Explore Temples, Shrines and Spiritual Places in East Bharat

Eastern region of India consists of the four states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal. East India region lies in the humid-subtropical zone, and experiences hot summers from March to June, the monsoon from July to October and mild winters from November to February. The states of Bihar and Jharkhand have a dry and slightly extreme climate, especially during the winters and summers. The whole region receives heavy, sustained rainfall during the monsoon months. Snowfall occurs in some of the extreme northern regions of West Bengal.

Eastern region of India consists of the four states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal. East India region lies in the humid-subtropical zone, and experiences hot summers from March to June, the monsoon from July to October and mild winters from November to February. The states of Bihar and Jharkhand have a dry and slightly extreme climate, especially during the winters and summers. The whole region receives heavy, sustained rainfall during the monsoon months. Snowfall occurs in some of the extreme northern regions of West Bengal.

In the Eastern region, some the most important Pilgrimage destinations are located. Shree Jagannath Temple in Odisha is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Jagannath (a form of Vishnu). The Konark Temple in Orissa, devoted to Lord Surya, is an epitome of the extraordinary architecture of the region. The places of Bhubaneshwar, Puri and Konark are recognized as the Golden Triangle of East India. Some important pilgrimage places in West Bengal that attract a large number of devotees every year are Dakshineswar Temple, Kalighat temple, and the Thanthania Kalibari. These are known to be the most considerable and prominently visited spiritual spot by the devotees of Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva.

Most of the Jains go to the pilgrimage centers such as the Pakbirra Jain temple and the Belgachhia Pareshnath Mandir, in West Bengal, once a year to attain spiritual peace. Shikharji Temple in Jharkhand is a famous Jain pilgrimage site, believed to be the place where twenty of the twenty-four Jain tirthankaras along with many other monks attained Moksha.

For the Buddhist follower, the Mahabodhi temple of Bihar, also known as Bodhimanda-vihara, is of great significance. Under the great Mahabodhi tree, Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment. The Khandagiri Caves, situated in Odisha, represents a devotion to the Buddhists and Jains.

Takht Sri Patna Sahib, and Gurdwara Guru ka Bagh in Bihar are some of the famous Sikh pilgrimage centers in the Eastern region.


Temples, Shrines and Spiritual Places in Bihar

Bihar is the harbour where the mind inculcates with the solace in ancient temples and gaiety of the traditions. Quite often known as the ‘Land of enlightenment and Nirvana’, Bihar encourages the vibe of spirituality across hundreds of temples. Bihar is also known as the fascinating land of great religious leaders like Gautama Buddha, Lord Mahavir, and Guru Gobind Singh. It has been a major centre of learning and home to the ancient universities of Nalanda (established 450 CE), Odantapura (established 550 CE) and Vikramashila (established 783 CE).

In ancient India, the area that is now Bihar was considered a centre of power, learning, and culture. The architectural heritage of Bihar can be observed from the large number of ancient monuments spread throughout the state. Patna is the capital and largest city of the state of Bihar, and Patliputra (ancient Patna) was home to the Maurya Empire and Gupta Empire. It is an amalgamation of three distinct regions: Magadh, Mithila, and Bhojpur, split by the river Ganges, which flows from west to east and floods the land to keep it fertile. The name Bihar is derived from the Sanskrit word “Vihara” (which means abode). The region roughly encompassing the present state was dotted with Buddhist Vihara, the abodes of Buddhist monks in the ancient and medieval periods.

Tourists throughout India horde every year to visit the famous Mahabodhi Temple, a part of the UNESCO World Heritage site, located at Bodhgaya. Under the reign of Ashoka in the 3rd century BC, this grand brick temple was built to experience the spiritual peace of Buddhism. This architectural brilliance is daunted with several motifs and sculptures, depicting the life of Lord Buddha. The famous Bodhi Tree also marks its presence, showering its blessings on all the pilgrims.

The Visnupad Mandir is a well-known haven to the pilgrims of Lord Vishnu, where the footprints of the Lord Vishnu are placed. Most devotees arrive during the Pitra Paksha ritual of the “Pinda Dana”, the last ritual of the departed souls.

To assimilate the salvation in Jainism, devotees set foot to the Jal Mandir, the white fascinating landmark preaching piousness and enlightenment. Legend suggests that Mahavir attained ‘Moksha’ in the Jal Mandir. The temple is a visual treat to the eyes due to the placement amidst water, presumably from where the name is derived. The ‘Charan Paduka’ of the 24th Tirthankara Lord, Mahavir is also kept here. Jains also visit the Mahavir Temple to feel the freshness and serenity of the spirit.

