Indian Pilgrimages and holy places in India represent the rich cultural heritage of the nation. Each destination has its unique importance and gives a clear idea about the richness of the Indian civilization.
The nation houses more than 60 major holy places belonging to different religions like Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, and Jain. Being primarily a Hindu nation, most of the sites are based on the teachings preached in this religion.
Prime Hindu pilgrimages
The country is a house for around 12 Jyotirlingas, 51 Shakti Peeths, and 4 Dhams. There are several temples and other holy places throughout the nation and each site has made a considerable contribution in preserving the holiness of Indian culture.
Char Dham yatra is the most famous holy expedition in India. The trip comprises of a visit to the four important temples at Puri (Orissa), Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu), Dwarka (Gujarat), and Badrinath (Uttarakhand). Alternatively, the yatra can also include other four places like Badrinath (Uttarakhand), Kedarnath (Uttarakhand), Gangotri (Uttarakhand), and Yamunotri (Himachal Pradesh).
Amarnath yatra is another major holy place a lot of Hindu people sought for. It is a cave situated in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and is dedicated to Shankara or Shiva.
The temple is situated at an altitude of 12,756 feet and the journey is challenging and thrilling, thanks to the extreme weather conditions in the region.
Vaishnodevi yatra has its unique importance as a holy place. Also known as Mata Rani or Vaishnavi, the temple of the mother goddess is dedicated to Shakti. Millions of pilgrims visit the place through out the year.
Tirupati temple is a holy place dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara. The god is known as the avatar of Lord Vishnu and the site is the most visited holy site in India. Situated in the state of Andhra Pradesh, it is also the second richest temple after Shree Padmanabhaswamy temple of Kerala.
The seven peaks comprising the Tirupati site are Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrushabhadri, Narayandri, and Venkatadri. The temple is on the Venkatadri and is also popularly called as the ‘Temple of 7 Hills’. Some other names for the god are Balaji, Srinivasa, and Govinda.
The cities of Varanasi (located in Uttar Pradesh and is also called as Kashi or Banaras), Ayodhya (located in Uttar Pradesh and is the birthplace of Lord Rama), Allahabad (in Uttar Pradesh), Haridwar (Uttarakhand), and Mathura (located in Uttar Pradesh) have a special place in the history of the religion.
Kumbh mela is a very big occasion for the pilgrims. It is held every four years on a rotational basis in the cities of Nashik (Maharashtra), Allahabad, Haridwar, and Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh). There are three types of Kumbh mela as Ardha, Purna, and Maha.
Ardha mela is held in Haridwar and Allahabad every six years. Purna mela is held every 12 years in the four major cities mentioned above. Maha mela is is held every 144 years or after 12 complete cycles of the Purna mela.
Hindu families follow the practice of worshiping Kuladaivat (family deity). Some of the popular temples serving the purpose are Khandoba (Jejuri in Maharashtra), Bhavani mata (Tuljapur in Marashtra), Renuka mata (Mahur in Maharashtra), Tirupati Balaji, and Mahalaxmi devi (Kolhapur in Maharashtra).
Other important sites include Meenakshi temple (Madurai, Tamil Nadu), Pandurang temple (Pandharpur, Maharashtra), Siddhivinayak temple (Mumbai, Maharashtra), Shirdi (dedicated to Shri Sai Baba) and Sabarimala (dedicated to Ayyappan Swami).
The two major shakti-peethas in the country are Kamakhya (Assam) and Kalighat (Kolkata). There are 12 Jyotirlingas in all. They include Somnath (Gujarat), Nageshwara (Gujarat), Kedarnath (Uttarakhand), Mahakaleshwar (Madhya Pradesh), Mallikarjuna (Madhya Pradesh), Omkareshwar (Madhya Pradesh), Bhimashankar (Maharashtra), Trimbakeshwar (Maharashtra), Grishneshwar (Maharashtra), Vaidyanath (Jharkhand), Kashi Vishwanath (Uttar Pradesh), and Rameshwar (Tamil Nadu).
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Muslim pilgrimage sites
Jama Masjid is the most popular holy site. Constructed in 1656 by Shahjahan, it is located in the capital city of Delhi. Ajmer Sharif (known as the resting place of Gharib Nawaz) is another important site associated with the history of the religion.
It is situated in the city of Ajmer in Rajasthan. Haji Ali Dargah is another important holy site. It is located in the capital city of Mumbai and was built in 1431 in the memory of Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari.
Golden Temple is the most important Sikh gurudwara in India. Located in the capital city of Amritsar, the temple was erected in the sixteenth century by Guru Anjan Dev, the fifth Sikh guru. The gurudwara is also referred to as Darbar Sahib or Harmandir Sahib.
Anandpur Sahib also called as the ‘Holy City of Bliss’, is another important sacred place in Punjab. It was founded in 1665 by Guru Tegh Bahadur, the 9th Sikh guru. Hemkund, a gurudwara in Uttarakhand, is situated at an elevation of 15,200 feet and is devoted to Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the 10th Sikh guru. Damdama Sahib (one of the five takhts of Sikhism), Paonta Sahib, Takht Sri Patna Sahib, and Manikaran are some other major sites displaying the culture and traditions of the religion.
The four major sites are the Catholic Cathedral (Kohima, Nagaland), Christ Church (Pune, Maharashtra), St. Francis Church (Goa), and Holy Trinity Church (Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh).
Most of the sites are located in the Northern and North-Eastern part of India. The major ones include Dharmashala (Himachal Pradesh), Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh), Tabo Monastery (Himachal Pradesh), Leh, Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir), and Rumtek (Sikkim).
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Adbudji temple in Eklingji, Rishabnath and Parshavnath temples in Jaisalmer, Osiyan jain mandir, Dilwara temple in Mount Abu, Parshavnath mandir in Nakoda, Mahavir temple in Karauli, and sites in Sirohi, Ranakpur, Jalore, and Ghanerao are some of the leading sites in Rajasthan visited by the jain pilgrims. Palitana, Bhadreshwar, and Girnar temples in Gujarat, Chanderi and Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, and Sravanbelegoda in Karnataka are the major jain sites.
Indian Pilgrimages and holy places have played an important role in presenting to the world the roots of different religions and the respect with which they are practiced in India. Many of the sites are included into the heritage list and are granted special funds by the Indian government to preserve their originality and significance.
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