"QUANTUM SHOT" #286(rev) Link - article by Avi Abrams
Truly, the way is narrow & the path is steep...
Dizzying heights, pervading mists and isolation seem to invariably fuel humankind's spiritual quests and lofty aspirations, so it comes as no surprise that we find monasteries and other sacred architecture suspended high above deep valleys, perched on impossible rocks and looming over gorges. The air is certainly clearer there, though at these heights, it's often much foggier.
Serving partly as castles and almost always as unconquerable fortifications, these ancient sites were built on steep cliffs and daring promotories, often accessible only by secret paths - and thus provide the utmost seclusion amid serene surroundings, so valued in true spiritual devotion.
Some of these monasteries were featured on Dark Roasted Blend before, for example the "Haunted Monastery" of Sumela in Turkey:
We also wrote about a "hiking" path to sacred places on Mt. Huashan in China:
Now we're going to add more pilgrimage destinations to this list. The accessibility to such places recently has improved due to the relentless progress of civilization (though this may not be a good thing for those seeking the original peace and quiet).
1. Sigiriya, Sri Lanka - The Lion Mountain
Build on a "magma plug" outstanding rock (being a remnant of an ancient volcano) the sacred city of Sigiriya contains the ruins of the palace and of the original temple, dating back to 500 AD. Even older times (around 3rd century BC) saw this rock used as a mountain monastery of the Buddhist Sangha devotees. Their caves still pepper the vertical walls, hardly accessible because of their overhanging formation and the 370-meter height.
The whole western face of this rock (measuring 140 meters long and 40 meters high) was at one time covered with paintings:
"The whole face of the hill appears to have been a gigantic picture gallery... (being in total) the largest picture in the world perhaps" (quote from John Still in 1907). Colorful frescos were painted with the special mixture of egg yolk and wild honey, depicting the royal princess' procession and various exotic offerings. A few frescos in this giant mural were later obliterated by zealous monks, anxious not to disturb their meditation.
This sacred mountain did not remain sacred throughout all the years of its history. Eventually, "mad king" Kasyapa built Pleasure Palaces there, including a "health spa" and a harem for his 500 wives. At other time this place also served as a capital city of Ceylon. By the time Arthur Clarke wrote about it in his "Fountains of Paradise", it was again only a secluded monastery. Today this place is remote, but not "ideally" secluded, as hordes of tourists and hordes of archaeologists (this being a UNESCO site) clearly testify...
The Taktshang Tiger's Nest monastery in Bhutan clings to a cliff 2300 feet above the Paro Valley floor. The legend behind the "Tiger's Nest" name speaks of the "Second Buddha", Precious Guru Padmasambhava, and his flight to the future site of the monastery on the back of a tiger. This is certainly marvelous means of transportation, but the rest of us must either hike on foot to reach the monastery and the temples, or ride a mule along the steep and narrow mountain paths.
Some hikers reportedly have gone missing on their way up, presumably losing their balance and slipping off the path. As you can see, there is pretty much nothing standing between you and the bottom of the valley:
The surrounding area of the Bhutan's Tiger Nest monastery seem to be just as fascinating: here is a typical house on the way to monastery and a Medieval castle (or Dzong) overlooking the Gaza village:
Our third monastery is situated on some curious cliff formations in Greece, in the plains of Thessaly. Some of these formations tower 1800 feet above the plain. Meteora site was originally a complex of two dozen monasteries, dating back to the 14th century. Six of them are still standing today and can be explored. By the way, Meteora means ""suspended in the air" or "in the heavens above":
First monks started to build in Meteora around 950-970 A.D. They clearly recognized and respected the grand nature of this place, especially the unique shapes of surrounding rock formations, which were eventually explained by Filipson, a German geologist. According to him, a few million years ago Meteora area was the estuary of a great river, with much mud and silt accumulating and then eroding into these cone structures. With the geographical uplift of the Central Greece, Thessaly itself became a big lake. Gradually, the rocks of Meteora became detached from the Pindos Mountain chain, and with ages of erosion, became the shapes we see today.
Still it's quite a climb up to get inside any of these houses. Which makes it not a very friendly place to deliver groceries, perhaps, but certainly a great location for taking great photographs... and maybe dreaming about dozens of James Bond movies which could take place here?
This area is predictably popular with rock climbers... as one can only imagine the tenacity of first hermits who repeatedly scaled the cliffs and inhabited austere caves in search of solitude and spiritual awakening. Further detailed history of this place can be found at Great Adventures.com.
And now we come to the most surreal landscape and weird habitation of them all - the fairy chimneys and hollow towers of the Cappadocia area in Turkey - a land rich in history and spiritual heritage. According to this, "Cappadocia is mentioned in the Biblical account given in the book of Acts 2:9, with the Cappadocians being named as one of the people groups hearing the Gospel account from Galileans in their own language on the day of Pentecost shortly after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Acts 2:5 seems to suggest that the Cappadocians in this account were "God-fearing Jews".
The Natural Rock Citadel of Uchisar is the highest peak in the region, and quite unexpectedly it is completely honeycombed with ancient dwellings! Many of these spaces were used as cave monasteries, though today they mostly inspire photographers and artists. Its honeycombed architecture is revealed by erosion and suggests intense fortifications and infrastructure:
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