RELIGIOUS TOURISM IN UTTAR PRADESH by Lt Col GK Chaturvedi (Retd)

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            Human being since antiquity has been an inveterate traveler. Either in search of food, trade, shelter or religion. Travel was simply a natural process an unconscious activity. Once the nomad learnt to live in his own home, movement from that to any other place brought forth the meaning of travel for first time into open.

              India is primarily cultural destination in international tourism. A large number of foreign tourists are attracted towards India in order to have a glimpse of its rich cultural heritage – unity in diversity. In the same way our countrymen also visit different regions in search of diverse culture experiences.

Since times immemorial, a certain inherent religiosity has formed an intrinsic component of the Indian psyche propelling him forward to propitiate the Gods: creating the flowering of colorful cross-culture mosaic

Religious tourism refers to the followers of specific faiths who visit sites that are considered holy sites for them. For instance, For Hindus Varanasi, Ayodhya, Mathura, Muslims in Makah and Medina, for Sikhs is Golden Temple, for Christian are Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Religion is in blood of every Indian, he may belong to any religion. The religious fervor has given every Indian a reason for traveling. In his quest for religious upliftment he traveled to far off places, from high mountains to deep see, from caves to dense forests. In his travails he created places and other destinations where people went to find solace, spiritual upliftmet and salvation.

              Religion has significant effects on tourism. It has been found that religious tourism contributes to the economic development of traditional settlements, leading to increased income, employment, and overall economic prosperity.

              India has number of religious places spread all over the land and breath of this great country. There are a number of communities, which follow more than one religion. There are 27 communities who follow both Hinduism and Sikhism, 116 follow Hinduism and Christianity, 35 Hinduism and Islam, and 29 communities who believe in both Buddhism and Hinduism. More than 60% of tourism in India is associated with religious and spiritual tourism.

              The British combined Agra and Oudh into one province and called it United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. The name was shortened to the United Provinces in 1935. In January 1950 the United Provinces was renamed as Uttar Pradesh.

              Hinduism constitutes 79.73% of Uttar Pradesh population. In all Hindu form majority religion in 70 out of 71 districts of Uttar Pradesh state, Muslim Population in Uttar Pradesh is 3.85 Crore (19.26 percent) of total 19.98 Crore.

Within the boundaries of modern scientific society, modern religious tourism can be classified into two major types. One is pilgrimage and the other one is intellectual learning excursions. The second main category has two branches. These intellectual learning excursions are based on two mottos of the tourists.

Pilgrimage
Type of

Religious

tourism

 

Scientific

Knowledge

Intellectual

Learning

Excursions

Attending Religious

Culturists Events

              Uttar Pradesh is extremely rich with regards to every religion. It has an abode for all Gods: and incarnations and their messengers.

              With popular Hindu pilgrimage centers lying next to famous Islamic edifices, Uttar Pradesh is a huge melting pot of the two ancient cultures. Lucknow, Varanasi, Ajodhya, Vrindavan and Agra are the popular tourist destinations here.

              In fact Uttar Pradesh (UP) accounted for almost 20 per cent of India’s foreign and domestic tourist visits in 2022. And Varanasi alone had nearly a five per cent share. Over 318 million people visited UP in 2022. Literature, music, fine Art and religion are the main attractions of the state.

              Uttar Pradesh the heartland of Bharat abounds in places of sanctity where devout Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains alike converge every year to pay obeisance to their Gods, braving the vagaries of weather and other human travails.

              Uttar Pradesh has been most dominant state in politics and culture since its inception. The mighty Ganges, which forms the backbone of Uttar Pradesh, is sacred most river for Hindus. Some of the most revered places of Hindus are located on the banks of Ganga, like Pryagraj and Varanasi.

              The Culture of Uttar Pradesh is an Indian culture which has its roots in Hindi, Bhojpuri and Urdu arts, drama and cinema.

Tagline for Uttar Pradesh Tourism: is. “The divine land of culture and heritage”

              The state houses several holy Hindu temples and pilgrimage centers. Along with several historical, natural and religious tourist destinations, including Agra, Aligarh, Ajodhya, Kushinagar, Mathura, Prayagraj, Varanasi and Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh is also home to three World Heritage sites

              VARANASI (KASHI, BANARAS)              “Banaras is older than history, older than traditions, even older than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”

                                                                                                                                             —Mark Twain

              It is located on the left bank of the holiest river Ganga and lying between rivers Varuna and Assi, which flow into Ganga, hence Varanasi. Varanasi is one of the oldest living city in the world. This city has found place in the Buddhist scriptures as well in epics of Mahabharata. Kashi is the place where Shiva and Parvati stood when the “time started ticking”. This town has its place in history with many events and incidents being related to it. Varanasi has been a great cultural center, especially in the fields of music, learning and craft of Silk Weaving.

