Tag: pilgrim travel

A Guide for Your Chardham Yatra by Helicopter Trip

Chardham Yatra

The Chardham Yatra is a sacred pilgrimage to the four holy shrines in ‘Dev Bhoomi’ Uttarakhand. Believed to be the holiest journey, the Yatra cleanses all sins and grants salvation to the pilgrims who complete this journey. Chardham Yatra by helicopter is an easy and hassle-free way to complete the journey to the divine shrines of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath. Chardham Yatra by helicopter starts in the beautiful city of Dehradun, the capital city of Uttarakhand.

The Yatra is planned in a clockwise direction in Uttarakhand. It takes around 10-12 days to complete the whole journey by road as the shrines are nestled high up in the Himalayas of Uttarakhand. But for a Chardham Yatra by helicopter, it takes only 4 to 5 days. Therefore pilgrims prefer Yatra by helicopter as it saves time as well as energy.

So, if you’re planning a Chardham Yatra by helicopter then here is all you need to know including the day-wise itinerary.

Where to Book Chardham Yatra by Helicopter Package?

Tourism-of-India provides multiple options for Chardham Yatra tour packages for the devotees. They also have a pre-planned Chardham Yatra by helicopter packages with cost or you can customize for a better travel experience.

Detailed Information about Char Dhams:

Yamunotri Dham

Yamunotri is the holy shrine of the River Goddess Yamuna, the sister of Lord Yama “The God of Death”. The black idol of the Goddess is visited by pilgrims from far ends of the world. A visit to Yamunotri Dham is said to cleanse all sins of a lifetime and allows pilgrims a boon of preventing an untimely death.

The helicopter journey takes almost 40 minutes and you will land at the Kharsali Helipad to get to Yamunotri. The holy Chardham destination is at a distance of a 5 km trek. You can choose to walk or get a palki or pony to get to the temple.

Enjoy the beautiful scenery of the mountains and feel blessed by the divine temple. Two hot springs near the temple are also visited by pilgrims. Pray at the revered temple and after your darshan.

Gangotri Dham

Gangotri is the revered shrine of the River Goddess Ganga. According to a legend from Hinduism, the river was brought on earth after great penance. It is believed that bathing in the holy waters of Ganga cleanses one of the sins of life and grants salvation. The white-marble temple, built in the 19th century is a sacred shrine.

The Gangotri temple can be reached in a short walk from the hotel. Pray to the Goddess and get blessings. The divine ambiance of the temple blesses pilgrims with serenity and bliss.

Kedarnath Dham

Kedarnath is one of the 12 holy Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. According to a Hindu legend, Lord Shiva in his form of the bull was hiding from the Pandavas of Mahabharata. On getting discovered the lord divided his bull form into various regions of India and Nepal. The hump became the revered lingam of Kedarnath Dham. The holy temple is set in the middle of the Garhwal Himalayan range with a backdrop of snow-covered mountains and near the Mandakini River. It is blessed with an ambiance of spirituality and the breathtaking beauty of the mountains. It is easily one of the most beautiful temples in India.

Badrinath Dham

Badrinath Dham is one of the holiest pilgrimage sites in India, which is both a part of the Chardham Yatra in Uttarakhand and the other Chardham circuit in India. The holy shrine prays to the Badri form of Lord Vishnu.

Get a helicopter ride to Badrinath helipad. The journey of the land of Narayan is a scenic one. Enjoy the pictorial views of the mountains in its snow-draped glory.

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10 Buddhists Pilgrimage Sites in India

Wat Thai Temple, Kushinagar, pilgrimage site

India is a land of diversity where diverse religions can be found within the same state and the country. Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, and Christianity are some of the widespread religions in India but nowadays Buddhism is quite popular among youths as its wonderful teachings of life inspire every youth. Its teaching ranges from separation from the materialistic delights of the world, truth, and non-violence. A number of monasteries are located at the different corners of India which can be explored on your Buddhist pilgrimage tour in India, starting from Mahabodhi Temple in Gaya which is the most famous and acclaimed Buddhist Monastery in the country.

1- Mahabodhi Temple (Location- Bihar)

Mahabodhi Temple (Location- Bihar), pilgrimage site

One of the most divine Buddhist places in India which is established in Bodh Gaya, Bihar and was built by the great King Ashoka in the 3rd century. This 180 feet high huge pyramid architecture reflects the teachings, custom, culture, and tradition of Buddhists. A huge and gorgeous idol of Lord Buddha is standing majestically in this yellow stoned structure.

Specialty- the sacred Bodhi tree under which Lord Buddha attained self-enlightenment.

2- Mahaparinirvana Temple (Location- Kushinagar)

Mahaparinirvana Temple, pilgrimage site

The second holiest Buddhist places in India which are not only famous for its religious significance but also for its tourism rate. This Buddhist site is not only visited by Indian tourists but also by international tourists with the same level of enthusiasm. The beautiful architecture and the spiritual aura of this site are quite appealing to the visitors.

