a journey through religious landscapes Niharika Tyagi - 3B

I took a journey across the world in search for some of the major religion's sacred sites and architecture. I found that many of the sacred sites that I visited were also parts of the religions' architectural style.

Judaism Architecture and Sacred Site - Temple Mount-Dome of the Rock

The first place I visited on my journey was The Dome of the Rock at Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel. The Dome of the Rock was built as a shrine, rather than a place of worship, in 691 CE. It was nearly impossible to access because I am not a Muslim or Jew, which is required in order to visit. The temple is disputed amongst these two religions and while it was a generally very serene area, I could feel some senses of tension. I had to wake up pretty early, around 7:30 A.M. because the shrine is only open from this time to 10:00 A.M from Thursday to Sunday. The Dome of the Rock has a golden roof with intricate and noticeably middle-eastern influenced mosaics in various colors surrounding the exterior walls. The Dome at the Rock is the oldest extant Islamic monument and is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

Islamic Architecture and Sacred Site - The Kaaba-Al-Masjid al-Haram, in Mecca

The next place I visited on my journey was The Kaaba, or The Cube, at Al-Masjid al Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It was actually impossible for me to see this place because entrance is strictly prohibited unless you are Muslim, with the penalty being deportation from the country. In Saudi Arabia, I was required to remain within a traveling group and wear an Abaya, a robe-like garment that covered my body in combination with a Hijab, which covered my hair, ears and neck. I did see that The Kaaba is a large structure covered by a black cloth with gold geometric shapes and designs. The pilgrims, or those who visit Mecca as part of one of the 5 pillars of Islam which specifies that those who are able must make a pilgrimage to the city, walk around the Kaaba 7 times. I could imagine how crowded the area would be, with hundreds of Muslims in prayer facing the Kaaba. Overall, this was one of the most unsettling places I visited because of how strict the visiting enforcements were.

Hinduism Architecture and Sacred Site - Brihadeshwara temple

The next place I visited was the Brihadeshwara Temple in Thanjavur which is in Tamil Nadu, India. This place felt very different from Mecca in Saudi Arabia. I was allowed to go here without any checks of my religion or ethnicity. The area was so serene and quiet even with many visitors. The temple is dedicated to the Lord Shiva in Hinduism. This site is an example of Tamil architecture, with large, stacking rows. On the temple's exterior, I noticed a sculpture of the sacred bull Nandi. The temple has lights on it around Diwali time and in December. Inside, there are many murals and other engravings significant to Hindus. The surrounding area and actual temple are sacred to Hindus. Overall the experience was interesting and peaceful.

Buddhist Sacred Site and Architecture - Mahabodhi Temple

Perhaps the most tranquil place I visited on my journey was the Mahabodhi Temple in Patna, Bihar State, India. I was allowed to visit again without any checks of my religion or ethnicity, and the people around me who were visiting were also very modest and kind. This structure is sacred to Buddhists because it is where Buddha is said to have reached enlightenment. The structure is made of brick and is the oldest standing brick architecture in eastern India. The surrounding area is very beautiful and well kept, but preserves the age and history that surrounds it. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting this Buddhist site.

Christian Sacred Site and Architecture - St. Peter's Basilica

The last stop on my journey was the St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Rome, Italy. This area was familiar to me because I have visited Rome before. Of all of the places I visited, this was the most touristy. I was allowed access as it was a public place to visit. The site was lively and pleasant. The architectural style is Renaissance and Baroque, with large pillars and domes as the roofs. This site is significant for Christians and Catholics because it is representative not of the death of Christ but his overcoming of death by resurrection, and the promise of similar salvation to his followers. This stop in my journey felt the most crowded but easily accessible.

Credits:

Created with images by PublicDomainPictures - "architecture beautiful building" • judithscharnowski - "jerusalem israel middle east" • Camera Eye - "Holly Ka'ba" • antkriz - "Temple outside of the Palace" • Anandajoti - "022 Cankama from East" • LoggaWiggler - "st peter's basilica dome vatican"

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