India is a vast country, people with diverse cultures and ancient civilization. There are number of religious groups residing in India. In India, we find the oldest pilgrimage tradition in the whole world. The practice of pilgrimage in India is so deeply embedded in the cultural psyche and the number of pilgrimage sites is so large that the entire subcontinent may actually be regarded as one grand and continuous sacred place. The earliest sources of information on the matter of sacred space come from the Rig Veda and the Atharva Veda.
Following the Vedic period, the practice of pilgrimage seems to have become quite common, as is evident from sections of the great epic, the Mahabharata (350 BC), which mentions more than 300 sacred sites spanning the sub-continent. By the time of the Puranas, the number of sacred sites had grown considerably, reflecting both the ongoing assimilation of aboriginal sacred places and the increased importance of pilgrimage as a customary religious practice.
Hindus call the sacred places tirthas and the action of going on a pilgrimage is called tirtha-yatra. The word tirtha means river ford, steps to a river, or place of pilgrimage. In Vedic times, the word may have concerned only those sacred places associated with water, but by the time of the Mahabharata, tirtha had come to denote any holy place, be it a lake, mountain, forest, or cave. Tirthas are more than physical locations, however. Pious Hindus believe them to be spiritual fords, the meeting place of heaven and earth, the locations where one crosses the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth to reach the shore of liberation.
The Lake city of Ajmer is well known for the Dargah of Sufi saint Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chishti. The 'Dargah Sharif' in Ajmer is held in great esteem by devotees of all communities.
The founder of Buddhism, Gautama Buddha, attained enlightenment under the sacred Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya. Bodhgaya is one of the four most sacred pilgrimage places for the Buddhists.
Char Dham (sacred Hindu shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri) are situated in the snow-covered reaches of the lofty Garhwal Himalayas, Uttaranchal.
The Golden Temple or "Darbar Sahib" at Amritsar is the most sacred place for the Sikhs. The Golden temple symbolizes the magnificence of the Sikhs all over the world.
Haridwar is one of the most important Hindu pilgrim places of India. Haridwar has very rich religious and cultural heritage. In the Hindu scriptures, Haridwar is known by the name of Mayapur.
India is the land where Jainism originated. Today, around 3.2 million Jain devotees live in India. Across the length and breadth of India lay the Jain temples and shrines and hold immense attraction.
Mount Kailash is a sacred pilgrimage place of Asia and lies in the South-West of Tibetan autonomous region of China-Nagri, towering 6714 meters (22022 ft) above the Tibetan Plateau.
Mathura is an important place of Hindu pilgrimage. Mathura is also known as the Brajbhoomi - the land where Lord Krishna was born and spent his youth. Mathura is located on the banks of River Yamuna.
Nashik is famous as one of the important pilgrimage centers of India. According to mythology Rama, the king of Ayodhya, made Nashik his temporary residence during the 14 years of his exile.
Prayag, where river Ganga and Yamuna meet, is one of the ancient pilgrimage centers of India. Prayag is situated in Allahabad. Prayag is venerated in the hymns of the Rig Veda.
Puri is one of the ancient pilgrimage centers of India. Puri is located on the Orissa coast, 60 km from Bhubaneswar. Puri is among the four sacred "Dhams" (Puri, Dwarka, Rameswaram and Badrinath) of the Hindus.
Rameswaram is situated at the tip of the Indian peninsula. In the Hindu mythology Rameswaram is considered a sacred place for the Hindus. Legends have it that Lord Rama built a bridge across the sea.
Ujjain is one of the oldest cities of India. It is located in the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh state. In ancient times Ujjain was known by the names of Ujjayini and Avanti. It is situated on the eastern bank of River Shipra.
Varanasi is the oldest and the most sacred place for the Hindus. Varanasi, also known as the holy city, combines in itself the cultural essence and mysticism of India. Varanasi stands on the banks of river Ganga.
Badrinath Temple is located in the state of Uttaranchal in India. Nestled between the twin mountains of "Nar" and "Narayan", the holy Badrinath pilgrimage is visited by scores of devotees every year.
Belur was the ancient capital city of the Hoysala Empire. Belur math is a major tourist destination in Karnataka. The exact location of Belur Math is in the Hassan district of Karnataka.
The holy Dwarka temple is located in the state of Gujarat located on the West of India. It is an important pilgrimage for all Hindus and is considered to be the ancient kingdom of Lord Krishna.
The Guruvayoor Temple is one of the most visited temples in South India. Located in Thrissur (Trichur) district of Kerala in India, this temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu of the Hindu trinity.
The capital city of Patna is regarded as very sacred by the Sikhs in India. The tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh was born here. The Patna Sahib Gurudwara is considered to be one of the holiest of the five.
Located in the state of Rajasthan in India, Pushkar pilgrimage site is one of the holiest in India. This small town has around 500 temples and is considered to be very sacred by the Hindus.
Puttaparthi is a small dusty village located in Anantapur district in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. It has now attained international as well as national fame because of the glory of Bhagvan Shri Sathya Sai Baba.
Rajgir was the ancient capital city of the kings of Magadha. The name Rajgir literally means "House of the King". Rajgir pilgrimage is a very important Buddhist site since Lord Buddha spent 12 years over here.
Ranakpur is a small village in the state of Rajasthan in India. An otherwise ordinary village to look at, the place is famous for its Ranakpur Temple, which has some splendid carvings and architecture.
There is nothing dandy or gaudy about Shirdi Sai Temple. The small temple is located in a sleepy little town called Shirdi in the state of Maharashtra in India. Don't expect to see commercialization.
Regarded as one of the most popular and religious temples in India, Siddhivinayak Temple located in Prabhadevi, Mumbai, is visited by devout believers from all walks of life.
Located in the state of Gujarat in India, the famous Somnath Temple is a very sacred Hindu pilgrimage site. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is considered to be one of the twelve "Jyotirlingas" (lighted lingas).
Located in a small district called Chittoor in southern Andhra Pradesh, is the famous Tirupati Balaji Temple of India. This temple is supposed to be the richest temple in India.
A small village in the state of Bihar, Vaishali is a very famous Buddhist pilgrimage in India. The name "Vaishali" means prosperity and the place seems to live upto its name.
Located in the mighty Trikuta Mountains at a distance of 60 kilometers from Jammu, is the famous Vaishno Devi Temple. One of the most visited and worshipped pilgrimages in India.