Posted 17 June 2022

Take off to a spiritual journey at these holy cities in India

India is the land of spirituality. It comprises some of the oldest cities that have been blessed since ancient times. The following are some of the best destinations in the country that can help a person achieve spiritual consciousness.

1. Varanasi

On the western bank of River Ganges, the city that is believed to be the gateway of spirituality and salvation is Varanasi. Consecrated with the divinity of Lord Shiva, it is also known as Kashi, the ‘City of Light’. Varanasi is one of the Saptapuri or seven holy cities mentioned in Hinduism. The heart of Kashi pulsates around its vibrant Ghats. In every nook and corner of the city, you can find temples.

The following places and things contribute to the charm of Banaras:

Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi

On the banks of Ganga, Kashi Vishwanath Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and it is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas. Vishwanath means the ‘Ruler of the Universe'. The temple has its mention in the Puranas. The tower of the main shrine is crowned with 800 kg of gold plating. The temple complex also comprises several smaller shrines dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Kaalbhairav, Vinayaka, Virupaksh Gauri and Avimukteshwara. After paying a visit to Lord Vishwanath, devotees take a dip into the holy Ganga to attain Moksha.

Tibetan Temple in Varanasi

Exhibiting the glory of Tibetan architecture, the temple signifies the teachings of Lord Buddha. A beautiful statue of Shakyamuni is enshrined at the edifice. The walls are decorated with traditional Buddhist paintings known as Thangksa. There are numerous prayer wheels with chants written on them. It is believed that by rotating the wheels clockwise, one can be blessed with the benefits of hymns written on them.

Some other popular temples in Varanasi include Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, Batuk Bhairav Mandir, Durga Temple, Tulsi Manasa Temple and New Vishwanath Temple.

Ganga Aarti Varanasi

Ganga Aarti is synonymous with Kashi. It is the worship of the holy river on its banks. Priests perform the grand ritual every morning and evening at Dashashwamedh Ghat. The aarti with huge brass lamps and the reverberating mantras create a divine atmosphere that cannot be explained in words.

Ghats in Varanasi

Varanasi has around a hundred Ghats and each of them is associated with some legends or stories. For example, Dashashwamedh Ghat is believed to be the place where Lord Brahma performed Dasa Ashwamedha sacrifice. Further, the significance of Manikarnika Ghat is associated with a legend that says when Goddess Parvati lost her earrings, Lord Shiva cursed the place to be the haunted site of the dead. At Tulsi Ghat, Tulsi Das wrote Ramcharitamanas. Some other popular Ghats in Varanasi are Durga Ghat, Assi Ghat, Panchganga Ghat, Kedar Ghat and Manmandir Ghat.

2. Tirupati

Revered as one of the holiest places in the world, Tirupati is a pilgrimage centre in the state of Andhra Pradesh. It is one of the oldest cities in India and has its mention in ancient Vedas and Puranas. Tirupati is known for the Lord Venkateshwara Temple that attracts millions of devotees every year. The Venkateshwara Temple is one of the wealthiest temples in the world due to the massive donations by devotees. It is also known as the Tirupati Balaji Temple. The temple is situated at an altitude of 853 metres on the seventh peak of Seschachalam Hills. Inside the main shrine, the amazing sculpture of Lord Venkateshwara is engraved on the granite stone. Lord Venkateshwara is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and it is believed that he appeared here to protect mankind from evil. The temple has a giant statue of Lord Shiva. Further, Ananda Nilayam is the section of the temple complex comprising the idols of Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, Goddess Sita and others. Laddoo prasadam is offered to devotees visiting the temple. Besides the Lord Venkateshwara Temple.

The following places make Tirupati a land of sacred vibes:

Sri Bedi Anjaneya Swamy Temple in Tirupati

An ancient temple is located just opposite to Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple and dedicated to Lord Hanuman who is also known as Anjaneya. You will find Lord Hanuman in Anjali pose with his hands handcuffed. The 20-feet high grand lampstand in the shrine will fascinate you.

Sri Kapila Theertham Temple in Tirupati

One of the 108 sacred sites on Tirumala Hills, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and features a self-created Lingam, a Svayambhu form of the God. The temple is named after Maharishi Kapila who was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. As per Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati gave Maharishi Kapila their divine ‘darshan’ here and after that, the Lingam appeared out of the Earth. There is a waterfall and a lake in front of the temple. The water of the lake is believed to have holy powers.

Chakra Teertham in Tirupati

The sacred waterfall is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Legend says that it is the place where the Sudarshan Chakra of Lord Vishnu fell. The water of the pond is believed to have remedial powers. Pilgrims take a dip in the holy pond to become free from all sins.

Apart from these, some other popular holy places to visit in Tirupati include Sri Varahswami Temple, Sri Govinda Raja Swamy Temple, Akaashganga Teertham, Papavinasham Teertham and Sri Padmavati Ammavari Temple.

