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Holy City Tours in India

Badrinath, Uttarakhand India

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India is a land of diversity, where people of many religions live together while practicing their own culture and tradition. There are many pilgrimage places in the country that are thus visited by tourists seeking to stopover the abode of god and get peace of mind. Just few such places include Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, Yamunotri that are located in Uttarakhand and are a treat for visitors by offering beautiful landscapes on the way and an experience of a lifetime. Also, places like Haridwar and Rishikesh are very popular among the holy cities of India, which host the world famous Kumbh Fair that marks presence of millions of pilgrims from all over. Vaishno Devi and Amritsar are more such holy places in India which you can visit by booking a tour to Holy land. Holy tour packages are best for making a tour to Holy city in India. These places have outnumbering tourists every year.

Badrinath is situated in the lap of Nar-Narayan Parvat, with the towering Neelkanth peak (6,597mts.) in the background. Also known as the Vishal Badri, the largest among the five Badris, it is revered by all as the apt tribute to Lord Vishnu.
It is believed that to revive the lost prestige of Hinduism and to unite the country in one bond, Adi Guru Sri Shankaracharya built four pilgrimage centers in four corners of India. Among them were Badrikashram (Badrinath) in the north, Rameshwaram in the south, Dwarkapuri in the west and JagannathPuri in the east. Badrinath situated at an elevation of 3,133 mts. is considered to be amongst the most pious.
The revered spot was once carpeted with wild berries which gave it the name 'Badri Van' meaning 'forest of berries.' Built by AdiShankaracharaya, the philosopher-saint of the 8th century, the temple has been renovated several times due to damage by avalanches and restored in the 19th century by the royal houses of Scindia & Holkar. The main entrance gate is colourful& imposing popularly known as Singhdwar.

Kedarnath, Uttarakhand India

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Kedarnath is the seat of Lord Shiva. It is one of the twelve "Jyotirlingas" of Lord Shiva. Lying at an altitude of 3584 m at the head of river Mandakini, the shrine of Kedarnath is amongst the holiest pilgrimage for the Hindus. It is no wonder that Adi Guru Shankaracharya - a great scholar & saint, chose to enshrine Lord Shiva in this land, where the unholy becomes holy and the tour to holy landbecomes holier. Kedar meaning powerful is another name of Lord Shiva the protector and the destroyer. Situated in the backdrop of the majestic Sri Kedarnath range, Kedarnath is a 14 km trek from Gaurikund.
At Kedarnath there are several Kunds( ools, tanks) that are known for their religious significans - shivkund, Retkund, hanskund, Udakkund, Rudhirkund are the most important. A little away from Kedarnath is a temple dedicated to Bhaironathji who is ceremoniously worshipped at the opening & closing of Kedarnath. The belief is that Bhairavnathji protects this land from evil during the time when temple of Kedarnath is closed. There are more than 200 shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva in Chamoli district itself, the most important one is Sri Kedarnath.
During the winters, the shrine is submerged in snow & hence is closed. Fortunate are those who have good weather, but twice blessed are those who are at Kedarnath on a moonlit night- the snow peak gleams like hundred silver pinnacles atop the glittering mountains.
The holiest of Shiva's shrines is linked to Gold among base metals so that every pilgrim finds peace here, and it is said that devotees who die here become one with Shiva himself. Beyond the temple is the highway to heaven, called Mahapanth.

Gangotri, Uttarakhand India

The revered shrine of Gangotri, situated at an altitude of 3,200 mts. about sea-level amidst sylvan surroundings, constitutes one of the most important pilgrimages for the devout Hindu.

The temple was constructed in the early 18th century by a Gorkha Commander Amar Sigh Thapa. The existing temple is said to be the one reconstructed by the Jaipur dynasty. Every year thousands of pilgrims through the sacred shrine between May & October. The Pujaris&brahmins are from the village of Mukhwa. The water from Gangotri is carried to offer to Lord Shiva. It is believed that this water has amrit (nectar) in it and will soothe the throat of Shiva who gulp the poison.

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Yamunotri, Uttarakhand India

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The sacred shrine of Yamunotri, source of the river Yamuna, is the westernmost shrine in the Garhwal Himalayas, perched atop a flank of Bandar PoonchParvat. The chief attraction at Yamunotri is the temple devoted to goddess Yamuna and the holy thermal springs at Jankichatti (7 km. Away).

