Category Archives: Holy Places

Varanasi

“Varanasi is one of the most ancient cities of learning. This was a place where hundreds of enlightened beings lived at a time. In every street, you had an enlightened being to meet.”

A city as old as time. A city that has seen the world turn, tides change and generations of humans born and die. Varanasi or Kashi, which has been standing the tests of time for over 5,000 years is said to be one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world.

There are supposed to be 2,000 temples in Varanasi. It is 125km east of Allahabad, on the bank of the Ganges.

In Mark Twain’s words, “Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”

What draws millions of pilgrims from all over the world to the city of Varanasi is the fact that it is one of the holiest of the seven sacred cities in India. Called the spiritual capital of India, this magnificent city of learning radiates endless energy. Despite being witness to ancient civilizations come and go over centuries, Varanasi is still alive, unabashedly colorful, vibrant, and wonderfully rich in history and legends.

 

Varanasi or also popularly known as Banaras or Kashi  has been given several poetic adjectives such as ‘the city of temples’, ‘the holy city of India’, ‘the religious capital of India’, ‘the city of light’, ‘the city of learning’, ‘the culture capital of India’, etc.

Varanasi, the holy ‘City of Light’ shines bright, both physically and metaphorically. It is believed that a single dip in the holy waters of the Ganges can wash away a lifetime of sins.

According to Puranic history, Varanasi was founded by the Lord Shiva and was his favorite abode. In one verse of the ancient religious text of Skanda Purana, Shiva says, “The three worlds form one city of mine, and Kāśī is my royal palace therein.” The Kashi Khanda of Skanda Purana gives a great detailed description about the glories of this Holy place.

In Varanasi, the most natural and inevitable cycle of life and death is celebrated and revered with as much gusto. Also known as ‘Maha-smashana’ or ‘The Great Cremation Grounds’, the holy city humbles you by bringing you face to face with the balance of life and death.

Many old people come to Varanasi to die and to be burned at the burning ghats along the river. It is believed that anyone who dies in Varanasi attains moksha (liberation). It is said that being burned at Varanasi adds to the pious credits of someone, therefore many bodies are brought here to be cremated.

A boat ride across the sacred Ganges perfectly captures the spirit of Varanasi. Countless candlelit paper boats with flowers carrying people’s prayers float their way across the waters. Countless pilgrims take a holy dip in the waters, others meditate in solitude and the rest bow their heads in prayer along the Ghats.

As the sun goes down, the evening ritual of worship, called the Ganga Aarti, unfolds.

Varanasi has been the original hub of art, culture, spirituality and music. Many prominent Indian saints, philosophers, poets, writers, and musicians live or have lived in Varanasi. Several major figures of the Bhakti movement were born in Varanasi, including Kabir and Ravidas.

Varanasi is home to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, one of the most important places of worship in the country, considered to be one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva, holding great significance in the spiritual history of India.

Near Varanasi is the 1500-year-old Mahabodhi Temple marking the spot of the legendary Bodhi tree, under which Buddha meditated and attained enlightenment. Buddha delivered his first sermon at Sarnath, near Varanasi, thereby giving birth to Buddhism.

Trivandrum and Tiruvattar

Sri Ananta Padmanabha Swamy Temple (Trivandrum)

Sri Ananta Padmanabha temple is one of the most prominent temples of India. It is considered as one of the 108 Vaishnava temples (divya sthanam), one of the seven moksha sthalas and one of the six Narayana sthalas. Lord Balarama, Lord Nityananda and Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited this temple. The Temple is located inside the East Fort in the city of Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India. It is the holiest abodes of Lord Vishnu. The main deity, Sri Padmanabhaswamy, is a form of Vishnu in Anantha sayanam posture (in yogic eternal sleep of yoga-nidra). This is an ancient temple and the city of Thiruvananthapuram derives its name from the name of the presiding Deity enshrined in the temple. This city is also called Syanandoora puram.

