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Meaning of Tirtha and why pilgrimage is not the real meaning of Tirtha – Swami Purnananda

True meaning of Tirtha is not just mere pilgrimage. Swami Purnananda explains it.

The Sanskrit word ‘tirtha’ is derived from the root verb ‘tr’, meaning ‘to cross’, ‘to surpass.’ So according to the derived meaning, a ‘tirtha’ is a place from where one can surpass or overcome one’s evil actions or a place from which one can ascend 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.

In English, one who goes on pilgrimage is called a pilgrim. The world ‘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 ‘Tirtha’. ‘Tirtha’ is a place for devotees, and devotees are not foreign to one another. For practicality’s sake, however, we must make to do with the term place of pilgrimage for ‘Tirtha’.

Source - Article in the Prabuddha Bharata Magazine August 2006