Saturday, 11 April 2015

Religious Tourism Places in India

Vaishno Devi Temple, Jammu Kashmir:





























          Like with most old Shrines, it is not possible to ascertain when exactly the pilgrimage to the Holy Shrine started. A geological study of the Holy Cave has indicated its age to be nearly a million years. Vedic literature gives no reference to the worship of any female deity, although the mountain Trikuta does find its mention in Rigveda, the oldest of the four Vedas The practice of worshipping Shakti, largely started in the Puranic period.

The first mention of the Mother Goddess is in the epic Mahabharat. When the armies of Pandavs and Kaurvas were arrayed in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Arjun, the chief warrior of Pandavs upon advice of Sri Krishna; meditated upon the Mother Goddess and sought Her blessings for victory. This is when Arjun addresses the Mother Goddess as ‘Jambookatak Chityaishu Nityam Sannihitalaye’, which means ‘you who always dwell in the temple on the slope of the mountain in Jamboo’ (probably referring to the present day Jammu).
It is also generally believed that the Pandavs were the first to build the temples at Kol Kandoli and Bhawan in reverence and gratitude for the Mother Goddess. On a mountain, just adjacent to the Trikuta Mountain and overlooking the Holy Cave are five stone structures, which are believed to be the rock symbols of the five Pandavs.

Perhaps the oldest reference of the visit of a historical figure to the Holy Cave is that of Guru Gobind Singh who is said to have gone there via Purmandal. The old foot track to the Holy Cave passed through this well-known pilgrimage centre. 

Some traditions believe this Shrine to be the holiest of all Shaktipeeths (a place where the Mother Goddess, the Eternal Energy has Her abode) since the skull of Mata Sati fell here. Others believe that her right arm had fallen here. But some scriptures do not agree with it. They do agree that at a place called Gandarbal in Kashmir, the right arm of Sati had fallen. Nevertheless, in the Holy Cave of Shri Mata Vaishno Deviji, one does find stone remains of a human hand, popularly known as Varad Hast (the hand that grants boons and blessings).

Golden Temple/Swarn Mandir/Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar:


The Golden Temple Amritsar India (Sri Harimandir Sahib Amritsar) is not only a central religious place of the Sikhs, but also a symbol of human brotherhood and equality. Everybody, irrespective of cast, creed or race can seek spiritual solace and religious fulfilment without any hindrance. It also represents the distinct identity, glory and heritage of the Sikhs. To pen-down the philosophy, ideology, the inner and outer beauty, as well as the historical legacy of Sri Harimandir Sahib is a momentous task. It is a matter of experience rather than a of description.
As advised by Sri Guru Amar Dass Ji (3rd Sikh Guru), Sri Guru Ram Dass Ji (4th Sikh Guru) started the digging of Amrit Sarovar (Holy Tank) of Sri Harmandir Sahib in 1577 A.D., which was later on brick-lined by Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji (5th Sikh Guru) on December 15, 1588 and He also started the construction of Sri Harimandir Sahib. Sri Guru Granth Sahib (scripture of the Sikhs), after its compilation, was first installed at Sri Harimandir Sahib on August 16, 1604 A.D. A devout Sikh, Baba Budha Ji was appointed its first Head Priest.
The Golden Temple Amritsar India (Sri Harmandir Sahib Amritsar) has a unique Sikh architecture. Built at a level lower than the surrounding land level, The Gurudwara teaches the lesson of egalitarianism and humility. The four entrances of this holy shrine from all four directions, signify that people belonging to every walk of life are equally welcome.
The land for the site was bought by the Guru Ram Das Sahib on payment from the Zamindars (landlords) of native villages.
Rare Old Photograph of Sri Harmandir Sahib The Golden Temple Amritsar Guru Arjan Sahib got its foundation laid by a muslim saint Hazrat Mian Mir ji of Lahore on 1st of Magh, 1645 Bikrmi Samvat (December, 1588). The construction work was directly supervised by Guru Arjan Sahib himself and he was assisted by the prominent Sikh personalities like Baba Budha ji, Bhai Gurdas ji, Bhai Sahlo ji and many other devoted Sikhs.
Unlike erecting the structure on the higher level (a tradition in Hindu Temple architecture), Guru Arjan Sahib got it built on the lower level and unlike Hindu Temples having only one gate for the entrance and exit, Guru Sahib got it open from four sides. Thus he created a symbol of new faith, Sikhism. Guru Sahib made it accessible to every person without any distinction of Caste, creed, sex and religion.

Sun Temple (Surya Mandir) in Konark:



