Top 10 Religious Places in the World
The entire world consists of some of the most magnificent religious places that leave many in a state of tranquil and peace. Read below some of the top religious places in the world that you should surely visit.
Mecca in Saudi Arabia is marked as one of the holiest Muslim cities in the world as it is the birthplace of the founder of Islam, Muhammad. It is also the capital of the Makkah Province of Saudi Arabia. Around 13 million people every year visit Mecca.
Significance of Mecca
The Hira cave, located outside the city is said to be the place where Muslims believe the Qur’an was first introduced to Muhammad. Muslims around the year look forward to visiting the Mecca for Hajj at least once in their lifetime. The Great Mosque of Mecca is known to be one of the holiest Islamic sites. Muslim can be seen preaching to their Allah five times a day. The entire structure of the mosque ranges up to a height of fifty feet and stretches up to forty feet. A small shrine near the mosque known as Kaaba is highly auspicious and is covered with an enormous cloth throughout the year. Just near the Kaaba is a Black Stone of Mecca. The stone is originally said to be of white colour that has now turned black. The cause of the blackness of the stone has been linked to it absorbing the sins of the numerous pilgrims that have touched and kissed it. Every pilgrim that manages to take the pilgrim has to walk around the Kaaba seven times. They then have to touch and kiss it.
Mecca this year
Due to the ongoing pandemic of 2020, only one thousand pilgrims have been allowed to perform Hajj this year. Touching or kissing the Kaaba will be banned this year. A physical distancing space of a metre and a half between each pilgrim is imposed. They will have to wear face masks at all times.
The city has undergone many changes as many Muslim rulers tried long and hard to attain control of it. In 1925, it was conquered in the Saudi conquest of Hejaz by Ibn Saud, from then the city of Mecca has been a witness to tremendous changes. During the celebrations of Hajj, around two million Muslim visitors come to Mecca.
2. Wailing Wall
The Western Wall also is known as the Wailing Wall, is one of the most religious sites in the world for Judaism followers. It is located in the olden city of Jerusalem. People across the world visit the wall to pray. Followers that visit here either verbally express their heart’s desires or write it on a piece of paper and place it in the cracks of the walls. The wall has been divided into two parts. One is for male devotees and the other is for female devotees. The Western Wall was built in the 20 BCE by King Harold.
History of the Wailing Wall
Despite the Romans demolishing it in 70 CE, the wall survived. People then used to use that wall and pray in the corner of it. In 1967, the Israelis dug beneath the ground of the wall for two more levels. They further cleared the area around the wall to create the Western Wall Plaza.
Who can visit the Wailing Wall?
The place is open for everyone free of cost throughout the year. It has often been the ground of many military inductions and bar mitzvahs. However, people visiting are required to be dressed modestly. Women should also at all times cover their legs and shoulders. Men are required to cover their heads while visiting. Today what visitors get to witness is a mere section of the second temple that existed years ago. However, if you choose to take a guided tour around you will be able to experience the unrestored site that dates back to the first century C.E.
Wailing Wall in 2020
Devotees are now allowed only in groups of 20 due to the coronavirus outbreak. A total of only 1,000 people will be able to enter the plaza at a time. On 29th July that marked the auspicious day when the two Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed, the Western Wall Foundation held a special livestream on the Western Wall’s website from the plaza.
3. Sensoji Temple
The iconic Sensoji Temple also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple is located in Asakusa, Tokyo. It is one of the most ancient Buddhist temples in the world. The temple is said to be around 1400 years old. It is dedicated to the Buddhist goddess of mercy, Kannon. Every year millions of people across the world visit here to experience the iconic Sensoji temple.
Significance of the Sensoji Temple
A story behind the induction of the Sensoji temple states that in the year 628, two brothers, Hinokuma Hamanari and Hinokuma Takenari went fishing in the Sumida River. They were unsuccessful in catching any fish, but they did find a small golden statue. They immediately threw the statue back in the water because they didn’t recognise its true purpose or value. In an extremely strange way, the statue kept coming back in their net and they kept throwing it back in the water. They then took the statue to the local chief, Haji no Matsuchi. He recognized it as the Kannon, the goddess of mercy. Together the three made a small grass hut to honour the goddess. A little later Hajo no Matsuchi converted his house into a temple for the statue. This is how the Sensoji Temple game got into shape. Many stories state that just after three days of the temple’s formation a golden dragon was seen flying down from heaven. That is why it is also addressed as Kinryuzan, which means the Golden Dragon Mountain.
The Sensoji Temple is also host to some of the major events. The most prestigious one is the Sanja Matsuri which is held in May and is the annual festival of the Asakusa Shrine. Other events include the Asakusa Samba Carnival and the Hagoita-Ichi.
Is the Sensoji Temple Shut?
After being shut for a brief period due to the pandemic, the temple is now open to all to visit.
4. Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Located on the banks of the mighty River Ganga is the prestigious Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The Hindu temple is marked as one of the 12 Jyotirlingas or temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. Hence, the temple has been dedicated to the Hindu god, Lord shiva. The temple resides on the cultural soil of Varanasi which is also known as Kashi, which is the reason why the temple has been named Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
The history behind the Kashi Vishwanath Temple
The temple has gone through many phases of demolition, reconstruction and re-built. The last to destroy the Kashi Vishwanath Temple was the sixth Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb. He demolished it and constructed the Gyanvapi Mosque instead. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple that you get to see today was built next to it by Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in 1780. Maharaja Ranjit Singh. One ton of gold was donated by Maharaja Ranjit Singh to build the temple’s dome. During the former years, the king of Kashi, Kashi Naresh visited the temple to worship the temple especially during major festivals such as Shivaratri. The period when he was inside the temple offering his prayers, no other devotee was allowed inside the premises. It was only when he had completed his prayers that other devotees were allowed to visit the temple. The importance of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is known to many because of its many instances and mentions in several holy books of the Hindus.
Shrines to visit
The temple consists of many small shrines that are located in the Vishwanatha Galli. The main temple is surrounded by other Hindu god shrines. The other small temples consist of Kaalbhairav, Dhandapani, Avimukteshwaranand, Vishnu, Vinayaka, Sanishwara, Virupaksha and Virupaksh Gauri. Around 3,000 devotees visit the Kashi Vishwanath Temple every day.
Temple open to visit?
After 80 days of being shut, in July the Kashi Vishwanath temple opened its gates to devotees. They were allowed to offer prayers from a distance. Flowers and ‘prasad’ were also not allowed in the temple. Only people wearing a mask were allowed.
5. Vatican City
The Vatican City is the smallest independent state in Europe which is ruled by the pope. It is witness to an extraordinary history which began from the construction of a basilica over St. Peter’s grave in Rome in the 4th century AD. Soon it became one of the most popular religious sites in the world.
History of the Vatican City
In 1309, it was abandoned, however, the Church was restored in 1377. Other landmarks that today stand as iconic and highly prestigious: the Apostolic Palace, the Sistine Chapel and the new St. Peter’s Basilica were also built in the Vatican City. The state was established as a sovereign nation in 1929 after the signing of the Lateran Treaty between Pope Pius XI and Mussolini. Today it is majorly famous for being the residence of the Pope in the Apostolic Palace. The palace is open to the public for visitation but they will have to book it in advance before visiting. The Vatican City offers visitors with numerous attractions, the most important being the ethereal St. Peter’s Basilica.
St. Peter’s Basilica
The church is considered as one of the most prestigious pilgrimage sites in the world. It is also marked as the largest churches in the world. Adding to its holiness, the St. Peter’s Basilica is also the place where the Pope presides over many liturgies throughout the year. It has been named after one of Jesus’s twelve disciples called Saint PEter. He was also one of the founders of the church. After he was executed in Rome, his grave was built in the Basilica.
Ayodhya is known to be one of the most prestigious religious spots of India as it is the birthplace of Lord Rama. The city has been mentioned in the Hindu book of Ramayana. However, there are many debates related to its true significance. Whether the one mentioned in the Ramayana was a mystical place or was it truly the same.
The great debate behind Ayodhya
In 1992, it came in the limelight as the Babri Masjid mosque was demolished by a large crowd of Hindus. It is said that on the same spot stood a temple that was later demolished by the troops of the Mughal emperor Babur. A mosque was then built on that place. A major plea was made to the Supreme Court that was overlooked by five judges. On 9 November 2019, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, renounced the previous decision and ruled that the land belonged to the government per tax records. It also ordered the land to be handed over to a trust to build the Hindu temple and to give a 5-acre land to Sunni Waqf Board to build a mosque. The construction of the Ram temple was handed over to Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra. The trust has fifteen members and is led by Mahant Nrityagopal Das.
On 5th August 2020, the foundation stone was laid down by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The design of the temple that has been laid shows that the temple will have a height of 161 feet however it will have five domes. It will be built on a land area of 70 acres. The total cost of the temple has been affirmed to be around 300 crores.
Varanasi also known as Benares or Kashi is the oldest city in the world and one of the holiest. The holy place of Lord Shiva and Parvati, Varanasi is said to be perfectly ideal for people or devotees that wish to get their sins washed away.
About the oldest city
The 3000-year-old city is visited by many devotees around the country and the world, many of whom can be seen taking a dunk in the holy waters. The process of washing away one’s sins is known as the act of liberation. This leads one to the cycle of birth, re-birth, and ultimately attaining Moksha. Varanasi is regarded as one of the seven holiest cities. It is also one of the Shakti Peethas and the twelve JyotirLingas. Varanasi is also hailed as a holy spot because it is the spot of the prestigious River Ganga.
