Will Durant, American Philosopher rightly summarized as “India was the mother of our race and Sanskrit the mother of Europe’s languages. She was the mother of our philosophy, mother through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics, mother through Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity, mother through village communities of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all.”
Popular Hindu pilgrimages:
- Char Dham Yatra (Yamunotri, Gangotri, Badrinath, Kedarnath), Uttaranachal
- Mata Vaishno Devi, Jammu and Kashmir
- Amarnath, Jammu and Kashmir
- 12 Jyotirlinga and 52 Shakti Peeths
- Four holy corners of India viz. Dwarka, Badrinath, Puri and Rameswaram
- Kumbh Mela, which is held every 4 years at Haridwar, Allahabad, Ujjain and Nashik. The Guinness Book of Record cites the 1989 Kumbh at in Allahabad as the “largest ever gathering of human beings for a single purpose”.
- Lord Krishna’s pilgrimages: Mathura & Vrindavan
- Other places like Tirupati, Shirdi, Ayodhya, Haridwar-Rishikesh, Sabarimala, Varanasi
Legend of Brahma
Brahma is not to be confused with the Supreme Cosmic Spirit in Hindu Vedanta philosophy known as Brahman, which is genderless. Brahma is the Hindu god (deva) of creation and one of the Trimurti, the others being Vishņu and Shiva. According to the Brahma Puraņa, he is the father of Manu, and from Manu all human beings are descended. Brahma’s wife is Saraswati. Brahma is traditionally depicted with four heads, four faces, and four arms. With each head, He continually recites one of the four Vedas. After meditation Brahma created 14 planetary systems and many living beings came there in 84,00,000 kinds of material bodies according to their past desires. Brahma received Vedas from Om. According to Brahma Samhita, we can know that Om is the Supreme God or Supreme Consciousness.
The fifth chapter, verse 1 of Brahma Samhita states:
“Krishna who is known as Govinda is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all.
He has no other origin and He is the prime cause of all causes.”
Among the few temples of Brahma that exist today, the most famous is the temple in Pushkar in Rajasthan and one more in Asotra in Rajasthan. Others include two in Thirunavaya, Thiruvallam in Kerala, one in Uttamar Kovil in Srirangam, Tamil Nadu and one in Kumbakonam (Thanjavur District). One more temple is at Khedbrahma in Gujarat.
Legend of Jyothirlinga
As per Shiv Mahapuran, once Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu had an argument in terms of supremacy of creation. To test them, Shiva pierced the three worlds as a huge endless pillar of light, the jyotirlinga. Vishnu and Brahma split their ways to downwards and upwards respectively to find the end of the light in either directions. Brahma lied that he found out the end, while Vishnu conceded his defeat. Shiva appeared as a second pillar of light and cursed Brahma that he would have no place in ceremonies while Vishnu would be worshipped till the end of eternity. The jyotirlinga is the supreme partless reality, out of which Shiva partly appears. Each of the twelve jyothirlinga sites take the name of the presiding deity – each considered different manifestation of Shiva. At all these sites, the primary image is lingam representing the beginning-less and endless Stambha pillar, symbolizing the infinite nature of Shiva.
The twelve jyothirlinga are Somnath in Gujarat, Mallikarjuna at Srisailam in AP, Mahakaleswar at Ujjain in MP, Omkareshwar in MP, Kedarnath in Himalayas, Bhimashankar in Maharashtra, Viswanath at Varanasi in UP, Triambakeshwar in Maharashtra, Vaidyanath at Deogarh in Jharkhand, Nageswar at Dwarka, Gujarat, Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu and Grishneshwar at Aurangabad in Maharashtra.
Legend of Shakti Peeths
One day in Satya Yuga, Daksha (son of Brahma) performed a yagna with a desire to take revenge on Lord Shiva, who had cursed Lord Brahma. Daksha was angry because his daughter Dakshayani also known as Sati had married the ‘yogi’ God Shiva against his wish. Daksha invited all the deities to the yagna except for Shiva and Shakti. Sati had expressed her desire to attend to Shiva who had tried his best to dissuade her from going. Shiva eventually allowed her to go escorted by his followers. But Sati, being an uninvited guest, was not given any respect. Furthermore, Daksha insulted Shiva. Sati was unable to bear her father’s insults toward her husband, so Dakshayani (the other name of Sati meaning the daughter of Daksha) invoked her yogic powers and immolated herself.
Enraged at the insult and the injury, Shiva destroyed Daksha’s sacrifice, cut off Daksha’s head, and later replaced it with that of a male goat as he restored him to life due to the prayers of all demi gods and Brahma. Still immersed in grief, Shiva picked up the remains of Sati’s body, and performed the Tandava, the celestial dance of destruction, across all creation. The other gods requested Vishnu to intervene to stop this destruction, towards which Vishnu used the Sudarshana Chakra, which cut through the corpse of Sati. The various parts of the body fell at several spots all through the Indian subcontinent and formed sites which are known as Shakti Peethas today. At all the Shakti Peethas, the Goddess Shakti is accompanied by Lord Bhairava (a manifestation of Lord Shiva).
