Pilgrimpace's Blog

pilgrim numbers
November 28, 2011, 11:14 am
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The Green Pilgrimage Network site gives the following information about pilgrim numbers.  

I find this fascinating, not least to see how low down the list Santiago is.  I would assume that most pilgrims in this list, unlike Santiago, travel for religious reasons.  There is also an interesting train of thought about how people travel to their destination; presumably most people fly or use train or coach.  How many walk or cycle (bearing in mind very few walking to Santiago have walked from home to their starting point)?

Pilgrim numbers


More than 100 million people go on pilgrimage every year – sometimes for hours, sometimes for days, and some leave home for many months. Here are some figures.

• 20 million pilgrims – Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe (Christian)

• 13 million pilgrims – Amritsar (Sikh)

• 10 million pilgrims – Kumbh Mela (takes place every three years, with some festivals attracting 10 million and others 50, 60 or 70 million – see below for notes) (Hindu)

• 8 million pilgrims – Lourdes (Christian)

• 8 million visitors – Brazil, Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida (Christian)

• 8 million pilgrims – Western Wall in 2009 (Jewish)

• 5 Million pilgrims – Dwarka (Hindu)

• 4-5 million pilgrims – Portugal, Fátima (Christian)

• 2 to 3 million pilgrims – Hajj (Islam) (including 1.8 million from overseas)

• 2.1 million pilgrims – Wutai Shan (Daoist)

• 1.7 million – World Youth Day (Roman Catholic), 4 million pilgrims every two to three years

• 1 million pilgrims – Varanasi (Hindu)

• 1.5 million pilgrims to the Qadiriyyah shrine in Kano

• Over 500,000 pilgrims – Taishan (Daoist)

• 500,000 pilgrims – Vrindavan, Braj (Hindu)

• Over 0.3 million pilgrims – Hua Shan (Daoist)

• Around 0.3 million pilgrims – Oingcheng Shan (Daoist)

• 250,000 pilgrims – Emei Shan (Daoist)

• 250,000 pilgrims – Iona (Christian)

• 250,000 pilgrims – Taize (Christian)

• 200,000 pilgrims – Santiago de Compostelo (Christian)

• 100,000 pilgrims – St Bishoy Monastery, Wadi El Natroun (Coptic Christian)

• 100,000 pilgrims – Walsingham Shrine of Our Lady (Christian)

• 43,000 (roughly) pilgrims – Lumbhini (Buddhist)

• 20-25,000 pilgrims – Etchmiadzin (Armenian Apostolic Christian)

• 8,000 pilgrims – Lough Derg (Roman Catholic)


There are around 90 million pilgrimages a year to these 25 destinations alone.


To reach the 100 million we calculated a modest extra 10 percent to account for all other pilgrimages (including short day visits to shrines and pilgrim places all around the world including Africa, Spanish-speaking Latin America, Russia, Greece, many Indian shrines and Australia). We believe the total figure to be substantially higher.

Calculating numbers for the Kumbh Mela is complicated. The normal Kumbh Mela is celebrated every three years, the Ardh (half) Kumbh Mela is celebrated every six years at Haridwar and Prayag, the Maha (complete) Kumbh takes place every 12 years at four places (Prayag (Allahabad), Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nashik).

The special Maha Kumbh Mela which comes every 144 years, is held at Allahabad. The most recent Maha Kumbh Mela, held in 2001, was one of these, and was attended by around 60 million people, making it at the time the largest gathering anywhere in the world in recorded history.

The 1998 Kumbh Mela saw over 10 million pilgrims visiting Hardwar, to take a dip in the holy Ganges river. So we calculated that every three and nine years there are up to 10 million, then every six and 12 years there are up to 50 million. Adding to 120 million every 12 years means average 10 million a year.


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