Religious tourism, also commonly referred to as faith tourism, is a form of tourism, whereby people of faith travel individually or in groups for pilgrimage, missionary, or leisure (fellowship) purposes. Religious tourism has a big future in India. India is richly endowed with ancient temples and religious festivals. Religions originating in India, be it Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism or Buddhism, have a vibrant culture and spiritual philosophy. Together, they present a viable, alternative way of life as compared to the materialism and confrontation prevalent in the West. The religions of Indian origin are also proving to be an attraction to many persons of non-Indian origin because these religions advocate a pacifist and inclusive approach to life. This is evident from the posts that can be read on the numerous blog sites devoted to religion. And there can be no better way to introduce these aspirants to Indian religions than to entice them to come to India and undertake and experience religious tourism themselves
India has long been known as a very spiritual, religious heavy area of the world. In India, religion is a way of life. It is an integral part of the entire Indian tradition. For the majority of Indians, religion permeates every aspect of life, from common-place daily chores to education and politics. Secular India is home to Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and other innumerable religious traditions. Hinduism is the dominant faith, practiced by over 80% of the population. Besides Hindus, Muslims are the most prominent religious group and are an integral part of Indian society. Common practices have crept into most religious faiths in India and many of the festivals that mark each year with music, dance and feasting are shared by all communities.
PROMINENT RELIGIONS IN INDIA
PROMINENT RELIGIOUS SPOTS IN INDIA
- Vaishno Devi
- Ajmer Sharif
- Tirupati Balaji
- Badinath & Kedarnath
RELIGIOUS TOURISM COMPRISES MANY FACETS OF THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY
- Missionary travel
- Leisure (fellowship) vacations
- Faith-based cruising
- Crusades, conventions and rallies
- Monastery visits and guest-stays
- Faith-based camps
INDIANS KEEP THE FAITH: RELIGIOUS TOURISM BOOMS IN INDIA
A study by the Delhi based National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) shows that of the 230 million tourist trips undertaken in India; the largest proportion is made up of religious pilgrimages. Such journeys, which are undertaken by both rural and urban Indians, outnumber leisure holidays in hill stations, getaways to sea beaches and even trips to metropolitan cities. The research also shows that of all the package tours organized in India, religious trips accounted for 50 percent, much higher than leisure tour packages at 28 percent.
For instance, as many as 23 million people visited Tirupati, a temple town near the southern tip of India to catch a glimpse of a deity known as Lord Balaji. Tirupati’s annual list of pilgrims is higher than the total number of travelers visiting Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata put together. To manage such a large number of people, infrastructure has been beefed up by religious trusts, state governments, private chains and the central government.
RELIGIOUS TOURISM- INDIA’S VERY UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION
Thousands of kilometers from Tirupati, in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir 17.2 million devotees trek uphill for 15 km to pay respects to a female goddess called Vaishno Devi. For their benefit, Indian Railways Tourism Corporation runs a special package tour, while India’s only helicopter ferry service, Pawan Hans, runs a helicopter service right upto the temple. A few hundred kilo-meters up, another 1.5 million brave biting cold and ardous pony rides to visit Kedarnath and Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri, four shrines nestled high up in the Himalayas—and known as the Four Pillars of Hinduism. Today, efforts are made to make the tripeasier. The local government of Uttaranchal, the state was the four shrines are located, has drawn up a master plan of US $47 million for the development of infrastructure at the Four Pillars pilgrimage.
Another 18.2 million pilgrims traveled to Puri, a temple town on the eastern coast. To facilitate easy access to this pilgrim hot spot, the Orissa government has upgraded all the access roads. Since Hinduism is India’s dominant religion, it isn’t surprising that an overwhelming number of religious travelers are Hindus. But India’s minority communities are also showing a keenness for religious and spiritual travel. Last year, the tomb of Moinuddin Chisti, which is considered one of the holiest Islamic shrines in the country, had 8.2 million visitors. Similarly, the Golden Temple in Amritsar – the nerve centre of the Sikh religion had 7.22 million pilgrims. The managements of these pilgrim spots have also taken the initiative to become more pilgrims friendly—the Golden Temple management committee now even accepts online bookings to stay at the temple complex.
THE BUDDHIST TOUCH
For a number of foreigners, of course, especially those from across Asia, India is the land of Buddha – land that spreads over modern day Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in north India. Buddhist pilgrims from Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Sri Lanka and recently, China throng these two states at any point of time in the year. They visit the banyan tree at Bodh-gaya under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. They visit Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first sermon, and Kushinagar where he attained salvation. The ruins of Nalanda, where Buddha taught, and Vaishali, where he preached his last sermon are also considered key hubs of the Buddhist pilgrim circuit.
There are no official statistics on the number of foreign Buddhist pilgrims visiting India, but industry sources believe that more than 2 million Buddhist pilgrims have been visiting India every year, considering that 84per cent of Japan’s population is Buddhist; 95 per cent of Thailand is Buddhist; 47 per cent of Korea is Buddhist and with Buddhism being the dominating religion in China, there is clear evidence many people from the People’s Republic would like to visit India.
STUDY BY NCAER
A study by the Delhi based National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) shows that of the230million tourist trips undertaken in India, the largest proportion is made up of religious pilgrimage
THE DATA QUOTED IN THE PREVIOUS SLIDE HAS TOURIST FROM THE FOLLOWING
Rural India 169 Million
Urban India 61 Million
FUTURE OF RELIGIOUS TOURISM IN INDIA
The international tourism market is no longer about “one shoe fitting all.” It is divided into specialized segments ranging from shopping to adventure sports and from animal safaris to nightlife. Religious tourism has a big future in India. India is richly endowed with ancient temples and religious festivals. Religions originating in India, be it Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism or Buddhism, have a vibrant culture and spiritual philosophy. Together, they present a viable, alternative way of life as compared to the materialism and confrontation prevalent in the West. There is are vival of religious attitudes not only in India but the world over. The second and third generations of the Indian Diaspora are actively seeking out their roots in religion. The religions of Indian origin are also proving to be an attraction to many persons of non-Indian origin because these religions advocate a pacifist and inclusive approach to life. As religious tourism has picked up in the country, the traditional destinations have become popular with developers and builders. Given the crowds that these places attract, it pays to invest here. We have consistently seen about 15-20% annual rise in demand for such properties over the past five years or so the places traditionally of interest to buyers include Shirdi, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Vrindavan. Prices at these locations vary depending on the economic activity. Rates will be higher in places of religious interest if these locations also have other market drivers to push up values.