India has for long-held the attention of international backpackers as a land of wonder and mysticism. People come to India not just to see and experience its culture but also to find their inner self. Ancient Indian practices like Yoga, meditation and ayurveda are much sought after by backpackers traveling to India.
So if you are in the mood for some soul-searching or for a far-out adventure, then India is just the place for you. The following 3 places are the places to take in the real India, the magical India of yogis, fakirs, sadhus and snake charmers.
Varanasi or Benares as it was called in ancient times, is one of the oldest cities in the world. The city has been one of the holiest sites for Hindus and one where spiritual asceticism is a way of life among the sadhus for centuries. Life in Varanasi revolves around the river Ganga, the most sacred river in India. There are a series of ghats or flight of stairs that lead to the river bank where pilgrims bathe in the Ganga. The Kedar, Assi and the Panchganga ghat, where the five rivers merge are worth seeing.
The ancient Buddhist temple of Sarnath is believed to be the place where Lord Buddha gave his first Sermon. Sarnath also houses a museum that has numerous Buddhist scriptures and artifacts on display. The Saraswati Education Center is a non-profit organization that imparts free education to children in need and also has a yoga teacher training institute.
The capital city of India is easily one of the most captivating places to see in the country. The Gandhi Smriti, Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi’s residence is the perfect place to start your Delhi sightseeing. The serene grounds of the Smriti is a tribute to one the great legends of our time. Delhi is home to 3 World Heritage Sites – The Red Fort, the Qutub Minar and Humayun’s Tomb. The sites can get crowded, so start your day early.
The Rashtrapati Bhavan or the Presidential Palace is the residence of the President of India and is the largest of its kind in the world. The regal architecture and massive presidential gardens are simply sublime. An evening walk through the lush Lodhi Gardens in central Delhi is a perfect way to end your day.
Bodh Gaya is famous the world over for being the place where Lord Buddha gained enlightenment. The Mahabodhi Temple complex is one of the most spiritual places for Buddhist around the world. It is within this complex that the Bodhi tree, where Lord Buddha was believed to have attained enlightenment, can be found. Next door is the Bodhgaya Museum which showcases the life and times of Gautam Buddha and also a brief history of Buddhism.
Another attraction worth visiting is The Great Buddha statue, the largest Buddha statue in India, surrounded by a wonderful garden if you are in the mood for a picnic or a spot of yoga. The Archaeological Museum is Bodh Gaya’s hidden gem. On display are sculptures and artefacts from the time of the Buddha, making it definite must-see.
There is a saying in India, that you can take a person out of India, but you cannot take India out of a person. It is for this reason that many visitors to India decide to move to India for spiritual enlightenment.