Staying in picturesque destinations does not always require shelling out a huge chunk of money. In India, you can take a halt in the lap of the mountains, in the heart of a lush green forest or right by the sea for absolutely free or by paying a little amount. India is home to some beautiful ashrams, yoga retreats and similar establishments in astonishing locations that won’t really charge you for staying. In most of these places, your stay will be coupled with a noble purpose. Here is a list of 9 such places.

Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, Sarnath

It is Constructed in the year 1955. It is one of the highly revered pilgrimage sites in Sarnath. Located close to the main market, this popular Buddhist temple in Sarnath is presently under the administration of Lhadhan Chotrul Monlam Chenmo Trust. Built-in a traditional Tibetan architectural design, the temple includes some striking features. The entrance of the temple is guarded and beautifully adorned with intricate carvings of two lions. As you enter the temple, there you can see a large open compound which houses a light pink stupa. It is said that the stupa is built by Tibetans to commemorate and show their gratitude to the Indian Government for giving asylum to Dalai Lama. Not just this, the stupa was also built to pay homage to all those people who sacrificed their lives during the Tibetan Independence Movement.

Along with that, the architecture of this popular Buddhist pilgrimage site in Sarnath also includes stunning frescoes of Buddhist deities on the wall of the temple. Inside the temple complex, there is a large image of Sakyamuni Buddha in a resting position. The temple is also adorned with Tibetan Buddhist paintings on the walls and ceilings which are one of the key features. Like most Buddhist shrines, Tibetan Temple also includes prayer wheels. On rotating these wheels in the clockwise direction, the paper scrolls release the sacred chants written on them. On a whole, Tibetan Temple is one of the must-visit places in Sarnath for people of all ages and communities as the place offers a true essence of spirituality, which is a must in today’s chaotic world.

Geeta Bhawan, Rishikesh

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Geeta Bhawan is a large complex located at the banks of the holy river Ganga in Swargashram, Rishikesh. The huge complex of Geeta Bhawan has several discourse halls and over 1000 rooms for the comfortable stay of devotees free of cost. Geeta Bhawan is a major place for devotees from far away places as they get free stay during their holy dip in the river Ganga by listening to discourses and meditation.

The Bhawan, at once, can accommodate more than 2000 devotees and provides them with a free stay. Although the Bhawan remains crowded round the year, the best time to visit is during summer for the day-long Satsang programmes organized by the Management.

Isha Foundation, Coimbatore

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Isha Foundation is a nonprofit, spiritual organisation founded in 1992 near Coimbatore, India, by Jaggi Vasudev. It hosts the Isha Yoga Centre, which offers yoga programs under the name Isha Yoga. The foundation is run “almost entirely” by volunteers. The word isha means “the formless divine”.

It is around 40 kilometres from Coimbatore and sits on the foothills of the Velliangiri mountains. This is the spiritual centre of Sadhguru which houses the magnificent statue of Adiyogi Shiva. If you are willing to volunteer at the centre, you can stay in its dormitory for free.

Govind Ghat Gurudwara, Uttarakhand

This gurudwara is located on the bank of the Alaknanda River in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district. It offers free accommodation to trekkers, pilgrims and other visitors. The gurudwara offers breathtaking views of the river and the mountains.

Gurdwara Gobind Ghat is Situated at an altitude of 1828 m, on the west bank of the river Alaknanda, Gobind Ghat is the place where the motorable road for the journey to Hemkunt ends. A number of vehicles can be seen parked as one descends to the level of the Gurdwara. Pilgrims usually halt here for the night before continuing their journey on foot or on mules. Previously known as Saymtay, Gobind Ghat is basically a hamlet of shops and small inns and hotels. The shops are varied -ranging from eating places to tea stalls to shops selling items associated with the visit to Hemkunt. These include items which are necessary for the journey ahead like walking sticks, plastic raincoats, sturdy shoes, caps, sarcomas (scarves tied on the heads like bandas) and even clothing items to ward off the cold.