Specialty– A huge sleeping postured statue of Lord Buddha (6 meters high) which symbolizes Buddha’s highest state of salvation.

3- Wat Thai Temple (Location-Kushinagar)

Wat Thai Temple, pilgrimage site

Also called as the Buddhist treasures in India, Wat Thai Temple is known for its tranquil aura. The atmosphere inside the temple makes it a perfect place for meditation as the ambience is filled with complete serenity and peace. It’s impossible for the visitors to ignore the natural charm of this Buddhist site which is studded with greenery all around.

Specialty– Designed with a beautiful combination of Buddhist and Thai architecture and its green environment all around the temple.

4- Sarnath Temple (Location-Varanasi)

Sarnath Temple, pilgrimage site

The place where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon on wisdom after attaining the enlightenment and the architecture was constructed during the 3rd century BC by the great King Ashoka. Presently, it is counted among the top 5 Buddhist religious places in India.

Specialty– The first spiritual discourse was delivered by Lord Buddha after gaining the enlightenment. It also houses some other Stupas which enhance the charm of this site.

5- Sanchi Stupa (Location- Madhya Pradesh)

Sanchi stupa, pilgrimage site

It is believed to be the most ancient stone monument in India built by the great emperor Ashoka. This magnificent architecture represents very beautifully the glory of Buddhism architecture and also the arts. The intricate carvings on the walls, pillars, and the gate of Stupa makes it one of the most visited Buddhist sites in the country.

Specialty– Beautiful relics of Lord Buddha, exquisite carvings on the gateways, and the huge spherical dome.

6- Rumtek Monastery (Location- Sikkim)

Rumtek Monastery (Location- Sikkim), pilgrimage site

Nestled beautifully on the hilltop in Sikkim, Rumtek Monastery was known as the Dharma Chakra Centre originally. Besides being a spiritual place, Rumtek is also known for its growing tourism rate due to its beautiful location and surrounding landscapes comprised of green mountains which gives a visual treat to the visitors coming to this place.

Specialty– Its fine architecture is quite famous in the world and the breathtaking view of the entire Gangtok town.

7- Theravada Buddhist Temple (Location- Itanagar)

Theravada Buddhist Temple (Location- Itanagar), pilgrimage site

One of the most prime Buddhist destinations in East India, Theravada is considered to be an ideal place for seeking meditation due to its serene ambience. The place holds great religious significance in Buddhism and is also known for its surreal natural beauty.

Specialty– Verdant greenery, comfortable, positive, and peaceful vibes and also the cleanliness of the structure makes it unique and special.

8- Kapilvastu (Location- Siddharth Nagar, Uttar Pradesh)

Kapilvastu (Location- Siddharth Nagar, Uttar Pradesh), pilgrimage

This Buddhist site holds a great religious and historical significance and also famous for housing numerous Stupas. Kapilvastu is believed to be the place where Lord Buddha was grown up and lived up a happy life with his son Rahul and wife before leaving for Nirvana.

Specialty– The inscriptions of Deoputra in the Stupa Complex, Palace site, and the ruins of the palace of Prince Gautam’s father King Suddhodhan.

9- Ghum Monastery (Location- Darjeeling)

Ghum Monastery (Location- Darjeeling), pilgrimage site

It is believed to be the oldest Buddhist site in the city of Darjeeling which is elevated at a great height of 8000 feet. This highly elevated monastery was established by Lama Sherab Gyatso in the year 1850. One can witness many ancient manuscripts of Buddhists inside the premise of this structure.

Specialty- the clay used to design the huge statue of Buddha in the monastery was brought from Tibet. The view of imposing Kanchenjunga is an additional treat to the eyes.

10- Ajanta Caves (Location- Maharashtra)

Ajanta Caves (Location- Maharashtra), pilgrimage site

Included in the list of World Heritage Sites as declared by UNESCO, Ajanta Cave is a beautiful Buddhist architecture which was constructed during 650 CE and 2nd century BC. The paintings and the sculptures depicted on the walls of the cave tell many stories and also numerous things about the Buddhist culture. The serenity and tranquillity of the cave is an additional feature of this Buddhist site in India.

Speciality– set of 3 rock-cut structure, the greenery of the surrounding areas, and the huge meditations halls.

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VAILANKANNI Church in Tamil Nadu, India

With the month of September setting in soon, it will be Mother Mary’s  birthday on September 8.

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The following is yet another place that you must visit –

Pilgrim Nation- Vailankanni

At her shrine in Vailankanni, Tamil Nadu, devotees bow to her, stretch out their hands and crawl to her shrine to express their devotion and faith.