The Sun Temple of Konark, often called as the Black Pagoda, was constructed in the mid thirteenth century by Raja Narasinghs Deva-I of the Ganga Dynasty. It is an ample testament to the artistic glory of the time. Conceived in the form of a huge chariot drawn by seven spirited horses on 12 pairs of exquisitely decorated wheels--after the mythical seven horse chariot of Sun God--the temple was unique in its architecture and implementation.
Intricate carvings on the walls of the main temple and the Natya Mandap (a separate structure just in front of the temple) are a sight to behold. It is often considered the best among other temples of its kind and that is saying something when you are talking about the golden triangle of Odisha (Orissa) which boasts of Sri Jagannath temple and Lingraj Temple of Puri and Bhubaneswar.
The Sun Temple has lost its many of its original structures to time and disrepair, but the remaining structures and the remainder of the structures confirm till today the infinite imaginative power of the artistes of the time and their inspiring contribution to Vaisnav Culture.There are many legends of Konark that tell us a lot about the construction, existence as well as the origin and history of Konark. The story related to how Dharampada sacrificed his life in order to bring peace and harmony to his community has been narrated many a times. Dharampada, the intelligent son of Bisu Maharana did a great job in providing an appropriate solution for timely completion of the temple work. 
Another Konark legend talks about how Lord Krishna’s son Samba was finally saved from the harmful effects of the curse given by his father. It was the mercy of the Sun God that eventually allowed Samba to recover from the disease of leprosy. Samba’s mind then clicked with the thought of building a temple in Mitravana to give love and respect to the Sun god. And due to this legend of Konark, Mitravana has also acquired holy significance. 
In addition to the above-mentioned Konark Sun Temple legends, there is another legend associated with it. It is believed that in the proximity of the holy site of Konark Temple, there was a pool in which once a stone was dropped by King Narsimha Deva and it was galloped by the Raghab Fish. On hearing this, the goddess Dhama got disturbed. She gave a suggestion to Sivai Santra to construct a temple by dropping stones from sides. Thus, the Sun temple is believed to have been built in this manner as well. 

Jagannath Temple (Jagannath Mandir) in Puri:


Shree Shree Jagannath Mahaprabhu lord of the Universe is the supreme solace and saviour of countless devotees around the world. since time immemorial, His monumental and magnificent shrines at Shree Purusottam-Kshetra (Puri, Odisha) one of the four major Dhamas of India has been a most sacred centre of pilgrimage and worship symbolising and uploading one of the greatest spiritual and cultural heritages of the world.The Puri temple is built on a gigantic raised platform in the heart of the city, The temple complex is enclosed by a wall about seven meters high -including the 0 height of the platform. The area of this platform is more than 4,20,000 sq.ft. The wall is pierced by four gates ,facing the four directions. On the east-facing gate, there are stone images of two lions and it is called the Lions Gate. The north, south and west facing gates are similarly known as the Elephant Gate, the Horse Gate and the Tiger Gate (also called the Khanja Gate) respectively. The north gate is mainly meant for the God himself in as much as, the logs of wood out of which, the images are fabricated, make their entry into the temple premises through this gate, when the Navakelevara ceremony takes place. The east-facing Lions Gate is the main gate. There are pyramidal structures over the four gates, which are not very old.
As we arrive at the vast open area in front of the Lions Gate (eastern gate), we see a monolithic pillar about 10 meters high. This pillar is known locally as the Aruna Stambha. In Hindu mythology Aruna is the the charioteer of the Sun-god, The world famous Konarka temple was designed in the form of a stupendous chariot and this monolithic pillar with the beautifully carved Aruna seated on its top was installed right in front of the porch of that temple. When the temple was abandoned and there was no presiding deity in it, this pillar was removed from Konarka to Puri and was fixed in front of Jagannatha temple where we see it now.
Immediately after we get into the main gate and proceed forward, we find ourselves on a flight of steps. Locally, they are called Baisi Pahaca, which literally means, twenty-two steps. The history or rather the mystery of this flight of steps has not been unveiled. It is interesting to note that great reverence is shown to this flight of twenty-two steps. The parents bring their children & make them slowly roll over the steps from the top to the bottom ones in expectation of spiritual bliss in as much as countless devotees have walked on the steps which are believed to be throbbing with spiritual animation.
As we cross the main entrance on the east and ascend the flight of steps leading to the main temple, we find on the left-hand side, a vast kitchen area of the temple. Some tourists rightly observe that on account of this kitchen, the Puri temple may be described as the biggest hotel of the world. It can feed even one lakh persons with only two to three hours' notice. The method of preparation is most hygienic and the traditional process of preparation of food for so many people in so short a time, takes many by surprise. To the right, we have the Ananda Bajara which is the popular name of the food selling market within the enclosure. Ananda Bajara literally means, the pleasure market.

Somnath Jyotirlinga, Gujarat:



Reckoned to be the first Dwaadash Jyotirlinga (Pillar of Light) of Lord Shiva, Somnath Jyotirlinga in Gujarat holds an important place in India. The survivor of many attacks in the past, Somnath Jyotirlinga has been a source of divinity and spirituality for many Hindu pilgrims. Situated on the shores of Arabian Sea, this sacred shrine calls out to devotees from afar and blesses innumerable times. Feel the power of spirituality and lose yourself in the devotion at this holy place in India.Shree Somnath is first among the twelve Aadi Jyotirlings of India. It has a strategic location on the western coast of India.
The Pran-Pratistha at the existing temple was done on 11th May 1951 by then President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad.Ancient Indian traditions maintain a close relationship of Somnath with release of Chandra (Moon God) from the curse of his father-in-law Daksha Prajapati. Moon was married to Twenty-Seven daughters of Daksha. However, he favoured Rohini and neglected other queens. The aggrieved Daksha cursed Moon and the Moon lost power of light. With the advice of Prajapita Brahma, Moon arrived at the Prabhas Teerth and worshipped Bhagvan Shiva. Pleased with the great penance and devotion of Moon, Bhagvan Shiva blessed him and relieved him from the curse of darkness. Pauranic traditions maintain that Moon had built a golden temple, followed by a silver temple by Ravana, Bhagvan Shree Krishna is believed to have built Somnath temple with Sandalwood.
The research based on ancient Indian classical texts show that first Somnath Jyotirling Pran-Pratistha was done on the auspicious third day of brighter half of Shravan month during the tenth Treta yug of Vaivswat Manvantar. Swami Shri Gajananand Saraswatiji, Chairman of Shrimad Aadhya Jagadguru Shankaracharya Vedic Shodh Sansthan, Varanasi suggested that the said first temple was built 7,99,25,105 years ago as derived from the traditions of Prabhas Khand of Skand Puran. Thus, this temple is a perennial source of inspiration for millions of Hindus since time immemorial.The later sources of history account for several desecrations by Muslims invaders during eleventh to eighteen century A.D. The temple was rebuilt every time with the reconstructive spirit of the people. The modern temple was reconstructed with the resolve of Sardar Patel who visited the ruins of Somnath temple on November 13 1947. Then President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, did the Pran-Pratistha at the existing temple on 11 May 1951.
Other spots in the temple are Shri Kapardi Vinayak and Shri Hanuman Temple in addition to Vallabhghat. Vallabhghat is a beautiful sunset point. The temple is illuminated every evening. Similarly, the Sound & Light Show “Jay Somnath” is also displayed every night during 8.00 to 9.00, which allows the pilgrims an ethereal experience in the backdrop of grand Somnath temple and the holy wave sounds of the Ocean.