3. Bhubaneswar

Bhubaneswar is the city that emanates spirituality. It houses more than 700 temples and is titled the ‘Temple City of India’. The name ‘Bhubaneswar’ originates from the Sanskrit name of Lord Shiva, i.e., ‘Tribhubaneswar’. As per the ancient Hindu texts,

Bhubaneswar was among Lord Shiva’s favourite places and he used to spend time here beneath a mango tree. Many of the temples in the city were built between the 8th and 12th centuries AD when Shaivism was predominant in the religious spectrum. The following are the must-visit temples in Bhubaneswar.

Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneswar

The 11th-century temple is dedicated to God Harihara, an incarnation of Lord Shiva. The temple is built in the Eula style of Kalinga architecture. It has four main sections such as Viman, Jagmohan, Nat Mandir and Bhog Mandap. The spire of the temple is around 180 feet tall. There are more than 64 small lingams enshrined in the temple complex. Besides, sculptures of Lord Vishnu and other gods and goddesses are engraved on the walls of the temple complex. Devotees take a holy dip in the water of Bindusagar tank that is believed to have remedial powers.

Mukteshwara Temple in Bhubaneswar

Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple was built in the 10th-century. Mukteshwara means the ‘God of Freedom’. The temple comprises an intricately-designed stone archway. The ceiling of the temple is bejewelled with an eight-petal lotus. Further, the walls are carved with the images of Panchatantra folktales and Jain monks.

Rajarani Temple in Bhubaneswar

Built in the 11th-century, the temple is termed as the ‘Khajuraho of the East’. The walls of the temple are engraved with sensual sculptures featuring women and mating couples. Also, the temple wall has carvings depicting the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

Brahmeshwara Temple in Bhubaneswar 

The 9th-century temple is 60-feet tall and dedicated to Lord Shiva. The spire is designed with intricate carvings and a lotus on the top. The walls comprise sculptures of gods and goddesses, sadhus, musicians, dancers, erotic couples, animals, birds and religious customs.

Ananta Basudev Temple in Bhubaneswar

Dedicated to Lord Krishna, the temple is the most popular Vaishnava temple in Bhubaneswar. The deities of Lord Jagannath, Lord Krishna and Goddess Subhadra are enshrined here. The temple was built in 1278 AD by Queen Chandrika Devi. The Bhoga Prasada is served to devotees.

Vaital Deul Temple in Bhubaneswar

The temple is dated back to the 8th-century. Also known as Tini Mundia Mandir, the temple enshrines the deity of Goddess Chamunda who has eight arms and wears a garland of skulls. The three spires of the shrine symbolise the three superpowers of Goddess Chamunda. The walls are curved with impressions of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. You can also find an engraved sculpture of Sun God with his sisters Usha and Pratyusha riding on a chariot driven by Aruna.

Chausath Jogini Temple in Bhubaneswar

The 9th-century temple was built by Queen Hira Devi of the Brahma Dynasty. Dedicated to Goddess Kali, the temple boasts of 64 black stone idols of Goddess, embedded in the wall cavities. Following the Yogini custom, the temple houses 70 Yoginis in its premises.

Some other popular temples in Bhubaneswar include Parasurameswara Temple, Bhaskareswara Temple, Ram Mandir and ISKCON Temple.

4. Prayagraj

Preserving a sacrosanct environment, Prayagraj is known for the holy Sangam, the confluence of three rivers - the Ganga, the Yamuna and the Saraswati. The city hosts the Maha Kumbh Mela every 12 years on the banks of Triveni Sangam. Pilgrims from across the country and the world flock to the holy city in search of salvation. There are hundreds of temples in the city. Some of these are dated back to thousands of years.

Hanuman Mandir in Prayagraj

Also known as the Bade Hanuman Ji Temple, it features a 20-feet high deity of Lord Hanuman in a reclining posture. The idol is placed 8 feet below the ground level. You will also find 108 Shivalingams at the temple. As per the local belief, the water of the holy Ganga goes down after touching the deity of Lord Hanuman. This brings good fortune to Prayag as well as the whole world.

Kalyani Devi Temple in Prayagraj

It is among the 51 Shaktipeethas of Goddess Sati. As per the Hindu mythology, the temple is situated on the site where the fingers of the left hand of Goddess Sati fell. The temple enshrines the deity of Goddess Kalyani Devi at the centre and that of Goddess Chhinnamasta and Shankar- Parvati on the sides. The main deity is considered to be over 1500 years old.

Patalpuri Temple in Prayagraj

It is an underground temple located in the Allahabad Fort Complex. The ancient temple is dated back to the Vedic era. You can find deities of various gods and goddesses inside. As per folklore, Lord Rama used to visit the shrine. The Banyan Tree near the temple is known as Akshaya Vat which is believed to possess divine powers. Ancient scripts suggest Chinese pilgrim Huan Tsang had visited the temple in the 5th-century.

Shiv Kuti Temple in Prayagraj

Situated on the banks of Ganges, the temple houses the deity of Lord Shiva in Rudra Roop. The texts of Shiva Purana suggest that the shrine is the sacred place where Lord Rama worshipped Lord Shiva after crossing the River Ganga during his exile from Ayodhya.

Some other holy places in Prayagraj include Mankameshwar Temple, Alopi Devi Temple, Naag Vasuki Temple and Shankar Viman Mandapam Temple.

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