Outstanding monuments of smaller religious groups around the world
Monuments below are arranged by religion and age. Religions also have been arranged by their age.
- Udvada Atash Behram – India, Gujarat. Oldest functioning Zoroastrian place of worship, consecrated in 1742. Sacred fire was brought from Persia.
- Temple of Confucius – China, Shandong. Largest and oldest temple of Confucius, established in 478 BC and expanded since then.
- Zushih Temple – Taiwan, Taipei County. Taoist temple, first built in 1767, but during the reconstruction in 1947 gained unique stonecarving in most details, where no detail is repeated.
- Tài Shān (Mount Tai) – China, Shandong. This up to 1545 m high mountain is one of five sacred mountains in Tao religion, often regarded as the foremost of them. Pilgrimage site for 3000 years, covered with numerous temples and other monuments. Largest temple – Dai Miao – from the 3rd century BC.
- Nanyan Temple – China, Hubei. Taoist temple complex hewn in vertical cliff face. Everything – pillars, windows, gates – is hewn at place in cliff. Most spectacular of Mount Wudang temples, also related to birth of such martial arts as kung-fu.
- Ise Grand Shrine – Japan, Mie. One of holiest Shinto shrines, especially inner shrine – Naikū. Here is worshipped goddess Amaterasu-ōmikami. It is considered that history of this shrine goes back to 4 BC, first shrine built sometimes around 692 AD. Wooden buildings are built in specific style and rebuilt every 20 years.
- Atsuta Shrine – Japan, Aichi. One of most revered Shinto shrines, established in the late 1st – early 2nd century.
- Itsukushima Shrine – Japan, Hiroshima Prefecture. One of most beautiful Shinto shrines, with its design established in 1168. Famous feature – wooden gate (tori) standing in sea – one of symbols of Japan.
- Fushimi Inari – Japan, Kyoto Prefecture. Head shrine of goddess Inari, large temple complex developing since 711 AD. Unusual feature is path to inner shrine covered with thousands of wooden gates (torii) donated by businessman and individuals – as Inari is goddess of industry and worldly success.
- Menri Monastery – Tibet, Shigatse. Once the most influential Bön monasteries, established in 1405. Destroyed during Cultural Revolution, currently under reconstruction. Bön is oldest spiritual tradition in Tibet preceding Buddhism.
- Harmandir Sahib – India, Punjab, Amritsar. Most holiest site for Sikhs, originally built in 1574, rebuilt anew in 1588 – 1604. Gold covered temple is surrounded by manmade lake.
- Akal Takht – India, Punjab, Amritsar. Seat of temporary Sikh religious authority – ornate building with gold-covered cupolas, located next to Harmandir Sahib.
- Gurdwara Janam Asthan – Pakistan, Punjab, Nankana Sahib. One of most sacred sites for Sikhs, place where was born Sikh founder Guru Nanak.
- Shrine of the Báb – Israel, Haifa. Sacred site of Bahá’í Faith – here remains of Báb have been laid to rest in 1921. Enormous shrine built in 1953, beautiful garden set.
- Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh – Israel, North. Most holy site of Bahá’í Faith, here are remains of Bahá’u’lláh. Consists of shrine and beautiful gardens around it.
- Lotus Temple – India, Delhi. Flowerlike Bahá’í temple building, built in 1986.
- Tay Ninh Holy See – Vietnam, Southeast, Tây Ninh province. Centre of Cao Đài religion, ornate building built in 1933 – 1955.
Described contemporary shrines of smaller religious groups
Besides Christianism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Judaism there are many more existing religions in world. Many of these religions have very interesting shrines and temples, which are no less impressive and sophisticated than the temples of large religions. Here are shortly outlined the specifics of sacred sites and worship structures of some of these religions, as arranged by the number of believers:
Sikhism is comparatively new religion established by Guru Nanak (1469 – 1539) in Punjab (India) sometimes around 1507. Sikh faith was further developed by nine next Gurus living up to 1708. After the last human Guru there came Guru Granth Sahib – holy scripture and this is the sole and final guru. With 20 – 30 million followers Sikhism is the next largest religion after four large religions of world.
