Shrines are holy sites that are usually devoted to the memory or example of a particular saint, prophet, deity or other religious figure. The shrine above, located at Kandawgyi Lake in Burma, is dedicated to a Buddhist figure known as Shin Upagutta, who is believed to live in a seaborne palace and to protect the local people from disasters such as floods. Read on for more images of shrines from around the world.
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Adherents of almost every major religion have kept shrines. This Catholic shrine -- located in the Monserrate church of Bogota, Columbia -- is one of the world's many shrines to the Virgin Mary. This site is a good example of the Black Madonna style, in which the mother of Jesus is depicted with dark skin. Click ahead to see a shrine from the Shinto tradition.
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During high tide, boats pass under the gates shown above to approach the Itsukushima island shrine in Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima, Japan. When the waters recede, however, visitors to the Shinto shrine can walk around the base of the centuries-old structure. Read on to see one of the holiest shrines of Islam.
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The Mosque of the Prophet Muhammed in Medina, Saudi Arabia, welcomes multitudes of Muslim pilgrims every year. This mosque is known as the burial site of Muhammed, who is the most important prophet of Islam. All able-bodied Muslims are required to perform the hajj, or ritual pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in their lives. Pilgrimage to the Medina site is not compulsory, but millions of Muslims still make the trip to see this holy shrine.
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These flowers and candles -- common ornaments of Catholic shrines -- are laid out for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which celebrates the appearance of the Virgin Mary to a Mexican man named to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin in the 16th century. Click ahead to see an incredible mobilization of pilgrims.
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Located in the region of Jammu and Kashmir, the cave shrine of Amarnath is devoted to the Hindu god Shiva. In 2011, an estimated 200,000 pilgrims made the journey to the sacred attraction to honor the deity. To see the entrance to the cave itself, click over to the next page.
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The cave shrine of Amarnath is said to bear a natural ice formation that resembles the Shiva Linga -- a mark representing the power and presence of the god. Like many shrines around the world, the Amarnath shrine has become a target for violent political and religious factions. The pilgrims visiting the shrine in the picture above are protected by members of the Indian military and police forces.
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These ruins are part of the ancient site of Kamphaeng Phet, Thailand. Southeast Asia has many beautiful temples, monasteries and shrines of this kind. Click ahead to see an Anglican shrine located in the heart of London.
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Shrines can play a part in religious ceremonies and celebrations. In the picture above, the Shrine of St. Edward the Confessor forms the centerpiece of an Evensong service at Westminster Abbey in London. Next, you'll see the entrance to a shrine in Bali.
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These carvings mark the sacred entrance to the Pura Goa Lawah in Bali, Indonesia. Pura Goa Lawah translates roughly to "bat cave temple," because the shrine itself includes an actual cave that is home to thousands of fruit bats. Next, you'll see a Balinese icon up close.
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While some religions -- Islam, for instance -- discourage physical iconography, statues and carvings like this are common throughout much of Asia. Hinduism, Buddhism and other Asian religions have a long history of representative ornamentation. This fanged figure stands guard at the outer wall of a temple in Bali. Next, you'll see a Buddhist shrine in China.
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This Buddhist shrine in the Chinese village of Langmusi is adorned with stuffed animal bodies. Visitors to the shrine may direct their prayers toward the animal icons on display. Click ahead to see the façade of a Catholic shrine in Northern Italy.
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The Certosa di Pavia is known as the Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Grace. This 15th-century edifice in Lombardy, Northern Italy, also houses a monastery. Next, you'll see an Islamic shrine in Iraq.
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This is the Kadhimiya shrine in Bagdad, Iraq, in February 2005, with crowds in the foreground observing the rituals of Ashura -- a Shiite commemoration of the death of Hussein ibn Ali, who was an important figure in the history of Shia Islam. In the next photo, you'll see a Christian shrine in an urban neighborhood.
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Not all shrines are built or tended by holy orders. Throughout many parts of the world, it's not unusual for people to keep small shrines within their homes, yards and neighborhood commons. This small, urban shrine in Warsaw, Poland, is decorated with flowers and other tokens of veneration from local Catholics. See another urban shrine in the next photo.
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Taoism is a traditional Eastern religion that is believed to have several hundred million followers today. This Taoist shrine is located in Hanoi Old Town, Vietnam. Click ahead to see a shrine that is threatened by violence.
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In Lahore, Pakistan, Sufi Muslims gather to pray at the shrine of Hazrat Syed Ali bin Usman Hajweri, a revered saint of Sufi Islam. This shrine has been the victim of recent terrorist attacks, believed to have been carried out by rival religious groups who condemn Sufi as impure Islam. Shrine devotees must remain on guard as they worship.
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The Harmandir Sahib (The Abode of God) in Punjab, India, is the most sacred shrine of Sikhism. For Sikhs, it symbolizes freedom and spiritual independence. The gilded structure, often called the Golden Temple of Amritsar, is decorated with precious stones. Next you'll see a roving shrine in action.
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Shrine parishioners hold memorial torches to purify the path for portable shrines during Kumano Nachi Fire Festival in Nachikatsuura, Wakayama, Japan. The festival, held on July 14 every year, originated 1,500 years ago and attracts about 10,000 people. Read on for more pictures of portable shrines.
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These are the portable shrines carried by the crowd at the Nada No Kenka Matsuri, or Nada Fight Festival, at the Matsubara Hachiman Shrine on October 16, 2011 in Himeji, Hyogo, Japan. Part of the ritual is for participants to make the shrines "fight" by slamming them into each other. Next, you'll see a shrine festival in Thailand.
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This street procession took place on the last day of the Vegetarian Festival of 2011 around the Chinese shrine of Bang Neow in Phuket, Thailand. During the festival, participants restrict themselves to a vegetarian diet for 10 days for the purpose of spiritual purification. Next, you'll see an Islamic shrine in Kashmir.
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Many Kashmiri Muslims believe the Hazratbal shrine, shown above, houses a sacred relic: a single hair once belonging to the Prophet Muhammad. The shrine draws thousands of visitors every year for events such as the celebration of the prophet's birth. Click ahead to see a small Christian shrine in Bavaria.
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This humble wayside shrine, shown with a covered crucifix and a small bouquet of flowers, rests beside a scenic overlook in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Next, you'll see a shrine that supposedly contains the head of a prophet honored by more than one religion.
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This is the shrine of St. John the Baptist -- known to many Muslims as the prophet Yahya -- in the Great Mosque of Damascus, Syria. Ancient Arameans are believed to have come to this site to offer propitiations to a storm god named Hadad, but it has since then served as a Roman Temple of Jupiter, a Christian church and (most recently) a mosque. Supposedly, the severed head of Yahya is housed inside this domed shrine. Click ahead to see a Hindu temple in Indonesia.
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Priests carry offerings during a religious ceremony held in preparation for the Hindu Saka New Year celebration at Prambanan temple in Yogyakarta, Central Java, Indonesia. Built in 850 A.D., the temple is composed of eight main shrines and 250 smaller ones.
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