India, with its long religious traditions, is the perfect place to enjoy a unique and profoundly spiritual experience. This is because India is home to yoga, Buddhist meditation, Ayurveda (traditional Hindu medicine), and one of the most spectacular religious ceremonies in the world: Ganga Aarti, the ritual performed to honor the Ganges River.
You can choose to spend some time in a monastery in Leh, or maybe head to one of the famous yoga centers in Rishikesh. Why not enjoy an Ayurvedic treatment in Kerela and admire the beauty of Ganga Aarti in Varanasi? There are so many things to choose from: it is truly your chance to unwind, relax, and try to get a deeper understanding of life.
Keep reading our short article to know how and where you can find the perfect spiritual experience in India!
- India is the perfect place for those wanting a rich and deeply spiritual experience.
- Ganga Aarti, yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda are just some of the ways you can achieve this.
- Gather along the banks of the Ganges to witness Ganga Aarti.
- Find your way to an ashram (a monastery in Indian religions) to practice yoga and meditation.
- Varanasi, Leh, and Rishikesh are some of the best places to seek out an authentic Hindu spiritual experience.
In Hinduism – India's main religion – the Ganges River is extremely important, as it is the embodiment of sacredness and the river goddess Ganga. To honor this important waterway, every night when the sun sets thousands of Hindus all over the country gather along its bank and perform Ganga Aarti.
Witnessing the ceremony of Ganga Aarti is an experience that people never forget: you will see masses of Hindus praying, singing, and burning incense along the Ganges. It creates an atmosphere unlike any other.
As said, the main purpose of the ceremony is to honor and show gratitude to the river goddess Ganga. You will see people burning fires and floating flowers on the river no matter the weather.
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Yoga in India
In Sanskrit, the word "yoga" means "to connect". The purpose of yoga is to help people connect to themselves, to still the mind, strengthen the body, and soften the heart. The process of yoga helps people experience an intimate relationship with their bodies and more importantly, consciousness.
Yoga began in India thousands of years ago, and nowadays many tourists decide to visit yoga centers scattered around the country. Some of the more famous ones are the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, the Chinmaya Mission in Mumbai, and the Ramakrishna Mission in Belur Math.
These yoga centers provide everything: from in-depth courses to flexible drop-in classes. Of course, every center is different, with different teaching styles and approaches. So it is advised to do a little bit of research and find the one that most suits your desires.
When traveling, ask your hotel concierge or travel advisor to help you locate a yoga center near you.
Buddhist Meditation in India
Buddhist meditation is a technique used to train awareness and calm the mind. It is a fundamental step of one's path toward enlightenment and self-realization. Besides, meditation is useful in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.
Some of the best meditation centers of India are in Dharamsala and McLeondganj, home of the Dalai Lama. Traditionally, meditation (along with yoga) is taught in spiritual hermitages or monasteries called ashrams. Usually, these hermitages are located far from cities, for example in forests.
Many ashrams all over India can help you tend to your mind and body. They range from 5-star accommodations to basic dwellings.
Ayurveda originated in India thousands of years ago finding its roots in Hinduism. It is a traditional system of alternative medicine primarily made up of herbal therapies, dietary changes, and massage.
Ayurveda follows the general principle of "harmony": to balance the physical existence, the mental existence, and the personality of an individual.
Within Ayurveda, building a healthy metabolic system is fundamental. As are practicing yoga, meditation, and respecting the body's natural circadian rhythms.
Massages are one of the main treatments. They focus on relaxation and stress relief: the doctor aims to find the energy points and balance energy within one's body. It is common for the masseur to use tuning forks and metal tools to relieve the body's tension.
To expel the toxic materials from the body, Ayurveda relies on panchakarma, "the five treatments". It is a pleasant experience: the body is massaged with oils, treated with herbal steam therapy, etc. Not every panchakarma treatment is the same, as physicians try to give each person an individualized experience.
It is believed that Ayurveda originated in the Indian state of Kerala, and almost every hotel in the state has an Ayurvedic center.
Some of the better-known centers are the Kairali Ayurvedic Health Resort of Palakkad (with branches in Delhi and Khajuraho), and the Somatheeram Ayurvedic Resort of Kovalam. If you are looking for Ayurvedic treatment, the Arya Vaidyasala in Kottakkal is a pioneer institute.
Best Places to Enjoy a Spiritual Experience in India
So far, we have listed the main activities of a Hindu spiritual experience in India and the places specialized in them. However, India is a huge country and finding the right place can be challenging. That's why we've listed the best places to enjoy each one of the various experiences described above.
