Today, I present a very rare treat. This is a guest post from Sandra Mills, a talented freelance writer whose work appears in some of my favorite travel blogs. While I normally like to write 99% of the content here, I was intrigued by the title and further impressed by what I learned in this article. I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I did.
A spiritual pilgrimage to India is in the hearts of many travelers who want to experience the vast number of holy places, rituals and traditions offered. Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh temples are scattered throughout India. Natives and tourists visit these places in droves each year for the spiritual experience. Countless holy days are observed throughout the year. Pilgrims will discover festivals and celebrations that take place during certain seasons. Anyone seeking additional understanding and knowledge about the religions practiced in India will want to discover these five places.
1) The Gateway to God – Haridwar is considered one of the seven holy places in India. As one of the oldest living cities, Haridwar is located in the Himalayan foothills in Uttarakhand. Hindu pilgrims come in search of holy waters in the fast flowing Ganges River. Their quest is to wash away their sins. The fresh, clean waters of Haridwar are famous in comparison to other locations, such as Varanasi.
2) City of Lord Shiva – Varanasi – Located in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi is considered another one of the seven sacred Hindu cities with an extensive history. Hindus believe that anyone who dies in Varanasi will be liberated from the endless cycle of reincarnation. This mystical city follows many rituals, which are openly displayed along the riverside ghats. Hindu pilgrims and foreigners, alike, make the trek to Varanasi to learn more about the Hindu faith.
3) The Birthplace of Yoga – Rishikesh – Anyone seeking to learn more about yoga will enjoy a trip into this Hindu ashram. Pilgrims come to this location to learn better yoga techniques. In addition, travelers experience greater levels of meditation in this serene location. Rishikesh lures pilgrims who are seeking peace and knowledge about Hinduism in the numerous yoga institutes and ashrams. Located on the banks of the Ganges River, Rishikesh is flanked on three sides by beautiful hills that protect the entire area. In close proximity to Haridwar, Rishikesh is another popular destination for Hindu pilgrims.
4) Holy Pool of Nectar – Amritsar – Founded in 1577 by Guru Ram Das, who is the fourth guru of Sikhs, Amritsar is the spiritual capital of the Sikhs. The Golden Temple attracts Sikh pilgrims from all over the globe. At night, lights on the pure gold dome are visible from everywhere nearby. The Holy Pool of Nectar is a body of water that surrounds the Golden Temple. Visitors will learn more about the practices of this obscure religion that is just now reaching into Western countries. As a group, this is a peaceful religion that coexists in the midst of India where Hinduism and Buddhism have existed for centuries.
5) Mahabodhi Temple – Bodhgaya – This temple is considered the most important pilgrimage destination in the world for people of the Buddhist faith. In this location, Buddha was in intense meditation under a Bodhi tree when he became enlightened. People from all over the globe visit the state of Bihar to learn more about Buddhism. Inside the Mahabodhi Temple complex, the exact spot where Buddha was enlightened is clearly marked for pilgrims to see. Around this complex, dozens of Buddhist monasteries are scattered throughout the town. People will experience many different forms of Buddhist meditation. Buddhism courses can be attended to learn more in a classroom or retreat setting.
After the initial trip, travelers make plans for subsequent trips that will coincide with festivals and celebrations. Learning more about these remarkable places is one of the most intriguing aspects of any voyage to India. Most people become excited to return home and share their experiences with others in hopes of returning with new travel companions.
Sandra Mills is a freelance health and travel writer. She enjoys writing on topics that benefit people’s health. She plans on doing a lot more traveling this year with her friends, family, and by herself. You can follow her adventures on Google +.