Majuli : The Largest River Island

Majuli, Assam

Majuli – 421.65 square kilometers river island is the largest river island in the world and is located in the middle of mighty river Brahmaputra. Once you visit this place you will feel like getting touched with heaven and you consider visiting again.

Majuli is known for its beauty and cultural heritage which is the great way to enjoy during your tour. Majuli has got all the charm that can attract is visitors towards it. The cultural tradition, wildlife sanctuary and the exotic island is the best view to opt for. The striking feature of Majuli is the population free environment and hospitality of the locals are just remarkable. This place is blended with beautiful art and craftsmanship of Assamese culture and tradition.

Aside from enjoying the laid-back vibe, highlights of a visit include bird watching (the island is home to nearly 100 species of birds) and learning about neo-Vaishnavite philosophy at Majuli’s 22 ancient satras significent of them areAuni Ati satra, Dakhinpat Satra, Garamurh Satra (Hindu Vaishnavite monasteries and centers for art) where monks are keen to show you their little museum of Ahom royal artifacts. The best chances of observing chanting, dances or drama recitations are around dawn and dusk or during the big Ras Mahotsav Festival, in celebration of the birth, life and feats of Krishna.

Majuli has got a good connectivity with other cities of India. Majuli island is accessible by ferries from the City of Jorhat. The island is about 200 kilometers east from the state’s largest city Guwahati located in the heart of Assam.

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Majestic Umananda Temple

Umananda Temple is a Shiva temple located at the Peacock Island in the middle of mghty river Brahmaputra in the heart of Guwahati city. It was built by the Ahom King Gadadhar Singha (1681–1696), who was a devout Shaivaite.

It is known as smallest inhabited riverine island in the world. Country boats that are available on the bank of Brahmaputra take the visitors to the island. The mountain on which the temple has been built is known as Bhasmacala.

Siva is said to have resided here in the form of Bhayananda. According to the Kalika Purana, in the beginning of the creation Siva sprinkled ashes (bhasma) at this place and imparted knowledge to Parvati (his consort). It is said that, when Siva was in meditation on this hillock, Kamadeva interrupted his yoga and was therefore burnt to ashes by the fire of Siva’s anger and hence the hillock got the name Bhasmacala.

This mountain is also called Bhasmakuta. The Kalika Purana states that Urvasikunda is situated here and here resides the goddess Urvasi who brings Amrit (nectar) for the enjoyment of Kamakhya and hence the island got the name Urvasi Island.

umananda Temple

Road leads to Umananda Temple

Peacock Island, guwahati

Peacock Island in the evening

 

Puri : The land of Jagannath

Puri in Orissa is a major pilgrimage destination for the Hindus. Situated on the eastern coastline of India, Puri is around 60 kilometers away from Bhubaneswar. The most devoted pilgrim center for Hindus in India, Puri is also known as the Jagannath Puri (Jagannath is the Lord of Universe) and is credited with the famous Jagannath temple. The Jagannath Temple, a shrine built during 12th century AD, is one of the popular appeals for religious traveler. The Hindu mythology contained in the Skanda Purana describes Puri as the resting place of Lord Vishnu.  With historical temples and sacred rituals, Puri draws all the enthusiast tourists to its lap for a lifetime experience.

An ancient city famous for the much revered Jagannath Temple, Puri holds immense religious significance and is a much marvelous pilgrimage destination in India. While the eleventh century Jagannath Temple is the main tourist attraction here, other important religious sites that your Puri tours must include are Konark Temple , Tota Gopinath Mandir and Alalanath Mandir. Several number of temples coupled with the beautiful beach on the Bay of Bengal are the biggest tourist attractions in Puri.

A major celebration in Puri is Rath Yathra (Chariot festival), conducted every year. This festival, held in the month of June – July, is associated with the Jagannath temple and during this season thousands of Hindu Pilgrims gather in Puri to witness the majestic festival. Another festival, which attracts many, is the Puri Beach Festival which is celebrated in the month of November every year.

