14. Second Where is the need for pilgrimages? Are there set rules to
be observed while undertaking them?
A routine daily life in this humdrum world generates boredom very
soon. Undertaking Pilgrimages on such occasions will reinvigorate
the mind, in the same way as recharging a battery that is rundown.
How can a place of Pilgrimage contribute to this? No doubt, God
exists everywhere, but He is Manifest more tangibly in these places
of Pilgrimage even as milk is drawn through the udder, though it
permeates the entire body of the cow in a subtle form.
We have hundreds of such pilgrim centres spread all over the land.
Usually they are situated in a beautiful natural location like the
sea shore, the bank of a river, the foot or the top of a hill, in a
valley or inside a forest. Very often they are associated with
saints and sages or with important spiritual and religious events.
Visited by millions of devout, Pilgrims over hundreds of years, they
will have acquired a spiritual charge and aura, which will naturally
affect those that visit them with faith and fervour. It is
believed that they contribute to the lessening, if not the
destruction, of our sins. That is why Pilgrimage has been advocated
practically in all the religions of the world.
As regards the rules to be observed in
undertaking pilgrimages, they can be summarized as follows: fixing
up an auspicious date for departure; fasting and self control on the
previous day; shaving, bath, worship of Ganesha and the nine
planets as also the family deity; religious resolve; performing
worship and giving gifts at the pilgrim centres according to the
local custom; and after returning, worship of the deities mentioned
It is incumbent on the part of the
pilgrims rather to think of God than paying any attention to the
irregularities or corruptions obtaining in the place. Though it is
necessary to bring such things to the notice of the competent
authorities', the chief objective of pilgrimage should not be
sacrificed in the process. It is interesting to
note here that the Hindu scriptures have provided for a method by
which those who are unable to undertake a pilgrimage by themselves,
can get its merit through a substitute. Such a person who acts
as a substitute is expected to give the ritual bath to an image made
of kusha grass and treat it as the original person
making the pilgrimage.