Sacred cities are cities that were created in ancient times as sacred and for sacred purposes only. So in a way, even if such character and purpose was not stated explicitly, all ancient cities qualify as sacred. The reason is simple: in the remote antiquity there was nothing that was not regarded as sacred, and this applied world-wide. The word or the very concept of “profane” did not even exist. The present-day differentiation between “profane” and “sacred” is but a modern invention by people that no more can understand even a simple fact like this.
Furthermore, wherever we see or are told of an ancient city that was not sacred, it is because the people that built it were by the time of its creation in utter decadence, that is, they had already entered in their particular kali-yuga.
A view of Jerusalem, originally consecrated to Salem, the “God of Peace”,
ruled by the enigmatic “priest of God” Melchizedek
In our days, particularly from our western point of view, five or six cities are venerated by the main world religions: Jerusalem (originally Salem, considered to be the center of the world itself), which remains sacrosanct for all three great monotheistic religions; Mecca in Arabia, containing the most blessed and revered black stone of the Kaaba; Vatican in Rome, regarded by many westerners as the epitome of a sacred city; in India, Varanasi – especially featured bellow – and Bodhgaya, where the Buddha conquered Nirvana under the Boddhi tree (another representation of the world axis). To these should be added Lhassa, with the Potala temple, in Tibet, Katmandu in Nepal, and perhaps a few more.
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It is true that a few of these cities, like Vatican City, for example, were not built in the distant past but in comparatively modern times. But they may be considered exempted from the requisite of antiquity by certain facts which, in the case of Vatican, include having been designed according to the rules of sacred geometry by great architects like Bramante and Michelangelo, who were initiated in mystery schools; another exempting factor, according to tradition, was its having been built on a location “sanctified” from old by the presence of certain sacred tree which, in symbolizing the axis mundi, conferred to it the character of a “world center”.
In my opinion, moreover, it is the fact that it was intended as an image of the cosmos that ultimately conferred an ancient city its sacred quality. In this connection, the ceremonies held in them would reproduce the creation of the universe and other celestial events, such as the passage from a zodiacal sign to another, usually by means of sacred dances which mirrored them; and the specific dates for these holy events would be those of the equinoxes, solstices, and other important dates of the cosmic calendar.
The First Sumerian Cities, like Nippur, Lagash and others, probably looked
like the one recreated here (From: The History of Earth,
Mankind, and our Ancestors from the Stars at
All of this has altogether disappeared at present, with only a few exceptions. Yet there are still some metropolis left, both in the Old and the New World, which while no longer cities in the current sense, remain nonetheless as perfect examples of sacred cities from old times. One of them is Nippur, the sacred city of Enlil, supreme god of Sumer and Akkad in present-day Iraq, the center of peregrinations over millennia, and until its final abandonment around 800 AD, the chosen seat of one of the few early Christian bishops – a predilection which can only be explained by its radiating sacred nature. Another such sacred city is Machu Picchu – the house of the Intihuatana or “Sun-Hitching Stone” – in the neighborhood of Cusco, Peru, where the Inti Raimi festival, which commemorates the Winter solstice at the Southern latitudes, is held every June 24th even today. And yet another such sacred city is Teotihuacan, in present-day Mexico, which I will refer to now.
The layout of this ancient city reveals that the ancient Teotihuacans knew, with astounding accuracy, the mean distances from the planets to the Sun. According to US engineer Hugh Harleston Jr., the author of the discovery, Teotihuacan would have not only been a great astronomical observatory but also, and mainly, a scale model of our solar system. His assertion is supported by the distances between the stone tumuli punctuating the “Street of the Dead” from the Temple of Quetzalcoatl to the Pyramid of the Moon.