Tourist Attraction

Temple of Lord Jagannath:

Dedicated to the Lord of the Universe, this famous temple is surrounded by a fortified wall and is visible for miles. Containing within it a large number of smaller shrines, the main sanctum houses the idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra. The Temple of Lord Jagannath built during the 12th century A.D. by Chodaganga Deva dominates the landscape for kilometers around. In front of the main gate stands a 16 sided monolithic pillar (11 metres high), called Aruna Stambha which formally stood in front of the Sun Temple and was brought to Puri during the 18th century A.D.  The main entrance is guarded by two lions, hence giving it the name Singha Dwar. The main temple is flanked by almost 30 shrines, which can be visited when you circumambulate the main temple.

When visiting the Jagannath Temple, you must take your share of the mahaprasad prepared for the Lord. And do not miss the holy kitchen which has a staggering 752 stoves fired by wood . The daily menu of this includes dals, vegetable curries, rice and kheer. It is ritual to eat the bhog sitting on the floor, from plantain leaves. It’s timing is 5.30 am-10.00 pm

Jagannath-Tempele, Puri, Orissa

Jagannath-Tempele, Puri, Orissa

Rath Yatra Festival in Puri

Rath Yatra Festival in Puri (Photo credit Jeff Henig)

Gundicha Mandir:

 Located 2 kms from the main Jagannath Temple, this temple is visited by the Lord and his siblings for 7 days during the Rath Yatra. The structure has a dome-like construction, crowned by the Vishnu’s Sudarshan. The temple has two gateways – one for the lord’s entry and one for his exit. Open from: 6.00 am-3.00 pm, 4.00 pm-10.00 pm

Mausima Temple:

Dedicated to Goddess Ardhasini who drank half the water that once flooded Puri, this shrine is visited by the Lord during Rath Yatra. On his way back from Gundicha Mandir, the Lord and his brother and sister are offered Podapaitha here.

Open from: 6.00 am-3.00 pm, 4.00 pm-10.00 pm

Loknath Temple:

The Lokanath temple is situated about 3 kilometres away from the Jagannath temple on the Western outskirts of the town .In this temple the Shiva Linga, remains always under water in a small square vat, fed by a natural spring of the nearby Parvati tank. It is visible only on the night of ‘Pankadhar Ekadasi’ before the Sivaratri, when all the water is bailed out to enable thousands of the devotees to see and worship the Lord. People who suffer from incurable diseases come here for Prayer. Some of them are believed to have been cured due to divine grace. Legend says that the ‘Linga’ of the Lokanath temple was installed here by Lord Ramachandra.

Puri Beach:

Puri Beach is counted amongst the most beautiful beaches in India also considered holy because of the millions of devotees come here for a dip when visiting Lord Jagannath’s city. Situated in the Bay of Bengal, the beach at Puri gives a spectacular sight of the sunrise and sunset. The waves can also be high and rough during full moon.  Enjoy an amazing outing at the golden sands of this clean beach, whose shores are lined with stalls selling yummy food and tiny trinkets. In fact, a large number of hotels line the beach ranging across all budgets.  Nice place to spend few hours and enjoy with the nature’s beauty.

The best time to visit the beach in Puri is in the month of November when the Puri Beach Festival is organized. During the festival, the beach glows throughout day and night.

Puri beach, Orissa

Puri beach, Orissa

Konark Temple:

 The Sun Temple of Konark marks the highest point of achievement of Kalinga architecture depicting the grace , the joy and the rhythm of life . Sun Temple Konark showcases how the Sun god roams about on his royal chariot. Built in the thirteenth century, it was conceived as a gigantic solar chariot with twelve pairs of exquisitely-ornamented wheels dragged by seven rearing horses.  Located on the sea-shore at a distance of 33 kms from Puri and about 64 kms from Bhubaneswar, Konark is also known as Konaditya. The name Konark has been derived from the words Kona and Arka, Kona meaning corner and Arka meaning the sun.

