BE SURE YOU WILL ENJOY LOT, ITS YOURS INN: 2011

Monday, 7 March 2011

HARIDWAR


Haridwar (also known as Hardwar) is a holy city in the state of Uttaranchal in northern India. Known as the Gateway to the Gods, Haridwar is considered one of the seven holiest places according to Hindus, as the devas are said to have left their footprints there. Here pilgrims float diyas on the Ganges, to commemorate their deceased ancestors. The city also stands as a gateway to three other important pilgrimage destinations: Rishikesh, Badrinath, and Kedarnath. In Haridwar you will see a great statue of Shiva at the fork of the river. If you are there for a short visit, it is definitely worth to visit the temple on top of the mountain, with a wonderful view.

Haridwar has very rich ancient religious and cultural heritage. In the ancient scriptures of India, this place is well known by the name of Mayapur. This city is also well known for many other things apart from the holy river Ganges. Haridwar has privilege of having IIT at Roorkee, formerly known as University of Roorkee, founded in 1847 as a first technical institute of India. The city has one of the "navratna PSUs of India" i.e BHEL (Bharat Heavy Electricals India Ltd.). The tomb Piran Kaliar of Shabir Shahib in Roorkee is a living example of religious harmony in India which is visited by the people of all religious sects from all over the world. There is another University in the city called Gurukul Kangri Vishva Vidyalaya apart from the head quarter of Uttaranchal State Public Service Commission also being established at Haridwar. Besides this, Kumbh fair is organized at the interval of every 12 years in this city in which about 1 crore pilgrims from all over the world participate.
           
Haridwar (also known as Hardwar) is a holy city in the state of Uttaranchal in northern India. Known as the Gateway to the Gods, Haridwar is considered one of the seven holiest places according to Hindus, as the devas are said to have left their footprints there. Here pilgrims float diyas on the Ganges, to commemorate their deceased ancestors. The city also stands as a gateway to three other important pilgrimage destinations: Rishikesh, Badrinath, and Kedarnath. In Haridwar you will see a great statue of Shiva at the fork of the river. If you are there for a short visit, it is definitely worth to visit the temple on top of the mountain, with a wonderful view.

Haridwar has very rich ancient religious and cultural heritage. In the ancient scriptures of India, this place is well known by the name of Mayapur. This city is also well known for many other things apart from the holy river Ganges. Haridwar has privilege of having IIT at Roorkee, formerly known as University of Roorkee, founded in 1847 as a first technical institute of India. The city has one of the "navratna PSUs of India" i.e BHEL (Bharat Heavy Electricals India Ltd.). The tomb Piran Kaliar of Shabir Shahib in Roorkee is a living example of religious harmony in India which is visited by the people of all religious sects from all over the world. There is another University in the city called Gurukul Kangri Vishva Vidyalaya apart from the head quarter of Uttaranchal State Public Service Commission also being established at Haridwar. Besides this, Kumbh fair is organized at the interval of every 12 years in this city in which about 1 crore pilgrims from all over the world participate.

  HOW TO REACH
By Air - Jollygrant at Dehradhun is the nearest airport i.e. 35 Kms from Haridwar. It is well connected to the major cities like Delhi etc. Regular flights are available by Indian Airlines and Jet Airways.  

By Rail - Haridwar is well connected to the major cities of India with regular and express trains. The major trains are 4309/4310 Ujjain-Haridwar-Dehradun, 2019/2020 Bombay-Haridwar-Dehradun, 4041/4042 Delhi-Haridwar-Dehradun, 4265/4266 Varanasi to Haridwar to Dehradun, 3009/3010 Howrah-Haridwar-Dehradun, 2017/2018 Delhi to Haridwar-Dehradun (Shatabdi Ex.),4213/4214 Allahabad-Haridwar-Dehradun (Link ex.), 5005/5006 Gorakhpur-Haridwar-Dehradun, 4711/4712 Sri Ganganagar-Hardwar.

By Road -  Haridwar is well connected to the major cities, it lies on the National Highway no. 45 and road network is good. The distances in km from some cities are Delhi-214, Agra-386, Ambala-168, Badrinath-325, Dehradun-52, Kedarnath-250, Saharanpur-81, Nainital-386. There are regular buses from Delhi in every 30 minutes. You can take the Delhi Transport Corporation(DTC) or private deluxe coaches.

