River Ganges as a Tourist Attraction:

Religious Tourism on the Banks of Gange

As we all know that amongst Hindu devotees, River Ganges has great importance. Therefore several destinations in India from where this sacred river passes have become popular amongst believers. Places like Varanasi, Haridwar, Gangotri, Allahabad and Rishikesh have significance for Hindu devotees. Where Allahabad and Haridwar are known for organizing the grand fair called Kumbh Mela, Varanasi is considered a gateway to heaven. People from distant places travel Varanasi and Haridwar to immerse the ashes of their kin in the waters of the Gange. People also carry the water of the river home considering it holy. These cities situated on the different banks of River Ganges are even visited by travel enthusiasts who take keen interest in the culture of India.

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image credit: Harshit Sharma

Ganga as a Hub of Adventure Tourism

Ganga becomes a source of adventure in Rishikesh. The fast flowing emerald water helps adventure buffs to enjoy activities like river rafting, kayaking and body surfing.

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Deteriorating Condition of Ganga: Who is Responsible?

These are amongst some of the important aspects of Ganga. Being a life-giving source in India, the river places a large number of other big and small roles in the environment and ecosystem of the country. Sadly, the condition of Ganga is gradually deteriorating and climate change, pollution and illegal mining of the waterbed are the reasons behind it. If we see, more than 95% of the upper Gangetic Plain has been degraded or converted to agriculture or urban areas. According to experts, if the degradation persists, it will be a difficult task to pull River Ganga out from the confines of pollution and global warming. Yes, many projects are in process to keep Ganga out of danger but all endeavours are vague, if we do not cooperate. We cannot do much on a large scale as an individual yet our small contributions can make way for bigger changes in future. The image below shows what River Ganga has been going through all these years, if you care enough read further for simple measures that each individual can take to help keep this sacred river clean.

What Can We Do to Save River Ganges?

Responsible Tourism:

We need to abide by this type of tourism. Let us become responsible for every action that we take while we travel. We have to stop disposing non-biodegradable products in the water, people do not even think once before disposing plastic bags and other non-biodegradable in river in the name of religion. But now is the time to make a change, we should put a curb on our habit of throwing anything and everything in the water.

Create Awareness:

If you want to help protect the rivers, you can help by creating awareness about the problem among your friends and people you know. As already mentioned earlier, people are often unaware of the things that are harmful for the environment. Therefore, the more we will talk about the problem the greater the chances are that people will gain some knowledge about the effect of their actions on the environment and eventually, stop acting irresponsibly.

Let us all today pledge to save not only Ganga but all the water bodies and our environment as a whole. Always remember that small changes collectively bring big changes.

Beautiful Temples of South India

Hindu temples have always been instrumental when it comes to Indian traditions, art and architecture. No holiday in India can be called complete without one visiting at least a few of these temples. Each and every temple of this mighty subcontinent reflects the strength of faith, the architectural genius and the dedication of the people. Essentially a place of worship, a temple is also a splendid example of art and South Indian Temples have always been praised for their opulence and magnificence. The ancient kings of this region have, without a doubt, built some of the most majestic temples of the world. Unbelievable as it is, there are over 30,000 temples in this region and while one can certainly not hope to see all of these, here are the three most beautiful temples you must visit on your South India tourism.

* Trimula Venkateswara Temple (Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh)

The most famous and most visited temple of the world. It is dedicated to Lord Venkateswara, one of Lord Vishnu’s many forms. It sprawls over an area of about 25 sq km and has more than 50,000 visitors in a day. This is the one temple everyone coming to this region must visit.

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image source Nikhilb239

* Meenakshi Amman Temple (Madurai, Tamil Nadu)

Dedicated to Goddess Parvati, locally known as Meenakshi, and Lord Shiva, her consort, it houses over 33,000 sculptures and is visited by almost 20,000 devotees every day. The best time to visit this marvel would be during the Meenakshi Tirukalyanam Festival in the months of April and May.

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image source

* Ramanathaswamy Temple (Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu)

Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is the temple with the longest corridor among all the temples in the country. It is one of the twelve temples of Jyothirlinga in which the deity is worshipped in his lingam form. Originally built in the Dravidian style of architecture, the temple was further expanded by the kings of the Jaffna kingdom.
Some of the other must visit temples in this region are Lord Kalabhairaveshwara Temple of Adichunchanagiri, Mookambika Temple in Kollur and Shri Shri Madan Mohana Temple in Hyderabad.

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image source Vishnukiran L.S

* Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple (Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala)

One of the 108 Divya Desams of Lord Vishnu, this temple is over 100 feet high but is sadly only open to Hindus. The most important fact about this temple is the deity of the main shrine and the rock on which it sits. Both of the pieces were carved out of one single stone which is why it is called “Ottakkal-mandapam”.)

