Spiritual India

IndiaSpiritual India

Amritsar Trip – A Land Of Sacred Golden Temple And Delicious Street Food

A trip to Golden Temple AmritsarA trip to Golden Temple Amritsar

Imagine a place where people from every walks of life get to feed themselves every day without facing any kind of discrimination or prejudice and with no expectation to return any kind of favor for this virtuous service.

Sounds too idealistic to exist?? Right?? Believe it or not, but there is actually a place, exist as such.

217 km northwest of Chandigarh, 455 km northwest of New Delhi ( The capital of India), and 47 km northeast of Lahore, Pakistan (Though you can not travel from this side), there is a place called Amritsar, proudly making a name for itself on the world map for the relentless service.

And at the center of this beautiful and lively city, we all can witness the harmoniousness and sacredness of Sri Harmandir Sahib (the golden temple of India in Amritsar city of Punjab).

Amritsar golden temple
Amritsar golden temple

The golden temple

Even though this place is a Sikh pilgrimage but you can witness people from every corner of India belonging to different religions bowing down their heads in sheer reverence and adoration of the one who doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor and shower its love and blessings evenly. 

This place is immensely acclaimed for running the world’s largest community kitchen (Langar).

Tens of thousand people can eat the food and satiate their hungry stomach from the Langar here any day at any time, they want. On holidays, the number even reaches to staggering fifty thousand a day. Truly incredible it is.

This place is so revered and famous amongst people that, the moment after getting out of the Amritsar railway station, you can find free buses waiting outside to drop anyone or everyone, who wishes to see the gurudwara, Sri Harmandir Sahib.

I have been to many gurudwaras ( meaning “door to the guru”) across India such as Sri Bangla Sahib Gurudwara in Delhi, Gurudwara Pathar Sahib in Leh, Takhat Sri Harimandir Ji (Patna Sahib) in Patna, and Gurudwara Shri Hemkund Sahib in Uttarakhand.

Every one of them definitely has their own charm but Sri Harmandir Sahib is definitely the most appealing, lively, and dazzling.

A golden gurudwara ( Swarn Mandir, the golden temple), situated right in the middle of the Amritsar city, surrounded by a stunning lake and, devotees from all over the world happily waiting in queue to offer their prayers and seek blessings from the Waheguru.

Amritsar golden temple
Amritsar golden temple

The beauty of this place increases tenfold at night when the light illuminates from and reflects on this marvelous golden temple.

Thankfully, a trip to Amritsar is not only about the golden temple. This place also has other tourist attractions and things to do such as a retreat ceremony at Wagah border, few temples, Jalliawalah bagh, and mouth-watering street food.

Wagah border retreat ceremony 

Being a quintessential Indian, I get goosebumps when I listen to patriotic songs. Suddenly out of nowhere, I start feeling an adrenaline rush inside, and slowly my calm demeanor starts diminishing, and a huge spike of energy emanates, transforming my personality immensely. At that point in time, I want nothing but the tricolor swaying high in the sky and all the enemies deep inside the grave.

Multiply this feeling, tenfold, this is what you will get during the retreat ceremony at Wagah border in Amritsar.

You can witness, BSF(Border security force) soldiers from India and Pakistan rangers, doing a daily parade practice and flag ceremony with immense zest and zeal.

Wagah border Amritsar
Wagah border Amritsar

I don’t know much about Pakistan’s side but India certainly nails that 2 hours ceremony. Patriotic songs playing continuously with BSF encouraging every spectator to become a participant. They even call many women and children to participate with them.

At last, we can see our BSF Jawans performing parades and showcasing what they are best at. Patriotism, class, elegance, and swag.

How to reach Wagah border?

Reaching the Wagah border is extremely easy and cheap. Severals sharing autos run daily which charges 100 INR per head. The distance is 35 km from Amritsar city or the golden temple. And one has to leave around 1 pm from Amritsar to reach on time as on most occasions there would be a huge queue waiting at the Wagah- Attari entrance for you to get through. And also if you could manage to reach earlier then you could also acquire front seats which brings more enthusiasm and fun during the ceremony.

amritsar tour
Wagah border Amritsar

Jalliawalah bagh

On April 13, 1919, British troops fired gunshots on a large crowd of unarmed Indians in an open space called Jallianwala Bagh. subsequently, It killed several hundred people and wounded even more. This one incident affected the Indo-British relations a lot and pushed Indians to fight for freedom from the oppression of Britishers fiercely.

