Guess who Pak is wooing? Hindu tourists
A Kali temple that, according to legend, was formed when the Earth was created and a pond in front of a Shiva temple believed to have been created by his tears. For a tourist in India, this would have been routine. But not in Pakistan.
In a bid to attract the Hindu pilgrim tourist, the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) has identified three places of worship that could be of interest to the Hindu pilgrim under its ‘Different Faiths One Belief’ campaign.
“Groups from Kolkata and Varanasi have visited these holy places. There is definitely a growing interest. Twenty per cent of the 70,000 Indian tourists come for religious purposes. A majority of Indians come to see their place of birth or visit relatives,” said Tayyab Nisar Mir, PTDC spokesperson.
The third destination on the itinerary is the temple of Hinglaj, on the banks of the Hingol river in Baluchistan.
Although several Indians thronged the Destination Pakistan stall at the South Asia Travel and Tourism Exchange that concluded on Sunday in Delhi, most were looking for a nostalgic trip to the neighbouring country rather than a religious one.
“Most Indians go to Pakistan for nostalgic reasons. Also, the Hindu religious places that have been identified are little known. I don’t see an additional exodus on that count,” said Shakti Batra, retired professor of English at Delhi University. Batra is looking forward to taking his wife to Lahore, where he was born.
Pakistan’s tourism took a big hit after 9/11. The dramatic fall in European travellers forced the tourism ministry to look east. “The focus shifted to south and southeast Asia. We are promoting religious tourism to counter the history of fear and projection of negative images,” said Mir.