Religions across nations By jennifer powley -3b

Old North Church

When I was eight years old, my grandmother took me to the Old North Church in Boston Massachusetts. This was my first ever experience of visiting a famous religious building. As explained by the tour guide, the church was built in 1723 and is the oldest standing church in the city of Boston. The christian building's most famous architecture is it's tall white steeple, which you can see from all the way down the street. I learned that the steeple's tall, pointy structure was built in order to help direct people's minds up towards Heaven and God. The church itself is famous because of it's role during the American Revolution. On April 18, 1775, Robert Newton climbed the steeple and hung two lanterns as a signal from Paul Revere that the British were coming to Lexington and Concord by sea instead of by land. My visit to the Old North Church sparked my interest in religious architectural buildings and was the very first stop on my global tour, although I didn't know it at the time.

Dome of the Rock

The first place of my expedition was the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Israel. Wow... this Islamic temple is definitely something that'll take your breath away. The beautiful Turkish tiles, the huge golden dome, and the building's octagonal shape really made the architecture unique. I learned that the mosaics and Arabic inscriptions around the Dome of the Rock tell the story of the Night Journey of Muhammad. When you reach the center of the temple, you'll find the famous sacred rock. For Muslims, the rock is believed to be where Muhammad's winged horse leapt into the sky accompanied by the Archangel Gabriel on the Night Journey into heaven. The horse's imprint is said to be on the rock. Muslim beliefs say that an angel will come to the rock to sound a trumpet of the Last Judgment at the end of the world. The mosque was mainly built to memorialize Muhammad's ascension into heaven after his night journey to Jerusalem. My favorite part of the Dome of the Rock was walking down the staircase that leads underneath the rock know as the Well of Souls. I was told that voices of the dead mingle with the falling waters of the lower rivers of paradise as they drop into eternity. I didn't hear any voices, but I did get a certificate giving me admission to paradise after walking around the rock. It'll be buried with me when I die.

The Western Wall

I also visited the Western Wall while in Jerusalem. There were a ton of people in the Western Wall Plaza when I got there. I over heard some people saying that the wall acts as an open-air synagogue and can have thousands and thousands of people worshiping. After reading many signs and listening to lectures, I learned that the Western Wall was apart of a retaining wall that enclosed the western part of Temple Mount. Also, the Western Wall is considered the holiest Jewish sacred site in the world. The wall itself was magnificent and towered over me as I tried to take a picture. I had to wear a shawl and visit the right side of the wall because it was the women's only section. I wasn't allowed into the men's section because of Jewish Orthodox traditions. The wall was built in 20 BC and took over eleven years to complete! I'd really like to visit the wall again during Tisha B'Av, a fast is that celebrates the destruction of the First and Second Temple.

Hurva Synagogue

The Hurva Synagogue was my next stop in Jerusalem. I had to travel to the fourth quarter to visit it. This Jewish site was originally built in the 18th century but destroyed by Muslims not soon after it was built. A sign near the front said that it was rebuilt in 1864 but it became known as the Ruin Temple. The synagogue got destroyed a second time and again rebuilt in 2010. Before it was destroyed a second time, the temple was taller than any Muslim place of worship and contained artwork that represented themes from Psalms 137. The height of the synagogue was a big deal because the Ottoman Empire had control of the city and didn't want another religion besides Islam to be priority. Lots of bribing lead to the Ottomans allowing the construction of the second temple. Nowadays, when I visited, the synagogue was very airy and spacious. My tour guide took me and my group to these baths underneath the synagogue that date back to the Second Temple period. Those were so cool! My favorite part of this temple, however, was going to the top of the dome and getting a 360-degree view of the old city.

Church of the Holy Sepulcher

My last stop while in Jerusalem was to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This architectural Christian religious site marks the spot of where Jesus was crucified. I saw the Stone of Anointing, which is where Jesus was anointed before burial, when I first walked in. Up the stairs, I looked to my right and saw Calvary, the hill where Jesus was crucified. My favorite part was seeing the Aedicule. The Aedicule is a closed chapel that's built over the tomb of Jesus and holds the Angel Stone, a piece of the door used to close the tomb. I learned during my tour that, surprisingly, the key to the church is held by a Muslim family and not by one the Christian monks because it's been the tradition for centuries. I showed up to the church around 5:30 in the morning because another tourist I met at the Dome of the Rock told me that was the best time to visit if I didn't want to wait in a huge line to get in or have lots of people in the church with me. There were barely any people with me when I visited, so I had a lot of time to ask questions and take really good pictures!

The Ganges River in Varanasi

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.

Zahir Mosque prayer hall

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

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.

Credits:

Created with images by fusion-of-horizons - "Elefterie" • Robyn2175 - "Freedom Trail, Boston" • pixaneidel - "dome of the rock temple mount jerusalem" • kellinahandbasket - "Wailing Wall/ Western Wall" • rictulio - "P1120383" • Jorge Lascar - "The Stone of Anointing - The Church of the Holy Sepulchre" • alexanderwragge0 - "varanasi ganges india" • Travelbusy.com - "Ganges River India" • Arian Zwegers - "Varanasi, sadhus" • LibelSanRo - "balance yoga beach" • jafsegal - "Varanasi, India" • Jorge Lascar - "Mihrab (marking the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca) - Madrasa of Sultan al-Zahir Barquq - Qalawun complex" • kudumomo - "Maya Devi Temple" • Valeria Bolotova - "Wat Chalong 2"

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