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Spiritual Tourism: The Tradition of Yatra & Temples in India

पर्यटन् पृथिवीं सर्वां, गुणान्वेषणतत्परः – Panchatantra
जो गुणों की खोज में तत्पर हैं, वे लोग सारी पृथ्वी घुमते हैं ।
Those who wish to seek virtues travel the entire world.

India has valued Spiritual Tourism in the form of ‘Tirth Yatra’ and its experienced since decades. According to the Textual scholars, the earliest reference to Hindu pilgrimage is in the Rigveda (c.1500 BCE),in which the ‘wanderer’ is praised. Later texts, including the epic Mahabharata (c300 BCE-300CE) and Ved-Purans, elaborated on the capacities of particular scared sites to grant boons like health, prosperity, progeny and salvation after death. Spiritual tourism is one of the most potential sectors of the Indian tourism industry, that can attract millions of foreigners from all over the world every year, although it is the single largest category in domestic tourism which is a fragmented and a yet to be tapped opportunity. India can become a hub for spiritual tourism owing to its large diversity in religion and spiritual practices. Around sixty percentage of the domestic tourism is based on religion in India. Spiritual tourism is soaring steadily now-a-days in India with the native young population too being drawn to the industry. There are efforts being taken on full swing by the government to support this trending growth by allocating special funds for infrastructure development around the religious places. A recent report from the Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) stated that the travel and tourism sector is expected to increase by two folds in the coming eight years.

“The one who is not at home, he is wandering outside. Similarly, the one is not in the worldly life he is wandering around the religion.” – Dada Bhagwan

Spiritual Tourism can be defined as a journey rather than a tour, by a pilgrim or a tourist to achieve their personal transformation and self-discovery. It is a concept of self actualization and personal well being. The word ‘spirituality’ has its roots from the Latin word ‘spiritus’ which means ‘breath of life’, related to spiritual practices of God. Very often the concepts of spirituality and religion are confused with its contrasting perception and overlapping similarities. Both pilgrimage and spiritual tourism are often used in unison. Both are forms of travel, one seeking to attain religious peace and the other seeking for self actualization. Both may often indulge in the same kind of activities and confusingly for the very same reasons.

Literature Review

Emergence and Importance of spiritual tourism in different parts of India
India is known for its histories, mysteries, saints and spirituality. Since the early ages of the Indian History, spiritual places were considered as schools to teach values and insights on how to live a peaceful life. Now at this age of modern era, people are living in a fast moving world and they desperately seek for some relaxation to get rid of their lifestyle problems and the stress involved. The Indian way of Spirituality is now gained attention all over the world and people have started to visit these places to know about its mysteries, stories and also to learn its truth on a wider and a novel perspective. People started to seek for real and authentic spiritual experiences. So this has found a major emergence in the field of tourism with its lot of unknown sides. In India we can find temples at each and every place of the nation and they each have a unique way in terms of architecture and model, each being more or less equally significant in terms of its history. So not only to preserve and show our spiritual culture this spiritual tourism will also help us to reveal our culture that is dated back to centuries ago. The emergence and its importance is cautiously taken care with different improvements to eepresent our values with pride.

Source: Google

“Pilgrimage is the powerful metaphor of any journey with purpose of finding something that matters deeply to the traveler”Phil Cousineau

Objectives of Spiritual Tourism

The main objectives of the spiritual tourism are :
• Through foreigners visiting our temples and ashramas, we can study the motive and understand spirituality.
• To comprehend the experiences of foreign tourists who are visiting in India.
• The main motto of spiritual tourism is to spread awareness.
• By doing so, we get to know more about their socio-cultural practices and their sustainability.
• It can be helpful for self transformation and self enrichment.
• To know about the history of temples and their cultures.
• To develop positive attitudes.
• It promotes peace and harmony.
• To get answers to our life, it defines the purpose of life.
• It improves the physical and the mental health.
• To develop spiritual knowledge and attain wisdom.
• It helps for our personal growth and welfare.
• It enhances some love and affection in our behaviour.
• It helps us to concentrate and have clear views about life.
• It helps to improve our social organization skills.

