The Rama and Krishna circuits may undermine the sanctity of holy sites

Questions about whether the Ayodhya and Dwarka of today exist on the precise spot that they did in ancient times raise doubts about the duplication

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Image Source :indiapilgrimagetours.blogspot.com
  • The Centre has approved projects worth Rs 300 crore for the development of these circuits in UP alone
  • Questions about whether the Ayodhya and Dwarka of today exist on the precise spot that they did in ancient times raise doubts about the duplication
  • The challenges faced by the committee are many as they have to create one template for all pilgrims even though there are myths and counter-myths

The Ministry of Culture has set up two national committees for the Rama and Krishna circuits. Religious leaders, spiritual gurus, and educationists associated with RSS-backed organisations have been asked to come together to advise the government on developing the two circuits as “Religious tourism” destinations.

The committee formed would devise ways to encourage tourism by identifying theme-based pilgrimage circuits along India’s age-old religious sites associated with Ram and Krishna. The two religious circuits are to map all the major sites associated with the two deities and develop them as religious tourism destinations. It is expected that this initiative would definitely influence the vote bank ahead of the polls.

The Ramayana circuit is expected to stretch from Nepal to Rameshwaram and Sri Lanka. The Krishna circuit will move from Mathura to Dwarka at one end and to Arunachal Pradesh on the other, sources said. The UP government has also been asked to send in proposals.

The Centre has approved projects worth Rs 300 crore for the development of these circuits in UP alone.

The committee had to narrow down many tirthas, or religious sites as the lives of both Ram and Krishna in their human avatars, were marked by constant mobility. On June 14, the committee proposed 11 sites across six states for what is being called the Ramayana circuit: Ayodhya, Nandigram, Shringhverpur and Chitrakoot in Uttar Pradesh; Sitamarhi, Buxar and Darbhanga in Bihar; Jagdalpur in Chattisgarh; Bhadrachalam in Telangana; Hampi in Karnataka; and Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu. Under the Krishna circuit, they proposed Dwarka in Gujarat; Nathdwara, Jaipur and Sikar in Rajasthan; Kurukshetra in Haryana, Mathura, Vrindavan, Gokul, Barsana, Nandgaon and Govardhan in Uttar Pradesh and Puri in Odisha, says the Scroll.in report.

Questions about whether the Ayodhya and Dwarka of today exist on the precise spot that they did in ancient times raise doubts about the duplication of these sacred places.

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Ram Paidi ghat in Ayodhya. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons
Ram Paidi ghat in Ayodhya. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons

“The pilgrims” India, writes Diana Eck in her book ‘India: A Sacred Geography’, “ is a vividly imagined landscape… created by linking, by duplication, and multiplication of places so as to constitute an entire world.”

Some interpretations put pilgrims to be beyond the boundaries of an actual physical presence as the Mahabharata, says, they can be in the mind. Tuladhar says to Jajali: “O Jajali, all rivers are holy, all hills are pure, and the human soul is the true tirtha. It is therefore senseless to undertake pilgrimages and become guests in alien lands.”

Revered gurus such as Gorakhnath and Kabir, also voiced their opinion on going on long and elaborate pilgrimages and bathing in holy rivers to cleanse one’s soul, says Scroll.in.“Ganga na jaoon ji, main Jamuna na jaoon ji main na koi teerath nhaoonji !” – I shall not go to the Ganges, or the Yamuna, neither will I bathe in the holy waters at a tirth – Goraknath has famously proclaimed.

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The challenges faced by the committee are many as they have to create one template for all pilgrims even though there are myths and counter-myths, multiple interpretations of religious lore and multiple versions of Ram and Krishna’s story.

Preparing a calendar of events for the guided tours of Ramayana and Krishna circuits is sure to create issues given that there are so many events to choose from.

To create a specific and centralised tourism patterns in this sacred landscape without destroying the broad spiritual margin is indeed a herculean task. It is also needs to be  ascertained whether the identification of these cities by the committees was not driven by political dimensions. After the conflagrations over Ram and Krishna Janmbhoomi that rocked the state in the 1990s and unleashed horrific communal violence in several parts of India, killing thousands, the government needs to ensure that lands claimed by religions are not used for political mileage.

– prepared by Ajay Krishna, an intern at NewsGram.

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  • Aparna Gupta

    Some people believe that these circuits may undermine the faith of these holy sites. The need is to reconsider on these.

  • AJ Krish

    Where people arrive at large numbers, business flourishes. Whether they are pilgrimages or tourist spots, people open up stores to cater to the needs of the visitors. I don’t see any fault with commercializing pilgrim centers.

  • Aparna Gupta

    Some people believe that these circuits may undermine the faith of these holy sites. The need is to reconsider on these.

  • AJ Krish

    Where people arrive at large numbers, business flourishes. Whether they are pilgrimages or tourist spots, people open up stores to cater to the needs of the visitors. I don’t see any fault with commercializing pilgrim centers.