Entry 1 - February 20th (Hinduism)
The first stop landed me at in Northeastern India at the crowded Ganges river where the Hinduism religion bathed away their sins. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I arrived during the Kumbh Mela, one of the world's largest religious gatherings. A local stated that 11 million people, an unbelievable amount, were expected the bathe in the water by end of the day. As a I learned, the Hindus believe that they achieve purification and wash away their sins by bathing in the holy river. Indians come from all over the country to the most popular location for bathing, Haridwar, meaning "gateway to god."
Conveniently, the Ganges River was located just by the four holy temples Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath on the hills. It is said that Haridwar is blessed by the presence of all three major Gods of Hindus: Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar.
The Kedarnath Temple's (bottom left) architecture especially intrigued me. It is set amidst the stunning mountains of the Himalayas, a stunning location. This temple, over a thousand years old, is built of massive stone slabs over a large rectangular platform. Outside the temple door, a large statue of the Nandi Bull stands as guard. At the time I visited, visitors who flock from all parts of India, for a holy pilgrimage.
Entry 2 - February 22nd (Buddhism)
I was honored to visit the fascinating and holy Shwedagon Pagoda located in Yangon, Myanmar. Constructed with hundreds of gold plates, along with thousands of diamonds and other gems, I truly was astounded! The temple is believed to enshrine eight hairs of the Gautama Buddha as well as relics of three former Buddhas. The Shwedagon Pagoda consists hundreds vivid temples, stupas, and statues that reflects the architectural era spanning almost 2,500 years.
24 hours later I found myself mesmerized on the The Temple of Heaven in Beijing. First constructed in 1420, it was evident that there had been several renovations. It is the largest architectural complex in the world for rituals to pay homage to heaven. As I begin to stroll through the temple, I noticed it is divided by two walls into an inner and outer altar. To symbolize heaven and earth, the northern part of the temple is circular while the southern part is square, which demonstrate the ancient Chinese belief that Heaven is round and Earth is square. Funny enough, people practice Tai Chi, a martial art form by the temple.
Entry 3 - Febraury 26th (Judaism)
My next visit was inside the holy city of Jerusalem at the famous Western Wall. The pieces of what was the most sacred building in the Jewish world quickly has become the holiest spot by the Jewish. It was one of four walls Herod the Great built to support the 1,555,000-square-foot plaza on which the Temple lied. It was almost 1,500 feet long and the rest can still be seen inside the Western Wall Tunnel . Originally it was about 90 feet tall and reached down 60 feet into the ground. The amass of people praying and even a few weddings were proof that the destroyed remnants were still alive and well when I visited.
I also encountered the Four Sephardic Synagogues, all famous prayer sites. Each synagogue was built within the time period of the 1500's-1700's. The open doors revealed several Jewish followers praying during the midst of the day.
Entry 4 - March 1st (Islam)
Out of many trips, the visit to the city of Mecca was the most breathtaking. Muslims believe that it is very important to visit Mecca, the birthplace of Islam, at least once in their lives. Amazingly, almost three million Muslims pay visit to this city every year. The world’s largest mosque, has become Saudi Arabia's most important place of pilgrimage. Thousands of Muslims gathered around the holy Kaaba, the cube at the center, of the Grand Mosque during evening prayer in the holy city of Mecca.
""an oasis, a paved garden where people can spend a few moments to relieve the tensions and stresses of the usual working day."
A pattern was most visible at the base of the buildings, several pointed arches resembling those found in mosques and on Muslim prayer rugs. The builder Yamasaki illustrated the atmosphere of the Mecca as a gateway out of real life. In fact, the Mecca even inspired the architecture of The World Trade Center.
Entry 5 - March 3rd (Christianity)
For the last trip, I was lucky enough to visit the Notre Dame Cathedral located in Paris. The Notre Dame Cathedral has sculptures and stained glass windows that convey the heavy influence of naturalism, unlike that of earlier Romanesque architecture. The colorful stained glass windows were mesmerizing! I found out that it was one of the very first Gothic cathedrals, and its construction took place throughout the Gothic period. Being around for eight centuries, the cathedral has suffered damage through the years.
The historical Notre Dame de Paris stands on the site of Paris' first Christian church. The world famous cathedral is referred to as "Notre Dame de Paris" ("Our Lady of Paris" in French), The Notre Dame Cathedral or sometimes just "Notre Dame." Visitors like myself are also able to attend Mass, which is held three times a day and a popular attraction for all Christian visitors. Part of the religious center of the city, the cathedral draws over 13 million visitor annually. The structure is still in use today as a Roman Catholic church for Sunday Mass.