Many people do not know it, but India is one of the world's oldest civilisations. It has been the birthplace of many fundamentals recognised by today's society, in science and in the arts. After traveling tirelessly around India and immersing myself in its flavours and traditions, I wanted to bear witness to its incredibly rich cultural and spiritual heritage. If this website sparks a desire to pack your bags and set off for an Indian adventure, it will have achieved its purpose. Have a good trip around the website and pleasant wanderings in the sacred land of Bharat!
The town of Indore, which was once a village at the confluence of the Khan and Saraswati rivers, is the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh. It is renowned for its historic monuments, reflecting a glorious past under the patronage of the queen Ahilya Bai Holkar. Indore lies equidistant from two major Hindu pilgrimage sites, the Jyotir Lingam temples at Ujjain and Omkareshwar.
Lal Bagh palace, built in European style by the Holkar maharajas between 1886 and 1921, reflects that dynasty’s refined lifestyle. Now converted into a museum, the palace boasts a collection of coins and another of contemporary Indian and Italian paintings and sculptures.
The palace interior is sumptuously decorated, taking inspiration variously from Versailles in France, Italy for its marble columns, Belgium for its stained glass and Buckingham Palace for its gates.
Rajwada is a seven-storey palace built by the Holkars, a Hindu Maratha royal house, over a long period in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is a delicious mix of Maratha, Mughal and French architectural styles.
The three lower storeys are built of brick and the upper floors of wood. Vulnerable to fire, these floors have suffered three major fires over the years, most recently in 1984. Only the front part of the original structure now remains. A lovely garden has been created in the rear part, with fountains, an artificial waterfall and some fine 11th-century sculptures.
Kanch Mandir is an astonishing Jain temple, lined from floor to ceiling with mirrors and mosaics.
A gem of a place! Seth Hukumchand, a rich Jain industrialist known as the Cotton King, had it built in 1903.
Were it not for the black onyx Mahavira statue one could easily forget that this is a temple and not a palace.
On the banks of the River Khan not far from Rajwada stand the cenotaphs or chhatris of the Holkar maharajas, built in the Maratha style with domes and carved arches.
A stretch of the Khan river has been turned into an artificial lake with a fountain and gardens.
It’s an interesting place but poorly maintained, which is a pity.
This shrine to Annapurna, the goddess of food, is a Hindu pilgrimage site. In design it resembles the Meenakshi temple in Madurai.
The entrance gate is flanked by four life-size elephants that seem to be holding up the entire superstructure, which is ornately decorated with carvings of mythological scenes. As well as the main temple to Annapurna Devi there are shrines to Kal Bhairav (Shiva) and the monkey god Hanuman, and a cow sanctuary or gaushala.
This temple built in 1875 houses a huge, brightly-coloured statue of the god Ganesha. At 25ft tall it is one of the largest Ganesh statues in the world. It is said to have been built because of a dream dreamed by Shri Dadhich, a devotee from Ujjain.
It is said to be made of brick, lime, earth from the seven Sapta Puri holy places, cow dung, powdered gemstones (diamond, emerald, pearl, ruby and topaz) and holy water from India’s main pilgrimage sites.
The Khajrana neighbourhood is famous for its Ganesha Mandir, which attracts large crowds of devotees.
The temple is thought to have been built by the queen Ahilya Bai. The faithful believe it will grant the wishes of all who come there to pray to the elephant-headed god Ganesh.
Nearby is the dargah or mausoleum of the Sufi saint Nahar Sayed, which attracts many Muslim pilgrims.
The Gomatgiri Jain temple was built in 1981 on a small hill ten minutes from Indore airport.
It houses a 6m statue of Gomateshwar which is said to be a replica of the one at Shravanabelagola in Karnataka. The complex includes 24 temples, one to each of the 24 Tirthankaras (saints) of the Jain religion.
Legend has it that the god Brahma named Allahabad “Tirth Raj” or “king of pilgrimage centres”. It is here that the incredible Kumbha Mela is held gathering millions of devotees. “Incredible India”, the country’s official slogan, is no exaggeration here.