              The city is also known as KASHI. The city of light, since one of the twelve “JYOTIRLINGA” popularly known as Baba Vishwanath, is installed here. It is one of the seven sacred cities of Hindus. The city had declined during the centuries of occupation of Muslims beginning 1194. The Mughal emperor Akbar in the 16th century brought some relief in the city’s religious and cultural activities. There was another setback during the reign of Aurangzeb in the late 17th century, but later the Marathas came for the rescue of the city. Varanasi became an independent kingdom in the 18th century, and subsequently under the British rule it remained a commercial and cultural center. In 1910 the British made Varanasi a new Indian state, with Ramnagar as headquarters but no jurisdiction over the city of Varanasi. In 1949 after the independence the Varanasi state became the part Uttar Pradesh.

              Varanasi has the finest river frontage in India, with miles of Ghats for religious bathing. An array of shrines, temples and places raises tier on tier from the water’s edge. Inner streets of the city are narrow, winding and impassable for motor traffic. Few of them have now been widened. The sacred city is bounded by road known as Panchakosi which every devout Hindu hopes to walk to visit the city once a lifetime. More than 1000000 pilgrims visit the city each year.

              The spectacular 4Kms sweep of the Ghats is a unique sight, best viewed at dawn in that soft light when the river and Ghats have a timeless appeal. Life is almost panoramic, details unfold here from dawn to dusk, as study stream of devotees – swelling to thousands on auspicious days to perform rituals by the Ganga. There are 84 Ghats in Banaras. In addition to having a holy dip in the most revered river, Ganga Arti is very popular, it is very soothing and worth watching.

              There are many more places of great importance which are frequently visited in great number by tourists visiting Varanasi. To name few

              Kashi Vishwanath Temple , Shri Annapurna temple, Gopal temple, Bharat Mata Temple, Tulsi Manas Temple, Ram Nagar Durg, Bharat Kala Bhawan, Banaras Hindu University( BHU), Nepali Temple, Jantar Mantar, Chunar, Jaunpur, Kausambi, Vndhyachal.

              There are very popular Fairs and Festivals also organized here which attract tourists in large number, few of them are Budh Purnima, Bharat Milap, The Ramlila, Nakkatyya, Hanuman Jayanti, Mahashivratri, The Dhrupad Mela, Panchkoshi Parikrama etc.

              MATHURA        :   The Brij Bhoomi

              Season              :    Oct –March

              Languages        :     Hindi and English

              Main Festivals:     Holi, Latthmar Holi

              Mathura is a city related to Lord Krishna and his Leelas. The city even today reflects evergreen charm. Brij is little town on river Yamuna was transformed into place of faith after Lord Krishna was born here.

              The city of Mathura, in Uttar Pradesh, the nucleus of Brijbhoomi, is located a distance of 145 Kms, South- East of Delhi and 58 Kms North –West of Agra. Mathura is traditionally recognized as the capital of Brijbhoomi. The region is richly interwoven with the legend of Krishna, kept alive today by millions of devotees who look upon him as the most endearing incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and specific locations associated with the legend. Mathura’s history dates back to at least 600 BC and archaeological remains have testified its importance.

              PLACES OF RELIGIOUS INTREST

              Vrindavan, Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi, Dwarikadheesh Temple, Ghats, Kans Quila,

              EXCURSIONS

              Gokul, Mahavan, Baldev, Govardhan, Barsana etc

              AYODHYA: The land of Lord Ram

              On the right bank of river Ghagra or Saryu, stands the holy city of Ayodhya, believed to be the birth place of Lord Ram, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

              The ancient city of Ayodhya, according to Ramayan was founded by Manu, the law giver of Hindus. For centuries it was the capital of decedents of Surya Vansh of which Ram was the most celebrated king.

