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A pilgrimage is a journey by a religious person to a place that is sacred according to his or her religion.


Pilgrimage in Hinduism

The first four sites in the list above together comprise the Chardham , or four holy pilgrimage destinations. It is believed that travelling to these places leads to moksha, the release from samsara (cycle of rebirths). Vrindavan is most important place of pilgrimage for every Vaishnava, especially for the followers of Gaudiya Vaishnavism who regard Krishna as the original Personality of Godhead (God). Here one can attain love of God (prema).

Pilgrimage in Buddhism

Gautama Buddha spoke of four holy sites that followers may seek.

Tibetan Buddhist pilgrimages include:

Pilgrimage in Judaism

See related article Three pilgrim festivals.

Within Judaism, the Temple in Jerusalem was the center of the Jewish religion, until its destruction in 70 AD, and all who were able were under obligation to visit and offer sacrifices known as the korbanot, particularly during the Jewish holidays in Jerusalem.

Following the destruction of the Second Temple and the onset of the diaspora, the centrality of pilgrimage to Jerusalem in Judaism was discontinued. In its place came prayers and rituals hoping for a reurn to Zion, see Jerusalem, Jews and Judaism.

Pilgrimage in Christianity

Pilgrimages were first made to sites connected with the life, birth and crucifixion of Jesus. Surviving descriptions of Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land date from the 4th century, when pilgrimage was encouraged by church fathers like Saint Jerome. Pilgrimages also began to be made to Rome and other sites associated with the Apostles, Saints and Christian martyrs, as well as to places where there have been alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary.

The largest single pilgrimage in the history of Christendom was to the Funeral of Pope John Paul II after his death on April 2, 2005. An estimated four million people travelled to Vatican City, in addition to the almost three million people already living in Rome, to see the body of Pope John Paul II lie in state.

The major Christian pilgrimage sites are:

Other important Christian pilgrimage sites include:

Pilgrimage in Islam

Pilgrimage to Mecca – the hajj – is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It should be attempted at least once in the lifetime of all able-bodied Muslims. In addition to that most of the Shiite Muslims undertake a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mashhad in northeastern part of Iran.

Pilgrimage in the Bahá'í Faith

Bahá'u'lláh decreed pilgrimage in His Motherbook (Kitáb-i-Aqdas) to two places: the House of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad, Iraq, and the House of the Báb in Shiraz, Iran. In two separate Tablets, known as Suriy-i-Hajj, He prescribed specific rites for each of these pilgrimages (lifting the injunction regarding the shaving of one's head for pilgrimage in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas). It is obligatory to make the pilgrimage, "if one can afford it and is able to do so, and if no obstacle stands in one's way". Bahá'ís are free to choose between the two Houses, as either has been deemed sufficient. And although women are not bound to perform pilgrimage, they are certainly not prohibited to do so.

Later, `Abdu'l-Bahá designated the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh at Bahji (the Qiblih) as a site of visitation. No rites have been prescribed for this.

Pilgrimage in the ancient world

Many ancient religions had holy sites, temples and groves, where pilgrimages were made.

Pilgrimage in Mesoamerica

The concept of pilgrimage was also found in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. Important pilgrimage sites included:

  • Teotihuacan (still visited centuries after its buildings fell to ruin), said to be where the gods gathered to plan the creation of mankind
  • Chichen Itza, especially the sacred cenote, a natural well sacred to the rain god Chac, into which sacrifices were thrown.
  • Izamal, sacred to the creator god Itzamna
  • Cozumel, sacred to Ix Chel, goddess of the moon and childbirth.

See also

Further reading

  • al-Naqar, Umar. 1972. The Pilgrimage Tradition in West Africa. Khartoum: Khartoum University Press. [includes a map 'African Pilgrimage Routes to Mecca, ca. 1300-1900']
  • Jackowski, Antoni. 1998. Pielgrzymowanie [Pilgrimage]. Wroclaw: Wydawnictwo Dolnoslaskie.
  • Wolfe, Michael (ed.). 1997. One Thousands Roads to Mecca. New York: Grove Press
  • Sumption, Jonathan. 2002. Pilgrimage: An Image of Mediaeval Religion. London: Faber and Faber Ltd.
  • Zarnecki, George. 1985. The Monastic World: The Contributions of The Orders. pp. 36-66, in Evans, Joan (ed.). 1985. The Flowering of the Middle Ages. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.

External links

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