Sacred Geometries in Contemporary Pilgrimages

Robert H. Stoddard
Department of Geography
University of Nebraska
Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

( ) Pilgrimage flows, generating complex spatial patterns, usually defy uni-dimensional explanations. Nevertheless, observers who attempt to capture the core components of pilgrim behavior may seek understanding primarily through the patterns of sacred geometries. This paper examines the merits of such as they pertain to perceptions of potential pilgrims journeying to a set of sacred sites in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal.

( ) According to holy texts and religious scholars, the religious geography of the Kathmandu Valley coincides with an enveloping mandala, with temples marking key positions. This geometrical configuration is reinforced annually when pilgrims undertake a forty-kilometer circuit while worshipping sequentially at a set of four Narayan temples withing a single day. These locational arrangements and pilgrimages substantiate the contention that cosmological geometries are important.

( ) Complexity in understanding pilgrimage paths is add, however, when the perceptions of potential pilgrims are examined. According to the responses of sampled persons residing in the Kathmandu Valley, very few persons actually envision an encompassing mandala as the basis for temple locations and, hence, for pilgrimage routes. Although these results can be challenged, they do reveal complexity in the spatial domain of pilgrimages.

Return to Submitted Abstracts List Page

Return to Pilgrimage Workshop Home Page