Sri Harmandar Sahib (The Golden
legendary shrine, Sri Harmandar Sahib, located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab,
is the holiest temple and the most important pilgrimage site of Sikhism. Surrounding
the central shrine, is the tank called ‘Amrit Sarovar,’ from which Amritsar,
the city, has taken its name. The Sarovar was excavated by Guru Ram Das (the 4th
Sikh Guru) in 1577 and the foundation was laid down by Sai Mian Mir- a Muslimg
Pir, upon Guru Arjan’s (the 5th Sikh Guru) request in1589. Inside
the holy temple, everything and everyone revolved around the holy book “Sri
Guru Granth Sahib.” At the shrine, Langar – a free kitchen concept, free meals are
served throughout the day.
When to visit: Between November and March.
How to get there:
Take a flight from Bangkok to Amritsar via Delhi.
Take a flight from Bangkok to Delhi and from Delhi to Amritsar
via Shatabdi Express train.
Varanasi (Benaras, Banaras or Kashi)
By all means, Varanasi
is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world where the lanes
and buildings still ooze the ethos of ancient India. It is significantly one of
the most important pilgrim centers for Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains.
Speak of Vanarasi,
and the first thing that flashes across your mind is the image of the numerous
Ghats, more than 100, along the Eastern bank of the River Ganges. A boat ride,
preferably at pre-dawn, across the six and a half kilometer crescent-shaped
stretch is the best way to glimpse life at Varanasi. The sun lit Ghats exude
radiance, glowing against the exhilarating blue sky of dawn where the multitude
of devotees are seen performing rituals and taking a dip in the ice cold water
of the holy river daily to absolve themselves of all sins.
According to Hindu
mythology the entire city of Kashi is supposed to be a cremation ground. It is
the belief of Hindus that dying at this holy city of Lord Shiva and the Ganges
will free them from the cycle of death and re-birth.
When to visit: Between October and March.
How to get there: Take a flight from Bangkok to Varanasi via Gaya or New Delhi.
Shri Mata Vaishno Devi
Vaishno Devi, one
of the holiest pilgrimages of our times, resides in a Holy Cave located in the
folds of the three peaked mountain named Trikuta (pronounced as Trikoot) at an
altitude of 5200ft. The pilgrims have to undertake a trek of nearly 13km from
the base camp at Katra (a city in Jammu) to seek the blessings of the Mother
Legend has it that Vaishno
Devi was the manifestation of three main Goddesses – Mata Maha Kali, Mata Maha
Lakshmi, and Mata Maha Saraswati, sent to earth to uphold righteousness and
evolve spiritually. Upon the directions of Lord Rama, she began to meditate at
her Ashram at Tributa Hills. As her glory spread far and wide, Maha Yogi Guru
Goraksha Nath Ji became curious and sent his most able disciple ‘Bharon Nath’
to find out the truth. Instead, Bharon became mesmerized by Vasihnavi’s beauty
and pestered to marry her. Consequently, Vaishnavi fled to the mountains to the
holy cave Shrine but Bhairon continued to follow her and was finally beheaded. Upon
his death he prayed to the deity for forgiveneness and was given a boon that
for every yatra to be completed, one must have the Darshan of Bhairon after
having the Darshan of the Goddess. Eventually, Vaishnavi shed off her human
form and assumed the face of a five and a half feet tall rock with three heads
or the Pindies, now inside the holy cave known as the shrine of Shri Mata
Vaishno Dev Ji.
When to visit: Between the months of March and October
How to get there:
1. First take a flight from Bangkok to Delhi.
2. Then either take a flight or Direct Express train from
Delhi to Jammu.
3. Finally, at Katra (a city in the Jammu), you have the
options of taking a) a helicopter b).
Palki c). Walk d). Pony e). Pitthu to Vaishno Devi Bhawan.
Bodhgaya is one of
several sites in Eastern Indian associated with the birth of Buddhism about 2,500
years ago, situated at about 135km from Patna in the state of Bihar. The focus
of Bodhgaya is the Bodhi tree, situated near the Mahabodhi temple, under which the
prince named Siddhartha attained enlightenment and he became the Buddha. A
commemorative stone platform built by the emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century
B.C.E still stands underneath the bows of the tree and is covered with
offerings. The Mahabodhi temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was originally built
more than 1600 years ago but it has been restored many times since. Although
Buddhism declined in India, the spiritual and artistic legacy of Bodhgaya
spread throughout East and Southeast Asia.
When to visit: Between October to
How to get there: Take a flight from
Bangkok to Gaya.