Lumbini, the birthplace of the Lord Buddha and a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists worldwide, is under threat of development.
This winter, Buddhist monks began peacefully
organizing in Nepal to protest against the formation of the Lumbini
Development National Steering Committee, which Buddhists fear will bring
industrialization and commercialization to this spiritual destination.
Almost every religion in the world recognizes the spirituality of
travel. In scripture, various places are given great significance for the roles
they play in different belief systems. Some are the birthplaces of gods, some
are thought to be gifts from the gods, some are centres of religious leadership
and some are simply beautiful places to worship. These destinations,
awe-inspiring even to the people in their own religion, draw pilgrims from all
corners of the world each year.
Significance: birthplace of the Lord Buddha
Siddhartha Gautama, who eventually became the Lord Buddha, is said to
have been born in a garden in Lumbini, Nepal, in 623 BC. Siddhartha was a prince who left his palace at the age of 29
to seek enlightenment. Lumbini began attracting pilgrims after 249 BC, when the
Indian emperor King Ashoka first travelled there. The Ashokan Pillar in Lumbini Garden marks the king’s pilgrimage
and is inscribed
with a dedication to the Buddha. Other sacred monuments include the stone
slab where Siddhartha was born, housed by the Maya Devi Temple, and the pool in
which Siddhartha was bathed after being born, called Puskarni.
by Rome, Italy
home of the Pope and centre of the Roman Catholic Church
City, or the Holy See, became an independent state in 1929, though it has been
the home of the Pope, the leader of the Catholic Church, since 1378. St
Peter’s Basilica houses the tomb of
the first Pope, the apostle St Peter, who was crucified and buried there.
Other attractions include the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Gardens and the Vatican Museums.
birthplace of the Protestant Reformation
Martin Luther challenged
students and clerics in Wittenberg to a debate about the Catholic Church’s
selling of indulgences in exchange for salvation. He wrote the controversial Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and
Efficacy of Indulgences and nailed its
pages to the door of Castle Church, an act which many regard as having
launched the Protestant Reformation. Luther was excommunicated from the
Catholic Church four years later.
Seven Years’ War, much of Wittenberg was destroyed, but Castle Church was
rebuilt in the 1800s and the text of Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses was inscribed
into the church’s front doors. Inside the church, Luther’s tomb is joined by
the tombs of two other Protestant thinkers, Phillip Melanchthon and Frederick the Wise. Other Wittenberg attractions
include Luther’s restored house; St Mary’s Church (or City Church) where Luther
preached, was married, and had his children baptized; and the house of Phillip
Melanchthon, Luther’s collaborator.
birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad
are not allowed inside Mecca, the holiest place in Islam, so this excursion is only
for believers. Every year, millions of Muslims embark on a journey to Mecca, called
the Hajj. The pilgrimage is meant to promote unity among followers of Islam. It
is so central to Islam that one of the religion’s Five Pillars is for every
able-bodied adult to carry out the Hajj at least once in their lifetime,
providing they can afford to. Mecca is where Muhammad, the prophet who founded
Islam, was born, and where he received the first revelation of the Qur’an. Pilgrims
visit the Grand Mosque in order to praise Allah before the Kaaba, Islam’s most
the most important site of the Char Dham, the four Hindu pilgrimage centres
within the Himalayas, Badrinath
is a sacred place of the god Vishnu. Some believe that the Vyas Caves, just
outside this holy town, is where the Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata was
written. The area’s main
attraction is Badrinath Temple, built in the 9th Century by Garhwal
kings. It is primarily a place to worship Vishnu, although other gods are also
represented. After visiting the temple, take a spiritual cleanse in one of the
area’s natural hot springs, Tapt Kund and Surya Kund.
holiest place of worship for Sikhs
Harmandir Sahib, or Golden
Temple, is the most important gudwara,
or temple, in Sikhism. It was built in the early 1600s from marble and then
overlaid with gold leaf. Inside the temple, visitors can find the Guru Granth
Sahib, the holy text of Sikhism. Around the temple is a body of water called
the Amrit Sarovar, or Pool of Nectar. Within the temple, one impressive site is
a dining hall where volunteers serve food to 3,500 people in need.
the holiest of Jewish sites
First Temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians, the Second Temple (built to
replace the first) was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Subsequently, the remaining wall, Kotel, or Western
Wall, became a place of worship and mourning for the old temples. As a
result, it is often called the Wailing Wall.
Shrine of the Bab
mausoleum of the founder of the precursor religion to the Bahá’í Faith
of Báb, located on Mount Carmel, combines beautiful buildings with beautiful
greenery. It is the burial place of Báb, the founder of a new religion in the
1800s which broke with Islam and was therefore repressed by the Persian
government. Bábism led to the birth of the Bahá’í Faith. In the shrine, meander
about the Hanging
Gardens of Haifa, the terraced gardens designed by Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba.
most sacred city for Jains
In the holy
city of Palitana, Shatrunjaya
Hill is an important place of worship in Jainism, a belief system that
revolves around non-violence toward all living things – people, animals, even
insects. Shatrunjaya is a hill of steps stretching 591m high. Along the way are 863 marble Jain
temples, comprising the holiest place on earth for Jainsm.
Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism
religious destination for four major religious groups
the world can appreciate the beauty of the holy mountain Sri Pada. Perhaps that is why four different
religions consider the peak a sacred site worthy of pilgrimage. A rock
formation near the summit takes a different shape in each belief system: Buddhists believe it is
the footprint of the Buddha; Muslims believe it is the footprint of the prophet
Adam; Hindus believe it is the footprint of Shiva; and, Christians believe it
is the footprint of St Thomas.