All across the world Indian culture is widely known for its richness and its diversity. Due to which hundreds of thousands of spiritual seekers from across the world are attracted towards the culture of Indian. Amongst all, definitely, the much appreciated and attractive one is Yoga and Meditation, which is a combination of the physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines. Originated in ancient India with a mention in the Rig Veda, some of the earliest references to meditation are found in the ancient scriptures in India and Nepal.
Yoga and meditation go together. While yoga helps strengthen the physical being, meditation helps unite the individual self with the cosmic consciousness that is a higher form of consciousness or the universal energy present everywhere. Thousands of years before yoga and meditation became popular in the Western countries, India discovered and practiced them.
The places where such practices happen is an Ashram, where people go to heal the body and the mind; rejuvenate oneself and learn the secrets of the body, life, and universe. Hence, India has an array of ashrams or centers which strive towards healing the mind as well as the body. The ashrams range from five-star accommodations to basic dwellings, but each one offers the path to enlightenment for the spiritual seekers. So whether it is a Guru that you are in search of, or a long stretch away from the maddening race of life, or just some peace and tranquility, in no particular order, here are 10 renowned and Best Ashrams of India.
1. The Art of Living Ashram, Bengaluru
The Art of Living International Ashram is renowned worldwide for its stress-elimination and self-development programs based mainly on breathing techniques, meditation, and yoga. Founded by H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in 1982, the Art of Living is a voluntary organization that also undertakes various initiatives aimed at uplifting humanity and enhancing the quality of life. It is located in the Silicon City of South India, Bengaluru in the Panchagiri hills, i.e. 36 kilometers southwest of the capital city.
The Vishalakshi Mantap is the focal point of the ashram, which is an architectural marvel. The Mantap known for its intricate craftsmanship, stunning illumination, and elegant décor was built with the dedicated efforts of 7,000 workers and volunteers. The glass dome that tops the building is adorned with a magnificent ‘Kalash’ which is 15 feet 3 inches high and also the tallest in Asia. Sri Sri has best described the feeling one gets when inside the Mantap as ‘coming into the lap of the Mother Goddess.’ No one has yet been able to resist falling in love with the beautiful Mantap, which is a treat for both the eyes and the heart.
The foundation course at the ashram is the 3-7 days Part I workshop, where one can learn the amazing Sudarshan Kriya (founded by Sri Sri) which is a revitalizing breathing technique to restore the natural rhythms of body and mind, along with various techniques in Pranayama, Yoga, Meditation, Vaastu Shastra, Vedic math, Ayurveda and Veda are also available at the Ashram.
2. Isha Foundation Ashram, Coimbatore
The Isha Foundation is a volunteer-based, non-profit organization, founded by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev in 1992. The organization is founded by Sadhguru to create an inclusive culture towards global harmony and progress. Its powerful yoga programs for inner transformation and inspiring projects for society and the environment are appreciated worldwide, reflected in Isha’s consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Isha Foundation is an essential resource for those who wish to explore the ancient science of yoga in all its depth and dimensions. Offering a variety of programs that provide methods for anyone to attain physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing, it aims to enable people to deepen their experience of life, and reach their ultimate potential.
Located at the base of the Velliangiri Mountains in Tamil Nadu, the 3-7 day introductory program, known as Inner Engineering, introduces guided meditations and a powerful inner energy process for deep inner transformation. Along with it comes Hatha yoga, yoga for children, advanced meditation programs, sacred treks, and mind and body rejuvenation retreats based on Ayurvedic principles.
3. Osho International Meditation Resort, Pune
Founded by Osho, the Osho International Meditation Centre is a well-known spiritual center in India. Situated in the midst of leafy environs in Pune city of Maharashtra, the retreat has 200,000 visitors annually. Osho International is not like a typical Indian Ashram, it is one of the largest growing Spiritual Centers of the World. The retreat offers the variety of classes and workshops.
The Ashram provides various kinds of meditation programs. The day starts early in the mornings by 6 am that includes the meditation courses such as Dynamic Meditation, Vipassana, and Kundalini. The evening session is the meeting of the White Robe Brotherhood that starts at 7:00 PM. The meeting includes music, dancing, meditation and discourses on topics, ranging from the Buddha to latest world happenings. The main center of all Osho meditations and celebrations are the Buddha auditorium. The special celebrations at the retreat are held on January 19 (Osh’s death), March 21 (Osho’s enlightenment), The July full moon, September 8 and December 11 (Osho’s Birthday).
4. Mata Amritanandamayi Ashram, Kerela
The Mata Amritanandamayi Math is the ashram in Amritapuri of the world-renowned spiritual leader and humanitarian Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (known to most people simply as “Amma”). Amritapuri Ashram is the headquarters of Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM), Amma’s India-based spiritual and humanitarian organization, and the international headquarters of Embracing the World.
It is also home to an international community of more than 3,000 people. Permanent residents include monastic disciples and families from all over India and abroad. Inspired by Amma, they have dedicated their lives to attaining the goal of Self-realisation and serving the world. It is here that they live with Amma, imbibing her teachings, practicing meditation and participating in selfless service.
Amritapuri is also an international pilgrimage center for people searching for solace, inspiration and inner peace. Thousands of people come to the ashram every day to experience Amma’s boundless love. Amma makes herself available day and night to meet everyone who comes, and to advise the disciples and volunteers managing the many humanitarian projects of Embracing the World. Daily, Amma leads the evening prayers and devotional singing. Several times a week, she sits with all the residents in meditation and holds open question-and-answer sessions on spiritual topics.
The Amritapuri Ashram, located in Kollam, Kerala. 110 kilometers north of Trivandrum offers courses such as Integrated Amrita Meditation Technique (a 20-minute combination of yoga, pranayama, and meditation). Morning and evening meditation, prayers, and service are all part of the ashram life.
