senses in overdrive. While planning our trip we consulted one of our favorite Indian bloggers Swayam who writes informative and useful information about amazing things to do in Delhi.
Other than the amazing food, the highlight of our time in the nations second most densely populated area was visiting the temples of various faiths.
There are so many temples and sites to choose from, so we hope this list helps you decide which ones are worthy of your precious time in Delhi.
The Bahai Faith House of Worship Lotus Temple in New Delhi, built in 1986, is a must-see if you appreciate any one of the following: beautiful architecture; cool, echoing quietness; respect of all regious faiths; or crowds.
It’s a bit south of the Old City, and worth the 150 rupee rickshaw ride (or less depending on your bargaining skills. Once inside the beautifully kept 26 acre compound, make sure you visit the Information Center on the right hand side of the path. If you miss this, you will miss the point of the temple, so allow about 30 minutes to browse.
The Bahai Faith was founded by Bahaullah in Persia in the 19th century as a religion to unify the spirituality of all humankind. The Bahai’s believe that there is only one God who is the source of all creation and that all major religions have come from the same God and that all humans are equal.
The Information Center goes much greater detail, and also highlights much of the humanitarian work being done by Bahai’s around the globe, focusing on education.
When you’re done at the Information Center, head over to the temple, and be prepared to take your shoes off. You can hang around outside and around the 9 pools below the building as well.
Once inside you are welcome to stay in silence for as long as you’d like. We sat and meditated for about 40 minutes, waiting for their “service” to start.
The twice daily “service” is only about 10 minutes. I wouldn’t recommend planning your day around it, but definitely stay if you just happened to catch it like we did.
There was some singing, and various volunteers stood to read passages from different religious texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, The Bible, The Quran, and Buddha’s words.
We appreciated the inclusion of all faiths in their service, rather than preaching a particular faith. In fact, Bahai laws say that no sermons or ceremonial rituals may be performed there, and that holy scriptures from any religion may be read or chanted inside the temple. They have created a beautiful space for anyone to come and pray to God, or just sit quietly in a city that is anything but.
Jama Masjid in Delhi, India
The Jama Masjid Mosque in Old Delhi is absolutely breathtaking. The largest Mosque in all of India, built in 1656 by the same emperor who built the Taj Mahal in Agra, it can house 25,000 people in prayer at one time.
The Lonely Planet guidebook said we might be able to catch their 7:45am morning prayer session, as that would be the only one open to non-Muslims, so we got there early. No such luck.
There was no major prayer session that morning, and because of language barriers, I’m unsure whether there was no prayer at that time everyday, or just that day, or even if foreigners are welcome at all during prayer.
Because we were foreigners they charged us 300 rupees to enter, a bit much, but I wasn’t going to skip it at that point. Nick was wearing shorts so they gave him a shall to put around his legs.
A sweet mute man walked us around the compound, taking pictures of us at all corners in different light as the sun was coming up. The crisp air, secluded grounds, birds flocking, and gorgeous architecture made for my favorite morning we spent in Delhi.
He walked us into the main prayer area where the individual prayer spaces were marked in the marble, and the interior arches and marble domes almost took my breath away. What a beautiful place. Worth the visit, especially early in the morning.
Sikh Sis Ganj Sahib Gurdwara
Located on Chandni Chowk, one of the main roads in Old Delhi that dead ends into the Red Fort, the Sikh Gurdwara is dedicated to the 9th Sikh Guru Teg Bahadur Ji who was martyred, in this very spot. This was our favorite temple in Delhi, and we recommend you make the effort to go.
When you enter the temple grounds you first encounter a secure shoe-check area to ditch your shoes. Then you can head up stairs into the temple. Make sure you have a head covering, or you will need to use one of their scarves.
The Sikhs main form of worship is devotional music called kirtan. It was non-stop live music for the few hours we were on the temple grounds, being played through loud speakers so everyone could hear.
Go inside the ornate gold and marble temple, and find a seat on the carpet, close your eyes and just enjoy. We sat for an hour bouncing between meditation and watched the hoards of people coming and going.
Another absolute MUST is to stay for their daily Langar if you have time, and an appetite.
They begin serving food at 11:30 in the Langar Hall next to the Gurdwara. One of the tenants of the Sikh religion is service, so they serve free daily meals to anyone who wants to eat.
When you enter, they will greet you with an empty plate for food. It will likely be wet, so be sure to dry it with a tissue or your shirt before sitting and being served.
They will walk down the rows over and over again with piping hot food, refilling your dal (lentals), aloo gobey (cauliflower and potatoes), and chapate (bread). The old Sikh man next to me said “Don’t waste,” when I asked for my 5th piece of chapate, so please only accept what you can eat.
We both felt an overwhelming sense of peace and security at the Gurdwara. The dozen or so Sikh people that approached us to talk, or simply help when we looked lost, did so with only kindness and a desire to help, no agenda. In fact, this was the only spot in Delhi where we encountered anyone who wanted to talk to us without wanting to sell something, get something, or take a photo with us.
Shri Digambar Jain Temple
The Jain temples beautiful red sandstone shrines tower over the city below. Take off your shoes at the entry way and head inside. The guard ushered us away from the main temple entrance where we could hear prayers, and toward the bird hospital.
Barefoot, we climbed the steps toward the bird hospital where I immediately put my shoes back on because they were cleaning the floors and there was dirty, bird poop infested water everywhere. The smell was almost too much for me to handle, but didn’t bother Nick.
In the hospital reception area there were some unique paintings of the Jains and birds, one depicting a man cutting off his hand and his foot to be equal with the bird. While we were there several people brought in sick or injured birds to be cared for.
We wandered through the two wards looking at the caged and bandaged birds. The poop water ended up splashing up all over my feet and I rushed out of there imagining all the diseases carried in the water.
The man cleaning was nice enough to hose my feet off, but I can’t help but feel like we shouldn’t have been permitted to enter during the cleaning. So I emphatically recommend NOT going inside if they are cleaning and splashing water everywhere.
We didn’t actually enter the main temple because there were many signs that said “no bags, guards will hold bags” and I wasn’t about to part with all my camera equipment.
Over all, I would say the Jain temple would be my last recommendation for a temple to visit in Delhi. Go if you have loads of time, but definitely visit the others first.
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