The actual source a frozen lake of ice & glacier (Champasar glacier) located on the KalindMountain at the height of 4421 m above sea level, about 1 km further up. It is not frequented generally, as it is not accessible and hence the shrine has been located on the foot of the hill. The approach is extremely difficult and pilgrims therefore offer Pooja at the temple itself.
The temple of Yamuna is on the left bank of Yamuna constructed by Maharaja Pratap Shah of TehriGarhwal. The deity is made of black marble. The Yamuna like Ganga has been elevated to the status of divine mother for the Hindus and has been held responsible for nurturing and developing the Indian civilization.
Close to the temple isa hot water springs gushing out from the mountain cavities.Suryakund is the most important Kund. Near the Suryakund there is a shila called DivyaShila, which is worshipped before puja is offered to the deity. Devotees prepare rice and potatoes to offer at the shrine by dipping them in these hot water springs, tied in muslin cloth. Rice so cooked is taken back home as prasadam.ThePujaris of Yamunotri come from the village of Kharsali near Jankichatti. They are the administrators of the sacred place and perform religious rites well versed in Shastras.

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HARIDWAR

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Situated in the north Indian state of Uttaranchal at a distance of 214 km from Delhi, the city of Haridwar in North Karnataka holds tremendous religious and historical significance. Research about Haridwar says that the erstwhile major trading center bears historical legacy in forms of giant temples, palaces, market streets, and forts and several other ancient monuments.

History:

The history about Haridwar will tell you that it attaches deep seated importance to the mythological and spiritual background of India. Legend says that in the Vanaparva section of the Mahabharata, sage Dhaumya cites Haridwar and Kankhal in his discussion with Yudhisthira about the various tirthas of India, Gangadwar. One of the Char Dhams (the four prime centers of pilgrimage in Uttarakhand namely, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri, the city of Haridwar came under the control of the Maurya Empire between 322 and 185 BC, and later under the Kushan Empire during the 1st-3rd centuries.
Haridwar, one of the favorite tourist destinations in India for pilgrims and vacationers alike, offers numerous options. Situated to the north of the center, Hari-ki-Pairi (or Har-ki-Pairi) is acclaimed as the city's nucleus, where the religious followers assemble to bathe in the holy Ganges. According to the legend a drop of nectar fell in this place as a result of the samudramanthan - churning of the oceans - Mythologically it denotes the beginning of the world.

Best Season, Climate and Clothing: Situated at an altitude of about 300 meters above sea level, Haridwar has the temperature usually hovering around 40°C during summers and 6°C in the winters. The best time to visit Haridwar is between the months of October and March during winter. Light cottons for summer and heavy woolens for winters will make for perfect clothing in Haridwar.

Rishikesh

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Rishikesh, a most tranquil place in northern Uttar Pradesh, surrounded by hills and bisected by the wide and sluggish Ganges, is often claimed as the `Yoga Capital of the World'. Back in the 1960s Rishikesh gained instant fame as the site where The Beatles came to stay with their guru, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It is an excellent place to meditate and study yoga. Rishikesh is also a good starting point for treks to Himalayan pilgrimage centres such as Badrinath, Kedarnath , Gangotri, Yamnotri. It is rightly called the gateway to the Himalayan Shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.

Situated 24 km upstream from Haridwar, at the confluence of the Chandrabhaga and Ganga, Rishikesh has long been a spiritual centre. It is said that the sage Raibhya Rishi did severe penance here and as a reward, God appeared to him in the form of Hrishikesh, hence the name. Rishikesh has numerous ashrams, some of which are internationally recognized as centers of philosophical studies, yoga and meditation.

An international yoga week is organized here every year by U.P. Tourism between 2nd and 7th of February. For the adventurous, there are opportunities for white water rafting on the Ganga.

The climate here is continental type but its location in the foot hills gives it a pleasant weather throughout the year. One can visit Rishikesh any time of the year.

The town of Rishikesh lies in the foothills of the Garhwal region. It is the gateway to the upper Garhwal region and the starting point for pilgrim routes to the four dhams of Uttarakhand -- Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. The Ganga flows through the town and is worshipped here. After this it descends to the plains at Haridwar.The whole place is considered to be sacred as it is believed that meditation at this place leads to attainment of salvation. There are many temples-some ancient, some new along the river Ganges. The River side is dotted by the ashrams of Sadhus and sages.

