Yatra (Yātrā, यात्रा, ‘journey’, ‘procession’), in Hinduism and other Indian religions, generally means a pilgrimage to holy places such as confluences of sacred rivers, places associated with Hindu epics such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana, and other sacred pilgrimage sites. Tīrtha-yātrā refers to a pilgrimage to a holy site and is generally undertaken in groups. One who goes on a yatra is known as a yatri. As per Vedic Hindu Dharma Shastras, a Yatri is supposed to do Yatra barefoot. He/she should travel without umbrellas, vehicles etc., to get the benefit of the Yatra. At present these rules are not followed by many pilgrims.


The journey itself is as important as the destination, and the hardships of travel serve as an act of devotion in themselves. Visiting a sacred place is believed by the pilgrim to purify the self and bring one closer to the divine.

In present times, yatras are highly organized affairs, with specialized tourism companies catering to the need of yatris. State governments are sometimes involved in the organization of annual yatras, stipulating numbers, registering yatris, and regulating yatri traffic. The Hindu sacred month of Shravan is also the time of the annual Kanwar Yatra, the annual pilgrimage of devotees of Shiva, known as Kanwaria make to Hindu pilgrimage places of Haridwar, Gaumukh and Gangotri in Uttarakhand to fetch holy waters of Ganges River, way back in 2003, 55 lakh pilgrims reach Haridwar. Other important Tirtha pilgrimages are Char Dham Yatra, which involves Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri; Amarnath yatra in Jammu and Kashmir.

Kesi Ghat in vrindavan in the Yamuna River.

Kesi Ghat in vrindavan in the Yamuna River.

Other meanings

Yatra‘ can also describe a procession, or any festival which figures a procession, such as Rath Yatra, where chariots are pulled in parade down the streets of Puri in Orissa. In modern times the word can be used to denote marches or demonstrations, for political, environmental or societal causes.

The terms ‘jatra’ and ‘zatra’ are derived from yatra.

Famous yatras

Kasi yatra

It is customary for every Hindu to undergo Kasi yatra on barefoot. Pilgrims also visit Gaya to do Gaya Shraddha to their ancestors. Details regarding how to perform various rituals, the greatness of Kashi Kshetra. Importance of Kasi yatra is said in Kasi-Khand of Skanda Puranam.

Mansarovar Yatra

Mansarovar is a fresh-water lake in Tibet near Mount Kailash, and a place of pilgrimage attracting religious people from India and neighboring countries. The mountain is considered a sacred place in four religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Bon. According to Hindu mythology mount Kailash is the abode of Shiva and circumambulating Mount Kailash on foot is a holy ritual. Another lake called Lake Rakshastal lying close to the west of Lake Manasarovar and The Great Mount Kailash. These lakes are the source of the Brahmaputra River and the Karnali River, a tributary of the river Ganges.

Amarnath Yatra

Pilgrims crossing a narrow bridge to the holy shrine of Amarnath.

Pilgrims crossing a narrow bridge to the holy shrine of Amarnath.

The Amarnath Temple in Jammu and Kashmir is dedicated to Shiva, one of the trinity of gods. The temple is on Amarnath Peak, and is among the most famous shrines in Hinduism. Every year inside the main Amarnath cave an ice Shiva lingam forms, along with two other ice formations representing Ganesha and Parvati. Amarnath yatra is held every year to pay homage to Shiva and Parvati. The temple is a very popular yatra destination for Hindus; about four lakh people visit during the season.

Kanwar Yatra

The Kanwar Yatra is an annual pilgrimage of devotees of Shiva, known as Kānwarias, to Hindu pilgrimage places of Haridwar, Gaumukh and Gangotri in Uttarakhand and Sultanganj in Bihar to fetch holy waters of Ganges River. Millions of participants gather sacred water from the Ganga and carry it across hundreds of miles to dispense as offerings in their local Śhiva shrines, or specific temples such as Pura Mahadeva and Augharnath temple in Meerut, and Kashi Vishwanath, Baidyanath, and Deoghar in Jharkhand.

Pandharpur yatra of Maharashtra

This is one of the most popular festivals in India. The annual yatra to the famous Vithoba temple at Pandharpur is held every year during the month of June and July. Thousands of pilgrims come to Pandharpur carrying litters with the images of Jñāneśvar from Alandi, Tukaram from Dehu, Eknath from Paithan, and Nivruttinath from Trimbakeshwar. These pilgrims are referred to as Varkaris.

Ratha Yatra

The Festival of Chariots of Jagannatha is held every year at Puri in the state of Orissa. The ten-day ratha yatra commemorates Lord Jagannath’s annual visit to Gundicha Mata’s temple a short distance away. Thousands of pilgrims come to Puri during the festival with a desire to help pull Jagannath’s chariot with ropes. This is the only day when devotees who are normally not allowed in the temple premises, such as non-Hindus and foreigners, can get their glimpse of the deities.

Deoghar Yatra

Deoghar means abode of the gods and goddesses. It is also known as Baidyanath Dham or Baba Dham situated on the eastern side of Jharkhand. It is an important Hindu pilgrimage center having Baidyanath Temple one of the twelve Lord Shiva Jyothirlingams in India. The pilgrims carry the holy water of holy river Ganges from Sultanganj’s and offered to the Jyotirlingam of Shiva at Deoghar. These pilgrims called Kanwariya, reciting Bol Bam on the way of walk 109 KM, The march of Kanwariya start during the holy month of Shravan the wet season each year in India. Shravani Mela is the most celebrated 30-day festival in Deoghar Baidyanath Temple of Jharkhand.

Char Dham Yatra

The Chardham belongs to four pilgrimage places in India; they are Badrinath, Dwarka, Jagannath Puri, and Rameshwaram. The Char Dham is often considered the most revered sites for Hindus that have to be visited in one’s lifetime. There is a Chota Char Dham as well includes Yamunotri, Gangotri, Badrinath, and Kedarnath situated in Garhwal Himalayas.

84 Kosi parikrama

The 84-Kosi Yatra is a tradition in Hindu religion that has been there for thousands of years with the belief that it gives deliverance to the performer from the cycle of 84-Lakh Yonis (the cycle of birth and death). According to Hindu belief, the king of Ayodhya performed the “yagna” in the “treta period” at a place in Makhurha in Basti district of Uttar Pradesh which included circumnavigating the six districts in the region. Some religious leaders believe that the right place to start the parikrama should be Basti instead of Ayodhya. According to some, the dates for 84-Kosi Yatra are fixed and takes place in the month of Chaitra.

See also

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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