Top Ten Great Temples to Visit in India

Nothing excites like a perfect holiday combined with a bit of religious refuge. If this is what you desire, you will make your next travel plans to the temple city in India. Dham Yatra gives you an insight into some of India’s top religious destinations that will offer a fascinating glimpse of architecture, history and religion- all rolled into one amazing trip.

  1. Sun Temple, Kornal Orissa
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    Image Credits
    This is a 13th century work of art dedicated to the sun God just like the name suggests. This marvelous work of art depicts the sun god, Surya, being carried in a chariot with twenty four wheels across the sky. The magnificent ride is drawn by seven horses.
    Tip- While partaking this trip, remember not to miss out on the beautiful carvings on the temple walls. We have noticed that a number of times visitors get carried away by the unique chariot scene that more often, they forget to see this other unforgettable part of the amazing trip.
  2. Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjab
    Also known as Harmandir Sahib, this 18th century gold plated structure was remade from its original 16th century version that was destroyed by the Afghan forces that invaded the place. It is popularly known as the headquarters of the Sikh religion, the gorgeous Golden Temple in Amritsar is a symbol of the Sikh faith which encourages religious tolerance through its blend of Hindu and Mughal architectural masterpieces.
    Tip- It is advisable to be at the temple in the early morning before the faithful converge there.
    Best Time to Visit- It is ideal to fly to Amritsar between October and March. During this period, the scorching North Indian summer sun is bearably warm.
  3. Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu
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Image Credits
Meenakshi Temple at Madurai is another wonder not worth missing out on during the wonderful tour. This special masterpiece dedicated to Pervati; the Hindu goddess and her consort, Lord Shiva is dazzling in its bright paints and elaborate sculptures. Meenakshi Temple is a replica of Dravidian style architecture.Tips- While in the temple, take a good look at the carvings on the two main gopurams, they are worth the time with their intricate beauty.

Best Time to Visit- Between October and March, you would marvel at the trip.

4-Brihadishwara, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu
This is a UNESCO World Heritage site that clocked its 1,000 years in 2010. The 11th century Brihadishwara Temple is large granite carved structure dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Hindu god.
Tip- Devotees would find it appropriate to visit during the Mahashivaratri festival to witness one of the most spectacular occasions that glorify the temple.
Best Time to Visit- It is ideal to fly to Tiruchirapalli; which is the nearest airport, in October to March.

5-Khajuraho Temple, Madhya Pradesh
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Image Credits

This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site that dots the Indian nation. These Hindu and Jain temples are adored more for their architectural brilliance than their religious relevance. The temple complex is popularly known for erotic sculptures found outside the walls as well as the Nagara style of architecture. All these however, cannot muffle the serene and calm interiors that make up a big part of the temple. Whatever currently exists may just be part of what was originally there of the huge temple built during the 10th and 20th centuries, but it is still sufficient to leave a visitor more than spellbound.
Tip– Travel plans are best made during the Khajuraho festival schedule. When there are cultural shows along with dance performances, the temples act as backdrops, giving the activities a brilliant feel.
Best Time to Visit- Anytime between March and September would make the trip ideal. Since the Annual Dance Festival is in March, this is the best time to fly to Khajuraho.

6-Somnath Temple Gujarat
Although the structure has undergone several reconstructive activities, it still stands out. Over the centuries, it has been restructured a number of times yet it has not lost its glory. Constructed in 1947, Somnath Temple remains a tourist hotspot and a pilgrim magnet in Gujarat.
Trip- Remember to check out the Arrow Pillar on the sea protection wall. The amazing pillar points to a straight line above the water with no land found in between the shores and Antarctica.
Best Time to Visit- October to March is the perfect time to get the flight to Ahmedabad.

7-Jagannath Temple, Puri, Orissa
The massive 12th century temple complex found in Puri is a group of 120 shrines and temples housed within very huge walls. This temple dedicated to Lord Jaganath is a popular destination for its annual Rath Yatra which is attended by millions of pilgrims from India and around the world. The temple is among top four Hindu destinations.
Tips- This is an opportunity to take a good look at the image of Jagannath. Unlike other deities mostly made of stone or metal, this one is made of wood.
Best Time to Travel- November to February is actually the best time to catch that flight to Bhubaneshwar which is the nearest airport.

