Gaya is located 100 kilometers away from the capital city of Patna. Historically, Gaya was the part of the ancient Magadh Empire. The city is located on the bank of Falgu River and is considered among one of the most sacred cities for Hindus. Three hills Mangala-Gauri, Shringa-Sthan, Ram-Shila and Brahmayoni surround it from three sides and make at a safe and beautiful site. Gaya is an ancient place and has great heritage and history. Various modes of transportation connect Gaya with other major cities of Bihar along with rest of India
Gaya is sacred not only for Hindus but also for Buddhists, as the place has many Buddhist pilgrim destinations. These sacred places in Gaya correspond to physical features, most of which occur naturally. The bank sides of river Falgu and temples located on the bank are beautiful and attractive. A peepal tree standing on the bank of Falgu River called Akshayavat is considered sacred for Hindus. The tree is worshiped for its divinity
The Mangla Gauri shrine who is believed to be the first wife of Lord Shiva is worshiped here. The two rounded stones that symbolize the breasts of the mythological Sati have been considered sacred among Hindus. The most attractive destination in Gaya is Vishnupad Temple. The temple is located on the bank of river Falgu River and has footprint of Vishnu incised into a block of basalt. People believe that Lord Vishnu killed Gayasur by placing his foot on Gayasur’s chest.
The old temple of Vishnupad was later renovated by the queen of Indore, Devi Ahilyabai in eighteenth century. While Hindus claim that footprints in Vishunpad temple are of Lord Vishnu, Buddhists consider them the footprints of Lord Buddha. The temple is nevertheless a major pilgrim destination.
Nomenclature of Gaya is based on the myth of demon Gayasur who Lord Vishnu had killed in a dual. The place is so sacred for Hindus that even Lord Ram had performed Pindadanam here for his ancestors. Legend says that Lord Ram had come to Gaya to pay homage to his ancestors and Sita had accompanied him on his way. Gaya is equally important for Buddhists as this was the place where Lord Buddha preached the Fire Sermon i.e. Adittapariyaya Sutta to around 1000 agriculture workers who were fire-worshipers. The influence of Buddha’s discourse was so enormous that all of them converted to Buddhism.
Varanasi, or Benaras, (also known as Kashi) is one of the oldest living cities in the world. Varanasi`s Prominence in Hindu mythology is virtually unrevealed. Mark Twain, the English author and literature, who was enthralled by the legend and sanctity of Benaras, once wrote :
“Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”.
The land of Varanasi (Kashi) has been the ultimate pilgrimage spot for Hindus for ages. Hindus believe that one who is graced to die on the land of Varanasi would attain salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and re-birth. Abode of Lord Shiva and Parvati, the origins of Varanasi are yet unknown. Ganges in Varanasi is believed to have the power to wash away the sins of mortals. Hindus believe that one who is graced to die on the land of Varanasi would attain salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and re-birth.
The city is a center of learning and civilization for over 3000 years. Ganges is said to have its origins in the tresses of Lord Shiva and in Varanasi, it expands to the mighty river that we know of. With Sarnath, the place where Buddha preached his first sermon after enlightenment, just 10 km away, Varanasi has been a symbol of Hindu renaissance. Knowledge, philosophy, culture, devotion to Gods, Indian arts and crafts have all flourished here for centuries. Also a pilgrimage place for Jains, Varanasi is believed to be the birthplace of Parsvanath, the twenty-third Tirthankar. Vaishnavism and Shaivism have co-existed in Varanasi harmoniously.
Varanasi has also been a great center of learning for ages. Varanasi is associated with promotion of spiritualism, mysticism, Sanskrit, yoga and Hindi language and honored authors such as the ever-famous novelist Prem Chand and Tulsi Das, the famous saint-poet who wrote Ram Charit Manas. Aptly called as the cultural capital of India, Varanasi has provided the right platform for all cultural activities to flourish. Many exponents of dance and music have come from Varanasi. Ravi Shankar, the internationally renowned Sitar maestro and Ustad Bismillah Khan, (the famous Shehnai player) are all sons of the blessed city or have lived here for major part of their lives.
With a number of temples, Mrs. Annie Besant chose Varanasi as the home for her ‘Theosophical Society’ and Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, to institute ‘Benares Hindu University, the biggest University in Asia. Ayurveda is said to be originated at Varanasi and is believed to be the basis of modern medical sciences such as Plastic surgery, Cataract and Calculus operations. Maharshi Patanjali, the preceptor of Ayurveda and Yoga, was also affiliated with Varanasi, the holy city. Varanasi is also famous for its trade and commerce, especially for the finest silks and gold and silver brocades, since the early days.
Prayagraj : The city of Prayagraj is among the largest cities of Uttar Pradesh and situated at the confluence of three rivers- Ganga, Yamuna and the invisible Saraswati. The meeting point is known as Triveni and is especially sacred to Hindus. The earlier settlements of the Aryans were established in this city, then known as Prayag.
