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Hindu Pilgrimages: From Roots to Perspectives

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Abstract:

Among the ancient epics, the Mahabharata, dated ca 5th century BCE, is the first source of Hindu pilgrimages (tirtha-yatra). The mythologies of medieval period eulogised the sacred places and their sacred spots. These works describe how the pilgrimage symbolises spiritual progress and how it would be beneficial in getting relief from sins and worldly affairs. Pilgrimage is prescribed as a duty for spiritual merit. The notion of Hindu pilgrimage symbolised different contexts like route, place, riverbank, and also sites associated to sages. The typology of sacred places is described in ancient texts on the scale of location, merit, associational context, and intensity of power. In general, a four-tier hierarchy of pilgrimage places is accepted. According to ancient mythology and the Hindu mind-set still the most popular sacred place is Kashi (Banaras), eulogised as one of the three ladders to the heaven; the others are Allahabad and Gaya. These three together form ‘bridge to the heaven’.

Keywords: Hindu belief system; Kumbha Mela; cosmic circuit; faithscape; ghostscape; mandala; sacredscape; typology

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5848/CSP.0794.00005

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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    This book is the first attempt dealing with roots of Indian geographical thought since its beginning in 1920. It emphasises identity of India and Indianness and consciousness among dweller geographers in India; the development and status of geography and its recent trends; Gaia theory and Indian context in search of cosmic integrity; ecospirituality and global message towards interrelatedness; Hindu pilgrimages and its contemporary importance; Mahatma Gandhi and his contribution to sustainable environmental development for global peace and humanism; and new vision to see meeting grounds of the East and the West on the line of reconstruction and reconciliation in the globalising world.
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