Proud of its cultural affluence, India welcomes with open arms the pilgrims from all major religions of the world to its multitude of sacred and religious sites. From the centuries old Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries to the churches and convents bearing colonial charm and the miraculously peaceful Sikh and Sufi shrines, the country has what all’s required for spiritual revival. The list becomes even more invigorating with entries like the holy river ghats of Ganga and Yamuna; religious treks of Amarnath, Vaishno Devi and Hemkunt Sahib and extravagant celebrations of Jagannath Rath Yatra, South India Temple Festivals, Kumbh Mela and more.
India’s evolving tourism industry is revitalizing the pilgrimage sector with ‘luxury pilgrimage tours of India’ becoming a popular search term on the internet. Many factors attract tourists and pilgrims to choose these options over conventional religious tours. Let’s find out how luxury is being incorporated into pilgrimage journeys, making these the truly heart-warming experiences.
4-5 Star Accommodations
Dharamshalas are extremely outdated and pilgrims are willing to spend on luxury hotels and resorts offering top-class amenities. Daiwik, endorsed as India’s first pilgrim hotel chain, takes the idea to a new level with their sophisticated properties at popular pilgrimage destinations like Rameshwaram and Shirdi.
The recent alliance of Uganda’s Madhvani Group and India’s Sarovar Hotels and Resorts announced many upcoming pilgrimage hotels in Rishikesh, Bodh Gaya, Varanasi, Puri and Katra. Their first property, Marasa Sarovar Premiere, at Tirupati is already garnering rave reviews from customers. Country Inn, Carlson and Lemon Tree are other luxury hotel brands cashing on the changing preferences of visitors to religious places across India.
Guided Itineraries and Custom Packages
Experienced and knowledgeable tour operators have become the first choice for domestic tourists as well as the foreign holidaymakers visiting India. How? Well-known tour companies like Waytoindia.com craft luxury pilgrimage tours that include thoughtfully planned itineraries covering all important places. Rameshwaram Tour from Waytoindia.com is one example worth reference as it has been wisely planned to cover the hugely popular temples like Madurai’s Meenakshi Amman Temple, Rameshwaram’s Ramanathaswamy Temple and Trivandrum’s Padmanabhaswamy Temple.That the people are now spending quite a lot on their pilgrimage is evident from the fact that pilgrims today are spending huge amounts to undertake helicopter tours to otherwise difficult to reach shrines such as Badrinath and Kedarnath in Uttarakhand. Pilgrims these days are undertaking Kedarnath yatra by helicopter from Dehradun and are spending anywhere upto INR 2.75 lac for this journey. This itself is a testimony to the fact that luxury pilgrimage sector in India is growing steadily as the disposable income of people is increasing.
Pilgrims selecting such tours are able to save time as well as efforts and visit more religious sites in their preferred budgets. Tour operators help them book luxury rooms; make them travel in comfortable vehicles and guide them about the best in local food, shopping and other things.
Another highlight of these luxury packages is inclusion of other hotspots and activities in the region that can be covered without defying the set budgets and time limits. One good example is that of early morning boat ride on Ganga in Varanasi, while river rafting at Rishikesh and Ayurveda in South India are others. Huge number of foreign guests undertakes Yoga and Spiritual packages in and around Rishikesh, which has led to emergence of luxury Spas and resorts near the banks of River Ganges.
Ministry of Tourism in India is lending full support to improve the accessibility and convenience during popular pilgrimage tours. The Chard Dham Yatra by Helicopter in the state of Uttarakhand is definitely a great endeavour from the concerned authorities as it encourages pilgrims with old age and disability issues to access shrines like Badrinath and Kedarnath by air. It is a great step especially for Kedarnath pilgrims, considering that the arduous trek of nearly 18 km. was earlier the only alternative to access the shrine. Similar helicopter routes operate at Vaishno Devi, Manimahesh, Amarnath and other religious places. All this has been possible due to a pro-tourism approach of the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.
Initiatives by Shrine Boards
Boards and authorities of popular shrines are leaving no stone unturned to facilitate pilgrims, especially those hailing from hundreds of thousands of miles away. Apart from running websites to share complete information which is helpful for planning the pilgrimage, they also offer online darshan booking, aarti booking and VIP darshan facilities. Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), the official board of Tirupati’s world-famous Balaji Temple, offering online VIP ticket booking at https://ttdsevaonline.com is one facility used by millions every year.
These and many other positive trends have an overall constructive impact on India which is already seen as a thriving tourism destination. In other words, the country is catching up with the international standards while showcasing its cultural heritage which is indeed worth exploring.
Stories by Reena Rawat