Sikhs clasp the divinity of spirit by visiting the Patna Sahib, regarded as one of the Five-Takhts, or the holiest of all places to the Sikhs. Dedicated to the tenth master of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh is this embodiment of piousness.

Bihar embraces all religions and cultures, and this can be confirmed by the presence of temples like the Vietnamese Temple, Indosan Nippo Japanese Temple across the state of Bihar.

Fairs and Festivals

Bihar celebrates festivals with great splendour. Festivities like Holi, Durga Puja, Diwali, etc. are celebrated with great glamour. But there are a few culture-specific festivals like the Chhath Puja, dedicated to Surya or the Sun God. Offerings are made to the Sun-God and devotees themselves to water for sacred showering. Teej is another huge celebration where ladies pray to Goddess Parvati for her blessings. Makar Sankranti is celebrated every year in January and Makar Sankranti Mela is held at Rajgir to mark the grandeur. Dedicated to the Sun-God, celebrations like bonfires, kite-flying are also included.

Bihar stands as the breeding ground for one of the largest cattle fairs in the country. The Sonepur Cattle Fair is the largest cattle fair in Asia and attracts visitors from across the Globe. Folk shows, juggling, animal shows are performed to lift the high spirits of the people. The freshness of spirit is an experience that one must embrace in Bihar.


Temples, Shrines and Spiritual Places in Jharkhand

Jharkhand is the spiritual abode where the nature merges with divinity. Jharkhand is well known for its forest reserve, tribal population, waterfalls, hills, and holy places. Ranchi is the capital city whereas Jamshedpur is the largest city in Jharkhand.

The name Jharkhand is derived from the two words ‘Jhar’ (Forest) and ‘khand’ (segment). Very often known as the ‘Land of Forest’, Jharkhand attracts a large number of tourists every year for an experience of the freshness of air and piousness of spirit. Temples like Baba Baidyanath Dham Temple located in Deoghar has legends and myths attached to them which draws thousands of pilgrims, seeking their blessings. It is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, and considered as one of the most sacred abodes of Lord Shiva. Temples of historical importance like the Maluti Temple, located in the Dumka district hosts a complex of 72 terracotta temples. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple foretells the glorious ancient tales. Yet another focal point for the pilgrims is the Harihar Dham in the Giridih district, which is believed to be the ground to the largest Shivlinga in the world.

What makes this haven even more fascinating is the impressive architectural efficiency. A large number of devotees of Jagannath horde at the Jagannathpur Temple, located in Ranchi. Just as the name suggests, this temple is the replica of the famous Jagganath Temple at Puri. This 17th-century architectural divinity is positioned at the top of a small hillock, daunted with greenery and peace. One of the oldest temples of Jharkhand is the Maa Dewri Temple in Ranchi, pilgrims come here to seek the blessings of Goddess Maa Durga. It is believed to be the only pivot where two cultures mingle, both the Tribal priest known as pahans and the Brahmin priest worship together. Legends say that whoever tries to alter the structure of this temple would be vehemently cursed by the Goddess.

Located at the Parasnath Hills is the famous Shikharji Temple, where twenty Jain Tirthankaras attained ‘Moksha”. The serenity of spirit creeps in the mind with the positioning in the topmost region of the Parasnath Range. The 2000 years old temple in Madhuban is a holy relic of the past among the Jain devotees. Buddhists experience the sanctity of spirit at Itkhori, which is one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimages. 104 Bodhisattvas, along with four dominating Buddha structures is sculptured on every side of the Stupa.

Fairs and Festivals

Jharkhand celebrates festivals with great gaiety and enthusiasm. Diwali, Durga Puja, Holi are celebrated with great splendour, but there are few cultural-specific festivals of Jharkhand, marking the rich heritage. Sarhul is a festival, celebrated every spring, signifies the importance of the Shaal tree and leaves. The natives of the region or the Santhal tribe celebrate the same festival with the name, ‘Baha’, emphasizing the importance of the Mahua tree and flowers. Festivals like Karma is associated with worshipping nature. Devoted to Karam Devta, this festival marks the celebration of youth and youthfulness.

