Top Religious destinations in India

Haridwar

Pilgrimage in India is one of the most unforgettable experiences in any one’s life. India has prevailed people far and wide with its in-depth philosophy and enlightenment. India has absorbed the wealth of spirituality from all corners of the world and thus, emerged as the pilgrimage hub. India has some of the world’s most beautiful and most visited pilgrimage destinations of the world. Experience the richness of the Indian way of life through its spiritual destinations. India is land of mysteries and unique religions and rituals. Only way to understand India and know what India is all about, one must land in India and visit its various pilgrimage centers.

Haridwar
Haridwar meaning ‘Gateway to God’, located on the banks of River Ganges. It is the place where river Ganga descends to the plains. Haridwar is also spelled as Hardwar or Hari- Dwar.Haridwar is the gateway to Hari or Lord Vishnu.

With Ujjain, Nasik and Allahabad, Haridwar forms the four important pilgrimage centres of India where Kumbh Mela is celebrated hereafter every 3 years rotated over these 4 destinations.

Har-ki-pauri is the most important place of Haridwar where thousands of people take a dip in the holy waters of the Ganges. At twilight, when evening aarti is performed the reflection of the golden diyas that keep floating on the river offers an enchanting view of the ghat. Hundreds throng to the ghats at Hari-ki-Pauri to participate in aarti everyday and it is a moving sight to watch hundreds ofminiature lamps float along the river.

The main temples situated in Haridwar are Mansa Devi Mandir occupies a place on top of the Shivalik hills, the Chandi Devi templestands in dedication to Goddess Chandi, the Daksha Mahadev Temple is the site where Daksha performed a yagna, the Maya devitemple is the place where the heart and navel of goddess Sati fell down, while Lord Shiva was carrying her burnt body.

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Varanasi
aranasi, also known as Benares, Banaras or Kashi, is a city on the banks of the Ganges in Uttar Pradesh, India. It is the holiest of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) in Hinduism and Jainism. There is a belief that anyone who dies here will be liberated from the cycle of life and birth, and that death at Varanasi brings salvation. It is considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and the oldest in India.

Varanasi is considered to be the spiritual capital of India. Scholarly books have been written in the city, including the Ramcharitmanas of Tulsidas. The Benares Hindu University which is one of Asia’s largest residential Universities is located here. People often refer to Varanasi as “the city of temples”, “the holy city of India”, “the religious capital of India”, “the city of lights”, “the city of learning”, and “the oldest living city on earth.”

Varanasi is the ultimate travel destination of India and has been for centuries. The Benares Gharana form of Hindustani classical music developed in Varanasi, and many prominent Indian philosophers, poets, writers, and musicians live or have lived in Varanasi. Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath located near Varanasi.

Amarnath
Amarnath is located in one of the world’s most incredible landscapes of Lidder Valley in Kashmir. Amarnath, a holy cave dedicated to Lord Shiva, situated at an altitude of 3888 meter is an integral part of ancient Hindu mythology. This cave is believed to be 5,000 years old and it was here that the Lord Shiva explained the secrets of life to his beloved wife Parvati. The dimensions of this cave are 60 ft. in length, 15 ft. in height and 30 ft. in width. Flanked by breathtaking snow-clad peaks, this Shiva shrine provides a wonderful opportunity to soak in the sacred energies of the Himalayas.

Every year in the month of Shravan (July-August) when the moon is full, the shrine witnesses thousands of pilgrims from all over the world throng this place to worship a naturally formed ice Lingam, symbol of Lord Shiva.

The cave is under close surveillance of the CRPF and Indian Paramilitary Forces. In order to have a holy voyage to the Amarnath temple, tourists need to get prior permission from the authorities.

Tirupati
Tirupati is a major pilgrimage and cultural city in the Chittoor district. It is the largest city in the Rayalaseema region of the Indian state Andhra Pradesh. It is located at the foothills of the Eastern Ghats. Tirupati is famous for the richest temple Venkateswara Swamy temple dedicated to Lord Venkateswara situated on one of the seven peaks of Tirumala Hills adjoining it. This busiest and richest temple in India draws thousands of pilgrims every day.

