Thursday, September 26, 2013

Temple Tourism

World Tourism Day is celebrated on Sept 27th every year with much focus on the tourist destinations which are already on the map. In the present day context, Tourism is not just confined to Beaches, Resorts, Hill stations, Places of Historical imporatance etc. It even covers Medical Tourism, Temple Tourism and so on. Thus the word gets wider meaning than before.In fact, the United Nations has declared the day with a message, "Tourism and Water- Protecting our common future" towards sustainable Tourism.

 When we talk about Temple Tourism, we do not seem to create new destinations of equal interest. Tourism Dept has also tried to woo the Pilgrims on freshly introduced tours like "Navagraha Tour & Shakthi  Dharshan" But it needs to be enlarged to each district to promote internal Tourism which will attract visitors from other states and abroad later. At the same time, care must be taken to sustain the Tours.

Kumbakonam, for instance has got great potential to boost Temple Tourism in the region. Good Hotels with modern amenities have come up in the town which attracts pilgrims round the year. Besides the cluster of Temples in the Temple belt of the erstwhile Chola Kingdom, it also offers craft centres at Swamimalai, Darasuram and Nachiyar Koil. This area is also culturally important for its brass vessels,lamps,icons and silk sarees that stand witness to its living heritage.

Cholas paid lot of attention to develop the cultural activities of the region as Pazhayarai, located about 10 km from Kumbakonam was one of their capitals. Huge Temples at Kumbakonam, Thiruvidaimarudur, Thirubuvanam, Darasuram,Patteswaram,Thiruvarur, Thirunageswaram are some examples to understand the dedication of the Kings.

While the whole region is considered as the Divine Seat, it is therefore unimaginable to select only a few among the cluster of Temples. Yet, the visitors are not guided properly to undertake a tour that covers a particular route by fairly covering almost every Temple on the way. The "Navagraha Tour" covers nine Temples between Vaitheeswaran Koil ( 50 Km from Kumbakonam) ,and Thingalur (36 km), both are on the opposite directions.The only purpose is to cover these Temples within two days and offer "Parihara Poojas". It is sad that Temples close to these destinations such as Thiruvaiyaru and Thirupazhanam are left out and many Temples on the way such as Thiruvidaimarudur,Thirubuvanam,Mayiladuthurai,  Sirkazhi, Thiruvarur and Mannargudi are skipped !

Several Lakhs of Pilgrims gather at Maha Maham Tank on Masi Magam day to have Holy bath at the Tank.How many of them look at Shodasa Lingam Temples built around the Tank by Sri Govindha Deekshidar? How many Pilgrims from other districts know about the Temples for Banapureeswarar, Abimukeswarar,Amrutha Kalasa Nathar and Koneswarar which are associated with the Sthala Puranam of Kumbakonam?

Does the Tourism Dept operate a City Tour to cover major Temples of Kumbakonam Town? Why can't they customise and split the  "Navagraha Temple Tour" into many parts so as to cover many important Temples enroute? For example, a tour from Kumbakonam may cover Thirubhuvanam and Thiruvidaimarudur,Thirukkodikaaval, Thirumangalakkudi Kathiramangalam, and Thirumanjeri on the way to Sooryanar Koil and Kanjanur.Similarly, a tour to Thingalur may cover Thiruvalanchuzhi,Swamimalai, Patteswaram,Pazhayarai,Nallur, Thirupazhanam and Thiruvaiyaru on the way. Likewise the region is covered reasonably well if the tours are properly planned .

Travel desks of major Hotels in Kumbakonam project the often visited places of Darasuram and Tanjore Big Temples. Will it not delight the visitors if places such as Gangai Konda Cholapuram, Thirupanandal, Cholapuram, Manampadi are covered in their iterinary? The Hotels may distribute brochures about different packages so that visitors will derive more information than they initially gathered. It will definitely boost the Temple Tourism in the region where agriculture is the only source of income.