Monday, December 1st: Sarnath, India--I spent the first day of my religion based travels in Sarnath, India where I visited The Dhamek pagoda, the oldest living Buddhist structure in the world. It is believed that Buddha gave his first sermon, expressed his faith, and rested at this sacred site. Followers typically go on a pilgrimage here. The site is covered in carved stones, brick structures, and lined with borders containing intricate designs of flowers, humans, and birds. The overall structure is cylindrical in shape. While visiting, I witnessed barefooted monks dressed in elaborate, orange saffron robes visiting to worship Buddha. During their worship, I heard prayers and music.
Tuesday, December 2nd: Madinah, Saudi Arabia--I spent this day in Madinah, Saudi Arabia at the Mosque of the Prophet, the burial site of Prophet Muhammad, and one of the three holiest sites in Islam. The Arabic word Madinah means, "the City of the Prophet", thus explaining the name of the area. Madinah, is known as the beginning of the Muslim calendar. The original mosque was built by Muhammad, before then being destroyed and rebuilt for the first time in 707. The mosque went through multiple transformations throughout time. Here, Muhammad declared prayer should be delivered to Mecca, prayed, expressed his way of life, and his religious practices. The holy site displays a green dome--which is where Muhammed is buried, made of stone, marble, multiple domes, pillars, flat roofs, and decorated with elaborate designs. While inside the mosque, I noticed many guards guarding different areas, such as the pulpit, and followers walking into the heart of the mosque to pray.
Wednesday, December 3rd: Jerusalem-- This day was spent at the Church of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the resurrection and burial site of Jesus. The tomb of Jesus is located in the center of the church. It is rectangular in shape, and contains a cave underneath that holds the tomb. This church is visited by many Christians from all over the world. The site consists of the crusader facade, church, site of crucifixion, edicule, and tomb. The site of crucifixion displays a decorated model of Jesus being crucified. The structure overall, is made up of stone and brick. Inside, detailed art of Jesus is painted on the walls, and chandeliers decorate the high ceilings.
Thursday, December 4th: Ganges, Hardwar, India-- My fourth destination was the Ganges River in Ganges, Hardwar, India. The Ganges is over 1,500 miles long, and runs through India with mountains and housing bordering it. Here, Hindus can be seen bathing in the river to wash away their sins and cleanse their souls, for the sacred Hindu festival, Maha Kumbh Mela. This bathing is seen as a rebirth. Later on, a parade containing the saints and yogis of the Himalayans, whom of which bless followers, take place. This festival lasts for an astonishing 55 days, and happens every 12 years. At the festival, While visiting, I watched millions of followers smeared with ash and wearing nothing but bottoms, march to this holy river while chanting scriptures.
Friday, December 5th: Jerusalem-- The final day of my journey was spent in Jerusalem at the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing wall. The European term, "wailing wall", was born due to the destruction of the Second Jerusalem Temple. The Western Wall, which supports Temple Mount, survived this destruction, and became the most sacred site in Judaism. It is believed that the conqueror of Jerusalem found the wall, and gave Jews permission to pray there undisturbed. The 62' wall is made completely out of limestone. For centuries, prayers have been directed towards this structure. Here I witnessed followers wearing religious clothing, such as Yarmulkes, with hands placed on the wall, bowed heads, reciting prayers, and reading from the Torah.