Pilgrimage is a religious journey that holds immense spiritual importance. We all wish to embark on a pilgrimage that takes us close to our own faith and beliefs.
India is a land of numerous religious faiths. This religious land is dotted with a number of temples, churches, mosques, Gurudwaras, monasteries and many other religious structures. All these pilgrimage destinations are included in the pilgrim tours of India. There is a place of worship for every pilgrim, be it a Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian.
A pilgrimage tour to India makes you attain spiritual bliss and also gives an insight of different cultures and customs of India.
Here, we list down about the most visited religious destinations in India:
Char Dham Yatra in Uttarakhand
One of the most important and devoted pilgrim tours in India, Char Dham Yatra covers four most revered shrines of the Hindus, Yamunotri, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Badrinath. The holy pilgrimage of Char Dham is set in the Indian Himalayas of Uttarakhand. These four religious sites form most important center of religious activities in North India.
Yamunotri is the seat of Goddess Yamuna in Hinduism and which is also the source of the holy Yamuna River. Gangotri is the abode of Goddess Ganga and the source of the revered River Ganga. Badrinath, the most important of all the sites is where the Hindu God Vishnu resides and Kedarnath, where Lord Shiva is present in the form of a Jyotirlinga.
The Yatra begins from Yamunotri, then proceeds to Gangotri and finally reaches to Kedarnath and Badrinath. During the Yatra, devotes also get to visit one of the most popular pilgrimage sites of India, Gurdwara Shri Hemkunt Sahib.
Devotes from all over the world embark on the Char Dham Yatra as it is believed to wash away all the sins and attain salvation.
Vaishno Devi Yatra
Vaishno Devi Yatra is considered one of the holiest pilgrimages of India. The holy cave of Maa Vaishno is located at an elevation of 5200 ft. Devotees undertake a trek of 12 km to Mata Vaishno’s Bhawan from the base camp at Katra. Maa Vaishno resides in a sacred cave in the slopes of Trikuta Mountains.
On reaching, devotes go inside the Holy Cave to take the blessings of Mata Vaishno. Mata Vaishno is present in the form of Pindies in the cave that are natural rock formations. Darshan at the pilgrimage remains open throughout the year.
The shrine of Maa Vaishno is popular all through the year as the goddess is believed to fulfill the wishes of every devotee. People have a constant faith in Maa Vaishno’s blessings, which is they throng the shrine from all over the world.
Set at an altitude of 3888 m in Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most revered shrines of India, Amarnath Cave. The cave has a stalagmite that is formed because of freezing of water drops which fall from the roof of the cave to the floor. This stalagmite is considered Shiva Linga in Hinduism.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this shrine holds immense religious importance among the Hindus. The cave inside which this ice formation is present gets covered with snow for most part of the year. This is why, the Amarnath Yatra remains open for devotees only for a short duration in summer. During this time, thousands of devotees from all over the country and the world embark on this holy pilgrimage which takes them through challenging mountainous terrains. Some religious beliefs say that the lingam of Lord Shiva in this cave keeps growing and shrinking as per the phases of the moon.
As per the Hindu legend, the cave is believed to be the place where Lord Shiva explained the secret of life and eternity to his divine consort, Parvati. Other than the main lingam of Lord Shiva, there are two more ice formations present in the cave that are of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva’s son, Ganesha.
One of the most popular and sacred festivals of India, Kumbh Mela is organized after every 12 years on a grand scale. As per the legend, when Gods and demons had a fight over the pot of Amrita (nectar of immortality), Lord Vishnu flew away with that pot of nectar. While he was taking the pot away, the drops of nectar spilled at four different places. These are the same four places where the famous Kumbh Mela is celebrated- Haridwar, Nashik, Prayag and Ujjain.
Kumbh Mela is a large gathering where people from different faiths and religions come together to celebrate their devotion towards god. The Mela is also known as the largest peaceful gathering in the world as it is thronged by around 100 million pilgrims, saints and travelers.
The most important event of the festival is the ritual bathing which is done on the banks of the river located near the place where Kumbh Mela is organized. Other than this ritual, a number of activities like religious discussions, assemblies, devotional singing and mass feeding of poor are performed.
For this year, the dates of the Nashik Kumbh Mela have been announced by the Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad or the ABAP. The event will begin with flag hoisting on 14 July 2015 at Ram Kunda.
Puri Rath Yatra
The famous Chariot festival or the Rath Yatra is a Hindu festival celebrating Lord Jagannath’s visit to Gundicha Temple through his aunt’s home in Puri. The annual festival is celebrated on Ashad Shukla Dwitiya (second day in bright fortnight of Ashad month).
