Destinations to Touch the Spiritual Traditions of India

  • By Ashley Halsey
  • November 19 2020
  • 209 views
  • Article tells about seven places to visit and why.

The diversity of India, stretching from the towering Himalaya to the silver sands where it meets the Indian Ocean, offers untold surprises and delights for the foreign traveler. The variations in India’s geography is equalled by that of its religious and spiritual traditions - many of those who visit India are curious about these traditions from Hinduism and Jainism to ancient Sufi rites and practices. India is a place which presents an incredible opportunity for a journey through spirituality. 

Here are seven of the best destinations to explore an otherworldliness.

1) Gangotri, Uttarakhand

Situated at 3,400m elevation deep in the Himalaya, just getting to Gangotri presented a test of faith and stamina. This is a pilgrim town with a rich history in the Hindu faith, and the source of the holy river Ganges, which flows south to the plains, it is where Lord Shiva unleashed the river and the Goddess Ganga from the tangles of his hair.

Gangotri Temple, in the town itself, is the seat of Ganga and one of the four holy pilgrimage sites in the Chota Char Dham circuit. Visiting Gangotri in the winter months, under a thick layer of snow and ice, adds to the magic and mystique of this town and is the best time to see the submerged shiv linga - representing Shiva himself - as water levels will be low.

To see Gangotri album

2) Nizamuddin Dargah, New Delhi

Nizamuddin Dargah is the mausoleum of Sufi saint Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya and at any time this is a holy place with an air of peace. Each Thursday, however, the mausoleum comes alive with the spiritual sound of qawwalis, the Sufi practice of devotional singing. Visiting Nizamuddin Dargah for the qawwalis is an intensely spiritual experience as the multitude of voices reverberate off the mausoleum walls.

Traditionally, to hear qawwalis the listener had to be an adult male but these conditions are relaxed in the nizamuddin dargah and any traveler can come to lose themselves in the melodies of the singers.

3) Jagannath Temple, Puri at Ratha Yatra

As one of the most popular pilgrim temples in India, the colorful Jagannath Temple in Puri is a deeply spiritual and vibrant place to visit. At the festival of Ratha Yatra, this temple comes to life further as a hub of celebration and spirituality.

Ratha Yatra sees giant chariots pulled through the town of Puri to the Jagannath Temple to commemorate a journey undertaken by Lord Jagannath’s, the temple’s namesake god. Whilst Puri is a holy place at all times, the festival, which takes place in June, is the best time to visit Puri and Jagannath’s Temple for insight into spirituality.

To see Rath Yatra album

4) Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

On the banks of the Ganga, sits the town of Varanasi which has its own spiritual significance. For both Jains and Hindus, Varanasi is one of India’s holiest cities and in the Hindu tradition it was established by Lord Shiva himself. Any traveler seeking to discover Indian spirituality should set foot on Varanasi’s hallowed ground.

Go exploring in Varanasi to uncover its many connections to spirituality. The ghats - the steps which lead down to the river Ganges - make for an excellent place to encounter spirituality.

To so see Ghats of Kashi

5) Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab

The glowing Golden Temple in Amritsar is the paramount holy place within Sikhism and is a profound seat of spirituality. The temple itself is a magnificent wonder of the world, constructed of marble and copper and overlaid with golden foil, and it sits on the banks of a lake which perfectly reflect its shimmering beauty. (note it is not an architectural wonder).

The Golden Temple performs important spiritual and practical functions within Sikhism and is a fantastic place to experience the generosity that is at the heart of the Sikh faith. The practice of langar takes place daily, feeding up to 100,000 people from the temple as an act of charity. Note that many temples in the state of Karnataka too feed thousands daily but the langar here has caught popular imagination.

To see Golden Temple or Hari Mandir album

6) Ganga Aarti at Hardiwar, Uttarakhand

The ancient city of Hardiwar in the northern state of Uttarkhand is a holy Hindu city. It is found on the banks of the Ganges where this river flows out from the Himalayan foothills, and is intimately connected to Hindu traditions - a peaceful and consecrated place.

An aarti is where fire and song are brought together in a ritual in praise of deities and the Ganga Aarti at Hardiwar is one of the most impressive taking place in India. The combination of performance and prayer makes for a profoundly spiritual experience.

See Ganga Aarti

7) Bhasm Aarti at Mahakaleshwar Temple, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh

Ujjain is an important pilgrimage point within Hindu traditions and the town is dominated by the ancient Mahakaleshwar Temple, with its stunning ornate roof. This temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas - devotional representations of Shiva, giving it a deep-rooted spiritual connection.

The aarti at Mahakaleshwar Temple is an impressive ritualistic performance, centred around the chanting of mantras deeply connected with Hindu traditions. Performed in the hours before sunrise, the vibrations produced through this chanting create an unforgettable otherworldly experience that is said to provoke feelings of profound bliss and joy.

See album Ujjain City

Incredible India

From Gangotri, deep in the Himalaya, to pilgrimage towns such as Amritsar and Ujjain, these destinations spread across India offer unprecedented opportunity to explore the multiple spiritual traditions of India. Take the first step on an incredible journey.

 

Author is a professional writer at Dissertation Writing Services UK. She winters across India and Nepal each year, travelling, exploring and learning about the diversity of cultures.

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