Govardhan is a sacred hill 26km from Mathura. It is an important place of pilgrimage for Hindus; to them, Lord Krishna and Govardhan hill are one.
Sonmarg, the “golden meadow”, certainly owes its name to the natural beauty of this alpine valley 2740m above sea level, 87km from Srinagar. Around it are the majestic Kolhoi and Machoi glaciers and mountain peaks reaching more than 5000m.
Just as Agra is known for the magnificent Taj Mahal, Amritsar too has its emblematic monument, the famous Golden Temple, spiritual and cultural centre of the Sikh religion. Amritsar (“nectar of immortality”) is also called Guru Nagri, “city of gurus”, referring to the spiritual leaders of the Sikh religion. As well as the famous Golden Temple this holy city offers such sights as the Durgiana temple and the more unusual Lal Devi temple (Lal Devi was a 20th-century woman saint).
Char Dham, meaning ‘four abodes’, is the pilgrimage circuit around the four most revered pilgrimage sites in all India. These are in Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri and Rameshwaram, located at the four cardinal points of the Indian sub-continent.
Hindus believe that a pilgrimage or yatra around the Char Dham cities opens the way to moksha, liberation from the cycle of deaths and rebirths. They also think that every believer should try to visit each of these places at least once in their life.
Chota Char Dham: Over time, another Char Dham pilgrimage circuit has developed, in Uttarakhand state in North India. Its importance has increased considerably since the 1960s, with improvements in roads and other infrastructure.
It is known as Chota Char Dham, ‘the four small abodes’ or ‘Himalayan Char Dham’ as all four “Dham” are situated in the Garhwal Himalayas.
Most pilgrims start the ‘Chota Char Dham’ pilgrimage at Haridwar. Others set off from Rishikesh, or from Dehradun, capital of Uttarakhand. From there, the tradition is to visit Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath in that order ; from East to West.
Yamunotri, 3300m up in the Garhwal Himalayas, marks the source of the Yamuna, one of seven India’s most holy rivers.
Yamuna temple, on the left bank of the sacred river, was built by Pratap Shah, a 19th-century Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal. The idol is made of black marble. For Hindus the Yamuna, like the Ganges, has the status of a holy mother.
Gangotri is a town near the source of the Ganges, more than 3000m above sea level in the Garhwal Himalayas.
India’s holiest river is called Bhagirathi at its source and Ganga (Ganges) after it reaches Devprayag, where it is joined by the Alaknanda river.
The actual source of the river is at Gaumukh on the Gangotri glacier, 18km from the town. Gangotri temple was built by the Gurkha general Amar Singh Thapa in homage to Mother Ganges.
Kedarnath is situated about 3583 meters above the sea level near the Chorabari Glacier. It is the abode of one of 12 Jyotirlingams dedicated to Lord Shiva.
According to legend, the five Pandava brothers wanted to meet Shiva to ask him the absolution of their murders committed during the war against the Kauravas. Shiva decided to test them and went from town to town to finally arrive at Kedarnath in the form of a buffalo. Bhima, one of the Pandava brothers recognized him. Shiva decided then to sank into the ground, leaving only his hump on the surface. It is this hump that is worshiped in the temple of Kedarnath.
Due to the extreme weather, the temple is open only late April until November. During the winter, the vigrahas (deities) of Kedarnath temple are transported to Ukhimath.
The temple is not directly accessible by road. It is reached by a trek of 19km.
Badrinath stands on the river Alaknanda, 3000m above sea level in the Garhwal Himalayas.
According to the sacred Bhagavata Purana texts it is at Badrinath that Vishnu, in his incarnation as Narayana, performed a great penitence for the wellbeing of all living beings.
The town’s main attraction is Badrinath temple. Legend has it that the sage Adi Shankara found a figurine of the god Badrinarayan (Vishnu) made of holy black saligram stone in the river Alaknanda. It was kept in a cave near the Tapt Kund hot springs until the 16th century when the king of Garhwal had it moved to its current temple.