India is a multi-cultural and multi-lingual nation. Each region has its own traditions and lifestyle. A country that has nurtured so many cultures for thousands of years must have a religious past. Hinduism is the religion that is followed by most Indians. That does not mean that India is intolerant towards other religions. The secular constitution allows Indians to choose and practice their religion freely. Thus, you will find a high percentage of people following Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Christianity. All religious festivals are celebrated with equal pomp and grandeur. When a country has so many religions thriving within its borders, it is bound to have several sacred places, holy sites and pilgrimage spots.
Hinduism has 300 crore gods and goddesses. Experts suggest that it is the mother of all religions. India is well-known for its epics and religious events, which took place in the prehistoric times. Most legends and classic stories involve a strong presence of religion. There are no extra points for guessing that a nation with such rich religious history will allure experts and explorers from all over the globe. These individuals seek religious, spiritual and divine awakening.
Yoga or meditational healing therapy has cemented its place among people. Yoga and meditation experts have proved that it is possible to enjoy a healthy and stress-free life without depending on prescription drugs. Yoga lays importance on healing the inner body and soul to keep the system well-maintained. This unique healing technique was developed and popularized in India by ancient sages. The main way to bridge this gap between the almighty creator and his creation is through meditation. Thus, one can get to higher levels of spirituality through meditation and yoga.
A follower of Hindu religion must visit the Char Dham or the Four Abodes of God. When on the Char Dham trip, you need to visit four holy places. These are considered must visits for Hindus as they believe that one can attain forgiveness from their sins and walk on the path of moksha. This trip will take one to Yamunotri, Gangotri, Sri Kedarnath and Sri Badrinath temples. It is written in ancient holy books that Adi Shankaracharya popularized this sacred journey. It is also said that in case a pilgrim completes this Char Dham yatra, then he/she will be able to break the chains of birth and rebirth. A trip to these ancient and picturesque places will allow one to bask in the lap of nature and take a step towards divinity.
A recent estimate states that the Vaishno Devi trip attracts around one crore devotees each year. The number is only escalating with each passing year. Apart from Indians, foreigners also reroll for this trip. If you do not believe in spirituality, then the fantastic natural setting will take your breath away. People of all religions can embark on this challenging trek. It is said that Vaishno Devi grants the wishes of all those who take the pain to get to her. The holy shrine is located in a mountain cave that is nestled around 5200 feet above the mean sea level. One has to walk for 12 km to get to this shrine. Men and women dress in traditional red and yellow kurtis, two holy colors of Hinduism. They also tie a red headband that says “Vaishno Devi Ki Jai.” Interestingly, there is no statue or picture of the goddess inside the cave.
Another holy place, located amidst high mountains, which are pierced by the swift current of sacred River Ganga, is Rishikesh. It has several temples, but the main shrine is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The meaning of Rishikesh is ‘Lord of Senses.’ Apart from being a spiritual hub, it is also popular among yoga enthusiasts as it is termed as ‘Yoga Capital of the World.’ Several religious and spiritual gurus have their ashrams here. Though there is no hard and fast dress code, it is refreshing to see even foreigners dressed in kurtis and pajamas, while entering the temples.
India has several Islamic holy places as well. Apart from Haji Ali, located in Maharashtra, Dargah Sharif or Ajmer Sharif Dargah in Rajasthan is a famous shrine. It was built for Moinuddin Chisti. According to religious practices, women are not allowed to visit the inner chambers of the mosque, and men need to wear long kurtis on the holy days. This Sufi saint shed light on the philosophies of life. He also propagated that one can get closer to god through devotional music as well. Sufi songs have carved their niche in the spiritual music world.
One of the most visited holy places of the Sikhs in India is the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The real name of this Sikh prayer house is Harmandir Sahib, but owing to the golden structure, at the top part of this temple, the gurudwara is popularly called the Golden Temple. The Amrit Sarovar is located inside the temple premises. It is also said that the water of the sacred tank has the power to heal. You will imbibe spirituality as soon as you step into the temple. Women and men need to cover their heads before entering the gurudwara.
These are some of the popular religious sites in India. One trip to this country will not be enough to explore all holy places. People, who have interest in Buddhism, can check out places like Sanchi Stupa and Bodhi Gaya for proper enlighten.