The road to the north from Rishikesh leads to NarendraNagar(named after Maharaja Narendra Shah) and beyond to Tehri. These roads branch off and reach the upper parts of Garhwal. At Rishikesh, Ganga leaves the mountains and joins the plains for her long journey. Rishikesh is not only an attraction for pilgrims but it also attracts foreigners who want to know about Hinduism, who want to spend some time close to the Lord.

VAISHNO DEVI

Since times immemorial, thousands of pilgrims every year have been visiting the Hindu pilgrimage of Vaishno Devi from all corners of the globe. Considered to be one of the holiest Hindu pilgrimage in North India, the cave is the abode of the Mother Goddess, who is worshipped here in the forms of Maha Kali, MahaSaraswati, and Maha Lakshmi. As the Goddess welcomes her devotees every day, the number of pilgrims in this hindu pilgrimage keeps on swelling year after year. Vaishno Devi is not merely a hindu pilgrimage; it is a site of spiritual cleansing and resuscitation for the heart that truly seeks the divine.

LOCATION

The Vaishno Devi hindu pilgrimage is nestled in the Trikuta Mountain. It lies 61 km north of Jammu in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir. Perched at a height of 5,200 feet above the sea level, Vaishno Devi is a cave in the lower Himalayas. Katra, the town at the foot of the Trikuta hills is the base camp for the Vaishno Devi shrine. Katrais 48 km from Jammu, 650 km from Delhi (via Una), 520 km from Udhampur, 410 km from Chandigarh and 80 km from Patnitop The shrine is visited all through the year, but the path is difficult during the winters when the route is often blocked by snowfall.

HISTORY

The legend goes that more than 700 years ago, Vaishno Devi, a devotee of Lord Vishnu, used to pray to Lord Rama and had taken vow of celibacy. One day, BhaironNath, a demon-God, saw her and gave chase. The Goddess felt thirsty at Banganga and shot an arrow into the earth from where water gushed out. CharanPaduka, marked by the imprints of her feet, is the place where she rested. She then meditated in the cave at Ardhkanwari. It took BhaironNath nine months to locate her. Mata Vaishno Devi then blasted an opening at the other end of the cave. She assumed the form of Maha Kali and cut off BhaironNath's head, which fell at the place where the Bhairon Temple is now located. The boulder at the mouth of the holy cave, according to the legend, is the petrified torso of BhaironNath who was granted divine forgiveness by the benevolent Mata in his dying moments.

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TOURISTS ATTRACTIONS - THE SHRINE

The holy cave shrine of Vaishno Devi is said to have been built by the five Pandavas. The length of the cave is about 98 ft. The symbols of a large number of gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon can be seen here. At the mouth of the original tunnel to the holy cave can be seen the symbols of VakraTundaGanesha, Surya Dev and Chandra Dev. When one crawls into the cave through the tunnel, he/she crosses over the Dhadh of BhaironNath. The symbol of Lord Hanuman, called Launkra Beer, can also be seen and the pilgrims have to wade through water beyond the Launkra Beer point. Twenty-three feet beyond Launkra Beer, on the upper left-hand side, the roof of the cave flares out and the weight of this overhang appears to be resting on the innumerable heads of Shesh Nag. Immediately below Shesh Nag can be seen the symbols of Shankh,  Chakra, Gada and Padam. Higher up, almost touching the ceiling of the cave, are the symbols of the five Pandavas, the Sapt Rishi, the udders of the divine cow, Kamadhenu, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Parvati.

PLACES AROUND VAISHNO DEVI

The Deva Mai temple is about three miles short of Katra town. Many devotees treat it as a very holy site and go there to perform paeans.

The Holy Cave of Shiv Khori is the abode of Lord Shiva, situated at a distance of 70 km from Katra. The cave is a real wonder to be seen and measures nearly a kilometer in length with a four-feet-high naturally formed Shiv-lingam at the heart of the sanctum sanctorum. A few miles away from Katra is Pindian at the foot of the Trikuta range. This spot is also dedicated to Vaishno Devi.

The temple of Baba Dhansar is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is located at a distance of about 15 km from Katra on way to Salal Dam. Here, a huge spring emerges from the rocks in a thick grove of trees and forms a number of small rapids before flowing into the holy rivulet that merges with the Chenab River.

