Religious tourism, sometimes called spiritual tourism has gained an increasing role all over the world. Part of this position is certainly due to the explosion of the overall tourism phenomenon supported by an increase in income, technology, by information circulation or promotion actions. However, religious tourism is growing especially in direct relation with people’s thirst for knowledge, understanding other religions than their own. Tourism to sacred sites has merged with pilgrimage in the past 2,000 years and, more recently, in the past two hundred years, more people visited special sites of sacred ritual globally. The most concentrated tourist flows are still the religious ones: Kumbha Mela in India, Hindu pilgrimage which gathers around 70 million people
- Over 1000 years old Brihadeeswarar temple is recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO and is a very attractive tourist spot in Thanjavur district. Brihadeeshwarar temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva located in the South bank of Kaveri River in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India. It is one of the largest South Indian temples and an exemplary example of a fully realized Dravidian architecture.
- Thanjavur District is Temple place which has more than 100 large and many small temples This District is said to be the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu as it a staple food in this region. Thanjavur painting and silk weaving are famous here.
- In 2018 about 5 crore domestic tourists and 3.6 lakh foreign tourists visited Thanjavur. Overall on the domestic tourism front also India has recorded phenomenal growth during the last few years clocking a growth rate of more than 13%. Increase India’s share in world tourist arrivals from the present 0.68% to 1% by 2020 and increase to 2% by 2025
- In today’s time, 1 in every 11people worldwide is employed by the tourism sector, with the industry as a whole contributing 6.23% to GDP and 8.78% of total employment. Religious tourism is a focus point in the Draft National Tourism policy in 2015 to generate employment and community participation.
- The concept of secured governance can be used to establish mini and Nano hubs near this temple center which already has some basic infrastructure and strategize in such a way that plans are conceptualized from there for newer tourist destinations. This method will help the spread of tourists to nearby places and attractions.
A Holistic Approach towards Religious Tourism through Secured Governance
- A holistic approach has to be planned to lure tourists whose interest may be the whole package of various interests like adventure, theme parks, etc. including religious tourism. A unique approach has to be made to undertake development in this region as one of a kind tourist destination. This could mean a combination of religious tours with informative, cultural and philosophical inputs like music and dance festivals, symposiums on the religious discourses and their importance, programs on Yoga, Ayurveda practices will enhance religious tourism.
- The novel approach to show some facts of the place and its heritage can be encompassed in a sound and music show of storytelling which will ensure tourists relive the experience. A center to provide an interpretation of the place along with knowledgeable guides, Applications on mobiles to help tourists, hop-on hop-off city bus tours, audio guide, heritage walks help the tourist to experience the living history and can be a powerful tool to interpret the past and the present and infuse a sense of pride.
- Various grades of hospitality infrastructure and connectivity infrastructure, travel services need to be planned to attract tourists and make them commercially viable.
- Places like these are worthy of international exposure and thereby increase the tourist inflow and thereby the countries revenue to a large extent. Rome in Italy and Mecca in Saudi Arabia are motivational to bring this religious tourism popular worldwide for which thrust including proactive government policies, adequate infrastructure, quality accommodation and effective marketing at a macro level, and cleanliness, better safety, and security and inclusion of the local community at the micro-level.
Thanjavur for Religious tourism
Built-in the 11th century by the Chola king Raja Raja Chola I (985–1014), the temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The walls of the sanctum are covered with wall paintings from the Chola and Nayak periods. The temple was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. This temple is a tribute and a reflection of the power of its patron Rajaraja Chola I. It is an important example of Tamil architecture achieved during the Chola dynasty. Built by emperor Raja Raja Chola I and completed in 1010 AD, the temple turned 1000 years old in 2010. The gopurams are smaller than the main Vimana. The entire temple is made of Granite. Evidence shows that there was no granite cutting quarry or even sources to get the stone around Thanjavur. … You will never see the shadow of the Vimana at noon – no matter which season you visit it in Lord of Dance Shiva is the deity revered here. This place can be considered as a HUB for cultural tourism and learning center for various art forms. India is famous for various dance forms and could attract a large number of tourists from all over the world. In 2018 a total of 55 troupes involving around 600 senior and upcoming artists from various parts of India and abroad performed traditional dances including Bharathanatyam, Mohiniattam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, and Odissi.
