If you have to judge the scale of tourists that any particular religious event in India is capable of achieving then the rush at Kumbh Mela is one of the pointers in this regard. The tourism emanating from the faith and belief of people in religious and spiritual matters has been one of the main drivers of tourism-based economic activities. This also includes the growth of hotels in India, especially in the vicinity of and en-route to the main religious landmarks.
Depending upon the belief and faith of people, these landmarks have been divided into circuits. This circuit-based approach is also being used by the government to develop not only the tourism packages for the travelers but also for the development of infrastructure and facilities including the management of sites with a tourist-oriented approach. These circuits have been based on Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Jain, Sikh, Muslim and other faiths. We will be examining the hotel profiles that have come up at prominent religious destinations.
Hindu Pilgrimage Centers of North and South India
In Northern India, the main centers of Hindu faith are:
Amarnath cave in Kashmir : This is an arduous journey to higher altitudes of Himalayan range in Kashmir where the people have to be on foot for reaching the cave where the shivlingam of ice appears every year. The nearest hotels and restaurants are located mostly in Pahalagam which is en route to Amarnath. Near the cave the arrangement for staying is made in camps where the make shift tents are used in good number.
Vaisho Devi in Jammu: Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu is far more accessible than the Amranath Cave. It is also one of the most visited religious places in India, popular especially among the Punjabi-speaking communities of north India, though a number of tourists from eastern and southern India also visit this temple of Goddess Vaisho Devi for seeking blessings. The base station of Katara has a number of hotels where the tourists can stay.
Haridwar, Rishikesh, Badrinath and Kedarnath in Uttrakhand: These places are prominent Hindu pilgrimage centers where robe-clad Sadhus have, for years, been engaged in their spiritual activities. While Haridwar falls in the plains region of the state, the other three are at higher reaches of the Himalayas. Haridwar receives highest tourist inflow of all these because it also falls en-route to Dehradun. For this reason, the hotels in Haridwar are many and meet staying requirements of people from all backgrounds. A number of Dharamsalas or dormitories co-exist with the star rated accommodation spaces providing suitable accommodations to all people. Even ancestral priests of people in this city provide residence in their homes to their clients who come to visit this place for religious purposes. This has been years long tradition which is still going strong and meets the need of budget travelers to meet their religious purpose of visiting this city.
The staying places in Badrinath, Kedarnath and Rishikesh are less in number as compared to Haridwar. However, low cost accommodations can be easily found there.
Allahabad and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh: These centers of Hindu pilgrimage in Uttar Pradesh are famous for being centers of congregation of Hindus for taking holy bath in Ganges, the river which flows through the plains of this state. Varanasi is also a prominent Buddhist centre because of its association with Buddhists.
In Southern India, the main centers are:
Nasik, Mahabaleshwar and Shirdi in Maharashtra: These are places which are famous among the Hindus for performing certain rites and rituals that are believed to help them attain spiritual satisfaction. Cheap hotels in Mahabaleshwar and Nasik are more in number than the higher-end hotels. This clearly signifies that the development of hotels in these places is the result of greater number of budget tourists.
Shirdi is visited by people for being the land of revered saint popularly and lovingly called as Sai Baba. It is the place frequented by people from all over the country for seeking the blessings of the saint and knowing the life and times of the saint by gaining first-hand knowledge about it. Sai Baba has following among the rich as well as the poor alike and for this reason, all people, irrespective of their faiths and economic condition, visit this popular tourist place. The budget hotels in Shirdi are complemented by the luxury staying options since popular hotel groups have also invested in providing modern hotel accommodations to people.
Sringeri in Karnataka: Perhaps one of the most important centers of religious importance for Hindus is the peetham of Sringeri in Karnataka. This is the site of first Matha established by Adi Shankara, the proponent of Advaita philosophy.
Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh: As people have become aware of the tourist spots in different parts of the country, religious tourism across the country has grown manifolds. Tirupati is close to Tirumala, the exact site where the temple of Lord Venkateshwara is situated. This deity is believed to be the incarnation of Lord Vishnu in this age of Kalyuga and is highly revered for the same. The hotels in Tirupati meet the requirements of travelers for staying and provide delicious food.
Puri in Orissa: Puri is one of the chaar dhaam pilgrimage centers of Hindus in India. The other three are Rameswaram, Badrinath and Dwarka. One temple that makes it internationally famous is that of Lord Jagnnath. You must have heard of or seen the chariot of Lord Jagannath being driven amidst hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. It is important to note that most of the Puri hotels are located on the beachside. Again, these vary from splendid resorts to budget hotels.
Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu: Rameshwaram is located on Pamban island off the coast of Tamil Nadu, separated from the mainland of India by Pamban channel. This is the place from where Lord Rama is believed to have constructed a bridge across the sea. Ramanathswamy temple of Lord Shiva is the main temple of the place. Since it is associated with Lord Rama and there is temple of Shiva, this place is popular among both the Shaivites and Vaishnavites. The hotels in this island are located on the eastern tip, along the Kochi-Dhanushkodi road. The location provides a magnificent view of the sea and comfortable staying options.
Dwarka in Gujarat: Badrinath, Rameshwaram and Puri are the locations of three maths revered by the Hindus. Dwarka in Gujarat is the fourth one. It is the site of a submerged city which is believed to have gone under water during the times of Lord Krishna. Among the many temples, it is the Dwarakadheesh Temple which evokes maximum reverence among the faithful. It is also the site of one of the maths set up by Adi Shankara, the other three being Shringeri, Puri and Jyotirmath.
Kamakhya Devi in Assam: The Kamakhya Devi temple in Assam is the seat of Shakti. This Shakti Peeth is situated in the eastern state of Assam. Here, sacrifices of goats are quite common and it is believed that this is one of the sites where sacrifices were done by Khasi tribals. This is a temple where tantric cults are practiced. A large number of devotees come to visit this place. A number of hotels with modern amenities have come up in close vicinity of this temple where the tourists can have a comfortable stay during their religious sojourn.