Role of Spiritual Tourism on Indian economy

India is categorized under the most desired places for spiritual tourism around the world and it helps foreigners understand and experience the blend of different types of culture. Indian tourism industry is growing at higher pace in terms of growth in the number of tourists and in terms of revenue and is increasing exponentially year after year. Travel and tourism sector accounts for 5% of employment population. The one thing that makes India unique as compared to other countries lies in its rich culture, history, beauty and over 50 religion, 3 million gods, goddess, monuments and 845 languages is prevalent in India and India holds 26th position in the world in case of tourists arrival in 2017 that constitutes about 1.15% of the world’s share and earning US$ 27.31 billion which is 2.05% of the world share with annual group of 19.1% and with this exponential growth, India is paving the way to open more employment opportunities in the coming future.
Spiritual tourism will also act as a stress buster as people will get more time to know about themselves rather than caring about materialistic things which will emerge as increasing aspect in the spiritual health of a tourist. As per Travel and tourism economic impact 2018 report by World travel and tourism council, tourism sector is contributing to 9.4% of India’s GDP with 313 million jobs. There are still various factors that hinders the growth of tourism sector which are the infrastructure facilities, access and connectivity, transgression of carrying capacity, lack of skilled manpower, security and safety. These factors are of utmost importance for any tourist while visiting a place or a county. Moreover, infrastructure is one of the key factors that will boost India in its overall development. All these developments, in order to streamline the problems faced by tourists, have to be constructed by maintaining ecological balance with the environment and appropriate measures should be taken to provide proper connectivity for the tourists while visiting any famous destination or pilgrimage. Tourism industry plays a important key element while measuring soft power of a nature. Stronger will be the tourism industry bond, if higher is the soft power.

Economic Beneficiaries of Spiritual Tourism

Spiritual tourism is definitely something which makes people attain peace and spiritualism but it is also a great way to provide employment. The people who host this are the ultimate beneficiaries of what can be derive from such type of tourism , but it should not be in a way to just derive profit from the tourist but also to provide them with full facilities along the way.
For example: In Kedarnath which is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in India, a lot people have carved out employment from it, which can be seen as providing rooms or cottages for people to stay. In a place like Kedarnath, accessibility is difficult because there are no proper commutable ways, so ‘pithoo’ or people with mule is a way by which people travel the steep slopes, is also a way to generate employment.
Spiritual tourism has eventually helped in changing the whole demography of the area. People tend to think of generating money in relation to the pilgrim site present .Opening up of stores where they can sell things related to worship like flowers, candles etc. Tourists guides can also be employed in these areas especially for tourists from abroad visiting these places.
Temples like Shirdi ,Vaishnodevi, Tirupati Balaji etc., also receive a very huge amount of devotee donation and most of the temples use this money in well deserved places like charity and orphanages , but still there is somewhat corruption in these holy places too and the corrupted people are just working to convert the black money to White and this needs to be outlawed strictly.
Ultimately the real economic beneficiaries should be the poor people who are providing various great services to the tourists keeping in mind that the tourists should not be robbed and eventually maintaining a good image of the site .

Source: google


Marketing strategies to boost spiritual tourism
In the recent times, people’s preference towards spiritual tourism tremendously increased. Besides following the religious beliefs, they want to undertake training session on spirituality and peace. Spiritual tourism preserves the ancient culture, religion and heritage of the monks. It also provides employment opportunities to the people. As the technology scales up there is huge demand for marketing of spiritual tourism. To enhance competitive stability , AIDA (Attention Interest Desire Action)model can be adopted in marketing. The foremost thing is magnetizing the attention of tourist to the desire destination. Depiction of ancient idols and scripts can instill curiosity. Earlier, the interest was created with large number of people drawn to the place by captivating deals on promotions.

The marketing strategy for spiritual tourism should take 7 P’s into consideration:

• Product: Hospitality, transportation and food creates a memory as this tourism is an intangible service
experienced the people. Events with respect to ancient classical dance, music concerts should be conducted frequently with good ambience and soothing traditional cuisines. Based on the people the services should be delivered
• Price: The package of services must be affordable to people of all hierarchies. Non-monetary cost such as time must also must be taken into consideration.
• Place: Construction of dwelling place nearby Airport and Railway stations with appropriate tourist office for further guidance to ritual places.
• Promotion: Print media displaying magazines of different languages, blog creation, mobile applications,
multimedia delivery which is specific to consumer location, QR code etc.
• People: Multilingual guide as the traveler are comfortable with native language which provides them with the feeling of being home in different places.
• Process: Simple and well explained procedure for booking. Reviews and suggestions helps to improve the service.
• Physical evidence: The expectation of the place by the people must be satisfied by analysing their preferences.

Source: Google

Impact of Spiritual Tourism on India

Spiritual Tourism is imperative in facilitating the development of infrastructural facilities, generation of employment, higher incomes for nations, and promotion of peace and socio-cultural harmony. However, spiritual tourism requires regulation to ensure that the negative effects such as increment in carrying capacity, garbage, pollution, etc., are controlled.

