Pilgrimage over the ages has been an important part of every religion. In Hinduism, visiting religious places is given due importance. Such visits to religious places is known as ‘Teertha’ the Sanskrit word by meaning ‘tarayate iti’ or that helps one to cross over.
Thus every spiritual visit to various destinations gives one the knowledge which helps the individual to sail worldly happiness and sorrows smoothly. In Hinduism ‘Teertha’ expresses the commitment and desire of a person to be transformed into the vibes of a holy place.
Table of Content
- 1 Hinduism Pilgrimage Circuits
- 1.1 Chardham Hindu Pilgrimage
- 1.2 Char Dham Circuit of Uttarakhand
- 1.3 Kumbh Mela Circuit
- 1.4 Old Temple-City Circuit
- 1.5 Amarnath Yatra Circuit
- 1.6 Vaishno Devi Yatra Circuit
General masses believe in the act of God and a sense of dependence on the powers of the almighty for which they make a visit to such abodes of God with some aspirations. India is known as the land of dharma.
It is a country of diverse religions reflected by the profusion of temples present here. India is a country where spirituality is not restricted to the temples, mosques and churches, in fact it’s the life blood of the nation.
Hinduism Pilgrimage Circuits
- Chardham Hindu Pilgrimage
- Char Dham Circuit of Uttarakhand
- Kumbh Mela Circuit
- Old Temple-City Circuit
- Amarnath Yatra Circuit
- Vaishno Devi Yatra Circuit
Chardham Hindu Pilgrimage
The famous Chardhams (four seats) are linked to Vaishnav cult of Hinduism. Famous Chardhams designated by Adi Shankaracharya by establishing four mutts at four different directions of the country. Such places are Badrinath in the north (in the state of Uttarakhand),
Dwarka in the west (in the state of Gujarat), Puri in the east (in the state of Odisha) and Rameswaram in the south (in the state of Tamil Nadu). Shankaracharya also established four mutts in four regions of the country namely Jyoti pith near Badrinath, Kalika pith at Dwarka, Govardhan pith at Puri and Jnana pith at Sringeri in Karnataka. The Chardham visit a long cherished dream of every religious Hindu.
The famous Chardham destinations are explaine below.
Badrinath is located in the North Indian state of Uttarakhand. It is in the Garhwal hills, on the banks of the Alaknanda River. The town lies between the Nar and Narayana mountain ranges and in the shadow of Nilkantha peak (6,560m). Badri refers to a berry that was said to grow abundantly in the area, and nath means Lord.
The legend goes that Shankara discovered a black stone image of Lord Badrinarayan made of Saligram (black basalt) stone in the Alaknanda river.
He originally enshrined it in a cave near the Tapt Kund hot springs. In the sixteenth century, the King of Garhwal moved the idol to the present temple.
Dwarka located in the West is in the state of Gujarat, India. The city derives its name from word Dvar meaning door or gate in the Sanskrit language. It is located close to where the Gomti River merges into the Gulf of Kutch. The city lies in the westernmost part of India.
The legendary city of Dwaraka was the dwelling place of Lord Krishna. It is believed that due to damage and destruction by the sea, Dvaraka has submerged six times and modern day Dwarka is the 7th such city to be built in the area.
Puri is located in the eastern state of Odisha. Puri is one of the oldest cities in the eastern part of the country. It is situated on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. The main deity is Shri Krishna, worshiped as Lord Jagannatha. It is the only shrine in India, where goddess, Subhadra, sister of Lord Krishna is worshipped along with her brothers, Lord Jagannatha and Lord Balabhadra.
The main temple here is about 1000 years old and constructed by Raja ChodaGanga Deva and Raja Tritiya Ananga Bhima Deva. Puri is the site of the Govardhana Matha, one of the four cardinal institutions or Mathas established by Adi Shankaracharya.
This is the plume for Oriya people to celebrate a special day in this Dham which is also known as Rath Yatra, the Chariot Festival.
Rameswaram is located in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is situated in the Gulf of Mannar at the very tip of the Indian peninsula.
According to legends, this is the place from where Lord Rama, built a bridge Ram Setu to Lanka. The Ramanatha Swamy Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva occupies a major area of Rameshwaram. The temple is believed to have been consecrated by Shri Rama.
Rameshwaram is significant for the Hindus as it is said a pilgrimage to Benaras is incomplete without a pilgrimage to Rameswaram. The presiding deity here is in the form of a Linga with the name Sri Ramanatha Swamy, it also is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas.
Char Dham Circuit of Uttarakhand
The famous Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri are considered as four dhams in Uttarakhand. The four places in together represent Vaishnava, Shaiva and Shakti cult of Hinduism. Badrinath is the temple of Vishnav cult, where as Kedarnath is of Shaiva cult.
