March 4, 2016- Today, I traveled to the Benares, (also known as Kashi or Varanasi), India. This city is the holiest of the seven ancient cities in the Hindu religion. While in Varanasi, I witnessed many pilgrims who had completed their scared pilgrimages bathe themselves in the holy water of the Ganges River and throw thier relatives ashes into the river in hopes of peace for the departed soul. I also came across the infamous and vast Kashi Vishwanath, (the “Golden Temple"), which is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. This is a important temple that is very old and entitled. In my time in Kashi, I also learned lots about the burial processes of Hinduism and how many corpses are transported miles and miles, just to be burned in this sacred city. Benares is an important site for Hindus due to its temples, routine and sacred pilgrimages, and its burials. The architectural landscape of Benares is old, (as old as the 17th century), yet modern. Ancient architects used their techniques to ensure the temples would last and their styles are still applied to today's architecture in Varansi.
March 29, 2016- Today, I visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem, sacred to Jewish people. When standing at the Western Wall, I looked up at the huge ancient stones from the last remnant of the Temple in Jerusalem and felt surrounded by people: some have come to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah, others to take pictures before a wedding, or to place a heartfelt prayer-note within the cracks between the stones. This wall is the site of many pilgrimages and is very holy to Jews. While in Jerusalem, I learned about the architecture of the Western Wall. I learned that the Western Wall was part of the most magnificent building Jerusalem had ever seen. It was one of four walls Herod the Great built to support the 1,555,000-square-foot plaza on which the Temple stood. Originally it was about 90 feet high and reached about 60 feet into the ground. I also learned about the significance of the Western Wall and why it is sacred for Jews. For 19 years, from 1948 until 1967, when Jerusalem was divided, Jews were separated from the Wall. But then, in the Six Day War, on June 7, 1967, Jerusalem was reunited. From then on, the Western Wall became not only a symbol of glories past and a place to leave a bit of oneself in the form of notes bearing prayers and blessings, but of the love and devotion of the Jewish People for their Holy City now and forever.
April 7, 2016- Today, I was fortunate enough to travel to Lumbini, the birth place of Tathagata, or Buddha. The birthplace of the Gautama Buddha, Lumbini, is the Mecca of every Buddhist, being one of the four holy places of Buddhism. It is said in the Parinibbana Sutta that Buddha himself identified four places of future pilgrimage: the sites of his birth, enlightenment, first discourse, and death; This explains the importance of a pilgrimage to this holy town. Lumbini is located in the foothills of Nepal. The landscape of the area is sacred because it is said that Buddha's mother held on to a drooping Sal tree branch while birthing Buddha, therefore the many Sal trees represent a huge part of the Buddhist religion. The village also includes four stupas and a stone pillar, built in 249 BC by Emperor Ashoka. The final components of the village are a temple with unknown origins and a sacred bathing pool.
September 15, 2016- Throughout the course of a couple days, I have stayed in Galilee and visited and learned about The Sea of Galilee. Though not architectural important, this landscape is very sacred to Christians due to the many important events that happened here in Jesus' lifetime. The bible describes many miracles Jesus provides on or near the Sea of Galilee. After Jesus fed five thousand people, He sent His disciples across the sea while He withdrew from the crowd. The sea became rough, and the disciples had only rowed three or four miles when they saw Jesus walking on the water, set to overtake them. On another occasion, again when Jesus wanted to cross the Sea of Galilee from west to east, He was so tired that He fell asleep in the boat (Mark 4:35–41). A great storm rose up, and the disciples woke the Lord, afraid for their lives. Jesus rebuked them for their lack of faith and then rebuked the wind and calmed the sea. The disciples were amazed that even the sea obeyed Him. The Sea of Galilee was a key place for Jesus’ disciples. Jesus chose most, if not all of his disciples near the Sea of Galilee.