New Delhi, September 25, 2017 : A walk into the lanes of India will expose you to the religious multiplicity of the country. In every two blocks, you are certain to discover idolization of God, in almost all conceivable forms – a temple, a church, a mosque or a Gurudwara. And people from all faiths and walks of life are now flocking to the country to be a part of this mystical experience.
India : A Confluence of Diverse Cultures and Religions
One is bound of find millions of devotees from the southern part of India taking pilgrimage to religious centres in the north like Amarnath, Ayodhya, and Haridwar, while an equal number of north Indian’s visit holy shrines of Madurai, Rameshwaram and Tirupati down South.
Bodh Gaya in Bihar is the Mecca for Buddhists from around the world and witnesses multitudes of local and foreign travelers every year.
Along with Buddhist and Hindu shrines, India is also home to the Golden temple that hosts the entire Sikh diaspora, along with prominent places of interest for Christians and Muslims like the 15th century Goan cathedrals from the Portuguese era and the world-celebrated dargah of Moinudeen Chisti of Ajmer Shariff in Rajasthan.
Thus, thousands of national and international devotees travel across the country in a conquest of spiritual bliss.
Religion comprises a major binding attribute in India. Being the birthplace of four of the dominant religions practiced around the globe and the platform for the evolution and subsequent spread of Buddhist philosophies, India has now emerged as one of the greatest attractions for religious and spiritual tourism.
There is no doubt that Indians, irrespective of their faiths, thrive on religion. Additionally, there’s a natural curiosity in the Western world about different religious and spiritual history. It would not be wrong to say that we’re all looking for something; whether it is cultural exchange or religious or spiritual growth. This quest for answers about a larger understanding of life leads people on the path of spirituality. So is evident from the large troops of international tourists in traditional saffron kurtis and rudraksh rosary flocking the temples of Vrindavan and Varanasi, keeping up with the practices and rituals performed by equally enthusiastic locals.
5 Reasons Why Travelers Increasingly Choose India for A Spiritual Voyage
Wide confluence of cultures
In India, one is bound to find an assortment of people from all parts of the world, belonging to different faiths, cultures and traditions, treading on a common spiritual path of ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’ which means the entire world is one family.
Broadening your perspective
With meditation sessions in the morning and the evening, and comprehensive treks during the day, spiritual tourists can unravel and explore India’s rich culture and spiritual history. The spiritual tours present one with ample time to meditate and reflect on our own actions, while at the same time become one with nature and enjoy the tranquility in the surroundings.
As you visit the different spiritual centres of India, you are faced with exquisite Indian rituals that offer great learning experiences to the seekers of spiritual wisdom. The rituals bring to light the unity within the diverse traditions and cultures of India.
The multiple spiritual destinations of India present a range of historical relevance. Places like Haridwar, Varanasi, Madhurai, and Puri among others – every city offers its own intriguing tales, mythologies and legends to learn from.
From the mighty Himalayas to the scores of temples, churches, mosques and shrines – the spiritual retreats to different parts of India are immensely educational, each offering lessons on harmony, and spiritual clarity and maturity.
God resides in every nook and corner of India. Thus, with the consideration of innovation saturating into every sector, it was not long before the $40 billion religion and spirituality realm became a flourishing business domain.
Advancing Spiritual Tourism in India
Advancement in technology created a thriving space in India for start-ups that operate with a specific purpose to make everything available to people within the comforts of their home- be it booking tickets or ordering food.
In this age of technology, mobile apps for e-darshan (e-worship) have been popular for a long while. However, these right-at-your-doorstep services still fail to largely replace the charm and faith reposed in the practice of visiting various spiritual places in person.
This is where spiritual tourism comes into play – A lucrative business that aids travel agents in making bucks by designing elaborate and exclusive tour packages.
According to a report published in Economic Times, it was revealed that over 53% people were interested to opt for a pilgrimage if the package was provided by a recognized tour operator.
“Indians are increasingly seeking a pre-organized, pre-planned and comfortable spiritual experience” -Vishal Suri, managing director SOTC travel, the first travel service provider to provide 40 specially-curated itineraries to map 60 different religious attractions in India.
This trend of religious and spiritual tourism has also been observed by international hotel chains like Hyatt hotels and resorts and the Hilton group, that are now undertaking projects to map spiritual destinations as they come on global radar.
Reflecting on the persisting movement, the Central government is also undertaking measures to bring India to the centre of theology. This will be reflected in the ‘Incredible India 2.0 campaign’– the government’s marketing initiative to promote India as an ideal destination for global spiritual audiences.
The ‘Incredible India 2.0 campaign’, set to be launched formally on September 27 to mark the World Tourism Day, aims to highlight India’s spirituality and wellness traditions.
Rishikesh, for instance, along with offering ‘adhyatm’ (self study) to the tourists will also allow them to enroll for traditional wellness programmes. Similarly, Kerala will also establish itself as the seat of ancient ayurvedic healing systems, along with promotions of its natural beauty and ornamental temples.
The global tourism industry has been witnessing a revolution for over 30 years now. Terms such as eco tourism, responsible tourism, and even volun-tourism have become common trends and become a part of common usage now.
The emerging trend of spiritual tourism is largely being cited as the fastest growing sector in the whole tourism business.
According to statistics by the National Tour Association, faith-based travel comprises a $100 billion worldwide industry, with religious destinations hosting about 330 million visitors annually.
Spiritual tourism is a trend spiraling upwards, so much so that it is increasingly being taken up not just by state tourism authorities but also governments and even the United Nations!
The UNWTO, United Nations’ agency responsible for global tourism-recognized the growing importance of spiritual tourism as it convened the 1st International Conference on Spiritual Tourism for Sustainable Development in Vietnam.
Setbacks for Spiritual Tourism in India
While India hosts the holy shrines of a variety of faiths and religions, the picture is not as rosy as it appears.
The major religious destinations in India are infamous for lack of hygiene, money-mongering, lack of basic infrastructure for food, medicine, accommodation, transport, and road, etc. These entire factors together hinder the states from exercising the ultimate potential of the religious and spiritual destinations.
This can only be achieved if special emphasis is placed on the development of infrastructure, awareness, education, and training.
Also called upon are efforts on behalf of the state and Centre governments to indulge in aggressive PR and branding exercise, reaching out to travelers and make these destinations more travel-friendly.
With both of these agendas on the mind of the government, the tourism landscape can be expected to undergo radicalization.
What remains to be seen is if India, the land where people from all across the world are seen to participate in spiritual tourism, for getting inner peace and attaining moksha, emerges as the seat of spiritual tourism.