A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. A pilgrimage is a journey a pilgrim makes to a sacred place for the purpose of venerating it, and ultimately to come to know God better. Christian pilgrimages were first made to sites connected with the birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Shortly after, pilgrimages started being made to Rome and other sites associated with the Apostles, Saints and Christian martyrs, as well as places where there had been apparitions of the Virgin Mary. In the past, pilgrims would leave their homes, families, and comforts to walk for hundreds of miles with nothing but what they could carry on their backs. Just as the pilgrims from the early centuries, we modern pilgrims also leave our homes, families and comforts in order to journey to sacred places.
Along the journey, there are many sacrifices involved. There is suffering, hunger, pain, exhaustion, extreme weather conditions, crowds, et. All of these involve self denial in order to obtain the ultimate goal and reach the final destination. Contrasting common misperceptions, suffering is not a punishment that each receives in direct proportion to his own sins but is a result of original sin and is part of the universal human experience, something we all experience in some form.
While journeying, a pilgrim may notice that although they are living entirely in the present, it’s not the present that matters; what matters is the distant goal. The experience one has on a pilgrimage can be fantastic and deeply meaningful, or it can be completely meaningless. It is entirely up to the pilgrim. Extra graces are given to pilgrims who open their hearts to God. Pilgrims are also called to be witnesses for Christ on their journey. As a Christian and a foreign visitor, pilgrims are ambassadors for Christ and the nation of their citizenship.
A pilgrimage can also be defined as the course of life here on earth. The physical pilgrimage we take to a sacred shrine is a symbol of the spiritual pilgrimage we are on throughout our lives. Each day we have the opportunity to encounter Christ through suffering, joys, interactions with others, and through every aspect of our human experience. By taking what we have learned from our pilgrimage we can put it into practice in our daily lives and come to a better knowledge of God.
Pilgrimage in Hinduism:
Hindu places of pilgrimage are associated with legendary events from the lives of various gods.... Almost any place can become a focus for pilgrimage, but in most cases they are sacred cities, rivers, lakes, and mountains." Hindus are encouraged to undertake pilgrimages during their lifetime, though this practice is not considered absolutely mandatory. Most Hindus visit sites within their region or locale.
KumbhMela is the largest pilgrimage recorded in history. KumbhMela is also credited with the largest gathering of humans in the entire world. The location is rotated among Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik, and Ujjain.
Char Dham (Famous Four Pilgrimage sites):
The four holy sites Puri, Rameswaram, Dwarka, and Badrinath (or alternatively theHimalayan towns of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri) compose the Char Dham (four abodes) pilgrimage circuit.
Old Holy cities as per Puranic Texts:
Varanasi formerly known as Kashi, Allahabad formerly known as Prayag, Haridwar-Rishikesh, Mathura-Vrindavan, Pandharpur, Paithan and Ayodhya.
Major Temple cities:
Puri, which hosts a major Vaishnava Jagannath temple and RathYatracelebration; Katra, home to the Vaishno Devi temple; Three comparatively recent temples of fame and huge pilgrimage are Shirdi, home to Sai Baba of Shirdi, Tirumala - Tirupati, home to the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple; and Sabarimala,where Swami Ayyappan is worshipped.
Another important set of pilgrimages are the Shakti Peethas, where the Mother Goddess is worshipped, the two principal ones being Kalighat and Kamakhya.