Pilgrimage Explained

A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith. Many religions attach spiritual importance to particular places: the place of birth or death of founders or saints, or to the place of their "calling" or spiritual awakening, or of their connection (visual or verbal) with the divine, or to locations where miracles were performed or witnessed, or locations where a deity is said to live or be "housed," or any site that is seen to have special spiritual powers. Such sites may be commemorated with shrines or temples that devotees are encouraged to visit for their own spiritual benefit: to be healed or have questions answered or to achieve some other spiritual benefit. A person who makes such a journey is called a pilgrim. In America, the term pilgrim is typically associated with an early colonial Protestant sect known for their strict rules of discipline.

The Holy Land acts as a focal point for the pilgrimages of the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. According to a Stockholm University study in 2011, these pilgrims visit the Holy Land to touch and see physical manifestations of their faith, confirm their beliefs in the holy context with collective excitation, and connect personally to the Holy Land.[1]

In the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the visitation of certain ancient cult-centers was repressed in the 7th century BCE, when worship was restricted to the YHWH at the Temple in Jerusalem. In Syria, the shrine of Astarte at the headwater spring of the river Adonis survived until it was destroyed by order of Emperor Constantine in the 4th century.

In mainland Greece, a stream of individuals made their way to Delphi or the oracle of Zeus at Dodona, and once every four years, at the period of the Olympic games, the temple of Zeus at Olympia formed the goal of swarms of pilgrims from every part of the Hellenic world. When Alexander the Great reached Egypt, he put his whole vast enterprise on hold, while he made his way with a small band deep into the Libyan desert, to consult the oracle of Ammun. During the imperium of his Ptolemaic heirs, the shrine of Isis at Philae received many votive inscriptions from Greeks on behalf of their kindred far away at home.

As a common human experience, pilgrimage has been proposed as a Jungian archetype by Wallace Clift and Jean Dalby Clift.[2]

Pilgrimage centres

Antiquity

Many ancient religions had sacred sites, temples, oracles and sacred groves to which pilgrimages were made.

Bahá'í Faith

See main article: Bahá'í pilgrimage. Bahá'u'lláh decreed pilgrimage to two places in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas: the House of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad, Iraq, and the House of the Báb in Shiraz, Iran. Later, `Abdu'l-Bahá designated the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh at Bahji, Israel as a site of pilgrimage.[3]

Bahá'í pilgrimage consists of visiting the holy places in Haifa, Acre, and Bahjí at the Bahá'í World Centre in northwest Israel, and Bahá'ís can apply to join an organized nine-day pilgrimage where they are taken to visit the various holy sites, or attend a shorter three-day pilgrimage.[3]

Buddhism

See main article: Buddhist pilgrimage. There are four places that Buddhists make pilgrimage to:

Other pilgrimage places in India and Nepal connected to the life of Gautama Buddha are: Savatthi, Pataliputta, Nalanda, Gaya, Vesali, Sankasia, Kapilavastu, Kosambi, Rajagaha, Varanasi.

Other famous places for Buddhist pilgrimage include:

Christianity

See main article: Christian pilgrimage. Christian pilgrimage was first made to sites connected with the birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection 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 and established by Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. 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 apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales recounts the tales told by pilgrims on their way to Canterbury and the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket

Hinduism

See also: Yatra and Tirtha and Kshetra.

According to Karel Werner's Popular Dictionary of Hinduism, "[m]ost Hindu places of pilgrimage are associated with legendary events from the lives of various gods.... Almost any place can become a focus for pilgrimage, but in most cases they are sacred cities, rivers, lakes, and mountains."[4] Hindus are encouraged to undertake pilgrimages during their lifetime, though this practice is not considered absolutely mandatory.[5] Most Hindus visit sites within their region or locale.

Kumbh Mela: Kumbh Mela is the largest pilgrimage recorded in history.[6] [7] [8] Kumbh Mela is also credited with the largest gathering of humans in the entire world. The location is rotated among Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik, and Ujjain.

Char Dham (Famous Four Pilgrimage sites): The four holy sites Puri, Rameswaram, Dwarka, and Badrinath (or alternatively the Himalayan towns of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri) compose the Char Dham (four abodes) pilgrimage circuit.

Old Holy cities as per Puranic Texts: Varanasi formerly known as Kashi, Allahabad formerly known as Prayag, Haridwar-Rishikesh, Mathura-Vrindavan, and Ayodhya.

Major Temple cities: Puri, which hosts a major Vaishnava Jagannath temple and Rath Yatra celebration; Katra, home to the Vaishno Devi temple; Three comparatively recent temples of fame and huge pilgrimage are Shirdi, home to Sai Baba of Shirdi, Tirumala - Tirupati, home to the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple; and Sabarimala,where Swami Ayyappan is worshipped.

Shakti Peethas: Another important set of pilgrimages are the Shakti Peethas, where the Mother Goddess is worshipped, the two principal ones being Kalighat and Kamakhya.

Following is a comprehensive list of Pilgrimage sites:

The last four sites in the list together comprise the Chardham, or four holy pilgrimage destinations. It was traditionally believed that one who undertakes a pilgrimage to all four sites will attain moksha, the release from samsara (cycle of rebirths), at the time of death. The holy places of pilgrimage for the Shaktism sect of Hinduism are the Shakti peethas (Temples of Shakti).

