Tourism and Himalayan Pilgrimage
These web pages catalogue ways in which tourism and tourist development have affected three important Himalayan pilgrimage places: Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath (see map below); they also consider the future for each of these sites. Most of this was done in June 2002. Unless noted, the photographs are mine.
We are indebted to the ASIANetwork Freeman Faculty-Student Program, which provided a grant to support this project. Many thanks!
Traditional Hindus call the Himalayas "God's
country" (devabhumi), and this region has some of India's
holiest pilgrimage sites.
Pilgrimage here has always been difficult, especially before the advent of roads, and has always involved aspects of tourism, since both involve travel. The tourism aspect has recently been more heavily promoted, to provide economic benefits for this stunningly beautiful but economically underdeveloped region.
|The Himalayas run in a crescent shape through the northern
states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh,
and into Nepal (the part of Uttar Pradesh hooking around Nepal in this
picture has since become a separate state, Uttaranchal.
This map and the one below are taken from Pocket Road Atlas of India, published by T.T. Maps and Publications Ltd., Madras (1989).
|This detail shows Uttaranchal state, in which most of the towns
and roads are in the river valleys, and most of the villages on the
steeper slopes, with the farmlands and pasture lands either above or below
the villages. Three of the most important pilgrimage sites, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and
Badrinath, are at the headwaters of various Ganges tributaries.
Uttaranchal's mountainous terrain means that arable land is very limited, and that farming is difficult--even more so because soil erosion and loss of soil fertility are diminishing agricultural returns. Historically, men here have migrated to find work--whether in the military, or to take jobs further down in the plains. These difficult economic circumstances have been one factor leading the state (and central) government to try to promote tourism as a source of income.
|This advertisement wasa posted by Uttaranchal Tourism in
the 8/16/02 issue of India Abroad--a newspaper aimed toward
non-resident Indians. The dominant image--a sitting bird-- is
pastoral and peaceful, and the smaller images in the pictures below are
all focused on nature
sites. This ad ran at the end of the monsoon season, to
promote autumn tourism.
The Uttaranchal Tourism web site has a sub-page showing pilgrimage sites, as well as links to other tourist attractions. There are strong links between pilgrim sites and adventure tourism (particularly trekking at Gangotri and on the road to Badrinath), as well as the "lakes" and "glaciers" under the "Nature" category.
Click here for more photos of Hindu pilgrimage sites.
These pages are in progress.
Page maintained by James G. Lochtefeld.
Last modified 17 March 2003