Religious tourism is defined as the travels of people with a major motive of experiencing forms of religion, or the products, which they induce, such as, culture, architecture, art, and traditions (Gheorghe 2014). India is one of the world most ancient civilizations. It has also been in contact with nearly all the major worlds religions, even though currently, India is dominated by Hinduism. Religions, such as Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam have as well influenced a good number of people, and also niche religions like Vaishnavism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Jewism, which grew as an offshoot or as a possible outgrowth of the main religious schools of thought to promote greater domestic travelling, which increased over the last few years and thus benefiting the local people as well as economy (Stausberg 2011).
Perspective of Indian Religious Tourism
In the current society, forces of modernization have resulted in top religion change in a manner that it has long lost its social meaning making belief or having faith in God a personal rather than obligatory communal option. Even though it has been observed that the attendances in churches have been decreasing as a result of factors like aging memberships of various religious orders, the religious itineraries and destinations have witnessed an extraordinary massification in a continuously rising number of visitors (Passariello 2012). Thus, tourism has had a key contribution since it caused religious itineraries and destinations to become internationalized, due to online information, group excursions, and lower transport cost. Although religious tourism used to be a large domestic phenomenon, it today attracts different nationalities as well as various types of believers. Such developments have allowed pilgrimage routes and religious destinations to retain the prominent character that they relished in the past; nevertheless, this is no longer on the basis of religious motives but in touristic and secular purposes (Bhardwaj 1983). Thus, the religious itineraries and destinations have acquired great merit as tourist products to which various authorities dedicate their full attention to. Additionally, it allows improvements and comes with substantial benefits for the local people or communities.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) describes religious tourism as one of the seven forms of tourism driven by the motivations of the tourist, including three major forms of religious tourism with regard to their dimension as well as the destination where they are practiced. Those three forms of religious tourism include spiritual and religious gatherings, pilgrimages at destinations or places whose activity has mainly become touristic, and itineraries and routes, which lead to religious places or to pilgrimage sites, sanctuaries and monuments through territories or rural spaces that are experiencing a revival or are consolidating themselves (Raj and Kevin 2015).
The religious tourism concept has been further explained by various scholars. Rinschede (1992) argues that religious tourism like pilgrimages and other religious itineraries are entwined to other forms of tourism, perhaps more tightly today than it used to be and religious tourism is more closely associated with cultural and holiday tourism (Rinschede 1992). Even though the difference between the two forms can be clear, religious tourism differs from other the other two since participants are motivated partially or exclusively for religious purposes. However during the pilgrimage journey, the other types of tourism, goals and motivations can become more dominant and other types of tourism to a great extent have included religious aspects. For instance, some tourists on beach holiday can as well visit holy places and count that as part of their holiday experiences (Norman 2008). The multicultural India is introducing field faith tourism by creating a number of religious tourist circuits in order to attract more foreign tourists.
In India, there are two separate aspects of religious tourism; one of them is the religious belief of the domestic tourists, who have a spiritual attachment to the destination or deity according to their religious beliefs. The other aspect is the foreign tourists, individuals who have a different religion and come from a different country or region, whom the religious practices and the destination have the dimension of originality, a spiritual experience distinct from their own, even though the ethical values being delivered continuing to be the same (Shinde 2007).
From the perspective of the domestic market, there is a clear line separating business and belief. Various temples, churches, mosques, gurudwaras as well as other key religious centers, in the current socio-economic structures, are important assets in terms of the infrastructure as well as the workforce they use, thus, means that the institution must monetize itself so as to meet its daily survival in the societal environments. On the basis of the region of travel, nature of the products, and intensity, the religious tourism can be classified into various major categories, which include pilgrimages, faith-based cruising, retreats, missionary travels, faith-based camps, fellowship vacations, religious tourist attractions, monastery visits, and crusades and rallies.
Current Situation of Religious Tourism
In the recent years, religious tourism in India has shown an exponential growth. India is one of the most preferred countries for the religious tourism both overseas as well as the domestic tourists. Tourism helps the international travelers to experience and understand Indias cultural diversity by acquiring the firsthand information. The official estimate shows that the tourism industry of India has outperformed the worldwide tourism industry in terms of revenue as well as an increase in the number of the foreign tourists. One major reason for the growth and rise in religious tourism in India is because of the tremendous and remarkable progress made by the stable Indian economy. However, it might be seen that the infrastructure is still a problem. In order to sustain the recent growth, the government has to invest in the infrastructure such as better roads, accommodation, hygiene, and health among others. Currently, the tourism industry has tried to propel the growth by investing in new technology, for example, the art of security systems.