Ranakpur Temple:



Ranakpur is a village located in Desuri tehsil near Sadri town in the Pali district of Rajasthan in western India. It is located between Jodhpur and Udaipur.
Ranakpur Temples are acclaimed world-wide for their intricate and superb architectural style. These temples form one of the five major pilgrimages of the Jains. Located in village of Ranakpur near Sadri town in the Pali district of Rajasthan, Ranakpur temple lies at a distance of 95 kms in the north of Udaipur city. The temple is easily accessible from the city of Udaipur as regular buses are easily available. Built in the 15th century, Ranakpur temples are known for being the largest and most important temples of the Jain cult. 
The temple is said to have been built by Seth Dharna Sah (a Jain businessman) with the aid of Rana Kumbha, who ruled Mewar in the 15th century. Ranakpur got its name after the name of the Rajput Monarch and likewise the temples. The temple complex is positioned in an isolated valley on the western side of the Aravalli Range. The Jain Temples of Ranakpur are certainly creditable for their splendid architecture. This temple is wholly constructed in light colored marble and comprises a basement covering an area of 48000 sq feet. There are more than 1400 exquisitely carved pillars that support the temple. 
In the complex, there are several temples including Chaumukha temple, Parsavanath temple, Amba Mata Temple and Surya Temple. Amongst all of them, Chaumukha Temple is the most important and as the term Chaumukha suggests, this temple is four-faced. Chaumukha temple is dedicated to Lord Adinath, who is the first 'Tirthankara' of the Jains. The Temple structure is highly compound having four different doorways to get into the chambers. These chambers ultimately take you to the main hall where the image of Adinath is positioned. 
Ranakpur Temple was also nominated amongst the top 77 wonders, while deciding for new Seven Wonders of the World. However, number of wonders cannot be increased and some or the other would come amongst the top seven, still Ranakpur Temple is undoubtedly a wonder. If you are on a trip to Udaipur, don't miss this artistic temple that would become an unforgettable part of your beautiful memories.

Tirumala Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati:


Tirumala Venkateswara Temple is a famous Hindu temple located in the hill town Tirumala, near Tirupati in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, India. Tirumala, is a hill town in Chittoor district in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. Tirumala is a Firstmost divine piligrim center of Hindu / Vedha Religion, popularly known as Sri Venkateswara Temple - which is dedicated for the Supreme God Shri mann Narayana / Maha Vishnu. As like Rama Avathara / Krishna Avathara are known as Vibhava avathara of the God, the Sri Rengam/Tirumala/Badrinath are the existing places of Archavatharas of the Supreme God.Vishnu in the form of Lord Venkateshwara at Tirumala Venkateshwara (Sanskrit & Telugu), also known as Venkatachalapathy or Srinivasa or Balaji, is the supreme God believed to be a form of the Hindu Deity Lord Vishnu. He appeared in this Yuga Kali Yuga for saving the people who have fallen deeply and are deluded in three modes of material nature.
Lord Venkateshwara means supreme God who destroys the sins of the people in this material world ' He is Vishnu, who is transcendental to the material energy, Vishnu does not have direct contact with material people, and therefore yogis carry out severe penances to have a vision of Vishnu's lotus feet. How ever, in the kali yuga people have fallen to the point that they have even lost themselves due to ignorance in bodily consciousness. Lord Vishnu out of love towards his devotees therefore incarnated as Venkateshwara.The exact period in which the temple was founded is not known, and tradition has it that the temple is Swayambhustala, meaning that it came into existence on its own without anyone constructing it. According to folk legends, there was a huge anthill at Tirupati. A farmer heard a voice from the heavens asking him to feed the ants. By chance the local king heard the voice and began supplying milk for the ants himself. His compassion resulted in the liquid uncovering a magnificent idol of Lord Venkateshwara hidden beneath the anthill.
According to some evidence the history of the temple dates back almost 2,000 years. In ancient times, a queen called Samavai, belonging to the Pallava dynasty (614 AD), is said to have consecrated the first silver image here. The temple is also mentioned in Sangam poetry (500 BC - 2000 AD).
Numerous temple inscriptions from the 9th century record details of the temple and contributions made by both Pallavas and Chola Kings. It is believed that originally there was only one shrine at Tirumala. When the Vaishnavite saint, Ramanuja, visited Andhra in the 12th century, the temple at Tirupathi was built. The Chola period saw the temple complex prosper and expand further. In 1517, Krishnadevaraya, on one of his many visits to the temple, donated gold and jewels enabling the Vimana (inner shrine) roofing to be gilded.