Teotihuacan, Mexico: View of the Avenue of the Dead and
the Pyramid of the Sun, from the Pyramid of the Moon
In effect, between the Sun on the one hand, and Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto on the other, the distances measured in hunabs, the standard unit of 1.0594(6) m determined by the researcher, multiplied by a certain factor, are 36, 72, 144, 520, 1,845, 2,880 and 3,780 respectively. Compare with the distances currently established in astronomical units, equivalent to the mean distance from the Earth to the Sun and which, in the same order, are 0.387, 0.723, 1.524, 5.203, 19.247, 30.220 and 39.642, and all possibility of their being a product of chance can be ruled out. But there is the additional, significant fact that all of the distances but one are perfect circular numbers, i.e. numbers whose digits add up to nine and about which can be said that have a “cosmic” nature, especially the first three (36, 72, and 144) with which we have become acquainted along this short series of articles. The only exception is the distance from Jupiter, whose digits add up to seven – a number which, while somehow anomalous, is probably the most sacred of them all in most of the world’s religious traditions, and essentially the sum of 5 + 2 or 52 – the basic numeral in the Mayan cosmology and calendar.
India in the traditional view
From a traditional point of view, the civilization of India is perhaps the one alone that has maintained its ancient religious values mostly intact over the centuries. Sacred cities abound in India, the principal of them being great pilgrimage centers as well. These include Varanasi and Hardwar on the river Ganges; Ayodhya, the birthplace of lord Rama; Mathura, Lord Krishna's birthplace; Dwarka, where the adult Krishna ruled as a king and where the Krishna Vasudeva was born; Kanchipuram, the great Shaivite temple city of Tamil Nadu; and Ujjain, one of four locations (together with Allahabad, Hardwar and Nashik) where the Kumbha Mela festival takes place every twelve years.
The Maha Kumbha Mela (“Great” Kumbha Mela) which comes after 12 “Purna Kumbh Melas”, i.e. every 144 years, is also held at Allahabad. The 2001 Maha Kumbha Mela was attended by around 60 million people, making it the largest gathering anywhere in the world.
An ancient city along the banks of the Ganges River, Varanasi (Benares) is considered by many Hindus to be the center of the Hindu universe. Hindu legend tells of the deity Shiva (who used to sit beneath a huge tree which actually IS the world axis) founding Varanasi and taking up residence there once upon a time.
Perhaps the most important feature of Varanasi is its prime location next to the Ganges River, a river so inextricable from Hindu faith that, in one year, over a million believers will enter the sacred city to bathe in or drink its hallowed waters.
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Varanasi ghats on Ganga River are points on the divine cosmic road
(12 signs in the Zodiac x 7 chakras = 84 ghats)
We may remember that in terms of the sacred science, the interlinkage among all cosmic levels is expressed in the idea of a central axis around which the cosmos revolves. This center, which serves as a gateway or communication link between heaven and earth, is wonderfully represented in the cosmic layout of Varanasi, an elaborate, characteristic frame expressing a series of sacred territorial boundaries defined by the pilgrimage routes where the universe is symbolized by an irregular circle connecting a number of shrines and sacred sites. This system of spatial manifestations and pilgrimage journeys may be called pilgrimage mandala. In Varanasi, this mandala is maintained through the pilgrimage journeys and festivities. (This section condensed from: Cosmic Layout of the Hindu Sacred City, Varanasi (Benares) by Rana P.B. Singh - http://lasur.epfl.ch/revue/A&C%20Vol%209%20No.2/SINGH.pdf).
Geomantic map of Kashi Mandala
(© Rana P.D. Singh)
Below appear again (see the column to the right) the three basic cyclic numbers 72, 108 and 144 which, as has repeatedly been emphasized, are among the most sacred numbers in all of the world’s traditions from both the East and the West. And whether we call them “cyclic”, “circular”, “cosmic”, or whatever, as we become acquainted with the “science” of cyclic numbers, the single presence of for example 72, which is the length in years of a degree of the precession of the equinoxes, or of 108 and 144, two of the most significant and revered cosmic numbers as well, should make us seriously reflect.
Five Layers of Sacred Territories in Varanasi
(Adapted from: Singh, 1991, 9; Singh, 1993, 38)
For example, did the ancients, and particularly the builders of Varanasi, know the distance between the earth and the sun is approximately 108 times the sun’s diameter? Likewise, did they know the distance between the earth and the moon is approximately 108 times the moon’s diameter?
As I have said elsewhere, in the light of facts like these, and after seeing the cumulus of other “coincidences” in the scientific lore of ancient cultures so distant from one another, we would certainly need to be blind to think that it is all just the product of chance.
What do you think?
Luis Miguel Goitizolo
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Vishwanath Temple at Varanasi (photo at “VARANASI The Holy City”