A Dravidian-style shrine of great antiquity, it was patronized by all the major powers of south India including Pallavas, Pandyas, Cholas, and Vijayanagar. The magnificent structure features diamond-decorated 2 m black stone idol of Lord Venkateswara, living form of Vishnu. The journey to Tirupati is cherished by every Hindu to make.

Puri
The most sacred pilgrim center for Hindus in India, Puri is also known as the Jagannath (the Lord of Universe) and is credited with the famous Jagannath temple and is along the coast of Bay of Bengal in the state of Orissa in India. Puri is an emerging industrial area with the major industries like rice milling, handicrafts and fish curing. Puri is a religious place and a most wanted holiday attraction. The major attractions nearby Puri includes the Chilka Lake, renowned as the biggest inland salt- water lagoon, Puri beach, Gundicha Ghar and the Chilika Wildlife Sanctuary.

Bodh Gaya
Bodh Gaya is situated in Gaya District in the Indian state of Bihar. Bodhgaya is a religious site and the most important Buddhist pilgrimage in the world associated with the Mahabodhi Temple Complex. It is famous for being the place where Gautama Buddha is said to have obtained Enlightenment. In the year 2002, Mahabodhi Temple became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main tourist attraction of the Bodhgaya is Bodhi Tree which is adjacent to the Mahabodhi Temple under which Prince Siddhartha Gautama is said to have attained Enlightenment 2,500 years ago. Some other attractions are Vajrasana, Chankaramana, Arimeshlochana, Ratnagar, Archaeological Museum, the Mohanta’s Monastery, Tibetan Mahayana Monastery etc.

Shirdi
Shirdi Sai temple is a beautiful shrine that was built over the Samadhi of Shri Sai Baba. It was established in 1922 to carry out the services of Shri Sai Baba. Shirdi is located approximately 296 Kilometers from Mumbai, 82 km from Ahmednagar and 80 km from the religious city of Nasik and 16 km from Kopargaon.

The name ‘Shirdi’ is interconnected with the life of Shirdi Sai Baba. Shirdi Sai Baba visited Shirdi when he was sixteen years old and stayed there until his death in 1918. Through Shirdi Sai Baba, Shirdi has earned a significant place among the pilgrimage destinations of India. Today Saibaba temples are all across India and even beyond. Devotees have established Sai temples in countries like Canada and Cuba.

The main attraction of Shirdi includes Khandoba, Gurusthan, Samadhi Mandir, Dwarkamai, Chavadi and Lendi Baug. Maruti Temple and Shani Temple, constructed under the supervision of Shirdi Sai Baba, are the other places of attraction in Shirdi.

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Somnath
The Somnath Temple, located in the Prabhas Kshetra near Veraval in Saurashtra, on the western coast of Gujarat, India, is one of the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines of the God Shiva. Somnath temple is a highlight of any trip to Gujarat. One of the oldest places of pilgrimage, the temple finds mention in ancient texts and scriptures. The Somnath Temple is known as “the Shrine Eternal”, having been destroyed many times by various kings and rulers. Razed and rebuilt at least six times since its foundation, the existing temple standing at the shore of the Arabian Sea came into being as a result of the efforts of Sardar Patel, the Iron man of India.

Ajmer
Ajmer is a city located in the state of Rajasthan, India. Ajmer is also known as Ajaymeru, was the city once ruled by Prithviraj Chauhan. It is surrounded by the Aravalli mountain range and is an oasis located between green hills.

Ajmer is an important pilgrimage destination for Muslims. The city has the tomb of the Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, which is revered by the Muslims. The annual Urs at Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti is held on a grand scale and attracts pilgrims from all over the world irrespective of their caste and religion.