The sacred shrine of Dera Baba Banda is situated at a distance of 30 km from Katra. It is a major Hindu-Sikh pilgrimage center. According to local legend, Baba Banda Bairaagi was Guru Gobind Singh's favorite 'Saint Soldier' who constructed a Gurdwara on the banks of river Chenab, where he spent his last days.

The legendary hero Baba Jitto's temple is situated at village AgharJitto, which is just 5 km from Katra town, on the Katra-Reasi Road. Baba Jitto, who was a peasant by profession, was a staunch devotee of the Goddess Vaishno Devi. He is remembered amongst the peasant class for his revolutionary act of opposing the landlord's oppression and subsequently laying down his life for this cause. A big fair called 'JhiriMela' is still conducted to commemorate the martyrdom of Baba Jitto at a place called 'Jhiri', which is 20 km from Jammu.

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HOW TO REACH

BY ROAD - Vaishno Devi Temple can be reached after making a steep 13-km trek from the road head at Katra, the town at the foot of the Trikuta hills. Several porters and ponies are available at Katra on hire. BY AIR - Jammu is the nearest airport. Jammu's civil airport at Ranibagh is 9 km from the city center. Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Indian Airlines, runs flights to and from Delhi, Srinagar and Leh.

BY RAIL - Jammu is the nearest railhead, which lies on the other side of the Tawi River. Jammu is very well connected with all major destinations in India by rail. Direct express trains link it with Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta. Katra is connected with Tarn Taran, Amritsar, Jallandhar, Ludhiana, Patiala, Chandigarh, Delhi, Jwalaji and Srinagar by road. We would provide you all India tourist permit vehicles for the local transportations and also for the intercity drives too.

AMRITSAR

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Located in the North West region of India, the most striking feature about Amritsar is its antiquity. In Hindi the word Amritsar means 'a Holy pool of nectar' and it was back in the year 1573 that work for digging the Holy pool had begun. One of the ancient cities of India, the most important fact about Amritsar is that it is the main seat of Sikh history and culture. The city itself was founded by the Sikh Guru, Guru Ram Das, and till present times it is the spiritual and temporal center of Sikh culture with the Golden Temple in Amritsar as its nucleus. In depth study about Amritsar reveals the undulating historical experience of the city. From the demolition of the Golden Temple to the tragedy of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Amritsar has seen the worst of situations and yet emerged like a phoenix through testing times. Even recently, Amritsar had fallen prey to the terrorist activities which hundreds of lives.

Amritsar today is a thriving city with active trade and tourism industries. One of the most agriculturally productive cities of India, Amritsar is well connected with most of the important cities of India. Amritsar is the administrative headquarter of the district of Amritsar in Punjab and has a total population of around 1,000,000. It is easy to be familiar about Amritsar weather as it is divided into four distinct seasons. The winter months, which prevail from the month of November to March, experiences a temperature between 18 C to -3 C. April to June are the summer months and the temperature can be as bad as 46 C. The monsoon and post monsoon season stretches from July to November.

History of Amritsar

The History of Amritsar can be traced back to the days of the Indus Valley Civilization. A number of archaeological sites have been found in Amritsar and other parts of Punjab. The history of Amritsar in the Vedic period was marked by the existence of a number of Sages and Saints and the legend of Ramayana, which considers the area to be the venue of Rishi Balmikis ashram and the birth place of Lavh and Kush.

The history of Amritsar points out at Greek influence on the region around 326 B.C. when the area came under the control of Alexander. With the defeat of the Greeks, the Mauryas annexed Amritsar, making it a part of their Empire. From the 4th century to the 6th century the history of Amritsar came to be linked with the history of the Gupta Empire. After a short period of rule by the Shahi Dynasty, the area came under the control of Sultan Mahmood of Ghazni.

It was from the 16th Century that the history of Amritsar came to be linked with the Sikh Gurus and their teachings. Sikh Guru Ram Das and his successor Guru Arjan Dev went on to create a temple around a small pool, that had healing powers and thus the name Amritsar. Slowly with people settling around the temple a town grew up. Over the years Amritsar underwent various historical developments and went on to fortified by Guru Govind Singh. The history of Amritsar during India's Freedom Movement is a story of bloody struggles.

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