8-Akshardham Temple, Delhi
Though it is a recent addition to the list of famous Indian temples, Akshardham Temple spreads over a hundred acres of land. The pink sandstone and white marble complex was built in 2005 and obtained both name and inspiration from the other Temple in Gujarat. Of course it surpasses its namesake in both beauty and scale, and has its interior dotted with more than 20,000 statues to bow to from the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses. To effectively sample and enjoy a visit to this massive masterpiece, one needs to set aside the whole day.
Tips- There is a World Peace monument on the premise to visit.
Best Time to Visit- Delhi is best visited in October and April. These are the ideal months because they are cool.

9-Iskcon Temple, Bengaluru, Karnataka
This is another recent temple to sample in India. It is a special dedication to Lord Krishna and Radha, and was built in 1997. It is also the largest Iskcon Temple in the world.
Best Time to Travel- Throughout the year, Bengaluru maintains a pleasant weather. For one who adores the very best of weather during a trip to Bengaluru, the best Months are between October to February.

10-Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya, Bihar
This is another UNESCO World Heritage site in India. Maha Bodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya was built in the 3rd century BC by Emperor Ashoka and has withstood the test of time. Though it has undergone a series of restructurings, it has indelibly maintained its original elements.
Tips- The Holy Bodhi tree on its western side is the main attraction. History has it that it is a descendant of the original tree which Lord Buddha sat under during his meditation.
Best Time to Visit- Between November to February is the best time to travel to Gaya.

A Complete Guide to Kailash Mansarovar Yatra

Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar are some of the grandest spots of the Himalayan. Located 865km from Delhi, the two spectacular features are also well known for their religious relevance to the devotees of a Hindu god known as Shriva. This has led to the organization of a special Kailash Mansarovar Yatra festival by the Ministry of External Affairs each year from the month of June to September.

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To complete the pious Yatra, there are a solid 22 days of which 14 are held on the Indian Territory while the remaining eight are at the Chinese Territory of Tibet. The total distance covered during the Yatra is 647km on the Indian side while on the Chinese side it is 243km.

Recommended Information: Kailash Mansarovar  Tour Operator 

Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is popular for its cultural significance, religious importance and arduous nature. The long Yatra trek winds its way through high altitudes in freezing weather that involves hard labor. To the feint hearted, it is like courting danger. Yet the Yatra Pilgrimage with its arduous tasks has been in existence since time immemorial and holds religious importance not only to the Hindus but to Buddhists and Jains too.

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Trekking at high altitudes of over 19,000 feet above the sea level in rugged terrain and severe cold can be a tough nut to crack for individuals who are not medically fit. Because of the strains involved in this exercise, the Indian Mountaineering Foundation has recognized KMY as a trekking expedition with significance owing to the risks to self and property. This means before undertaking the great step, a pilgrim has to follow some safety guidelines that the following write up may address.

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Religious Significance;

Mt Kailash is regarded by Hindus as a mortal manifestation of Mt. Meru, a spiritual universal center according to Hindu mythology. They believe that Svarga or heaven is based here and one gets cleaned of sins once they visit the place. Part of the pilgrimage during the tour is visiting Mansarovar Lake and taking a bath. This is an assurance of reaching Lord Brahma’s Paradise and drinking the holy waters said to cleanse the sins of several lifetimes. Part of the pilgrimage involves going round the holy mountain as well as the Mansoravar Lake.

The Yatris Selection Process;

The nature of this journey is only applicable to very fit individuals who do not have cases of asthma, epilepsy, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. The selection process is done through a computerized system and the chosen candidates informed 3 or 4 weeks before departure. The candidates are required to be in New Delhi 3-4 days before Yatra commences. Two medical tests are performed to determine individual fitness and one more to ensure the candidate is able to trek in high altitudes. The last test is performed at Gunji after a candidate has scaled around 3,500 meters. Anyone found to be unfit is not allowed to go further.

Indemnity Bond and Declaration;

Other than the above mentioned, there are some more formalities required. Selected Yatris are supposed to sign and indemnity bond, acknowledging that they are going for the Yatra at their own risk. At the same time, they are required to sign that in case of disaster they can be evacuated using a helicopter. The last part of the form is a consent authorizing cremation of remains on the Chinese side in case of death. Then again, the pilgrims must ensure their passports are valid for six months from the commencement of travel date.

Short tips for the Trip;

  • As much as Indian and Chinese authorities provide medical help, a pilgrim is advised to carry along essential medication and a First Aid kit.
  • Clothes need to be carried according to given guidelines.
  • While mountain climbing, one should to take plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Light food rich in carbohydrates is ideal.
  • When feeling tired, there is no need to push one’s self beyond limits. Instead, it is imperative to take short breaks in between the journey.
  • Do not take alcohol and avoid smoking during travel to limit dehydration.
  • It is better to climb slowly to avoid altitude sickness or any other arduous activity.