At the beginning of winter every year, Hal Punya is celebrated, glorifying the auspicious morning to start ploughing the winter crop. Social gatherings among the people of Jharkhand are celebrated with great excitement. Joshua Mela is celebrated twice a year, on the occasion of Magh Basant Panchami and Chait Ramnaumi. The occasion of Makar Sankranti unveils the grand Bhadi Mela, bringing in joyousness in the air. Chhath Puja is an important festival celebrated across Jharkhand, and dedicated to Sun God and Chhathi Maiya for bestowing life on earth. Started from 1882, Kundri Mela of Chatra district is big cattle trading fair, to mark the jubilance of the Durga Puja. With serenity in mind and the greenery of nature, Jharkhand stands as an emblem of peace and happiness.


Temples, Shrines and Spiritual Places in Odisha

Odisha is well known for its ancient history, temples, monuments, beaches, wildlife reserves, arts, and festivals. The region is also known as ‘Utkala’ and is mentioned in India’s national anthem. The ancient kingdom of Kalinga, which was invaded by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka in 261 BCE resulting in the Kalinga War, coincides with the borders of modern-day Odisha. The name “Odisha” is derived from the local language Odia (a language derived mostly from the ancient Sanskrit language), which is the official language of the state. Bhubaneswar is the capital and the largest city, and Cuttack is the former capital and the second largest city in the state of Odisha.

Odisha is the haven where spirituality mingles with sanctity. Known as the ‘Land of Temples’, Odisha is an abode to thousands of temples, drawing pilgrims from all across the country. Famously known for the Jagannath Temple at Puri that stands out as a pivot of the Char-Dham pilgrimages of the Hindus, Odisha paints a picturesque view of serenity and piousness. The people of Odisha are known to be devoted to Lord Jagannath, who is considered as a non-sectarian deity and represented differently in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The famous Rath-Yatra draws attention has its fame, recognised by all.

Another example of architectural glamour is the Sun Temple of Konark that stands shining with the glory of the Sun-God or Surya. This 13th-century grandeur is now a part of the UNESCO world heritage site. This temple stands with 24 well-sculptured wheels, representing the 24 hours in a day, is led by six magnificently carved horses. The Lingaraja Temple is also regarded to touch upon the realm of inner sanctity. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple stands out as the largest temple in the city of Bhubaneswar. The splendid courtyard comprises 50 small temples that are dedicated to 50 gods of the Hindu religious sects. Pilgrims throng near ‘Temple of Salvation’, or more popularly known as the Mukteswar temple is a spectacular visual delight. Shiva is in the form of Mukta, the Lord of Salvation. To date, it is regarded as one of the finest ‘gems of the Kalinga architecture’.

The relics of Orissa seem to present different stories like the Brahmeswara temple at Bhubaneswar echo Mythological stories whereas Parsumeswara Temple of Bhubaneswar speaks of the stories of Lord Parshuram. Rajarani Temple at Bhubaneswar is made distinct by the use of red and gold sandstones, likely from where the name is derived, and remains an awe to its visitors.

Buddhism was in surge in Odisha during the reign of Emperor Ashoka, which gave birth to a number of Buddhist sites like Dhauli, located on the bank of River Daya, Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri etc. Digambara Jaina temple remains the spiritual abode to Jains that ensures the salvation of mind. The Archaelogical Survey of India protects this fine specimen of art.

Fairs and Festivals

Fairs and festivals are a blissful escape from the mundaneness of life. Like other states, Odisha celebrates Indian festivals like Holi, Durga Puja and Diwali, but there are some festivals that remain as a part of cultural dominance to Odisha.

Odisha is widely known for the famous Rath Yatra that happens once every year to represent the iconic journey of Lord Krishna from Gokul to Mathura. The magnificent and well-decorated deities of Krishna, Balaram, and Subhadra are taken in a 10-meter square chariot, pulled by numerous men. To celebrate the beauty of the Sun Temple of Konark and the gracefulness of the Odissi dance, the Konark dance festival is celebrated. To mark this extravagant festival, dancers from all over India join in to participate.

Odia people are full of gaiety and happiness, and this is easily identified by the celebration of the Mahabisuva Sankranti, which marks the beginning of the Odia calendar. Devotees adorn the temples of Hanumana, Lord Shiva, and Lord Vishnu, to grant the positivity and success on their new year. Makar Mela marks the harvest of the new paddy. The Makara Mela is observed annually at Dhabaleswar in Cuttack. This Mela is enjoyed by the enthusiastic crowd, offering prayers to the Sun-God for a healthy life.