The main attraction of this temple is the idol of Jagmohana that showcases the brilliance of the contemporary architects of those days. The Sun Temple has lost its many of its original structures to time and disrepair, but the remaining structures and the remainder of the structures confirm till today the infinite imaginative power of the artistes of the time and their inspiring contribution to Vaisnav Culture.  The Archaeological Site Museum, another site of tourist interest is an exceptional collection of the various pieces of loose sculptors from the remnants of the Sun temple complex.

Konark Sun Temple, Orissa

Konark Sun Temple, Orissa

Konark Beach:

Just 3 Km away from the Sun Konark Temple, Konark Beach in Odisha (Orissa) is a nirvana for a beach lover , tourist  take bathe in the warmth of the sun and witness the beauty of sunrise or sunset. Another beautiful sight is that of the spotting fishermen, grossly involved in their daily chores with the fish.

Chandrabhaga Beach:

The tourists coming to Konark also visit the Chandrabhaga Beach, one of the most exotic beaches in Odisha (Orissa) offering a picturesque view. Surrounded by palm and casuarinas, the beach is at a short distance from the sun temple.

Pipli:

 Located almost 36 kms from Puri, this small town is known for its exquisite appliqué work. Pick up alluring traditional applique items such as batuas (cloth pouches) and sunjis (embroidered quilts), bedsheets, umbrellas and garments.

Chilika Lake:

Nestling in the heart of coastal Orissa, Chilika is India’s biggest inland lake. Spread over 1165 square kilometres during the monsoon season . Chilika is the largest brackish water lagoon of Asia situated on east coast of India . In winter Chilika lagoon flutters with thousands of migratory birds and water-fowls from as far as the Siberia, Caspian sea, Lake Baikal, Aral sea, remote parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Mangolia, central and south east Asia, Ladakh and the Himalayas for feeding, resting and roosting. Every year the birds start coming to the lake around the second and third week of October and stay up to March. They start their homeward journey at commencement of summer.

There is the Nalaban Island in the middle of the lake, which is a classified bird sanctuary. This lake is also home to the Irrawaddy Dolphins.

Sunset at Chilika Lake, Orissa

Sunset at Chilika Lake, Orissa (Photo credit by Monsoon Lover)

Satapada Dolphin Sanctuary:

Located at a distance of 50 kilometers from Puri, Satapada on Chilika is very famous for Irrawaddy Dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris). It is located on the southern part of the Chilika Lake. Satapada is also famous for Sea Mouth Island where Chilka lake meets the Bay of Bengal. Satpada also provides the opportunity for viewing a memorable sunrise and sunset. It is advisable to reach there in morning hours and spent much of your time with Dolphins. The Dolphin Motor Boat Association provides various motor boats at Satapada. Visitors can hire boats to go to the dolphin viewpoint to get a sight of the dolphins.

Alarnath Temple:

Alarnath Temple  is famous because it is considered as the manifestation of Lord Jagannath of Puri during the period of Anasara . This period falls just before the Ratha Jatra. Many devotees visit this temple during closing of Darshan at Jaganatha Temple during Anasara period.  On the way to Satapada from Puri at a distance of 22 KM the temple of Alarnath is located.

How to reach

By Air :

Biju Patnaik airport at Bhubaneswar is the nearest airport to Puri, which is nearly 56 km away from the heart of the Puri city. Bhubaneswar is connected by air to cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad.

By Road :

Puri is covered by extensive network of roads. Main cities and tourist destinations, like Bhubaneswar, Konark in Orissa are connected to Puri by road.

By Rail :

Puri is a terminus on the East Coast Railway having direct express and super-fast train links with New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Tirupati etc.

The holy city, Varanasi

Varanasi, the holy city of India, is also known by the name of Kashi and Benaras. Varanasi is the most popular pilgrimage point for the Hindus. One of the seven holiest cities, Varanasi city is also one the Shakti Peethas and one of the twelve Jyotir Linga sites in India. In Hinduism it is believed that those who die and are cremated here get an instant gateway to liberation from the cycle of births and re-births.

Considered as the abode of Lord Shiva, Varanasi is situated on the banks of River Ganges, which is believed to have the power of washing away all of one’s sins. As pundits here will tell you, whatever is sacrificed and chanted here or given in charity reaps its fruits thousand times more than those good deeds performed at other places because of the power of that place.

