Initiatives to Promote Religious Tourism
Hotel Business Review|January - February 2020
India is a young nation. It also seems to be aspiring to be a modern nation in the post-modern age but it harbours an ancient but still thriving civilisation with its timeless ethos and values.
Jhuma Biswas

It is a country where the religious resonance is an integral part of our five millennia-old cultural legacy. There is no denying the fact that religion with its mythological hues is one of the major cementing forces behind the edifice of Indian civilisation. Most major religions of the world, such as Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, and Judaism are being enthusiastically practiced in the pluralistic cultural milieu of India. They are all embraced by India’s pluralistic cultural heritage.

What is more important is that even in the twenty-first century IT-powered India, which seems to be obsessed with cricket, Bollywood and social media, the influence of religion is very much evident among its teeming millions. This enduring influence of religion in our society is being often misused by cunning charlatans, fake godmen and opportunistic politicians, but there is no denying the fact that the influence of religion in India’s pluralistic socio-cultural environment has immense potential for India’s tourism and hospitality industry. In fact, religious tourism is one of the core strengths of the tourism industry of India.

Religious Resonance

From taking a dip in the holy Ganges of Varanasi at the break of the dawn, to feeling the mellifluous music of aarti rinse your soul as the twilight descends on the banks of Hardwar, from undertaking the arduous Amarnath Yatra to taking part in the Rath Yatra at Puri with lakhs of devotees; with loud chants of Lord Jagannath resonating through the air, from taking an introspective trip to the churches of Goa and feeling the soul of Christianity within your senses, to praying with a heart full of devotion at the Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, to feeling the ripples of middle-path spiritualism in the deep recesses of your heart at Bodh Gaya… to imbibing the apparent grandeur and latent serenity of Golden Temple at the same time… indeed, the religious tourism in India can take myriad montages, which are fascinating enough to form their respective niches in the memories of tourists for a lifetime.

Besides these destinations where one can find one’s inner self, India has religious events of epic proportions, where everything stops for a few days at the destination/s which are focal points of such events. These events are thronged by huge numbers of domestic and even a sizeable number of inbound tourists, and offer enormous potential for religious tourism.

The Kumbh Mela at Allahabad, Hardwar, Nashik and Ujjain, which takes place once in one of these four destinations after every twelve years, and the annual Rath Yatra at Puri present a simply fascinating collage of unforgettable experiences. Kumbh Mela is the largest religious gathering on this planet. Both these mega-events or rather larger than life religious gatherings are high points of collective devotion. They give a kaleidoscopic view of the seminal yet vibrant, transient yet unchanging cultural landscape of India, where all changes are absorbed in a calm stream of continuity, without disturbing the essential socio-cultural fabric.

Events and Festivities

Besides larger than life religious congregations like Kumbh Mela and Rath Yatra, India is a land of a wide spectrum of religious festivities, which have immense potential for India’s tourism and hospitality industry. The tourism and hospitality potential of India’s timeless festivities deserve to be harnessed by our hospitality industry in a much more creative way, which can garner more tourists and hence more revenues for the industry.

The Durga Puja celebration in Kolkata or rather through West Bengal deserves worth mention in this context. West Bengal with its amazing repertoire of pandals hosting Durga Puja (some of them with highly creative and innovative, topical and/or historical themes) is a place worth visiting during Durga Puja celebrations.

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