Islam

See main article: Hajj.

See also: Holiest sites in Islam.

The 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 who can afford to do so.[9] It is the most important of all Muslim pilgrimages, and is the largest pilgrimage for Muslims.[10]

Another important place for Muslims is the city of Medina, the second holiest place in Islam, in Saudi Arabia, where Muhammad rests in Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (the Mosque of the Prophet).

The ihram (white robes of pilgrimage) is meant to show equality of all pilgrims in the eyes of Allah: that there is no difference between a prince and a pauper. Ihram is also symbolic for holy virtue and pardon from all past sins.

While wearing the ihram in Mecca, a pilgrim may not shave, clip their nails, wear perfume, swear or quarrel, hunt, kill any creature, uproot or damage plants, cover the head for men or the face and hands for women, marry, wear shoes over the ankles, perform any dishonest acts or carry weapons. If they do any of these their pilgrimage is invalid .

Judaism

See also: Three pilgrim festivals. The Temple in Jerusalem was the center of the Jewish religion, until its destruction in 70 CE, and all adult men who were able were required to visit and offer sacrifices (korbanot), particularly during Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.

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 return to Zion and the accompanying restoration of regular pilgrimages.

Until recent centuries, pilgrimage had been a fairly difficult and arduous adventure. But now, Jews from many countries make periodic pilgrimages to the holy sites of their religion.

The western retaining wall of the original temple, known as the Wailing Wall, or Western Wall remains in the Old City of Jerusalem and this has been the most sacred site for religious Jews. Pilgrimage to this area was off-limits from 1948 to 1967, when East Jerusalem was controlled by Jordan.

There are numerous lesser Jewish pilgrimage sites, mainly tombs of tzadikim, throughout the Land of Israel and all over the world, including: Hebron; Bethlehem; Mt. Meron; Netivot; Uman, Ukraine; Silistra, Bulgaria; Damanhur, Egypt; and many others.[11]

Sikhism

The Sikh religion does not place great importance on pilgrimage. Guru Nanak Dev was asked "Should I go and bathe at pilgrimage places?" and replied:"God's name is the real pilgrimage place which consists of contemplation of the word of God, and the cultivation of inner knowledge."

Eventually, however, Amritsar and Harmandir Saheb (the Golden Temple) became the centre of the Sikh faith, and if a Sikh goes on pilgrimage it is usually to this place considered the spiritual and cultural centre of Sikhs rather than a pilgrimage.[12]

Zoroastrianism

The Zoroastrians take pilgrimage trips in India to the eight Atash Behrams in India and one in Yazd.

Meher Baba

The main pilgrimage sites associated with the spiritual teacher Meher Baba are Meherabad, India, where Baba completed the "major portion"[13] of his work and where his tomb is now located, and Meherazad, India, where Baba resided later in his life.

Secular pilgrimage

In modern usage, the terms pilgrim and pilgrimage have developed in sense to include sites of secular importance. For example, fans of Elvis Presley may choose to visit his home, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee. Visits to war memorials such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial are often seen as pilgrimages. Similarly one may refer to a cultural center such as Venice as a "tourist Mecca." Historic preservation groups sometimes refer to house and garden tours of antebellum homes as Fall or Spring Pilgrimage. Tickets to these tours are sold to raise funds for preservation activities.

Paris Commune

The Père Lachaise Cemetery, where the defenders of the Paris Commune made their last stand and many of them were afterwards summarily executed, is the focus of annual pilgrimages by parties and organizations of the French Left.

Communism

In a number of Communist countries, secular pilgrimages were established as an "antidote" to religious pilgrimages, the most famous of which are:

Fascism

The mausoleum of Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini in Predappio, Italy serves as a pilgrimage site for Italian Neo-Fascists. In post-World War II Germany, considerable efforts were made to prevent Hitler's bunker in Berlin from becoming a similar place of pilgrimage for Neo-Nazis.

See also

Further reading

Notes and References

  1. News: Michael Sebastian. Metti. Jerusalem - the most powerful brand in history. Stockholm University School of Business. 2011-06-01. 01July 2011.
  2. Book: Clift. Jean Dalby. Clift. Wallace. 1996. The Archetype of Pilgrimage: Outer Action With Inner Meaning. The Paulist Press. 0-8091-3599-X. .
  3. Encyclopedia: Smith. Peter. A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Pilgrimage. 2000. Oneworld Publications. Oxford. ISBN 1-85168-184-1. 269.
  4. Werner, Karel (1994). A Popular Dictionary of Hinduism. Curzon Press. ISBN 0700710493.
  5. http://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/resources/traditions/hinduism Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs - Hinduism
  6. http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/84149 Digitaljournal.com
  7. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/15/AR2007011500041.html Washingtonpost.com
  8. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6226895.stm News.bbc.co.uk
  9. http://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/resources/traditions/islam Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs - Islam
  10. Book: Atlas of Holy Places & Sacred Sites. Colin Wilson. 978-0789410511. DK Adult. 1996. 29.
  11. See David M. Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson, Pilgrimage and the Jews (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2006) for history and data on several pilgrimages to both Ashkenazi and Sephardic holy sites.
  12. http://re-xs.ucsm.ac.uk/re/pilgrimage/sikhism.htm Re-xs.ucsm.ac.uk
  13. Deshmukh, Indumati (1961). "Address in Marathi." The Awakener 7 (3): 29.