Ever since religious beliefs have come into existence, ideologies and philosophical perspectives have differed. Sometimes, one has challenged the other. However, there is something inherent in us that pushes us to rise above all differences. It is the desperate need to find answers to our prayers.
Debilitating diseases, crumbling relationships, unsuccessful careers, elusive search for life partners–human life is fragile. We look at the sky for answers, we climb mountains for retribution and we are prepared to walk to the ends of the earth for deliverance. In the event of any deadlock we do what it takes. In this eternal quest of ours, some places of worship have emerged as symbols of religious harmony. These are places where all divide ceases to exist; where a feeling of cultural unity welcomes you as you walk in; where an outsider belongs as much as an adherent does.
Soulveda took a trip to some of these places and came back with a sense of belonging.
Shirdi Sai Baba temple
Ahmednagar in the state of Maharashtra is the abode of Sri Sai Baba of Shirdi. Assumed to be a Muslim fakir, his religion remains unconfirmed till date. However, the fact that a temple houses his tomb is an evidence that everybody is welcome at Shirdi. According to a popular legend, the temple was to be constructed for the Hindu god, Krishna. Towards the end of his life, Sai Baba, requested his devotees to take him to this place, where he breathed his last. Later, a temple was constructed around his tomb.
At the temple, ardent devotees feel that the magnificent idol of Baba is looking at them, understanding their woes and tending to them like a caring parent. People across faiths flock the temple as they believe that Baba is the answer to many of their unanswered prayers.
The four wide entrances of the main hall are symbolic of the all-accepting belief of the Sikhs.
The gravesite of Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti, located in Ajmer–the heart of Rajasthan, is one of the most beautifully crafted dargahs in the country. A gorgeous expanse of white marble greets the visitor, instantly establishing a sense of tranquillity. From it rises the domed structure, drawing every eye to the intricate architecture along the walls and ceilings. Legend has it that if you wish for something with a pure heart at the dargah, it comes true. The serene ambience breaks all barriers and lets you look beyond the physical.
Located in the heart of Amritsar, Punjab, is the Golden Temple that exemplifies harmony and brotherhood. Also known as Sri Harmandir Sahib or Sri Darbar Sahib, it is one of the grandest structures in India. The holiest centre of Sikhism, it was built as a centre for all men and women to pray on a common ground. The four wide entrances of the main hall are symbolic of the all-accepting belief of the Sikhs. A much-revered place for those in search of their spiritual self, the only rule is to keep heads covered.
Delhi, the national capital, pulsates with the images and sounds of a regular city life. But once inside the Lotus Temple, the picture changes entirely. Shaped like a half-opened lotus with pools of water around it like leaves, the temple is a magnificent structure. The house of worship of the Bahá’í Faith–which believes in the oneness of all–the temple ushers its visitors into a peaceful world of white. At the Lotus Temple, what you are, where you come from, nothing matters. All divisive factors blend into one–that of being with yourself, at peace.
While all the other places, though exclusive to a particular religion, have eventually become symbols of religious unity, the Lotus Temple was built keeping this mighty goal in mind.
Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health
The quaint small town of Velankanni in Tamil Nadu is home to one of the biggest catholic pilgrimage places–the Roman Catholic Latin Rite Basilica dedicated to Our Lady of Good Health. The basilica is known for its healing powers and interfaith harmony. Millions, irrespective of caste, creed or religion, make a beeline to the towering white basilica with their hearts brimming with faith.
Legend has it that once a boy carrying a pitcher of milk to his master met a lady on his way. When the lady asked the boy for some milk for her baby, the boy readily offered her milk. On reaching his master’s house, the boy told him the reason behind the reduced quantity of milk. However, when the master–who belonged to the Hindu faith–opened the pitcher, he saw it filled to the brim. Intrigued, he asked the boy to take him to the spot where he met the lady. According to the Catholics of that time, the lady was, in fact, Mother Mary who found a devout in the Hindu master.
Each of these places was constructed by people from different faiths, but over time, belief in oneness has transcended our disparities. Gradually, these places have brought communities together. These places stand tall as beacons of unity epitomising peace and harmony.