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Can India Emerge As The Global Seat of Spiritual Tourism?

A walk into the lanes of India will expose you to the religious multiplicity of the country. And people from all faiths and walks of life are now flocking to the country to be a part of this mystical experience

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Religion comprises a major binding attribute in India. Pixabay
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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.

spiritual tourism
India has emerged as one of the greatest attractions for religious and spiritual tourism. Pixabay

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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Remarkable rituals

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.

  1. Intriguing history

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.

  1. Highly educating

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.

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“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 READ These 5 Ancient Temples are Believed to be the Oldest in India

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.

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Thanksgiving Day Across the World

Thanksgiving Day is celebrated across the world and for each country, it has its own tale and tradition around food and days.

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Thanksgiving Day celebrations
Happy Thanksgiving Day, Wikimedia Commons

Thanksgiving Day. The name stands for itself as the day to give thanks and is celebrated as a national holiday in many countries like United States of America, Canada, Netherlands, Philippines, Grenada, Liberia while similarly named festival exists in Germany, Japan, and United Kingdom.
Thanksgiving holiday remains a day to give thanks at the close of the harvest season.

America
The official date for the American Thanksgiving that exists today was set by President Roosevelt to be on the fourth Thursday in November instead of the last Thursday in November as decided by President Lincoln as thanksgiving date.
But their thanksgiving is surrounded by a debate over the nation’s first celebrations and the two places embroiled in this debate are New England and Virginia as both the places provide certain proofs of being the spot for nation’s first celebrations for Thanksgiving.

Canada
Canadian Thanksgiving tradition is celebrated in the true spirit of giving thanks at the close of the harvest season. It is believed that due to the geographical differences from the USA, Canada’s Thanksgiving arrives on the second Monday in October as that is the close of their harvest season.

But in countries like Liberia, Netherlands, and Grenada, it is not just a day to give thanks at the close of the harvest season.

Liberia
In Liberia, Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated to mark the freedom from black slavery by the U.S.A. The Thanksgiving day’s date remains on the first Thursday of November and has been a tradition since 1820.

Netherlands
Netherlands celebrate thanksgiving to mark to commemorate the Pilgrims who had migrated and became residents of the city of Leiden and died at Pieterskerk. To commemorate the hospitality, the thanksgiving, a non-denominational Thanksgiving Day is celebrated as the same as American Thanksgiving Day’s morning.

But there are some countries like the Philippines where the tradition of Thanksgiving only arrived with the Americans due to it being an American colony in the early 20th century but the tradition of Thanksgiving there had seemed to die down.

Food:
The American Thanksgiving seems to dominate the Thanksgiving menu when it comes to this holiday. Their famous turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, pies, mashed potatoes, and yams are signature dishes related to this day.

Black Friday:
Not only food, American Thanksgiving has also made Black Friday, an informal day following the Thanksgiving Day to mark the beginning of their country’s Christmas season sales and it has been in the history books since 1952 such that it has become a tradition of its own now.

Thanksgiving Day remains an occasion for many families to get back together and celebrate this holiday in the spirit of one while giving the rise to the excitement of upcoming Christmas also which remains barely a month away from Thanksgiving day.

Samridhi Nain is a student of Philosophy (Hons.) from University of Delhi.