places of worship

One thing that distinguishes humans from other sentient beings, is their capacity to worship and perform rituals. In most cultures special places have been assigned for this purpose, where people are meeting for spiritual cleansing, healing or praying. Here are some remarkable examples:

Göbekli Tepe

Göbekli Tepe is the oldest known place of worship in the world, dating from around 10000 BC.
An article from the Archaeological Institute of America is here: Göbekli Tepe – The World's First Temple
and a Turkish/English website with lots of interesting information is here: Göbekli Tepe – The Oldest Temple of the World

Sanchi - ancient Buddhist Stupas in Central India

One of the oldest Buddhist stupas and monastic buildings on a small hill in central India. The Buddhist monk Mahendra, son of Ashoka the Great, came here on his way to Sri Lanka.

Meenakshi Mandir in Madurai

One of the biggest Hindu temple compounds in Tamil Nadu dedicated to Meenakshi, a manifestation of Shiva's consort.

Kedarnath - Shiva's biggest temple in the Himalayas

Badrinath - great Vishnu temple in the Himalayas

Swayambhunath - the hill temple in Kathmandu.

A sanctuary for Buddhists and Hindus alike.

Boudhanath - the main Buddhist temple in Kathmandu

Chitrakoot - ancient pilgrimage place in Central India

Ram and Sita, the heroes of the great Hindu epic Ramayana, lived here for some time in the forest, while they were exiled.

Bali - the Island of the Gods

The blending of Hinduism and earlier animistic practices formed a unique culture on this little island amidst the Indonesian archipelago. The Balinese see themselves as healers of the planet and it is indeed surprising, how many successful healers you can find there. Nobody knows why Bali is the only island in the whole area, where the ancient traditions were not destroyed by the Islamic conquerors. The Balinese are still practicing the ancient music, religious and shamanic rituals and medicine .
There are two calendars with different time spans in use, so they have two new year days, which fall on different dates of the Western calendar every year. One is Nyepi day, when all demons are burnt and banned from the island and afterwards twenty four hours of silence are strictly kept all over the island. No fire, no cooking, no driving, no electric lights and everybody has to stay inside their houses. Even in the big cities there is no noise besides the barking of the dogs and the crowing of the roosters.

Meteora - medieval Greek monasteries

Meteora is located in an area of unusually shaped and enormously huge columns of rock in Thessaly (part of Northern Greece). A Google Earth bird view shows the whole area (pic 1). According to radiocarbon analysis paleolithic humans were using some of the natural caves in the area 50000 years ago. Traces of Christian monks living in caves around Meteora from 800 CE onwards have been found by archeologists. Starting from around 1300 CE orthodox Greek monks built their housing on top of the rock formations, where they could live, work and pray in seclusion. The fortifications were necessary because of the frequent Ottoman invasions of Thessaly. Access to the monasteries was only possible via ropes or ladders, which could be pulled up in case of unwelcome visitors. In the subsequent centuries 24 separate monasteries were established, hundreds of monks lived there, and by and by impressive interior decorations were added (pics 11 - 16).
Nowadays only six are still inhabited (pic 2 shows from left to right Rousanou, Nicholas Anapausas, the highest and biggest Great Meteoron, and Varlaam; pic 3 shows Varlaam; pics 4 and 5 show Rousanou; pics 6,7 and 8 show St Stephen; pic 9 the Monastery of the Holy Trinity; pic 11 Nicholas Anapausas). Two of them (Rousanou, St Stephen) have been taken over by nuns. Since 1988 the area is recognized as UNESCO world heritage, which of course meant that the monasteries had to open for the public. Little is left of the original solitude for the monks and nuns now. They are busy with organizing the steady flow of visitors and maintaining the buildings, museums and the interior decorations. But at least at St Stephen (pics 6, 7 and 8) the nuns are still practicing hesychasm, the traditional way of Greek orthodox mysticism.

Glastonbury - an ancient place of ritual and worship in Somerset

About 250 BCE there was an iron age settlement. Then, according to legend Joseph of Arimathea travelled from the Holy Land to Britain, bringing the Holy Grail with him and then burying it in a secret place. In their quests King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table searched for this Grail. After Joseph arrived in Britain with his twelve followers he established the first monastery at Glastonbury and built the first wattle church; in one version of the story Christ himself travelled with Joseph from the Holy Land and helped in the building work. On Glastonbury Tor (a hill in the plains) a medieval building was discovered and the ancient tower has been restored. The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey are still giving proof of the flourishing medieval monastery, which was abandoned in the 16th century. The Chalice Well is a fountain that apparently never dried out, because it was supposedly the hiding place of the Holy Grail.
Around these ancient locations many legends have been created and Glastonbury has become one of the New Age capitals of Great Britain. (pictures from various sources in the internet in 2016)