Religious tourism in India

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.

Hindu Temple

Me in a temple

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:

Varanasi (Banaras)

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.

The holy River Ganges at Banaras (Varanasi)

The holy River Ganges at Banaras (Varanasi)

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.

Ajmer

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.

Dargah Shareef of Khwaza Moinuddin Chishti

Dargah Shareef of Khwaza Moinuddin Chishti, Ajmer (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

Golden Temple

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.

Manuela at the Golden Temple in Amritsar

Manuela at the Golden Temple in Amritsar

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.

Haji Ali Dargah

Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai

Rishikesh

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.

The Laxman Jhula

The Laxman Jhula

Bodh Gaya

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.

Mahabodhi Temple Complex

Inside the Mahabodhi Temple

Tirupati

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.

Main Tirupati Balaji Temple

Main Tirupati Balaji Temple. Photo by Chandrashekhar Basumatary

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.

What do you think about taking a pilgrimage? Do you think it’s worth it or should we just stay where we are and pray as God is all around us? star rating

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.

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25 Responses to “Religious tourism in India”

  1. Hi Shalu,

    This is indeed awesome! I think I better stop congratulating you because you are SO quick with your eBooks :)

    It’s a perfect topic, and as you say you are a religious person, there would be no one better than you to point people in the right direction. Though not a Hindu, but I have read some of the stories in school and the Amar Chitra comics when I was in school, so this brought back good memories.

    I’ve always liked the details you go into, when you write your books, and with these religious travel destinations it’s going to be a great read. I love the cover – so apt :)

    Wishing you all the best and every success with ALL your eBooks. Thanks for sharing. Have a nice week ahead :)
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  2. Ivaan says:

    In India there are a number of religions but all of have the same message which is to serve humanity and most importanly of peace, Thanks

  3. Shakil Thasariya says:

    I love religious places such as Churches,Temples and Dargah. It is wonderful experience to get blessings from the GOD. Everyone should visit at least one sacred place during their tour outside their city or state/country.
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  4. Rakesh says:

    Most spiritual places are the source of positive energy. India is the land of highest positive energy places due to religious sites of Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Sikhs and all.
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  5. Agness says:

    Although I’m Catholic I respect all religions from around the world. I’ve been recently interested in yoga and I know it comes from India. Great for relaxing!

  6. Prasad Np says:

    India is the only country where so many major religions originated like Hinduism,Jainism, Buddhism. But even other religions that we embraced like Christianity and Islam have some of the oldest Churches and Mosques in India specially in Kerala. India is truly a center for all major religions, with some of the mosques and churches being older than those found in Europe and middle east. A great post that highlights major religions centers of India.
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  7. Aahna says:

    Hi Shalu,

    I have visited Rishikesh several times, but never got a chance to visit Varanasi. I’m actually looking to visit there for last few years but didn’t get success. I hope I would be able to visit there soon.

    I would also like to congratulate for your ebook. If you have guide about religious places, it really saves your lot of time and you’re able to plan your visit easily.
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  8. I would love to visit these places. But my real dream place to visit is the Taj Mahal.
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  9. Mehndi Designs says:

    I always dream of visiting Ajmair Sharif and will definitely visit it one day, and who would be better guide than you :-)

  10. Like seriously, is marijuana legal in India?

    Shalu, Your writing skills are beyond comparison.
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  11. Sifet says:

    I believe in all religious in India such as Hindu, Islam, Jain, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhism and others. GOD is one and we have divided them on the name of religious.
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  12. Disha Sharma says:

    Hi Shalu, Thank you so much for wonderful article. India is really Big Religious tourism country. There are many Religious in India those are very strong & I must say this post is dedicated to all Indian Religious.

  13. Hi Shalu,
    All of these places are true religious places and one must visit these places if they are coming to seek the spirituality.
    I have been planning to visit Bodh Gaya from the last 2 years but unable to go for one or other reason.
    This is a very useful articles & thanks for taking efforts to write this.
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  14. Hi Shalu…first of all india is holy place..where ever we see it attract us..the temples you mentions are very famous..in south india there much more place to see.. waiting for your next blog about south indian places
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  15. My last tour visiting place was ajmer, it was really such a great city loved the people of ajmer and city too.
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  16. Worli says:

    Specially, North India has attracted the tourists from all over the world for its religious tourism of all faiths and Yatras – the holy pilgrimage tour to Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri combinedly known as Chardham, Kailash Mansarovar and many other sacred places.
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  17. I really admire how rich is India when it comes to religious matters. No doubt, people in India have very deep faith in their beliefs.
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  18. Graham Smith says:

    Hi thank you for this post i find the religion and faith in India beautiful and pure, would love to visit one day would love to experience the culture .

    Thanks

  19. Great information about religious tourism in India.

    Even in South India, there are many great places. You can write another post on them as a part -2 of this series :-)

  20. Vijay Singh says:

    Hello Shalu mam ,
    Thanks for share very important information me . I India blogger .i like India . So now i going the United States . Mam your very talented and experienced blogger . Shalu mam please tell some more effective tips about make a good and high traffic website . please guide me . I wait your golden answer .
    Again thanks Mam

  21. that was a nice article and is very helpful for the children!.

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