To start my 5 day journey, I visited one of the oldest cities of the whole world, Varanasi, India. This "religious capital of India", was very colorful and filled with buildings of all shapes and sizes. The town of Varanasi are known for many things, such as, their temples or shrines, but the most noteworthy site of Varanasi, is Ganges. Varanasi is located to the left of Ganges, a holy river. This river is very long, and although it is starting to get polluted, it still has a great beauty! The Ganges river is very important for Hindus, in fact, it is one of the seven sacred spots for Hindus. Religiously, the holy river is crucial to the Hindus because the river represents a goddess in Hindu mythology. This is why the river is often referred to as the "Mother Ganga". Every Hindus wish is to go to Varanasi to visit the great Ganges river. I am glad I got to visit this amazing city to see the religions of Hinduism.
I continued my journey exploring the religion, Hinduism, by adventuring to the Durga Temple in Aihole. The temple is very beautiful because of the many intricate designs on the pillars inside the temple, such as the "garbhagriha", which means "womb-chamber". The garbhagriha is a window-less shrine room at the heart of the temple. The Durga Temple was built in the 7th or 8th century, which makes sense because I would imagine, that the designs in the temple would take a long time to complete! Despite the temple being named "Durga", it was not named after their dedication to the goddess, Durga. Instead the temple was named "Durga" because "durga" means protector or fortress. The temple is often referred to as "the sacred mountain Meru" or "the dwelling of Shiva on the Himalayas" based off of Hindu texts. Many Hindus like to come to this temple because they believe the energy flows out in all directions from the garbhagriha. Hindu or not, it was truly a spectacular architecture to see!
Maya Devi Temple
Maya Devi Temple in Lumbini, Nepal
Today I decided to explore another religion, Buddhism. To start off, I visited the birth place of Buddha: Lumbini, Nepal. Lumbini is a very small city, considering it is only 3 miles in length and 1 mile in width. The city is not really tourist friendly because there are no shops, hotels, or even restaurants! Only monasteries can be built, showing how holy the Lumbini city is! I first visited the Maya Devi Temple, which is the main temple in Lumbini, and is traditionally considered where Buddha is born. It is a beautiful, large temple that many people come and visit. I then visited Pushkarini, or the Holy Pond. This is where Buddha's mother, Mahamaya Devi, gave her son his first bath. If you plan to travel to Lumbini, travel is convenient considering that the Holy Pond and Maya Devi Temple are right next to each other!
To complete my exploration of the religion, Buddhism, I traveled to one of the most popular temples of Buddhism of all time located on an island in Indonesia. This gigantic temple was built in the 9th century with 9 stacked platforms (6 square and 3 circular) and on the very top, a central dome. Visiting there was truly amazing! The size was spectacular, but also, the amount of detail was astonishing! The Borobudur has 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The temple's art was influenced by Indian culture. The reason this magnificent temple was built, was to build a shrine for their lord, Buddha, and for Buddhist pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is a journey of moral significance. The reason why there are so many arts is because they narrate Buddha's past life and important scriptures. It is truly astonishing that an architecture could be so detailed!
Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Today, I traveled to Saudi Arabia to visit the Kaaba in Mecca. This gigantic, 43 feet cube, is actually a shrine for Muslims. Although subjective, the Kaaba is one of Islam's most important sacred sites. It is also surrounded by the Great Mosque of Mecca. The Kaaba is a cube structure made of granite. If you go inside the Kaaba, you will see floor made of marble and limestone with walls made of tile and white marble on the roof. One of the most important parts of this magnificent structure is the door. Although it is just a door, it is made of gold, 300 kg, 2.13 meters and and is known as the "Door of Repentance". As many can see, this is a truly a spectacular sight to see! Of course it was not made to be a decoration, but to be a place of worship (mosque). Muslims are expected to face the Kaaba to do their prayer, no matter where they are in the world. In fact, one of the 5 Pillars of Islam, requires Muslims to preform the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. Therefore, this structure is very important to Muslims all over the world.
Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (Prophet's Mosque)
Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Saudi Arabia
To continue my learning of the religion Islam, I visited another sacred site also in Saudi Arabia, Al-Masjid an-Nabawi. The Al-Masjid an-Nabawi is also known as the "Prophet's Mosque" because this mosque was established and originally built by the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. Muhammad is the central figure of Islams and is sometimes known as the founder of Islams, as well. The Prophet's Mosque was the 3rd mosque built in Islam history, but is definitely one of the biggest mosques in the world now. The Al-Masjid an-Nabawi is a very popular pilgrimage place because of the many connections to their central figure, Muhammad. In the past, the site of the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi was next to Muhammad's house. Also in the green dome, Muhammad's tomb is located in there. Although this mosque is not as spectacular as the Kaaba, it is still very intricate. It is rectangular shape and known for the domes. If you even want to visit Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, it is open 24/7, regardless to dates or time!
Western Wall (Wailing Wall, Kotel)
Western Wall in Old City of Jerusalem
Today I went to the Western Wall to learn more about the religion Judaism. Although it is just a wall, this wall is the most significant, sacred site in the world for Jews. Even though, the limestone wall is not a spectacular, beautiful site to see, it is splendid in size. The wall is at an astonishing height of 62 feet! The Western Wall is a place where Jews come and pray. The most important part of the Western Wall is its connection with the Temple Mount. The Jews believe that the Temple Mount is where Adam, the first human, was created and where God commanded Abraham to bring his son, Issac, to the peak of the mountain. Later, Herod was appointed king of Jerusalem and he wanted to widen the area of the Temple by flattening the mountain and building 4 walls around it. Although the history is a bit unclear, it is believed that the Western Wall is one of the 4 walls. It is a great place to visit if you wish learn more about the religion Judaism.
Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem
To learn more about Judaism, I visited the matriarch of the Jews, Rachel. Rachel is the wife of Jacob and the mother of 2 children, but died giving birth to the youngest.Since Rachel is very important to the Jews, the Ottoman empire reconstructed her grave in 1841. As I visited her tomb, it was amazing how real it felt! It was not gigantic or extremely beautiful, but everything had a lot of thought put into it. Rachel is the symbol for women who can not have children and to the people who require a special blessing. Even though Rachel is not alive in the present, her existing in the past teaches people of the power of prayer.
The Jordan River
Jordan River in Jordan and Israel
The Jordan River is a sacred site for Hindus and Jews as well, but I visited the Jordan River to learn more about Christianity. This river runs through Jordan and Israel and although polluted, it still is beautiful in some areas. To be honest, most areas of the water were brown and that was a bit of a disappointment, but it still holds importance to people all over the world. To Christians, the Jordan River is where John the Baptist baptized people in the river. John the Baptist baptized Jesus, who Christians follow, in the Jordan River. Also later on in the New Testament, Jesus crosses the Jordan River many times, therefore the Jordan River is important to Christians all over the world. Although the Jordan River was not as visually appealing to visit, it was still a great place to visit!
Sea of Galilee
Sea of Galilee in Tiberias
To learn more about Christianity I visited the Sea of Galilee in the city of Tiberias. The Sea of Galilee is about 13 miles in length and 8 miles in width, so it is not big, but it is very beautiful. It is very blue and does not have much pollution, unlike the Jordan River. Therefore, if you want to see a more aesthetic place, I suggest going to the Sea of Galilee. The importance of the Sea of Galilee is centered around Christian's Christ, Jesus. Many incidents occurred with Jesus and the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is where Jesus walked on water to save Peter on the boat and where Jesus had calmed the sea when a storm occurred. This all led up to the key point, where Jesus had gathered his disciples. Disciples are personal followers of Jesus and are important to Christians, as well. Many Christians like to visit the Sea of Galilee to experience how Jesus's disciples felt when they first encountered Jesus.
빛내리교회 (Binnerri Presbyterian Church)
To sum up my travel blog of different religions, I went back home to go to my own church. Binnerri Presbyterian Church is a Korean, Christian church in Richardson, Texas. As a Christian I follow Jesus and God, therefore visiting the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River allowed me to connect with my own religion.
Thanks for reading my blog!