India, where the din of temple bells along with the muezzin’s call to prayer is a daily occurrence. Where the tall spires of temples and churches radiate spirituality and where pilgrimages are also major tourist hubs, travelers from across the world are beckoned to witness these beautiful places of worship.
The route which we will be following on our Sacred Sites Tour will take us to ancient places of worship where we will get to experience firsthand these pilgrimage sites.
This small town is scenically located where the Ganges River comes down from the Himalayas. Rishikesh catapulted to fame when the Beatles visited the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram. The town is now known as the "Yoga Capital of the World", a place of ashrams where solace-seeker come to spend their time in the serenity of meditation and yoga.
Walk on the famous Lakshman Jhoola suspension bridge which spans the mighty Ganges River. It is believed that on this bridge the essence of India comes alive for the traveler.
Every sunrise and sunset, on the banks of River Ganges in Rishikesh a Hindu ceremony is known as “Aarti” is performed as a spiritual celebration. It is here where you will be enchanted by the bhajans (religious songs) performed by saffron-robed gurus and disciples. The aroma of incense and camphor saturates the air, mesmerizing lights of various diyas (oil lamps), and the setting sun reflecting on the streaming water. You will hear the serene sound of the surging waterway and watch the participants sway in unison as all components i.e. fire, water, earth, and air collaborate to create this spectacle. The purpose of the practice is to bring peace, joy, and contentment to the soul.
DHARAMSHALA - a pilgrim's rest house
Home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile. When the Dalai Lama took refuge here, Dharamshala has become a very popular place for students of Buddhism.
Set in the snow-capped peaks of the Dhauladhars, McCleod Ganj is at an altitude of 1,750 m, a refuge from the hot plains below.
At the center of Amritsar's walled town, at the end of a causeway, surrounded by the sacred Amrit Sarovar tank where pilgrims bathe, is the gilded Golden Temple, Sikhism's holiest shrine, and one of India's most serene and humbling sights.
The Langar (Community Kitchen) at the Golden Temple serves a massive number (tens of thousands) of people a day! On holidays and religious occasions, the number of meals served can amount to 100,000 and more.
The institution of Guru ka Langar has served the community in many ways. It has ensured the participation of women and children in a task of service for mankind. Women play an important role in the preparation of meals, and the children help in serving food to the pangat. Langar also teaches the etiquette of sitting and eating in a community situation, which has played a great part in upholding the virtue of sameness of all human beings; providing a welcome, secure and protected sanctuary.
Everyone is welcome to share the Langar; no one is turned away. Each week a family or several families volunteer to provide and prepare the Langar. This is very generous, as there may be several hundred people to feed, and caterers are not allowed. All the preparation, the cooking, and the washing-up is done by volunteers and or by voluntary helpers (Sewadars).
Also known as Benares, Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and one of the most important sights of Hinduism.
Varanasi has the finest river frontage in India, with miles of ghat, or steps, for religious bathing; an array of shrines, temples, and palaces rises tier on tier from the water’s edge. The inner streets of the city are narrow, winding, and impassable for motor traffic; the newer outer suburbs are more spacious and are laid out more systematically. The sacred city is bounded by a road known as Panchakosi; devout Hindus hope to walk that road and visit the city once in a lifetime and, if possible, to die there. The site receives more than a million pilgrims each year.
Varanasi is at its best by the Ghats and many travelers experience this on boat rides available at sunrise and sunset. Touring the entire city for about an hour, these long rowboats are as interesting for the ride itself as the trivia which the oarsmen will tell you.
Varanasi is the spiritual home of India’s Sadhus, or holy men who have renounced the worldly life. They are revered by Hindus as representatives of the Gods and sometimes worshiped as Gods themselves. They are ascetics and wanderers and are often displayed as private, dignified, selfless people, respected for their Holiness, and feared for their curses.