 

 

Trip to Amarnath Yatra

This is one of the holy Hindu pilgrimages dedicated to Lord Shiva. Located at an elevation of 3,888m above the sea level in the Northernmost state of Kashmir and Jammu, the Amarnath Cave is known as Lord Shiva’s home and he is enshrined in the form of ice lingam which forms and wanes naturally.

The cave is located in a glacial valley and is 45km from Pahalgam and 145km from Srinagar. It stands at about 150ft high and 90ft long. Inside the cave, there are some ice formations that look like figures of different gods. Of the four figures, the biggest is regarded as Amarnath or Shiva. On the left side of the cave is Ganesh; another ice formation. The right side houses Bhairava and Parvati.

Recommended Information: Amarnath Yatra Tour Package

Amarnath cave receives many visitors; mostly devotees of Lord Shiva who are eager to pay homage to him. Located in a narrow gorge towards the end of the Lidder Valley, the cave has been instrumental in bringing many tourists to the region.

Image Credits

During the months of September and June, the area is covered by snow. The cave is opened in July and August when there is plenty of rainfall. All the same, many pilgrims; over 25,000 in all, brave the rains each year to be there. A visitor can hire a dandy or a pony for the trip to attend the annual Sravana Festival, though it is often crowded. The yearly pilgrimage starts from Srinagar and is led by the holy scepter known as Chhari Mubark.

The place has many stories and myths like most other locations of pilgrimages in India. Legend has it that the cave is more than 5,000 years old and is where Lord Shiva revealed secrets of his immortality to Parvati, his wife. That explains why it is named Amreshwar or Amarnath.

Trekking to Amarnath Cave

From Pahalgam;

The original pilgrimage had the journey beginning from Srinagar before winding its way through Yatra. The most common way however, has the journey beginning from Chandanwari before covering the distance to Amarnath and back within a record five days. From Srinagar, Pahalgam is 96km and trekking from Chandanwari to the cave is on an ancient route, though it is unfamiliar. On the first night, pilgrims camp at Pahalgam or Chandanwari.

From Chandanwari, pilgrims trek through a 12km route on the first day. It winds through a primitive yet magnificent countryside with the center of attraction being Sheshnag. This is a mountain that derived its name from seven peaks that look like the head of a legendary snake. Another site to behold is a stream gushing out water to the wild scenery that has remained unaffected by modern civilization. On the second night, people camp at Wavjan where they face the blue waters of Lake Sheshnag as they listen to tales of revenge and love associated with Sheshnag.

On the second day, pilgrims continue with the trek that steadily gains height as it winds across Mahagunas Pass at 4600m before a sharp descent to the meadows of Panchtarni which is the last camp to Amarnath Cave.

An early morning start is recommended from Panchtarni to Amaranth which is a distance of 6km. This is necessary to avoid long queues as many people are usually eager to get to the cave. Devotees can then return to Panchtarni for lunch before proceeding to Sheshnag for the night.

From Baltal;

Another way to approach Amarnath is from Sornamag through Baltal which stands at 300mts. Sornamag is located along Srinagar-Leh road on the northeast. Baltal lies 15km ahead and is a pretty little valley that lies on the foothills of Zojila Pass. To get to the cave, caution has to be observed because the slope is rather steep and the trek is a day’s journey. At the top are Brarimarg and Sangam which are tea stalls. There are a number of snow bridges across fast flowing streams that get very slippery during the rainy seasons. At the top of Sangam, the road meets Pahalgam route. At Baltal, porters and ponies are available at fair government approved rates.

The Amarnath Legend;

As earlier written, there are myths describing the Amarnath Cave. A famous Rigvedic verse says “Ekam Sat” meaning “Only one being exists and is known by many names”. God who is also known as Parmeshwar, has three deities that carry on the world and is referred to as The Holy Trinity. Brahma is the creator, Vishnu the perpetuator of life and Shiva, the purifier and perpetuator of good yet destroyer of evil. In the Rig Veda, Shiva is also referred to as Rudra in the below verse;

“We worship Tryambaka (Rudra), who spreads fragrance and increases nourishment. May he release me like a cucumber from its stem, from mortal life but not immortality”.

According to the Yajurveda, Shiva is an ascetic worrier whose robe is made of deer skin and carries Tishul. The verse says life has three facets of; Truth(Satyam), Good, (Shivam) and Beautiful, (Sundaram). Sacred and ancient Indian books narrate the existence of Shiva in the hymns. The rig veda confirms his presence and further says he has three places of residence. One is at Kailash Parvat, second; Lohit Girl and Muzwan Parvat is the third.