India is home to a great number of religions, many having attained birth in this Holy Land.
The majority of the people follow Hinduism with its manifold pantheon of gods. According to the Hindus, the holy trinity is composed of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer. Among them, Vishnu and Shiva are more ardently worshipped. Two most popular gods are Rama and Krishna, both incarnations of Vishnu. And the two epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, have inspired much of the human love for Rama and Krishna, with their human feelings and legends of love.
Popular Hindu circuits would include the Garhwal Himalayas in the north, with the shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. The River Ganga is held sacred by all; along her length have sprung up towns to propitiate the river goddess. Rishikesh and Hardwar are two important pilgrim centers of Hinduism. The holiest of cities, however, is Varanasi, where, to bathe in the Ganga, is to wash off all earthly ssins.
Other Hindu holy centers include the shrines of Amarnath and Vaishno Devi in Jammu & Kashmir; Baijnath and Jwalamukhi in Himachal Pradesh; Allahabad, Mathura and Brindavan in Uttar Pradesh; Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh; Dwarka in Gujarat; Nasik ,Shirdi ,Ashtavinayak & Jyotirlinga in Maharashtra; Puri in Orissa; Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh; and Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu.
Islam, following the acceptance of the will of god, has a large following in India. India also has a fair share of mosques. The Jama Masjid in Delhi is one of lndia's most magnificent sights. Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia's Dargah at Delhi is visited by thousands of followers. The Dargah Sharif in Ajmer; the Royal Mosque in Fatehpur Sikri; Mecca Masjid, Hyderabad; Masjid-eAla, Srirangapatna; Nakhoda Mosque, Calcutta; Jami and Rani Rupmati's Mosques, Ahmedabad; Jumma Masjid, Bombay; Jama Masjid and Taj-ul-Masajid, Bhopal; Hazratbal, Srinagar; Katra Masjid, Murshidabad; Thousand Lights Mosque, Madras are some of the notable mosques and mausoleums.
Many centuries ago, Lord Buddha preached the sermons on Buddhism and the eight-fold path to salvation. Pilgrims come today to retrace the footsteps of the Buddha. To Lumbini (in Nepal), his birth-place. From Bodhgaya where he attained enlightenment to Sarnath where he preached his first sermon. To Kushinagar (Kasia), the place of mahaparinirvana, and to Sravasti, Sankasya, Rajagriha (Rajgir) and Vaishali; the other four places intimately associated with the Great Master. Then there are Sanchi, Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda, where lie stupas and other Buddhist shrines.
The Sikh religion traces its history back to the 15th century and to Guru Nanak, the first of its ten gurus. Sikhs have built gurdwaras in most cities and towns. However, a sight worth seeing is the Golden Temple at Amritsar and the annual camp of the Nihang Sikhs at Anandpur Sahib.
Christianity came to India with St Thomas who came to Kerala and converted the people of the Malabar coast into Christians. Roman Catholicism came in the 16th century with a Jesuit missionary, St Francis Xavier. The British influence in India has resulted in the various Protestant sects. Although there are churches in every city in India, the best examples are at Goa, Kerala, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta. The 16th century Jewish synagogue has hand-painted Chinese tiles and is one of the landmarks of Cochin.
Other minority religions in India include Jainism, and Zoroastrianism. Jain tirthankaras are enshrined at many places, some thousand years old and some more recent. A few worth visiting are at Mount Abu, Sravanabelagola, Khajuraho and Palitana.
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