The Joranda Mela is celebrated in the Dhenkanal District of Odisha every year, during the month of January or February, on the day of Magha Purnima (full moon day). Monks, ascetics, and devotees join in to pay their devotion and tribute to Mahima Gosain’s Samadhi Pitha. Odisha is a state of wonder, so is the culture, stealing the minds of visitors every year.

West Bengal

Temples, Shrines and Spiritual Places in West Bengal

West Bengal is endowed with distinct natural attractions like magnificent mountain range, forests, diverse wildlife, verdant tea gardens, meandering rivers, sandy beaches and the world’s largest mangrove forests along the Sunderban delta. West Bengal is also well known for its great historic and religious significance. The name West Bengal (also known as “Paschim Banga”) is an amalgamation of words “West” (“Paschim”) and “Bengal” (“Banga”). The state gets its name from the ancient kingdom of Banga. Kolkata is the capital and the largest city of the state of West Bengal.

The temples of West Bengal are the reflection of wonderful architectural ideas and the rich cultural heritage of this land. Holy places like Iskon in Mayapur, or Dakshineswar Kali Temple on the banks of the holy river Ganga are the finest examples for any religious expeditions. The beauty of the Mayapur Iskcon Chandrodaya temple makes you feel the divine vibe of Lord Krishna, it is India’s largest Iskcon temple that defines the monotheistic nature of Hinduism.

Who doesn’t know the name of Swami Vivekananda, the disciple of Sri Ramkrishna, and with this name the place that is very intimately connected is Belur Math. The place tells us the story of Ramkrishna math and mission. On the other side of the Hooghly River, opposite to the Belur Math, is Dakshineswar Temple. The Dakshineswar Kali temple constructed in the 19th century carries the sacred essence of Goddess Kali. The serenity of the river Ganges and the wonderful constructional beauty will amaze its visitors. The Kalighat Kali Temple near Kolkata is another sacred temple and pilgrimage center dedicated to Goddess Kali. It is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas, the site where the toes of the right foot of Devi Sati fell.  Thanthania Kalibari is a famous Kali temple, the small holy idol of Mata Siddheshwari enriches the place with divinity and sanctity. Birla Mandir is a famous temple that adorns the heritage of Kolkata, the sharp contrast of contemporary design and the additional cultural flavor is very prominent and the minute details of Lord Krishna and Devi Radha are being reflected over the place.

West Bengal has a religious significance for every spiritual person. To see the picturesque view of the high green hills and to feel the inner serenity and peace every year numbers of visitors visit the Old Ghoom Monastery in Darjeeling. The main attraction of this famous monastery is the 15 feet statue of the Maitreya Buddha and the Tibetan Gospel. Pareshnath Temple in Kolkata is a Jain temple very popular among the Jain community. The temple includes 4 sub-temples which are adorned with bright colored stones.

Fairs and Festivals

West Bengal is enriched with the fun, grandeur, and significance of various joyous and cheerful fairs and festivals. Bengalis often say Baro Mashe Tero Parbon, meaning thirteen festivals in twelve months, and these celebrations reflect the culture, heritage, and traditional jovial nature of this state.

Durga Puja is one of the grandest festivals of Bengal that puja celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over the devil Mahishashura. This festival is celebrated for four days during Navaratri, every year. The month-long Rash Mela (fair) is organized in Cooch Bihar in the month of Kartik to promote the art and craft of the state. The festival of Rash Mela celebrates the divine love of Lord Sri Krishna and Devi Radha.

Gangasagar Mela is another important annual festival that is held in Sagardwip, the point where the river Ganga meets the Bay of Bengal. The festival is celebrated during mid-January, on the auspicious day of Makar Sankranti. It is believed that if one bathes in the Ganga in Sagardwip during the festival, he/she would be cleansed of all sins. The devotees after taking a dip in Ganga, visits the ashram-temple of Kapil Muni for blessings.

Saraswati Puja (Devi Saraswati is believed to be the goddess of learning), is held during the time of Vasanta Panchami, which celebrates the beginning of spring. The district of Birbhum is famous for its traditional fair named Kenduli Mela. This folk festival is mostly organized by the Baul community. Another popular fair of west Bengal is Poush Mela that takes place in Santiniketan, which includes folk music, regional crafts, and some mouth-watering sweet dishes termed as Pithe. Kolkata is also famous for the world’s largest non-trade book fair; it is a great reflection of the old traditional heritage of the city of Kolkata.

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