holy sites of pilgrimage

One for the offbeat pilgrim

Spirituality knows no bounds and neither do modern pilgrims. Here's taking a tour around a few.

A pilgrimage can revive you. A pilgrimage can move you. A pilgrimage can change you. It’s what the best of journeys offer. Traditionally, places of worship, even rivers, have been considered holy sites of pilgrimage. Clearly, a pilgrimage has been viewed as the sole territory of religious individuals or mystics who seek atonement, enlightenment or divine blessings.

But many amongst us–particularly the young–fervently maintain that certain tourist places can be just as spiritual an experience. Why not? Spirituality knows no bounds and neither do modern pilgrims. Soulveda explores how visiting an enchanted world, a massive canyon, a tilted tower, a lit-up sky and a fortified wall can turn into spiritual experiences. These modern pilgrimages might just bring about a broader shift in perspective and a positive twist in thought.

Warner Bros. Studio, London

They call childhood the formative years for a reason: a pre-teen’s mind is impressionable. The Warner Brothers’ Studio in London is nothing short of a dream come true for any Harry Potter fan. Not only does one get to walk past the golden doors right into The Great Hall, but also enter the Gryffindor Common Room, where Harry and Ron once slept. One can feel that hearty warmth from the Weasleys’ home or get a shiver down the spine from seeing Lord Voldemort’s costume. One can walk through the Hogwarts Express, experience Hogwarts in snow, eat chocolate frogs and even drink butterbeer!

You could be in your 20s or 40s; it hardly makes any difference as the crowd collectively oohs and aahs at all the studio has to offer. No one judges you as you pose with the trolley running through Platform Nine and Three-Quarters for a picture. Every Potter fan irrespective of age, feels a child-like innocence experiencing J K Rowling’s magical imagination. Perhaps, a happy child stirs awake within every adult once they set foot into The Great Hall. After all, it’s an enchanted world.

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

We all want to know where we came from. No, not our mothers. Existentially speaking, we want to know how humankind came into being. It’s been our life’s mission to unearth as much information as we can to satiate our curiosity. So, when American explorer John Wesley Powell and his team began excavating The Grand Canyon in Arizona, they had no idea they’d find nearly six million years of the Earth’s geological history!

Much of the credit goes to the Colorado River that carves the cliffs and tributaries around it, giving the canyon its grand depth and width, even as it preserves several eras of archaeological history. The canyon naturally conserves fascinating and incredibly important evidence of prehistoric life, ancient settlements and little-known civilisations. With fossils of mammoth, Egyptian cave colonies, ancient Native American granaries and more being unearthed, the region is nothing short of a puzzle that raises more questions than it answers. Clearly, the canyon is a testament to how vast nature is and how little we know of our own origin. A trip to the heart of the Grand Canyon is enough to dwarf all human knowledge.

Aurora is a literal reminder of how we can find light even in the darkest of places.

Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy

When Guglielmo and Bonanno Pisano (or Diotisalvi; the debate as to who the architects were is ongoing) started constructing a bell tower by the Pisa Cathedral in the 12th century, they certainly didn’t intend for it to tilt. But the foundation they laid wasn’t strong enough to keep the structure steady on a rather soft and loose ground. So, it continued to tilt in the decades that followed before being completed in the 14th century, with considerable efforts to keep it steady.

The persistent efforts of several architects over the centuries not only kept the tower standing, but also made it world famous. In fact, during the Second World War, a United States Army sergeant refrained from ordering an artillery strike on the tower even though the Germans were using it as an observatory post. They say he found it too beautiful–with bells and all–to destroy. Clearly, a visit to this tower reminds us that mistakes and imperfections may just bring about breakthroughs. If we can keep a tower standing on a shaky foundation, then we can build ourselves a better life, no matter our beginnings.

The Northern Lights, Iceland

When we picture Iceland in our minds, we imagine a grey sky, a frozen stretch of land and the biting cold. Of course, we might think that’s beautiful in a rather grim way. But between the months of September and April, Iceland experiences a rare phenomenon–the Aurora Borealis, more popularly known as ‘the northern lights’.

In this Arctic region, electrons interact with the earth’s atmosphere. And the result? The dancing lights, in bright and popping neon colours–green, blue, purple, red and if you’re lucky, pink! They’re certainly enchanting enough to make a romantic out of a stoic. But more than that, the Aurora is a literal reminder of how we can find light even in the darkest of places.

The Great Wall of China

Walls, they say, create boundaries. And that was indeed true of the Great Wall of China. Several rulers of China–over a period of many centuries–built this wall along northern China to keep Eurasian nomadic invaders off their land. By the time the rulers were done building it, the wall was a full-fledged 20,000-kilometre fortification, complete with watchtowers, barracks and garrisons.

A visit to this stunning human feat is sure to be a humbling experience and make one rethink the idea of boundaries. A wall that once divided different groups of people for several thousands of kilometres now welcomes all and sundry. Today, the Great Wall of China is symbolic of how we can indeed dissolve the walls of our mind and appreciate a historic achievement of mankind.




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