WHEN TO GO
Haridwar can be travelled round the year.

WHAT TO SEE 

Chandi Devi :The temple of Chandi Devi atop the Neel Parvat on the other bank of river Ganga was constructed in 1929 A.D. by the king of Kashmir- Suchat Singh . It is a 3 km trek from Chandighat . Legend has it that the army chief Chanda-Munda of a local demon King Shumbh- Nishumbha was killed by goddess Chandi here after which the place got the name Chandi Devi . It is believed that the main statue was established by the Adi Shankracharya in
8th century A.D. One can reach here by Trolley through ropeway or on foot.

Maya Devi Temple - This is an ancient temple of Maya Devi the Adhisthatri deity of Haridwar, known as one of the Siddhpeethas. Said to be the place where the heart and navel of goddess Sati had fallen.


 Har ki Paori (1.5 km) - This sacred Ghat was constructed by King Vikramaditya in memory of his brother Bhartrihari. It is believed that Bhartrihari eventually came to Haridwar to meditate by the banks of holy Ganga. When he died, his brother constructed a Ghat in his name which later came to be known as Hari-Ki-Pari. This sacred bathing ghat is also known as Brahmakund. The reflection of golden hues of floral diyas in the river Ganga is the most enchanting sight in the twilight during the Ganga Arti ceremony . Attending the Ganga Arti which is performed here everyday after sunset is an unforgettable experience as most of the tourists say.

Gurukul Kangri University ( 4 km) - It is situated on the Haridwar-Jwalapur bypass road . It is an old institution known for following a unique system of education in India. The Ved Mandir Museum with archaeological exhibits in display can also be seen.




 
 Mansa Devi Temple (3.5 km) - The temple of Goddess Mansa Devi is situated at the top of Bilwa Parwat .Here one statue of the Goddess has three mouths and five arms while the other statue has eight arms. The beautiful view of the city can be seen from this place. The temple can be reached by trolley through ropeway or on foot.


 Daksha Mahadev Temple (4 km)
 - The ancient temple of Daksha Mahadev is situated in the south Kankhal town .The mythological story about this place is that King Daksha Prajapati, father of Sati (Lord Shiva 's first wife ) performed yagya at this place. Daksha Prajapati did not invite Lord Shiva and Sati felt insulted . Therefore she burnt herself in the yagya Kund . This incident provoked the disciples and followers of Mahadev who killed King Daksha, but later on Lord Mahadev brought him back to life. Daksha Mahadev temple is thus a tribute to this legend .

Bhimgoda Tank - This tank is at a distance of about 1 km from Harki Pairi. It is said that while Pandavas were going to Himalayas through Haridwar, Bhim made this tank with the blow of his knee.

Sapt Rishi Ashram and Sapt Srovar (7 km) - It is said that Ganga had split herself in seven currents at this place so that the Sapt(seven) Rishis worshipping there would not be disturbed.
Parad Shivling (2 km) - Situated in Harihar Ashram, Kankhasl. Shivling weighing about 150 kg and Rudraksha tree are main attractions here.

Rishikesh - Rishikesh is one of the best located pilgrimage centers along the right bank of the Ganga. The holy river emerging from high mountains not far from here, runs deep and silent through the thickly wooded hills of the Tehri that straddle this region. A breathtaking experience of natural beauty and undiscovered wildlife await here. Not to mention the peace and tranquility of a landscape associated with 'munis' and meditation. Today Rishikesh has become a center for learning and research in yoga and meditation- the renowned Indian methods for mental and physical health. The week-long International Yoga festival which attracts participation from all across the world is held here annually in the month of February on the banks of serene Ganga.

Rajaji National Park - Haridwar is also a popular destination for nature and adventure lovers. The Rajaji National Park is about 820 sq. km. in area; attracts wildlife lovers with its pristine scenic beauty and rich bio diversity. Three sanctuaries of the Shivalik range of western U.P. -Rajaji, Motichur and Chilla were amalgamated into a large protected area and named Rajaji National Park in year 1983It has 23 species of mammals and 315 avifauna species. One may watch a herd of elephants roaming majestically in the jungle or may find oneself excited by wildlife of many kinds including tigers, leopard, jungle cat, Himalayan yellow throated marten, samber, cheetal, barking deer, wild boar, langoor, ghural, sloth beer, king cobra, woodpecker etc. The river shelters fish in abundance.

