Research Paper: Pilgrimages in India

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[. . .] Pilgrimage, in fact, can be performed entirely through meditation only, allowing those who are unable or unfit to perform a physical pilgrimage to still engage in the practice. Entering into meditation is different than simply thinking and recalling one's own memories and perceptions of the day, rather meditation is a self-guided journey into one's own conscious, allowing for the inner chambers of the mind to exercise itself on problems and questions which cannot be answered through cursory glances into the brain.

Meditation can even be about building oneself and one's mind, if the goal of the Hindu spirit is to reduce negative karma and lift off the weight of the mortal world, then building a system and structure for achieving that goal is necessary to continue following the aspirations of the divine. Working towards the goal of selfless being is not a decision which can be made in a short matter of time, and likely several lifetimes are what it takes in order for one's spirit to reach a state of enlightenment. Meditation, however, takes much concentration, and truly only the best of pupils can achieve the kind of inner peace that is required by this practice. Many people, however, utilize meditation in its more superficial form, whether it be for relaxation or for thought.

The story of the Bhagavad-Gita is an excellent Sanskrit description of meditation and the idea of pilgrimage as an essential part of life. It begins in a struggle for family, power, and control of the kingdom of Aruna, who is at odds with Kauravas family. The Gita is not the story of the conflict, however, but rather the conversation between Arjuna, the rightful heir of his kingdom, and the god Krishna. Arjuna is unsure of himself, both as a man and a potential ruler, he tells Krishna that he does not necessarily need to be a ruler to be happy, and that he would rather prevent bloodshed than to earn his kingdom through such savage means. This sacrifice is not pleasing to Krishna, who understands the concept of Karma as the cycle of life and death.

Krishna believes there is no actual death of the soul, as there is with mortal life. Rather, just the exchange of the soul between bodies during the process of death and subsequent rebirth. Karma is a concept which cannot be fulfilled in a single lifetime, it requires many lives in order to achieve enlightenment. In selfless service to one's God, Karma will be removed, and the weight of karma on one's soul will be lifted. Defy God by acting as a selfish being, and negative Karma will increase, causing problems in the future cycles of one's soul, and therefore an extremely negative consequence will be the result of constant denial of God. Krishna does not necessarily appear in one's meditation or individual pursuit of enlightenment; rather, Krishna is a representation of the ideal form of God in Hinduism.

There are only three ways to reduce one's own Karma levels and thereby reaching enlightenment, and this is perhaps simple, but the three devices are in themselves extremely comprehensive. The first, is that of renunciation, which is renouncing the selfishness of oneself, in order to move through life without greed or excessive possession, but also not living life without possession at all. Only what one finds is necessary is the key to reaching the balance required for renunciation, according to Krishna. Second, selfless service to God is a great way to reduce bad Karma from one's soul, by completing actions or yoga as small steps in gratitude towards God. Third is meditation, which is more than simply reflection, but rather the constant search for the higher truth and the path to enlightenment, to be taken seriously by every individual who follows Krishna. Therefore it is crucial not only to void out selfish actions in one's life, but also to take time to push every necessary action towards the divinity of one's own actions.

Near the end of the Bhagavad-Gita, Arjuna questions the preaching of Krishna's divine ability, and so Krishna reveals his true form. Wit hthe power of a thousand suns, Krishna appears before Arjuna, convincing him of the power and truth of Krishna, and the ways of meditation and yoga. Following the steps laid out by Krishna, the soul of an individual may be elevated to the level of the divine, allowing a truly enlightened person to reach the heavens.

An understanding of the fragility of man is necessary in order to be able to shed oneself from the restrictions of the mortal world, and therefore selflessness, and the rejection of greed, craving, temptation, and diversions from the divine path is necessary to achieve enlightenment. Telling Arjuna that he must choose between the paths of good and evil, Krishna always offers Arjuna, and thusly the readers, the free choice to choose which path they will follow. The Bhagavad-Gita demonstrates not only how rich of a culture India has, but also helps to make us understand why meditation and selflessness are valuable traits to possess.

The Bhakti movement has had many effects on the people and politics of India, particularly in Muslim-Hindi relations, which had been bitter since the days of the Muslim Mughal kings who dominated over the Hindu people. The practice of tolerance preached by the Bhakti resounded greatly to those who wished to avoid further conflict, and moderation became more important than extremism, an idea particularly important in Bangladesh in the East, and Kashmir in the North, both areas which have strong Hindu and Muslim roots and conflict. The Bhakti also work towards the removal of empty gestures and superstitious rituals put forth by the upper caste of Hindu society, in an effort to educate the masses on how they themselves are easily manipulated and controlled. The equality of all men is a strong anti-caste statement, and has raised the ire of the Hindu elite, who require the caste-system structure in order to maintain effective governance.

The Bhakti movement has not simply readjusted the structure of Hindu controlled India, but also removed requirements on language which were intended to confuse and suppress minority populations in every corner of India. Allowing Bhakti to be preached in any language whatsoever allowed for the rise of minority regions such as Bengali to the East, Gujarati in the West, and Punjabi in the North. A similar reshaping happened in Protestant Europe, which removed the shackles of Latin and the Catholic Church in Rome from the common European, who under Protestantism could preach in local language for locals to be able to participate in their own devotion to God. In many ways, the removal of language requirements in order to preach is the most important step to the devolution of the Caste system which has shackled India's politics for centuries while stifling independent thought and public dissent.


In conclusion, pilgrimage in India is the search for fulfillment in life, whether it is in the Bhakti tradition or otherwise. It is expected that most Indians, and even humans, will perform pilgrimages at least at some point in their lives, and often in small villages an entire community still lives their life according to the pilgrimage footsteps of past generations. A pilgrimage does not need to be especially long or arduous, but a successful pilgrimage does require that one learns from their experience, and takes that knowledge forward with them in their lives. The never ending search for the divine aspects of this world has institutionalized among most religions the practice of pilgrimage. Within India and without, humankind is always changing, and it is always important to be in touch with one's ancestral knowledge, particularly when the idea of reincarnation is so thoroughly practiced. Perhaps it is extremely comforting to humans in general to be able to follow a set of practices absorbed from family and communities around them, or perhaps meditation truly renders one's mind in its purest form, and the best and most prescient thoughts originate when one is in total concentration on their own being.

Works Cited:

"Essay on Bhakti Movement of India." Preserving Your Articles for Eternity. Web. 14 Dec. 2011. .

"Foot Pilgrimage to Murugan Shrines." Murugan Bhakti: Skanda-Kumara Website. Web. 14 Dec. 2011. .

Haberman, David L. Journey through the Twelve Forests: an Encounter with Krishna. New York: Oxford UP, 1994. Print.

"History of Pilgrimage." HOME. Web. 14 Dec. 2011. .

"The BHAGAVAD-GITA in English." Srimad Bhagavad-Gita. Web. 14 Dec. 2011. . [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

Pilgrimages in India.  (2011, December 14).  Retrieved July 18, 2019, from

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"Pilgrimages in India."  14 December 2011.  Web.  18 July 2019. <>.

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"Pilgrimages in India."  December 14, 2011.  Accessed July 18, 2019.