India is a country where religion fervour is a vital part of everyday life. Not only is it present in the architecture, sculptures and paintings, it immerses you in its influence even through its hustle bustle of daily life.
All of the world's major religions are fused in this vast, mystical nation: Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism as well as some fascinating smaller communities of Jains and Parsis. And this beautiful amalgamation of various cultures have given this country a long history of spirituality and well-being. Explore all these fascinating faiths, and in doing so, dive into you our own spirituality and gain a deeper appreciation of the heritage and customs that surround us!
Here are six destinations you can’t miss while exploring India’s spiritual side:
1. Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh, is one of the seven sacred Hindu cities with a very old history. Known as the city of Lord Shiva, the god of creation and destruction, it’s believed that anyone who dies here will be liberated from the cycle of reincarnation. The enchanting thing about this mystical city is that its rituals fill the air as they take place on the riverside ghats and create a magical sight. Experience a morning or evening aarti at the ghats and soak in this intense city that attracts Hindu pilgrims and foreigners alike.
2. Haridwar (the "Gateway to God") is another holy place in India, and one of the oldest living cities. Located at the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, it's particularly popular with Hindu pilgrims who come to take a dip in the holy waters of the fast flowing Ganges River and wash away their sins. The evening Ganga Aarti is a sight to behold here.
3. Rishikesh the birthplace of yoga, is a popular place if you wish to gain some inner peace through meditation and yoga while learning some engaging aspects of Hinduism. It’s situated on the banks of the Ganges surrounded by hills on three sides, not far from Haridwar in Uttarakhand. Rishikesh lures those seeking knowledge and peace with its numerous ashrams and yoga institutes. It's particularly popular with spiritual seeking foreigners, while Haridwar holds more significance for Hindu pilgrims.
4. Amritsar was founded in 1577 by Guru Ram Das, the fourth guru of Sikhs. It’s the spiritual capital of the Sikhs and its name means "Holy Pool of Nectar", from the body of water around the Golden Temple. The exquisite Golden Temple attracts pilgrims from all over the world. It is the place which holds the religious text of the Sikhs and it looks particularly captivating at night when its imposing pure gold dome is illuminated.
5. Bodhgaya is the most important Buddhist pilgrimage place in the world. Located in the state of Bihar, it’s here that Lord Buddha became enlightened during his meditation under a Bodhi tree. The exact spot is now marked by the sprawling Mahabodhi Temple complex. The town is also home to dozens of Buddhist monasteries. Those who are interested will find plenty of meditation and Buddhism courses and retreats on offer.
6. Tiruvannamali is located around four hours from Chennai in Tamil Nadu, and attracts spiritual seekers to its Sri Ramana Ashram. Hindu pilgrims walk around holy Mount Arunachala and pray at Arunachaleswar Temple, where Lord Shiva is worshiped as the element of fire. Mount Arunachala is called the "most silent place on earth" as its powerful energy has the astonishing ability to quieten the mind. Meditate in a cave up the mountain and discover it for yourself.