Piran Kalier - The 'Dargah' of Hazrat Makhdum Allauddin Ali Ahamed 'Sabir' on the outskirts of Roorkee town is a worth-visit-place for every visitor. It is situated towards the south of Haridwar. This place is one of the living examples of unity between the Hindu and Muslim religions. Famed for its mystical powers that fulfill the desires of the devout, the Dargah is visited by millions of devotees from all religions from India and abroad. The Urs is celebrated at this Dargah every year, from the first day of sighting the moon to the sixteenth day during the Rabeeull month of the Islamic calendar.

Sureshwari Devi - This is a temple of Goddess Durga. Situated in the peaceful forest area of Rajaji National park.

Dehradun - A place liked by many retired civil and defense officers to settle down, now the capital city of newly formed Uttaranchal state is known for many central govt. institutes of national importance and is also a place worth visiting.
Kodiyala - The place is very popular for rafting loving tourists. Known for turbulent white water.

Mussoorie - The queen of hills, the city with Mall is an ideal hill station.

Piran Kalair - The tomb Piran Kaliar of Shabir Shahib in Roorkee is a living example of religious harmony in India which is visited by the people of all religious sects from all over the world. 'URS' festival is organised every year on the holy dargah in summer.
Distances of major tourist destinations from Haridwar are : Rishikesh - 24 kms, Kedarnanth - 241 kms, Corbett National Park - 180 kms, Gangotri - 250 kms, Deharadun - 55 kms, Nanital - 320 kms, Badrinath - 288 kms, Mussourie - 87 kms, Yamunotri - 250 kms, Roorkee - 29 kms, Ranikhet - 325 kms.
WHERE TO EAT
There are few good restaurants which serves delicious pure vegetarian food.



Saturday, 5 March 2011

Mystery of the Egyptian Pyramids

The Egyptian pyramids remain one of the most beautiful and complex mysteries of the modern world. Set against the exotic backdrop of the Egyptian desert, these stone temples hearken our memories back to the days of pharaohs and mummies. Throughout history there have been many theories regarding the exact manner in which the Egyptian pyramids were built.
It appears to modern man the ancient Egyptian pyramids were no small feat to construct. Some theories have surfaced indicating that at least some scholars believe in aliens building pyramids. One of the most long held beliefs relating to the built of the pyramids is that they were constructed through the use of slave labor.
Ancient documents have revealed that in most instances it took numerous years, usually decades, for even one of the ancient Egypt pyramids to be assembled. Records also indicate that it was traditional for a pharaoh to begin construction on a pyramid not long after he took the throne and that the building process might last almost the entire length of his reign. In the case of King Tut, evidence indicates that the tomb he was laid to rest in was originally prepared for someone of a lesser standing. Obviously, he was not expected to die at such a young age and therefore did not have sufficient time to prepare his own burial tomb.

Facts About Egyptian Pyramids

Besides the beauty and mystery regarding the construction of the Egyptian pyramids, there are also a number of interesting facts about Egyptian pyramids. King Khufu's great pyramid is the largest pyramid. It is well known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, standing at an impressive 146 meters.
King Khufu's great pyramid, impressive as it is, was not the first pyramid to be built. His father, king Snefru, built a number of impressive pyramids himself. While none of the Egyptian pyramids constructed under the reign of Snefru are as tall or large as the Great Pyramid at Giza; they did contribute to the perfection of the Egyptian pyramids. Snefru is believed to have first begun his work in pyramid building with the step pyramids, progressing on to the Bent Pyramids and culminating his activities with the Red Pyramid, considered by many to the first pyramid constructed in a true pyramid shape.
The ancient Egyptian pyramids served a multitude of purposes. They were primarily used as the burial tomb of the royal family, consisting of the pharaoh, his queens and offspring. Modern excavations have uncovered that the inside of the Egyptian pyramids were almost always laid store with a variety of items the dead would need in the afterlife. Some of the most ornate and expensive items ever discovered on the inside of the Egyptian pyramids came from the tomb of King Tut. Carefully removing, cataloging and studying the items required a number of years. In the end there were several thousand items discovered to reside with King Tut's mummy.
One of the most profound mysteries relating to the ancient world of Egypt regards why was the sphinx made. No one seems to be quite sure why this great statue was constructed, however; theories abound. It is believed to have most likely been constructed during the Fourth Dynasty. Located in the same proximity as King Khufu's Great pyramid, many scholars have hypothesized that the Sphinx was constructed in order to guard the great pyramid. The real reason is not known and due to the Sphinx's rapid rate of deterioration; its secrets may never be uncovered.




