(Last Updated on : 11/09/2009)
It is doubtful whether any nation attaches so much importance to Yathra or Pilgrimage as do the Hindus. In bygone years when railways were unknown in the land, crowds of pilgrims used to leave their homes perhaps never to return after the obligatory Dhanam or gifts to the Brahmans. They started at a specific hour that is declared as auspicious by the village astrologer and after an offering perhaps of broken coconuts to the elephant-headed deity i.e. Vinayak. So toilsome indeed was the journey on pilgrimage that people used to associate it with any wearisome work or undertaking.
Many people take this pain of such a laborious journey, many even losing their lives owing to hardships, privations and change of climatic conditions. Not because they were credulous and superstitious, but because of the fact that they were sure that the risky journey on such pilgrimages was worth undertaking.
Barren women are said to become enceinte, if they in company with their husbands, visited certain places and lived there for some time. The beneficial results are perhaps due to the favorable climatic conditions or the peculiar property of certain springs, tanks or rivers. Due to the presence of minerals, remnants of medicinal plants or magnetism, the miracle can happen. Anyhow people did believe and do believe even now that a residence at particular places bestows on certain people and thus certain beneficial physical results.
Monomaniacs and people said to be obsessed by evil spirits get cured of their disease by visiting certain places and remaining there for some time. Here too the beneficial results may be ascribed to the climatic and atmospheric conditions favorable for the cure of diseases of the nervous system. Even leprosy of a very virulent type is said to have been cured by a bath in certain springs, tanks and rivers or residence in a certain place for a period. So it is no wonder that a spiritually inclined Hindu attached great importance to pilgrimage to holy places.
People who desire to attain enlightenment prefer to go to Gaya and meditate under the Bodhi tree, or the tree of wisdom. In ancient time Lord Buddha is said to have obtained enlightenment under it and consequently the locality surcharged with his magnetism is found to be highly favourable for attaining of that calmness of mind. Similarly a Hindu temple, a Christian church and a Muhammadan mosque each do contribute tremendously for stirring up Bhakti or devotional emotion in consequence of the devotional magnetism of the devotees.