During the festival, the idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are taken out in a procession to Gundicha Temple where they remain for nine days. After nine days, the deities are taken back to the main temple. The return journey of Lord Jagannath is known as Bahuda Yatra. The three chariots of the deities are beautifully decorated and pulled through the streets of Puri. The entire Yatra commemorates the annual journey of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and their sister Subhadra to their aunt’s temple, the Gundicha Temple that is located 2 km from the main temple. This is the day when every devotee can get a glimpse of the deities. People from all over the world visit Puri to take part in pulling the chariots with other priests.
Located at the tip of Indian Peninsula, Rameshwaram is a popular pilgrimage site of India. The town is located on the Pamban Island which is separated from the mainland via Pamban Channel. This pilgrimage is one of the sites of the revered Char Dham Yatra.
A visit to Rameshwaram is important for the Hindus as a pilgrimage to the holy city of Banaras is incomplete without a Pilgrimage to Rameshwaram. This is why, Rameshwaram is also called the ‘Banaras of the South’.
A major pilgrimage site, the Ramanathaswamy Temple is one of the seven temples which need to be visited once in life to gain salvation. The presiding deity of the temple is Linga Of Sri Ranganatha. It is the place where the Ramayana was conceived. The temples also houses one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva.
Rameshwaram is the place where Lord Rama built a bridge across the sea in order to rescue his consort, Goddess Sita from Ravana.
You may also read more about the most famous religious sites & temples in India:
Mahabodhi Temple is located in Bodh Gaya, where Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment. Lord Buddha came around 2500 years ago in search of enlightenment. Then, while he was sitting under a banyan tree, he attained the supreme knowledge to become Buddha, the enlightened one.
The place is considered one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites for Buddhists in the world. It is said that every individual must visit the place at least once in a lifetime as it creates awareness among them regarding the law of impermanence. The temple holds immense importance for the Buddhists. It houses the Maha Bodhi tree under which Gautama attained enlightenment. The temple is also a declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The largest and richest Buddhist Monastery in Ladakh, Hemis Monastery was built before the 11th century and was reestablished in India in the year 1652. The monastery houses a great collection of ancient statues, sacred thangkas, and other artifacts. The star attraction of the monastery is the Hemis Festival, which is held in the month of June/ July every year. The Hemis festival is a colorful celebration where a number of rituals and mask dances are performed.
The famous Sun Temple is located in Konark, Odisha. The temple is home to the Sun God who is sitting on a chariot that depicts the victory of King Narishadeva who defeated a number of Muslim Invaders. The temple is considered one of the masterpieces of Indian architecture. The spectacular architecture of the temple has 12 pairs of carved wheels and a hall of offering. The walls of the temple feature erotic scenes. The temple allures art lovers and travel enthusiasts from all over. The temple is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in India.
Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib Ji) was built by the fourth Sikh Guru, Ramdass Sahib Ji. The Gurudwara is one of the most important Sikh pilgrimage sites in India. The place commemorates numerous Sikh historical events. The Gurdwara has the Guru Granth Sahib which is the most Holy Scripture for the Sikhs.
This Gurdwara is a symbol of equality and brotherhood which calls people from different religions. The site features an air of immense spirituality and tranquility. People from all over the country and the world visit the Golden Temple for holy blessings. There is a beautiful Sarovar in the centre of the Gurudwara, where thousands of people take a holy bath.
Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti lay in peace here, listening to people’s wishes and fulfilling them. Once you enter through the gate of the Dargah a queer peace takes over you. A sacred shrine in Ajmer, Dargah Sharif is visited by millions of devotees every year from all over the world. The Dargah for many reasons captivates one’s heart; there is certainly something that is magical about this place that people from different faith come and worship here. Although the dargah is always crowded, the best time to visit Ajmer Sharif is during the Urs festival. The place comes to life during this festival that is held annually.
Located 122 km from Nashik, Shirdi is a small and beautiful town which is the abode of one of the most revered saint of Maharashtra- Sai Baba. It is believed that Sai Baba visited Shirdi in the year 1858 and then spent 60 years of his life here until he attained samadhi (salvation) in 1918. It is believed that he still resides in Shirdi.
Sai Baba is considered the ‘Child of God’ as he always gave the message of universal brotherhood. He worked for people throughout his life which got him a number of followers.
Today, the place is a popular Sai pilgrimage site and devotees from all over visit here to seek the blessings of Sai Baba. Other than the main shrine of Sai Baba, there are many more holy shrines of Sai Baba, such as Sai Baba temple and Dwarakamayi.