India is known as the land that promises spiritual liberation. As the birthplace of the world’s four major religions, the country, supported by its rich cultural heritage, offers the perfect environment for an exploration of the spiritual self.
The busy and colourful cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh, nestled in the lap of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand are a paradise for all wandering souls. Follow tradition and take a dip in the holy river Ganga, which is believed to wash away all sins. Visit the innumerable Yoga ashrams, especially during the International Yoga Week in February. For those with an adventurous streak, Rishikesh is also a hub for adventure sports like white water rafting, cliff diving and trekking.
Known as the dwelling place of Lord Shiva on Earth, Varanasi, situated in south-east Uttar Pradesh, is considered the holiest city among Hindus. Stroll along the banks of the Ganga, watching the priests and sadhus as they preside over the sacred rituals of life and death. Visit the revered temples of Kashi Vishwanath, Durga, Hanuman and many more.
Visit the Mahabodhi Temple and the Bodhi Tree, Bodhgaya, under which Prince Siddhartha meditated steadfastly to attain enlightenment. Take in the captivating flutter of colourful Buddhist flags, the smell of burning incense, the soft murmur of prayers and chants, and the occasional gong from numerous monasteries in the area.
In the heart of Punjab lies the Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines in the world. Inside the golden, dome-shaped Gurudwara, worshippers complete a parikrama (ceremonial walk around the temple) and take a sip from the Amrit Sarovar (holy lake), while listening to the strains of the kirtan (hymns) from the sanctum. At all times of the day, dedicated volunteers work in the community kitchen, clean the complex and serve langar (food served to the devotees) to approximately 30,000 visitors daily.
In South India, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, located in the eastern part of Pondicherry, is not just a quiet place of retreat for those seeking meaning in their lives – it is also an important centre of urban life. The sadhaks (seekers) surrender themselves to the Divine and embark on a journey of self-exploration through productive work and spiritual discipline. With the mesmerizing coastline of Pondicherry as your companion, the Ashram offers an idyllic environment in which you can tune in to your higher self.