By definition, a pilgrimage is a journey of spiritual significance, practiced in almost every major religion. That said, each religion has its own place of the highest worship which is visited by literally millions of devotees. Here are 5 religious sites with the highest numbers of pilgrims each year.
1. The Holy Land (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam)
The part of Israel between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan is considered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims to be the Holy Land. Because of that, it’s visited by several million pilgrims each year. For instance, Christians come to this part of the world in order to visit Jesus’s birthplace, Bethlehem.
Jewish people from abroad often make Israel trips in order to pay a visit to the city of Jerusalem, which they believe to be the location where the location of the binding of Isaac. In fact, according to the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, all of the Four Holy Cities of Judaism are located in this area – Tiberias, Safed, Hebron, and Jerusalem.
Jerusalem also has a special place in Islam, the followers of which consider it holy. Actually, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, situated in the Old City of Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam, after Medina and Mecca.
2. Mecca (Islam)
The pilgrimage to Mecca, known among the Muslims as Hajj is one of the main pillars of this religion. In fact, for every Muslim, visiting Mecca at least once in their life is a mandatory duty. This is why it’s not a surprise that this city is visited by millions of people every year. The 2012 Hajj was the second-largest gathering of Muslims ever, with more than three million people completing the pilgrimage.
3. Karbala (Islam)
It’s rather surprising that the largest Islamic gathering in history didn’t happen in Mecca, but in the Iraqi city of Karbala. In 2014, approximately 17 million took part in the so-called Arbaeen pilgrimage, in order to commemorate the death of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.
4. Kanwar Pilgrimage (Hinduism)
Kanwar Yatra or the Kanwar Pilgrimage is the largest annual pilgrimage in India. It’s practiced by the followers of Shiva, who take pilgrimage to several holy places along the Ganges River. Millions of participants come to the river to gather the water, which is then carried across India to be presented as offerings in the shrines of Shiva.
5. Kumbh Mela Pilgrimage (Hinduism)
The largest religious gathering in the world is the Kumbh Mela Pilgrimage, which attracts more than thirty million pilgrims. The event takes place every twelve years in the state of Uttar Pradesh, in northern India, where Hindus from all parts of the world come in order to take a ceremonial bath in one of the rivers they consider sacred.
Other massive religious gatherings of people include Bishwa Ijtema in Bangladesh and Santo Niño de Cebú procession in the Philippines. The former reportedly attracts about 5 million followers of Islam each time. When it comes to Santo Niño de Cebú, this is a Christian procession with approximately 3 million participants.