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Treading a spiritual path is a pilgrimage—be it to a sacred location or to a blissful state beyond this world. One type of pilgrimage can lead to another. A spiritual journey may be to a mountain, a river, a temple or mosque, or to a peaceful place in our mind. The journey may entail sacrificing wealth and comfort, cleansing of body and mind, or igniting the spirit of generosity and living in harmony.
Tilak Hettige will discuss the essence of diverse spiritual journeys from different religions. With firsthand knowledge of several unique and unknown pilgrimages, Tilak will take you on a spiritual path traversing his corner of the world. They may lead to high mountain tops, flow down rivers and seas, or span an entire island.
For example, the Hindu pilgrims to Mount Kailash, standing behind a sea of mountains where India and Tibet meet, believe that only persons with a pure heart can climb this sacred mountain. Similarly when climbing some 5500 steps to Adams Peak (Sri Pada) in the middle of the hill country in Sri Lanka, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christians spread love and kindness among fellow pilgrims. All believe that footprint of their spiritual leader is imprinted on a rock atop this mountain.
Down at the sea level, in some regions there are several spiritual journeys that are associated with a sacred location in a river. Kumbh Mela which is celebrated every 12 years is one such festival where millions of Hindu devotees gather in one of four locations and walk along a bank of a holy rivers in India, to wash away their sins forever.
Another is the annual multi-religious foot pilgrimage across the length of Sri Lanka, in the months of July and August. This journey culminates in bathing and other rituals at the sacred city of Kataragama in southern Sri Lanka. It cultivates harmony among religious groups, peaceful acceptance of others and transcends to inner peace.
There are other pilgrimages that traverse a whole island or parts of islands. The Muslim pilgrimage of tombs of influential Muslim religious leaders, located in northern Java, Indonesia promotes teaching of the leaders who spread religion in the country. Once a year, Christian fishermen of Sri Lanka and India gather to celebrate the year past and pray for the next at St. Anthony’s Church in the uninhabited island of Katchatheevu. In Shikoku island of Japan, a Buddhist pilgrimage that traverses 88 temples spread over 750 miles in four provinces is likened to the path of enlightenment that brings ultimate bliss.
For more information about photojournalist, Tilak Hettige: www.tilakhettige.com