- Namita Purohit
- Life Stages
Holy places have always been focal points for pilgrims who make long (and often arduous) journeys to reinvigorate their faith. Pilgrimage is not just a physical journey to a special place but also an inner spiritual journey towards transcendence. For Christians and Jews that holy place may be Bethlehem or Jerusalem, for Muslims it’s Mecca and Medina, and for Buddhists it’s Bodh Gaya. For devotees of Krishna, three places hold special significance.
Vrindavana and Mathura – Krishna was born in the city of Mathura and spent His childhood in the nearby village of Vrindavana. Located 75 miles (130 km) south of Delhi, there are over 5,000 temples in this area, as well as the sacred River Yamuna, Govardhana Hill and Radha Kund.
• Mayapur – Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the incarnation of Krishna in this age, appeared here in 1486. Much of His early life was spent around this area. Located 75 miles (130 km) north of Calcutta, Mayapur is also the world headquarters of ISKCON.
• Jagannatha Puri – This town is revered by devotees as the home of Jagannatha, a very special form of Krishna called the ‘Lord of the Universe’. Over one million pilgrims attend the Rathayatra, an annual chariot festival that takes place here. Located approximately 37 miles (60 km) from Bhubaneswar, the state capital of Orissa, Jagannatha Puri is also revered because Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu spent many years here.
These holy sites are extraordinary places brimming with spiritual energy and blessings for all. Elaborate worship takes place in temples that bustle with pilgrims; constant devotional chanting fills the atmosphere at all hours. These are cities that never sleep! The daily sights and sounds remind us of God. Pilgrimages afford us the opportunity of associating with saintly people, help us develop a personal connection with Krishna, and inspire us to go deeper into our spiritual practices. Srila Prabhupada explains that anyone who circumambulates these holy places becomes free from the cycle of repeated birth and death in this material world. In fact, all benefits derived from spiritual activities multiply many fold in these holy places.
But to gain these spiritual advantages and blessings, we must approach these places with a sincere attitude and humble heart. We have to see these sacred sites with the eyes of devotion. This can be difficult because externally there is heart-wrenching poverty, decrepit infrastructure and widespread pollution. Thus, it is always recommended that one visit holy places in the company of mature devotees of Krishna. They help us to go beyond superficiality and actually see the heart of these places.