It’s alright, you needn’t give a damn about a powerful guy in the sky to travel to the destinations listed below. We’ve compiled it keeping the hardiest of rational minds in mind. Think of them as buildings that happen to be constructed in some of the most spectacular locations in the country. Admittedly with large fan clubs, but so aesthetically sound that even an atheist is justified in making a pilgrimage there.
Hemkund Sahib (Uttarakhand)
Bowl of Snow, that is what Hemkund translates as, and in mountain terms it’s a stone’s throw away from the achingly gorgeous Valley of Flowers. The 2013 floods that devastated the state also destroyed many trails in this region, but they are functioning again. And if ever this state needed tourists, now is the time to show solidarity.
Ramanathaswamy Temple (Tamil Nadu)
Technically, this super-holy temple is located on an island entirely cut off from mainland India, even if it is easily accessible by a very interesting railway bridge that takes you over the Bay of Bengal. If you’re disappointed by the greyness of India’s coastal waters, all the blue surrounding Pamban Island, as it’s called, is perfect to restore faith in the sea.
Se Cathedral (Goa)
Old Goa’s high concentration of architecturally (and of course religiously) stunning churches has drawn visitors since the days the Portuguese constructed them. But unlike Basilica of Bom Jesus and other more popular churches, this one occupies a very large area inside and out, and is located on the banks of the Mandovi river where it seems to belong with the landscape.
Alchi Monastery (Jammu & Kashmir)
Alchi Monastery is located just off what is now known as the Leh-Srinagar Highway but was once a trail feeding the historic Silk Route. This 11th-century gompa’s walls are home to a style of Buddhist painting that pre-dates the thangka artworks found in the other Ladakhi monasteries. The apricot trees outside lend it a surrealistic air during blossom time.
Dargah Salim Chishti (Uttar Pradesh)
This pure white dargah in Fatehpur Sikri is well known to anyone who has made even a day trip to the Taj Mahal since it usually features on the itinerary. Luckily, only as an afterthought for most tourists. Which is why, if you go on a regular mid-week afternoon you are bound to find a courtyard of calm with placid water in a tank in the centre, the kind of calm one wishes the Taj had.
Sonagiri Temple (Madhya Pradesh)
77 ancient Jain temples scattered around a cluster of hills that justify the name Sonagiri, i.e. a ‘mountain of gold’. Fields encircling the sacred area can be seen far into the distance, and if you go on a rainy day you can witness the dramatic beauty of the white temples against a grey sky. Club it with a visit to Gwalior city 60 km away.
All Saints’ Church (Meghalaya)
A British Raj construction, the All Saints’ Cathedral occupies a special place in Shillong not just religiously but also geographically. We’re talking colonial quaint to a point that you’d wonder if it isn’t actually a Scottish hamlet sans the harsh winds. We promise it will bring out the aesthete in the atheist.