Pilgrimage and tourism are closely related. Tourist industry fetches large number of local tourists to pilgrim centres. Pilgrimage tourism helps greatly in travel promotion. It attracts large number of private tour operators as it is profitable. During early days, the journey to Vaishno Devi was very difficult. Now better roads and rail and air link to Jammu made transportation easy. Tirupati, the most popular Hindu temple in the world now has an airport.
During the old days, pilgrim centres were small places but now they are big towns with luxury hotels and big shopping malls. The scope of pilgrimage tourism is area specific. Inspite of the limited scope, pilgrimage tourism has enough potential to develop domestic tourism. Old theertha yatras were not merely pilgrimage, it also involved a certain amount of adventure as well.
3 Prominent Pilgrimage Centres In India
1. Vaishno Devi
Vaishno Devi is a major pilgrim centre for Hindus. Lakhs of devotees visit the temple to pay their respect to Goddess Vaishno Devi. Popular belief is that whoever visits the shrine does not go back disappointed. It is situated on Trikuta mountain, 61Km from Jammu. Jammu is well connected by road, rail and air. Indian airlines has connecting flights from Srinagar, Chandigarh, Delhi and Amritsar. Travel agencies also conduct tours from Delhi and other cities.
It includes a 13Km hike on foot or pony from Katra to Vaishno Devi. The route is fully tiled and lighted with Sodium bulbs. Resting places are also available. Climate during winter will be too cold. Banganga, Adhkawari, Darbar and Bhairon Ghat are the places to visit.
It is located in Assam. Kamakhya is associated with magic and witchcraft and most famous of all the seats of Tantra in India. It is situated on Nilacala, 3 miles from Guwahati. Mother Goddess Kamakhya is worshipped in 3 forms
- As a primordial deity associated with and patronised by Lord Vishnu
- As a virgin
- As a spouse of Lord Siva
The temple has no image of Goddess. There is a cave in which a stone is in a corner over which a symbol of Yoni is carved and a natural spring keeps the stone wet all around the year. The devotees enjoy fish and flesh eating, animal sacrifice etc. The chief worshipers are Garos of Assam.
The original Kamakhya temple was destroyed in a Mughal attack in 16th century. The present temple was rebuilt in A.D 1665 by King Naranarayana, the King of Cooch-Bihar. Guwahati is connected by road,rail and air. Train service is available from Calcutta, Delhi, Bombay, Cochin, Trivandrum and Madras. The place is now a big shopping centre as well.
Tirupati temple belongs to Venkateswara. The main deity is placed at the top of Tirumala hills. There is a chain of temple complexes and Tirthas. The history of the temple dates back to A.D 966. The temple was patronised by Pallava, Cholas, Pandyas, Vijayanagar ruler and by Kings of Mysore. It is a masterpiece of Dravidian architecture with heavily carved gopurams facing east. The entrance gates of 3 gopurams are made of bronze, silver and gold respectively.
There are 108 Thithas and 10,000 year old natural arch right behind the temple. Temple trust has over 15,000 employees. Tirupati is well connected by road, rail and air.