10 Nov A Journey to Uttar Pradesh & Bihar
Welcome to Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh (UP) conjures an image of ancient Hindu temples on the bank of the Ganges River, an intriguing blend of culture and acres of swaying fields, a land where one can embrace the true spirit of India. Uttar Pradesh is home to the iconic Taj Mahal, the origin of the two most prominent religions (Hindu and Muslim) and Kathak, a classical dance that originated in UP’s capital – Lucknow. A land of deep religious roots, heritage and grand architecture and the perfect region to relive the grandeur of the past.
But having seen Agra‘s treasures a few times, we wanted to experience more beyond the Taj Mahal. The opportunity came up because Mum was celebrating her 80th birthday year, and she wanted to visit some of the pilgrimage sights of UP to enhance her already deep Hindu roots.
Known as the birthplace of Lord Rama, Uttar Pradesh has many religious significances. The mystic mythologies of ancient times come to life here; when you travel across this region, it’s as if you are travelling across time and reliving the historical and religious affairs of the country.
This journey opened our eyes to many awe-inspiring wonders, sides of it which further justified a place on a traveller’s bucket list. Read on and enjoy the trip with us.
Best Time to Visit Uttar Pradesh & Bihar
The winter months, from November to March, are generally the best time to visit. As the weather is much cooler than in the summer, trekking through many pilgrimage areas is more comfortable. There are also historical and cultural trips, adventure journeys, and wildlife and bird-watching experiences (shopping and feasting extravaganza), aside from pilgrimage places to visit.
Below we include the most popular things to do in Uttar Pradesh & Bihar for first-time visitors.
Places Of Interest
135km west of Varanasi and 227km southeast of Lucknow, Prayagraj (also known as Allahabad), which means “confluence or Sangam” (in Hindi), of two rivers meeting, Yamuna and Ganges rivers which meet at the mythical Saraswati River. Prayagraj is a pleasant city with vast, open riverside scenery, beautiful street art, and a place of offerings. It is rich in history and heritage.
For all Bollywood fans, Allahabad is the hometown of the famous star Amitabh Bachchan, where he spent his childhood and youth.
The River of Enlightenment is on the banks of where the Yamuna and Ganges rivers meet (as mentioned above). Hinduism’s greatest and holiest grand fair (mela), called the Kumbh Mela, is hosted here in Allahabad every twelve years.
The mela is renowned for the extraordinary presence of religious sadhus and mahants, who appear from remote forests, mountains and caves. You will observe these sadhus with ash covering their naked bodies and hair in dreadlocks.
Thousands of devotees, not only Hindus or Indians but also foreigners, travel to this location every twelve years during January and February to attend this grand mela and dip into the holy rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. It’s a belief by Hindus that after this dip, your sins are thoroughly washed away.
The Kumbh Mela is held not only in Allahabad but at different times of the year, commemorated in Nashik (Nashik-Trimbakeshwar Simhastha), Haridwar and Ujjain.
One of the oldest cities in India is Varanasi, which is incredibly soulful and divine. Be prepared to be uplifted with spirituality and showered with blessings. Visit the Ganga River and perform ‘Arti.’
Other places of interest are the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, the Durga Temple and Kashi Chaura, one of the oldest Forts in Varanasi.
A pilgrimage site in Uttar Pradesh depicting stories about Lord Krishna’s early childhood years: a visit to the Banke Bihari Mandir is a must, and visit the elegant Prem Mandir and Radha Raman Mandir, dating back to the 14th century.
Ayodhya is on the banks of the holy river Saryu. It is the birthplace of Lord Rama, with many ancient shrines & stories of Lord Ram as depicted in the sacred book, the Ramayana. The vast newly constructed temple & complex are due to be completed in January 2024 (unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos)
It’s where the epic tale of Ramayana started, and you will be amazed to see a massive amount of people gathered at the ghats of the Sarayu River, surrounded by temples with exclusive architectural designs. The ancient citadel of Ramkot is also a significant attraction of Uttar Pradesh, together with the Hanuman Garhi, the Sarayu and the famous Rishabhadeo Jain Temple.
Another important religious place in Uttar Pradesh is Chitrakoot, which borders Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. You’ll hear the stories of Lord Rama spending his life 11 years here, and while here, you must visit the River Mandakini, Bharat Koop, Gupt Godavari, and Kamadagiri Hills.
The Taj Mahal is famously known as one of the world’s seven wonders, located in Agra. Still, Fatehpur Sikri equally holds extreme importance as a pilgrimage centre, an important shrine of Sufi Saint Salim Chishti, who died here. You’ll see people heading for pilgrimage on auspicious occasions to this shrine. Do taste the famous Agre ka Petha – a favourite sweet to tantalize your tastebuds.
Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, is also known as the City of Nawabs. It is a centre of prominent mosques and old temples, hence why you will see an equal rush of Hindu and Muslim pilgrims visiting this location. Some famous places are Ramakrishna Math Temple, Hanuman Temple, Chandrika Devi Temple, and Deva sharif.
In the centre is the 18th-century Bara Imambara shrine, an important place of worship for Muslims where Muharram, a religious festival, is celebrated yearly. Apart from its religious significance, the Imambara is primarily known for its incredible maze of narrow tunnels, also known as Bhul Bhulaiya and located on the upper floor of the monument.
Lucknow is famous for its intricate chikankari, a traditional embroidery style from this city. The word means embroidery (thread or wire), one of Lucknow’s best-known textile decoration styles.
Patna, the capital of Bihar, is an ancient city & the oldest living city in the world, sprawled along the banks of the River Ganges. We were fortunate to be here for Patna’s unique festival,’ Chhat Puja’, to worship “Surya”, the Sun God of energy and life force. Also, Patna has impressive artwork on the streets called Patna Kalam, influenced by Mughal and European art.
A village in the State of Bihar, revered as a Buddhist sacred site, was where Buddha gained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. There are temples and monasteries from other nations such as Thailand, Tibet and Japan. Unfortunately, we could not take photos inside, but it was beautiful and peaceful, with many shrines and meditation areas. Saw many monks meditating and lots of foreigners here on a retreat. Also, I visited one of the original Hindu Vishnupad temples – an ancient Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu in Gaya.
On the last part of this pilgrimage journey, we were fortunate to experience “Chhath Puja“, a Hindu festival predominantly observed in Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand. On this day, the Sun God is worshipped with prayers and religious rituals. The festival begins six days after Diwali and lasts four days.
Day 2 – Lohanda (Fasting all day) & Rasaio-Kheer prasard is made
Day 3 – Sandhya Arghya (evening offering) Thekua prasard is made & folk songs are sung.
Day 4 – Usha Argyha (morning offerings & a dip in the River Ganges before sunrise.
It’s a massive festival in India where all these regions come to a standstill. People celebrate the festival with happiness, wearing new clothes, and gathering on the streets with loud music and songs, but most importantly, everyone is happy. The married lady of the house usually performs the actual puja, and you will notice a long orange sindoor on her face that starts from the nose to the top of her head.
Trips From Uttar Pradesh & Bihar
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