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Describe a visit to a Hindu place of pilgrimage, explaining its importance to believers.

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R1 Describe a visit to a Hindu place of pilgrimage, explaining its importance to believers. The fireball of midday sun is high above in the azure sky. No clouds offer the refuge of shade and most of the trees have withered under the scorching, intense glare of the sun. In front of me, hundreds of people, all ages, shapes and sizes rush to the riverside. I stand at the bank of the most significant and cherished river of my faith, the Holy River Ganges. Different smells mingle together - spices, body odours, and rotting corpse. To an out-sider it seems like total chaos, but for me, it is like coming home. Masses of people tumble past to get to the river, slipping and sliding on the concrete Ghats (platforms or steps where pilgrimers bathe or people cremate bodies) and end up colliding with naked bodies bathing in the Ganges. On the roads, tradesmen and stall people try their hardest to sell passers-by something, whether it be insect ridden fruit or tiny miniscule statues of various Gods or Goddesses. The homeless line the streets like insulation from the outside world and urchins play in the dust. However they are all oblivious to their filthy surroundings, just content to be near the Ganges. ...read more.


The town is especially sacred to the god Shiva (the destroyer). To die in Varanasi and have your ashes thrown into the Ganges is said to bring liberation from rebirth (Moksha-the end of the rebirth cycle). Pilgrims who return home often take a bottle of Ganges water with them. Many pilgrims bathe in the river; they believe it washes away their sins so it is a cleansing process. Along the Ganges are special platforms called ghats, which have steps that allow the pilgrims access to the river. The ghats are also used to cremate the bodies of people who have died. Hindus believe that the souls of their deceased relations will find peace if their ashes are deposited in a sacred river, particularly the holy Ganges. Every Hindu hopes that they will be in Varanasi when they die, and that after their bodies have been cremated the ashes will be thrown into the river. This means they will go straight to paradise. Many Hindu's make a special pilgrimage to Benares for this purpose. Hindus also believe that prayers are more readily answered in a holy place. Some pilgrims go on organised tours of the most famous sites, whilst others make their own way on buses and trains. ...read more.


If a person truly believes that God is the Creator of all things, wouldn't He be present everywhere? If that is the case, it does not matter how, when or where you pray because He is always with you. You can pray anywhere and God will still hear you. So what's the point in spending loads of cash to travel halfway across the world to be squished and squeezed with millions of others when you can just as easily pray in the comfort of your own home? Shouldn't prayer, like meditation, be a private thing, a line of communication between only you and God? Why would you want to do it in some dusty, noisy foreign land when you can perform virtually the same ceremonies in the privacy of your home? Pujas can be performed at home and it has more significance if you do it alone or with your family. Nowadays temples, shrines and special places of prayer are springing up throughout the country. As the Hindu community grows larger in Britain, there are more requests to set up temples to accommodate the faith. Places like the Swami Narayan Temple in Neasden, The Jain Temple in Leicester and The Oshwal Centre in Potters Bar, North London pull in thousands for weddings, funerals and religious festivals. There is no reason for a Hindu to go traipsing around the world when these places are practically in our back garden. ...read more.

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