Inside the temple altar, Lord Vishnu is in a reclining position over Ananta Shesha. He is enjoying the aroma emanating from the lotus held in His left hand, and His right hand is blessing Lord Siva. There are three doors through which we can have the darshan – first the Lord’s face, then His Navel and His lotus feet. Through the first door, the worship is offered to Siva; through the second entrance Brahma prays to Lord Vishnu from his lotus navel, and through the third door is Lord Vishnu’s lotus feet, which are the only shelter and suitable means for a devotee of Lord by which one can cross over the ocean of material existence. Sri Devi and Bhu Devi, the two consorts of Lord Vishnu stand by His side and Lord Brahma is seen on a lotus, which emanates from the navel of Vishnu. Sages Bhrigu, Markandeya and assembly of celestials like Narada etc. are also present.

Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple stands at a place considered as one of the seven Parasurama Kshetras. Texts including the Puranas, particularly the Skanda Purana,Padma Purana, Vayu Purana, Varaha Purana and Brahmanda Purana have references to this holy site. In the Padma Purana, there is reference to the temple of Ananta sayanam, where the Lord Vishnu is having his yoga-nidra. In the Skanda Purana, Sethu Mahatmya, Brahmakhanda Chapter-52, verses 102 to 105, some of the most important places of pilgrimages are indicated, which include the Ananta Padmanabha Swamy temple. It is also mentioned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam canto 10 chapter 79 that Lord Balarama visited “Syanandoorapuram” in the course of His pilgrimage. An entire chapter named Anantapura Mahatmyam in Brahmanda Purana is dedicated to this temple.

 Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu came here to Sri Ananta Padmanabha temple during His South India tour as mentioned in Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya Lila 9.241-242. Lord spent two to three days before the beautiful darshan of Sri Ananta Padmanabha Swamy in chanting and dancing to the kirtan of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Here, Lord Vishnu gave darshan to sages like Divakar Muni and Bilvamangala Thakur.

Kanyakumari

Kanyakumari

Kanyakumari formerly known as Cape Comorin, is a town in Kanyakumari district in the state of Tamil Nadu in India. It lies at the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent

Kumari Amman (Kanyakumari) Temple, Kanyakumari

The 3000-year-old Kumari Amman (Mother) temple at Kanyakumari is dedicated to goddess Kanyakumari. The name Kanyakumari literally means “virgin goddess.” She stands in eternal vigil protecting the land. The temple is surrounded by a stone wall and stands on the edge of the ocean.

Ayodhya


Ayodhya also known as Saket, is an ancient city of India, birthplace of Lord Rama and setting of the epic Ramayana. It is adjacent to Faizabad city at the south end in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Ayodhya used to be the capital of the ancient Kosala Kingdom. It has an average elevation of 93 meters (305 feet).

Temples and mosques exist side by side in all architectural splendor in the twin cities of Faizabad and Ayodhya.

It is an important pilgrimage centre about 110 km from Lucknow

Ayodhya has been regarded as one of the seven most important pilgrimage sites (Saptapuri. The birth spot of Rama was marked by a temple, which was demolished by the orders of the Mughal emperor Babur and a mosque erected in its place. The Ayodhya dispute concerns the activism to rebuild a Rama’s temple at the site.


According to one derivation, “Ayodhya” is said to derive from the name of King “Ayudh,” mentioned in scriptures as a forefather of Lord Rama.


In the more accepted etymology, in word “Ayodhya”, ‘A’ is feminine negation of the word Yodhya which comes from the root Yudh (to fight). A (negation) + Yodhya (winnable) + ā (feminine suffix). So, literally, the name translates as “A city that cannot be fought and won over in a war” or “unconquerable citadel”

The city is located at the banks of the Sarayu River and was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Kosala. The city was known to be founded by Manu, father of Mankind. It is one of the most frequently visited pilgrim spots and is famous for its various temples which are visited by people of various Indian religions. Here’s the list of the best places to visit in Ayodhya.