Himanshu Talwar, Assistant Secretary General, FHRAI, believes that curating a wholesome travel experience by catering to specific religious needs could attract more travellers. In this light, he talks about the importance of Jain tourism and its potential.
India is a land of many cultures, and many religions have found their birthplace here. India’s connect with spirituality is deep-seated. It is believed that Jainism found its roots in India. As a matter of fact, Jainism’s history is intertwined with that of India. There are many places which commemorate this belief. Masterpieces of architecture, carvings, sculptures and layout, the Jain temples combine beauty with bliss. Each of these Jain pilgrim spots provides a sense of calm and serenity, and draws numerous Jain tourists.
One such place and probably the most well-known Jain spot in India and the world is a massive black stone structure of Gommateshwara, the first Tirthankara standing, which is 18 metres in height, situated in Karnataka. Another one of the most popular and beautiful Jain temples in India is the Dilwara group of temples situated in the midst of a forest near Mount Abu, and renowned for the stunning use of marble in its structure. Apart from these famous Jain pilgrim spots in India, there are a lot of obscure and underrated sites related to Jainism all over the country.
The tourism ministry of India has decided to focus on the development of thematic circuits, each circuit covering tourist places of a particular theme. One such circuit happens to be the Tirthankar Circuit which covers sites related to Jainism such as Jain temples and pilgrim spots. The ministry is working closely with various state governments to develop this circuit with adequate funds and strict guidelines.
The hospitality sector is crucial in the implementation of such schemes. It is imperative to focus on the augmentation of infrastructure at these pilgrim spots to bring them on a par with sites in Varanasi, Amritsar, etc., which have an enormous footfall of pilgrims. The provision of better facilities for pilgrims or tourists enhances their experience and brings in more people. The spiritual tourism category is untapped and fragmented, and the hospitality sector could gain a lot out of this category. Curating a wholesome, comfortable and organised travel experience by catering to specific religious needs and beliefs would attract a huge untapped market. Pricing of facilities and products by the hospitality sector should be worked out in a way that would fit into any budget, as the spiritual tourism sector brings in pilgrims or tourists from various walks of life. The provision of pamphlets or guided tours or various other methods to throw light on the rich history of Jainism could be another highlight of the spiritual experience.