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Hindu Places of Pilgrimage in India (A study in Cultural Geography)
Hindu Places of Pilgrimage in India (A study in Cultural Geography)
Description

About the Book:

Combining historical analysis with his own fieldwork, Dr. Bhardwaj not only established the importance of the institution of pilgrimage in Indian history and the persistence of similar distribution patterns of sacred places over long periods, but also furnished the normative background for contemporary practices. He is concerned with the relationship of the rank-order of a shrine to its degree of sanctity, kind of deity, and caste and motivation of the pilgrim. Using both objective statistical surveys and the pilgrims' subjective perceptions (as reflected in a special questionnaire), he posits the existence of two models of religious circulation: a "general pattern" characteristic of the pilgrimages of the religiously-oriented upper castes to all-India and supra-regional shrines in pursuit of religious merit, and a "specific pattern" more characteristic of lower caste visits to local and regional shrines for specific, practical purposes. Unlike earlier writers on the subject, Mr. Bhardwaj examines both the historical and the contemporary patterns of pilgrimage at various levels - pan-Hindu, supra-regional, sub-regional, and local.

About the Author:

Dr. Surinder Mohan Bhardwaj is Professor of Geography at Kent State University, Kent, USA.

Introduction

The institution of pilgrimage to holy places (tirtha-yatra ) is an ancient and continuing religious tradition of the Hindus. Numerous sacred places distributed in various parts of India attract millions of pilgrims; some places draw pilgrims from all over the country, others largely from the neighboring villages. Thus, religion assumes an important role in generating a circulation mechanism in which all the social strata of Hinduism participate. The liberal distribution of sacred places throughout India has created an essentially continuous religious space in which the otherwise great regional cultural diversity becomes less significant for the movement of pilgrims over long distances. Religion provides the basis of pil- grimage by offering the reward of purification of the soul and the attainment of objectives related to the problems of mundane existence. The study of this circulatory mechanism of Hinduism, with its roots in religion, forms the subject matter of our inquiry.

HINDU PILGRIMAGE, ITS NATURE, DEVELOPMENT, AND MOTIYE

Every religion has its sacred foci to which men of faith periodically converge. From the most ancient civilizations to the present times sacred centers have exerted a powerful pull on the believers. The Sumerians of antiquity, who reverently ascended the steps of the Ziggurat to reach the gate of heaven, have their modern counterpart in the devout Jews and Christians who visit the Holy Land, and in the multitudes of Muslims from diverse parts of the world who undertake the hajj to Mecca. Millions of Hindus, since time immemorial, have similarly been attracted to their numerous holy sites in India. Pilgrimage is thus a panhuman phenomenon albeit its importance is reduced in the industrial- commercial nations of the Western world. The concept of pilgri- mage exists in all major religions, although, not unexpectedly, its meaning varies widely within the canonical structure of each religion.

The nature of Hindu pilgrimage is capsuled in the Indian expression tirtha-yatra, which literally means "undertaking journey to river fords." In common parlance, visitation to sacred places is considered tirtha-yatra. There is, however, much more implied in the term tirtha-yatra, and it is essential to understand those implications in order to avoid confusion, which is bound to arise if the English expression "pilgrimage" is equated with the strictly Indian terminology. Agehananda Bharati has rightly pointed out that Indian terms for pilgrimage are often to be understood metaphorically.' A yogi, for example, may physically stay put and yet, through a specific type of meditation, may "perform a pil- grimage" to the seven "shrines." Here both the "pilgrimage" and "shrine" are to be understood in their generalized meaning. Pilgrimage here means to "partake of' and the "shrine" implies a certain quality such as "truth." We may further clarify this metonymy by referring to a verse from Skandapurana (a religious treatise): "Truth, forgiveness, control of senses, kindness to all living beings and simplicity are tirthas,"? Thus, tirtha-yatra not only means the physical act of visiting the holy places but implies mental and moral discipline. In fact, without the latter, pilgrimage in the physical sense has little significance in the Hindu tradition. The practice of pilgrimage in Hinduism follows from some of the basic underpinnings of its philosophy. Four dominant ideas have persisted in Hindu thought concerning attitudes to life. These are dharma, artha, kama, and moksa Dharma is charac- terized by "considerations of righteousness, duty and virtue. Artha entails material gain, worldly advantage, and success. Kama signifies love and pleasure. The fourth, moksa, is the spiritual realization and self-emancipation which has been equated by some scholars with salvation or freedom from transmigration The first three aspects of life converge toward the final goal, spiritual bliss. Within this philosophical concept of life those activities, obser- vances, rituals, and rites become meaningful which help in the attainment of liberation of the self from the bondage of repeated birth and rebirth. Hinduism provides a wide variety of courses that individuals may take toward religious fulfillment. For example, there is the path of knowledge, jnana-yoga; the way of-action, karma-yoga; and the path of unmixed devotion, bhakti-yoga. Pilgrimage, though not one of the major recognized paths of achieving moksa, is nevertheless accepted as a desirable practice to earn religious merit within a life lived according to dharma. It is one of the many ways toward self-realization and bliss.

