I knew that to complete my religious site-seeing journey, I had to travel to India. I traveled to Varanasi, a city located along the Ganges River in northeast India. Here, I decided to stay in a retreat along the river to meditate and do yoga. It was great! The city I stayed in is a very popular place for Hindus to pilgrimage to because of its location on the Ganges and the belief that the Hindu god Shiva founded it. The Ganges River is very sacred in Hinduism. It is considered to be an extension of the goddess Ganga. Bathing in the Ganges and speeding cremated ashes along the river are very important to Hindu pilgrims. While staying in the city, I found out that common mythology of how the river started is that Vishnu, an incarnation of Brahmin, took two steps to cross the universe and accidentally created a wall in the universe and water from the River Mandakini spilled through it. I wanted to try yoga particularly along the river because it's a common practice by many Hindus when they visit.
Durga Mandir Temple in Viranasi, India
After spending a night doing yoga on the Ganges, I decided to stay another day in Varanasi to sight-see the Durga Mandir Temple. There were a ton of monkeys everywhere around the temple when I got there. I asked a man inside why there were so many monkeys but all he said was that the temple is also known as the Monkey Temple. The temple has a very distinct red color and has a pond to the right of it. The pond is man made and called the Durga Kund. Inside the temple, there's a statue of the Goddess Durga, which who the temple is dedicated to. The statue is said to have appeared by its own and wasn't made by humans. The temple itself was square shaped with red colored stones to represent the color of the Mata Durga. Before I left, I made a round trip around the temple because it's said that the Mata Durga protects those who do it from problems. I met many nice Hindus within the temple who explained to me the importance of the beautiful architecture I was seeing.
After Varanasi India, I traveled to Kedah, Malaysia to see the Zahir Mosque. I decided to make the trip to Malaysia to see this site because it's considered one of the most beautiful Islamic architectural sites in the world. The mosque was built in 1912 and is the oldest mosque in Malaysia The thing that caught my eye when I arrived to the site was the five large, black domes. Someone explained to me that they represent the Five Pillars of Islam. The main dome is located at the northeast part of the mosque. The mosque is very, very large. Also, there're symbols and mosaics around the mosque representing stories from the Quran. What I thought was kind of funny was that there's an annual Quran reading contests held at the mosque. Maybe I'll come back and try to win next year's contest.
Maya Devi Temple with Puskarni in front
I realized that I've never seen a Buddhist temple or sacred site so I decided I needed to add this stop to my trip. After Malaysia, I traveled to Nepal to visit Lumbini, which is considered one of the four sacred sites of Buddhism. If you're seeking devotion or awareness of nature impermanence, then I definitely recommend this place. Lumbini is the birthplace of Gautama Buddha. To reach the Lumbini, I had to travel to the foothills of the Himalayas in modern Nepal. I learned that Maya Devi gave birth to Buddha underneath a sal tree on her way to her parent's house. I also visited Puskarni, a sacred Buddhist pool on top of the Maya Devi temple located in Lumbini, Nepal. I didn't swim in it or anything, but the view, the pool, and the temple were astounding. The whole experience was very relaxing the the gardens surrounding the temple showed me how important nature is to the Buddhists.
Wat Chalong in Phuket, Thailand was the final destination in my "Religions across Nations" tour. The building is so beautiful and exquisite I can't even explain it in words. I learned many stories from the guide about the Buddhist temple like how miracles have performed there and how it played a huge role in fighting between Chinese secret societies. In the main hall, there's a statue of Luang Pho Chaem and Luang Pho Chuang. I stuck a gold leaf to the statues as apart of paying my respects to the two abbots. The Grand Pagoda in the temple contained a piece of Lord Buddha's bone and has wall paintings telling Buddha's life story. I think I spend the most time in the pagoda because it was so interesting.