Besides these, the shops sell souvenirs in the form of photographs and posters of Hemkunt Sahib, religious books, audio cassettes etc. It is through a line of such a colourful array of stalls and shops that the Gurdwara at Gobind Ghat can be approached.

Sevadars at the entrance of Gurdwara Gobind Ghat. Winding through the shops, the cobbled path leads to the Gurdwara complex which is spread along both its sides. Past the Gurdwara, one reaches the suspension bridge that spans the river Alaknanda. Colourful flags flutter atop the brightly painted corrugated steel roofs that rise above the white of the buildings. Although the Gurdwara is a trifle overshadowed by the surrounding buildings, on the whole, the air is one religious festivity. The buildings surrounding the Gurdwara are mostly rest houses where the pilgrims are accommodated without any cost or prejudice.

Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara, Himachal Pradesh

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Due to Raghunathjee and Gurudawara, Manikaran is a favourite resort for pilgrims for Hindus and Sikhs. According to an ancient legend, Manikaran is also connected with Lord Shiva and his divine consort Parvati. Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara lets guests stay for free in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh and also offers free parking and food. The Gurudwara is set beside the gushing Parvati River and also has especially heated rooms which can be availed on request. You can stay in the Gurudwara for as long as you want.

Anandashram, Kerala

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Anandashram is a spiritual retreat located in Kanhangad, a city and a municipality in Kasaragod district in the Indian state of Kerala. Known as the Abode of Bliss, this ashram is nestled in the echoing greenery of Kerala. You can stay here for free. Ashram-cooked food, low on spices, will be served three times a day. Just in a couple of days, Anandashram will offer profound rejuvenation to your body and soul.

Anandashram is near Mangalore, at the northern end of Kerala. It’s an abode of peace. Stay there for a few days and your body and mind will be rejuvenated.
Divine chanting of the Hindu god Ram’s name goes on throughout the day. Americans and Europeans frequent the ashram. Ashram people never ask for contributions.
The ashram atmosphere has some soothing quality and the divine feeling will linger in your mind for a long time.

Nyingmapa Monastery, Himachal Pradesh

Himalayan Nyingmapa Gompa is a Buddhist monastery located in Manali and one of the most famous monasteries situated in north India. Its religious significance is highly important for devotees, but tourists are also drawn to its architectural beauty and tranquillity in the environment. The most prominent feature of Himalaya Nyingmapa Buddhist Temple is the enormous statue or idol of Sakyamuni in a sitting or meditative posture. Right from the entrance, the divine and tranquil vibe of the monastery can be felt. The icon, statues and colourful paintings on the walls add to the beauty of the monastery. A few minutes of meditation is highly advisable to get a glimpse into the peaceful lives of Buddhist monks.

Located very close to the Mall road in Manali, the contrast in the hustle and bustle of the Mall road and the serenity of Himalaya Nyingmapa Buddhist Temple is often spoken about. Anyone who wants to calm their mind is welcome into the monastery. In fact, the management has even taken efforts and put signs to direct tourists in the right direction around the Stupas without being confused or clueless about it. It is one of the best attractions in Manali to observe Buddhist Monks go about their prayer services and daily activities. Himalaya Nyingmapa Buddhist Temple is a perfect place to get a glimpse into the spiritual importance of Buddhism and must be visited while exploring Manali.

Gurudwara Bhai Mohkam Singh Ji, Dwarka, Gujarat

The Gurudwara offers free accommodation and food in Langar to pilgrims and other visitors. The premises is very neat and clean so if you are travelling around Dwarka in Gujarat, the gurudwara can be a perfect place to spend the night.

Mata Amritanandamayi Ashram, Chennai

Volunteer in the humanitarian programmes of Mata Amritanandamayi Ashram, Chennai and stay in the establishment for any number of days you wish to. The ashram has branches in other parts of India too.

I Hope, this information about travel tips will help you with a budgeted trip to India. Comment for better suggestions/ information as an addition to this blog.

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