"The sanctuary holiest of all sanctuaries, the most sacred of all tirthas is meditation on Brahman, control of the senses, inner discipline and purity of heart."
|Ganges, Varanasi: a hinduist thirtha|
They are called tirthas, are the holy places of Hinduism. Those can be a river, a tree, a mountain. In these places the Hindu devotees go on pilgrimage because those are the places favorable to devotion.
Tirtha in Sanskrit means ford, passage, path, it is the door leading from one state to another, is the tool to get what you want. Even a temple is a tirtha.
Some tirthas are indicated for the cult of the deads and a step of the pilgrimage that leads to the sacred tirtha of Gaya is an important step for the soul of the deceased to the skies. Other tirthas are given to wash away the sins, others to propitiate a good marriage, and others to achieve moksha, liberation from the cycle of rebirth. One of these is Prayag, near Allahabad, where the Ganges joins the Yamuna, 'the pubis of the earth', Varanasi is also a sacred tirtha, the soul of one who dies here gets immediately moksha and the union with Brahman.
But it isn't enough to go on a pilgrimage to a tirtha, you must follow the specifications of the sacred books which provide meticulously clothing, the time, the need or otherwise of the tonsure of the hair, the height of the stick, the rites to be performed, the songs to be sung.
The Kurmapurana for example, recalls that "it will not bring any fruit the pilgrimage to a tirtha done using a vehicle or bragging or impatience".
But Garudapurana at the beginning of this post reminds us that the tirtha par excellence, the holiest of holy places is there, where the God hid a small part of himself, the man's heart.