Hindu Pilgrimage Destinations of India

Pilgrimage is a fundamental and key aspect of the Hindu community. Over 80% of the population in India practices Hinduism which is so diversified in its theoretical and practical expressions. Rig Veda, Upanishads and Bhagavatgita are all considered as sacred texts for Hindus. Hinduism doesn't advocate the worship of only one deity. 

1. Ayodhya Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Ram, an important deity in the Hindu pantheon. It is one of seven holiest cities in India. This small, quiet town attracts pilgrims from all over the country. Hindu pilgrims visiting Ayodhya during festivals and important religious functions consider a holy dip in the sacred Saryu River very auspicious.

2. Allahabad Allahabad or Prayag is also called the "Tirth Raj", the king of all pilgrimage centers. The city of Allahabad is among the largest cities of Uttar Pradesh and is situated at the confluence of three rivers - Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. The confluence known as sangam is believed to have great soul cleansing powers. Visit the Patalpuri Temple, Mankameshwar Temple among the famous Shiv temples in Allahabad. Millions of devotees bathe ritually here during the time of Maha Kumbh Mela to break the eternal cycle of reincarnation. 

3. Amarnath As per the legend Shiva whispered the secret of immortality or the secret of creation to Parvati in a cave in Amarnath. Legends have it that Shiva made the gods immortal by providing them with the celestial nectar, and resided here upon their request. This boon of immortality lent the name Amarnath. Darshan at Amarnath is not easy. A tough and arduous trek is the only way to reach this holy shrine. Hundreds of pilgrims embark on the Yatra annually to achieve salvation.

4. Badrinath Nestled amidst the two mountain ranges of Nar and Narayan, with the Neelkanth peak in the background is the holiest of the four main shrines , Badrinath. It lies along the bank of the river alaknanda . The original Badrinath shrine, built by the 9th century saint Shankaracharya, has been re-built several times over due to damage from avalanches and snowfall. Made of wood, the temple stands 15 metres high, topped with a gilded cupola. Badrinath is also known as Tapobhumi (land of meditation and penance).

5. Chidambaram The temple town of Chidambaram, 58 km south of Pondicherry greets the visitors, with a beautiful temple, dedicated to Lord Nataraja - Lord Shiva in the enthralling form of a Cosmic Dancer. This is one of the few temples, where Shiva and Vishnu are enshrined under one roof. Chidambaram is also called Thillai, since the place was originally a forest of Thillai shrubs. It is one of the five Shaivite mukti sthalams, the other four being Kalahasti, Kanchipuram, Tiruvannamalai and Tiruvanaikaval.
6. Dwarka  is one of the four most holy Hindu pilgrimage sites in India and is closely related to the life of Lord Krishna. It is said to have been the capital of his empire. The main attraction here is the Dwarkadhish Temple, also known as Jagat Mandir dating back 2,500 years. . Equally attractive is the ornate Rukmini Temple, dedicated to Krishna's wife Rukmini, who is  considered to be a reincarnation of Goddess Lakshmi 

7. Gangotri The Gomukh glacier is the original source of the river Ganga and hence the shrine of Gangotri is dedicated to the goddess Ganga. Located at an altitude of 3,048 m above sea level, Gangotri is one of the four most important pilgrim sites for Hindus. The present temple was built by the Gorkha General Amar Singh Thapa in 18th century and now the main spot for worship. The Gaumukh glaciers, a sacred stone and a number of Ashrams are other prime attractions of the place.

8. Haridwar is the gateway to the four pilgrimages of Uttaranchal. The Maha kumbha mela, happening once every 12 years and the Ardha Kumbha Mela (happening once every six years) are the biggest events which draws millions of devotees around the world. The evening Aarti at Har-ki-pauri ghat is breathtakingly beautiful, as thousands of diyas &C marigold flowers float & illuminate the holy waters of the Mother Ganga.

9. Jagannath Dham Yatra : The holy city of Puri, 60 km from Bhubaneswar, is one of the holiest pilgrimage for Hindus.The reigning deity of the city, Lord Jagannath, whose temple was built way back in the 12th century, is not only of great religious significance to the people of Orissa but is revered by thousands of pilgrims who seek His blessings from every part of the country. The annual Jagannath Rath Yatra in the month of June July draws thousands of devotees who drag the images of Lord Jagannath, His sister Subhadra and brother Balbhadra through the Grand Road (Bada Danda) of Puri in traditionally decorated massive chariots.

10. Kanchipuram also called the Golden City of thousand Temples is one of the most important centers of Hindu religion and one of the seven sacred cities in India. Kanchipuram, apart from its temples, is well-known all over the world also for its thriving handloom industry. The city is also known as silk city since the main livelihood of the people living in and around comes from weaving silk sarees. 

11. Kanyakumari At the southernmost tip of India, the confluence of the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal is the location of Kanyakumari, an important pilgrimage site and one of the most popular tourist spots in the country. Kannyakumari has been named after the Goddess Kannyakumari Amman who is the popular deity of the area.

12. Kedarnath Located in Garhwal Himalayas at an altitude of 3,581 m, it is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in the country. It is the place where Pandavas, the heroes of the epic Mahabharata came to worship Lord Shiva after the battle of Kurukeshtra seeking salvation after killing their own brother in the war. The temple built in 8th century is the major place of worship. There is an ancient temple adjacent to it, believed to have been built by the Pandavas. The samadhi of Adi Guru Shankaracharya is another attraction of this place.

13. Madurai Synonymous with travel to Madurai, the Sri Meenakshi Temple, is one of India's largest temples. The temple is famous for its colourfully decorated 12 gopuras (towers) and the “thousand pillared hall”. Precisely there are 985 pillars and each of them is delicately and exquisitely carved. Among these are the musical pillars, which produce music when tapped. Surprisingly, these musical pillars are carved out of a single granite rock.

