If you are planning on going to India’s holy places then I have a surprise for you. I have compiled an ebook (paperback coming soon) especially for children and travellers to India. It’s called, “Hinduism For Kids: Beliefs And Practices”.
Lots of tourists from around the world visit India to seek spirituality at India’s numerous holy places. Even non-religious individuals are visiting these places as sites of cultural importance or just to get an idea about Hinduism and India in general. What Jerusalem is for Jews and Mecca is for Muslims and Rome for Catholics; India is exactly that for Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists.
Unlike Christianity, Islam and Judaism; Hinduism is a unique religion with its strange customs and many Gods and Goddesses – no wonder people from around the world find it attractive. It’s certainly a very complex religion with its rituals, philosophy, customs, and belief in reincarnation and so on. Therefore, this book is a simple introduction to a complex religion.
I come from a very religiously Hindu family and my ancestors were priests hence I thought this book was due. In addition, I am currently teaching my own children about Hinduism. I don’t know anyone who could have done a better job in writing this book than me. I have priced the book cheaply so that visitors to India and children around the world will be able to learn about Hinduism.
So if you are planning a religious and cultural travel of India then let me take you though some of the best places for your religious tourism in India?
Here are the most famous sacred destinations of India:
Although I was born in Patna, this is where I spent large parts of my childhood. The city of Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh, also known as Kashi and Banaras is considered one of the oldest inhabited cities of the world and the cultural capital of India. If you want to learn about Hinduism then this is where you must go. Mark Twain once said, ‘Older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, And looks twice as old as all of them put together‘. It is said that if a Hindu is cremated in Varanasi, the person is liberated from the recycle of birth.
By the way, if you fancy trying marijuana called bhang in these parts then there are government-approved bhang shops where you can try “bhang lassi”. You will find bhang being sold on the streets; I suggest you stay from it and if you must try it then go to these government-approved ones.
Some of the best places to visit include Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Bharat Mata Temple and the Tulsi Manas Temple along with the numerous ghats.
Although this is an Islamic pilgrimage centre, it’s very popular amongst Hindus too. Ajmer is located in southwest of Jaipur in state of Rajasthan. The most popular destination in Ajmer includes the Sufi shrine the Dargah Sharif also known as the Ajmer Sharif.
The shrine welcomes people of faiths. Some of the other destinations of Ajmer include Nasiyan Jain Temple, Adhai-Din-Ka-Jhonpra (two and a half day mosque), the Taragarh Fort, the Ana Sagar Lake, Daulat Khana and Daulat Bagh.
Despite coming from a devout Hindu family, I have amulets from this place.
The Golden Temple commonly known as Harmandir Sahib is the most important Gurudwara of the Sikhs. The temple is located in city of Amritsar in the state of Punjab. Again the temple is open to people of all faiths. Here are some pictures of the Golden Temple (sent by a friend of mine). You can read about the Golden Temple in detail from my friend Manuela.
Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai
The Haji Ali Dargah is not a very popular destination amongst foreign tourists but for Indians it certainly is one. Those visiting Mumbai in the state of Maharashtra make it a point to the Dargah (tomb). The tomb is of Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, a rich Muslim businessman who gave away all his wealth away to the poor before leaving for Mecca. About 30 to 40 thousand pilgrims visit the tomb on Thursdays and Fridays alone, so you can see how popular this place is. You might consider taking a trip to the Haji Ali Dargah if you are in Mumbai. It is situated on an islet off the coast of Worli in the South of Mumbai. Even Hindus visit this shine in large numbers.
Rishikesh is dubbed as the capital of yoga. Foreign tourists and yoga fans visit this place in large numbers. Rishikesh is situated 26km from Haridwar on the foothills of the Himalayas in the northern state of Uttarakhand – it is said to be the gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas. Some of the major attractions include Laxman Jhula (450 feet hanging bridge on the River Ganges), Bharat Mandir (oldest temple in Rishikesh), Triveni Ghat (ghat to wash your sins away) and the Rishikund (a pond of great religious significance). There’s a Beatles Ashram if you like the Beatles.
Unfortunately, the tourist boom and lack of planning along with sheer greed to make money from the tourists, led to a flood in 2013.
Bodh Gaya of Bihar is one of the most visited places for Buddhists. It is so popular that an international airport has been built but flights are operational only to and from Sri Lanka. Bodh Gaya is where Lord Buddha used to meditate under a tree which is now called the Bodhi Tree. As a child, I remember sitting under the tree and collecting the leaves that fell of the tree. The main attraction is obviously the Mahabodhi Temple Complex which is very place where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. Basically, this is where he realised why humans suffer and found out how to get rid of these sorrows by following the eight-fold path.
It’s a very spiritual place and a must visit for those inclined towards Buddhist philosophy. If you do happen to visiting Bodh Gaya do email me – I can meet up as I don’t live very far away from this place. You can read more about the Bodhi Temple here.
The Lord Venkateswara temple of Tirupati in the Southern state of Andhra Pradesh is perhaps India’s most popular temple. The first page of my book, “Hinduism For Kids: Beliefs And Practices” has a picture of the replica of Lord Venkateswara of Tirupati. Believe it or not, more than 60,000 visitors come to the temple every single day.
However, to see the actual shrine is extremely difficult. There are long queues and can get very hot. When I first saw Lord Venkateswara, I could not help crying. I must have cried about half an hour for no reason what so ever. Do make a wish here, it is said that if you make a wish here, it will be fulfilled.
I hope I have pointed out some of the most important religious destinations of India. Mind you, there are more destinations which I hope to cover and these are some of the places I think are important and have been. I cannot guarantee that you will find God but you will certainly discover yourself in these holy places of India.
If you have any questions relating to Hinduism or religious tourism in India, feel free to shoot me a message or contact me using the contact me page.