Spirituality is a feeling that lacks definition. It may mean differently to different people. For some it may be the union and acceptance of the divine while for others it may just be an act of self exploration. Researchers claim that even the most hard core sceptics are unable to deny that there is more to our existence than mere existing that there is a greater power out there that overrides every human free will to predestine his fate and in the process determine how he should lead his life. Spirituality may often be associated with a place marked by historical significance, architectural importance and rich in artwork that provides an excellent aesthetic experience. The power associated with sacred places is immense and they can allure billions of people with so many legends and mythologies that may often be associated with it.
Spiritual destinations can often be the birthplace of a religious leader or where a miracle might have been performed, often by the very same religious leaders or even a place of the anomaly of nature. So what are some of these places that can move the masses to make or break? Read on and find out our countdown of the top ten most spiritual places in this world.
10. Tikal Temple, Guatemala
The Mayans might have been wrong about the world ending in 2012, but they were once a thriving civilisation and Tikal is one example of their lost glory. Tikal was the capital of one of the conquest states and went on to become one of the most powerful Mayan kingdoms. The Temple I is built in the typical Peten style of limestone and stepped pyramidal structure. It was also found to be the burial site of the king Jasaw Chan K’awiil I. It was declared a World Heritage by UNESCO in 1979.
9. Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Australia
Also known as the Ayers Rocks named after the colonial surveyor who chanced upon it. It is located in Australia’s Red Centre. It is a World Heritage site and one of Australia’s most prominent landmarks. Uluru stands tall at a whopping 1100 feet height and about six miles of girth. It is predominantly a sandstone structure. What is unique about this structure is how it changes colour throughout the day, based upon the position of the sun. About 30 miles away is the structure of Kata Tjuta made of several types of rocks like granite, basalt and sandstone and stands at a height of about 1800 feet.
Both of these sites are considered sacred by the Anangu people of the Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal tribe, who still uphold its integrity to the day. It is said to contain the spirits of their ancients and climbing the rocks is strongly not recommended. Visitors who collect the bits of rocks as souvenirs mail it back soon enough as they claim that the rocks bring them ill luck.
8. Mount Parnassus, Greece
Located in Greece, Mount Parnassus was said to be the sacred abode Apollo, the Greek god, the Corycian nymphs and of the three Muses. Parnassus became a metaphor associated with music, learning and the arts and therefore became synonymous with Apollo’s beneficence for the ancient Greeks. Today it is a tourist hotspot and a favourite among those who love to ski or go hiking. However, it is hard to ignore the mysterious aura of the place, who knows if Apollo decides to meet with the Oracle at Delphi and comes across you on the way?
7. The Mahabodhi Tree, Bodh Gaya, India
Located near the temple of Bodh Gaya, the Mahabodhi tree is directly linked to the life of Gautam Buddha (566 to 486 BC). It was under this tree that he had sat meditating and finally attained enlightenment. The temple is situated east of this tree. According to Buddhist mythology if there is no Bodhi tree on this stop then no other plants can go grown near the place and nothing can fly around the area, not even gods. The Jatakas claim that on this spot lies the navel of the earth. It is believed that when the earth is destroyed, the Bodhimanda will be the last thing to disappear and the first to appear when the new earth is born from its ashes. Also a lotus will bloom at this spot if a new Buddha is born in another age in the new earth.
Today the Mahabodhi tree and temple are important pilgrimage sites and tourist attraction. It has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
6. Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Mecca was a place that held much importance even in the pre Islamic era. It was an important centre of trade around 1400 years ago and a flourishing centre at that. From the Islamic era till today billions travel to Mecca to perform the Hajj (greater pilgrimage) or Umrah (lesser pilgrimage). Being the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed, it is of great importance for all Muslims. The Hajj pilgrimage commemorates the historical events that occurred in the lifetime of the Prophet Ibrahim, his son, Prophet Ishmael and Prophet Mohammed.
5. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France
The Notre Dame Cathedral is the finest example of French Gothic architecture. Located in the heart of Paris on an island on the river Seine, it was built in 12th century AD at the site of the first Church in Paris which in turn had been built upon the Roman temple of Jupiter. The Cathedral has survived many wars, the pillaging of the French revolutionaries and is of great historical significance to France.
4. St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
It is regarded as one of the holiest churches by the Christians and is a fine example of Renaissance architecture. It is the burial site of St. Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. His tomb is located directly below the altar of the basilica. It is an important Christian pilgrimage spot. Since it is located in the Vatican City, it is under the papal stronghold. It draws a number of visitors every year to gaze upon its magnificence and to pray to the divine.
3. Stonehenge, England
Located in Wiltshire in England, it is one of the finest and most complex examples of Neolithic and Bronze Age structures that include several burial mounds. Radiocarbon dating has put the age of these rocks anything from 2400 to 2200 BC. It is of a ring like formation comprising rocks deeply embedded in the earth. Archaeological evidence suggests that it could have been a burial site as remains of human bones dating back to as early as 3000 BC have been found. This place has been regarded of religious importance by the Neo-Druids.
2. Varanasi, India
Also known as Benares, it is located on the banks of the river Ganges in Uttar Pradesh, India. It is one of the oldest and among the holiest cities of the world. It is of great importance to the Hindus and the Jains. Varanasi is often associated with salvation and a dip in the waters of the ghats is believed to relieve man of all of his sins. Mythology suggests that this city may have been built by Shiva, the Hindu god.
1. Mount Kailas, Tibet
It is a peak on the Kailas range in Tibet and is of great significance to the religions of Bon, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. It lies near the Lake Mansarowar, that serves as the source for the rivers Indus, Sutlej, Karnali and Brahmaputra. Tantric Buddhists believe that this peak is the abode of Buddha Demchog, while Hindus believe that Lord Shiva dwells in these snowy peaks. Jains are of the belief that the first Jain attained Nirvana at this place.