              Ayodhya during ancient time known as Kaushaldesha. The Atharveda described it “a city build by Gods and being as prosperous as paradise itself”. The illustrious ruling dynasty of the region was the Ikshvakus or the Surya Vansh. According to traditions Ikshvaku was the eldest son of Vaivasvata Manu who established himself at Ayodhya. The earth is said to have derived its name “Prithvi” from the word Pritha the 6th king of the line. A few generations later came Mandhatri, in whose line 31st king was Harishchandra, known widely for the love of truth. Raja Sagar of the same clan performed the Ashvamedh Yajna and his great grandson Bhagirth is reputed to have brought Ganga on the virtue of his penances. Later in the time came the Raghu, after whom the family came to be called Raghu Vansh. His grandson was Raja Dashratha, the illustrious father of Lord Ram, with whom the glory of the dynasty reached its zenith.

              A magnificent temple has been made at the site where Lord Ram was born at Ayodhya, with a very pretty statue of Ram Lalla is installed in it, which is attracting huge number of tourists and devotees from all over the world. The Government of Uttar Pradesh and the Central Government have created a lot of infrastructure like an International Airport, Renovated the Railway station, more hotels and other befitting transit accommodation etc. to fascinated visiting tourists. It is estimated that almost thirty thousand tourists visit every day here.

              According to Pauranic in belief the 93rd generation from Ikshvaku, the 30th from Lord Ram was Virhadhala, the last famous king of the Buddha i.e. in 6thcentury B.C.

              Ayodhya is pre-eminently city of temples. At the Ayodhya several religions have grown and prospered simultaneously and at also different period of the time in the past. Remnants of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism can still be found in Ayodhya.

              According to Jain traditions, Ayodhya was the seat of Tirthnkars, including the first Tirthankara Adinath (Rishabhdeva).

              Places of Interest

Though entire Ayodhya is full of many temples but yet some places of tourist interest are

1 Ramkote, 2 Sri Ramjanabhumi, 3 Swargdwar, 5 Nageshwarnath temple, 6 Hanumangarhi, 7  Kanak Bhavan, 8 Treta ke Thakur, 9 Mani Parvat, 10 Guptar Ghat, 11 Suraj Kund, 12 Jain Shrines etc.

EXCURSIONS

Bharat Kund, Shringi Rishi Ashram, Punyahari

FESTIVALS

Ramnavami, Shravanjhoola Mela, Parikramas,

As it has been brought earlier, the state of Uttar Pradesh is full of places of religious interest. In fact all most all the district of the state has one or the other religious shrine. Few other places of Hindu Religion are:-

  1. Prayagraj, 2. Bateshwar, 3. Bithoor, 4. Chitrakoo, 5. Garhmukteshwar, 6. Mahoba, 7. Naimisharanya
  2. Shukrata, 9. Vindhyachal

PLACES OF RELIGIOUS IMPORTANCE FOR BUDDHISM

              The state of Uttar Pradesh has in addition to Hindu religious place, has many important religious places for Buddhism also, to mention few of them are

              SARNATH:- A memorable land mark in the life of the Great Teacher is represented by the holy Isipatana or Sarnath, it is the place where , circa 528 B.C. at 35 years of age Gautam Buddha taught his first sermon after attaining enrichment at Bodh Gaya.

              KUSHINAGAR:-  Kushinagar or Kusinara is sacred  to the Bhuddhist as it was the place where under the grove of Sala tree the Lord passed into Nirvana in his eighth years. The sight earlier had been identified with Kasia in the Deoria district. Now Kushinagar is an independent district of Uttar Pradesh.

               SRAVASTI:-  The capital of ancient kingdom of Kosala, is sacred to Buddhists, because it was here that the Master, in accordance with practice of precious Buddhas, performed the greatest of his miracles to confound the heretic. Sravasti is also a tourist pilgrimage place for Jains.

              SANKASYA:- Another  holy spot connected with the life of the Master was Sankasya where Buddha is said to have descended to earth from Tryastrimsa  Heaven (Heaven of thirty three Gods) where he went to preach the Abhidharma to his mother and other Gods. This event is said to have occurred after the Great Miracle performed by the Master at Sravasti

              Sanksya has been identified with Snkisa, also known Sanisa Basantpur, in the Farrukhabad district of Uttar Pradesh. Not only the two names similar but an additional confirmation is to be had from the existence at the site of an elephant capital which scholars assume to have originally surmounted as Ashoka Pillar.

