Yātrā (Sanskrit: यात्रा, 'journey', 'procession'), in Hinduism and other Indian religions, generally means pilgrimage to holy places such as confluences of sacred rivers, places associated with Hindu epics such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana, and other sacred pilgrimage sites. Tīrtha-yātrā refers to a pilgrimage to a holy site, and is generally undertaken in groups. One who goes on a yatra is known as a yatri. As per Vedic hindu Dharma shastras a Yatri is supposed to do Yatra barefoot. He/she should travel without umbrellas,vehicles etc., to get the benefit of the Yatra. At present these rules are not followed by many pilgrims.
A yatra is a kamya ritual; it is desirable, but not obligatory, for a Hindu to perform it. One can go on a yatra for a variety of reasons, including festivals, to perform rituals for one's ancestors, or to obtain good karma. To traditional Hindus, the journey itself is as important as the destination, and the hardships of travel serve as an act of devotion in themselves. Visiting a sacred place is believed by the pilgrim to purify the self and bring one closer to the divine.
In present times, yatras are highly organised affairs, with specialised tourism companies catering to the need of yatris. State governments are sometimes involved in the organisation of annual yatras, stipulating numbers, registering yatris, and regulating yatri traffic. The Hindu sacred month of Shravan is also the time of the annual Kanwar Yatra, the annual pilgrimage of devotees of Shiva, known as Kanwaria make to Hindu pilgrimage places of Haridwar, Gaumukh and Gangotri in Uttarakhand to fetch holy waters of Ganges River, way back in 2003, 55 lakh pilgrims reach Haridwar. Other important Tirtha pilgrimages are Char Dham Yatra, which involve Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri; Amarnath yatra in Jammu and Kashmir.
'Yatra' can also describe a procession, or any festival which figures a procession, such as Rath Yatra, where chariots are pulled in parade down the streets of Puri in Orissa. In modern times the word can be used to denote marches or demonstrations, for political, environmental or societal causes.
Famous Hindu Yatra
Kasi yatra: It is the greatest of all the yatras.It is customary for every Hindu to undergo Kasi yatra on barefoot. Firstly, Saikatha pooja is done at Rameshwaram and the sand collected is immersed in Holy Ganges at Triveni Sangamam at Allahabad where Ganga, Yamuna & Saraswati meet. After Kashi Vishvanath Darshan, Ganga water is collected to do Ganga Abisheka to Lord Ramanathaswamy at Rameshwaram which is a Jyothirlinga. Pilgrims also visit Gaya to do Gaya Shraddha to their ancestors. Kasi yatra is completed only after performing abisheka to Ramanathaswamy at Rameshwaram. Details regarding how to perform various rituals,greatness of kashi kshetra,Importance of Kasi yatra are said in Kasi-Khand of Skaanda Puranam.
Mansarovar Yatra: Mansarovar is a beautiful and highest fresh-water lake in the world situated in Tibet. Mount Kailash, a place of pilgrimage attracting religious people from India and neighboring countries. The Mount Kailash is considered a sacred place in four religions Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Bon. According to Hindu mythology mount Kailash is the abode of Lord Shiva and circumambulating Mount Kailash on foot is a holy ritual. Another lake called Lake Rakshastal lying close to the west of Lake Manasarovar and The Great Mount Kailash. These lakes are the source of the Brahmaputra River and the Karnali River a tributary of the Holy river Ganges.
Amarnath Yatra: The Amarnath Temple in Jammu and Kashmir is dedicated to one of the holy trinity God “Lord Shiva“. The temple is on Amarnath mountain and Amarnath caves are most famous shrines in Hinduism. Every year inside the main Amarnath cave an Ice Shiva Lingam forms, along with two other ice formations representing Shri Ganesh and Maa Parvati. Amarnath yatra is held every year to pay homage to Lord Shiva and Maa parvati. The temple is a very popular yatra destination for Hindus, about 4 lakh people visit during the season.
Pandharpur Yatra: The Palkhi Festival Of Maharashtra is one of the most popular festivals in India. The annual Pandharpur Yatra to the famous Vithoba temple at Pandarpur held every year during the month of June and July. Thousands of pilgrims come to Pandharpur with carry Palkhis with the images of the saints of Maharashtra Sant Dyaneshwar from Alandi, Sant Tukaram’s from Dehu, Eknath’s from Paithan, and Nivruttinath’s from Trimbakeshwar. These pilgrims are referred to as Warkaris, they worship Vithoba an incarnation of Vishnu.
Ratha Yatra: The Festival of Chariots of Lord Jagannatha, held every year at Puri in the state of Orissa. The 10 day’s ratha yatra is commemorates Lord Jagannath’s, annual visit to Gundicha mata’s temple a short distance away. Thousands of pilgrims come to puri during the festival with a desire to help pull Lords chariot with ropes. This is the only day when devotees who are not allowed in the temple premises such as non-Hindus and foreigners, can get their glimpse of the deities.
Deoghar Yatra: Om Namah Shivai ! Deoghar means abode of the Gods and Goddesses, It is also known as Baidyanath Dham or Baba Dham situated on the eastern side of Jharkhand. It is an important Hindu pilgrimage center having Baidyanath Temple one of the twelve Lord Shiva Jyothirlingams in India. The pilgrims carry the holy water of holy river Ganges from Sultanganj’s and offered to the Jyotirlingam of Lord Shiva at Deoghar. These pilgrims called Kanwariya, reciting Bol Bam on the way of walk 109 KM, The march of Kanwariya start during the holy month of Shravan the wet season each year in India. Shravani Mela is the most celebrated 30-day festival in Deoghar Baidyanath Temple of Jharkhand.
Char Dham Yatra: The Chardham belongs to four pilgrimage places in India, They are Badrinath, Dwarka, Jagannath Puri, and Rameshwaram. The Char Dham are often considered the most revered sites for Hindus that have to be visited in one’s lifetime. There is a Chota Char Dham as well includes Yamunotri, Gangotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath situated in Garhwal Himalayas.
Amarnath Yatra Camp.
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