The Poll Bound Meghalaya (as the chief Election Commissioner of India is likely to announced the Assembly Election date this week), was gifted with tourism package of Rs 70 crore to develop Religious and Spiritual circuits in the state. This was announced by Union Tourism Minister K.J. Alphons on January 7, 2018 in the state capital. He however denied the announcement was aimed at wooing voters, particularly the Christian community.
While announcing the package, he expressed his dismay by accusing the ruling Congress government of obstructing the Central government from implementing an inclusive project to bring about religious harmony in the state. Alphons further pointed out that the government refused to send its officials to a meeting held in New Delhi on January 5, 2018 to discuss how to create infrastructure for religious tourism. He further added that his ministry has no answers why the state government is against this project?
Alphons ascertained that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government is going ahead with the project and have already sanctioned it. The Ministry had sanctioned Rs 61.38 crore for illumination, landscaping, construction of parking lots and toilets amongst other infrastructure in 37 churches.
Another Rs 8.61 crore will be given out for similar projects for 11 other religious groups including Temples, Mosques and important sites of the indigenous believers of the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo. Prominent places of worship selected include Catholic’s Cathedral church at Laitumkhrah, Jaiaw Presbyterian Church in Shillong, Balupada Baptist convention Shillong, Laban Glass Mosque and Gurudwara Sahib, Nartiang Durga temple and Nartiang monoliths.
Stressing that the Central government wanted to develop religious tourism by creating infrastructure at different places of worship, Alphons said about 1.6 billion trips have been made to various religious places within the country by Indians in 2017.
Off course this is not the only project in Indian, several state governments are banking on spiritual tourism as their main source of revenue. To name a few, Jammu and Kashmir year after year have witnessed how devotees braving both the nature and militancy threats to complete more than a month long Yartra (pilgrimage) to the cave shrine in Himalayas - Amarnath Yatra for the stalagmite which is formed due to freezing of water drops that fall from the roof of the cave on to the floor and grows up vertically from the cave floor. It is considered to be a Shiva Linga by Hindus.
In spite of poor connectivity, and terrorist attack, the devotees continue to throng Bodh Gaya and Vikramshila in Bihar besides Sarnath, Kushinagar, Kapilvastu, Sankisa and Piparvah in Uttar Pradesh. Other places for Buddhist monasteries include Sikkim, and Tawang Monastery, in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
Considered as one of the richest holy place is Tirupati Balaji Temple in Andhra Pradesh, where every rich and famous devotee across the world donates lavishly in terms of cash and gold. The temple management has gone on record to state that it will look for banks that offer highest interest rates for its gold available for investment.
The Meenakshi temple in Madurai is the main temple of Shakti in India, which almost took over as one of the wonders of the world.
Considered one of the dirtiest city- Puri, yet the Jagannath Temple still attracts huge number of spiritual tourists. Even the business minded pundits cannot drive away many of the devotees visiting the temple almost all the 12 months of the year.
In one of the remotest Church in Bandel, founded by Portuguese settlers, is an urban area in Chinsurah-Mogra block in Chinsurah subdivision of Hooghly district in the Indian state of West Bengal, which was developed only because of the spiritual tourism.
Even after the Blue star operation, the faithful all over the world still gather for best hospitality and Seva (voluntary services) of Harmandir Sahib (The abode of God), known as the Golden Temple in Amritsar, as India is the most sacred place of the Sikh religion and where Guru Nanak lived and meditated.
Another Gurdwara is Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib. This famous Gurudwara is situated in the heart of the Dhubri Town on the bank of the mighty Brahmaputra River in far north-east India in the state of Assam. Most of the Sikh come here for annual pilgrimage and receive Amrit (baptism) as they embrace Sikhism.
Maharashtra might be famous for the Bollywood in Mumbai, but millions also come here for Haji Ali Dargah – for the mosque and dargah located on an islet off the coast of Worli in the southern part of Mumbai. Near the heart of the city proper, the dargah is one of the most recognizable landmarks of the financial capital of India.
Ajmer Sharif Dargah, Ajmer Dargah, Ajmer Sharif or Dargah Sharif is a sufi shrine (Dargah) of sufi saint, Moinuddin Chishti located at Ajmer, Rajasthan is another location attracting spiritual tourism across the world.
Kanpur might be known as the bustling industrial city, which has a significant role in India’s struggle for independence. Among the revered shrines of Kanpur is the Jain Glass Temple which deserves a special mention. The secular temple is dedicated to worshippers of Jainism, the legendary Lord Mahavira and the remaining 23 Jain Tirthankaras.
A famous temple Kalighat Kali Temple dedicated to the goddess Kali is situated in Kalighat. This is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas. The right toe of Dakshayani is said to have fallen here. The Shakti here is known as Kalika, while the Bhairava is Nakulesh. It is a very famous place and a pilgrimage for Shakta- Shiva and Durga or Kali or Shakti worshippers within the Hindu religion. A lot of devotees come every day to worship Goddess Kali but it is found that Saturdays and Tuesdays are the days when maximum numbers of devotees turn up, who come from all over the world.
Varanasi, also known as Benares is a North Indian city on the banks of the Ganges in Uttar Pradesh. It is known as the spiritual capital of India, and is the holiest of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) in Hinduism and Jainism, and played an important role in the development of Buddhism.
Yet another destination purely for the religious purposes is the Kumbh Mela or Kumbha Mela - the mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred river. Traditionally, four fairs are widely recognized as the Kumbh Melas: the Haridwar Kumbh Mela, the Allahabad Kumbh Mela, the Nashik-Trimbakeshwar Simhastha and the Ujjain Simhastha, although priests at other places have also claimed their local fairs to be Kumbh Melas.
Hyderabad is known for Charminar or Golkonda forth besides being the store house of history. Spiritual locations too are flourishing; one of such is the Birla Mandir, a Hindu temple, built on a 280 feet (85 m) high hillock called Naubath Pahad on a 13 acre (53,000 m2) plot. The construction took 10 years and was constructed in 1976 by Swami Ranganathananda of Ramakrishna Mission. The temple was constructed by Birla Foundation, which has also constructed several similar temples across India, all of which are known as Birla Mandir, and is one of the main attractions for the tourists.
There are many more such destinations which are promoting the religious places as the main tourist attractions, whereas the Indian politicians never fail to use religious card in instigating rivalry. Be it between Hindu and Muslim, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism or Traditional practitioners, all have faced prosecution at different periods and situations, all because for gaining votes by the unscrupulous politicians.
It is time people need to realise the hideous propaganda under the garb of politics by selfish politicians. The people need to shun such politicians and make sure that only the righteous and honest politicians make it to the office so that unnecessary conflicts and riots in the name of religion are avoided and their respective state be given a shot at development.
Also, the respective state governments should take advantage of the spiritual tourism to promote the tourism industry in their respective state. As one of the page in a social network site – RIP – Really interesting page- has uploaded a photo of World’s most Intelligent Beggar for his innovative way of begging keeping in mind the religious sentiments of the people, who keeps his begging bowl against a placard stating- Which religion cares the most about the Homeless?