14. Mahabalipuram The city of temples, Mahabalipuram forms an integral part of the golden triangle travel destinations of South India. Earlier known as Mamallapuram, the place has been given the term "the Land of Bali". The renowned tourist and pilgrimage destination is situated at a distance of 55 kms from Chennai. Mahabalipuram Globally renown for its shore temples

15. Mansarovar Yatra Lake Mansarovar and Mount Kailash are situated in Tibet on the other side of the Uttarakhand Himalayas. Known to be the abode of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, it is regarded as one of the world's most sacred places. Lake Manasarovar is a fresh-water lake in Tibet about 2,000 km from Lhasa. Mount Kailash, has religious significance for both Hindus and Tibetan Buddhists. Lake Manasarovar lies at 4,556 m (14947.5 ft) above mean sea level. It is one of the highest fresh-water lakes in the world. 

16. Mathura and Vrindavan Mathura is called the Braj Bhumi – the land where Lord Krishna was born and spent his youth. Vrindavan stands apart in Indian mythology as the place where Krishna spent most of his childhood, serenading his gopis one moment, and slaying demons the next. Situated at a distance of 145 kms from Delhi. Vrindavan is situated approximately 11 km north of Mathura on the banks of the river Yamuna.

17. Omkareshwar Situated at 77 km from Indore, the name Omkareshwar derives from the word Om, which signifies the most sacred Hindu symbol. Omkareshwar, the sacred island, shaped like the holiest of all Hindu symbols, 'Om', has drawn to it hundreds of generations of pilgrims. Here, at the confluence of the rivers Narmada and Kaveri, the devout gather to kneel before the Jyotirlinga (one of the Twelve jyotirlingas throughout India) at the temple of Shri Omkar Mandhata

18. Pushkar Pushkar lies in a valley surrounded by hills on three sides and sand dunes on the other. According to the text, Pushkar came into being, when Lord Brahma, Creator in the Hindu Trinity, dropped petals of lotus flower (pushpa) to earth from his hand (kar) to kill a demon. This resulted in the formation of three lakes in the desert land. Lord Brahma is worshipped here with a temple dedicated to him along with the auspicious Pushkar Lake.

19. Shabarimala Sabarimala is the most pious and sacred temple of Kerala. Situated at an altitude of 914 m above the sea level, it is dedicated to Lord Ayyappa who is believed to be the union of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Lord Ayyappa brings together the Shaivite and Vaishnavite branches of Hinduism. The most auspicious day of the Sabarimala Pilgrimage is the Makara Vilakku Day somewhere around January 14th every year. Thousands of pilgrims pay their visit to the Sabarimala Temple to seek the blessings of Lord Ayyappa. One also gets the view of Makara Vilakku from Sabarimala Temple. It is a light that is visible on a nearby hill and is believed to be an indication of the presence of the divine. It takes 3 days from the base of the hill to reach the temple.

20. Rameshwaram Rameshwaram or Rameswaram, situated about 164 kilometers south-east of Madurai, Tamil Nadu is considered as one of the "Chardhams" (the four most scared pilgrimage centers) by the Hindus. Rameshwaram is the only one of the four Dhams where the resident Deity is Lord Shiva. The other three have either Vishnu in one form or one of His avatars in residence.

21. Shirdi is a mystical magical town near the holy city of Nasik, close to Mumbai. Shirdi, hometown and resting place of Shri Sai Baba, who many believe is an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Shirdi is visited by millions of devotees every year. As his teaching cuts across all religions and beliefs, pilgrims from all faiths throng to get a sight of the Samadhi Idol.

22. Tirupati It is famous for Lord Venkateshwara Deity. The name Tirupati-Balaji means the 'lord of Lakshmi'. The shrine is located on a hill at Tirumala, a cluster of seven hills known as Venkatachalam with an elevation of 853m above the sea level. It is said to be the richest temple in the world. There is a tradition to offer hair or tonsure at Tirupati.After tonsure one should go for Darshan of Tirupati Balaji.

23. Vaishnodevi Ma Vaishno Devi Temple is situated in the folds of the 'Trikuta Hill', in Jammu and Kashmir. It lies 61 km north of Jammu in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir. Perched at a height of 5,200 feet above the sea level, Vaishno Devi is a cave in the lower Himalayas. Katra, the town at the foot of the Trikuta hills is the base camp for the Vaishno Devi shrine. The Shrine of goddess 'Vaishno Devi' is reached by an arduous climb.The scenic beauty, the landscape around and the constant chanting of 'Jai Mata Di', leaves a mystic effect on the devotees.

24. Varanasi Varanasi,Known formerly as Kashi or Banaras is one of the holiest cities in India.Varanasi, the temple city of India, is regarded as the most sacred Hindu pilgrimage center of India. Sprawling along the left bank of the holy river Ganga, Varanasi houses hundreds of temples, shrines and palaces, which appear like rising in several tiers from the water's edge. It is also a city of fairs and festivals, celebrating about 400 of them all round the year.  Varanasi is also an important city for Buddhists as Lord Buddha preached his first sermon here

25. Yamunotri The first stopover for the Char Dham Yatra is the westernmost shrine of Yamunotri in the Garhwal Himalayas. Dedicated to Goddess yamuna, it is perched atop a flank of the Bandar Poonchh peak (3.165 mts. Above sea level) and is situated opposite to Gangotri. The shrine attracts devotees in large numbers from May to October.
Yamunotri is the source of the revered river yamuna which originates from the Champasar Glacier lying 1 km ahead of the shrine, at an altitude of 4,321 mts.

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Also check out 
Buddhist Pilgrimage Destinations
Christian Pilgrimage Destinations

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