City of all cultures
Sarnath in Kashi is also popular among devotees where Buddha preached his first sermon post his Enlightenment. It is believed that the city is the birthplace of Parsvanath, the twenty-third Tirthankara. Therefore, many Jainism followers can also be spotted strolling and witnessing the greatness of the city. A magnificent cultural spot, Varanasi has bestowed every human with its spirituality. Another name that Varanasi is honoured with is the City of Temples. The temples have some exquisite architecture and structure that leaves many awestruck. Some of the famous temples of Varanasi include Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Birla Temple, Durga Temple, Bharat Mata Mandir, Kabir Math, Sankat Mochan Temple, Batuk Bhairav Temple, Kalbhairav Temple, Kalbhairav Temple and the Tulsi Manas Mandir.
8. Notre-Dame de Paris
The famous Notre-Dame de Paris is one of the oldest Gothic Cathedrals in the world. The cathedral has been dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is largely famous for its ethereal structure and the stunning views of Paris it offers. It was built between the years 1163 and 1245 on the Île de la Cité. The past eight centuries have seen its many phases of changes as it has been renovated many times. One of the most iconic renovations took place in 1845. It took a period of twenty-five years for the renovation to be completed. This large period of change saw the replacement of the flying buttresses, the chapel was restored, statues and a new rose window were also added. The Notre-Dame de Paris has been known to be a witness to many events. Some of the topmost include the coronation of Napoleón Bonaparte, the beatification of Joan of Arc and the coronation of Henry VI of England.
Structure of Notre-Dame de Paris
The marvellous structure of the cathedral includes two towers. Both the towers are at a great height of 226 feet. Visitors can choose to climb these towers as they offer stunning views of the beautiful city of Paris. You can access the towers by visiting the North Tower or the rue du Cloître. The tower has no access to an elevator, hence, you will have to climb a total of 387 steps. Tourists can also choose to visit the bell towers as it is the place where Hunchback of Notre Dame. The stunning gargoyles and stained windows have inspired numerous artists. The popular artist Victor Hugo featured it in his novel, ‘The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.’ Attracting around 13 million visitors every year, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is the most visited in the most visited monument of Paris.
Sadly in 2019, a large fire took place in the Notre Dame Cathedral. Currently, it is undergoing reconstruction that has now been restored after a break due to the pandemic.
9. Basílica De Guadalupe
The Basilica De Guadalupe in Mexico is one of the topmost visited religious sites in the world. The church has been dedicated to the Queen of Mexico and the Empress of the Americas.
Story behind the Basílica De Guadalupe
A story follows behind it is that once a baptized Aztec Indian named Juan Diego was walking on the hill of Tepeyac. He then came across the ghost of a young girl. She told him to visit the local bishop and tell him that the Virgin Mary wanted a church to be built. The boy did as he was told, but the bishop did not listen to him. He was then told by the girl to gather roses from a hill that didn’t grow them at that time of the year. To his surprise, he found the roses on that spot and took them to the bishop. He laid the flowers at the feet of the bishop. The front of his tilma was enhanced by the image of the Virgin de Guadalupe. It was only after that the bishop was convinced of the miracle.
Construction of the Basílica De Guadalupe
In the year 1650, the first chapel-shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe was built on the Tepeyac hill. It was named the Capilla del CerritoThi and can still be visited today. In 1695, the first basilica was built in the Virgin’s honour. The second basilica that was the home of Juan Diego’s famous tilma was remodelled. It was in the 1970s that a new basilica was built. Around 20 million people visit the basilica every year. Around thirty masses are held daily where devotees stand in a long line that passes through the famous Juan Diego’s tilma. If you are short of time then you can choose to visit the outside of the basilica that is especially for people in a hurry.
In March 2020, the Basilica of Guadalupe closed its doors to visitors for the first time due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
10. Ajmer Sharif Dargah
Ajmer Sharif Dargah is one of the most famous religious places in the world. The Ajmer Dargah is the tomb of Moinuddin Chishti that is made entirely out of silver is not only visited by Muslim followers but followers of different religions too.
The history behind the Dargah & its architecture
The well-known Persian Sufi saint, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti who was popular for his secular preaching also has a shrine. According to a popular belief, it is said that Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti was Muhammad’s direct descendant. It was only when he came in his dream, he visited Ajmer in India in 1192. He then managed to stay there till the end of his death, 1236 AD. His shrine was built by the great Mughal Emperor Humayun. This is the reason why the Daragh is ornamented with rich Mughal Architecture. It further has many tombs, courtyards and Daalaans that leave many mesmerised. The dargah contains many other buildings too that have been made out of white marbles. This also includes the massive gate that is donated by the Nizam of Hyderabad. The Nizam gate that is accompanied by the Shahjahani Gate and the Buland Darwaza which marks the beginning of Moinuddin Chishti’s death anniversary. The urs flag hoisted on it is celebrated every year on the 6th and 7th days of the Rajab. Around 150,000 pilgrims visit the dargah every day.