Mahadeva, Adinath, or Bholenath, you can call Lord Shiva by many names. Shiva is one of the trinity gods, along with Brahma and Vishnu, responsible for destruction of all negative aspects of the universe.
Shiva is among the most popular Hindu deities worshipped worldwide, mainly in India and Nepal. Several important Hindu temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva throughout the Indian subcontinent. Some of these temples have great prestige and importance in Hindu dharma.
Here are the Top 20 Must Visit Shiva Temples in India and Nepal.
1. Amarnath Temple, Jammu, and Kashmir, India
In the Lidder valley of Jammu and Kashmir lies the Amarnath cave, one of the holiest Shiva and Shakti temples in the world. The story says it was this cave where Mahadev gave wisdom to his consort Devi Parvati.
Rishi Bhrigu was the first to discover this sacred cave and a mysterious ice shiva linga inside it. Moreover, this holy land is one of 51 Shakti Peethas, where the throat of Devi Sati fell. The best time for Amarnath Yatra is from July to early August, as the entire region gets covered in snow except for those months.
2. Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand, India
As per Sanatan Dharma (Hinduism), Kedarnath is among the most revered temples. The primary source of the sacred river Mandakini is located under the giant Garhwal Himalayas at an elevation of 3,579m near the Chorabari Glacier.
This Shiva temple is one of the Char Dhams and one of the 12 Jyotirlingas. Due to extreme weather, the temple opens only a few times throughout the year, mainly from April to early November. So, the best time to visit Kedarnath is during the summer. During winters, Kedarnath gets close due to extreme cold and heavy snow. So, Lord Kedarnath’s statue is brought to Ukhimath from Kedarnath in Utsava Doli.
3. Baidyanath Temple, Deodhar, India
Badham or Baba Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga Temple is one of the most revered Shiva temples across the Indian sub-continent. Located in Deodhar, Jharkhand, India, this sacred land is where the demon king Ravana penanced to Lord Shiva for thousand years and sacrificed his tens heads in the Agni Kund. Pleased by Ravana’s extreme devotion and sacrifice, Lord Shiva appeared and healed his ten heads as a Vaidhya (doctor). This way, the temple got its name Baidyanath.
As per the Hindu calendar, millions of devotees from India and Nepal visit this Dham as Kanwar or Bol Bam Yatra during Shrawan month. Devotees travel barefoot wearing orange or saffron clothes with a stick holding holy Ganga water on both sides, singing Lord Shiva’s names with families, friends, and other groups.
4. Somnath Temple, Veraval
Out of 12 Shiva jyotirlingas, the first jyotirlinga appeared in Prabhas Patan or Somnath Patan, Veraval, Gujarat. The Hindu god Soma (Chandradev) built this temple for the first time. Hence, it is called Somnath Temple. The temple resides on the Triveni Sangam of Kapila, Hiran, and Saraswati rivers.
The Somnath temple was built around the 1st to 9th centuries. However, some claimed it to be much older than that. Throughout history, the temple was reconstructed several times. Presently, the temple follows a Maru-Gurjara or Solanki style architecture made with stones carved with detailed artwork.
Although the temple remains open throughout the year, the best time to visit is during Shivaratri, Kartik Purnima, and winters.
5. Ramanathaswamy, Tamil Nadu, India
On the island of Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, the holy temple of Ramanathaswamy resides. This temple is a center for both Shaivism and Vaishnavism devotees.
As per the epic Ramayana, before crossing the vast ocean and heading towards the Lanka (abode of Ravana), Lord Rama prayed and worshiped Lord Shiva. Pleased with Lord Rama’s devotion, Adinath Shankhara appeared as jyotirlinga, now popular as Ramanathaswamy temple.
The temple was constructed in the 12th century, and since then, the temple has been expanded by the descending dynasties. It is also one of the Chardham alongside Badrinath, Puri, and Dwarka. The temple has the longest corridors in Asia and is the third-largest in the world.