              RAJGRIHA:- Rajgriha, the capital of the powerful kingdom of Magadh, was sacred to Bhuddhists for reasons more than one. Not only did the Master retire several times to this famous city, but it was also the place where Devdatta, his wicked cousin, made many attempts to encompass his death. In this city, in the Sattapnni (Saptaparni) cave of the Vaibhara hill was held the first Buddhist Council just after the Parnirvana.

              BAKSARIA TOLA

              Birth place of Lord Ajinath, is situated in Ayodhya and is also known as BegampuraThere is temple here which is dedicated to and named after him as ‘Ajinath ki Tok’. Open for devotees from 7 am to 8 pm.

              RAMKOT MUHALLA RAJGHAT

              In Ayodhya is the birth place of Lord Abhinandan Nath. There is temple here dedicated to him, this also is the birth place of Lord Anantnath.

              RAIGANJ

              Raiganj is famous for the Digambar Jain Temple and 21 ft high idol of Lord Vrishbhdev.

              KAUSHAMBI – PRAYAGRAJ (ALLAHABAD)

              Kaushambi lays on the northern bank of river Yamuna some 60 kms from Pryagraj. Ancient Jain scriptures revel that there had been 16 Mahajanpads in the 6th century B.C.  Vats Desh was one such Mahajanpada whose capital was Kaushambi.

              With end of legendary Hastinapur Kingdom which is believed to have been flooded and destroyed by the river Ganges, the Chandravanshi kings made Kaushambi their capital, 22 of their dependents are said to have ruled from here.

              The town however got its due importance with the presence of the 6th Tirthankar Padmaprabhu, who was born here. He also grew up and received his education here only.

              SHAURIPUA – AGRA

              One of the most famous and magnificent cities of ancient India. Shauripur used to cover the entire area from Hastinapur to Mathura city. The religious book ‘Vayudev’ validates the history of foundation of Shauripur city. Naiminath, the 22nd Tirthankar was born here to the King Shri Samndra Vijay and his Queen Sitadevi. Today Shauripur is considered to be an important place of pilgrimage for the Jains. Shauripur is 80 kms away from Agra. There are seven big temples of the Svetambara Jain Samaj.

              KASHI

              According to Jain traditions, Kashi has the honour of being the birth place of four Tirthankars, namely, Suparshav, Chandraprabhu, Sheas, and Parshva.  Whereas Parshva and Suparshav were born at Varanasi, Chandraprabhu was born in Chandrapur about 15 kms. To the east of Varanasi on banks of the river Ganges, Shreas was born in Singhpur which is presently known as Sarnath.

              There are number of places of pilgrimages of all religions in Uttar Pradesh. To describe all of them may not be possible here, however to name few of them are, Bhaidaini Jain Pilgrimage, Bhelupura the birth place of 23rd Tirthankar, Chandrapuri, Churasi the birth place of Sri 1008 Jambu Swami Digambar Jain, Ramnagar Jain Temple, Hastinpur Meerut, Pawanagar 55 kms from Deoria, Mahoba – other places of tourist interest near Mahoba are Chitrkut, Kanpur, Jhansi, Khajuraho, Banda, Kalinjar etc. Kakandi, Kampil (Farrukhabad), Prabhas Giri (Pabhosa), Deogarh. Thus we find almost 30, Jain religious places are in Uttar Pradesh which are visited by Jain religious tourists in large number and periodic conglomeration of devotees from all over the country and also abroad are held at these places.

              PIOUS PLACES OF SIKH RELIGION IN UTTAR PRADESH

              Although Uttar Pradesh does not have much of a claim over any great or significant place in Sikh Religion, however places related with some of the important sojourn of various Gurus are described here in brief. Most of the Gurus of Sikh religion like Guru Nanak Dev ji, Guru Hargovind Singh ji, Guru Teg Bahadurji have widely traveled through Uttar Pradesh as it is the birth place of Lord Ram, Lord Krishn and there are many more Srines here and have created different Gurudwaras over here.   All though almost every city and village of the state has its own Gurudwara, however there 13 famous Gurudwaras spread in different part of the state are:-

