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In North Africa, marabout shrines, consisting of the tomb of a holy man, lack the pan-Islamic status of Mecca or Medina but provide access to sacred figures, living or dead, who mediate God’s grace () to clients.Motivations for pilgrimage vary, within as well as between traditions.Pilgrimage usually entails some separation (alone or in a group) from the everyday world of home, and pilgrims may mark their new identity by wearing special clothes or abstaining from physical comforts.Frequently, pilgrimages link sacred place with sacred time.The Mahabharata, an important Hindu epic dating from the 1st millennium , recommends visits to many holy places in India, mentioning shrines in an order corresponding to the Sun’s movement across the sky.The Buddha himself prescribed certain places of pilgrimage, choosing sites linked with key events in his life.A factor that unites pilgrimage locations across different religions is the sense, variously expressed, that a given place can provide privileged access to a divine or transcendent sphere.This idea is well expressed in the Hindu concept of the , a Sanskrit term encompassing the notion of a ford or intersection between two realms.

Apart from involving movement across physical and cultural landscapes toward a sacred goal, pilgrimages frequently involve ritual movements at the site itself.In Hinduism ritual bathing often takes place at the confluences of rivers, which are imbued with sacred meaning.The Ganges is regarded as the holiest Hindu river because it is believed to issue from the very locks of Shiva’s hair.The same word is used by Jains for any site where a prophet was born or died.

In all religious traditions, hierarchies of sites are evident, as some places are regarded as more sacred than others.Similarly, the missionary efforts of colonial powers in Africa and Latin America led to the creation of modified religious landscapes, often combining pagan and Christian imagery and myth, as is evident in the case of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico.