Pilgrimage involves movement of
people, either as individuals or as members of a group in search of
the sacred. Pilgrimages may start with individual ecstatic visions,
unusual strange unworldly experiences, which are the experiences of
"ordinary" people, certainly not of priests or politicians. Often they
are uniquely human experiences which embarass ecclesiastical
authorities. As a pilgrimage tradition evolves, sacred sites may
become formalized in organized socio-political systems with economic
overtone. Even in these structured situations, individual people may
still have powerful individual experiences. Eventually a pilgrimage
tradition may be taken over by religious and political authorities,
lose spontaneity, and become frozen in time. But even in these
situations, in which large numbers of people may gather, there is a
tremendous amount of "primal" energy in which innovations and visions
may be evoked.
Using case-studies from pilgrimages
around the world, the volume explores the ways many of these
traditions have started and evolved. A common perspective is that of
self-organization of complex structures in space and time.
The variety of pilgrimage described
in the book is remarkable. The subcontinent of India is the location
of many sites such as the temples to the nine planets in Tamil Nadu,
the pilgrimage circuits of Varanasi, early Buddhist pilgrimages in
Sāńcī and Bodh-Gayā, the great ruined city of Vijayanagara, those
associated with the Riimiiya1Ja, and the death ceremonies at Gayā.
Beyond India, the self-organization and stability of pilgrimage
systems are analysed for pilgrimages in Nepal (Kathmandu), Japan,
Mexico, the Caribbean, Peru, Norway, and the US.