Pilgrimage to sacred places is of no avail if a person does not lead a moral life. There are repeated references in Hindu religious literature that suggest moral life as a precondition for deriving any merit (phala) from sojourn to holy sanctuaries and bathing in sacred rivers Journey to sacred places provides opportunity for the householder to detach himself for some time from the cares and worries of daily life and to devote that time to prayer, contemplation, and listening to the spiritual discourses of holy men.

CONTENTS
    INTRODUCTION
  1. A GENERAL SURVEY OF THE LITERATURE ON PLACES OF PILGRIMAGE IN INDIA
    Epic and Puranic Material
    Medieval Sources Based on Puranic Material
    Travel and Related Literature
    Twentieth-Century Studies
    Pilgrims' Travel Guides and Related Literature
    Gazetteers
    Pilgrim Registers and Records kept by Priests

     

  2. DISTRIBUTION OF HINDU PLACES OF PILGRIMAGE ACCORDING TO THE MAHABHARATA
    Analysis of the Distribution
    Relative Importance of Tirthas and Cults according to the Mahabharata

     

  3. A GRAND PILGRIMAGE OF INDIA ACCORDING TO THE MAHABHARATA
    Introduction
    The Route of the Pilgrimage
    Conclusions

     

  4. SACRED PLACES ACCORDING TO THE PURANAS AND SOME LATER SOURCES
    Introduction
    Places of Pilgrimage according to the Puranas
    Distribution of Hindu Places of Pilgrimage in the Early Part of the twelfth Century A.D.
    Distribution of Hindu Places of Pilgrimage Based on Some Non-Hindu Medieval Sources
    Conclusions

     

  5. TIRTHAS: THEIR RELATIVE IMPORTANCE, SITE CHARACTERISTICS, AND PRINCIPAL DEITIES
    Distribution of Sacred Places
    Classification of Present-Day Tirthas
    Stoddard's Attempt to Account for the Distribution of Holy Places
    Conclusions

     

  6. PERCEPTION OF THE RANKS OF SACRED PLACES
    Introduction
    Ranking of Sacred Places in Traditional Hinduism
    Perception of the Rank Order of Sacred Places
    Perception of "The Most Sacred Place" as Related to Caste
    Conclusions

     

  7. DETERMINATION OF LEVELS OF SACRED PLACES
    Introduction
    Ranking of Sacred Places According to Average Distance Traveled
    Levels of Sacred Places Based on the Cultural Diversity of the Field of Pilgrimage
    Conclusions

     

  8. THE LEVEL OF SACRED PLACE AND THE PURPOSE AND FREQUENCY OF PILGRIMAGE
    Introduction
    Purposes of Pilgrimage in General
    Purposes of Pilgrims in Field Sample
    Relationship between the Level of Sacred Places and Purposes of Pilgrimage
    Deities and the Purpose of Pilgrimage
    Frequency of Visits of Sacred Places
    Conclusions

     

  9. LEVEL OF SACRED PLACE AND THE RELIGIOUS TRAVELS OF PILGRIMS
    Introduction
    Aspects of Religious Travel Considered
    Two Basic Patterns of Pilgrim Circulation
    Implication of Religious Circulation at Different Levels

     

  10. SACRED PLACES AND THE CASTE COMPOSITION OF PILGRIMS
    Introduction
    General Findings on Caste Composition
    Relationship of Castes of Pilgrims to the Level of Sacred Places
    Relationship between the Pilgrims' Castes and the Distance Traveled to the Sacred Place in the Sample

     

  11. SACRED PLACES AND THE DIFFUSION OF RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
    The Diffusion Mechanism in General
    Specific Examples of Incipient Stage of Diffusion
    Conclusion

     

  12. PILGRIM INTERACTION AT SACRED PLACES: THE CASE OF HARDWAR
    Introduction
    Regional Seasonality of Pilgrimage
    Regional Biases in the Residential Pattern of Pilgrims
    Caste Biases in the Residential Pattern of Pilgrims
    Conclusions

     

  13. SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS

APPENDIX

    PILGRIM SAMPLES AND CASTE GROUPINGS
    Pilgrim Samples
    The Questionnaire
    Categories of Castes or Comparable Groups

BIBLIOGRAPHY

    Published Works
    Unpublished Sources

INDEX

Sample Pages























Hindu Places of Pilgrimage in India (A study in Cultural Geography)

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About the Book:

Combining historical analysis with his own fieldwork, Dr. Bhardwaj not only established the importance of the institution of pilgrimage in Indian history and the persistence of similar distribution patterns of sacred places over long periods, but also furnished the normative background for contemporary practices. He is concerned with the relationship of the rank-order of a shrine to its degree of sanctity, kind of deity, and caste and motivation of the pilgrim. Using both objective statistical surveys and the pilgrims' subjective perceptions (as reflected in a special questionnaire), he posits the existence of two models of religious circulation: a "general pattern" characteristic of the pilgrimages of the religiously-oriented upper castes to all-India and supra-regional shrines in pursuit of religious merit, and a "specific pattern" more characteristic of lower caste visits to local and regional shrines for specific, practical purposes. Unlike earlier writers on the subject, Mr. Bhardwaj examines both the historical and the contemporary patterns of pilgrimage at various levels - pan-Hindu, supra-regional, sub-regional, and local.

About the Author:

Dr. Surinder Mohan Bhardwaj is Professor of Geography at Kent State University, Kent, USA.

Introduction

The institution of pilgrimage to holy places (tirtha-yatra ) is an ancient and continuing religious tradition of the Hindus. Numerous sacred places distributed in various parts of India attract millions of pilgrims; some places draw pilgrims from all over the country, others largely from the neighboring villages. Thus, religion assumes an important role in generating a circulation mechanism in which all the social strata of Hinduism participate. The liberal distribution of sacred places throughout India has created an essentially continuous religious space in which the otherwise great regional cultural diversity becomes less significant for the movement of pilgrims over long distances. Religion provides the basis of pil- grimage by offering the reward of purification of the soul and the attainment of objectives related to the problems of mundane existence. The study of this circulatory mechanism of Hinduism, with its roots in religion, forms the subject matter of our inquiry.

HINDU PILGRIMAGE, ITS NATURE, DEVELOPMENT, AND MOTIYE

Every religion has its sacred foci to which men of faith periodically converge. From the most ancient civilizations to the present times sacred centers have exerted a powerful pull on the believers. The Sumerians of antiquity, who reverently ascended the steps of the Ziggurat to reach the gate of heaven, have their modern counterpart in the devout Jews and Christians who visit the Holy Land, and in the multitudes of Muslims from diverse parts of the world who undertake the hajj to Mecca. Millions of Hindus, since time immemorial, have similarly been attracted to their numerous holy sites in India. Pilgrimage is thus a panhuman phenomenon albeit its importance is reduced in the industrial- commercial nations of the Western world. The concept of pilgri- mage exists in all major religions, although, not unexpectedly, its meaning varies widely within the canonical structure of each religion.

The nature of Hindu pilgrimage is capsuled in the Indian expression tirtha-yatra, which literally means "undertaking journey to river fords." In common parlance, visitation to sacred places is considered tirtha-yatra. There is, however, much more implied in the term tirtha-yatra, and it is essential to understand those implications in order to avoid confusion, which is bound to arise if the English expression "pilgrimage" is equated with the strictly Indian terminology. Agehananda Bharati has rightly pointed out that Indian terms for pilgrimage are often to be understood metaphorically.' A yogi, for example, may physically stay put and yet, through a specific type of meditation, may "perform a pil- grimage" to the seven "shrines." Here both the "pilgrimage" and "shrine" are to be understood in their generalized meaning. Pilgrimage here means to "partake of' and the "shrine" implies a certain quality such as "truth." We may further clarify this metonymy by referring to a verse from Skandapurana (a religious treatise): "Truth, forgiveness, control of senses, kindness to all living beings and simplicity are tirthas,"? Thus, tirtha-yatra not only means the physical act of visiting the holy places but implies mental and moral discipline. In fact, without the latter, pilgrimage in the physical sense has little significance in the Hindu tradition. The practice of pilgrimage in Hinduism follows from some of the basic underpinnings of its philosophy. Four dominant ideas have persisted in Hindu thought concerning attitudes to life. These are dharma, artha, kama, and moksa Dharma is charac- terized by "considerations of righteousness, duty and virtue. Artha entails material gain, worldly advantage, and success. Kama signifies love and pleasure. The fourth, moksa, is the spiritual realization and self-emancipation which has been equated by some scholars with salvation or freedom from transmigration The first three aspects of life converge toward the final goal, spiritual bliss. Within this philosophical concept of life those activities, obser- vances, rituals, and rites become meaningful which help in the attainment of liberation of the self from the bondage of repeated birth and rebirth. Hinduism provides a wide variety of courses that individuals may take toward religious fulfillment. For example, there is the path of knowledge, jnana-yoga; the way of-action, karma-yoga; and the path of unmixed devotion, bhakti-yoga. Pilgrimage, though not one of the major recognized paths of achieving moksa, is nevertheless accepted as a desirable practice to earn religious merit within a life lived according to dharma. It is one of the many ways toward self-realization and bliss.