From the Ganga Aarti ceremony in Varanasi to the Buddhist monasteries in Leh; from an Ayurvedic treatment in Kerala to yoga lessons in Rishikesh: these are the best of the best and you won't be disappointed.
Ganga Aarti in Varanasi
As described above, Ganga Aarti is a wonderful religious experience that takes place every night along the banks of the Ganges River. Of all the places, there is no doubt that the best place to witness the ceremony is Varanasi (Haridwar and Rishikesh are highly recommended as well).
When the sun sets, head to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple to see a huge assembly of people bringing to life this choreographed ceremony.
The ceremony starts with the blowing of a conch shell to remove all the negative energy in the area. Then people start waving incense in the air and walk in circles around large lamps, all while chanting and playing music. It is truly unforgettable.
If you wish to attend Ganga Aarti in Varanasi, we strongly recommend arriving as early as possible. You can also admire the ceremony from a boat or standing on one of the many balconies offered by the shops along the river.
Buddhist Monasteries in Leh
When in Leh, you will be surrounded by mud-brick homes, monasteries, green farmland and desert that blends into the snowy mountains. It is easy to understand why Leh is a unique setting for those wanting to explore the world of meditation.
The core of Leh is without any doubt its medieval town, with its maze-like alleys, Buddhist monuments, and prayer stones. Don't forget to visit the ancient Leh Palace and see all nine stories. However, the royal family now lives in Stok Palace.
- Thikse Monastery
The monastery is located a 30-minute drive from Leh. Its unique structure resembles a staircase, and one of its particularities is that monks of both genders live there. This monastery belongs to the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism led by the Dalai Lama.
You can freely visit it by yourself or hire a guide. We recommend visiting it around 6:00 am so you can listen to the monks chanting their morning prayers.
- Hemis Monastery
An hour's drive from Leh is the Hemis Monastery, which is the wealthiest monastery of the region. The monastery boasts beautiful architecture. You can visit the two statues of Buddha and Guru Rimpoche, or head to the museum hosting a large collection of Buddhist relics.
During the Hemis Festival (held in June or July) you can enjoy music, shows, and dancing for two full days.
Ayurvedic Treatment in Kerela
It is believed that Ayurvedic medicine originated in the region of Kerela. A famous port city in Kerela is Cochin, a city packed with mansions, churches, synagogues, and mosques. The best way to experience the city of Cochin is by taking a walking tour to admire both the architecture of the city along with the markets and shops.
Kerela has become increasingly famous thanks to its many Ayurvedic resorts, offering spa packages, massages, and healing therapies.
One of the best resorts in the area is the Carnoustie Ayurveda and Wellness Resort. It boasts luxurious villas, exceptional dining, and an amazing Ayurvedic spa. Head there for a luxury treatment.
If you are vegetarian, then choose Kalari Kovilakom, known for its tranquil yoga and meditation sessions. The Ayurvedic therapies are customizable and can last up to 28 days.
Last but not least, Nattika Beach Ayurveda Resort is another famous beach resort in the area. Guests can stay in a luxurious villa a few steps away from the ocean and the Ayurveda experience is unforgettable.
Yoga in Rishikesh
India lovers all over the world know of famous Rishikesh, where you can find numerous ashrams and different styles of yoga and meditation. Research in advance to find the right style for you!
Parmarth Niketan is located on the bank of the Ganges and is the biggest ashram in the area. It sports 1,000 rooms with various standards of accommodation. During your stay, you will have two yoga classes and three meals per day. You can also learn about Vedic heritage and spirituality by attending daily classes.
Sivananda Ashram is another famous center in the area and its teachings are based on the five points of yoga: posture, breathing, relaxation, meditation, and diet. To reserve accommodation, guests need to apply at least a month in advance.
For those wanting to explore the world of Iyengar yoga, head to the Patanjala Yoga Kendra center, located at Omkarananda Ganga Sadan. You can attend free daily classes but if you wish to sleep there and get an intensive course, you need to book months in advance. You can also attend lectures on the Bhagavad Gita.
Visit India with Asia Highlights
For those wanting to escape their bustling modern life and enjoy a deeply spiritual experience, India is one of the best places to go…you just have to find the right fit for you!
So, let our knowledgeable team help you. We will take care of everything, ensuring you a hassle-free vacation and the ideal occasion to enjoy a unique spiritual experience that will relax you both inside and out.
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