Places to Visit in Varanasi

Varanasi is the oldest city of the world. Varanasi is more than 3000 years old and is famous as the city of temples.. Jyotirlinga Visvanatha Temple or Golden Temple, rebuilt in 1776, is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Jnana Vapi well (meaning ‘Well of Wisdom) is believed to have been dug by Lord Shiva himself. It is believed that the majestic Alamgir mosque has replaced one of the most ancient shrines known as the temple of Bindu Madhava. The thirty-three hundred million shrines fill one with awe and wonder with sheer numbers.

Varanasi Ghats

Ghats of Ganga are perhaps the holiest spots of Varanasi. The Ganga Ghats at Varanasi are full of pilgrims who flock to the place to take a dip in the holy Ganges, which is believed to absolve one from all sins. There is a great tradition of Yatras in the holy city of Kashi and the most sacred path is that of Panchkoshi Parikrama, the fifty-mile path with a radius of five miles that cover 108 shrines along the way, with Panchakoshi Temple as its main shrine.

There are number of temples on the bank of the Ganga river in Varanasi. It is believed that people are cleansed physically, mentally and spiritually at Ganga Ghats. It is at the Ganga Ghats where we see life and death together. For thousands of years people have been thronging these Ghats to offer their morning prayers to the rising sun. There are more than 100 ghats along side Ganga in Varanasi. Some of the prominent and popular Ghats at Varanasi are the Dasaswamedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Harischandra Ghat, Kabir Ghat and Assi Ghat.

Other popular pilgrimage route is Nagara Pradakshina, which covers seventy-two shrines along the way. Since time immemorial Varanasi is a great center of learning. The holy city has been a symbol of spiritualism, philosophy and mysticism for thousands of years and has produced great saints and personalities like Guatama Buddha, Mahavira, Kabir, Tulsi Das, Shankaracharaya, Ramanuja and Patanjali.

The Alamgir Mosque, blend of the Hindu and Mughal styles of the architecture, is another important attraction of Varanasi. Some of the most important temples of Varanasi are Durga temple, Vishwanath temple, Sankat Mochan temple, Tulsi Manas temple and the Bharat Mata temple. The Bharat Mata Temple houses a huge relief map of the whole of Indian subcontinent and Tibetan plateau. Other attractions of Varanasi are the Benaras Hindu University (BHU), the Archaeological Museum, Sarnath, Bharat Kala Bhavan and the Buddhist Stupas and temples at Sarnath.

Excursions in Varanasi

There are a number of historical and religious places and towns around Varanasi that are worth visiting. Some of the important and famous are Sarnath, Chunar, Jaunpur, Kaushambi, Kushinagar and Vindhaychal. Sarnath is about 10 km from Varanasi and is famous for being the place where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon after getting enlightenment. Sarnath is an important pilgrimage place for the Buddhists as it was here that the wheel of dharma was set in motion. Sarnath also boasts of a number of monuments and edifices ranging from the Ashokan period to the 12th century.

Chunar  :

Chunar is about 40 km from Varanasi and is known for the Chunar fort. The Chunar fort looks beautiful upon the Kaimur Hills that provides a fantastic view of the meandering Ganga River. This is the same ‘Churnargarh’, on which the famous Hindi classical novelist Devinandan Khatri based his renowned work ‘Chandrakanta’. Another important and historical place around Varanasi is Jaunpur. The Tughlaq ruler, Feroz Shah built Jaunpur in 1360. It was built to guard the eastern frontier of the kingdom. The town still has some of the beautiful monuments of that period.

Vindhyachal :

is about 90 km from Varanasi and is one of the several Shaktipeeths in India, which is believed to be the abode of Goddess Durga. Besides these cities and towns, one may also visit the Kaimoor Wildlife Sanctuary spread over an area of 500 sq km and the Chandra Prabha Wildlife Sanctuary. Chandra Prabha Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in the Chandauli district and has rich flora and fauna. Kushinagar is yet another important excursion point around Varanasi. Lord Buddha breathed his last at kushinagar.

