There are about 21 major world religions today and there exist a number of places which are considered to be the focal point and the center pieces of these religions. Some of these have been envenomed by the rise of conflicts and claims different belief holders have on these places, like Jerusalem, which is labeled as a city most prone to a future conflictual demise. Then there are some only accessible to the members of certain faith while others are absolute aesthetic wonders and see more than mere millions flocking each year to witness their spiritual magnificence.
10) Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, Japan
Narita-san or literally the “Narita Mountain” and Shinshō-ji or the “New victory temple”) is a Shingon Buddhist temple located in central Narita, Chiba, Japan. Founded in the year 940 by Kanchō Daisōjō, a disciple of Kōbō Daishi, this temple dedicated to Fudō myōō (“Unmovable Wisdom King”), often known as the fire god. What makes it all the more sacred and beautiful is the lush backdrop of Naritasan Park, which is a beauty to behold in its full bloom, during spring.
Narita is the first entry point to the beautiful city of Tokyo, thus more than 10 million (mostly Japanese) people visit this temple, many of whom drop by en route Tokyo. The Gion festival is one of the main attractions amongst all the festivities conducted in the Narita San Complex, it takes place every year in July.
9) Sultanahmet Camii , Istanbul
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is also known as the famous Blue Mosque because the interior especially the inaccessible upper floors are embellished with blue tiles. This exemplification of unmatched masonry and architecture accentuates the Istanbul skyline. The famous Ottoman architect Sedefkâr Mehmet Ağa took 7 tedious years to finish this marvel, during the rule of Ahmed I. Fascinatingly it also marks the site of The Great Palace of Byzantine and stand at par with the beauty of Hagia Sofia.
The design is a beautiful apogee of Ottoman church and Byzantine mosque development and the interior of the mosque which is accessible from the hippodrome is the finest example of the rarest aesthetic marvel. The mosque is active and can access up-to 10,000 visitors.
8) Bodh Gaya, India
Bodh Gaya is the focal point of Buddhist faith as it’s here the famous tree ‘Bodhi Tree’, underneath which Gautama Buddha is said to have obtained Enlightenment (Bodhi mandala), is located. The modern location of this site is in Bihar, India. 250 years after Buddha’s enlightenment, this place was visited by Ashoka who by then had given on worldly pleasures and sought peace through Buddha’s teachings. He is considered the founder of Mahabodhi temple. He established the monastery and erected a diamond throne as a representation of Buddha’s asana.
Every year thousands of people adhering to Buddhist belief come here for the grand celebration of Buddha Jayanti from as far as Sri Lanka, Thailand, Maynmar, Bhutan and Japan. Many of these devotees dwell near the Bodhi compound for a prolonged period just to be near the place where Gautam Buddha attained Elightenment.
7) Tian Tan Buddha, China
Tian Tan Buddha is also known as the Big Buddha. This large statue of a Buddha Amoghasiddhi was completed in the year 1993 and has been a major Buddhist attraction ever since. It measures an astounding 112 feet, made entirely of bronze it weighs around 250 metric tons. One of the most famous features which set it apart from other Buddha statues around the world is that it houses inside is a relic of Gautama Buddha, consisting of some of his alleged cremated remains.
Each year thousands of visitors gather here, not just the ones belonging to Buddhist faith but people from all walks of life. Especially the days before the Chinese New Year are the busiest.
6) Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Notre Dame de Paris (our lady of Paris) or simply Notre Dame was popularized through Victor Hugo’s famous book ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ which was later adapted into a Disney movie of the same name. It is a Roman Rite Catholic Marian cathedral and the first gothic cathedral of its kind to encompass the flying buttress.
One of the many centerpieces of Catholic religion, the Notre Dame Cathedral echoes the footfall of more than 13 million pilgrims every year. No journey to the beautiful city of Paris is considered complete without a mandatory visit to Notre Dame.
5) Mount Kailash, Tibet
Contrary to the popular belief Mount Kailasa’s significance in Hinduism is tantamount to its religious importance in Jainism, Buddhism and Bon religion. According to Hindu religion Mount Kailasa is the heavenly abode of Lord Shiva, who is the destroyer of ignorance, evil and illusion. In Jainism the mountain is known as Meru Parvat or Mount Sumer, where the first Jain Tirthankara, attained liberation. A sect of Buddhists believe that Mount Kailash is the home of the Buddha Demchok or supreme bliss.
Every year thousands of pilgrims make their way to Mount Kailash from all three faiths. And owing to its elevation and prominence a pilgrimage to Mountain Kailash is considered one of the toughest across the world.
4) Tirupati, India
In a country that puts its faith in more than 33 Million gods, Tirupati is one of the major pilgrimage cities. It is famous for Venkateswara Swamy Temple dedicated to Lord Venkateswara. How relevant it is to the believers is clear from the fact that the place witnesses a footfall of more than 40 million devotees every year that is 50,00 every day.
It is the second richest pilgrimage (at an estimated 50,000 crores with an approx. annual income of 10 Billion INR) only second to the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala. The Tirumala hills are the second oldest rock mountains in the world. The word itself is constituted from two different words, Tiru means ‘holy’ or sacred and mala means chain i.e., the mountain chain.
3) Vatican City
Vatican City was established as an independent state back in the year of 1929. With only a citizen count of 800 this city welcomes more than 4 million visitors every year. It is an ecclesiastical or sacerdotal-monarchical state, ruled by the Bishop of Rome—the Pope. The Vatican is the administrative center of the Catholic Church. Half of the Vatican territory is occupied by lush green gardens, the countless fountains and the bulk of St. Basilica sometimes causes mists and dews. It is also the first carbon- neutral state in the world.
It owes it sanctity not just to being the home of Pope but also to its aesthetic grandeur, it is home to some of the most famous art in the world. Architects include Bramante, Michelangelo, Giacomo della Porta, Maderno and Bernini have been the designer behind many cathedrals especially the famous St. Basilica. Thus Vatican City is also the only state to have made it to the UNESCO’s List of World Heritage Sites.
2) Mecca, Saudi Arabia
The holy city of Mecca also pronounced as makkah is located in Hejaz. It is the birthplace of Muhammad and marks the site of Muhammad’s first revelation of Quran. That’s why it is regarded as the holiest cities in the Islamic religion. More than 16 million people flock each year to Kabba, during the hajj period held in the twelfth Muslim lunar month, which is 8 times the number of original residents.
Kabba, the cube or the sacred house is described as the most sacred Islamic site; Muslims are expected to face the Kaaba during prayers, no matter which part of the world they are in. Followers from all over the world deem it as an obligation according to one of the five pillars of Islam to visit this center of the Islamic Universe. Non-muslims are however, prohibited from the city.
Al-Quds is the Arabic name for the city of Jerusalem. The short form of Beit al-Quds, it originated from the word (qádusa) the literal meaning of which is; “to be holy”, “to be pure”. It is one of the oldest cities in the world and is the only one to be considered sacred by all the followers of three Abrahamic faiths- Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The city has been marred by the frequent clashes between the Isarelis and the Palestinians, both claim it to be their capital. Jerusalem has been sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam for almost 3000, 2000 and 1400 years respectively. Thus it has inevitably become a continuous source of fiction. Nevertheless this holy city witnesses an annual footfall of more than three and a half million followers from each of these faiths.