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Meditation tourism in India: One for the soul

Besides adventure travel and cultural tours, the last couple of years have seen a noticeable growth in a new form of tourism in India — wellness tourism. In 2020, India was reportedly ranked 12th in the top 20 largest wellness tourism markets in the world. So, if you wish to explore this latest trend, we’ve shortlisted some of the best meditation retreat options in India that you must explore.

Located 30 kilometers away from the Hyderabad airport, Kanha Shanti Vanam spreads across 1,200 acres. It’s the epicenter of heartfulness, an old meditation practice under Raja Yoga. Highlighting the benefits of heartfulness, Kamlesh D Patel aka Daaji, the current guide of heartfulness, Kanha Shanti Vanam, says, “Heartfulness brings to you a scientific approach to meditation that takes you from experience to belief. Through the heartfulness way of meditation, we tune into the refined frequency of the heart for making wise choices with clarity and conviction. The heartfulness approach is supported by four basic practices of relaxation, meditation, cleaning and prayer.” The place has a meditation hall with a capacity of 1,00,000 people. Besides offering meditation, Kanha is also a conservation center, where practices like afforestation and water conservation are followed.

This meditation center is located amid lush greenery and wide open space in the heart of Pune. There are 10 meditation sessions every day, starting at 6am. Different types of meditation techniques, including Sufism, Zen, Tantra, creative arts and esoteric sciences, are used to relax the mind and body. A different type of meditation is conducted every day.

Auroville, Puducherry

Not a place for hardcore meditation, Auroville is for those who wish to engage in silent concentration to become aware of their own consciousness. It has an inner chamber, which is completely white in colour. “I visited Auroville a few years ago, but the meditation I did there and all the memories are still so vivid in my mind. At a time, around 150-200 people meditate in a huge room and the aura there is quite divine,” says Anuradha Tiwari, a company secretary from Mumbai.

Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh

Surrounded by gardens, with the Himalayas in the backdrop, this place is a great choice for anyone who wants to focus on yoga and meditation. At the end of each day, devotees attend the Ganga Aarti and sunset prayers accompanied by music on the banks of the holy river.

The Art of Living International Centre, Bengaluru

Spread across 65 acres, the centre is located in the Panchagiri Hills and it specialises in learning stress management through yoga and meditation. You can do a range of jobs throughout the day, including cooking and cleaning, which is called sewa. In the evening, everyone gathers for the satsang, where people meditate and celebrate with song and dance. “Besides regular meditation, we also teach a special breathing technique called Sudarshan Kriya. It has various mental and physical health benefits,” says Deepshikha Shah, a trainer at The Art of Living.

Vipassana International Academy, Igatpuri

With the principle of self-purification by eliminating the three causes of unhappiness — craving, aversion and ignorance – this 46-year-old vipassana center in Igatpuri is among the largest in the world. One can learn the practice of self-observation here, leading to self-purification. “I have been visiting this place since 2009. Initially, I found vipassana quite tough. I also tried to run away. But gradually, I learnt how to conquer my fears and accept the reality. Staying quiet for 20 days, without even making eye contact with anyone gives you a chance to look within and connect with yourself,” says Sudhanshu Ramakant Dichwalkar, an ad film director and video editor from Mumbai.

Isha Yoga Center, Coimbatore

This 30-year-old meditation center started by yogi Sadhguru is among the most popular spiritual places in the country, where people practice yoga and meditation. As the idea is to become one with Nature, the centre is surrounded by forest that adds to the peaceful experience. “I was in a low phase of life when someone suggested that I spend a few days there. Indulging in meditation and reconnecting with myself helped me cope,” says Ranjana Sharma, a marketing professional from Delhi.

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