5. Tushita Meditation Centre, Dharamsala
Tushita is a well-known center for the practice and study of Buddhism from the popular Tibetan Mahayana tradition. The ashram literally rests in the clouds, on the mountains above the town of McLeod Ganj (the seat in exile, of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama), Dharamsala, in Himachal Pradesh.
Tushita’s main aim is to provide a homely and disciplined environment for people for leaning the teachings of Buddha. They regularly offer drop-in events and courses based on Buddhist philosophy and meditation. They also provide intermediate courses and group retreats for regular and highly experienced students. Tushita Medication Center follows the practices and teachings of Lord Buddha through the medium of spirituality. Visitors at Tushita follow a very simple life and the center focuses on silence as a major part of its teachings.
6. Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
Located in the beautiful town of Pondicherry, in Tamil Nadu, Chennai, this ashram was founded by Sri Aurobindo, and a French saint Mirra Alfassa known as the Mother, in 1926. The ashram today has grown into a diversified society with thousands of members including many foreigners, especially from France, forming its permanent followers’ community.
Very contemporary in its outlook, the place hold’s collective meditations. However, there are no prescribed practices, rituals, compulsory meditations, or systematic instructions. The ashram is essentially a vibrant center of life in a modern urban setting where there is the perfect blend of the material and the spiritual worlds. It has 80 different departments and the participant seekers can spend their day in any one of them. The ashram sees itself as working towards the creation of a new world, a new humanity. It is a vibrant center of life in a modern urban setting. There’s no renunciation of the world there.
The ashram does not have any prescribed practices, rituals, compulsory meditations, or systematic instructions, but believes in going with the free spirit and connecting with the supreme presence in the universe. There are collective meditations held in the ashram.
7. Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh
Parmarth Niketan is famous as the largest ashram in Rishikesh which provides a clean, pure and sacred atmosphere along with abundant and beautiful gardens. It is a very popular ashram lying on the banks of holy Ganga in the lap of the Himalayas which has more than 1,000 rooms, the facilities of which are a perfect mix of modern amenities and traditional, spiritual simplicity.
Parmarth Niketan is situated in Swargashram, on the banks of the holy Ganges River. Some of the daily activities at Parmarth Niketan are like morning prayers, daily yoga and meditation classes, daily Satsang and lecture programs, the popular kirtans, the world-renowned Ganga Aarati at the time of Sunset, as and Nature Cure & Ayurvedic treatment. Frequent special cultural and spiritual programs also take place. These are usually conducted by revered saints, acclaimed musicians, spiritual and social leaders and others. In addition to the above-mentioned facilities, the Ashram also has frequent camps where pilgrims come from across the globe to participate in intensive courses on yoga, meditation, pranayama, stress management, acupressure, Reiki and other well-known ancient Indian sciences.
8. Sri Ramana Maharshi Ashram, Tamil Nadu
The Ashram is located in Tiruvannamalai, 200 kilometers southwest of Chennai, in Tamil Nadu. The teachings of modern sage Ramana Maharshi are based on a process of self-inquiry, which he initiated at the age of 16 in 1886. After realizing that his real nature was “formless, immanent consciousness”, he left his family home and traveled to holy Mount Arunachala, where he remained for the rest of his life. The core of his teachings can be found in a booklet called, “Who Am I?” It contains instructions that come from his direct experience of self-realization. Free accommodations and food are provided to devotees who wish to practice his teachings at the ashram.
The ashram has a daily schedule of activities including puja (worship), Vedic chanting, and group readings.
9. Swami Dayananda Ashram, Rishikesh
The ashram located in Uttarakhand, INDIA is a traditional center of Vedanta and Sanskrit. Swami Dayananda Ashram in Rishikesh is one of the best ashrams in North India. A center of Vedanta learning and Yoga, the ashram is the ultimate place to seek peace and harmony at the lap of Nature. The Yoga Studio is fully equipped and ideally situated behind the Ashram Temple, overlooking the stunning Himalaya and River Ganga.
Prominent Yoga teachers from the around the country conduct regular courses amid the holy and serene ambiance of the ashram to help people achieve personal development and self-attainment. Regular Vedanta camps are also held every year, providing spiritual teachings to visitors. The major attractions of Lord Gangadhareswar Temple, Yoga Studio, and Ashram Library
10. Sri Sathya Sai Baba Ashram (Prasanthi Nilayam), Puttaparthi
Sri Sathya Sai Baba Ashram or Prasanthi Nilayam is the spiritual resort (ashram) of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, which is situated near Puttaparthi village in Anantapur District of Andhra Pradesh. Puttaparthi is the birthplace of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, where he spread the message of love, peace, and brotherhood in the later stages of his life. Prasanthi Nilayam or the “Abode of Supreme Peace” is where Sathya Sai Baba seeks solace and enlightenment. One of the most famous ashrams in India, Prasanthi Nilayam is a popular destination where thousands of spiritual seekers from diverse culture, race, faith, and socio-economic strata visit to experience His pure love and blessings.
The teachings of Sathya Sai Baba, globally recognized by his mop of black hair, mainly focuses on belief in God, living a highly moral life, and helping the needy. The spiritual leader has no boundation on devotees to follow the religion of their choice. People visit in huge numbers to the ashram by the desire to have a glimpse and be healed by an “incarnation of God”.
Located in Prasanthi Nilayam, Anantapur, Andra Pradesh, India, the major attractions here are Chaitanya Jyoti Museum, Sanathana Samskruti Museum, Sri Sathya Sai Hill View Stadium, Kalpatharu, birthplace of Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Hanuman Temple, and Gopalaswami Temple.