Lotus Temple (Baha'i Temple)

Baha'i Temple in Delhi is often compared to the Sydney Opera House. Located 12km southeast of Connaught Place, has emerged as a top attraction for the tourists. Popularly known as the Lotus TempleBaha'i Temple is a major feature of Delhi and is well known for its appearance. There is no doubt that in years to come the temple will prove to be a mecca for the visitors. Baha'ism is considered to be a syncretism of the nine great religions of the world and traces its genesis to its prophet Baha'u'llah, born in Persia in the twentieth century.
The Baha'i Temple of Delhi is spectacular in its design. 27 wonderful huge white petals of an unfolding lotus made of marble spring from nine pools and walkways. This symbolizes the nine unifying spiritual paths of the faith. Experience the solitude of Baha'i Temple with Hotels of Delhi. As a matter of fact no travel to Delhi is complete without visiting the temple.
The temple has a striking though plain central hall where you can meditate. The hall is 34.27m. high. Thought-provoking quotes of the Baha'i sacred scriptures are inscribed on the petal alcoves. Set amid beautiful gardens, the temple is at its most exuberant best when the sun dazzles these lotus petals. While entering you'll have to remove your shoes and keep silence.
The Amazing Architecture of Lotus Temple
The temple is situated to the east of the intersection of Mathura Road (the way to Agra) and the outer Ring Road. Tourists can reach upto Nehru Place (the bus terminal is well connected to every part of the city), from where one can take an auto-rickshaw or walk for 15 minutes. The temple is open to visitors from Tuesday to Sunday (9 am to 7 pm) during summers and 9:30 am to 5:30 pm during the winters. 15 minute services are held at 10 am, noon, 3 pm and 5 pm, and you are welcome to sit in on these. Attendants make sure there is no talking inside the building, just a reverential atmosphere of prayer should preside.


