Thousands of pilgrims from the world over flock to Amarnath, Vaishundevi, Golden Temple, Varanasi, Budh Gaya, Kamakhya, Jagannath Temple, Tirupati, Madurai, Sirdi, Somnath Temple, Ajmer Sharif and other major pilgrim centres to seek spiritual salvation and peace of mind. To make their journey comfortable, AAI has developed easy connectivity and set-up airports at the nearest point of landing. This is yet another step in our goal of connecting India.
India has, over the ages, gained credence as a land of seers and saints. With a rich legacy of diverse and ancient civilizations, it has a fairly intricate religious geography, making it a popular destination for the spiritually-inclined travelers. According to Hindu scriptures, human life has four main objectives. The first among them is to tread the path of Dharma, the second is to financially sustain oneself and the family, the third is to fulfill one’s desires and the fourth is to attain salvation, the ultimate goal in life. Pilgrimages are intrinsic to the process of realization of the final objective.
Religious travel is deeply ingrained in the cultural psyche of Indians and this explains the existence of a large number of pilgrimage sites in the sub-continent. Great religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism have originated on the Indian soil. The Hindus converge on the banks of the Ganga to take a holy dip, the Sikhs scale a height of 4329 meters through difficult terrain to reach the Hemkund Sahib. Sarnath, the cradle of Buddhism, is frequented by devotees from all parts of the globe. Faith and hope draw people in hordes to the convent and church of St. Francis of Assisi in Old Goa and a deep-seated reverence is characteristic of the people who flock to Dargah Sharif of Ajmer, the final resting place of Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chisti.
The places of worship are not only significant in numbers but also unique in their experiences. So you have temple bells and Vedic chants rising alongside a muezzin’s call for prayer and hymns being sung in churches along with the shabd kirtan in gurdwaras. The travelers’’ quest for spirituality is further augmented by Osho’s Dynamic Meditation or the mantra of ISKCON, or Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Sudarshan Kriya. The spiritual largess that India hands out regularly to the world is huge.
India, as a pilgrim destination, defies description for it conceals a mélange of cultural wealth and spiritual wisdom. India is also the land that treats its guests as God (Atithi Devo Bhav). Within the pages of this book lie destinations that may help you seek your communion with the Almighty. Some of these places you may have heard of before; some places may be new to you. We hope that in your personal pursuit of self- actualization you will find something to take away from this book. And if you are somewhat of an agnostic or a confirmed atheist, then look beyond the spiritual offerings and get to know the legends and the fables. With unflinching faith in the Divine, the pilgrims traverse the most treacherous of paths with ease. Are you, dear reader, ready for the spiritual odyssey?
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