  • Gurudwara Singh Sabah at Meerut   Associated with Guru Gobind Singh
  • Gurudwara Hathigaht at       Agra        Associated with Guru Gobind Singh
  • Gurudwara Guru ka Tal at Agar       Associated with Guru Teg Bahadur
  • Gurudwara Yahiaganj at        Lucknow, Associated with Guru Gobind Singh,Teg Bahadur
  • Gurudwara Brahmakund at Ayodhya, Associated with Guru Nanak Dev, Guru Gobind Singh,   Guru Teg Bahadur
  • Gurudwara Pakkisnagat at Prayagraj, Associated with Guru Teg Bahadur
  • Gurudwara Ras Mandal at Jaunpur,   Associated with Guru Teg Bahadur
  • Gurudwara Vassakpur                        Associated with Guru Teg Bahadur
  • Gurudwara Gurubagh Varanasi   Associated with Guru Nanak
  • Gurudwara Neechibagh Varanasi   Associated with Guru Teg Bahadur
  • Gurudwara Lhota at Mirzapur   Associated with Guru Teg Bahadur
  • Gurudwara Sri Gobind Singh at Ahroura  Associated with Guru Gobind Singh
  • Gurudwara Bhuili Sahib at Varanasi  Associated with Guru Teg Bahadur

              CHRISTIANITY

              There are many famous and old Churches in Uttar Pradesh, few of them were made during the British rule in India. Cathedral Church of all Saints in Allahabad has been described as finest Anglican Cathedral in Asia. Kanpur Memorial Church made to honor of the British soldiers who lost their lives in the war of 1857.Famous Churches in Uttar Pradesh are:-

  • All Saint’s Cathedral                  Prayagraj
  • Christ Church     Lucknow
  • Holy Trinity Church        Prayagraj
  • Jamuna Church        Prayagraj
  • Kanpur Memorial Church      Kanpur
  • Sardhana Church                       Meerut
  • George’s Church            Agra
  • John’s Church                         Meerut
  • Joseph’s Catholic Church      Gorakhpur
  • Mary’s Church                         Varanasi
  • Peter’s Church                         Prayagraj
  • Joseph’s Church                      Prayagraj

              ISLAM

              Islam has its genesis outside India, in what is now known as Saudi Arabia. Followers of this faith are called Muslims. Islam was basically propounded by prophet Mohammad  (Born around 570 A.D. in Mecca), Although the belief is that it was brought to the world by Adam and different messengers were sent by God to preach this lesson and Mohammad was the who came last. In other words, Mohammad gave the final form to an already existing religion. Muslims are also referred to as Mohammedans.

              The sacred book of Muslims is the Quran (from Arabic to recite), held to be revelations from Allah, and not the preaching of Prophet Mohammad. Engraved as a tablet in heaven, the Quran has exited from the beginning of time and revealed to Mohammad himself through the angel Jibreel (Gabriel)

              Islam is a monotheistic faith and the acceptance of Allah as the god and Mohammad as his prophet, is called Shahda. A Muslim is required to perform a devotional exercise of Namaaz five times a day. Muslims worship at Masjids. All most all the cities, villages and even small localities in Uttar Pradesh have Masjids in fact in most of the areas number of Masjids is located very close by. Some famous Masjids in Uttar Pradesh are as follows

              JAWAB MASJID – AGRA

              Jawab Masjid is located inside the Taj Mahal. As this mosque faces east, prayers are not offered here. Two more famous mosques named Moti Masjid and Jahanara Masjid are located here.

              MOTI MASJID – ALIGARH

              Moti masjid is made of pebbles and sand, used to shine as a pearl once upon a time.

              JAMA MASJID – FATEH PUR SIKRI

              Jama masjid was made by Akbar in 1671

              Other famous Masjids in the state are,

              Jahangiri masjid, Jami masjid, Lal darwaza masjid at Jaunpur.

              Walishah masjid, Asaf-ud – Daula masjid at Lucknow.

              Jami masjid,  Mathura

              Jami masjid, Meerut

              Chunar masjid, Mirzapur

              Gyan Vapi masjid, Varanasi

              Gyan Vapi masjid was built by Aurangzeb after destroying ancient temples. It is disputed structure with glairing reminders of the remains of the destroyed temples.

              SUFISM IN INDIA

              There are many historians and philosophers, who have defined a Sufi and Sufism         . In general one can say, “he is a person possesses nothing and nothing possesses him”, “Revealing the Concealed”. But what is the essence of Sufism? “It might be said that Sufism means self-denial and self-isolation as if a person is being born once again. Sufism might be also considered a deep process of change within the effect of a “Divine presence”. It is not a religion or a philosophy; it is not a creed or a group of rituals but a sort of training on Supreme rational knowledge.