6. Kashi Vishwanath, Varanasi, India
At Varanasi, near the banks of the holy river, Ganga lies the sacred temple of Lord Shiva. Here, people called Mahadev Vishwanath, the lord of the universe. The Vishwanath Temple is also called the golden temple as the three domes of the temple are made up of pure gold, which Maharaja Ranjit Singh donated in 1837.
Since the temple lies in Varanasi (Kashi in the past) – the holiest Hindu city, several enlightened rishis, saints, and spiritual gurus visited this site. People believe taking a bath in Ganga and then worshipping the main deity, Vishwanath clears one’s sins and helps one to attain moksha.
7. Lingaraj Temple, Orissa, India
In the capital city of Orissa or Odisha, Bhubaneswar lies one of the oldest temples of Lord Shiva. People worship him in the form of Lingaraj – Lord of Lingam and Bhubaneshwar – Lord of three worlds; heaven, earth, and the underworld.
Lingaraj temple was built during the Keshari dynasty kings and later upgraded by the medieval Rudhi Ganges dynasty. As for temple architecture, it follows Kalinga architecture with the Deula style and other styles like Vihana and Jagamohana. During Mahashivaratri, the temple fills with thousands of visitors as the festival is celebrated grandly in Lingaraja temple.
8. Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram, India
One of the forms of Lord Shiva is Nataraja, the god of dance. At Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, the finest temple of Nataraja lies. The temple has Dravidian architecture and a slight influence on the Malabar style. The temple walls are wooden-carved, displaying 108 dance steps from Sanskrit dance-based text, Natya Shastra by sage Bharata Muni.
During Mahashivaratri, devotees flock to this temple to worship the Lord and to watch exceptional spiritual and traditional dance performances honoring the lord of dance, Nataraja.
9. Vadakkunnathan Temple, Kerela
In the Kerela of India lies the Vadakkunnathan temple, which represents the finest arts of ancient Kerala architecture. On the walls are mural paintings and wood carvings displaying the stories of the epic Mahabharata.
Local people believe one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu, Lord Parshurama, had built this temple as he was a great devotee of Mahadev. Mahashivaratri, Aanayoottu, and Thrissur Pooram are the major festival celebrated in this festival.
10. Neelkanth Mahadev Temple, Rishikesh, India
The vibrant, colorful, and artistically rich temple of Neelkanth is 32km from Rishikesh on the meet point of Pankaja and Madhumati, encircled by three valleys: Manikoot, Vishnukoot, and Brahmakoot. Some ancient Hindu texts mentioned it is where Lord Bholenath drank the vessel of poison. Because of that poison, Mahadev’s neck turns blue. That’s why Mahadev’s other name is Neelkanth.
During Shawn and Mahashivratri, the temple fills with crowds of devotees to participate in these grand events. Before worshipping the main deity, one has to take a bath in a natural spring.
11. Nellaiappar Temple, Tamil Nadu, India
In the south of India, one of the important temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati is the Nellaiappar temple. Located in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, near the northern shore of the Thamirabarani River, the Nellaiappar temple was built by the Pandya dynasty around the 7th century, later renovated by several dynasties of Cholas, Pallavas, Cheras, and Madurai Nayak.
It is one of five places where Lord Shiva performed Tandava (the cosmic dance). The temple follows the Dravidian architectural design with five gopurams, Tamra Sabha (copper dance hall), Mandapam, musical pillars, Lord Narayan, and other deities’ statues. Arudra Darisanam, Navratri, and Aippasi Tirukkalyanam are the significant festivals grandly celebrated in this temple.
12. Kailasnath Temple, Maharashtra, India
Kailasnatha temple, located at Ellora Caves in Aurangabad district of Maharastra state, is the largest rock-cut Shiva temple in the world. This site is even listed as UNESCO World Heritage. Based on ancient epigraphs, the temple was built by Rashtrakuta monarchs (756-773 CE). Inside the Ellora Caves are other 34 temples dedicated to Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu deities.
