As we travel to adventurous mountains and soothing beaches in India, we realize India is full of diversity, culture and spirituality. Spiritual Tourism comes naturally to this country with endless places of worship.
The number of ashrams, temples and monasteries can surprise you and interest you in spiritual awakening. These destinations are homes to pilgrims, seekers and philosophers around the world.
Here are the 8 best spiritual places to visit in India to gain more knowledge and get a spiritual experience of a lifetime.
1. Rishikesh, Uttarakhand
Rishikesh is one of the names of Lord Vishnu meaning ‘Lord of Senses.’. The place is the birthplace of yoga, where people come and practice yoga, meditate and dive into a deeper chapter of Hinduism.
Popular with many spiritual-seeking foreigners, Rishikesh is home to a large number of ashrams and yoga institutes. Hindu saints and sages settled here believe that the Gods have blessed the destination.
This yoga capital resides along with the convergence of Ganga and Chandrabhaga, on the foothills of the Himalayas. It is also popular for river rafting, trekking, backpacking and the evening aarti of the Triveni Ghat.
Fortunately, Uttarakhand flaunts two spiritual locations – Rishikesh and Haridwar. While Rishikesh is famous for its spirituality, Hardiwar holds more significance for Hindu pilgrims.
2. Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
With a great ancient history, Varanasi comes on the list of the top 7 Hindu sacred cities in India. This religious city is the home of the god of creation and destruction – Lord Shiva.
Legends say that anyone who dies here will be liberated from the cycle of reincarnation. You can witness many performed rituals in this magical city along the many riverside ghats.
This city is by far the most popular spiritual place in India with a large number of travellers each year, including international ones too. It is said that the ‘City of Gods’ was founded by Lord Shiva himself. The saints here believe that a visit to the Ganges river can wash away one’s sins.
The city also houses one of the most popular sites of pilgrimage in Hinduism – the Kasi Viswanath Temple. The grand evening aarti at the Dashashwamedh Ghat is a magnificent affair, worthy of witnessing.
3. Bodh Gaya, Bihar
Bodhgaya is the place where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment during intense meditation under a large fig tree which was later known as the Bodhi tree.
It is the most important Buddhist pilgrimage place worldwide. The Buddha statue, the Mahabodhi temple and the Bodhi tree are 3 features that attract a large number of tourists here.
Here, he discovered the Noble eight-fold path, which also goes by the names the Middle Path or Middle Way, demonstrating a balanced life. The exact spot of Lord Buddha’s meditation now comprises the popular Mahabodhi Temple complex.
This spiritual town also offers many monasteries, shrines and temples that you can visit. The best part about the place is that you get to experience the essence of mediation and Buddhism by participating in various courses and retreats.
4. Puri, Odisha
Puri is the most popular and most sacred destination in Odisha. It is also one of the four holy Char Dham in India which are sacred abodes in association with Lord Vishnu – the Hindu god of preservation.
Legend has it that Lord Vishnu descended to earth during times of trouble to erase evil and restore cosmic order. He now resides in Puri, in the form of Lord Jagannath, to protect everyone during ‘Kalyug’ (dark age).
People believe that visiting the Char Dham will cleanse one of their sins to move forward with the process of achieving ‘moksha’ (liberation from rebirth).
A restriction imposed is that only Hindus are allowed inside the Jagannath temple. However, the area outside the temple is equally a blessing. The small temples and shops will keep you busy for a long time.
5. Haridwar, Uttarakhand
The true meaning of Haridwar is ‘Gateway to God.’ Haridwar is also quite ancient and one of the oldest living cities in India. Located at the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, it is loved by pilgrims.
Hindus come here to take a dip in the holy waters of the gushing Ganges River and hope to wash away their sins. It is also considered one of the seven holiest cities in India.
Gradually with time, Haridwar is not only a religious place anymore but also a true spiritual centre. There is a lot more to the city than just visiting temples and taking a dip in the holy Har ki Pauri.
Unlike Varanasi, the Haridwar water is clean and fresh as the crowd is much lesser. The Ganga aarti held in the evening is worth it. The largest religious gathering in the world, the Kumbh Mela, is also held here.
6. Ajmer, Rajasthan
Ajmer has the Ajmer Sharif Dargah, also known as the Ajmer Dargah. It is the tomb of Moinuddin Chishti which welcomes not only the Muslims but followers of every faith.
Since it was the final resting place of the Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chisti, it has an enormous contribution to spreading the ethical and spiritual values of Islam among people.
Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chisti was a Sufi Saint who dedicated his entire life to the upliftment of the poor and subjugated. That is what makes Ajmer one of the holiest places of worship in India.
Millions visit the Dargah to witness the splendid Mughal architecture in the tombs, courtyards and Daalaans. The people of the Dargah also prepare sweet delicacies during special occasions.
7. Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu
Located around four hours from Chennai in Tamil Nadu, Tiruvannamalai is home to one of the greatest shrines in India – the Annamalaiyar Temple. It covers at least 10 hectares of land, making it a large place.
Spiritual seekers come to visit the Sri Ramana Ashram while Hindu pilgrims come to pray inside the Arunachaleswar Temple, where Lord Shiva is worshipped as the element of fire.
This temple is important to the Hindu sect of Saivism due to its association with the 5 elements – wind, water, fire, earth and space. People also come to walk around the holy Mount Arunachala.
Mount Arunachala is locally called the ‘most silent place on earth.’ This is because it gives off a powerful aura that helps to calm the mind. You will often see people meditating here.
8. Amritsar, Punjab
Amritsar has one of the most spiritual and cultural centres for Sikhs in India – The Golden Temple. It is a very populated city in Punjab and over 10,000 people visit the temple each day.
The city was founded in 1574 by Sikh Guru Ram Das, who was the fourth guru of the Sikhs. After that, it was built by the fifth Sikh Guru – Guru Arjan Dev Ji, aka Sri Harmandir Sahib.
The temple has a ravishing golden colour that reflects in its surrounding lake. There are four entrances, one facing each direction, where people coming from all walks of life are welcome.
It’s the spiritual capital of the Sikhs and got its name from the water around the Golden Temple, which means ‘Holy Pool of Nectar.’ The Golden Temple at night looks like a lit-up dream.