Sikh place of worship is named – gurdwara – literally "the doorway to guru". People of all faiths are welcomed to gurdwaras but should pay respect and follow certain rules of conduct. Gurdwaras can have different shapes – but almost all have dome (gumbad). Sikh architects have mastered to use artificially created waterbodies to excel the beauty of temples.
By far the most significant gurdwara is Harmandir Sahib (India, Punjab) in Amritsar. This gold-covered building is one of highest achievements in Sikh architecture.
Nowadays Bahá’í Faith has some 7,6 – 7,9 million followers in whole world. There are not many shrines of this religion but those few in existance are well worth mentioning. Bahá’í Faith believers try to build architectonically expressive buildings surrounded by beautiful parks. The most holiest and important one is Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh (Israel, Acre) – it contains the remains of Bahá’u’lláh himself. Next in importance is the beautiful Shrine of the Báb (Israel, Haifa) – here is laid to rest Báb – forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh. This shrine is special due to its beautiful terraced park.
Elsewhere in the world there are several Bahá’í Houses of Worship. Notable is House of Worship in India (Delhi) – Lotus Temple – built in 1986 and renowned due to its beautiful architecture.
Japan does not have single main religion and Japanese often feel as belonging to several religions at once. Shinto has evolved from more ancient Japanese traditions and religious practices and up to this day this religion serves as a spiritual link between the stressed urban life of contemporary modern Japan and the harmony of nature. In it’s divination of nature this contemporary religion has many similarities to animism.
Shinto shrines have made Japan renowned in whole world as a culture with exquisite and sophisticated taste and great achievements in searches of harmony between design and nature. Some of the most renowned ones are – Ise Grand Shrine (Mie, Japan), Itsukushima Shrine (Hiroshima, Japan) with its floating wooden gate and Izumo-taisha (Shimane, Japan) with very long history and once most popular pilgrimage site in Japan.
In 1926 in northern Vietnam there was born new religion – Cao Đài (Kingdom of Heaven). This religion requires its followers to be vegetarians, to respect non-violence and to venerate deceased ones.
Homecity of this religion is Tây Ninh (Vietnam, Tây Ninh). Here is also located the beautiful Holy See of Cao Đài religion – Cao Đài Temple (1933 – 1955).
Among the contemporary religions Zoroastrianism stands out as a very ancient religion both regarding its religious practices and its actual history. It is is based on teachings of Iranian prophet and poet Zoroaster (Zarathushtra) who lived more than 3000 years ago. Zoroastrianism could be considered to be a state religion in Iran up to the coming of Islam in the 7th century, it was widespread in whole Central Asia.
Zoroastrians gradually lost their influence in the 7th – 9th centuries and often were forced to migrate to different regions – to remote places in Iran and also to Gujarat in India. Nowadays there are roughly 145 – 210 thousand Zoroastrians, approximately half of them living in India.
Site of Zoroastrianic worship is called – fire temple. Most venerated fires have been extinguished long ago – but legend goes that more than thousand years ago a group of refugees brought a sacred fire to India, Gujarat. Here it has been preserved and today is burning in Udvada Atash Behram. There are eight more fire temples of highest degree (Atash Behram) – all in India, except for the newest one in Iran, Yazd.
Wondermondo has defined several other categories of religious structures:
- Religious architecture – list of more than 60 most interesting and impressive religious structures and sites around the world.
- Buddhist shrines
- Christian monasteries
- Hindu shrines
- Islamic shrines
- Jain shrines
- Judaism monuments, sinagogues
- Ancient pyramids
- Ancient and prehistoric shrines
Zoroastrianism has always commanded interest way beyond the circles of its actual adherents. Its unbroken history and distinctive beliefs span three millennia, making it one of the world’s most venerable faiths―and also a tradition whose ideas have found favor elsewhere.
What we today call Shinto has been at the heart of Japanese culture for almost as long as there has been a political entity distinguishing itself as Japan. A Year in the Life of a Shinto Shrine describes the ritual cycle at Suwa Shrine, Nagasaki’s major Shinto shrine. Conversations with priests, other shrine personnel, and people attending shrine functions supplement John K. Nelson’s observations of over fifty shrine rituals and festivals.