Developing religious tourism circuit


I ndia bestowed with a great treasure of rich cultural and religious heritage is in the immediate near future going to emerge as a global icon of religious tourism. Religious tourism , therefore, has tremendous potential in this country otherwise known for high spiritual knowledge, culture, legacy and learning besides having heritage and beautifully built symbols and buildings of worship with unique and specific workmanship. Such wonderfully and tastefully built heritage spiritual buildings carrying lot of historical importance invoke good measure of awesome interest in the tourists. Looking to immense benefits from this type of tourism , it encompasses a good measure of communication with the individuals within and outside a particular place of worship. The pilgrim tourists, therefore, develop an intense interest in local values, different hues of culture, traditions, history, legacies and heritage and thus cause a sense of empowerment and a pride to be felt in the local communities besides very importantly throwing ample and sustainable opportunities of employment. Just imagining pilgrims from all over the country paying obeisance at the world famous shrine of Shree Mata Vaishno Devi in Katra , Jammu – numbering on an average, between seventy to ninety lakh annually, with the exception of the brief period of COVID pandemic restrictions last two years , is not of any less great importance in terms of promoting other types of tourism too besides most of the tourists making it a point to go shopping buying things specific to the areas of Jammu division in growing and making them as the case be. Similarly, pilgrimage to Shree Amarnath Shrine in Kashmir involving a good footfall of pilgrims, though once in a year lasting for an average of two months, generates an active cycle of economic and commercial activities right from transport, hotel accommodation, hiring of ponies, sightseeing , purchasing commodities of local arts and crafts etc. How much important it is , therefore, that there are more facilities provided to pilgrim tourists which are quite easily accessible and are hassles free. In this connection, introduction and employment of digital modes , infrastructure and ways are not only the requirements of the day but the most important , transparent and tourists friendly measures ensuring better connectivity as also in turn reaping of the expected benefits by various stakeholders. Since pilgrimage to the Holy shrine of Shree Mata Vaishno Devi is uninterrupted and continuously going on almost round the clock all the months of the year, the Shrine Board as well as the UT Government regularly keep on adding more facilities especially now through the e-governance mode. In this connection, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha recently laying efoundation of Yatri Queue Management System (Sky Walk), Gaytri Bhawan and other infrastructural projects of the Holy Shrine are with the sole objective of ensuring hassles free and added better facilities to be provided to the pilgrim tourists. We observe that queuing for proceeding to the ultimate sanctum sanctorum of the shrine is the most sensitive and even crucial aspect of the pilgrimage and thus to making it doubly sure that safety, security and comfort were not only provided but made available to the commuters, fresh slew of measures have been taken . Preventing congestion of traffic for the devotees at the Bhawan and making it more regulated and smooth for both the sides, climbing up and down the track, Sky Walk is proposed to be built at Bhawan which will be 20 feet above the track level and made of wooden flooring , the emphasis in the process also being on providing seating arrangements for senior citizen and women pilgrims. Sky Walk is slated to be followed by others mini projects like Gaytri Bhawan and residential quarters for the staff at Katra. Since on the occasion, one more facility, that of launching of “Panch Mewa Prasad” was launched by the Lt. Governor, now it would be made available to the pilgrims at multiple spots going to result in decongestion and making it easily accessible at one of the choices of the pilgrims. There being no limit to providing of more facilities and safety and security measures to pilgrims, it is however, a fact that the overall management of such issues and on constant basis is being improved by means of regular reviews by the Shrine Board and the UT Administration. What is, therefore, needed is generating an increasing awareness among the visiting and prospective pilgrim tourists about the provision and availability of such facilities.