Mark Twain, the English author wrote, “India is the cradle of human race, the birth place of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive material in the history of man is treasured up in India only”. India is the birth place for four of world’s renowned religions- Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. With its rich and diverse culture India has numerous holy destinations spread all over its geography. Being a secular nation all the religious practices and traditions have been flourishing all over the country since ages.
Having a unique identity of its own India has been portraying as a land of tradition and culture housing several world famous epics of god and goddess in its history. Thus the people have been worshiping those lands associated with the epics. India still preserves those actual cultural heritages where you can let yourself get engulfed in the aroma of the real spiritual experience.
Here is a list of top 10 holiest Indian cities to visit to enhance your spirituality and rediscover yourself:
10. MATHURA AND VRINDAVAN (UTTAR PRADESH)
“Whenever the Supreme Personality appears, He appears in Mathura because of His intimate connection with this place. Therefore, although Mathura and Vrindavana are situated on this planet earth, they are transcendental abodes of the Lord.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 10.1.28 Purport).
Mathura is a small town on the bank of river Yamuna, situated at approximately 145 km the south east of Delhi. Mathura is also known as Brajbhumi, birth place of famous India deity Lord Krishna, incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Vrindavan is a small village, situated at 15 km from Mathura where Lord Krishna is believed to spend his playful youth. Mathura and Vrindavan are among the oldest cities of India.
9. TIRUPATI, CHITTOOR (ANDHRA PRADESH)
Located in foothills of Eastern Ghats at 150 kilometers from Chennai Tirupati is the major pilgrimage of India and the largest city of Rayalaseema region. Tirupati is the busiest pilgrimage center of the world, and is famous for Venkateswara Swamy Temple. The temple is visited by about 50,000 to 100,000 pilgrims daily i.e. approximately 30 to 40 million people annually on average, while on special occasions and festivals, like the annual Brahmotsavam, the number of pilgrims shoots up to 500,000, making it the most-visited holy place in the world. The temple is among the richest temple of world. There is no clear history of the origin of temple although according to the legends the temple is believed to house deity of Lord Venkateswara since the evolution of kalyug and hence the temple is believed to be maintained since ages.
8. RISHIKESH, DEHRADUN (UTTARAKHAND)
Rishkiesh is the birthplace of unbeatable formula to fitness, Yoga. Situated on the bank of river Ganga, 43 kilometers from Dehradun, in foothills of Himalaya, Rishikesh is surrounded by hills on three sides. With numbers of Ashrams and Yoga centers, Rishikesh is famous among tourists seeking peace and knowledge. Due to its serene and pristine aroma, Rishikesh has been luring tourists seeking inner peace.
7. KEDARNATH, RUDRAPRAYAG (UTTARAKHAND)
As per the legends, Kedarnath is the holiest temple of Hindu deity Lord Shiva, build by Pandavas. One of the 4 prominent pilgrimage, the char dham of Hindu mythology, Kedarnath is remotest. Due to the extreme weather condition of surrounding, temple is open to pilgrims only from April end to the month of November. The temple miraculously stood 2013 flash floods, being only building that remains standing amidst the corpses and debris.
6. BODHGAYA, GAYA (BIHAR)
The most prominent and sacred Buddhist pilgrimage of the world, Bodhgaya attracts believers of Buddhist from all over the world. Historically known as Uruwela till 18th century, it is claimed as the place where Lord Buddha achieved enlightenment or Buddhatva. 250 years after the enlightenment of Buddha, emperor Ashoka lead the foundation of Mahabodi temple in Bodhgaya. Several Buddhist temples and monasteries have been built by followers of Buddha from worldwide, around the Mahabodhi Temple.
5. AJMER (RAJASTHAN)
Surrounded by Aravalli Mountains, Ajmer is among the prominent pilgrimage of Muslims. It is the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. It is said to be the most prominent shrine of Islam after the Mecca. Followers of Islam visit this place from all over the world. Mughal Emperor Humayun is believed to build the shrine on the tomb of Sufi Saint Moinuddin.
Ajmer is also the base for visiting ancient Hindu pilgrimage, Pushkar, located 11 kilometers from it. Pushkar is said to house one of the very few only temple of Hindu deity Lord Brahma. Pushkar has several other temples and a total of 52 Ghats build on Shore of Pushkar Lake. It is very famous pilgrimage among Hindu devotees.
4. VARANASI (UTTAR PRADESH)
Previously known as ‘Benaras’ or ‘Kashi’, Varanasi is one the oldest city of world. Beguiled by the legends and sanctity of the city, Mark Twain wrote: “Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”. Varanasi, the city of Lord Shiva, is an intense place that has been attracting Hindu pilgrimage as well as foreigners since the time immemorial. Full of temples, Ghats, and shrines, with aroma of incense stick all over the place and soothing sound of mantras and hymns, it is said to be the best place to attain eternal oneness of body and soul. It is a myth that the person dying here is relieved from the process of reincarnation, and achieves moksh.
3. AMRITSAR (PUNJAB)
The most prominent pilgrimage and the cultural and spiritual center for Sikh religion, Golden Temple or The Harmandir Sahib is situated in Amritsar. The city attracts Sikh followers from all over the world. The four doors to get in the shrine symbolizes openness of Sikh Religion to all peoples and religion. The Gurdwara was built by fifth Sikh Guru in 16th century, later in 19th century Maharaja Ranjit Singh covered upper part of Gurudwara with Gold, giving it a distinct and divine appearance.
2. AYODHYA, FAIZABAD (UTTAR PRADESH)
Ayodhya is an ancient city of India associated with the origin of one of the most prominent epic of Hindu mythology Ramayana. According to Ramayana the city is 9000 years old and was founded by Manu (the first Man of Hindu Mythology). Full of famous ancient temples and shrines, the city is believed to be the birthplace of Hindu deity, Lord Rama. Skanda and other puranas list Ayodhya as one of the seven most sacred cities of India.
Ayodhya is a prominent place for Jain too. It is the birthplace of all five Tirthankaras of Jainism. According to Jain Agams, it is second eternal city after Shikharji.
1. HARIDWAR (UTTARAKHAND)
Located in the foothills of Himlayas, the holiest city of India is Haridwar (Hari ka dwar or Gateway to God). The city experiences ultimate aura of serenity and purity due to fast flowing holy Ganges. According to the legends, Haridwar is regarded as one of the four place where droplets of Amrit (the elixir of immortality), accidentally spilled over. In Hindu mythology is is believed that a dip in holy river Ganges washes away all the sins. Blessed with three prominent deity of Hinduism, tagged as creators in Hindu mythology, Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, the city is a spiritual hub for Hindu Pilgrims.