Positive Impacts

  1. Development of Infrastructural Facilities: Spiritual Tourism facilitates the development of the region in terms of infrastructural facilities such as roads, water supplies, buildings, power, etc. The spiritual places in India are mostly in rural areas, which will become developed areas, as industries come there to cater to the tourists.
  2. Economic Development of Nation and Community: It creates job opportunities for the people of the community, along with creating of new firms employed in different activities serving the tourists directly or indirectly. It also attracts investments and increases the income of the people. Tourist spending is spread to different sectors causing a multiplier effect.
  3. Fosters Peace and Harmony: Spiritual Tourism inculcates positive interaction between people from different countries on the common ground of religion. This promotes harmony among the countries.
  4. Regional Development: It balances the regional development strategies of a community by way of the umbrella effect, which is that due to the growth of the spiritual tourism industry, the development strategies are also in equilibrium and there is sustainability in operations.

Negative Impacts

  1. Increment in Carrying Capacity: The religious centres in India suffer from a high seasonal influx of
    tourists, which completely changes the dynamics of the region. It also puts serious pressure on the transport
  2. Waste Management: As the number of spiritual tourists increases in a particular region, the waste generated by that region also increases, which puts stress on proper waste disposal and management.
  3. Air Pollution: The increase in air pollution is also an indirect result of the increase in the volume of the tourists as it causes an increase in vehicles, trains, industries, etc.
  4. Monetizing Religion: In the wake of Spiritual Tourism, the host community becomes increasingly profit driven to develop and grab all the niches. This gives rise to the ethical issue of monetization of religion.
  5. Lack of Scrutiny of Religious Trusts: There is a lack of government regulations to scrutinize the religious trusts to alleviate the global fears of money laundering to finance terrorist activities. This is especially a concern in India as the religious trust in India are one of the largest.

Effect Of the Pandemic (Covid-19) On Spiritual Tourism Business

• The supervisory directions on mass assemblage being issued over states, identification of a COVID-19 case in Amritsar, closure of the Tirupati Balaji, Vaishno Devi & Shirdi Sai Baba temples, and the calling off prayers at the baba Imambada in Lucknow.
• The rescission of the annual Kanwar Fair and the Char Dham Yatra cramped only to pilgrims from the state have extremely hit the daily bread related to religious tourism and the hospitality sector in Uttarakhand. The Char Dham Yatra last season gave rise to over Rs 1,100 crore with a record 36 lakh devotees exploring Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri but it is drawn flat this year, according to the Haridwar Vpyaar Mandal District President Suresh Gualti.
• Hotels, ashrams, guest houses and dhramashala in the shrine town of Rishikesh & Haridwar used to be packed at this period of the year because of Kanwariyas (Shiv devotees) and the heavy arrival of pilgrims on the way to the eminent Himalayan temple.
• The mandatory affixation to Covid- 19 protocol like social distancing, wearing of masks and the ban on
touching the idols, entering the sanctum sanctorum of the temples, dispersal of Prasad and striking the bells have also diminished the eagerness of pilgrims though some owners are selflessly welcoming the pilgrims back.
• The money that pilgrims bring is vital for the Indian economy, but business owners are also concerned as the pilgrims may carry the coronavirus to Haridwar.
• Adding to it, The Vaishno Devi Yatra held at the Jammu & Kashmir every year brings at least 8 million people to the temple, making the second most visited religious place in India after Tirumala Venkateshwra Temple. This year there is a huge decline in the volume of pilgrimage in the place which accounts for a great loss in the spiritual tourism and also to the people having their livelihoods dependent on the industry


Spiritual Tourism has been popular since the 20th century, facilitated by ever–improving facilities included in it like transportation, logistics, etc. In year 2001, the ‘Kumbh Mela’ a six week period in Allahabad was well planned and attended by millions of pilgrims. The treasure of our Great Indian ‘teerth yatra’ and temples is limitless in terms of auspiciousness attached with it. Well crafted marketing strategy will make wonders for improving its cliental and resulting into granting employment to local artisans and surrounding village people. The temples are the feeder of hundreds of family of the place where yatra is done so careful planning will result into creating a new market attracting out of India clients as they have nothing which comes under the category of pilgrimage so abundant opportunities are there unexplored and untapped just bit of improvising will make it all over a new industry in itself.

Source: Google

Bhoo Pradakshina Shatkena Kassi Yatrayutenacha Sethu snana satairyutcha TatPhalam Maatru Vandne.
Circumambulating the earth for six times; going on a pilgrimage to Kaasi i.e, Varanasi, bathing in the ocean for hundred times – are equal to putting ‘Namaskaram’ i.e greeting the mother for one time.



Dr. Anamika Upadhyaya

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