Pilgrimage to sacred places is of no avail if a person does not lead a moral life. There are repeated references in Hindu religious literature that suggest moral life as a precondition for deriving any merit (phala) from sojourn to holy sanctuaries and bathing in sacred rivers Journey to sacred places provides opportunity for the householder to detach himself for some time from the cares and worries of daily life and to devote that time to prayer, contemplation, and listening to the spiritual discourses of holy men.

CONTENTS
    INTRODUCTION
  1. A GENERAL SURVEY OF THE LITERATURE ON PLACES OF PILGRIMAGE IN INDIA
    Epic and Puranic Material
    Medieval Sources Based on Puranic Material
    Travel and Related Literature
    Twentieth-Century Studies
    Pilgrims' Travel Guides and Related Literature
    Gazetteers
    Pilgrim Registers and Records kept by Priests

     

  2. DISTRIBUTION OF HINDU PLACES OF PILGRIMAGE ACCORDING TO THE MAHABHARATA
    Analysis of the Distribution
    Relative Importance of Tirthas and Cults according to the Mahabharata

     

  3. A GRAND PILGRIMAGE OF INDIA ACCORDING TO THE MAHABHARATA
    Introduction
    The Route of the Pilgrimage
    Conclusions

     

  4. SACRED PLACES ACCORDING TO THE PURANAS AND SOME LATER SOURCES
    Introduction
    Places of Pilgrimage according to the Puranas
    Distribution of Hindu Places of Pilgrimage in the Early Part of the twelfth Century A.D.
    Distribution of Hindu Places of Pilgrimage Based on Some Non-Hindu Medieval Sources
    Conclusions

     

  5. TIRTHAS: THEIR RELATIVE IMPORTANCE, SITE CHARACTERISTICS, AND PRINCIPAL DEITIES
    Distribution of Sacred Places
    Classification of Present-Day Tirthas
    Stoddard's Attempt to Account for the Distribution of Holy Places
    Conclusions

     

  6. PERCEPTION OF THE RANKS OF SACRED PLACES
    Introduction
    Ranking of Sacred Places in Traditional Hinduism
    Perception of the Rank Order of Sacred Places
    Perception of "The Most Sacred Place" as Related to Caste
    Conclusions

     

  7. DETERMINATION OF LEVELS OF SACRED PLACES
    Introduction
    Ranking of Sacred Places According to Average Distance Traveled
    Levels of Sacred Places Based on the Cultural Diversity of the Field of Pilgrimage
    Conclusions

     

  8. THE LEVEL OF SACRED PLACE AND THE PURPOSE AND FREQUENCY OF PILGRIMAGE
    Introduction
    Purposes of Pilgrimage in General
    Purposes of Pilgrims in Field Sample
    Relationship between the Level of Sacred Places and Purposes of Pilgrimage
    Deities and the Purpose of Pilgrimage
    Frequency of Visits of Sacred Places
    Conclusions

     

  9. LEVEL OF SACRED PLACE AND THE RELIGIOUS TRAVELS OF PILGRIMS
    Introduction
    Aspects of Religious Travel Considered
    Two Basic Patterns of Pilgrim Circulation
    Implication of Religious Circulation at Different Levels

     

  10. SACRED PLACES AND THE CASTE COMPOSITION OF PILGRIMS
    Introduction
    General Findings on Caste Composition
    Relationship of Castes of Pilgrims to the Level of Sacred Places
    Relationship between the Pilgrims' Castes and the Distance Traveled to the Sacred Place in the Sample

     

  11. SACRED PLACES AND THE DIFFUSION OF RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
    The Diffusion Mechanism in General
    Specific Examples of Incipient Stage of Diffusion
    Conclusion

     

  12. PILGRIM INTERACTION AT SACRED PLACES: THE CASE OF HARDWAR
    Introduction
    Regional Seasonality of Pilgrimage
    Regional Biases in the Residential Pattern of Pilgrims
    Caste Biases in the Residential Pattern of Pilgrims
    Conclusions

     

  13. SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS

APPENDIX

    PILGRIM SAMPLES AND CASTE GROUPINGS
    Pilgrim Samples
    The Questionnaire
    Categories of Castes or Comparable Groups

BIBLIOGRAPHY

    Published Works
    Unpublished Sources

INDEX

Sample Pages























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