After developing infrastructure and encouraging tourism in heritage cities, the Urban Development Ministry is now mulling over the idea of developing spiritual tourism. For this, a city's spiritual heritage will be identified, developed and marketed. All these towns will then run along a religious corridor, which can then be showcased to tourists.
In this endeavour, the ministry is following the examples of Nepal and Sri Lanka, where sacred temple towns have been identified and religious corridors have already been set up. UNESCO has also been roped in to assist the ministry in drawing up a roadmap.
The government is already running two schemes for developing religious and heritage towns across the country. As part of its Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) and the Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spirituality Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) scheme, the Urban Development Ministry and Tourism Ministry has already been developing tourism infrastructure in cities identified under these schemes.
After strengthening physical infrastructure, the ministry has now made plans to identify sacred geographies of these cities and link it to encouraging tourism. The project will involve identifying and restoring the lost culture, heritage, and traditions of these ancient cities.
"Barring a few modern cities, every city in India has a sacred geography attached to it. Over the years, these geographies have got lost because of unplanned city growth," said the former chairman of Delhi Urban Arts Commission, KTS Ravindran. Ravindran is currently the founder trustee of the Indian Heritage Cities Network Foundation (IHCNF) and along with UNESCO is assisting the government to identify the cities' sacred geographies.
IHCNF has identified 18 cities, some of which include Bodh Gaya, Ujjain, old churches in Goa, Pondicherry and the Sufi trail comprising Agra, Delhi and Ajmer.
The government also plans to identify and understand the spiritual and cultural traditions along these towns and link it to the everyday life of people. "The ministry wants people to have a sense of belongingness to these developments and connect it to the cities' rich traditions. We also want tourists to experience that," added Ravindran.
Beginning Thursday, the ministry is organising a two-day conference in Delhi. "We are already developing 12 cities as a part of the HRIDAY cities project. Identifying the sacred geographies of these cities will add yet another dimension to this endeavour," said a senior officer of the Urban Development Ministry.