Interesting Architecture Facts of Thanjavur Temple
- The main temple is entirely built of granite. More than 130,000 tons of granite is said to have been used to build it.
- The statue of Nandi at the entrance of the temple is carved out of a single stone.
- The main Vimanam, which is at about 200 feet is often called Dakshin Meru or Southern Meru.
- The temple is said to have a huge capstone on top of it, and the weight of the stone is said to be 80 tonnes. The Garbhagriha where the Shiva lingam is located is said to generate a large amount of electromagnetic energy. The 80 tonne stone acts as a repulsive force and channels the energy to the inner areas of the temple to sustain its piousness and divinity. The positive energy radiant within the temple structure is said to have a calming, soothing effect both mentally and physically on the devotees.
- Depictions of nartakis or dancers showing eighty-one of the hundred and eight karanas (synchronized movements of hands and feet) in Bharata Natyam are carved here. These karanas are a part of karanas mentioned in the Natya Shastra of Bharata Muni or Sage Bharata. There is also evidence that the temple was a platform for talented dancers to showcase their talent. These depictions are first of their kind.
Religious Tourism and Economic growth
The growth of the tourism sector helps in economic development and growth by increasing employment and business start-up opportunities to large numbers of young in the employable category. Also, the informal sector which consisting of women and lower strata of the society gets huge benefits through specific skill development. The involvement of local communities helps in having a positive impact on the economy. Therefore with a positive impact on economic growth and employment generation, there can be a noteworthy impact on local people’s lifestyles, gender equality, environmental sustainability and global partnerships for development.
There is a huge business opportunity for companies to enter these virgin markets and capitalize on one of the most popular forms of tourism in the country. With visitors from all economic strata of the society traveling to these highly under-supplied cities, there is an enormous opportunity for branded hotels, especially in the budget and economy space, with some of the larger destinations having the ability to support higher-positioned hotels as well. These opportunities get converted over some time to a profitable business with a large scope for expansion.
Tourists’ expectations when visiting a particular place are related to several features of the chosen destination: culture, architecture, gastronomy, infrastructure, landscape, events, shopping, etc. These features attract people to the destination and contribute to the overall experience of the trip. As a whole, they are crucial aspects of the destinations and have a profound influence on their success. Religious tourism can bring about overall development as it helps in the preservation of the heritage due to awareness that it can bring about the huge value to public education, identity, and pride and the income generated from it can help preserve the heritage. Also, there is community development and empowerment when the tourists become aware of the heritage and their appreciation fills them with pride. Religious tourism also acts as a bridge between different kinds of communities in the country. The cross-cultural understanding helps in bringing about peace and brings about clarity in thoughts of the people. The average daily expenditure incurred by a foreign tourist and a domestic tourist in Tamil Nadu as envisaged in the State’s X 5-year Plan is INR. 2,700.00 and INR. 750.00 and the average duration of stay of a foreign tourist and a domestic tourist are 7 days and 12 days respectively.
People in India donate a huge amount of money at these worship places and other religious institutions for many reasons. Whenever people visit temples, it’s a very common practice to donate some amount to the worship place and the priest who performs the ritual or conducting religious ceremonies. This practice is being followed since centuries and devotees have been very kind in donating generously to the worship places. Only a few percentages of money will be used for the maintenance of temple services. These religious places could spend a certain percentage of donations that may furnish more social services, such as education, sport, healthcare, and water supply services.
The part of the revenue will be spent in developing a religious HUB in the region along with establishing integrated education, healthcare and sports facilities with proper sectorial distribution, administrating and managing them and finally monitoring their effectiveness. The religious HUB will help local people to get easy access to basic as well as quality social infrastructures in terms of education, healthcare and sports that will bring social stability, improve productivity, and income distribution, will support peoples’ quality of life directly or indirectly and will enhance the opportunity for people to make use of their potential.
By Mrs. Jayanthi Sekhar
Director Micro Tech Global Foundation