Thursday, July 10th - Hinduism is a religion with very colorful temples and places of worship. One example is the Jagannath Temple which I went to visit earlier today. I traveled to Puri, India. The first thing I saw were multiple large buildings surrounded by one main building. At the Jagannath temple many rituals take place daily from 5 am to noon. In these rituals the Hindu's may get ready for the day. However, I was not able to go inside the temples because only Hindu's are allowed. Yet, the temple is home to three deities, lord Jagannath and his brother Balabhadra, and sister Subhadra. They are three large wooden idols sitting on a throne. Lord Jagannath is considered by Hindu's to be the Lord of the Universe. At the entrance to the temple there is a huge pillar representing the Sun God. The temple also has a famous Banyan tree and the World's largest kitchen from which they feed 100,000 people each day.
Saturday, July 12- After I visited the Jaganneth temple, I spent a whole day traveling by train from Puri to Bodh Gaya, India. Today I visited the Mahaboghi Temple in Bodh Gaya. This is a sacred site in Buddhism that marks the spot where the Buddha was enlightened. The original temple was built in the third century BC but was destroyed by Muslims. The current temple was built around the 5th or 6th centuries. It is huge and built entirely from brick. It has had significant influence on the development of brick architecture. The main shrine holds a gold painted statue of Buddha. There are signs that allow you to retrace Buddha's activites. The most important sacred place is the Bodhi tree that is behind the main shrine to the west. The tree is believed to be a direct descendant of the tree that the Budha was lying under when he had his enlightenment. The shrine is filled with Monks metitating. To the south of the temple is the sacred Lotus Pond.
Monday July 14- After visiting religious architecture in India I traveled about 2,000 miles by plane to Mecca, Saudi Arabia to see the Kaaba. The Kaaba is the most sacred place in the Muslim world. Muslims everywhere turn towards the Kaaba when they pray. The Kaaba is shaped like a cube and is known as the House of God. Inside the Kaaba is the scared Black Stone. Muslims believe this was placed by Abraham and Ismail and that it came from outerspace. They also believe the prophet Mohammed once kissed the stone. Once in a lifetime, every Muslim is expected to travel to Mecca and they try to kiss the Black Stone. black Due to the fact that I am not a Muslim I was forbidden to touch it and it was covered in a black cloth. The Kabba is 45 feet high by 50 feet wide and is covered in a black cloth with Quran verses in gold.
Tuesday July, 15- After leaving Saudi Arabia, I traveled to Jerusalem. Here lies the 1,601 foot long wall of the Western Wall of The Temple Mount. The wall originally surrounded the Second Temple that was built by Herod the Great. It is at the same spot where the original temple was built by King Solomon. The Temple was destroyed in 70 AD by Rome but the wall was left standing. This remnant that was left standing became the holiest spot for Jews. For centuries, Jews have made pilgrimages to the Western Wall to pray. Because of their grief over the destroyed temple, the wall became known as "the Wailing Wall" by non-Jews. People now place folded pieces of papers with written prayers in the cracks of the wall. I was able to join people in a large open area known as the Western Wall Plaza where Jews pray day and night. The Western Plaza was only built in 1967 after the Israelis regained the Wall from the Arabs in the 6 Day War. The huge lower stones are from the original wall, and the other stones were added later. The largest stone is 45 feet in length by 13 feet wide and weighs about 570 tons! It is recorded as one of the heaviest objects ever lifted by humans without machinery. I can see the Dome of the Rock, a sacred Muslim site, from the Western Wall.