Various tourists prefer visiting India because of its uniqueness; it has plenty to offer to its travelers. Rich culture, history, and heritage of India alone attract a huge number of travelers to travel India every year. India is a vast nation with plenty of destinations, which can be visited by the domestic and foreign travelers. Each region in India gives its unique heritage, language, climate, Cuisine to travelers traveling throughout India. Tourism, specifically religious tourism has appeared to be one of the growing markets in India with a greater percentage of people including religious pilgrimages undertaking tourist trips to India.
About 25 million more people normally visit Tirupati, a temple town and ancient holy city situated in the south-eastern region of Andhra Pradesh of India. Being one of the pilgrimage spots, it does not provide malls and other shopping complexes. However, the markets in Tirupati sell photographs of deity idols as well as selling other sacred and religious things (Sharpley and Sundaram 2005). Tirupati annual almanac pilgrims are more than the number of tourists visiting Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Bangalore. In the northern part of Jammu as well as to Kashmir, over 2 million enthusiasts walk uphill for about 15 kilometers to honor women goddess known as Vaishno Devi (Sharpley and Sundaram 2005).
The Indian religious tourism is the order or organization of religious culture and the foundation of the society. The potentialities of Indian religious tourism have been one of the essential sources for country development especially because of the presence of various religious tourist sites in India (Gupta 1999). Religious tourism to a greater extent has improved the economic, social, and environmental development in India. In addition, Pilgrimage tourism or religious tourism in India gives opportunities for the government to collect higher revenues. India preserves a strong foundation of the ancient culture; having 845 languages, 50 religions, and over 3 million goddesses, gods as well as historical monuments (Mahapatra 1990).
The Important Pilgrimage Places in India
Since India has diverse culture and religion, various pilgrimage places can be seen. Some of the pilgrimage places can be categorized as the Hindu pilgrimage, Buddhism pilgrimage, Christian pilgrimage, Sikh pilgrimage, a Muslim pilgrimage, and Jainism Pilgrimage.
Some of the Hindu pilgrimages include Akshardham, Annavaram, Amarnath, Allahabad, Badrinath and Ayodhya (Singh 2011).
It is one of the popular temples involving "Swaminarayan Sect," which is the richest sect in the whole world. Akshardham receives miraculous work from the devotion and service of thousands of volunteers. It is where Lord Swaminarayan is stored. Also, it is normally an intricately carved, royal monument. The entire monument was contracted without using steel.
Annavaram is positioned such that it is 498 kilometers from Hyderabad, 72 kilometers from Rajahmundry, and 124 kilometers from Visakhapatnam. It is a sacred pilgrim area situated on the hill top referred to as Ratnagiri. At Annavaram, the presiding deity is normally the Veera Venkata Satyanarayana Swamy. It is also one of the most tremendously popular temples having Andhra Pradesh. The shrine is built in such a way that it has the upper floor where vigrahas from the Lord are housed and the lower floor that contains Yantra.
They are standing on the some of the high mountains near roads. These places are cool and wet. It is believed that here, the eternal austere, the destroyer, the Lord or god on the Dance, whispered the significant of immorality into his consorts ear.
It is where the Hindus go to purify their souls. However, some people visit it to prepare for the hostile clashes. It is very famous in the Hindu history. The term Ayodhya implies that which cannot be destroyed by war (Rai 1995). It is believed that it helps the city or people to return to the original peaceful state whenever they are faced with any form of the turbulence. Ayodhya is a small and calm city preferred by most of the tourists.
Some other important Religious tourism spots of Hindu include Bageshwar, Dwarka, Bhubneshwar, Gangotri, Chidambaram, Madura, Konark, and Dham Yatra among others.
The pilgrimage place includes Anandpur Sahib, which is a small village 80 kilometers by Chandigarh. It is located in Ropar district and linked with the north-east Punjab, near the national boundaries in conjunction with Himachal Pradesh. Sahib is also associated with the foothills of the rising Shivalik array. The most significant Sikh religious tourism sites include Golden Temple, Manikaram, Delhi Gurudwaras, and Hemkund Sahib (Jutla 2002).
Some of the religious tourism spots for the Buddhist include Kaushambi, Nalanda, Bodhgaya, Lumbini, Rajgir, Vaishali, Shravasti, and Sarnath.
The most important religious tourism spots for the Christians include Goa and Velankanni.
Goa was once some kind of Portuguese enclave together with the west coastline of India. The legacy associated with Christianity as well as with the Goliath architectural model famous in Spain for the past hundreds of years are still being seen in the church buil...
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