Ayodhya is a legendary spiritual centre on the banks of River Saryu that attracts the visitors with its serene ghats and countless temples. Situated in the Faizabad district, Ayodhya is counted as one of the seven sacred cities in the Hindu faith. Being the birthplace of Lord Rama and the five of Jainism’s 24 Tirthankaras, this land has many mythological and sacred bonds. According to the epic Ramayana, Ayodhya was home to the Ikshvaku dynasty, from which Lord Rama, the most illustrious of its rulers is said to have descended. Ayodhya is a significant spiritual centre for other faiths as well, Jainism in particular. The buzz of life as usual, fervour of visiting devotees, chiming temple bells and melodious chanting, all offer Ayodhya a singular spiritual ambience. Home to countless multi-faith temples, as many Dharamshalas(hermitages) and Akhadas (resting places for sadhu), the place is further enlivened by the presence of all manner of supplicant, sage, scholars and such like.
Allahabad is a beautiful city situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. The city draws attention of pilgrims and heritage lovers from all over the world as it opens the traveller to a world of mythological and spiritual wonders. Allahabad is a fusion of sanctity, religion, traditions, history and architecture which offers varied experiences from historical to religious. Allahabad is one of the destinations which holds the Kumbh Mela, world’s largest congregation of devotees. For the Mughals the city had a great strategic importance to control their empire, and it also became a prominent administrative hub for the British era. The city was the nerve centre of activities during the India’s Freedom Movement. Several eminent national leaders were born on this land. Allahabad has also played a leading role in development of Hindi and Urdu literature. The city has been described in ancient scriptures as ‘Teerthraj’, the holiest pilgrimage centre and is indeed a perfect place to have a soulful escape.
Naimisharanya (Neemsar) is a land steeped with Hindu mythology linking it to Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, Goddess Sati and Lord Shiva. The place is unique owing to the belief that it is the land where the pantheon of 33 Hindu God & Goddesses reside. It also believed to be the first most sacred of all pilgrim centres for Hindus. It is said that if one performs penance for 12 years on this land, one moves to Brahmaloka. The place is located on the banks of River Gomti in Sitapur district at a distance of 94 Km from Lucknow. This place finds mention as a dense forest in several ancient scriptures, including the Mahabharata. It is definitely worth a day trip to visit the various shrines. A paved street encircling the town connects the primary shrines and visitors can cover the circuit in a couple of hours.
Chitrakoot meaning “the hill of many wonders” falls in the northern Vindhya range of mountains spread over the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. 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.
Varanasi or Banaras, mentioned in the scriptures as Kashi, is less of a city and more of a dreamy experience. It is a paragon of Indian culture, philosophy, traditions and spiritual ethos since times immemorial. It is among the Sapta Puries, meaning seven sacred cities of Ancient India. The city is located on the bank of River Ganga which has two tributaries in the city: Varuna and Assi; hence the name Varanasi. The combination of Kashi – the holy city, Ganga- the sacred river and Shiva- the supreme God, makes Varanasi an immortal destination. Today, Varanasi remains the hub of cultural and holy activities. In the field of learning, especially of Religion, Philosophy, Yoga, Ayurveda, Astrology, Dance and Music, the city is certainly unparalleled. The Banarasi Silk Sarees and Brocades are known worldwide for its elegance. Varanasi is full of surprises abounding every corner; the more one explores it, the more one falls in love with it!
A city of ancient historical and mythological significance, Gaya is one of the main tourist attractions in Bihar and the second largest city in the state. It is 100 km from Patna, the capital of Bihar and one of the major pilgrimage sites for Hindus and Buddhists. Its natural surroundings, narrow by lanes and its age old buildings make it special. DO SEE Photos of Bodh Gaya: These Images of Bihar’s Prime Pilgrim Spot Will Tempt You Visit It
Gaya derives its name from Gayasur, a mythological demon. Legends say that Gaya served rigid penance and secured blessings from Lord Vishnu, after which his body transformed into the rocky hills, which now form the landscape of Gaya. People following Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism form the major population of Gaya. Hindus consider Gaya to be the place for attaining salvation. Hence, they perform pindadaan (funeral offerings of the deceased) here. Gaya is an important site for Jains as it is home to numerous Jain temples. Gaya is important for Buddhists as Buddha preached the Fire Sermon at Brahmayoni Hill, which was earlier called Gayasisa.
Lucknow, a city which upholds many cultures, heritage and arts of Uttar Pradesh, resonating in every corner. It gained prominence when Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula shifted the capital of Awadh from Faizabad to this city in 1775. They were great patrons of arts and laid the foundation from which Lucknowi culture emerged. Whether Lucknow’s mesmerizing architecture, sweetness in its language, elegant hospitality, and sophistication in its culture, exquisite crafts or the mouth-watering cuisine, this city never fails to win hearts of every traveller. Modern day Lucknow is a spectacular synthesis of past and present. It is a bustling capital city spreading both sides of the River Gomti with sprawling parks, British Era buildings and old monuments. Lucknow is famous for its charm, nazakat (Elegance) and nafasat (Refinement) – which is holding onto this land since time immemorial.
Agra has two significant tombs, with impressive Islamic-style architecture, that existed before the Taj Mahal but have subsequently been overshadowed by it. One of them contains the body of Emperor Akbar, widely considered to be the most influential Mughal emperor. It was completed in 1614 and is situated in Sikandra, on the northwest outskirts of Agra on the road to Mathura. (Tickets cost 210 rupees for foreigners and 20 rupees for Indians). His wife’s body is housed in another tomb nearby, with a similar entrance fee.
The tomb of Itmad-ud-daulah was the first to be made out of white marble (instead of the red sandstone typical of Mughal architecture) and is often referred to as the “Baby Taj”. It’s located amid a small garden alongside the Yamuna River, and contains the body of Mirza Ghiyas Beg who served under Akbar. His daughter married Akbar’s son, Jehangir, and he was later appointed chief minister. (Tickets cost 210 rupees for foreigners and 20 rupees for Indians).