Pro­mot­ing Re­li­gious Sites

Nepal and In­dia share a com­mon re­li­gious and cul­tural his­tory, which, if pro­jected prop­erly, can in­crease tourist traf­fic in both coun­tries.

Southasia - - RELIGION TOURISM - By Madi­iha Bi­il­lall Ka­padiia

South Asian coun­tries, while unique in their own ways, tend to share a com­mon cul­ture. The norms and val­ues pre­vail­ing in Hin­duism, Is­lam, Bud­dhism and Sikhism, are deeply rooted in South Asian so­ci­eties. Though the num­ber of fol­low­ers varies from coun­try to coun­try, their pres­ence and in­flu­ence in lo­cal arts, cul­tures, and tra­di­tions are dis­tinctly vis­i­ble in ev­ery so­ci­ety in the re­gion. Nepal too has its unique ge­og­ra­phy, his­tory and cul­tural her­itage, which makes it an in­te­gral part of the broader cul­tural his­tory and tra­di­tion of the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent.

Nepal and In­dia share nu­mer­ous sim­i­lar­i­ties in cul­tural tra­di­tions. Both coun­tries have made great con­tri­bu­tions to en­rich the re­gions’ re­li­gious and cul­tural her­itage. Lord Bud­dha, born in Nepal, left his foot­prints not only in South Asia but all across the world. Sita, the daugh­ter of Nepal and wife of Ram, the crown prince of Ay­o­d­hya in In­dia, is highly re­garded by Hin­dus all over the world, which re­flects the cul­tural bond­ing be­tween In­dia and Nepal. In­dian philoso­phers and saints have made sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to evolve, de­velop and spread the her­itage known to­day as the South Asian cul­ture.

Nepal and In­dia share a ver­sa­tile cul­tural link where re­li­gion has played a sig­nif­i­cant role in shap­ing cul­tural re­la­tions be­tween th­ese two coun­tries. This is ev­i­dent by the fact that thou­sands of Nepalese visit pil­grim­age sites in In­dia each year. Sim­i­larly, cer­tain sites in Nepal are of re­li­gious sig­nif­i­cance for the Hin­dus such as Pashu­pati­nath in Kath­mandu, Lumbini (Bud­dha’s birth place) in Ru­pan­dehi dis­trict,

and the Ram-Janaki tem­ple in Janakpur (the birth place of Janak and Sita). The cul­tural ties be­tween the Nepalese and the Hin­dus are fur­ther strength­ened due to a com­mon re­li­gious faith, phi­los­o­phy, and prac­tice of wor­ship.

Lan­guage is an­other com­po­nent of the Nepal-In­dia cul­tural affin­ity. The dif­fer­ent lan­guages shared be­tween the Nepalese and the Hin­dus in­clude Nepali, Maithili, Bho­jpuri, Hindi and Awadhi of which San­skrit is the root. In ad­di­tion, both coun­tries use the Dev­na­gari script in writ­ing and re­li­gious texts. The same script is used to write the Vedas, Upan­ishads, Pu­ranas and Trip­i­tak.

Peo­ple from Nepal and In­dia have had a fre­quent ex­change of ideas and per­son­al­i­ties rep­re­sent­ing art, cul­ture, mu­sic, lit­er­a­ture, and sports. The re­li­gious tra­di­tions and mytholo­gies have given life to norms and val­ues in Nepal and In­dia and the art forms pre­vail­ing in th­ese two coun­tries also share a sim­i­lar his­tory.

Tourism, be­ing Nepal’s largest in­dus­try, is also a ma­jor source of for­eign ex­change and rev­enue. A pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion among moun­taineers across the world, Nepal is home to 8 of the 10 high­est moun­tains in the world. The govern­ment of Nepal has reached out to dif­fer­ent coun­tries, es­pe­cially In­dia’s travel com­pa­nies, to pro­mote its tourism sec­tor. The coun­try en­joys pop­u­lar­ity with In­di­ans as a recre­ational, shop­ping and pil­grim­age des­ti­na­tion. Its rep­u­ta­tion as a tourist des­ti­na­tion in In­dia has in­creased vastly in re­cent years. Trans­porta­tion links be­tween the two coun­tries have fur­ther bridged the di­vide as 55 flights op­er­ate be-

tween Kath­mandu and the In­dian cities of Delhi, Kolkata, and Mum­bai, ev­ery week. Other rea­sons in­clude a pleas­ant cli­mate, easy road ac­cess, no visa re­quire­ment, a com­mon lan­guage, and a fa­vor­able ex­change rate.

Pop­u­lar among the tourists is trekking, moun­taineer­ing and sa­fari tours. This in­cludes white-wa­ter raft­ing, bik­ing, fish­ing, rock climb­ing, paraglid­ing, hot air bal­loon­ing, pony treks, and boat­ing to name a few. Nepal also has ten national parks, six con­ser­va­tion ar­eas, three wildlife re­serves and a hunt­ing re­serve.

The tourism in­dus­try is the largest and fastest grow­ing in­dus­try in the world, ac­count­ing for more than ten per­cent of global spend­ing. For Nepal, it gen­er­ates for­eign rev­enue and pro­vides em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties as well. The Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) con­ducted a Nepal-In­dia Tourism Mart in Lumbini in Jan­uary, where the par­tic­i­pants dis­cussed the idea to jointly pro­mote Bud­dhist re­li­gious sites in Nepal and In­dia. Govern­ment of­fi­cials and travel in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives dis­cussed strate­gies to pro­mote a travel cir­cuit com­pris­ing all ma­jor Bud­dhist sites. The main ob­jec­tive of the Tourism Mart was to pro­mote Bud­dhist sites, boost in­ter­ac­tion be­tween tourism en­trepreneurs, and ex­pand busi­ness net- works in both coun­tries.

The tourism in­dus­try is equally im­por­tant to In­dia, which re­ceives over a mil­lion tourists an­nu­ally who visit its Bud­dhist sites, whereas Nepal has, in the past, re­ceived less than 100,000 tourists a year at Lumbini. Ac­cord­ing to the Nepal Tourism Min­istry, Nepal’s “Visit Lumbini Year” cam­paign in 2012 at­tracted nearly 509,073 tourists from 92 coun­tries who vis­ited Lord Bud­dha’s birth­place, in­clud­ing 113,195 from In­dia, 52,672 from Sri Lanka and 28,480 from Thai­land. Madiha Bi­lal Ka­pa­dia holds an MBA in Mar­ket­ing from IoBM and free­lances for var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions.

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