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lgrimsEgeria, Faxian, and Vidurasee and do when they visit a holy site? What are some of the threats, explicit and implicit, they face as they travel?...
- What do these pilgrims—Egeria, Faxian, and Vidura—see and do when they visit a holy site? What are some of the threats, explicit and implicit, they face as they travel?
- How might their travel (where they go, what they do, how and to whom they report their experiences, etc.) indicate the extent to which theirs was a universalizing faith?
- What appears to be the role of storytelling in pilgrimage? What do these excerpts suggest about the relationship between monasteries and holy sites? Between pilgrims and written text?
- In what ways do these passages highlight the universalizing aspects of Christianity and Buddhism? What evidence do you see in the Bhagavata Purana of the accessibility of bhakti devotion? What evidence do you see of the arguably less universalizing components of Hinduism?
Pilgrimage and Universalizing Religions
Religious tourism, or pilgrimage, went hand in hand with the spread of universalizing religions along the trade routes that stretched across Eurasia. Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus traveled the religious geography of their faith, visiting sacred sites and relics and hearing stories of holy women and men. The first passage included here is excerpted from the travel diary kept by a woman named Egeria, who was likely a nun from Spain. Around 400 ce, Egeria journeyed to holy sites across the eastern Mediterranean, recording the places she visited and her experiences at each location. At roughly the same time Egeria was traveling, an elderly Chinese Buddhist monk named Faxian was making his way from Chang'an in China to South Asia to look for Buddhist scriptures and to visit sites sacred to Buddhism. The description of his travels offers a view into the varied worship practices within different schools of Buddhism as well as the many different regions—from China, to India, to Sri Lanka, and back again—where Buddhism flourished. The third passage comes from the Bhagavata Purana, a sacred text of Hinduism that exemplifies the bhakti devotion to Krishna, a human incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. Although this passage describes the travels of Vidura, a major character in the Mahabharata whose legendary storyline extends back to 1000 bce, this purana is thought to have been recorded in Sanskrit in the mid-first millennium ce as bhakti Hinduism became increasingly popular. While the pilgrimages of Egeria and Faxian demonstrate many of the universalizing elements within Christianity and Buddhism, the account of Vidura's pilgrimage in the Bhagavata Purana shows the development of personalized bhakti devotion in the context of nearly 2,000 years of hierarchical Vedic belief.