India is a country where one will find many diversified cultures coexisting with each other. India also inhibits people following different religions with peace and unity. In short, what Jerusalem is for Jews, Mecca for Muslims and Rome for Catholics; India is same for Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists altogether.
Many tourists all around the world visit India to experience its spiritual side as India is well known for its numerous holy places of different faiths. All these places hold great historical importance that attract tourists not only from India but all over the world. Whether they are religious or non-religious, people flock to these holy places to get a deeper idea about Hinduism.
Although India is a Hindu country, it inhibits almost every religion of the world. One may find people belonging to all regions in this country. Also the holy places aren’t limited to Hinduism alone but extends to Islam, Sikhism, and Buddhism etc.
Now breaking all the suspense let me list some of the most popular holy places in India that will let one experience spirituality in India:
Varanasi (Banaras) in Uttar Pradesh
Varanasi, also popularly known as Banaras or Kashi is one of the oldest inhabited cities of the world and the holiest city of India. Located in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi is the most visited city of India. It is also famous for its popular Ghats on the banks of holy river Ganga. Once Mark Twain wrote in one of his book describing Varanasi that, “Older than history, older than tradition, older even than the legend, And looks twice as old as all of them put together”. The city also holds a spiritual side as it is believed that, if a Hindu is cremated in Varanasi, the person will be liberated from the recycle of birth.
Besides the spiritual factor, Varanasi is also a place known for Bhang (similar to marijuana). There are many government approved bhang shops located in the city where one can try “Bhang Lassi” legally. One will also find Bhang sold on streets which is not at all recommended because of obvious reasons. Always go to these government-approved shops to try this Bhang Lassi.
The must see places in Varanasi include Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Bharat Mata Temple and the Tulsi Manas Temple along with the numerous Ghats on the banks of River Ganga.
Ajmer Sharif in Ajmer, Rajasthan
Ajmer is located in the southwest of the Pink City, Jaipur in Rajasthan. This famous city of Rajasthan is popular for its Sufi Shrine, the Dargah Sharif that is best known as the Ajmer Sharif. Although it’s an Islamic Pilgrim Centre, Ajmer Sharif is very popular among all the Indians irrespective of the religion they follow. Tourists from all over the world make sure to visit Ajmer Sharif whenever they’re in India.
The shrine welcomes people of all faiths as it is popularly believed that any wish asked here comes true. The amulets of Ajmer Sharif is very famous and is a popular takeaway for the devotees visiting this holy shrine. Some other popular destinations in Ajmer includes Nasiyan Jain Temple, Adhai-Din-Ka-Jhonpra (two and a half day mosque), the Taragarh Fort, the Ana Sagar Lake, Daulat Khana and Daulat Bagh.
Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab
Harmandir Sahib, most commonly known as the Golden Temple is the most important Gurudwara of the Sikhs. This holy place is located in the city of Amritsar in the state of Punjab and is open to people of all faiths.
Golden Temple holds the highest place in the hearts of Sikhs when it comes to Gurudwara. Every year many Sikhs as well as people from different religions visit this temple for good fortune and blessings.
Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai, Maharashtra
Many foreign tourists must not be aware of the Haji Ali Dargah but it is quite popular among the Indians. The Haji Ali Dargah is located in Mumbai in the state of Maharashtra and those who visit Mumbai often make it a point to visit this Dargah (tomb). The Haji Ali Dargah is the tomb of a rich Muslim businessman, Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari who gave away all his wealth for the welfare of poor before leaving for Mecca.
The popularity of Haji Ali Dargah can be estimated by the number of visits the tomb gets on Thursdays and Fridays. It’s calculated that around 30 to 40 thousand pilgrims visit this tomb on Thursdays and Fridays alone. One must consider taking a trip to the Haji Ali Dargah on their next trip to Mumbai to experience the spirituality of this holy place and good fortune. Haji Ali Dargah is situated on an islet off the coast of Worli in the South of Mumbai. Even Hindus visit this shine in large numbers.
Just as Varanasi is known as the Spiritual capital of India, Rishikesh is well-known as the Yoga capital of India. Plenty of foreign tourists and yoga fans visit the Yoga city of India. Rishikesh is situated 26km from Haridwar on the foothills of the Himalayas in the northern state of Uttarakhand and is said to be the gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas. The major attractions of Rishikesh include Laxman Jhula (450 feet hanging bridge on the River Ganges), Bharat Mandir (oldest temple in Rishikesh), Triveni Ghat (ghat to wash your sins away) and the Rishikund (a pond of great religious significance).
Believe it or not, one will also find a Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh. This holy city experienced a disastrous flood in 2013 because of the tourist boom and lack of planning which resulted into the deaths of thousands and destruction of major parts of the city.
Bodh Gaya, Bihar
Located in Bihar, Bodh Gaya is one of the holiest place for Buddhists in India. The popularity of this Buddhist Pilgrimage can be made out from the international airport in Bodh Gaya where flights are operational only to and from Sri Lanka – a country with majority of Buddhist population. The historical significance of Bodh Gaya is famous among Buddhists because this is the place where Lord Buddha used to meditate under a tree which is now known as Bodhi Tree.
The main attraction though is the Mahabodhi Temple Complex which is believed to be the very place where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. This is the place where Lord Buddha was enlightened with knowledge about human suffering and ways to get rid of these sorrows following the famous eight-fold path.
Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh
As one goes in the southern part of India, there is a famous temple of Tirupati situated in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The Lord Venkateswara temple of Tirupati is apparently the most popular temple in India. Daily more than 60,000 devotees visit this temple.
Because of its popularity, it is often very difficult to see the actual shrine as many people from all over the country visit this temple daily. One has to cover long queues under hot conditions to see the shrine. It is also believed that if you make a wish here, it will be fulfilled.
There are many more destinations that hold religious values in India and all can’t be listed here. These are the most popular holy places that one must visit to experience spirituality in India. I am not sure whether God exists or not but one will surely feel closer to God when they explore these holy places of India.