Around the world in spiritual sites
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Around the world in spiritual sites

We travel the world to visit five evocative spiritual sites...

BOROBODUR - Indonesia

As a dawn mist shrouds the plains, the growing light unveils a temple of such breathtaking beauty, that many consider Borobodur in eastern Java to be the world's finest example of Buddhist architecture. Borobodur lies on the Kedu Plain, surrounded by an idyllic landscape of rice-terraced hills overlooked by four volcanoes. The industrious subjects of the Sailendra dynasty built it over a period of 80 years in the ninth century who transformed a volcanic plug of basalt into a pyramid of seven tiers with a base measuring 120 sq metres and a height of 35 metres.

Borobodur was constructed to resemble a microcosm of the universe and this it does through a series of exquisite stone carvings that make up the stone masonry blocks of the entire monument. Its purpose was to provide a visual image of the teaching of the Buddha and show, in a practical manner, the steps through life that each person must follow to achieve enlightenment.


Mysterious stone structures are literally scattered across the Cornish countryside and embrace several thousand years of history. From solitary, star-gazing standing stones to ritual wells hidden deep in the woodlands to impressive stone circles crowning windswept moor land crests, there is much in this area that speaks eloquently-if silently-of a largely forgotten peoples and cultures of Britain's pre-recorded past.

The Land's End Peninsula in particular boasts a larger concentration of archaeological sites (800 sites within 128 kms) than anywhere else in Britain. And, for the most part, they are all wrapped in mystery. Chun Quoit for example, is categorised as a chambered barrow. Dating from 4000 B.C to 1,500 B.C, chambered barrows are believed to have been associated with the burial of the dead and the acknowledgement of ancestors.

There are numerous sacred stone sin the vicinity of Land's End, and the sheer beauty of the countryside they punctuate justifies exploration on foot. Most are accessed through narrow lanes flanked by hedgerows and dry stone walls festooned with wildflowers and ferns. Within them, ancient treasures such as Celtic crosses and ceremonial 'holed' stones such as Men-An-Tol can still be found.

TIKAL - Guatemala

The dense El Peten rainforest covers more than 21,000 sq km of northern Guatemala and reaches north into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and east into Belize. More than 1000 years ago the Mayans ruled this region and many relics of their ancient world remain. Vast cities and temple complexes tower above the forest canopy, while hundreds are still hidden within the jungle.

The re-discovered Tikal is the most famous site. You emerge from the deep shade of the rainforest into the bright sunlight of Tikal's Great Plaza area to be greeted by the awesome structures of Temple I and II, some of the tallest temple pyramids in the New World, rising to 38 and 44 metres respectively. This was once the great ceremonial centre of the Mayan world. To function benevolently, the Mayan gods required human blood- and the Maya sacrificed accordingly, using prisoners of war and even hapless peasantry. Kings, priests and pious individuals also offered their own blood, piercing their tongues and penises with stingray spines.

Climbing Temple II is hard work, especially in the blazing tropical sun but the view from the top is worth it. From this height you can really appreciate not only the complexity of the city but also the amazing effort of the archaeologists who wrested it back from the clutches of the jungle. It’s an incredible thought that at the peak of the Mayan civilisation, this central area contained more than 4000 structures and the city sprawled for 50 sq km.

BAGAN  - Myanmar

Of the numerous historical and archaeological sites throughout South East Asia- Bagan is the most amazing. Perhaps nowhere else has the architectural imprint of Buddhism been so well preserved over the centuries. In a frenetic burst of religious expression, a golden age of temple construction took place in a 230-year period from 1057. As a result, thousands of temples, zedis and stupas stand in all shapes, sizes and importance, spread across 40 sq kms along the banks of the Irrawaddy River.

Why this city was abandoned by the end of the twelfth century is a mystery. It is thought that the occupants may have fled when faced with the armies of Kublai Khan. What is known is that for centuries after it stood derelict, with its treasures plundered, it became the hideout of bandits and spirit nats.

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Attached Files

“Magnificent Stonehenge” Image Credit: Visit Britain
“Magnificent Stonehenge” Image Credit: Visit Britain
“Temple I-Tikal's Grand Plaza.” Image credit: Andrew Marshall
“Temple I-Tikal
Ancient pagodas rise along the banks of the Irrawaddy River at Old Bagan.” Image credit: Andrew Marshall.
Ancient pagodas rise along the banks of the Irrawaddy River at Old Bagan.” Image credit: Andrew Marshall.
“Ancient shrine, a stone Buddha sits atop the incredible Borobudur temple. Image credit: Andrew Marshall
“Ancient shrine, a stone Buddha sits atop the incredible Borobudur temple. Image credit: Andrew Marshall
“One of Cornwall's classic sacred stones- Lanyon Quoit.” Image credit: Andrew Marshall
“One of Cornwall