The Sacred Places of Hindus-Some General Information for the Pilgrims
Life is a pilgrimage. The wise man does not rest by the roadside inns. He marches direct to the illimitable domain of eternal bliss, his ultimate destination.
Everyone loves pilgrimage. All religious people are fond of making some kind of spiritual journeys. The Hindus are one of the most travelling folks when it comes to pilgrimage. For him, a 'thirthasthana' or a pilgrimage center is a sacred space. The 'Char Dham' (four pilgrimages) are the most sacred places of Hindus for pilgrimage. In India, they have plenty of options to make a divine journey, whether it be in the South, North, West or the East.
India is a vast country of various cultures. It has hundreds of 'tirthas' or sacred places across the country and finding a list of the most important holy places of pilgrimage is a little bit trivial. This article is to help you find some important places of pilgrimage for Hindus. People from other communities can also visit these places and there is no restriction for them. In fact, many people from Europe and other regions do visit these places regularly when they land in India.
Of the several holy destinations, the most important ones for the Hindus are the Char Dham (four pilgrimage places) of Vishnu.The Char Dham are often considered the most holiest sites for Hindus that have to be visited in one's lifetime. The Char Dhams are
Apart from the above, there is one more type of Char Dhams and that is in the Himalayas. These are
- Gangothri and
All the above four places are in the state of Uttarakhand (formerly Uttaranchal). Obviously for this very reason, Uttarakhand is the most revered and sought after destination for Hindu pilgrims. The state is often described as the 'Land of the Gods' (Deva Bhumi). It is a newly formed state in India.
You may ask what is the difference between both these Char Dhams or what are the features of these locations. Well, that is a genuine doubt and needs some clarification.
The Char Dham I mentioned first is the most important and sacred one. These four locations are spread across the country (India) in all directions, i.e. the South (Rameshwaram), North (Badrinath), East (Puri) and the West (Dwaraka). Thus, making a trip to the Char Dham gives one an experience of travelling the entire nation. The pilgrims enjoy the feeling of having covered the country completely. It is not a small thing either.
Making a visit to the Charm Dham is a strenuous and time-consuming task. But it is worth and a divine experience. The pilgrims can be proud of the fact that he has traveled the entire nation! These four destinations are thousands of miles apart. Each place has a vibrant identity with different cultures and languages.
While in Rameshwaram (Tamil Nadu), Tamil is what spoken, it is Hindi in Badrinath (Uttarakhand). Similarly, while the people of Dwaraka (Gujarat) speak Gujarati, what you hear in Puri (Odisha) is Odiya. Fortunately except Tamil Nadu, people of other centers use Hindi also, which makes communication an easy thing. It is one of India's unique features.
The other significant point of the Char Dham is that these are the sacred abodes of Vishnu, a Hindu God.
The Features of Other Char Dham in the Himalayas
The second set of Char Dham is in the Himalayan sector. These four places, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri are situated in the state of Uttarakhand. Here the language is Hindi.
What makes it different is that it is not fully dedicated to Vishnu and his avatars. Here, the worshiping are as follows:
Kedarnath - Shiva Temple by the banks of the Mandakini river
Badrinath - Vishnu Temple by the banks of the Alakananda river.
Gangotri - Dedicated to the Goddess Ganga, the holy river.
Yamunotri - Dedicated to the Goddess Yamuna, the holy river.
A Video on Char Dham
The Saptapuris are believed to offer the liberation of 'moksha'. Moksha is a Hindi word which means release from birth and death. This has seven sacred cities called 'Mokshapuri'. They are Kashi (also known as Varanasi/Banaras/UP), Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu), Mayapuri (Haridwar/Uttarakhand), Ayodhya (UP), Avantika (Ujjain/MP), Mathura (UP) and Dwaravati (Dwaraka, Gujarat).
The Seven Sacred Rivers
In India, some rivers are worshiped as Goddess. Most of the pilgrimage centers are on the banks of the rivers and a bath in the river is considered as a ritual. The seven sacred rivers in India are
- Narmada and
Ganga, for Hindus, is the most sacred river. It has four streams. They are
- Mandakini and
Pilgrimage is a sacred journey. It is adventurous, dangerous and enjoyable alike. In the present world of pressure and tension, a spiritual journey will keep you relaxed and refreshed. It is a search of spiritual significance and a sort of discovery. Your destination may be anywhere, but the journey must go on.
My Other Articles on Religion & Pilgrimage
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- Tamil Nadu- The Land of Temples
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- Parassinikadavu Sri Muthappan Temple-A Unique One in Kerala Temples
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- How to Reach Murudeshwara on the Konkan Route in Karnataka, South India
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- Kanyakumari: The Land's End of India And The Confluence of Three Seas
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- Trichy, The All Religious Hub of Tamil Nadu, South India
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- India's Ten Magnificent and Most Popular Temples
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- The World's Most Popular and Sacred Seven Pilgrimage Centers
Pilgrimage is a great experience. All religions have important pilgrimage centers. Religious people visit these places, pray and find solace. The most famous pilgrimage sites are discussed here.
- Religious Diversity of India-A Study
India has some amazing features on the religious fractions living in the country. It has the largest population of Hindus in the World and has the 2nd largest Muslim population. Read more here.
© 2014 Sunil Kumar Kunnoth