Journey Around the World An inside look at different religious structures By: JEnna WIlliams

On my trip, I traveled the world, stopping at many different religious sites and sacred places that are important to the five major religions around the world. At each stop, I recorded some information about the site, and so here is my travel religion blog :

Hinduism Structures

This is the Hindu Temple in Malibu, California.

The Malibu Hindu Temple happens to be the largest temple on the West Coast, and it seemed very unique and interesting, so I decided to stop by as my first stop. I was in the Los Angeles area when I came across this temple in Malibu There is a huge entry way that you can walk through that leads into the main area of the Temple, where many gatherings for ceremonies happen, and also there is a full stage for special cultural Hindu programs. The priests live on the grounds, and it is built in the traditional South Indian style.

This is Varanasi, the city on the banks of the Gages in the Uttar Pradesh state of North India.

Varanasi is one of the seven holy pilgrimage centres in India, and was my second stop. It has been the ultimate pilgrim spot for Hindus for ages. This city is often referred to as Benares, and it is the oldest living city in the world. It is located on the banks of the Gages, so Hindu pilgrims travel by boat to get here, and is a very colorful, bright city. This stop is so significant because Hindus believe that one who is graced to die on the land of Varanasi would get salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and re-birth.

Buddhism Structures

This is the Jetavana Stupa, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

My third stop was The Jetavana Stupa, the highest brick- built dagoba in the world, and is still the tallest and largest structure made entirely of bricks anywhere on Earth. This amazing structure is located just outside of the old city of Savatthi. The Jetavana was the main place that people came to hear the teachings of the Budda, because he gave the Majority of his teachings there. In the dagoba grounds, there is a large pond that is called the Jetavanapokkharanī. There are also many trees surrounding the site.

This is the Lumbini Temple in Nepal.

Lumbini, which was my fourth stop, is the birthplace of the Lord Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, and he was born in the famous gardens of this site in 623 B.C. After his birth, Lumbini soon became a Buddhism pilgrimage. This holy place's remains contain important evidence about the nature of this being a pilgrimage, and there are also many complex structures within the archaeological conservation area. Lumbini is located in the Himalayas in Modern Nepal, and in the time of the Buddha, was a garden full of beautiful greens. This is a place that usually should be visited by a person of devotion. Being one of the four holy places of Buddhism, it is the Mecca for every Buddhist.

Judaism Structures

This is The Western Wall and Temple mount in Jerusalem.

My fifth stop was The Western Wall. It was apart of the most amazing building that Jerusalem had ever seen. This site is became the holiest spot in Jewish life, and over the centries, Jews have made the long journey to Palestine, where they came to the wall to thank God. Known as the Kotel ha-Ma'aravi (Western Wall), the gentiles also started calling it the "Wailing Wall", due to the heartfelt prayers being made here. On Friday evenings, crowds come here to pray, but also this common gathering place is used for Jewish holidays. When I visited, large crowds of people were together praying by the wall .Jews all over even insert written prayers into the cracks of the wall. Since 1967, this place is a symbol of past glories and to bear prayers and blessings.

This is the Hurva Synagouge in Jerusalem

The Hurva Synagogue, which was my sixth stop, is a historic synagogue located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Because of its Byzantine Revival Architecture style, it has four massive pilasters at each corner over which soared a large dome, and is one of the tallest structures in the whole city, being visable for miles. There is also a prayer hall inside the synagogue, with a three iron gate entrance. Unfortunately, this place was destroyed twice, causing it to not be Jerusalem's main Ashkenazic synagogue anymore. I noticed that even with all the previous destruction, The Hurva is still a current Jewish place of worship.

Christianity Structures

The city of Bethlehem in Judea (modern day Israel)

The city of Bethlehem, a biblically important place, is the birthplace of Jesus Christ, who was born in a Manger. This city was my seventh stop on my trip. He grew up and lived in Nazareth but we believe he was born in Bethlehem, which is just south of Jerusalem. Now though, this holy city is a major pilgrimage for Christians. In this city, there are also many christian churches such as the Church of the Nativity. Other Christian pilgrimages inside this Holy Land are considered sacred because of their direct association with the actual life of Christ. The town is inhabited by the oldest of the Christian communities in the world, though many Christians have fled the city because they were scared of persecution by the Palestinian Arabs. This city was absolutely so fascinating!!

This is the Canterbury Cathedral in Kent

The Canterbury Cathedral is by far the most famous Christian structures in England, and also the oldest, forming part of the World Heritage Site. This is a Roman Catholic church. It has attracted flocks of pilgrims since Thomas Becket was murdered in the cathedral in 1170. It has a very loud, bold exterior that can be seen from miles, and the details on the Church are outstanding. The Canterbury Cathedral also attracts over one million visitors per year, being considered the mother church of the Anglican Communion. The church is open daily, and there are still services being held in the Cathedral. It was such a beautiful sight to visit and this was my eighth stop!

Islam Structures

This is the Umayyad Mosque in Syria.

I decided to visit The Umayyad Mosque as my ninth stop, and It is definitely one of the largest Mosques in Islam. It is known to be the last resting place of Saladin, and is one of the oldest mosques as well. It is called the Great Mosque of Damascus, due to its location in Damascus, Syria. To most Muslims, it is considered the fourth holiest city of Islam. The mosque is believed to be the place where Jesus(Isa) returns at the End of Days. During my visit, i noticed that the the mosque's prayer hall is placed against its south wall, while the temples and churches that were there before had the main building located at the centre of the rectangular enclosure. The interior design is very cool along with the prayer halls. The interior layout of the Umayyad Mosque also allows the visitors to see the mihrab, the alcove indicating the direction of Makkah, easier.

This is the City of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia

My tenth and final stop on my journey around the world is Islams holiest city, Mecca. The reason for this city being so significant is that it is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad and the faith itself. Only Muslims are allowed in Mecca, with millions of people coming for the pilgrimage. This desert valley is surrounded by mountains, which have four gaps in between them, which is how you enter the city. During the Mecca pilgrimage, Muslims pray five times a day in fulfilment of one of The Five Pillars in direction of the Kaaba in Mecca. Also as a Muslim, you must travel the journey to Mecca for the pilgrim as part of following The Five Pillars. Although I was not able to enter the city, it was an amazing view from the outside!

Credits:

Created with images by 1899441 - "abbey glass religion" • Clinton Steeds - "Vidya - Spiritual Knowledge, That Which Illuminates" • Vasnic64 - "Jetavana Stupa" • Chadica - "Looking out over the Western Wall" • rictulio - "P1120383" • yeowatzup - "Umayyad Mosque, Aleppo, Syria" • Camera Eye - "Holly Ka'ba"

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