Friday, 4 March 2011

SHYAMBHU NATH STUPA



A golden spire crowning a conical wooded hill, Swayambhunath Stupa is the most ancient and enigmatic of all the holy shrines in Kathmandu valley. Its lofty white dome and glittering golden spire are visible for many miles from all sides of the valley. Historical records found on a stone inscription give evidence that the stupa was already an important Buddhist pilgrimage destination by the 5th century AD. Its origins however, date to a much earlier time, long before the arrival of Buddhism into the valley. A collection of legends about the site, the 15th century Swayambhu Purana, tells of a miraculous lotus, planted by a past Buddha, which blossomed from the lake that once covered Kathmandu valley. The lotus mysteriously radiated a brilliant light, and the name of the place came to be Swayambhu, meaning "Self-Created or Self-Existent." Saints, sages and divinities traveled to the lake to venerate this miraculous light for its power in granting enlightenment. During this time, the Bodhisatva Manjushri was meditating at the sacred mountain of Wu Tai Shan in China when he had a vision of the dazzling Swayambhu light. Manjushri flew across the mountains of China and Tibet upon his blue lion to worship the lotus. Deeply impressed by the power of the radiant light, Manjushri felt that if the water were drained out of the lake Swayambhu would become more easily accessible to human pilgrims. With a great sword Manjushri cut a gorge in the mountains surrounding the lake. The water, draining away, left the valley of present day Kathmandu. The lotus was then transformed into a hill and the light became the Swayabhunath Stupa.
Swayambhunath's worshippers include Hindus, Vajrayana Buddhists of northern Nepal and Tibet, and the Newari Buddhists of central and southern Nepal. Each morning before dawn, hundreds of pilgrims will ascend the 365 steps that lead up the hill, file past the gilded Vajra (Tibetan: Dorje) and two lions guarding the entrance, and begin a series of clockwise circumambulations of the stupa. The whole stupa is a complex of chaityas, temples, images and numerous other religious objects. There are many small shrines with Tantric and shamanistic deities, prayer wheels for the Tibetan Buddhists, Shiva lingams (now disguised as Buddhist chaityas and decorated with the faces of the the Dhyani Buddhas), and a popular Hindu temple dedicated to Harati, the Goddess of smallpox and other epidemics. The presence of the Harati Devi temple signifies the intermingling of the pantheons of Hinduism and Buddhism in the development of the religious trends of Nepal. As Buddhists had no deity in their own pantheon to protect against the dreaded smallpox, they adopted the Hindu deity for assistance. On each of the four sides of the main stupa there are a pair of big eyes. These eyes are symbolic of God's all-seeing perspective. There is no nose between the eyes but rather a representation of the number one in the Nepali alphabet, signifying that the single way to enlightenment is through the Buddhist path. Above each pair of eyes is another eye, the third eye, signifying the wisdom of looking within. No ears are shown because it is said the Buddha is not interested in hearing prayers in praise of him.
Atop Swayambhunath hill is another fascinating, though smaller and less visited temple. This is Shantipur, the "Place of Peace", inside of which, in a secret, always locked, underground chamber lives the 8th century Tantric master Shantikar Acharya. Practising meditation techniques which have preserved his life for uncounted centuries, he is a great esoteric magician who has complete power over the weather. When the valley of Kathmandu is threatened by drought, the King of Nepal must enter the underground chamber to get a secret mandala from Shantikar. Soon after the mandala is brought outside and shown to the sky, rain begins to fall. Frescoes painted on the inside temple walls depict when last this occurred in 1658. The small temple has a powerful atmosphere; it is mysterious, stern and slightly ominous. The entire complex of temples atop Swayambhunath hill is one of the authors favorite sacred places in the world. It was here, in 1967, when the author was thirteen years old that he first became enchanted with visiting and photographing ancient pilgrimage shrines. Nearby the Swayambhunath hill are other important temples such as the Shiva Jyotir Linga temple of Pashupatinath, Boudhanath stupa, Changu Narayan, Dakshinkali, and Budhanilkantha.


SHYAMBHU NATH STUPA ( more information)

Located in a lovely little hill rock Swoyambhu Nath Stupa middle of city is one of the most fascinating architectural jewels of the world. This great Stoup is said to have been built around 250 B.C.

Generally a holy memorial site Stoup represents a typical Buddhist architecture. Its main feature the white dome is identified with a spotless pure jewel of Nirvana and a thirteen tiered golden spire in conical shape surmounted on the dome. Underneath this towering structure are a pair of all seeing eyes of Buddha painted on all four sides of the Stupa.
The Stupa of Swoyambhunath stands on a typically stylized lotus mandala base-a long time ago believed to have originated from a legendary lake of Kathmandu Valley.

As the ancient legend goes Kathmandu Valley was a lake a long time ago. Right in the centre of this lake was a full blown lotus with the divine light a top. When Maha Manjushri a saint from China heard about this he came rushing all the way from China to the Valley. He cut through the southern wall hill of the valley with his divine sword. The cleft made by the sword immediately drained the entire lake water making the valley floor open for a close up view of the divine lotus light.

This holy site in fact is the massive stupa complex ever built in Nepal. Hundreds of votive shrines and other historical monuments built in and around this stupa speak a lot about the significance and antiquity of this famed stupa.

It lies about 3k.m. west of down town Kathmandu. There are two different ways to reach for this site. One is from the west side which is relatively a short cut and another is from the east side where it leads to the main entrance with 360 steps leading all the way to the top, where the most venerated Swayambhu Stupa stands-commanding a magnificent view of Kathmandu Valley and the breathtaking panorama of the north eastern Himalayan range.

Other important things to be seen here include a magnificent two tiered golden temple dedicated to Harati. She is the grand mother deity of children and small pox who was said to be the Ogress until Lord Buddha converted her to be the great caretaker of the children.

Not to far from this temple is Dewa Dharma monastery-noted for a bronze icon of Buddha and traditional Tibetan paintings .

The huge gold plated vajra ' tha priestly symbol of Vajrayana Buddhism set on the Dharmadhatu mandala at the side of the stupa is worth a close look.