13. Omkareshwar Temple, Indore, India
In the city of Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, Mahadev appeared as a jyotirlinga in the form of Lord Omkareshwar – the deity of Omkara. The temple sits upon an island created by the Narmada River, which shaped the entire island into the symbol ॐ.
14. Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal
Lord Pashupatinath is the guardian deity of Nepal. Thus, this shiva temple has great value and respect among all Nepalese and Hindus worldwide. This holy temple covers a large area that includes 108 shillings, sculptures, ashrams, a crematory, and many smaller temples.
It is one of Nepal’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, listed in 1979 AD. During Mahashivaratri, the temple hosts a grand festival. People, visitors, devotees, sadhus, and rishi visit Pashupatinath to celebrate and be on with Lord Shiva himself.
15. Halesi Mahadev Temple, Khotang, Nepal
In the eastern region of Nepal, at Mahadevsthan village of Khotang lies a cave and temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Besides Hinduism, this holy site is even popular among Buddhist and Kirati people.
The Halesi cave lies between two major rivers: Sun Koshi and Dudh Koshi, at the elevation of 3,100 ft. to 4,735 ft. As per some Hindu texts, Mahadev hid in this cave for over 6,000 years from an asura Bhasmasur – a demon who can burn down everything into ashes when he touches the head of others. Therefore, devotees visit this holy cave during Shrawan month and the Maha Shivaratri festival.
16. Doleshwar Mahadev Temple, Bhaktapur, Nepal
The temple of Doleshwar Mahadev lies at Sipadol, Bhaktapur. People believed the Doleshwar Mahadev temple was the head part of another significant Shiva temple, the Kedarnath temple.
Once, Pandavas, after the Kurukshetra war, went to the Himalayas to meet Bholenath to ask forgiveness for murdering innocent lives. However, Mahadev was not ready to forgive and converted into a bull. Knowing the truth, Pandavas captured the bull and tied it with a rope. In doing so, the bullhead separated and fell where Doleshwar Temple resides. The other half is at Kedarnath, Tungnath, Rudranath, Madhya Maheshwar, and Kalpeshwar.
17. Gokarneshwor Mahadev Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal
In Gokarna village of Kathmandu lies one of the oldest and most sacred temples of Lord Shiva. The temple resides at the Triveni of Bagmati, Chandramati, and Suryamati rivers. This historical temple is even mentioned in ancient texts like Varaha Purana and Shakti Sangama Tantra. Moreover, Ravana meditated in this spot for thousands of years to win Triloka. The temple design is typical Nepalese style with unique wood and stone works.
18. Santaneshwor Mahadev Temple, Lalitpur, Nepal
Near the village of Bodegaun, Lalitpur lies the sacred temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, Santaneshwar Mahadev Temple. In Nepal, this temple has great importance as it is believed couples having no child, if they visit this temple, perform puja, and ask for a wish from their heart, will be blessed with a child. To reach the main temple, one has to climb 365 stairs.
19. Baidyanath Dham, Achham, Nepal
On the meeting point of Budhi Ganga and Saraswati river lies the Baidyanath temple. The temple lies in the far western region of Nepal in the Achham district. This sacred land is even mentioned in the Manas Khanda branch of Skanda Purana. It says in this holy land Goddess Parvati got married to Lord Shiva. Another story says Bholenath healed Ravana taking the form of a Baidhya. Thus, the land was called Baidyanath Dham.
20. Pindeshwar Mahadev Temple, Nepal
Nepal’s one of the main Shiva temples resides at Dharan, Sunsari district. Also known by baba Dham, during Shrawn, thousands of devotees from all over Nepal visit this shrine walking barefoot and carrying the holy water of Sapta Koshi to pour over the Shivling.
According to the historian, the temple was reconstructed in 1822 CE. But the main Pindeshwor Mahadev lingam dates ancient. The story regarding the Shivling origin says the Shiv ling formed by the drops of Amrit, which emerged from Samundra Manthan (the churning of the sea) while gods tried to hide it from the demons.