Shreds of evidence of that barbaric massacre can still be witnessed in Jalliawalah Bagh in Amritsar, Punjab.

A place that still echoes and exhibits the despondency and agony of so many innocent souls can not be considered a tourist place. But still, people on their trip to Amritsar visit this place to pay tribute to brave martyrs who sacrificed their lives and further ignited the yearning of freedom inside every Indian.

Jalliawalah bagh Amritsar the city of golden temple
Jalliawalah bagh Amritsar

Food in Amritsar

Amritsar is heaven for those who want to take a break from exotic fast foods and try some authentic Indian cuisine such as Amritsari kulchas, Aloo Kulcha, Nutri Kulcha, Chole puri, Puri-Chana, Lassi, Makki di roti and Sarson da saag, Jalebis, Gulab Jamun, etc.

There are plenty of outlets to choose from and out of those, finalizing one and proclaiming the best is definitely a tedious task to do.

A few of the options you might consider to try are Kulcha Land, Friends Dhaba, Pal Da Dhaba, and Kesar Da Dhaba.

Jalliawalah bagh Amritsar
Jalliawalah bagh Amritsar

Nearby places to visit on Amritsar trip

There are few famous tourist destinations you can include on your Amritsar trip ( if time and budget allow) which are in the radius of 100 – 200 km such as Jalandhar (81 km), Pathankot (115 km), Dalhousie (198 km), McLeod Ganj (205 km), Khajjiar (211 km), Jammu (211 km).

Even though these places are at a significant distance but considering the fact that you have to travel all the way again if you wish to explore these places, including one or a few of them in your Amritsar trip certainly would save your time and money.

Because at the end of the day, along with sheer excitement and fun, traveling also brings a sense of discomfort and inconvenience, especially the time when we have to travel long distances. So better give a thought to visit nearby places beforehand.

Amritsar tourism
thrillwrill

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IndiaSpiritual India

Kedarnath trek – A place marvelously depicting the spirit of spiritual India

Kedarnath TrekKedarnath Trek

15 June 2013, a devastating flood had swept away the large portion of Uttarakhand (the land of Gods) and obliterated the livelihood of the local populations immensely. The most affected parts of the state were Sonprayag, Gauri Kund, Ram Bada, and everything that was situated nearby India’s one of the most sacred pilgrimages, Kedarnath. The abode of one of the most revered gods in Hinduism, Shiva.

Fast forward 5 years, exact same day, I and a friend had started our ascend to the pristine Kedarnath temple from Gaurikund (base camp for Kedarnath trek) in a continuous downpour. 

Sacred river at a sacred place
Photo From Unsplash

It seemed, even the weather was trying to remind us that unfortunate day when we humans felt absolutely helpless in the front nature —  the day when plenty of people died, plenty got separated from their loved ones and for many, all they had ever earned and accumulated in their lifetime were sabotaged completely. 

Being alive after such a disastrous calamity was definitely a blessing but witnessing everything, possessions, shelter, job, efforts going in vain and the burden and uncertainty of starting everything all over again could make even the strongest, the most vulnerable.

But they definitely had something more to look up to other than their problems, after all, they were the devotees of Mahadev ( the god of gods).

Devotee of god of gods, Mahadev
Photo From Unsplash

Shiva ॐ, when we see him through the eyes which are meticulously biased with political and religious opinions, He is just an illusive Hindu god with no substantial proof of existence, but the moment we put our rigidity aside, He is the ultimate possibility of human existence.

He is so famous and universal that we can call him out with plenty of names such as Shiva, Shambhu, Shankara, Bholenath, Adiyogi, Neelkantha, Mahesh, Rudra, Mahadeva.

Each name depicts one of the countless qualities and wisdom he possesses. He is considered the first yogi ever to walk on this planet. Hence, named as Adiyogi ( the first yogi). 

He gulped down the poison that was emanated during Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean) which made his throat blue. Hence named as Neelkantha (the blue-throated one).

He is also being called as Bholenath because to please Shiva, we don’t need to do any complex ritual. He gives shelter to anyone or everyone who exhibits sincere devotion and possess a clean heart.

Kedarnath is one of the few places on earth where you can feel the energy of the divine — something which can not be born and destroyed like every other thing.

Kedarnath dham
One of only few pictures I clicked on Kedarnath trek

According to lore, this temple is around 3000 years old but still standing firm and tall. You can guess the marvelousness of this architecture from this fact that when the flood occurred in 2013, almost the entire region swept away completely but we can’t find a single dent on this magnificent temple.