Important to visit
Buddha Purnima, the birth day of Lord Buddha which fails on the full moon day of Baishak (April-May)
Gunla the holy Buddhist month according to Newari calendar (Aug.-Sept., early Morning).
Kojagrath Purni (Sept.-Oct.)
Samyak day of the Magh (Jan.Feb.) (every twelve years Swayambhu.)

Monastery of Jasna Góra

The Monastery of Jasna Góra in Częstochowa, Poland, is the third-largest Catholic pilgrimage site in the world. Home to the beloved miraculous icon ofOur Lady of Częstochowa, the monastery is also the national shrine of Poland and the center of Polish Catholicism.

History

According to tradition, the icon of Jasna Góra was painted by Luke the Evangeliston a tabletop built by Jesus himself, and the icon was discovered by St. Helen, mother of Emperor Constantine and collector of Christian relics in the Holy Land. The icon was then enshrined in the imperial city of Constantinople, according to the legend, where it remained for the next 500 years.

In 803, the painting is said to have been given as a wedding gift from the Byzantine emperor to a Greek princess, who married a Ruthenian nobleman. The image was then placed in the royal palace at Belz, where it remained for nearly 600 years.
History first combines with tradition upon the icon's arrival in Poland in 1382 with a Polish army fleeing the Tartars, who had struck it with an arrow.
Legend has it that during the looting of Belz, a mysterious cloud enveloped the chapel containing the image. A monastery was founded in Częstochowa to enshrine the icon in 1386, and soon King Jagiello built a cathedral around the chapel containing the icon.
However, the image soon came under attack once again. In 1430, Hussites (pre-Reformation reformers) attacked the monastery, slashed the Virgin's face with a sword, and left it desecrated in a puddle of blood and mud.
It is said that when the monks pulled the icon from the mud, a miraculous fountain appeared, which they used to clean the painting. The icon was repainted in Krakow, but both the arrow mark and the gashes from the sword were left and remain clearly visible today.
The miracle for which the Black Madonna of Częstochowa is most famous occurred in 1655, when Swedish troops were about to invade Częstochowa. A group of Polish soldiers prayed fervently before the icon for deliverance, and the enemy retreated. In 1656, King John Casimir declared Our Lady of Częstochowa "Queen of Poland" and made the city the spiritual capital of the nation.
The Virgin again came to the aid of her people in 1920, when the Soviet Russian Red Army gathered on the banks of the Vistula River, preparing to attack Warsaw. The citizens and soldiers fervently prayed to Our Lady of Częstochowa, and on September 15, the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, she appeared in the clouds above Warsaw. The Russians were defeated in a series of battles later dubbed the "Miracle at the Vistula."
During Nazi occupation, Hilter prohibited pilgrimages to Jasna Góra, but many still secretly made the journey. In 1945, after Poland was liberated, half a million pilgrims journeyed to Częstochowa to express their gratitude. On September 8, 1946, 1.5 million people gathered at the shrine to rededicate the entire nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. During the Cold War, Jasna Góra was a center of anti-Communist resistance.
Pope John Paul II, a native of Poland, was a fervent devotee of the Virgin Mary and of her icon at Częstochowa. As pope, he made pilgrimages to pray before the Black Madonna in 1979, 1983, 1991, and 1997. In 1991, he held his Sixth World Youth Day at Czetochowa, which was attended by 350,000 young people from across Europe.
Other popes have honored the "Queen of Poland" as well. Pope Clement XI officially recognized the miraculous nature of the image in 1717 and in 1925 Pope Pius XI designated May 3 a feast day in her honor. Pope Benedict XVIvisited the shrine on May 26, 2006.

What to See

The large baroque monastery of Jasna Góra dominates a hilltop in Częstochowa and is always bustling with pilgrims and worshippers. As pilgrims approach the monastery, the most striking sight is the 106-meter belltower, reconstructed in 1906 (the bottom part dates from 1714).
The second level contains four clocks, one on each side, that mark the passage of each 15 minutes with Marian melodies. Inside the third level are statues of St. Paul the Hermit, St. Florian, St. Casimir and the Saint-Queen Hedvig; the fifth level has statues of the church fathers St. Leo the Great, St. Gregory, St. Augustine and St. Ambrose.