              Sufis founded their own method from the practices of different religions and doctrines. For instance newly joiners must shave their hair similar to some of the Hindu rituals, offer food and drinks to visitors in the same manner of some Buddhists and specify forty days during some occasions to undergo certain rituals just as some Hindus. Similarly the custom of “stop breathing “ known by Sufis was taken from the Hinduism, which can be defined in fact as a process of mind preparation more than of the body.

              Uttar Pradesh is one of the states upon which like other religions Sufis also showered their blessing in abundance.  Therefore there are quite a few places (mazars) associated with them. Most of these places attract local population but there a few which are known both nationally and internationally. Some of the most popular places associated with Sufism in Uttar Pradesh are:-

              1 Tomb of Sufi-Saiyad Ashraf Jahangir    (located at Faizabad, now Ambedkar Nagar)

               The Dargah is is situated near Rashulpur on an elevated ground surrounded by water. It is greatly venerated by Indians and visited by Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. A pilgrimage is undertaken to the place on the full moon of Kartik month of Hindu colander

              2 Tomb of Sufi-Sheikh Salim Chisthi   (located at Fatehpur Sikri)

              3 Tomb of Sufi Saiyad Salar Masood Ghazi (Baharaich)

              4 Tomb of Sufi Shah Mina Saheb (Lucknow)

              5 Sufi Saiyad Alialladin Sabir (Saharanpur)

              6 Sufi Sheik Qayamuddin (Lucknow)

              7 Tom of Sufi Haji Waris Ali Shah (Barabanki)

              8 Tomb of Shahjahan (Agra)

              9 Tomb of Ahmad Raza Khan (Bareilly)

            10  Tomb of Saiyad Shah Juned Qadri (Ghazipur)

            In the footsteps of faith: Uttar Pradesh welcomes wave of religious tourists

              As the summer vacation season kicks off, cities renowned for their religious significance in Uttar Pradesh are experiencing an unprecedented surge in pilgrims. Varanasi, Mathura, and Ayodhya, crucial hubs for religious tourism, are witnessing a remarkable influx of devotees, setting the stage for an extraordinary season of spiritual journeys and cultural festivities. This record-breaking influx signifies a profound spiritual fervor among devotees, drawing them from far and wide.

              Religious cities in Uttar Pradesh see a surge in tourism as devotees visit these cities for blessings before festivals. Few days ago — Varanasi alone saw a record-breaking influx of 95.63 lakhs pilgrims in the month of March, flocking to seek the blessings of Kashi Vishwanath.Temple donations hit a record Rs 83.34 crore by March, while Ayodhya saw more than two lakh visitors each day, following the consecration of the revered Ram Lalla idol earlier this year. Anticipation is high for this grand occasion, expected to attract a significant influx of religious tourists from across the nation.

            As the festival season approaches, Uttar Pradesh is becoming a buzz of activity with devotees flocking to its religious cities in record numbers.

            Varanasi, Mathura, and Ayodhya have seen millions of devotees, with Varanasi alone welcoming 95.63 lakh pilgrims in March, and preparations are underway to accommodate the influx for the Navratri festival and Ram Navami. Preparations are underway for the inaugural Navratri festival at the Ayodhya temple,

  • Ayodhya has prepared for international visitors by establishing quarantine wards for those showing COVID-19 symptoms during Ram Navami, demonstrating a cautious approach to managing the expected surge in religious tourism.
  • There has been a rise in the number of flights to Ayodhya, with 24 daily flights now in operation, and donations to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple surged to Rs 83.34 crores for the fiscal year, indicating strong post-pandemic revival of religious tourism.
  • Enhancements in infrastructure such as the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor and the Mathura-Vrindavan Corridor are expected to significantly boost tourist numbers and the local economy, with potential for increased employment and cultural exchanges.
  • Mr. Prakhar Mishra, Director Tourism, Government of UP, anticipates that the new developments will attract tourists and bolster markets, particularly those linked to the One District One Product (ODOP) initiative, fostering community development and empowerment. Varanasi, the city of divine charm, has seen an exceptional turnout, with a staggering 95.63 lakh pilgrims flocking to seek the blessings of Kashi Vishwanath in the month of March alone. Similarly, in Ayodhya, the newly constructed Ram Mandir and Hanumangarhi have become magnets for devotees, with over two lakh visitors each day during March. The anticipation surrounding the upcoming Navratri festival further adds to the fervor, promising a momentous celebration of faith and devotion.