She is the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, and she is draped in a sari. Thousands of devotees throng her shrine at Vailankanni, in Tamil Nadu, deemed basilica by the Roman Catholic Church in 1962. They bow to her, stretch out their hands to her, lie on their face before her, crawl to her shrine, sing songs of her glory, weep in joy, shave their heads and offer her flowers, saris and candles as an expression of their devotion, for she is the Lady of Good Health.

The story goes that in the 16th century, a cowherd was on his way to the market to sell milk when he stopped to drink water from a pond and rest under a banyan tree. A woman appeared before him bearing a child in her hand and asked for some milk for her child. The boy gave her his pot of milk. After feeding her son, she returned the pot, thanked the cowherd, and disappeared. When the boy reached the market, his customers were upset because he was late. He apologised and told them of what he encountered. Then, to everyone’s astonishment, the pot started overflowing with milk. This was no ordinary woman. This was clearly a goddess. The local Catholics recognised her as the Virgin Mary. A small shrine was built for her near the pond where she appeared. The pond was named Matha Kulam, or the Mother’s Pool, or Our Lady’s Pool.

A few years later, some say it was in 1597, she appeared once again, to a lame boy who was selling buttermilk on the roadside. She asked for some buttermilk to feed her child. After the child was fed, she asked the boy to deliver a message to a Catholic resident in the town of Nagapattinam, requesting him to build a church for her. But the boy pointed out that he was lame and would be unable to act as her messenger. The lady smiled and asked him to try standing up. To the boy’s surprise, not only could he stand, he could also walk and run to the town and deliver the message. The gentleman was in no doubt that Our Lady of Good Health was responsible for this miracle.

Finally, a group of Portuguese sailors on their way from Macau, China to Sri Lanka encountered a terrible storm in the Bay of Bengal and prayed to Mother Mary, promising to build a church for her if saved. They landed safely in the area associated with Our Lady of Good Health.

These three apparitions appeared in the same area where, today, stands the Gothic style Basilica that draws over two million pilgrims especially during her nine-day festival in August-September. The Mass is conducted in at least eight languages: Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Konkani, Marathi, Hindi and English. People of all religions and castes throng the shrine whose divine resident is said to cure all ailments. This place is called ‘Lourdes of the East’, though in Lourdes, a village in France, Mary appeared to a local peasant girl only in the 19th century.

The festival of the virgin of Vailankanni involves hoisting of a flag on the flagpole before the church and ends with her crowning and her procession. Those who are cured of ailments often return with gifts of a sari, and a replica of the cured body part made of silver and gold. For devotees, Our Lady of Vailankanni gives children to the childless and finds spouses for the unmarried, and jobs for the jobless. She heals every wound and wipes away all suffering. She understands the suffering of humanity. In art, she is sometimes shown with a crescent moon at her feet, complementing the sun, who is her son, Lord Jesus Christ.

Velankanni church at Tamil Nadu

The church brings together Catholic beliefs and many Hindu rituals. And though it may disturb a puritan, the local representatives of the Roman Catholic denomination respect the vast and intense outpouring of faith expressed using an Indian idiom. For thousands of years, Indians have been familiar with the idea of Amma, or mother-goddess who protects and provides for the village.

Across India, in almost every village, there are local manifestations of the Goddess, who help women bear children, who cure ailments and when angry, can cause plagues and epidemics. It is quite possible that before the shrine of Our Lady of Good Health, this was a local goddess shrine, either tribal, or Hindu, or Buddhist, or Jain, or all of these over centuries.

For in India, denominations may change, but the deity remains.

Christianity came to India 2000 years ago. According to local faith, it came to Kerala with St. Thomas, one of Christ’s apostles, the one who doubted his resurrection. It also came with traders from Egypt and Arabia. In the 15th century, after the Portuguese discovered the sea route to Kerala, the Catholic faith thrived along the coasts. It is no coincidence that the apparitions of Mother Mary are dated to a century after the Portuguese’s arrival.

This connection to God through Mother Mary distinguishes Catholic Christianity from Protestant Christianity. The idea of the virgin being elevated to the status of ‘Mother of God’ was not accepted to all. But in pre-Christian traditions, divinity was often seen through the female form. While the male form offered salvation, the female form took care of health and home. We find this divide in Buddhism too, with the Bodhisattva speaking of enlightenment and Tara, the goddess born of his tears, offering compassion. Likewise, if Vishnu of Shri Vaishnavism is associated with dharma (law) and moksha (liberation), Lakshmi embodies Artha (wealth) and kama (pleasure). For many Muslims, the ‘hand’ of Fatima, the prophet’s daughter, is a good luck charm and protection from the evil eye. Naturally, every Indian is drawn to Our Lady’s basilica.

*/Devdutt Patnaik is a well-known author, speaker, illustrator, and mythologist.  He has written many books, the most recent being ‘Devlok’.  The above article was published in Sunday Mumbai Mirror, Aug 7, 2016. /*


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