Hemkund Sahib:


Hemkund Sahib, known as Gurudwara Sri Hemkunt Sahib Ji, is a Sikh place of worship and pilgrimage site in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand, India.Situated at a height of over 15,000 feet above the sea level in the Himalayan ranges of northern India, Sri Hemkunt Sahib has emerged as a popular centre of Sikh Pilgrimage which is visited by thousands of devotees from all over the world every summer. According to Bachitra Natak, the autobiographical account of the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, it was at Hemkunt 'adorned with seven snow peaks' that he meditated in his previous birth.
It is here  that one must stress the significance of the gurdwara, for it is the gurdwara that stands as the epitome  of all the principles that constitute the Sikh faith.Long before Sikhs began coming to Hemkunt, the lake was known to the people who lived in the nearby valleys as a place of pilgrimage. Its name was Lokpal, and its sanctity derived from its association with tales of the gods. Most notably, the god Lakshman, the younger brother of Ram, is said to have meditated or done penance at Lokpal. In a popular story told by local people and visitors alike, Lakshman was brought to the shore of Lokpal after being mortally wounded in a battle with the son of Ravana. Lakshman's wife wept and prayed that her husband be saved. The monkey god Hanuman was then able to find a life-giving herb. When the herb was administered to Lakshman, he miraculously revived. In celebration, God showered flowers from heaven, which fell to the earth and took root in the Valley of Flowers.
Another story is told about Lakshman's previous incarnation as a seven headed snake. In this form, so the local people say, he meditated under the water at Lokpal and lord Vishnu slept on his back. The name Lokpal refers to Vishnu, the sustainer, who looks after the earth. Lokpal is also rumoured to be the native place of yet another god: Shiva, the destroyer, and his wife Parvati. Stories like these, and the ones about Hemkunt related below, have written sources in the Puranas (ancient volumes of Hindu mythology) and the Hindu epics (the Mahabharata and the Ramayana), but as they are passed from person to person and from generation to generation, they change, taking on local references and becoming blended with elements from other stories with other sources.
Traditionally, Lokpal was visited on three annual festivals held during the summer season. The pilgrimage to the lake was made primarily by women, both Garhwali villagers from the valley below Lokpal and villagers of Bhotia (Indo-Tibetan) ancestry from neighbouring valleys. All who went to Lokpal recognized the sanctity of the lake. Out of respect for the purity of the water and its environs, they made the steep ascent barefoot, clad only in white cotton dhoti (an unstitched garment). The women left their clothes and shoes behind at a halting place set in a glade of fir trees. There they would spend the night singing songs of the goddess, and at dawn they would set out to scale the slope to the lake. This halting place became the site of what is today Gobind Dham or Ghangaria, named after the ghagara, or petticoats, which the pilgrims would leave there.
When the pilgrims reached Lokpal, they would make offerings of coins, coconuts, Brahma Kamal flowers, and parshad (a consecrated sweet). They would often bathe in the cold water, and pray to Lakshman for the blessing of a son or for the health of their menfolk. A story by the local people about a Bhotia man who had no children. He came to Lokpal and his faith was so strong that he crawled the circumference of the lake on his elbows. When he returned the following year he had a son.

Ajmer Sharif in Ajmer:


Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishty Dargah of  Sufi saint at Ajmer, Rajasthan, India. It is old saying that people who visit Ajmer Sharif and pray with pure faith and loyalty at his Dargah will  free their soul. Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Hasan Chishti is also known by different names as, Khawaja Gharib Nawaz, “Sultan-Ul-Hind”, Khwaja Baba, Khwaja Gharib Nawaz Ajmeri, Khwaja Sahib, Khwaja Saheb, Khwaja Ajmeri Saint Moinuddin Chishty. The Dargah Khawaja Gharibnawaz ( R.A) has several tombs, buildings, Daalaans and courtyards are of  Mughal architecture.Why Ajmer was particularly selected to be pivot of Hazrat Khawaja Muinuddin Chishti’s mission in India? This is a pertinent question which may be asked by some critical readers. A careful study of the history of India before Khawaja Saheb’s arrival, and of the period of his stay in Ajmer will answer this question satisfactory. We have already thrown sufficient light on this point in one of the previous chapters. In this chapter, we trace a brief history of Ajmer and the Khawaja Saheb’s Dargah which attracts millions of people every year to seek spiritual blessings of the great saint.
Geographically, Ajmer is situated in the heart of Rajasthan, at one time the citadel of India kingdom, and thus it suited the grand mission of Khawaja Saheb best. Politically, Ajmer the seat of a most powerful kingdom of the last Rajput Emperor of India, Raja Prithviraj Chauhan (1179-1192 A.D.) whose whole life was “one of unbroken chain of chivalrous deeds and glorious exploits which have won for him eternal fame and a name that will last as long as chivalry itself.” Prithviraj was the son of Someshwara (1170-1179 A.D.) who was the 29th descendant in the lineage of King Vasudeva who flourished as far back as 551 A.D. Vasudeva has descended from Chahuan (the founder of the Rajput clan of Chauhans) whose date is untraceable in the description of Ajmer. As given in Sarga IX of the famous documentary “Prithviraj Vijaya”, runs as below:-
The city was so densely populated and there were so many gardens, tanks and wells that not more than one-tenth of the earth was visible to sun, and water in the wells was only two cubits from the ground surface. Karpurdevi (mother of Prithviraj) under whose regency he was brought up also founded a town”.
One of the oldest and most interesting historical building of Ajmer, is Jama Al-tamish popularly known as Dhai-din-ka-Jhonpra, situating in Ankerkot at the foot of the Taragarh hill According to Tod Rajasthan ” it is a relic of nobler days and architect and the antiquarian because of its multifarious artistic attractions.
According to Akhbar-ul-Akhyar, the first fort built on a hill in India was the fortress of Taragarh at Ajmer. Its unique defence and strength lie in the impregnable ruggedness and acclivity of the mountain upon which it is built. This ancient fort has seen many historic battles and nerve-wrecking sieges and has changed hands with the Rajput, Muslim, Maratha and the British conquerors during its long and checkered history. Ajameru Doorg, as it was originally called, was built by Raja Ajairaj Chauhan who was the king of Sapadlaksh territory having Sakambhari (now Sambhar as his capital in the early part of 6th century A.D. He also built the town of Ajmer and the village of Ajaisar, lying in the south of Foysagar lake, still commemorates his name.

