Soulful, enlightening and transcendental: The rise of spiritual tourism
India is a land of spiritual enlightenment and mysticism. Given India’s fame as a land of spiritual enlightenment, tourists want to recharge their batteries, practise mindfulness and enhance their spiritual well-being. Mindfulness has gained attention as a constructive means of dealing with negative life events (read Covid-19). Weaving mindfulness and spirituality into the fabric of travel makes spiritual tourism much sought after among youngsters in the post-pandemic world.
Not only does travel for spiritual pursuits refresh and renew our sense of wonder, it is intrinsically attached to the idea of self-care and a deeper connection to the earth, with others and the self. The society’s need and pursuit of happiness is stronger than ever and the penchant to explore the spiritual world beckons them.
“Spiritual travel has been explored for years in India, largely by the older generation. The last year and half has, however, altered this, with younger, new-age travellers seeking to disconnect from daily life. Spiritual retreats, with a mix of religious and off-grid destinations, provide an ideal setting for soul and mind detox,” says Ashish Dhruva, senior vice president, marketing and customer engagement, Intermiles.
The spiritual path seems to start in a world of confusion, endless distractions and deep pain. However, travel fuelled by a desire to chart a spiritual path gives a deep sense of trust, a sense that you are being looked after, a sense that everything really is okay. “Life doesn’t always offer what you expect. Often, you see teens drift away... Their prime resort to a meaningful rescue would be to indulge in a tour that is a gateway to a world of spirituality, providing that trust which is beyond human faith,” says Grand Master Akshar, Himalayan Siddha.
“Youngsters tend to be more open-minded and liberal, their spirituality is a private and personal pursuit so whilst before they may have begrudgingly trekked to random places with their parents for the sake of religion, they are now choosing to make these journeys of self-discovery on their own terms. With anxiety and depression on the rise in younger generations, I imagine they are seeking out peace and a sense of grounding, which these holy places provide. At the very least, they provide perspective,” says Shivali Bhammer, contemporary devotional singer.
Though spiritual tourism, as a sizable segment, was mostly in the 50+ age group but now youngsters are looking at offbeat destinations for their soul recharging escapades. “The popular ones are Rishikesh, Leh Ladakh, Pelling- Sikkim, Kedarnath trail, Bodhgaya and Ajmer for the youngsters who can take off for the weekend and maybe hop on a flight. Another meditative experience is biking in the ranges, which is a rage with the new age roadsters. The benefits of these breaks are evident in the mental health of the youngsters who use every long weekend opportunity for soaking in nature as they know what their soul needs. Learning spiritual courses in retreats is another huge draw for youngsters thirsty for knowledge and answers they are not able to get easily,” says Sheelaa M Bajaj, Spiritual coach.
Rahul Joshi, General Manager, Taj Hotel & Convention Centre, Agra, feels it is the city of Agra that attracts the GenNext. “Apart from being a soulful destination where love is said to transcend all realms of spirituality, it also sits strategically in a location flanked by Mathura, Vrindavan and Gokul,” he says.
“Destinations like Manali, higher up terrains of Chandratal and Suryatal, these places are hidden treasure houses of Himalayan knowledge. Places like mountains of Nepal are heaven on earth, where age-old sages and rishis have left their legacies for those spirits who are ready to establish that bond and build that faith stronger,” feels Akshar.
“Shirdi and Tirupati are popular and Varanasi too tops the list when it comes to spiritual tourism for Vishal Lonkar- General Manager, Brand Development, Renest Hotels & Resorts who have multiple properties at Shirdi and Tirupati and arrange for millennials seeking a calming experience to beat stress and anxiety.
We as humans are drawn to these places because they can offer something that no other aspect of our lives can — a regular reminder that there is something bigger and more important than us. “The best part about this tourism is that we get real time to know ourselves while we are enjoying our holidays. Mount Abu and Coimbatore are few places which are catching up with tourists seeking to fill that void,” says Acharya Ravi Kumar Sardana, life coach.
A city engulfed in culture, religion, and history, Amritsar is home to the most famous Gurudwara in the world, Golden Temple. “As one listens to the beautiful notes of gurbani (spiritual songs), the serene spirituality of the temple soothes the soul,” says Kiranpreet Kaur, traveller.
“From perfect frames for photography, with the beautiful locations to intriguing history and those adrenaline-stirring river rafting trips , resonating evening arties by the ganges and ever-pervasive solitude, the young generation has got a plentiful to choose from in Rishikesh,” says Kush Kapoor , CEO ROSEATE HOTELS and Resorts.
With white domes and minarets, Haji Ali Dargah offers one of the most mystical experiences to a spiritual seeker. “Live qawwali and sufi songs in the compounds of Haji Ali adds to the spiritual atmosphere all around the place. The pathway that connects the shoreline to the mosque does enable a person to discover the essence of his/her being,” says Ragini Misra, a travel writer.
This year, take a journey beyond your comfort zone, seek the greater knowledge of patience and perseverance and discover a profound sense of peace, joy, and appreciation.
Some key points to keep in mind when making that journey.
1. Intention to understand why this journey is important
Every journey that we undertake should have a purpose and a deeper meaning to it. Without a purpose or intention, travel can become just a hollow pass time, a constant meaningless party. “There comes a moment when one needs to disconnect from their present, only to seek to connect to something bigger, more meaningful. That’s the road to spiritual tourism,” says Akshar. It is the intention that’ll help one grow and blossom, and enrich the experiences beyond our imagination. Any intention is valid as long as it is adding something to our lives.
2. Embrace yourself
Focusing on yourself is something that can be difficult during everyday life so taking time off and devoting it can provide the opportunity to embrace yourself fully. Spiritual tourism is an opportunity to devote a period of time entirely to yourself.
3. Engage your faith
“Spiritual tourism allows you to dive headfirst into your faith and get a much deeper understanding of what your belief means,” adds Kaur. Meditation is a great way to access the inner workings of your mind and help you experience a faith that you may have only scratched the surface of previously.