Holy Lakes of India, India

Lake Locations:

India - North - Uttarakhand - South - Karnataka - West - Gujarat -

Also known as:  Panch-Sarovar, Pushkar Sarovar, Narayan Sarovar, Pampa Sarovar, Nainital Sarovar, Bindu Sarovar, Manasarovar

India is filled with holy places to the pious Hindu. Many of the most important are holy lakes to which pilgrimages are made to cleanse the sins of believers and bestow blessings. Pushkar Lake in Rajasthan state is one of the most holy and is termed the Tirtha-Raj or king of the pilgrimages in Hindu scriptures. However, other sacred lakes receive many devout pilgrims on specific religious dates or in search of special blessings. Most are devoted to a particular god or goddess, and the lakeshore often holds shrines to the god. Ghats also are a feature of the holy lake: a staircase from a temple down to the water for ritual bathing. The devout make long pilgrimages at considerable expense to visit these sacred lakes and practice the proscribed rituals to gain divine favor. Pushkar Lake is the most important of these (see separate lake summary), but four other lakes are considered to make up what is known as India’s Five Holy Lakes, known as the Panch-Sarovar. The other holy lakes are Narayan Sarovar, Bindu Sarovar, Pampa Sarovar, and Manasarovar. Sarovar is the Indian term for lake.

Lake Manasarovar is in neighboring Tibet, currently known as the Tibet Autonomous Region, People’s Republic of China. Because Manasarovar is difficult to access, the Hindu often substitute another lake in India for the pilgrimage: Nainital Sarovar, located high in the hills of the Indian state of Uttarakhand. This lake figures prominently in Indian ancient mythology as one of the places where the charred body of Sati fell while being carried aloft by Lord Shiva. Supposedly Sati’s eye (or nain) fell here, and Nainital Sarovar is sometimes called the eye-lake for that reason. The goddess Shakti is worshiped at the Naina Devi temple on the north shore of the lake.

Another part of the myths of Nainital Sarovar says that three sages came here and found no water. They dug a hole and carried water from Manasarovar to fill the hole. This made Nainital an acceptable substitute for a pilgrimage to far-off Manasarovar. The town of Naini Tal was established in 1841 while under British colonial rule and served mainly as a health resort for the British seeking to escape the heat of summer on the plains. By the 1930s, the British were replaced by a mostly Indian population. Now, the town’s economy is based mostly on tourism to the eye-shaped lake and Naini Devi’s Temple. Nainital is surrounded by picturesque peaks and holds the Pt. G.B. Pant High Altitude Zoo. Jim Corbett National Park is not far away. There are plentiful lodging choices in the city and a pleasant mountain climate perfect for hiking.

Narayan Sarovar is one of the most sacred of Indian Holy Lakes. Narayan is a name for Vishnu, the supreme being of the Vaishnavism branch of Hinduism. According to legend, the waters of the holy river Saraswat filled the lake with its holy waters on its way to the sea. Located in Gujarat state, many awe-inspiring Vaishnava temples are located here. A fair is held in the month of Kartik on the Hindu calendar (November/December). Narayan Sarovar Wildlife Sanctuary is located nearby. The sanctuary was established in 1981 but reduced in size in 1995 in favor of mining interests. The unique desert forest eco-system harbors a number of rare and endangered species and plants. Seasonal wetlands make this an unusual breeding ground for birds and home to rare flowering plants. The chinkara is the most commonly-sighted animal here, but the area is considered one of the last remaining habitats of the cheetah in India. Lodging accommodations are available for pilgrims and tourists in the immediate vicinity.

Bindu Sarovar is also located in Gujarat state. Bindu means ‘lake of drops’; myth states that Lord Mahavishnu’s tears fell into the lake. Temples on the banks of the lake honor various Hindu gods. A ritual known as Mathru Gaya Kshethra is performed here to appease departed mothers. This is the only place in India where this ritual is performed. Bindu Sarovar is actually three small ponds and the only place in India to perform the required ritual for a departed mother. The ritual is very specific and must be performed by the youngest son after a year has passed. For this reason the town of Sidhapur is always full of people making this respectful pilgrimage. The pilgrim hires a specific Brahmin according to his caste and takes a ritual bath in each of the three pools. There are few lodgings here, so visitors are advised to bring their own drinking water and plan to find lodgings in Ahmedabad or Mehsana.

Pampa Sarovar is considered in Hindu mythology to be the place where Pampa (daughter of Bhramha, the Creator God) showed her devotion to Shiva, the supreme god of the Shaivism denomination of Hinduism. Located in the state of Karnataka, Pampa Sarovar is covered with lotuses and very beautiful when they are in flower. A Shiva Temple and a Lakshmi Temple face the pond, while a small Ganish shrine stands nearby. The nearby village of Hampi is located within the ruins of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. Hampi predates the ruins and is still an important religious center. The ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site called the ‘Group of Monuments at Hampi’. The Virupaksha Temple is very picturesque and well worth a visit, camera in hand. The first settlements here date back to the year 1 A.D., and excavations are still ongoing to discover more temples and artifacts. Travel experts suggest planning several days in Hampi in order to see all of the ruins and temples. Several guest houses exist at Hampi, but none are more than basic. There are also guest houses on Hampi Island. Accommodations can also be found nearby in Hospet or Kamalapur. As Hampi gets many visitors, it is wise to check with an experienced tourism professional to assure you select clean and safe lodgings.

One could easily spend a year visiting the sacred places of India. especially the lakes. If you have a love of ancient history resplendent with religious myth, India will delight you.

Things to do at Holy Lakes of India

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • Ruins

Holy Lakes of India Photo Gallery

Holy Lakes of India Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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