Place where gods dwell as described in the Brihat Samhita:

“The gods always play where the lakes are, where the sun’s rays are warded off by umbrellas of lotus leaf clusters, and where clear water paths are made by swans, whose breasts toss the white lotuses hitcher and thither; where swans, ducks, curlews and paddy birds are heard and animals rest nearby in the shade of Nicula trees on the river banks.” 

For Hindus a place of pilgrimage is ‘tirtha’ or ‘tirthasthana’ and pilgrim is ‘tirthayatri’. Tirtha is a sacred space that is charged with divine power and purity. It is a place where you can gain ‘nirvana’, true enlighment and also achieve ‘moksha’, a liberation from the endless cycle of life and death. However for a Hindu, who worship every aspect of what is good and sacred in life and nature, a tirtha does not have to be specific place or a temple. It can be anywhere – by the banks of a holy river, at the foot of the mountain, under a sacred tree and even at the feet of a great saint or guru.

There are hundreds of ‘tirthas’ across Asia. In India the most important places of pilgrimage are:
SAPTAPURI: Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Varanasi (Benaras, Kashi), Kanchipuram, Ujjain (Avanti) and Dwarka
CHAAR DHAAM OF VISHNU: Badrinath, Puri, Dwarka, Rameshwaram
CHOTA CHAAR DHAAM: Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath
PANCHA BHOOTA STALAM: Sri Kalahasti, Tiruvanaikkaval, Tiruvannamalai, Kanchipuram and Chidambaram
SACRED RIVERS: Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Saraswati, Kaveri, Narmada and Sindhu

A ‘tirtha’ is a spiritual goal, as Skanda Purana states:

“Truth, forgiveness, control of senses, kindness to all living beings and simplicity are also tirthas.”

Text: Zuzana Zwiebel inspired by Subhadra Sen Gupta – Chaar Dhaam Series
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel – Pilgrimage from Tirupati to Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh, India


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