The Sacred Journeys exhibit at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, 3000 N. Meridian St., is as timely and informative an exhibit as the museum has had in quite awhile.
In this day and age, when world religions are so often in the news, Sacred Journeys goes a long way toward explaining not only the differences in the world’s religions but the similarities, too.
Each year, more than 330 million people around the world journey to sacred places throughout the world as part of their religious commitments. Some seek enlightenment or healing. Others perform acts of devotion that are expressions of deep faith.
The exhibit begins, delightfully and personally, with lifesize videos of five ethnically different young people — filmed in the Indianapolis airport — each talking about the sacred journey they’re about to make.
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Luis is traveling with his grandmother to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Hana is traveling to Mecca where Islamic beliefs were first recited. Micah is Jewish, and he is traveling to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Amala is traveling to the Ganges River in India to perform a ritualistic cleansing. An will travel to Bodh Gaya, also in India, to make a ritual offering.
Museum visitors travel with them through the exhibit to recreated places and events to learn more about the history and beliefs that guide millions through their daily lives and motivate them to make a spiritual journey.
One of the featured locations is the Western Wall of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and an actual 13,000-pound stone from the wall. Visitors learn that every year, more than 1.5 million people visit the wall to tuck prayers written on slips of paper into the cracks of the wall.
Amazing photos give scope to the 100 million Muslims who make the pilgrimage each year to the Great Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to circle the Kaaba, a sacred cube in the center of the mosque, seven times in a counter-clockwise motion.
Video captures thousands of Hindus engaged in ritualistic bathing in the Ganges River in India.
Among the artifacts featured in the 7,000-square-foot exhibition are fragments of the Dead Sea scrolls from Qumran, Israel; Jewish devotional objects taken into space by astronaut and Hoosier David Wolf; the trunk that Mormon Brigham Young carried from New York to Utah; a throne built for the Dalai Lama’s 2010 U.S. visit; a sand mandala created by Buddhist monks; and a replica of the Shroud of Turin.
Throughout the exhibit, music representative of cultures and sacred sites plays to enhance visitors’ sense of actually being in each location.
Another feature is the spiritually-inspired artwork — carvings, paintings, sculpture, clothing and architecture — icons and touchstones created for each religion. The brightly-colored and bejeweled statue of the elephant-headed Ganesh, the Hindu god of wisdom and learning, is surrounded by gifts of fruit and flowers.
The journey through the exhibit concludes with a statement from each of the five travelers of the importance of their journey and how it inspired and changed them.
Visitors leave with a new perspective of global citizenship.
Sacred Journeys is a traveling exhibit on display at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum through Feb. 21. For more information on hours of operation and admission fees, visit childrensmuseum.org.