“Prayagasya Praveshshu Papam Nashwati Tatkshanam”
All sins are cleaned with entry in Prayag.
Prayagraj is one of the historic and mythological cities of India with glorious past and present. It continues to enjoy the distinction of being a place of haunting and lasting memories. It is a city of mixed culture of Hindu, Muslims, Jains and Christians.
Its sanctity is manifest by references to it in Purans, the Ramayan and the Mahabharata. According to Hindu Mythology, Lord Brahma, the creator God of the Trinity, chose a land on earth (ie Prayag) to perform ‘Prakrista Yag’, at the beginning of the creation and he also refereed to it as Tirth raj or the King of all pilgrimage centres. As per writing of ‘Padam Puran’ – “As the sun is amongst the moon and the moon amongst the stars, likewise Prayag is best amongst all places of pilgrimage”. The bathing at Prayag is mentioned in Brahma Puran – in the month of Magha at the bank of Ganga Yamuna in Prayag bestows results of millions and millions of Ashvmedha Yajna.
Prayag is birth place of Som, Varuna and Prjapati. Prayag has been associated with mythological personalities in Brahmanical(Vedic) and Buddhist Literatures. It was the seat of the great sage Bhardwaj, sage Durvasa and Sage Pannas sage Bhardwaj lived here circa 5000BC and taught more than 10000 disciples. He was the greatest philosopher of ancient world.
The present Jhunsi area, very close to sangam was the kingdom of Chandrabanshiya ( lunar clan ) King Pururava. Nearby Kaushambi bloomed to prosperity during Vatsa and Maurya Rule. The earliest monument of antiques Ashok Pillar with inscriptions of third century B.C. clears the inscriptions of his directions to his fellow Rajas and praise of King Samudragupta. The Chinese traveler Huan Tsang in 643 AD found Prayag inhabited by many Hindus who regarded the place very Holy.
Chitrakoot means the ‘Hill of many wonders’. Chitrakoot falls in the northern Vindhya range of mountains spread over the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Chitrakoot district in Uttar Pradesh was created on 4 September 1998. Chitrakoot Parvat Mala includes Kamad Giri, Hanumaan Dhara, Janki Kund, Lakshman pahari, and Devangana famous Religious mountains.Lord Rama spend a major part of his exile here. According to the epic Ramayana, Chitrakoot is the place where Bharat, brother of Lord Rama came to visit him and asked him to return to Ayodhya and rule the kingdom. It is believed that the supreme Gods of Hinduism, (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva) took incarnations here. The place is dotted with many temples and several religious sites. At Chitrakoot, everything relates to Lord Rama. One can also explore the amalgamation of culture and history on this land. Chitrakoot is a spiritual retreat, thronged almost throughout the year by travellers, who have a penchant for the unknown and unexplored. Chitrakoot is a perfect blend of divinity, serenity, and natural beauty.
Ayodhya: Historically Ayodhya was known as Saketa which was an important city during 6th Century in civilized India. Indeed, during Buddha’s time, Saketa was ruled by Prasenadi whose capital was Sravasti. Even, during Maurya rule Saketa continued its prominence and was attacked by Bactrian Greek expedition allied to Panchala and Mathur during 190 B.C.
During the Gupta rulers, Ayodhya reached its highest political significance such that during the reigns of Kumaragupta and Skandagupta capital of empire was shifted from Pataliputra to Ayodhya where old name of Saketa was replaced to Ayodhya. Ayodhya name of the city defines the city as Lord Rama’s capital city. But, during Narasimhagupta the empire was destroyed by Huns that caused the shifting of the capital to Kanauj in 6th century. It resulted in oblivion of Ayodhya. In early second millennium, Gahadavalas came into power at Kannauj. During his rule, Gahadavalas built several Vishnu temples at Ayodhya . In subsequent years, the cult of Rama developed within Vaishnavism, with Rama being regarded as the foremost avatar of Vishnu. Consequently, Ayodhya’s importance as a pilgrimage centre grew
After independence of India from British rule, Ayodhya has been an important city of uttar Pardesh from spiritual point of view.
Naimisharanya: It’s believed that the ancient forest of Naimisharanya, in present-day Uttar Pradesh, was once the home of 88,000 rishis. They meditated together here, making it one of the holiest places in India.
The Chakratirtha in Naimisharanya is a circular pond filled with clear water. According to legend, an imminent Kaliyug made the rishis seek refuge in Brahma. Brahma let his chakra or wheel roll across the Earth and told the rishis to settle down at the place where it stopped. The wheel came to a halt at Chakratirtha, where water gushed out of the ground in full force. On Brahma’s request, goddess Lalita Devi stopped the chakra and controlled the flow. This water formed a sacred pond.
Today, holy spots like the Dashashwamedha Ghat, Hanuman Garhi, Dadichi Kund, Pandav Kila, and Vyas Gaddi dot the Chakratirtha in Naimisharanya.