DAY 1- Hinduism
Wow! I am so excited to finally be in India. My first stop was at the Ganges River in Hardwar, India. The Ganges river is a very large body of water that runs and flows near a multitude of other buildings in India. Hindus believe that they can become pure by bathing in holy, sacred rivers. Many Indians come from all over the world to Hardwar, the most popular location for bathing in the Ganges.
After I grabbed a bite to eat with some tourists I met at the Ganges, I made my way over to the Virupaksha Temple in the city of Hampi, India. This temple started out as a small shrine and later grew into a large building with the help of the Vijayanagara rulers. The Virupaksha Temple has been running without interuption since it was built in the seventh century A.D making it one of the most antique temples in India. I would describe its structure as being very tall, wide and spacious. The biggest entrance tower is as big as fifty meters high! This Virupaksha Temple serves as a home and an important, center for those who worship Lord Shiva. In addition, this temple attracts many tourists because of its beautiful structure and depth. It is also used for prayer and ritual baths.
DAY 2- Buddhism
What a night! I took the midnight train to Sarnath, India and arrived around 3 A.M this morning. I got to my hotel and slept for a couple of hours and was finally ready to visit the Dhamek Buddhist Pagoda! When I arrived, I was overwhelmed with the structure. It was absolutely amazing. It's appearance was exquisite and there were many sided towers in an array of tiers, balconies, and slanting roofs. The Dhamek pagoda is said to be the oldest, most sacred living Buddhist structure in the world . As I listened to the tour guide, I learned that pagodas hold relics which Buddhists believe to be a part of Buddha's body or clothing. Also, I learned that the Dhamek pagoda is not a place where individual meditation or prayer takes place.
I made my way over to India by taking a train and planned on visiting the Bo Tree in Bodh, India. This site is significant to Buddhists because this is where Buddha reached perfect wisdom. The tree has become holy because the Buddhists look up to the one whom they choose to worship. To honor and respect the Buddha, the Bo Tree has been dispersed into other Buddhist countries including China and Japan. The tree has long branches that hang low and has a temple that has been built along side of it since the third century.
DAY 3- Islam
After the longest airplane flight of my life, I had finally gotten on the shuttle that would bring me to my next stop: The Ka'ba. The Ka'ba has been known to be a religious shrine in Makkah, Saudi Arabia since before the orgin of Islam. Muhammad conquered the citizens, he took the Ka'ba into his own hands, removed the idols out of it, and "rededicated it to the all-powerful Allah", the Islamic God (Landscapes 203). The mosque is also said to hold the well of Zamzam, known to contain the same exact water source that was given to Hagar by the Angel Gabriel to reduce thirst of her son, Ishmael. The Ka'ba is a black, cube shaped object at the center of the Great Mosque in Makkah and is also considered to be the holiest object in the Islam faith.
After visiting the Ka'ba, I continued to explore the inside and outside of the mosque that holds it! The Masjid Al-Haram mosque is the largest gathering Mosque in the world. This specific mosque covers an area of 356,800 square meters and can hold up to two million people at a time. The hajj attracts a plethora of Muslims every year. It is very tall, spacious, and surrounded by a very large city. Unfortunately, the travel distance for pilgrims is a long way so the amount of pilgrims in the area is low. I enjoyed this architectural feature because it was unique in appearance!
DAY 4- Judaism
After a long day in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, I spent my last night at the motel and caught the 6 A.M boat ride to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is home of the first Jewish temple named "Solomon's Temple". Originally, Solomon's father, King David, wanted to construct the temple as a permanent resting place for the Ark of the Covenant which held the Ten Commandments. But, David was told not to do so by God and refrained from completing the task. Later in life, Solomon, the fellow workers and citizens of Jerusalem had finally finished and established it. Solomon's temple is the holiest temple in the Judaism faith because it was inaugurated with prayer and sacrifice. The temple is 20 stories tall and inside, it is laid with pure gold. Unfortunately, I was only able to see certain parts of the temple because Muslims eventually took over Jerusalem and placed two mosques where the temple once stood. To this day, traditional Jews pray three times a day for the temple's restoration.
After an exciting visit at Solomon's temple, I called a taxi and was dropped off at The Belz Great Synagogue in a different part of Israel. In the Judaism religion, synagogues are used not only for places of worship and assembly, but to celebrate historical victory. The Belz Great Synagogue was modeled after a similar synagogue in Ukraine that was completely destroyed in the Holocaust. It is known as a symbol of an altruistic house of worship and symbolizes victory over the Nazis. It can seat up to 10,000 people and took around 15 years to build. There are many intricate decorations on the walls and ceilings within it and each chandelier contains over 200,000 pieces of Czech crystal. All in all, this would have to be my favorite stop so far; it was breathtakingly beautiful.
DAY 5- Christianity
I am making my last stop before I visit my home church back in the United States and I am very excited! I took the early morning train to the Jordan River located in Israel, in the northeast corner of Hulah Valley. The river runs about 250 kilometers long is truly an amazing landmark to see. In the bible, Jesus, the one, Christian God was baptized in the Jordan river. Christians see this as being symbolic because Jesus, the son of a living God continued to trust in his Father's plan. Also, the river symbolizes that the promise land could not be entered without crossing it. On the sign in front of the river, Deuteronomy 11:31 said that “For you are about to cross the Jordan to go in to possess the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall possess it and live in it,”. While I was there, I went to the part of the river where baptisms were taking place and made the decision to become pure in Christ. It was an amazing experience and I can't begin to explain my excitement!
I am now back in Dallas, Texas. Before I head home, I decided to stop at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. This church is one of the largest churches in Plano and offers a wide variety of Christian valued ministries. It can hold over 2,000 people at a time and is similar to the shape of a hemisphere-like stadium. At this church, the goal is to spread the gospel by growing closer to Jesus and to share his love with others. This church was very friendly and did a good job of making me feel welcome. Now, as I conclude my trip, I am happy to say that I have gotten to learn and explore religious architecture and sacred sites all around the world!