Among these, the Shakti Peethas at Kamakhya, Gaya and Ujjain are regarded as most sacred as they symbolize three most important aspects of mother Goddess viz. Creation (Kamarupa Devi), Nourishment (Sarvamangala Devi/ Mangalagauri) and Annihilation (Mahakali Devi). When observed carefully one can see that they lie in a perfect straight line from Kamakhya to Ujjain via Gaya symbolizing that every creation in this universe will annihilate one day without fail.
Other Hindu pilgrimage places:
- Ashta-Vinayak, Maharashtra
- Bhubaneshwar, Orissa
- Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu
- Temple Circuit, Kangra Valley, Himachal Pradesh
- Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu
- Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu
- Konark, Orissa
- Madurai, Tamil Nadu
- Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
- Puri, Orissa
- Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu
- Tanjavur, Tamil Nadu
- Trichy, Tamil Nadu
- Modhera Sun Temple, Gujarat
The Shore temples and caves of Mamallapuram date from the seventh century. A hillside a little way inland hosts a ‘Krishna’s butterball’, an enormous round rock that seems to be balanced precariously on a slope, though legend has it the British tried to remove it with seven elephants, and failed.
Islamic Pilgrimage sites:
- Hazratbal shrine, Srinagar
- Khwaja Garib Nawaz dargah, Ajmer
- Haji Ali, Mumbai
At Pune, one can visit the site of the levitating stone in the courtyard of the Dargah of Hazrat Peer Kamarali. The famous stone, said to weigh around 90 Kg, can be made to rise on the index fingers of a group of nine or eleven people who must chant “HAJEE KAMARALI DURVESH,” the saint’s name, all the while holding the stone high. As soon as they stop chanting, the stone falls down, according to the believers. The stone slowly rises up and comes tumbling down when the people run out of breath. It is said that those who lift up the stone should consider themselves specially blessed by the saint. Women are not allowed to try this special feat, as they are not even allowed inside the Dargah. Also, when a snake bites someone, he comes to the Dargah and puts a drop of oil on the bit part from the lamp, which remains lit all the time, and he gets cured immediately. The Dargah of Hazrat Peer Kamarali is located on the Pune-Satara Road, about 12 kms from Pune.
Sikh pilgrimage sites:
- Golden Temple (Punjab)
- Patna Sahib (Bihar)
- Paonta Sahib (Himachal Pradesh)
- Anandpur Sahib (Punjab)
- Baba Bakala (Punjab)
- Gobindwal Sahib (Punjab)
- Taran Taran (Punjab)
- Sirhind (Punjab)
- Hem Kund Sahib (Uttaranchal)
Christian pilgrimage sites:
- Basicila’s of Goa
- Velangani, Tamil Nadu
Jain pilgrimage sites
- North India: Hastinapur, Taxila and Ashtapada (Tibet)
- South India: Shravanabelagola, Moodabidri, Humbaj, Anantnath Swami Temple near Kalpetta
- Eastern India: Shikharji, Pawapuri, Champa, Pundravardhan
- Western India: Palitana, Girnar, Mount Abu, Mahavirji, Shankheshwar, Mahudi
- Central India: Vidisha, Kundalpur, Sonagir
Buddhist Pilgrimage sites:
- Bodh Gaya
- Tabo, Himachal Pradesh
Tourism in India
India has the most diverse landscape of the world, to offer to its tourists. You can lose yourself in the wonder that is India. Meander through lands and hill-stations steeped in chivalry and pageantry that begin before recorded history. Frolic on a vast array of golden beaches that dot an enviable coastline, washed by two seas and an ocean. Visit Cave temples, ancient wall-paintings, Buddhist relics, Neolithic rock shelters … Exquisite forts and palaces, flora and fauna at its resplendent best. Explore modern cities that have grown organically from the roots of a multi-hued past. You can participate in adventure sports like rafting, mountaineering and skiing. The jungle will lure you to a fascinating world at a diverse array of wild-life sanctuaries and national parks……. this is the wonder that is India.
Source: Ministry of Indian Tourism
|Foreign exchange earnings (US$ bn)|
- Tourism in India accounted for 6.8% of the GDP in 2013-14
- Tourism is the third largest foreign exchange earner for the country.
- India ranks 42nd in the UN World Tourism Organization rankings for foreign tourist arrivals.
- India offers geographical diversity, attractive beaches, 30 World Heritage Sites and 25 bio-geographic zones.
- The availability of the Visa On Arrival facility significantly influences tourists’ travel plans to any country. During 2013, a total number of 20,294 Visas on Arrival were issued as compared to 16,084 Visas on Arrival during the corresponding period in 2012 , which amounts to a growth of 26%.
- India’s tourism industry in the largest service sector employer (8.78%).
- Majority of the tourists to India, came from USA and UK. On an average a tourist stays for 14-17 days in India compared to 5-7 days in other neighbouring countries.
- Ministry of Tourism approved hotels numbered 2,483 and their total rooms 117,815, as of December 2010.
- Number of Indians touring abroad were 12.99 million in 2010, compared to 11.07 in 2009.