The focus of pilgrims to Jasna Góra is not the monastery, but the icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa, which is displayed in a altar in the Chapel of the Black Madonna. The icon shows a serious Mary holding the infant Jesus on her left arm and gesturing towards him with her right hand. The Virgin's gaze is intense —pilgrims are moved by the way she seems to look right at them.
The Virgin's robe and mantle are decorated with lilies, the symbol of the Hungarian royal family. The infant Jesus is dressed in a red tunic and holds a Bible in his left hand and makes a gesture of blessing with his right. The Virgin and Child are dressed in bejeweled velvet robes and gold crowns for special occasions.
The image has been placed in a gold frame decorated with hundreds of precious jewels, and stands on an altar of ebony and silver donated by the Grand Chancellor George Ossoliński in 1650.
The altar with the icon is separated from the rest of the Chapel of the Black Madonna with a floor-to-ceiling iron screen. The large Gothic chapel includes five other altars, the most notable of which is the Altar of the Crucifix, to the right of the icon. Its cross dates from 1400. The walls of the chapel are full of ex-votos left by grateful pilgrims.
Attached to the Chapel of the Black Madonna is the baroque basilica, named the Church of the Holy Cross and Nativity of Mary. Rebuilt between 1692 and 1695, it has three aisles and ceilings decorated with accounts of the miracles of Our Lady of Częstochowa. The main altar was designed by the Italian artist Giacomo Antonio Buzzini between 1725 and 1728.
The monastery's treasury is a rich storehouse of votive offerings given to the Black Madonna over the centuries, from the 14th century to the present. Gifts range from swords and scepters to rosaries made of dried bread in concentration camps.
Kings, queens and popes have donated a vast array of precious objects, such as King Michael Korybut Wiśniowiecki and the Archduchess Eleanor of Austria on the occasion of their wedding in Jasna Góra in 1670. Also donated to the Virgin are tear-gas cylinders used by the Communists against Solidarity protestors in the 1980s, and the Nobel Peace Prize won by Lech Walesa in 1983.
There is also a richly decorated library housing precious manuscripts. Since 1920, the library has hosted the meetings of the Polish Episcopal Conference.
Around the perimeter of the basilica, where the moat once was, are the 14 Stations of the Cross represented by bronze statues sculpted by Pius Weloński in 1913. Nearly every pilgrim group prays at the Stations of the Cross; some move from one station to the next on their knees.

Pilgrimages and Festivals

Every day, from early in the morning to late in the evening, a stready stream of pilgrims approaches the shrine of Częstochowa via the tree-lined main avenue. The groups leave a few hundred feet in between them, so as not to disturb the others as they pray the rosary and sing hymns. Young men carry batteries and speakers to lead the singing.
Pilgrims wear badges with the name of their town and a number showing how many times they have come on pilgrimage to Częstochowa — many have come every year for decades. After venerating the icon in the Chapel of the Black Madonna, pilgrims usually pin their badges to the walls as a votive offering.
As the national shrine of Poland, Częstochowa attracts delegations from all walks of life. Government leaders visit regularly; and students, veterans, miners, actors, former Stalinist prisoners, and factory workers arrive on organized pilgrimages.


The preferred days to make the pilgrimage to Częstochowa are Marian feast days, especially the Feast of the Assumption on August 15. On this day, up to 500,000 people crowd the city. Since 1711, a pilgrimage has left Warsaw and 32 other towns and walked in procession to Częstochowa for up to 21 days.
Four other national pilgrimage days bring throngs of visitors: the Feast of Mary, Queen of Poland (May 3); the Feast of Our Lady of Częstochowa (August 26); the Feast of the Nativity of Mary (September 8); and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8).

Getting There

Częstochowa is located in south central Poland and is easily accessible from major cities. There are about six daily fast trains from Warsaw and Krakow, hourly departures from Katowice, and several daily trains from Lodz, Opole and Wroclaw. From the train station, you can take a bus or taxi to the shrine. By carfrom Krakow, take 4/E40 west to Katowice, and 1/E75 north to Częstochowa; from Warsaw, take 8/E67 then 1/E75 south to Częstochowa.

Location Map

Below is a location map and aerial view of Shrine of Our Lady of Częstochowa. Using the buttons on the left, zoom in for a closer look or zoom out to get your bearings. Click and drag the map to move around. For a larger view, see ourPoland Map.