            In Mathura-Vrindavan, the surge in crowds began well before the festival of Holi and shows no signs of abating. Pilgrims, seeking accommodation, have extended their reach to neighboring Agra due to the overwhelming demand for lodging in hotels, ashrams, and guesthouses.

            Responding to the heavy footfall for darshan at Ram Lalla in Ayodhya, the recently operational airport has ramped up its services. Presently, 24 daily flights operate from Ayodhya, with routes to key destinations including Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, and newly initiated services to Hyderabad.

            The Kashi Vishwanath Temple, with its newly constructed corridor, has emerged as a top destination for religious tourism in Uttar Pradesh. The surge in tourists visiting Varanasi has led to a significant rise in donations to the temple, reaching a remarkable Rs. 83.34 crores for the fiscal year, marking a 42.43% increase compared to the previous year.

The Director Tourism, Uttar Pradesh, expressed optimism regarding recent developments, citing the impact of infrastructure enhancements such as the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor, the Ram Lalla Temple in Ayodhya, and the Mathura-Vrindavan Corridor. These projects are poised to not only attract tourists nationwide but also boost local economies, particularly those associated with the One District One Product (ODOP) initiative.

            Mishra emphasized the transformative potential of these initiatives, foreseeing a ripple effect in the local economy, leading to increased demand for locally produced goods and services. This, in turn, is expected to create a surge in employment opportunities, fostering community development and empowerment.

In essence, the surge in religious tourism in Uttar Pradesh heralds a revival in pilgrimage travel post-pandemic, underscored by an enduring spiritual fervor and a vibrant celebration of cultural heritage. As devotees embark on their sacred journeys, they seek blessings and contribute to the region’s socio-economic vitality, ushering in a new era of prosperity and cultural exchange.

        Limitations and efforts in boosting spiritual tourism

              In recent years, there has been an improvement in infrastructure and facilities for tourists together with state governments and the center’s Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASHAD). This was targeted towards the tier 3 and tier 4 cities that house a significant number of religious sites across the country. The travel routes to these destinations are most often designed in collaboration with the Indian Railways.

While religious tourist routes or circuits have been identified and continue to be developed, the fact remains that religion is an integral aspect in India’s political climate. With a ruling party focused on nationalism, the attraction in Hindu-focused centers was palpable over other minority centers. The most recent change adding to the list of political and religious contentions, were those in the Hajj committee (organizing Haj pilgrimages between for Indian Muslims visiting Mecca).

With or without political controversy, there is no doubt that faith-based tourism is a revenue-generator for India, estimated at 902 million U.S. dollars in 2022, approximately accounting for six to 11 percent of the global faith-based travel market. With the policies in place & post-pandemic tourism drawing the numbers, it is bound to develop into a more organized, full-fledged market.

              Tourists visited different religious places in the year 2022 are as follows

PLACE         DPMESTIC TOURIST      INTERNATIONAL TOURIST            TOTAL

 VARANASI          71612127                            89689                             71701816

AYODHYA            63001612                                 8564                                63010176

PRAYAGRAJ           53930466                                4853                                 53935319

MATHURA         65275743                         115858                              65391601

Almost 1.5 crore devotees have so far visited Ajodhya after the PRANPRATISHTHA on

22 Jan 24

              CONCLUSION

              It is quite evident that Uttar Pradesh has a great potential for Religious Tourism. Where ever the efforts  have been put, has given very good dividends. The Government should put more efforts to popularize the lesser known religious places like Panki ke Hanumanji, Tapeshwai Devi temple, Pir Maqdoom Shah Mazar all in Kanpur etc. Deva Sharif mela in Barabanki. Lord Ram Van Gaman marg, a circuit of places connected to Lord Buddha and Jain Munis temples etc. and many more. These can be publisized and taken care of by the local bodies.

              A word of caution while trying to develop tourism in the state all efforts be made to improve the self-pride in children and younger generation particularly in girls so that they deal with the tourists in a dignified and be fitting manner and be able to protect their dignity and culture without hurting the tourists sentiments.

Lot has been done but much more is left to done.

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