Gangotri and Yamunotri are the origins of famous The Ganga and the Yamuna rivers. Operators normally start their tour from Delhi as it is most popular entry point.
Kumbh Mela Circuit
The Kumbh Mela (the “pitcher festival”) is one of the holiest of Hindu pilgrimages that is held once in every three years; the location is rotated among four places namely Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik and Ujjain.
The celebrations are held on the river banks such as at Allahabad (UP) on the bank of sangam (confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mystical river Saraswati), at Haridwar(Uttarakhand) on the bank of the river Ganga, at Nashik (Maharastra) on the bank of the river Godavari, and at Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh) on the bank of the river Shipra.
Apart from Kumbh mela, Ardha kumbh mela is organized at only two places namely, Allahabad and Hardwar every sixth year.
Old Temple-City Circuit
Old Holy cities as per Puranic Texts: Varanasi formerly known as Kashi, Allahabad formerly known as Prayag, Haridwar-Rishikesh, Mathura-Vrindavan, and Ayodhya. Major Temple cities are Puri, which hosts a major Vaishnava Jagannath temple and Rath Yatra celebration; Katra, home to the Vaishno Devi temple.
In addition three comparatively recent temples of fame and huge pilgrimage are Shirdi, home to Sai Baba of Shirdi, Tirumala – Tirupati, home to the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple; and Sabarimala, where Swami Ayyappan is worshipped. Shakti Peethas:, where the Mother Goddess is worshipped, the two principal ones being Kalighat and Kamakhya. Some of the popular religious towns in India are explained below.
Located in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern Indian state of Utarakhand, Rishikesh is known as The Gateway to the Himalayas. Rishikesh is surrounded by three other districts namely Tehri Garhwal, Pauri Garhwal and Haridwar. It is located approximately 20 km north of the holy city Haridwar. The place is name after Lord Vishnu. The place finds mention in early text of Skanda Purana
Haridwar is an important pilgrimage city and municipality in the Haridwar district of Uttarakhand.
The River Ganga, after flowing for 253 kilometres (157 mi) from its source at Gaumukh at the edge of the Gangotri Glacier, enters the Indo-Gangetic Plains of North India for the first time at Haridwar, which gave the city its ancient name, Gangadwára. Haridwar is regarded as one of the seven holiest places to Hindus.
According to the Samudra manthan, Haridwar along with Ujjain, Nasik and Allahabad is one of four sites where drops of Amrit.
This is manifested in the Kumbha Mela being celebrated every 3 years in one of the 4 places, and thus every 12 years in Haridwar. Amidst the Kumbha Mela, millions of pilgrims, devotees, and tourists congregate in Haridwar to perform ritualistic bathing on the banks of the river Ganges to wash away their sins to attain Moksha.
Varanasi is a city on the banks of the Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, 320 kilometres southeast of the state capital, Lucknow. It is holiest of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) in Hinduism and Jainism. Hindus believe that death at Varanasi brings salvation.
It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and the oldest in India. Many of the temples here were plundered and destroyed by Mohammad Ghauri in the 12th century.
The temples and religious institutions in the city can be dated back to 18th century. The Benares Gharana form of Hindustani classical music developed in Varanasi. Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath located near Varanasi.
Allahabad is also known as Prayag or “place of sacrifice” it is the place of confluence the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. It is the second-oldest city in India and plays a central role in the Hindu scriptures. The city contains many temples and palaces.
Allahabad is located in the southern part of Uttar Pradesh. Allahabad was originally founded as Kaushambi (now a separate district) by the Kuru rulers of Hastinapur, who developed it as their capital.
Since then, Allahabad has often being the political/cultural/administrative head of the entire Doab area and beyond. First as Kaushambi, then as Prathisthanpur, and at last the Mughal emperor Akbar renamed Prayag as Allahabad and made it a prominent administrative centre of his kingdom.
Ayodhya was previously known as Saket is an ancient city of India, and is considered to be the birthplace of the Lord Rama an incarnation of Vishnu.
Ayodhya used to be the capital of the ancient Kosala Kingdom, and has an average elevation of 93 meters (305 feet) Ayodhya is located on the right bank of the river Sarayu, 6 km from Faizabad. According to the Ramayana, the city is 9,000 years old, and was founded by Manu, the first man in the Vedas, and law-giver of the Hindus.
Mathura is located approximately 50 km north of Agra, and 145 km south-east of Delhi; about 11 kilometers from the town of Vrindavan and 22 kilometers from Govardhan. Mathura is believed to be the birthplace of the Hindu deity Lord Krishna for which it is also called as Braj or Brijbhoomi.
