Earth plays host to many different centers of worship, each being awe-inspiring in its own right, and to visit only one of them would be an experience. To go on a religious pilgrimage to visit a number of them, whether you’re religious or not, however, would be life-changing.
When you decide that you’re ready to go on your religious pilgrimage, you need to make sure to include some of the top centers of worship below into your plans.
Vatican City, surrounded by Rome, Italy
Whether you practice Catholicism or not, or whether you’re even religious or not, you should make a trip to Vatican City a priority. Why? You should make a trip to this independent state a priority because of the sheer number of historic buildings that call Rome ‘home.’ You can find St Peter’s Basilica here, in which the tomb of the apostle St Peter, the first Pope, lies. The Sistine Chapel is another attraction that should attract you to this part of the world, as well as the Vatican Gardens and Museums. And, of course, a glimpse of the Pope himself is always worth a pilgrimage!
Golden Temple, Amritsar, India
The Golden Temple, or Harmandir Sahib, is the holiest of all the places of worship for Sikhs. Completed in 1604, this temple, or gurdwara, plays host to the Guru Granth Sahib, the holiest text of Sikhism. This is why it still attracts pilgrimages from all over the world, all year round, to this day. It’s not only the inside of the temple that makes this center of worship so sought after, though. No, the body of water that surrounds it, the Amrit Sarovar, otherwise known as the Pool of Nectar, attracts pilgrimages as well.
To have a moment at the Golden Temple is not only something all Sikhs should seek, but it is also something all humans, in general, should seek.
Badrinath, Uttarakhand, India
While you’re in India and checking off all the central sites of worship that you can, you should pay a visit to Badrinath. This is one of the four pilgrimage centers for those that practice Hinduism, and it is the most important of them all because of its links to god Vishnu.
In Badrinath, in the Himalayas, there is the Badrinath Temple, a temple that dates back all the way to the 9th century. As well as this, the area provides natural hot springs. So, if you fancied a spiritual cleanse on your pilgrimage, then taking a dip in either Tapt Kund or Surya Kund would have to be on your to-do list.
Western Wall, Jerusalem, Israel
The Western Wall is the holiest of Jewish sites, and the story behind it alone attracts pilgrimages, religious or not.
The First Temple that sat in Jerusalem was devastated by the Babylonians. The Second Temple, built to replace the first as the Jewish holy site, was then itself devastated by the Romans. The wall that remained after all the devastation, known as the Kotel in Israel and the Western or Wailing Wall in the Western world, now acts as the place of worship for those that practice Judaism. It also acts as a shrine or mourning for the old temples, destroyed long ago.
Sri Pada, Sri Lanka
Whether your interests lie in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity or no religion at all, Sri Pada is the center of worship for you. It is so because anybody can pilgrimage here and both understand and appreciate the beauty that this mountain holds.
The four religions mentioned treat the peak of Sri Pada a site to be worthy of religious pilgrimage because of the rock formation that sits atop of it. So, upon a visit here you’d be likely to find a host of different people, all getting along as one. You’d be able to see why Buddhists believe the rock formation plays homage to the Buddha’s footprint. You’d be able to understand the Muslim belief that it is the prophet Adam’s footprint instead. You’d be able to gain an insight into the Hindu understanding that it is the footprint of the religious symbol Shiva. And, you’d be to talk to Christian and see why they believe it is the footprint of St Thomas. At Sri Pada, particularly at its peak, you’ll have about as religious an experience as is possible on earth.
Ka’aba, Mecca, Saudi Arabia
The Ka’aba, which is located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia is the holiest site for Muslims. Even before the establishment of Islam, the Ka’aba (“The Cube” in Arabic) was considered a holy site with many pilgrims from around the Arab peninsula visiting it. After the Prophet Muhammad (S), took control of the city of Mecca around 629 CE, it was cleared of all idols and considered the first House of Allah (“God” in Arabic). It is also the direction in which Muslims around the world pray 5 times a day. Every Muslim is required to make a pilgrimage (the “Hajj” in Arabic) to Mecca to visit the Holy Ka’aba at least once in their lifetime, if they have the means and health to do so. During the pilgrimage Muslims circumambulate the Ka’aba seven times and perform other religious rituals as part of the 5 day Hajj, which consists of approximately 2 million people every year. It is considered one of the largest religious gatherings around the world.
When and how to go on a pilgrimage
It’s important to know where to find the world’s central sites of worship, but knowing when and how to do your pilgrimaging to them is a different story.
For many, pilgrimaging comes at a time of change. For instance, those who are entering adulthood and want to find themselves before society dictates who they are, are likely to pilgrimage. Yet, without the funds accumulated from working life, how do young adults and those still in college find the money to go on such travels? Well, by embracing one of the many money-saving traveling techniques, such as choosing the right credit card. As documented by Bonsai Finance, the credit card used when traveling can have a real impact on the amount of money spent and saved, particularly in regards to airline miles. So, if you’re a young adult seeking to go on a religious pilgrimage, don’t be put off by the expense of doing so.
Or, if you’re going through a time of change, no matter your age, whether it be because of an unhappy divorce or the death of a loved one, or because you’re entering your twilight years, don’t be afraid to go on that pilgrimage you’ve always felt was your calling. It’s never too early, it’s never too late, and it’s never too expensive, to do so.
Religious pilgrimage enlightens those that take it. Whether you’re religious or have any interest at all in religion, or not, you would still find enlightenment in it. So, if you’re looking for that trip of a lifetime that’ll change the person you are, even when you get back home, forever, then head to any of the earth’s centers of worship.