Amritsar
Amritsar, literally a Pool of Nectar, derives its name from Amrit Sarovar, the holy tank that surrounds the splendid Golden Temple. Guru Ramdas, the fourth Guru of the Sikh faith, founded Amritsar in 1579. He constructed a pool on land gifted by the Mughal Emperor Akbar and called it Amritsar.

Home to the world famous Golden Temple, the 400-year-old city of Amritsar is the most important seat of Sikh history and culture.

One of the most poignant memorials of free India – Jallianwala Bagh -is also located in the city. Amritsar district was once a part of the vast area covered by the Indus valley Civilisation during the early period of history.

Ujjain
This ancient city of Madhya Pradesh lies on the banks of river Shipra. Legend has it that Ujjain is one of the saptapuris, or the seven holy cities of India that grant moksha or liberation from the cycle of birth and death. According to ancient Hindu scriptures it was originally called Avantika however later King Shiva of Avanti commemorated his triumph over the demon king of Tripuri, and changed its name to Ujjainyini which means one who conquers with pride. Besides this, it was governed by the likes of Vikramaditya and Ashoka. Kalidas wrote his souls stirring poetry here.

Ujjain is most famous for the Holy Kumbh Mela that is held here every twelve years. The festival is celebrated on the banks of River Shipra Today Ujjain is a striking amalgamation of legacy of bygone era and contemporary architecture which represents an interesting blend of an age old legacy and the modern day lifestyle.

Kedarnath
Located in one of the world’s most incredible landscapes, Kedarnath is a site of immense significance for spiritual seekers. Flanked by breathtaking snow-clad capped peaks of the Himalayas, Kedarnath’s claim to fame lies in its being home to one of the twelve Jyotirlingas.

A visit to Kedarnath, the most remote of the four Char Dham sites, provides a wonderful opportunity to soak in the sacred energies of the Himalayas. Located at an altitude of 3584 mts. on the head of river Mandakini in the state of Uttrakhand, Kedarnath temple was built by Adi Shankaracharya, one of the greatest scholars of the world in the 8th century.

Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Kedarnath temple is stupendous piece of architecture built of extremely large, heavy and evenly cut gray slabs of stones. The construction Kedarnath temple was a feat of human genius as it handling of these heavy slabs in the earlier days and that in a mountainous terrain and extreme climate.

Pushkar
The richness of India’s spiritual traditions finds its fullest expresion in Pushkar, one of India’s holiest cities. Situated in close proximity to Ajmer, which is used by the visitors as a jumping-off point to the pilgrim town, Pushkar is home to the world’s only temple dedicated to Brhma, the creator God of the Trinity.

According to legend, the sacred lake at its centre came into being when Brahma dropped the petals of a lotus flower (pushpa) from his hand (kar).

One of India’s busiest pilgrimage sites, Pushkar is a place of intense spiritual activity. This samll town on the edge of the Thar Desert is home no less than 500 temples. The most prominent amng them is the one dedicated to Brahma, said to be 2,000 years old.

In November, Pushkar is at its exuberant best when Pushkar Camel Fair is held annually to celebrate the Kartik Purnima (night of the full moon), one of the most auspicious days in the Hindu calendar. On this very day Brahma is said to have created the Pushkar Lake with its 52 ghats. This unmissable Rajasthan’s famous Camel Fair is a crucible of traders, tourists, local musicians, mystics and pilgrims as well as villagers with, of course, their thousands of livestock.

Sarnath
Located 10km north of Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh, the well-known Buddhist site of Sarnath is deservedly a tourist attraction in India not to be missed.

Sarnath’s claim to fame lies in being the place where Buddha delivered his first sermon after getting enlightenment some 2500 years ago, the event known in the Buddhist tradition as In the Buddhist literature, this event has been narrated as “Dharmachakra Privartan” or the turning of the wheel of Sacred Law. Its reputation as a centre of Buddhist learning spread far and wide attracting monks from across the world. Sarnath has long since been a place for religious pilgrimage.

Dating back to around A.D. 500, Dhamekh Stupa at Sarnath has developed into a major tourist attraction in India.

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