Velankanni Church:

Vailankanni is fondly known as the 'Lourdes of the East' because like Lourdes in France, millions of pilgrims visit the Shrine throughout the year,praying to Our Lady for various needs and thanking her for the favors received through her intercession. Tradition recounts that Mother Mary appeared with the Infant Jesus in this small hamlet at the end of the 16th or in the early 17th century.
Ever since, Vailankanni is the most important destination and almost the synthesis of all Marian Sanctuaries for the pilgrims of the world. The crowds of pilgrims come here regardless of creeds and languages.  Our Lady of Vailankanni devotions down through the centuries have proved the Shrine to be of divine origin and has assumed international character. Mary, the focus of unity at Vailankanni, is a clear proof of international, multicultural, and religious harmony.
Sometime during the sixteenth century, Our Lady with her infant son appeared to a Hindu boy carrying milk to a customer’s home. While he rested under a Banyan tree near a tank (pond), Our Lady appeared to him and asked for milk for her Son and the boy gave her some.On reaching the customer’s home, the boy apologized for his lateness and the reduced amount of milk by relating the incident that occurred on his way.On inspection, the man found the milk pot to be full and realized that something miraculous had happened. That man, also a Hindu, wanting to see the place where the apparition occurred, accompanied the boy.
When they reached the tank, Our Lady appeared once again.On learning that it was Our Lady who appeared to the boy, the residents of the local Catholic community became ecstatic. The tank where the apparition took place is called "Matha Kulam" or Our Lady’s tank.Some years later Our Lady appeared again. This time to a crippled boy who was selling buttermilk near a public square on the outskirts of the same village of Vailankanni. She asked him for buttermilk for her infant Son and the boy compiled.Our Lady asked the boy to inform a certain wealthy Catholic man in the nearby town of Nagapattinam of her appearance. Not realizing that his crippled leg was miraculously cured by Our Lady, the boy rose up and began his journey.
The man also had a vision the previous night in which Our Lady asked him to build a chapel for her. Together, the man and the boy returned to the site of the miracle. This time Our Lady appeared to both. The man erected a thatched chapel for Our Lady at the site of Her second appearance.
This chapel became a holy place of veneration to Our Blesses mother and She was called henceforth, Mother of Good Health ("Arokia Matha").A few years later, Our Merciful Mother rescued a few Portuguese merchant sailors from a violent storm, which wrecked their ship.
When the merchants reached the shore of Vailankanni they were taken by local fisherman to the thatched chapel. To give thanks and pay tribute to Our Lady, they built a small permanent chapel on their return trip.On subsequent visits they improved on it. The merchants dedicated the chapel to Our Lady on September 8th to celebrate the feast of her nativity and to mark the date of their safe landing to Vailankanni.

Amarnath Cave: 

