In English, one who goes on a pilgrimage is called a pilgrim. The word pilgrim is derived from Old French peligrin or from Late Latin pelegrinus, meaning ‘foreigner’. A pilgrim is ‘one who journeys in foreign lands’. So a place of pilgrimage is, by implication, a foreign land. But this differs greatly from the meaning conveyed by the word tīrtha. Tīrtha is a place for devotees, and devotees are not foreign to one another. For practicality’s sake, however, we must make do with the term place of pilgrimage for tīrtha.
The Sanskrit word tīrtha is derived from the root verb tr, meaning ‘to cross’, ‘to surpass’. So according to the derived meaning, a tīrtha is a place from where one can surpass or overcome one’s evil actions (tarati pāpādikam yasmāt) or a place from which one can ascend (tarati yasmāt sthānāt) to a higher stage of life. A holy place raises us by leading to a higher mental plane; it has the power to manifest godliness in the human heart by making it pure.
The ultimate Truth is the foundation of spiritual science. All scientific truths—even religions and philosophies are but lower steps of the seemingly infinite flight of stairs that leads to the summit of spirituality. Pilgrimage also happens to be one such step.
Jammu & Kashmir
- Vaishno Devi