Rishikesh Tourism

Rishikesh is a sacred city located on the foothills of the Himalayas in the state of Uttarakhand.
Here Ganga leaves the mountains and joins the plains for her long journey. It is an important pilgrimage centre, and considered to be one of the major seats of Hindu philosophy.

Rishikesh is located on the right bank of the Ganga, surrounded by scenic beauty of the hills,  40 kms from Dehra Dun.  Rishikesh is also the gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas and the access point for the Char Dham pilgrimage to Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. It is well known for several Himalayan Ashrams or religious retreats and for the availability of treatment for a variety of stress-induced ailments using meditation practices and ancient herbal techniques. Rishikesh is also famous for ashrams teaching Yoga so this place known as  ‘World Capital of Yoga’. Rishikesh is also an ideal base camp for adventure sports such as White River Rafting and Trekking  in the nearby Himalayas.

Rishicase

Rishicase

What to see:

Laxman Jhoola
5 kms north of Rishikesh, is the spot where Sri Laxman is said to have performed tapasya. The Laxman temple was built in his memory This suspended iron bridge built in 1939 is said to be a replacement of the jute rope bridge built by Lakshmana  to cross the river. Seeing its immense popularity among the tourists, Ram Jhula, another suspended Iron Bridge has been constructed between Shivanand Ashram and Swarg Ashram recently.

Neel Kanth Mahadev
Situated at an altitude of height of 5,500 ft 12 km from Rishikesh, on a hill above Swarg Ashram, Neelkanth Mahadev is one of the most venerated temples of Rishikesh. . The trek up to the temple gives a wide-angle view of the Himalayan peaks, Babhar forests and the plain below. This is believed to be the place where Lord Shiva drank the poison churned out of the cosmic ocean. lt turned his throat blue which is why he is also called Nilakanth. The temple is located in the top of a hill accessed by a 10 km walk or a 32 km drive.

Bharat Mandir
The black statue of Vishnu in the temple have been consecrated by Sri Sankaracharya in the 9th century. This event is commemorated every year during Vasant Panchami to mark the onset of spring. In the surrounding it holds number of images associated with the worship of Lord Shiva.

Triveni Ghat
It is regarded as the most important religious ceremonies place in Hrishikesh, it is believed that the Ganga is joined here by the Yamuna and the Saraswati rivers. The aarti performed at sunset at the Triveni Ghat is touching and visually appealing . As the sun begins to set, temple bells ring and chants rent the air. A row of religious celebrants hold plates of flaming ghee, moving them in a circular salutation to the River Goddess. Devotees also release flower-filled leaf boats carrying small diyas and let them float downstream towards Haridwar. It is a ceremony of worship, remembrance and hope. The cool breeze from the river and serenity of the aarti ceremony is a divine experience.

Chandreshwar Temples
People believe that this temple situated in the place where the Chandrabhaga merges with the Ganga

Someshwar Temple
It is situated on the way to Haridwar , this temple has been mentioned in ancient scriptures.

White Water Rafting
The adventure lovers love to venture white water rafting in the River Ganges here and brave the challenge of mighty, violent river that rush from the icy heights of the Himalayas and run across meandering boulder-strewn beds, cutting deep gorges and breaking into silvery-white rapids.

Trekking
Trekking into the Garhwal Himalayas is another popular activity of Rishikesh. One can chose from a number of options of religious, scenic, botanical and altitude treks, the two most popular trekking root are from – a) To Neelkanth from Swarg Ashram, and b) To Kunjapuri Temple from Tapovan. Both the temples are perched on a hilltop.

When to Visit

The best season to visit, is between May to November.

Getting There

Road: Rishikesh is 238 km from Delhi by road and 23 kms from Haridwar.
Rail: Haridwar is well connected by rail from Howrah (1438 kms), Bombay (1574 kms), Delhi (199 kms), Lucknow (475 kms), Agra (365 kms).
Air: Jolly Grant airfield,is the nearest airport which is 35 km from Haridwar.