 Out of all Hindu deities, Lord Shiva is extremely popular not only amongst Indians but also amongst the people of other nationalities.
To get closer to their revered God, who appears on this earth in the unique form of an Ice Lingam,
millions of devotees trek through the daunting mountains to Shri Amarnathji Shrine in South Kashmir every year in the summer months to pay obeisance.
The Shrine is managed by Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB), that was constituted by an Act of the Jammu & Kashmir State Legislature in 2000 with His Excellency the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir as its ex-officio Chairman.The Amarnathji Shrine Board is responsible for the better management of the Shri Amarnathji Yatra, upgradation of facilities for holy pilgrims and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.Assisted by a Chief Executive Officer who is a senior IAS officer and eight distinguished Board Members, the board is constantly working towards making this journey the most cherished one.There is famous Rigvedic Verse that says "Ekam Sat " that is "There is one Being ,the sages call Him by many names."
The  God (Parmeshwar) has three deities who carry on the world .This is Known as Holy Trinity.
Brahma- the creator, Vishnu - the perpetuator of life and Shiva (Mahesh ) -the purifier and perpetuator of good and destroyer of evil.Rig Veda refer Shiva as Rudra as in its following verse .  "We Worship Tryambaka (Rudra) , Who spread Fragrance and Increases Nourishment ,
May He release me ,like the cucumber from its stem , From Mortal Life , But not From Immorality . "(Rig Veda Mandal VII Sukta 59 and Mantra 12) The Yajurveda describes Shiva as ascetic warrior Whose robe is of Deer Skin  and He carries Trishul .  According to the verse Satyam, Shivam ,Sundaram ,the life is described as having three facets Truth (Satyam), Good (Shivam) and the Beautiful (Sundaram). Shiva is a living God. The most Sacred and  ancient books of India, the Rig Veda narrates His presence in the hymns. edic myths, rituals and even astronomy testifies to His existence from the dawn of time .The Mohindaro and Harapa findings confirm Shiva worship in the ancient India. According to the older scriptures, He has three places  of His residence.
 One is  Kailash Parvat another  is Lohit Giri under which Brahamputra flows and third is Muzwan Parvat . This is The Cave which was chosen by Bhole Shankar  for narrating the secrets of immortality and creation of Universe  to Maa Parvati ji .   The story goes like this  .   Centuries ago Maa Parvati asked Shiv ji  to  let her know why and when  He  started wearing the beads of heads ( Mund Mala)  .Bhole Shankar replied when ever you are born  I add one more head in my beads .  Maa Parvati said ,"  My Lord, my body is destroyed every time  and I die again and again, but you are Immortal. Please let me know the secret of this ." Bhole Shankar replied that it is due to Amar Katha ." Maa Parvati insisted that she may be told that secret.  For long Shiva ji continued postponing .  Finally on consistent demand from Maa Parvati He made up his mind to tell the immortal secret .
He started  for    lonely  place  where  no living  being  could  listen  it .  He choose Amarnath Cave . 
In preparation to that He left His Nandi ( The Bull which He used to ride )  at Pahalgam (Bail gaon) . 
At Chandanwari He released Moon from his hairs (Jataon). At the banks of Lake Sheshnag He released the snakes .He decided to leave his Son Ganesha at Mahagunas Parvat (Mahaganesh Hill ) .
At Panjtarni, Shivji  left the Five Elements behind (Earth , Water, Air , Fire and Sky)  which make living being . He is the Lord of these elements.  It is believed that as a symbol of sacrificing the earthly world , Shivaji and  Maa Parvati  had Tandav Dance . After leaving behind all these, Bhole Shankar enters the Holy Amarnath Cave along with Parvati Maa . Lord Shiva takes his Samadhi on the Deer Skin and concentrate . To ensure that no living being is able to hear the Immortal Tale , He created Rudra named Kalagni and ordered him  to spread fire to eliminate every living  thing in and around the Holy Cave .
 After this He started narrating  the secret of immortality to Maa Parvati . But as a matter of chance one egg which was lying beneath the  Deer skin remained protected . It is believed to be non living and more over it was protected by Shiva -Parvati Asan (Bed) .
 The pair of pigeons which were born out of this  egg became immortal  having listened the secret  of immortality (Amar Katha).  Many pilgrims report seeing the pair of pigeons  when they trek the arduous route to pay their obeisance before the Ice-Lingam (the phallic symbol of Shiva).

Varanasi:


 Varanasi, or Benaras, (also known as Kashi) is one of the oldest living cities in the world. Varanasi`s Prominence in Hindu mythology is virtually unrevealed. Mark Twain, the English author and literature, who was enthralled by the legend and sanctity of Benaras, once wrote : "Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together" . According to the ‘Vamana Purana’, the Varuna and the Assi rivers originated from the body of the primordial Person at the beginning of time itself. The tract of land lying between them is believed to be ‘Varanasi’, the holiest of all pilgrimages. The word ‘Kashi’ originated from the word ‘Kas’ which means to shine. Steeped in tradition and mythological legacy, Kashi is the ‘original ground ‘ created by Shiva and Parvati, upon which they stood at the beginning of time. Varanasi is the microcosm of Hinduism, a city of traditional classical culture, glorified by myth and legend and sanctified by religion , it has always attracted a large number of pilgrims and worshippers from time immemorial. To be in Varanasi is an experience in itself an experience in self–discover an eternal oneness of the body and soul. To every visitor; Varanasi offers a breathtaking experience. The rays of the dawn shimmering across the Ganges, the high-banks, the temples and shrines along the banks bathed in a golden hue soul stirring hymns and mantras alongwith the fragrance of incense filling the air and the refreshing dip in the holy waters gently splashing at the Ghats. Varanasi – the land where experience and discovery reach the ultimate bliss. Varanasi is also renowned for its rich tapestry of music, arts, crafts and education. Some of the world renowned exponents India has produced in these fields were schooled in Varanasi’s cultural ethos. Luminaries apart, Varanasi abounds in the art of silk weaving, an exotic work of art which manifests itself in precious Banarasi Silk Sarees and Silk brocades which are cherished as collector’s items across the world today.
Buddhists wordwide look upon India as the land of the Buddha and a visit to this country means a pilgrimage to those places sacred to the memory of the Enlightened One. After the Bouddha attanined enlightenment in Bodh Gaya he came to sarnath. Here in the Deer Park, he delivered his first sermon, or in religious language, set in motion the wheel of Law (maha- Dharmachakra Pravartan). On the day before his death Buddha included Sarnath along with Lumbini, Bodh Gaya and Kushinagar as the four places he thought to be sacred to his followers. The Emperor Ashoka, who spread the Buddha’s message of love and compassion throughout his vast empire, visited Sarnath around 234BC,and erected a stup
Chunar is situated in the Vindhya range at a distance of 42 kms. Its District headquarter Mirzapur which is a very famous for its natural beauty, Historical events, Handicrafts & other Industrial setups and from the religious aspects as well. Especially Chunar town is existing in a triangular form on the right bank of holy Ganga and the left bank of the Jirgo. As Per Puranas the oldest name of Chunar was Charanadri as Lord Vishnu had taken his first step in his Vaman in carnation in the dynasty of Great King Bali in the age of Satyug. It also told that a very powerful man had travelled from Himalya to Kanya Kumari in the age of Dwapar and took rest here whose feet impression a rock became todays Chunar. The third one deals with Bhartihari, the ruler of Ujjain who came here for penance. A kingdom was later on built here. The fourth story sheds light on a rock statue built by Raja Sahadeo, who named the place as Nainagarh. However Chunar is highlighted after the visit of Babar followed by Shershah Suri, Humayun, Akbar, Aurangzeb and finally,’ the Britishers.
FORT HISTORY Basically the fort of Chunar was established by Maharaja Vikrmaditya the King of Ujjain to commemorate the stay of his brother Raja Bhartihari who had taken his Samadhi in alive stage and still that Samadhi Sthal is worshiped. As per Alha Khand in 1029 AD. King Sahadeo made this fort as his capital and established the statue of Naina Yogini in a cave of Vindhya hill and put the name as Nainagarh. King Sahadeo built a stone umbrella based on 52 pillars in the memory of the victory on 52 other kings, inside the fort which is still preserved. He had a brave daughter who got married with Alha the then King of Mahoba whose marriage place in still preserved with the name of Sonya Mandap. Beside this some other stories are also related with the fort as Magna- Deogarh, Ratan Deo’s Burj (tower) and King Pithaura who named it Patthargarh as well. It has got much importance due to the stay of the founder of Mughal Dynasty Babar in 1525 AD. Later on Shershah Suri obtained the possession of the fort by marrying the wife of Taj Khan Sarang-Khani, the Governer of Ibrahim Lodi. In 1531 AD. The second King of Mughals Humayun done an unsuccessful effort to capture this fort. In 1574 AD. Akbar the great captured this fort and since that very time it was in the Mughal regime upto 1772 AD. Once emperor Jahangir appointed one Iftikhar Khan as Nazim and in the regime of Aurangzeb one of his Governor’s Mirza Bairam built a mosque in 1663 AD. near the Bhairo-Burj. In 1772AD this fort was captured by East India Company who established in it a depot of Artillery and ammunition. Later it was taken by Maharaja Chet Singh of Benaras temporarily and after Chet Singh outbreak in 1781 AD. Warren Hestings retired for safety to Chunar where a force was collected by Major Phophan, which expelled Chet Singh from his strong hold in his neighbourhood. Hastings liked the situation and climate, his residence is still standing. Near it, there is a Sundial bearing the inscription. "Erected by order of the Hon’ble Warren Hestings. Esq. Governor General c & e in 1784". Latitude 25’ 07’ 36’ N and Longitude 83’ 09 15" E , from Greenwich. James S. Ewart Lieutenant." At present it is the Training Centre of Provincial Armed Core (PAC).

Dwarka:


Krishna Meets Rukmani in Dwarka - Credit Exotic India
The Dwarkadish Temple which is also known as the Jagat Temple was built in the 16th century. The original temple was constructed by King Vajranabha, the great grandson of Lord Krishna. The five storied temple is constructed using sand and limestone with a 70.5 metres high spire and has a platform area of 1800 sq. ft. The temple comprises of a shrine and has a temple dome with a 24 m long multi-colored flag, with symbols of sun and moon.
Depending on who you are, what you are about to read can seem anything from myth to legend to reality. Turn back the cosmic clock, let your imagination plummet suddenly into 1500 BC, and you may begin to recreate in your mind’s eye, a city of gold – Dwarka,
 the mesmerizing kingdom of Lord Krishna. Ranchhodrai, as Lord Krishna is affectionately called in Gujarat,came to Dwarka from Mathura to build his new kingdom where he would later spend a significant part of his life. Located at the western tip of the Saurashtra peninsula, this town enjoys remarkable importance in Hindu lore. It is the only place considered both one of the four principal holy places (char dham), as well as one of the seven ancient towns (sapta puris) to visit.
 For this reason, millions of pilgrims and historical scholars have come here over the centuries.
It is believed that immediately after the death of Lord Krishna and the consequent demise of the Yadav dynasty a massive flood swallowed all of Dwarkaand submerged the city of gold to the bottom of the ocean. However, current excavations give us reason to think this myth has a historical basis,
as most myths do.Today, the present Dwarka sits at the opening of the Gomti river on the Arabian Sea and is renowned for the Dwarkadheesh temple, among other notable historical and religious sites. It is believed that Mirabhai, Lord Krishna’s devoted follower, merged with his idol in this temple.
Every year during Janmashtami (the anniversary of Krishna's birth), thousands of devotees from all over the world come here to partake in elaborate festivities.

