A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person’s beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey into someone’s own beliefs. Many religions attach spiritual importance to particular places: the place of birth or death of founders or saints, or to the place of their “calling” or spiritual awakening, or of their connection (visual or verbal) with the divine, to locations where miracles were performed or witnessed, or locations where a deity is said to live or be “housed,” or any site that is seen to have special spiritual powers. Such sites may be commemorated with shrines or temples that devotees are encouraged to visit for their own spiritual benefit: to be healed or have questions answered or to achieve some other spiritual benefit. A person who makes such a journey is called a pilgrim. As a common human experience, pilgrimage has been proposed as a Jungian archetype by Wallace Clift and Jean Dalby Clift.
The Holy Land acts as a focal point for the pilgrimages of the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. According to a Stockholm University study in 2011, these pilgrims visit the Holy Land to touch and see physical manifestations of theirfaith, confirm their beliefs in the holy context with collective excitation, and connect personally to the Holy Land.
In the early 21st century the numbers of people of all faiths making pilgrimages has continued to rise, with 39 of the most popular sites alone receiving an estimated 200 million visitors every year. There is a growing awareness within the major faith organisations that fulfilling the spiritual obligations of pilgrimage may paradoxically conflict with the spiritual obligation to care for the natural world. In response to these concerns a global Green Pilgrimage Network was inaugurated in 2011, with municipal and religious authorities from Bahá’í, Buddhist, Christian, Daoist, Islamic, Jewish, Shinto and Sikh sacred sites committing to the shared goal of minimising the environmental impact of pilgrims and, ultimately, achieving a ‘positive footprint’for pilgrimage. In 2012, an India Chapter of the Green Pilgrimage Network was launched, with a further ten Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic and Sikh pilgrimage sites from across India.