The River Ganga or mother Ganga as it is commonly called, is sacred to all people from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. The common man looks up on the Himalayas as an abode of the gods. Saints and sages long for a loving contemplation on God in its holy caves. The whole expanse of the country is strewn with temples and shrines and a pilgrim after treading hundreds of miles enters the 'sanctum sanctorum' (inner Shrine of the temple) with a sense of fulfillment. A pious Hindu remembers the holy rivers or the sacred mountains in his daily prayers.
In every village, city or locality, there is a place where Hindus go for worship and pilgrimage. There are sacred rivers, seas, Puris, mountains and temples which are places of pilgrimage.
There are four Dhaams of greatest importance for pilgrimage. In the four directions of India viz Kedaranath - Badrinath in the North, Rameswaram in the South, Jaganath Puri in the East and Dwarika in the West.
Important centres of pilgrimage, for the followers of Shiva are the twelve most sacred Lingas known as the Lingas of Light (Jyothir Linga). These twelve are also called Dwadash Jyothir Lingas and are
Visveswar or Amreswar
Sri Omkareswar or Amreswar
Adi Sankaracharya established four maths in four directions of India, These are (1) Jyoti Math in Garhwal (U.P) (2) Govardhan Math in Jagan Nath Puri (Orissa ) (3) Shringeri Math in Karnataka (4) Sharda Math In Dwarika (Gujarat)
Sacred Confluence of Rivers (Parayags)
Wherever sacred rivers meet, such confluence places are considered sacred by the Hindus. They are usually important places of pilgrimage. These are (1) Tirath Raj Parayag, where Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati meet (2) Dev Parayag, where Alaknanda and Bhagirathi meet. This is the main parayag among the five rivers in the Himalayas. (3) Rudra Parayag, Alaknanda and Mandakini confluence. (4) Karan Parayag, where Alaknanda and Nanda meet, (5) Vishnu Parayag where Vishnu Ganga and Alaknanda meet (6) Suraye Parayag : Alsarrangini and Mandakini meet here (7) Indra Parayag, here Bhagirathi and Vyas Ganga meet. (8) Soma Parayag : Soma river and Mandakini Confluence here (9) Bhaskar Parayag : this is on Kedarnath road 3km away from Bhatwadi (10) Hari Prayag Bhagirathi and Hari Ganga meet here (11) Gupt Parayag : Neel Ganga and Bhagirathi meet here (12 ) Shyam Parayag : Shyam Ganga and Bhagirathi confluence at this (13 ) Keshav Parayag where Alaknanda and Saraswati confluence.
Except Tirathraj Parayag, all other parayags are in the Uttarakhand of the Himalayas, on the way to Kedarnath, Badri Nath, Gangothri and the Yamnotri.
They are Ganga (Ganges), Yamuna, Saraswati, Godavari, Narmada, Cauvery and Sindhu.
In addition to these, Sariyu and Payasivini (Mandakini ) in the north and Krishna river in the south.
Himalayas in the North, Vindhyachal (where Dasratha of Ayodhya joined in Sambra war, as an ally of Divodasa), Mohindragiri (Orissa), Malayandil (Malayr Parvat) in Karnataka, Sahadari Parvat range in Maharashtra, Revtak Parvat in Gujarat and Aravali range in Rajasthan where Haldighat battle took place.
Sapt Puris (Seven Holy Places)
Ayodhya (Rama, Laxman's birth place )
Mathura (Krishna's childhood )
Haridwar ( Har ki puri of the Ganges )
Kanchi or Kanchipuram ( most ancient and celebrated golden city, worshipped by Saivites and Vishnivites )
Ujjain (Avantika )
Five Sarovars (sacred pools/tanks)
Mentioned in Puranas
Bindu sarovar at Bhubaneswar in Orissa
Narayan saarovar in Ran of Kutchh in Gujarat
Mansarovar in the Himalayas
Pushkar sarovar near Ajmer in Rajasthan
Pampa sarovar in the south of Tangbhadra in Karnataka