The altitude of the Kedarnath temple is around 3,583 m (11,755 ft) and to reach there, you have to ascend a long16 km trek from Gauri Kund. 

Till Gaurikund, the road is motorable. And from here, if someone is physically not that capable and still want to see the pristine abode of Shiva. They can consider the Kedarnath helicopter service (Approx cost 7k INR) or horseback ride (Approx cost 2500 INR).

To do Kedarnath helicopter booking, you don’t actually need to reach Gauri Kund. The booking counter is in between Sonprayag and Gauri Kund.

Kedarnath helicopter service
Photo From Unsplash

The route to reach this epic pilgrimage is, Rishikesh — Sonprayag— Gauri Kund — Kedarnath temple.

Rishikesh can be reached from any corner of India in a very convenient way as it is very well connected by Indian railways and buses, and is one of the important cities of Uttarakhand.

The distance from Rishikesh to Sonprayag is around 210 km and takes around 8 hours to reach. And from there Gauri Kund is around 6 km and then further 16km ascend to Kedarnath temple.

One can also reach Sonprayag directly from Delhi without sojourning in Rishikesh as there is a roadways bus runs directly from Delhi to Sonprayag at 9 pm daily. We audaciously took that bus and trust me, it was really inconvenient and tiring. We were in deep remorse after the journey. 

Trek to Kedarnath is only moderately steep but due to the long-distance of 16 km, even the frequent trekkers can feel the stamina plummeting and legs aching.

kedarnath trek
Photo From Unsplash

Earlier the distance of the Kedarnath trek was 14 km but when the destructive flood of 2013 occurred, the entire trail had been obliterated and after the restoration, the distance has increased to 16km.

The valley which we trek through to reach the temple is known as Kedarnath valley. The journey in this valley itself is so enriching and magnificent that bowing down to Adiyogi in a temple magnificently built as such Kedarnath is an add on.

Lush green mountains sprinkled with waterfalls here and there and “Har Har Mahadev” (The chant of Shiva) reverberating from every direction can inspire and push even those who are on the verge of giving up and returning back.

Since it is one of the Char Dham yatra (one of the four sacred pilgrimage sites in Uttarakhand) and attracts a huge number of devotees year-round, there is no shortage of accommodations and food stalls.

Kedarnath temple is so splendid and well built that it can be viewed from a considerable distance. Even though it is not humongous as compared to several other famous temples in India but it certainly is amazing and breathtaking. 

kedarnath dham
Photo From Unsplash

Marvelously standing amidst the snow-capped mountains of Uttarakhand signifying the splendor and grandeur nature of the god of gods, Mahadev.

People belonging to religions other Hinduism might find it inscrutable. But to be honest, Santana Dharma (Hinduism) is not actually a religion but a way of life. 

And the beauty of it, is, here we see God as a tool to liberation, and therefore everyone following it has this freedom to choose a god out of many or even create one if he or she wishes too.

Because the end goal is to attain epiphany and subsequently getting free from all the bondages of life. Ways or processes or tools can be different, but the goal is the same for all.

And Shiva is a synonym of knowledge and Windom. The highest possibility of human existence. A knower of simple yet the most intricate philosophies of life and the universe.

Om namah shivay

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IndiaSpiritual India

A spiritual journey to Bodhgaya – The land of Buddha

A spritual Journey to BodhgayaA spritual Journey to Bodhgaya

“The root of suffering is attachment.”- Gautam Buddha

Buddhism is the 4th largest religion in the world having almost 7% of the world’s population as followers.

Devotees in Bodhgaya temple
Devotees in Bodhgaya Temple

But as every big plant has grown out of a small seed, this strong and flourishing community, too founded by a young man named Siddharta Gautama who lived in the Indian region around 5th to 4th century BCE. 

“The trouble is, you think you have time.” — Gautam Buddha

At a very early age, his inclination towards self-discovery and understanding deeper dimensions of life grew tenfold and eventually led him to leave everything, family, identity, village, and all sorts of comfort behind only to meander here and there as a seeker of life and he finally attained enlightenment after a prolonged meditation under a Ficus Religiosa tree (now called Bodhi Tree) in Gaya district of Bihar, India.

Bodhgaya Temple
Bodhgaya Temple

The whole place has been now renamed after the great Buddha (which means the awakened one) who attained epiphany and then propagated his experiences and teachings about life and beyond in the different corners of the world.

