While visiting Uttar Pradesh I had a chance to also visit the temple city of Kushinagar, 53 kms west of Gorakhpur. This city is a major pilgrimage site for Buddhists from around the globe. Lord Buddha passed away or ascended in this place and his cremation site is also here. Many of the stupas and viharas here date to 230BC-413AD.
Almost all of the Buddhist nations are represented here. There are stupas and temples here from Thailand, China, Japan, Nepal and others. The site where Buddhas cremation urn was excavated is also here. The cremation site is 1.5 kms from the city and is open to visitors.
A highlight in Kushinagar is the golden reclining Buddha statue, which was unearthed during an excavation in 1876. This can be found in the Mahaparinirvana Temple. This temple was built on the site where Lord Buddhas cremation urn was found.
The Thai temple is a round temple that carries your voice. Try saying OMmmmmmm in the temple and see how long it lasts. The sound goes on and on.
Excavations are still under way to uncover the remaining buildings where Buddha once walked. This place is one of the most important Buddhist sites in the world.
The city of Varanasi is also sometimes called Benaras or Kashi. It is the Hindus holiest of cities, situated on the banks of the Ganga (Ganges) River. The name Varanasi comes from the convergence of the Varuna River (on the north) and the Assi River (on the south) with the Ganga.
Here you will find pilgrims from all over the world, coming together to pray, meditate, study and tour the city’s sights. Spend the afternoon wandering through the narrow lanes, passing the sounds of sitar music and saadhus (Hindu ascetics) of every variety. Stop at the market for offerings of fruit, flowers and tiny oil lamps to set afloat on the river.
This place is said to be the site where Lord Shiva appeared as a radiant column of light, splitting the Earth and extending into space. After a thousand years of trying to find the base and the source of the column, Shiva was acknowledged as preeminent here. Lord Shiva then shrank the column of light and it took the form of a small linga, which is still here to this day. The city has predominately Shiva temples, but all Hindus, Sikhs, and some Buddhists take pilgrimage here at least once in their lives.
Along the river are about 100 ghats, which are large stone stairs leading down to the water. These were constructed around 1700 AD.
The best way to view these ghats is from a boat. Many boatmen line the river offering rides to pilgrims and tourists.
Some of the ghats are used for common things like bathing, swimming and washing clothes. Others are for holy dips in the water and for meditation. Other prominent ghats are the Manikarika Ghat and the Harishchandra Ghat, where about 80 cremations are performed every day. It is considered extremely auspicious to be cremated on the banks of the Ganga River, India’s holiest of rivers.
Every evening a group of priests perform a fire pooja at the Dashashwamedh Ghat. This is a worship of the whole universe, including the sun, this river, fire and a special dedication to Lord Shiva. This is really something to see! You must plan to attend this nightly event.
One of the moist beautiful temples in Delhi is the Lotus Temple of the Baha’i Faith. It is listed as one of the most visited buildings in the world, surpassing even the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal.
The structure has won many architectural awards for it’s design, which depicts a lotus flower. It is surrounded by nine pools of water and the interior is very cool, even on a hot day. Each Baha’i temple has nine sides and nine doors. The cavernous interior is 40 feet high and can hold up to 2500 worshipers. On Hindu holy days the attendance surpasses 150,000 per day.
The temple is closed on Mondays, so please plan your visit accordingly.
The Baha’i faith is from Persia and they welcome everyone into their meditation sanctuary.
By far the most unusual looking temple I have visited in Ahmedabad has to be the Vaishno Devi Temple. It is devoted to Maha Saraswati, Maha Lakshmi, and Maha Kali, the three incarnates of Goddess Vaishno Devi. Devotees from around the world visit this replica of the original shrine, located in Jammu-Kashmir.
The temple is built to resemble a stony mountain and represents the cave dwelling of the girl named Kumari, later known as Vaishnavi. Lord Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, visited the forest and mountain where Vaishnavi lived, and she pleaded with him to allow her to merge with the Supreme Creator Lord Vishnu. Rama told her it was not the right time for her but directed her to set up an ashram at the base of the Trikuta Hills. That shrine is located in Jammu-Kashmir. She was instructed to elevate her level of spirituality and to bless mankind and alleviate the sufferings of the poor and destitute.
People came to receive her blessings and Bhairon Nath, a disciple of Tantrik Gorakh Nath, was sent to determine at what level of spirituality Vaishnavi had ascended to. He fell in love with her and attempted to steal her away for himself. The Goddess forgave him and told her followers that from now on they must have Darshan (worship) with Bairon after they had Darshan with the Goddess, in order to receive yatra (a Hindu pilgrimage). Vaishnavi then left her human form and fused with the rock and entered a meditative state eternally.
Today I stopped at a beautiful temple which was constructed by the followers of Dada Bhagwan (Lord of the whole universe). The sect was started by A.M. Patel, who professed he received enlightenment in 1958 while sitting on a railway station bench in Surat, Gujarat. This one hour epiphany supplied him with all the answers to all of life’s big questions, like: who is God?, why am I here?, who created the world?, what is karma?, who oversees the management of the world?
This sect believes their philosophy and their manner of worship can bring happiness and enlightenment to all those that take part. Their aim is to provide permanent happiness to all those that follow them. They claim this can be done within two hours. I’m not here to editorialize so I won’t give you my opinion on this.
I met some very nice and seemingly happy people at this temple.
They also have a nice cafe for lunch.
This sect has mandirs (temples) all over the world and one under construction in New Jersey. Their official website is: http://www.trimandir.org
This shrine is built to honor Hanuman, the monkey God. When the image of Hanuman was installed, it is said that Sadguru Gopalanand Swami touched it with a rod and the image came alive and moved. This rod has been preserved and it is used every Saturday in a service to help drive the evil spirits out of people and heal the afflicted.
This is just one of The International Society of Krishna Consciousness’ 600 worldwide temples. The Ahmedabad temple is a wonderful example of an ISKCON temple.
It is a beautiful shrine dedicated to promoting individual and worldwide peace. This sect was founded by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1966. He was instructed by his guru to bring the Vedic teachings to the English speaking world. Their teachings are based on the Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatum.
Founded in New York, the Hare Krishna Movement, as it began to be called, prospered and grew and there were 108 temples when the founder died, just 11 years later. The organization runs food relief programs in dozens of cities around the world.