A Week of World Religion BY LAUREN JACKSON(RELIGIOUS STUDIES SCHOLAR)

My findings from my recent December expeditions. Enjoy:)

Decemember 22nd-23rd, 2016-Judiasm

On the 22nd, I began the final section of my travels. I decided to go visit the Western Wall because I had heard that is a custom of lots of Jewish people to pray here at least once throughout their lives. While the official title of this sacred space is the Western Wall, it is more well-known as the Wailing Wall. When I stepped inside, I immediately could see why, as people prayed it sounded as if they were "wailing" to God, and the people seemed to find strength within the premises. The next day, I set out for the Ohel David Synagogue, which is in India. The most well-known Jewish luminary and philanthropist was a Baghdadi Jew by the name of Mr. David Sassoon. His tomb remains within the compound of the synagogue. It was interesting to read about the impact he had had on people's lives. My final trip was one that was very insightful and thought-provoking, and I was able to make home to celebrate Christmas with my own family. Happy Holidays!!

December 18-20th, 2016: Hinduism

After finishing my research for Christianity, I went down to the Ganges riverbank on the 18th. The Ganges river is a very sacred site and is the holiest river in the Hindu religion. I found a pamphlet near the river at a nearby store that disscussed the traditions for deaths and for the people that wish to be apart of the river's holiness must first be cremated, and then a family member (or potentially members) will scatter their ashes throughout the Ganges river. Next, I went to Madhya Pradesh, India on the 20th to check out the Khajuraho Group of Monuments. These are called "Temples of Love" and Western groups of Khajuraho temples are entirely Hindu, and constitute some of the finest examples of Chandela art at its peak.

December 14-16th, 2016 : Christianity

On the 14th, I traveled to St. Peter's Basilica which is located in Vatican City. Vatican City is where the Pope lives. I noticed it was very crowded, so I asked around and some locals told me about how more people tend to travel here around Christmas time to celebrate and honor the birth of their Christ and Savior, Jesus. The inside of St. Peter's Basilica was absolutely phenomenal and going through the building was an experince like no other. There was lots of varieties of art on the walls, and it was quite unique and exquisite. To study Christianity, I also visited the Jordan River on the 16th, which can be found in the Middle East. The river itself has a calming presence, and I noticed many people liked to come and see it. I asked some of these people questions about the river, who like me were visiting, and the common thing they all replied with was that it is significant for Christians because John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the waters of the Jordan.

Decemember 9th-12th: Buddhism

bodh gaya and minaret The Bodh Gaya was my next stop, and I had to travel to Bihar. Bodhgaya was where Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment beneath a bodhi tree and became Buddha 2600 years ago. In terms of blessedness, this tiny temple town is to Buddhists what Mecca is to Muslims. Unsurprisingly, it attracts thousands of pilgrims from around the world every year, and I witnessedpeople coming to study, pray, and meditate.I found Bodh Gaya to have a very calm presence, and wish I could have stayed longer. However, next on the agenda was to visit the city of Minaret. Within the city, I found a Stupa, Originally a simple funerary mound that predated Buddhist customs, the stupa has since become a signature Buddhist structure, evolving into the famous pagodas of East Asia and chorten in Tibet.

December 5th-7th, 2016: Islam

My first trip was in Saudi Arabia on the 5th to a very sacred site to Muslims, the city of Mecca. Since it is a city exclusive only to those of Islamic faith, I wasn't able to do a lot within the city but I had a colleague of mine who is Muslim take some pictures and he was willing to do an interview about the city. Mecca is one of the 5 pillars, and at the Ka'bah, which is located within the city, you must pray 5 times daily. Muhammad was born in Mecca, and because of this Mecca is considered to be the holiest out of all cities for the Islamic faith. I thanked my friend for his information and then was quickly on my way to the Qutab Minar and arrived on the 7th. The Qutub Minar is an enormously tall tower built in 1193. The tower was built to celebrate Muslim dominance in Delhi after the defeat of Delhi's last Hindu ruler. I felt so short standing next to it!! I could almost feel the victory from the wins just by being near this momument. While my Islamic research was fun, I am now moving on to do some studying and sight-seeing for Buddhism. :)

Credits:

Created with images by FotoGuy 49057 - "River Jordan 1919" • Prince Roy - "The River Jordan"

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