Incredible India: Pilgrimages That Rewired My Consciousness

I received an email from Chelsea, wonderful editor of Intent Blog, stating that pilgrimages is the theme for Intent blog this week.  I immediately decided to share the pilgrimages that I have been taking for a number of years now. These pilgrimages are a significant part of my training as a spiritual seeker.

The places I am going to mention are popularly known as temples of the Hindu religion, but I always treat them as shrines of transformation where you receive an abundance of energy to make your next move as a seeker. My spiritual quests are resolved at these pilgrimages. I have always been fascinated with the mysticism of the eastern sages, and  these places also allowed me to gain access to some of the most rare sages ever known. They never spoke much but whenever they said anything, it was more than 100 times of what a NY Times bestseller can give you in terms of knowledge.

The common theme in all these places is Tantra, which is a sacred science of transformation. I have been learning Tantra even before I started learning how to make a cup of tea. I began these journeys without much knowledge about them but it all unfolded beautifully with every visit!

1. Vaishno Devi:

Location: Jammu and Kashmir

What’s so interesting about it? It’s considered one of the holiest pilgrimages with more than 10 million visitors coming every year from within India and abroad. Situated at 5,200 feet above, the pilgrims have to walk for about 9 miles in high mountains before they reach the ancient cave where the Goddess is believed to have meditated thousands of years ago. There are no statues or idols inside the cave but simply the presence of rocks where she’s believed to have manifested.

My connection: When I went there for the first time, I was just one year old. For a couple of years, I used to accompany my parents and elders. But my first independent journey happened in year 2000 and since then I have been going every year on December 31st to begin my new year in meditation. The journey is tough and long, but somehow the meditation on top of mountains makes it all worth it and it all makes total sense to me! By the way, the management now offers helicopters and many other ways of commuting if you don’t wish to walk.

2. Kamakhya

Location: Guwahati

What’s so interesting about it? Kamakhya can be easily counted as the most mystic of all the pilgrimages. Unlike Vaishno Devi, Kamakhya doesn’t attract millions of people. In all my visits, I  always see just a handful of people, majority of which are just local visitors or the students of Tantra. Kamakhya is respected as the most important Tantra goddess and this shrine is believed to have the yoni (female generative organ) of the Goddess. There is no light in the shrine as a symbol of respect toward her private part. The shrine remains closed in months of June and July when the Goddess is believed to go through her menstrual period. It is during this time that one can see sages of over 100 years old coming here to meditate from all over India. I have been told that the media is usually shy (read it as ‘scared’) to cover the festivity during these two months.

My connection: It was after requesting my Guru for a number of years that I finally got permission to visit there along with him. I was fascinated by the mysticism of the place. After my first meditation experience, I added this is to my permanent must-visit list and now I am in my 8th year of regular visits to Kamakhya. Nothing energizes me more than doing my meditations here for a few days!

3. Mahakaaleshwar

Location: Ujjain

What’s so interesting about it? The western world is fascinated by Lord Shiva and his mystic look. In all my public talks, I am asked constantly about Shiva and his stories. What most of the western seekers don’t know is about this place where Shiva is worshipped as the Lord of death. Considered one of the highest abodes of Tantra, it has a one of a kind of Bhasm Arti (ash ritual) performed every morning to wake up Shiva. The Shiva Lingam (symbol of Shiva’s male energy) is decorated with flowers and the ash, which is collected from funeral pyres of the last body cremated. No women are allowed to join in this ritual. It attracts tourists and also some serious seekers of Tantra.

My connection: After I got married, this was one of the first places I decided to go with my newly wed wife. I thought this might be a good place to show her the the kind of life I live. For the last 4 years, I have been making constant trips there  and  hopefully I will visit it by the end of year again.

4. Kal Bhairov

Location: Ujjain
What’s so interesting about it? Many major newspapers of USA and Europe have covered this place as the ‘Indian God who drinks liquor’. Yes, Bhairov (the residing God of this shrine), drinks liquor. Everyday hundreds of devotees come and offer liquor to Him. It’s not known where  all the liquor goes. When I met the head priest of the shrine (seen in picture), he mentioned that a lot of media channels from India and abroad come to inquire the same question but have had no luck so far in getting an answer. Bhairov is considered as one of the very sacred manifestation of energy in the field of Tantra and is regarded by many as the savior to eliminate negativity.
My connection: My most memorable connection will always remain the fact that He motivated me to buy my first bottle of liquor. I never drank in my life, so I felt quite awkward going to a liquor shop and buying the bottle. In excitement, I ended up buying a bottle of high end wine for Him and offered it in a bowl. It vanished in front of my eyes! I still don’t drink but always get Him a bottle from here whenever I visit India.

By now, you must be thinking that I am only interested in such over the top mystical places. The truth is I never saw them as anything mystical or weird. Sometimes, my friends join me to see only the mystic side of these places but all of them forget about such elements after they enter the shrine. The collective consciousness of such places is so high that it transforms many souls. I will be more than happy to share my traveling details if anyone is ever interested to visit. You can join my Facebook page to ask about the traveling information.

My conclusion in one line would be that all these places were never a journey to mysticism or spirituality. These are my journeys within, and there’s never a day when I don’t find myself connecting with loving energy of these pilgrimages. The more I travel to these pilgrimages, the more I travel within.

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  1. What was so attractive about Kamakya ? Did u see any positive changes in ure life after visting the shrines ?


  2. Atul,

    Kamakhya is the highest abode of Tantra worship. Her meditations are extremely sacred. The attractive part was the incredible energy surrounding the shrine! There is no light & you get to meditate in dark old buildings with just the 'diya' lighting! My life took an amazing turn after my visit to Kamakhya. I highly recommend you to visit whenever you get a chance!


  3. No woman?? Seems like an odd place to take your wife for her first trip. What did she do while you were in there? Sound like some golf clubs….can you say Augusta, the shrine of the world of golf where men go to play each year, and woman are not allowed to join in that ritual either. Hummmmmmmm

    1. lol…I loved how you connected it with Augusta!
      Well, the ash ritual happens only in early morning around 4 am or so. But for the rest of day, everyone can join! 🙂

  4. It all sounds wonderful! So where do we sign up for the tour? I was in India last year, have had all my shots.

    1. Mara,

      You just inspired me to plan the tour as well. I will create an 'Intent' right now to make it happen soon! 🙂


  5. Hi Chandresh,

    Thanks for sharing this article! This is truly inspirational. I know what to visit duting my next trip to India 🙂