“Happiness will never come to those who fail to appreciate what they already have.” — Gautam Buddha

Talking about Bihar, this state may not hold a great value now as far as tourism is concerned but it definitely has a glorious past. Universities like Nalanda and Vikramshila were the center of education in the past. The great Ashoka who later gave up his kingdom and took upon Buddhism to pursue the path of inner peace and awakening also lived in Bihar. The great mathematician Aryabhata, the founder of zero & place value system born and lived here too.

Mahabodhi Temple
Mahabodhi Temple

“If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path. ” –Gautam Buddha

How to reach Bodhgaya?

The distance of Bodhgaya is around 100 km from Patna (the capital city of Bihar) and 15 km from Gaya ( a major city in Bihar). 

Several trains run between Patna and Gaya on daily basis and the distance between Gaya and Bodhgaya can be covered by sharing auto or private cabs.

The nearest airports are Bodhgaya international airport and Patna airport.

“Train your mind to see something good in everything.”- Gautam Buddha

Budhdha
Budhdha

Bodhgaya Temple

The Mahabodhi Temple which also knows as the great awakening temple is the most important temple to visit in Bodhgaya along with others such as the great Buddha statue (A 25 m tall statue of Buddha).

Budhdha Statue
Budhdha Statue

In the compound of Mahabodhi temple, you can witness several monks and devotees meditating under the Bodhi tree in an attempt to seek liberation.

“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.”–Gautam Buddha

We can also find the numerous temple of different countries in Bodhgaya which follow Buddhism or the teachings of the buddha some way or other. Ten such countries are:

  • Japan
  • China
  • Bhutan 
  • Cambodia
  • Tibet
  • Myanmar
  • Vietnam
  • Bangladesh
  • Mongolia
  • Thailand 
Temples of other countries
Temples of other countries

“Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts.” –Gautam Buddha

What to expect from the Bodhgaya tour?

To be honest, it totally depends on what you seek from a particular place and how much you expect beforehand?

Bodhgaya is not a place filled with flamboyancy where you can have fun and spend your vacation. Rather it is a place full of devotion. The believers of the great Gautama Buddha and his teachings come here from all corners of the world to witness the wisdom and peacefulness this place still reverberates.

“With our thoughts, we make the world.”- Gautam Buddha

There is a lake adjacent to the temple and at the center of this mammoth lake, you can witness a statue of the great Gautama sitting cross-legged with utterly calmed and peaceful persona and asserting why he is being revered throughout the world and considered as the propagator of peace and prosperity and wisdom?

Budhdha statue in the middle of a lake
Budhdha statue in the middle of a lake

“No matter how hard the past, you can always begin.” –Gautam Buddha

No matter which religion we belong to but if our life is miserable by any means or to any extent, this place will surely bring a sense of tranquility. A sense of peacefulness which we usually don’t get everywhere. 

And if by any chance you are interested in spirituality or seeking the deeper dimensions of human life — then this place is nothing sort of a dream destination.

Bodhgaya Temple
Bodhgaya Temple

The kind of ambiance you get here itself pushes you to forgo the trivialities of life and seek something which is meaningful, non-compulsive, and unmiserable.

“You only lose what you cling to.” –Gautam Buddha

Bodhgaya tourism

Bodhgaya is the center of tourism in the state of Bihar in India. Even though it is only moderately maintained as far as tourism is concerned here but still the purpose of visiting here gets fulfilled fairly well and you won’t face inconvenience or security issues of any kind and this is what matters in the end.

Bodhgaya Bihar
Bodhgaya Bihar

“Rule your mind or it will rule you.” –Gautam Buddha

Considering you are not familiar with the place, locals there might overcharge you for the services or try to lure you with a scam of any kind (which is the case with every major tourist destination) better be careful and cautious while visiting any temple in Bodhgaya.

Bihar is still the cheapest place to visit and live as compared to the rest of India. Solely because of fewer tourism options and minimal tourists influx.

“Let the past make you better, not bitter.” –Gautam Buddha

Nalanda University, Rajgir, and few major tourist attractions like Gol Ghar, Maner Sharif, Takhat Sri Harimandir Ji (Patna Sahib), and museum in Patna you can visit along with this serene trip to Bodhgaya as these places are in the radius of 100 km.

Bihar Tourism
Bihar Tourism

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” Gautam Buddha

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