Pilgrimage is a journey to a holy place, usually in a certain time, where pilgrims praise their creator and seek spiritual aid and redemption; penance their sins and deliverance in the afterlife.
Pilgrimage is an evident ritual in most of religions. One can clearly find the notion of pilgrimage in Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism.
Dee Dyas Director of Christianity and Culture, Centre for Medieval Studies, York University explains that in Christianity, people have traced the events of Bible, including the life of Jesus Christ, through the visits to the Holy Land. However, the first three centuries of Christianity had emphasized the idea of “life as pilgrimage.”
Then, in the fourth century, the Emperor Constantine the Great was converted to Christianity. He was used to the practices of pagan religion, including traveling to sacred places and shrines. So he and his mother St. Helene “set about creating a Christian Holy Land” by reasserting the special status of Jerusalem and many other sites connected with the Bible (Dyas).
There are many places that Christian pilgrims can visit, but three main destinations attract greater number of visitors. Jerusalem began to attract pilgrims in the fourth century after the famous pilgrimage of St. Helene and her discovery of true Cross. Rome attracted pilgrims as it has the Vatican City and many sites of the deaths of early martyrs like Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Also, Santiago de Compostela is attracting considerable number of pilgrims to the present time, often going on foot over weeks or months (Britannica).
Pilgrimage in Judaism had been developed with the passing centuries. Ancient Judaism had not seen the same pilgrimage practiced today by Jews, i.e. going to the “western wall” three times a year.
According to Patrick Rogers, lecturer in new testament and early Christian literature at Milltown Institute in Dublin, the Old Testament have stated that Moses requested Pharaoh to allow them to go to worship the Lord in the wilderness (Exodus 7: 16). Then, when Jews settled down after leaving Egypt they used to go to Shiloh to worship (see 1 Sam 1:17). They also visited Bethel where they believe that Abraham had belt an altar. But when, in about 960 BC, Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, the city gained special significance for Jews.
In the centuries following destruction of the Temple, there is almost no available information about Jewish pilgrims to the Holy Land. But after the Islamic control over the city in 640 the flow of Pilgrims started again.
Devoted Jews, for centuries coming, prayed at the place they identify as the “Western Wall.” They believe that it is part of the Second Temple built by Emperor Herod. It became the most sacred place in the Jewish religious consciousness (Rogers).
Jewish pilgrims visit the “Western Wall” on certain times: Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkoth (Britannica).
Jews have other sacred places to visit like Hebron (Al- Khalil in Arabic). Also, the alleged tomb of Jacob’s wife near Bethlehem (Bayet Lahm in Arabic) is a destination to Jewish pilgrims (Rogers).
According to Hindufacts.org, Hinduism is a way of life which helps soul to be liberated from reincarnation (cycle of birth and rebirth). In Hinduism there is no single book or single doctrine which can describe the Hinduism. It is very vast religion.
Lots of Hindu customs, traditions, and beliefs differ from region to region and climate conditions.
Pilgrimages have a great importance in Hinduism. Millions of Hindus travel across India for pilgrimages every year (Hindufacts). There are about 29 pilgrimages in Hinduism. Some of them may require going to more than one place. For example, the Twelve Jyotrirling Yatra consists of 12 places to go.The greatest of Hindu pilgrimage is Kumbh Mela. It is considered the greatest human gathering in the whole world. Once every 12 years about 10 million people bathing at the Kumbh Mela festival at Allahabad in order to wash away their sins (BBC).
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