According to the Mahabharata and Bhagavata Purana epics, Mathura was the capital of the Surasena Kingdom, ruled by Kansa the maternal uncle of Shri Krishna.
Temple cities in South India are explained below.
Tirumala Venkateswara Temple is a famous Hindu temple in the hill town of Tirumala, near Tirupati in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. The place is located at a distance of around 600 km from Hyderabad, 138 km from Chennai and 291 km from Bangalore.
The Tirumala Hill is 853m above sea level and is about 27 square kilometers in area. It comprises seven peaks, called as Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrushabhadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri.
The temple is on Venkatadri (also known as Venkatachala or Venkata Hill), the seventh peak. The presiding deity of the temple is Lord Venkateswara, a form of the Hindu god Vishnu.
The temple is the richest pilgrimage centre, after the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, of any faith (at more than 50,000 crore) and the most-visited place of worship in the world.
The temple is visited by about 50,000 to 100,000 pilgrims daily (30 to 40 million people annually on average), while on special occasions and festivals, like the annual Brahmotsavam, the number of pilgrims shoots up to 500,000, making it the most-visited holy place in the world.
Thillai Natarajah Temple, Chidambaram is a Hindutemple dedicated to Shiva located in the town of Chidambaram, East-Central Tamil Nadu, South India. The temple is referred to in all devotional literature as Bhooloka kailasam, or kailasam, as the Lord Shiva’s abode on earth.
The temples here have been renovated several times by the Pallava, Chola, Pandya, Vijayanagara and Chera royals in the ancient and premedieval periods.
The temple as it stands now is mainly of the 12th and 13th centuries. Sabarimala: Sabarimala is a Hindu pilgrimage center located in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta District, of Kerala.
It is the largest annual pilgrimage centre in the world with an estimated 45–50 million devotees visiting every year. Sabarimala is believed to be the place where the Hindu God Ayyappan meditated after killing the powerful demoness, Mahishi.
Ayyappanswamy temple is situated on a hilltop at an altitude of 1535 ft asl., and is surrounded by mountains and dense forests. Women between the ages of 10 and 50 are not allowed to enter the temple, since the story attributed to Ayyappa prohibits the entry of the women in the menstrual age group.
This is because Ayyappan is a Bramachari (Celibate). The temple is open for worship only during November and December.
Bhadrachalam: Bhadrachalam is located at a distance of 312 kilometres east of state capital, Hyderabad, on the banks of the river Godavari. The place is an important site of pilgrimage for Hindus. Here the presiding deity is Lord Rama.
Bhadrachalam town has a documented history of nearly 370 years ago. The present town is situated in an area, formerly part of the Dandakaranya forest. It is believed that Sri Rama, Sita and Lakshmana stayed here during their exile (vanavasam).
Amarnath Yatra Circuit
Amarnath cave is a famous shrine in Hinduism located in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is dedicated to Shiva. The cave is situated at an altitude of 3,888 m (12,756 ft), about 141 km (88 mi) from Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir and reached through Pahalgam town.
The shrine forms an important part of Hinduism, and is considered to be one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism. The cave is surrounded by snowy mountains.
The cave itself is covered with snow most time of the year except for a short period of time in summer when it is open for pilgrims. An annual pilgrimage is made to the Amarnath cave by lakhs of Hindu devotees on challenging mountainous terrain to see an ice stalagmite formed inside the cave.
Vaishno Devi Yatra Circuit
Vaishno Devi Mandir is one of the holy Hindu temples dedicated to Shakti, located in the hills of Vaishno Devi, Jammu and Kashmir. In Hinduism, Vaishno Devi, also known as Mata Rani and Vaishnavi, is a manifestation of the Mother Goddess.
Vaishno Devi Temple is near the town of Katra, Jammu and Kashmir|Katra, in the Reasi district in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The shrine is located at an altitude of 5300 feet and a distance of approximately 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) from Katra.
Approximately 8 million pilgrims (yatris) visit the temple every year and it is the second most visited religious shrine in India, after Tirumala Venkateswara Temple. The Sri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board maintains the shrine.
A rail link from Udhampur to Katra is being built to facilitate pilgrimage. The nearest airport is at Jammu. All leading domestic airlines have their services to Jammu Airport.
The Sikh community is known for its sense of brotherhood and fellowship, a fact that is reflected in its pilgrimage sites. The Golden temple, situated in Amritsar is the holiest shrine of the Sikhs in India. Another sacred site is the Anandpur Sahib, where Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa panth or the ‘Pure Sect’ in the year 1699.