Tiptoe up 272 well-marked steps and you’ll reach the Batu Caves of Malaysia. Located north of Kuala in the Gombak district, the Batu Caves attract thousands of Hindu worshipers and visitors each year. While each of the three main caves is astonishing in terms of sheer size and age (the limestone is estimated to be 400 million years old), the religious shrines and statues sprinkled throughout the caves have rendered Batu Caves an important religious site for Hindu followers.
Browsing ATI By religion
Bad news, monotheists: you’re not even close to having a monopoly over the world’s narratives on purpose and morality. At present, it’s estimated that over 4,000 religions exist across the world, ranging from the well-established to the cult-like. Whatever your divine quest, it seems there’s a spiritual niche just for you. Here are six lesser known groups that have larger followings from around the world.
Interesting Religions: Falun Gong
Founded in China in 1992, Falun Gong is a spiritual discipline where followers try to obtain renewal and better health through meditation. The three tenets of belief are truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. It combines elements of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, with a dash of Chinese folklore. By the late 1990s, the Communist Party began to view Falun Gong as a threat due to its independence and large size (some estimated that by the late 90s, Falun Gong had over ten million followers), and initiated a massive propaganda campaign to bring it to an end.
In April 1999, over 10,000 Falun Gong followers gathered peacefully near the government compound to request legal recognition and freedom from harassment by the state. Many see this event as the catalyst to the subsequent suppression movement, where Chinese security forces abducted, tortured, detained and killed thousands of Falun Gong leaders. Since the gathering, Falun Gong adherents have fought to try party leaders for genocide and crimes against humanity.
As grocery stores are filled to the brim with Peeps, chocolate treats and bunny everything, there’s no escaping the arrival of Easter. Yet for millions of people all over the world, Easter is much more than candy, colorful eggs and friendly rabbits. April 13th marks the beginning of Holy Week 2014, an annual commemoration of the days that led up to the death of Jesus Christ. Holy Week, which encompasses Palm Sunday, Holy Saturday and Good Friday, is a period of both deep sadness and anticipation of Easter’s arrival, when Christians believe Jesus was resurrected.
Holy Week is observed by Christians around the world, though the look of these ceremonies and rituals varies greatly based on geographical region, cultures, religious sects and traditions. Even the names vary greatly, as other parts of the world refer to Holy Week as Semana Santa or Great Week. Some regions (most notably Spain) perform penance processions, where penitents from ancient religious brotherhoods publicly repent for their sins. To prevent their identification, the penitents wear large hoods that look, to some, like the garb preferred by the reviled Ku Klux Klan (although the two sects have absolutely no relation).
At some point, most of us have dreamed of riding across the Sahara Desert and stumbling across an ancient tomb filled with national treasures and glittering gems. If you haven’t, then you’ve probably never seen an Indiana Jones movie. Paul Koudounaris, the self-proclaimed ‘Indiana Bones’, certainly takes that explorer’s vision to heart. When he’s not digging up the dirt on charnel houses, the Los Angeles-based art historian and photographer is tracking down the remains of saints scattered around the world.
The Colorful Canopies Of Seoul, South Korea
Last week, a technicolor typhoon tore across Asia in honor of Buddha’s birthday. At approximately 25-centuries old, the enlightened one’s special day is typically celebrated on the full moon of May and is commemorated by thousands upon thousands of lanterns spilling throughout the streets. Why lanterns? They symbolize the wisdom that Buddha brought to the world. For more glimpses of the celebrations in Seoul, My Modern Met has an illuminating collection of images.
For context’s sake, this is from a 16th century German bible.