Rishikesh:


 Rishikesh is a small town in the northern state of Uttarakhand in India. Scenically located where the Ganges River comes down from the Himalayas, Rishikesh catapulted to Western fame when the Beatles dropped by for a visit to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram (now closed), and the town is still known as the World Capital of Yoga.Rishikesh is also the Gateway to the HimalayasThe center of town where the train and bus stations can be found is of little interest to most travelers. Further north-east are 2 bridges spanning the Ganges, Ram Jhula [1] and Lakshman Jhula [2], at either end of these bridges are the main hubs of activity and interest.
Most accommodation and restaurants can be found near Lakshman Jhula, High Bank and Swarg Ashram.Rishikesh, also spelled Hrishikesh, Rushikesh or Hrushikesh.
Rishikesh catapulted to Western fame when the Beatles dropped by for a visit to Maharishi MaheshYogi's Ashram. Rishikesh is associated with Lord Rama and Laxman.The town of Rishikesh lies in the foothills of the Himalayas of the Garhwal region. It is the gateway to the upper Garhwal region and the starting point for the Char Dham pilgrimage (Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath) and an ideal destination not only for pilgrims but also for the people who are interested in adventure, medtation, yoga and other aspects of Hinduism.Rishikesh as appering the Adventure Capital of India for the adventure seekers as Rishikesh is the suggested place for starting their trekking expeditions to the Himalayan Peaks and for the White River Rafting. Also, International Yoga week which attracts participation from across the world, is held here, every year, in February on the banks of the holy Ganga.Rishikesh is a vegetarian city by law, as well as an alcohol-free city. Rishikesh has also banned use of plastics bags by shopkeepers and vendors.
The 'Kedar Khand' of Skanda Purana, also mentions the existence of Indrakund at this very point. The jute-rope bridge was replaced by iron-rope suspension bridge in 1889, and after it was washed away in the 1924 floods, it was replaced by the present stronger bridge. Another similar suspension bridge Ram Jhula was built in 1986 at nearby Shivanand Nagar.

Mathura:


Mathura is a city in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
It is located approximately 50 kilometres (31 mi) north of Agra, and 145 kilometres (90 mi) south-east of Delhi; about 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) from the town of Vrindavan, and 22 kilometres (14 mi) from Govardhan. It is the administrative centre of Mathura District of Uttar Pradesh. During the ancient period, Mathura was an economic hub, located at the junction of important caravan routes. The 2011 census of India estimated the population of Mathura to be 441,894.
According to Hindu scriptures Mathura is the birthplace of Lord Krishna at the centre of Braj or Brij-bhoomi, called Shri Krishna Janma-Bhoomi, literally: 'Lord Krishna's birthplace'. The Keshav Dev Temple was built in ancient times on the site of Krishna's legendary birthplace (an underground prison). According to the Mahabharata and Bhagavata Purana epics, Mathura was the capital of the Surasena Kingdom,ruled by Kansa the maternal uncle of Shri Krishna.Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi temple is the most sought after devout centers in Mathura. Its predominance over the other holy spots are due to the belief that the temple stands on the same place where lord Krishna was born to Devaki and Vasudev. Numerous articles excavated from the site bare testimony to the legendary story of Sri Krishna’a birth.This Temple is not only an important temple of Mathura but also of India.
Built in 1814, this Temple is situated in the heart of the city of Mathura.
Janmbhoomi Temple that is currently managed by the followers of the Vallabhacharya sect is the most visited temple in Mathura. Located in the eastern part of Mathura, not far from the Yamuna River, the temple is architecturaly very interesting.The clearance of the birthplace of Lord Shri Krishna, led to the recovery of many portions of a 1500 year old temple, including the sanctum sanctorum (Garbha Griha) and a throne. The Medhi and sanctum sanctorum have been preserved.
It is, indeed, the blessings of the Lord that when Emperor Aurangzeb demolished the temple and erected the Idgah on its plinth, the Idgahwas actually constructed on the Sabha Mandap (prayer-hall) of the temple; the sanctum sanctorum, miraculously, remained intact and got buried under the debris. Resurrection of such an auspicious place has ensured that the devotees, once again, can enjoy the blessings of the Lord at His birthplace.

Vrindavan:


Vrindavan is a town in the Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh, India.
It is the site of a forested region, where, according to the Mahabharata, Krishna spent his childhood daysOn this earth, the place known as Vrndavan in the district of Mathura, ninety miles southeast of Delhi, is a replica of that supreme Goloka Vrndavana in the spiritual sky. In all of India, that eighty-four-square-mile tract of land is considered to be the mostsacred place of pilgrimage because Krishna sported in it, and many devotees still linger there in ecstasy in search of Krishna and His childhood associates. Srila Prabhupada has explained that “It is not that such devotees meet Krishna face to face in that tract of land,but a devotee’s eagerly searching after Krishna is as good as his seeing Him personally. How this is so cannot be explained, but it is factually realized by those who are pure devotees of the Lord.” Because Krishna, His name, form, pastimes and remembrance are all on the absolute plane, to search for Him at Vrindavan in pure God consciousness gives more pleasure to the devotee than seeing Him face to face.” The Brahma-samhita (5.38) confirms that those devotees whose eyes are anointed with the pulp of love always see the eternal form of Shyamasundar
within their hearts.In Vrndavana the effulgent ground is fashioned with many very wonderful colourful cintamani jewels, the trees and vines are full of blissful spiritual fruits and flowers, the birds make a great tumult by reciting the hymns of the Sama Veda,
 and the lakes and streams are filled with transcendental nectar. May my heart meditate on Vrndavana in this way.Beautiful Vrindavan is filled with cintamani gems and many jewel palaces and temples. Many regal swans play in the waters of the Yamuna, and in those waters a splendid golden lotus flower grows.In Vrndavan the kadamba trees offer obeisances, their flowering branches reverently touching the ground. Bumble bees enjoy pastimes in Vrndavan, which is filled with a very sweet fragrance.Radha and Krsna stay in the place where They enjoy pastimes. How beautiful They are. Their bodies are decorated with jewel ornaments,and They are wealthy with many gem mines of intelligence and wit.