This post is for those of you who want to get that “religious” experience while in India, whether it be Hindu or Buddhist, Muslim or Christian (although most are Hindu here). There are loads more than what is on this list and if you have a lot of time, I recommend these spiritual things to do in India while you’re here.
You can learn Eastern medicine, mediation, and take yoga classes easily on top of all this and you’ll end your trip feeling pretty well-rounded.
5 Spiritual things to do in India
1. Learn from The Dalai Lama in DharamShala.
This is a place in India where cultures collide and Hindus and Buddhist live together in peace. The Dalai Lama was exiled and took refuge right here in the northwest corner of India. Come and learn from him directly (but check his schedule first) or take a 10-day Vipassana meditation course up on the hill, and eat the best deep fried momos of your life once the strict class lets out. They say the 10 day vow of silence will change your life. The great thing is, once it’s all done you’ll find yourself in a town packed with tourists that aren’t having a spiritual experience. You’ll have to learn to balance back into your backpacking life without losing all you’ve learned just like you will in “real life” back home.
2. Visit Nasik for the Kumbh Mela.
Not for the faint of hearted, this pilgrimage led 100 MILLION people into the Saraswati river in Allahabad last year. There are five places the “amrit” dropped (elixir of immortality): Nasik, Allahabad, Haridwar, Chataradham, and Ujjain. That’s what makes these places holy. It doesn’t take place each year and rotates location. Nasik is up next during the year of 2015 with 5 different bathing days. With thousands of holy men all in one place you are BOUND to see things that shock you. Well, many are naked so that might shock you enough right there.
Caution: stampedes do occur. If you’re curious to know more, check out Inside the Mahakumbh, a National Geographic Documentary, which funnily enough features the Sadhu Rampuri, who is not only my neighbor, but my patient as I’ve taken on the role of his nurse lately.
3. Witness extreme devotion in Varanasi.
Another important city along the river and also a place people go to wash away their sins, this city is also where over 80 people a day are cremated along the riverbanks. The city is the dirtiest in India and extremely crowded. On a bike rickshaw in heavy traffic I was bumped into by men carrying a dead body over my head. It’s a place that forces you to think about the complexities of life. If there is anywhere in India that you should make a priority, this is it.
4. Get a Curing hug from a Guru in Amritapuri Ashram.
photos from Amma’s website
Get a hug from Amma, a saint and Guru to Hindus. She will give you “Darshan” or luck, fortune, and grant wishes after you tell her your troubles. She’ll fix everything with just a hug and special picked mantra. In 30 years, she’s hugged 33 million people per their request, sometimes for more than 20 hours straight she stays at her temple and hugs those in line. She does this every single day (since the 70’s). Amma now goes on tour so check her schedule. Yeah, these holy people can be hard to get in touch with… even though she’s got a Facebook and the Dalai Lama has been tweeting for a while.
5. Stand where 3 seas (sort of) meet in Kanyakumari.
At the southern tip of the cardamom hills in Tamil Nadu, the Bay of Bengal, the Indian ocean, and the Arabian Sea meet on multi-colored sand. The place where the seas connect is called Thriveni Sangamam.The name comes from a connection with the goddess Devi and many Hindus pilgrimage here. It’s famous not just for the Hindu background, but because it’s commonly known this is where the three seas meet…. But if someone were to get technical, like those map people do, they’ll tell you only one sea is here: the Laccadive Sea, but like the rest of India does, I am choosing to ignore that. Here you can visit the temples and learn more about the history/mythology.
Yoga in India is also quite spiritual!
If you are interested in taking courses but want to pay safely and not get ripped off, you can use bookyogaretreats.com for retreats and bookyogateachertraining.com for YTT. These are owned by the same team and they only list the best of the best on there. There are reviews for other yogis who have been there so you can dive in and do some serious research. I recommend sorting by the “top recommended”.
The top places for yoga in India are Rishikesh, Dharamshala, and Goa.
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All of these experiences look incredible (although, I admit, the one with the stampeding may be a bit much for me… I can have a hard time with crowds, though I imagine it doesn’t take long in India to break you of that issue!), and the only one I had really heard of before was all of the spiritual pilgrimages that happen at Varanasi. It’s high on my list of places I would like to visit on the very long list I have for India. One day I will make it there, I promise!
Yeah that one looks pretty intense. If you’re curious about the stampede of nudies you should read holy cow! And, yes, Varanasi is the most interesting place I’ve been!
Wow! Incredible. Your posts are making me seriously excited for my trip to India next month!
I’ve always wanted to go to Dharamshala and go to a Buddhist meditation centre there…
I’m glad you’re feeling inspired.. you’re gonna love it!
Wow, these experiences look monumental! India has been a little off the radar on my travel bucket list, but reading your blog is making me reconsider. Great post!
That’s great to hear! I hope you add a couple to your list.
I’m so down for the meditation retreat. I can only imagine how tough/life changing ten days of silence would be!
omgsh, I bet it’s be amazing but I have had yogi friends who have meditated for years leave that place crying after 5 days!
These all sound so interesting, especially Nasik. That many naked people would be a shock! :)
I remember Amma came to Ireland about 10 years ago. I wish I went to see her!
Did you do the 10 days of silence? I think it would be really hard, but worth it!
I haven’t done the 10 days, too nervous! ha, I hate to sleep on hard floors and they don’t feed you much.
All sound really interesting, although I’ll probably skip out on the naked, stampeding men and just opt for the documentary experience. I would love to listen to the Dalai Lama speak. I missed an opportunity to do it last year and have been bummed ever since!
Ah yeah, that would be a bummer but I’m sure you’ll get another chance. He speaks all over the world!
Some of that seems a bit intense. I love that the dalai lama has twitter, one of my favorite IG feeds is of a Tibetan monks who posts pictures from his monastery.
lol that sounds like an interesting IG account!