Temples in Bharat reflect the country’s rich religious and spiritual heritage. Bharat is home to over 2 million temples, many of which are considered to be places of immense faith and miracle, attracting devotees from all over the world. We, Bharatiyas, know how to preserve and embrace our culture, rituals, and Dharma in this age of modernism.
Importance of Ancient Temples
In Bharat, temples have never been just that. Since antiquity, they have been centre of commerce, art, culture, education and social life. The local temple was the centre of the community. This is where people prayed to Gods and Goddesses for health, wealth, progeny, the removal of a specific obstacle, or even the acquisition of something valuable. This is where people met, exchanged news and opinions, shared their stories, their difficulties, sought each other’s advice, and planned their daily lives.
Each State in the country has its own distinct traditions, and each of these States has a rich history with numerous temples that serve as cultural centres. Dharma, rather than religion, has played an important role in the development of nation, shaping their worldviews and allowing them to grow spiritually. Temples are more than just Dharmik places in Bharat. There are also many richest temples in India, which attract millions of tourists from all over the world each year.
Temples are places in Bharat where people pray for peace, prosperity, and happiness. Many of these temples are architectural masterpieces, and many of them were built during ancient times and have fascinating stories to narrate. Some of these temples are so wealthy that they own vast tracts of land or gold. Many temples have extensive collections of valuable items and antiques that have been passed down through generations.
How do temples contribute to a strong economy and job creation?
“In some ways, the development of tourism-rich economic zones, along pilgrim trails, stems from extensive research that has shown that shrines were important economic hubs throughout Indian history”. Burton Stein of the University of Minnesota wrote a seminal paper on this in 1960 called ‘The Economic Function of a Medieval South Indian Temple’, which was published in The Journal of Asian Studies.
According to data released by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), 55 per cent of Hindus, who travel to religious pilgrimages, stay in mid and small-sized hotels. Religious travel costs Rs 2,717 per day/per person, social travel costs Rs 1,068 per day/per person, and educational travel costs Rs 2,286 per day/per person. This equates to a daily expenditure of Rs 1,316 crores and an annual expenditure of Rs 4.74 lakh crores on religious travel.
According to the NSSO survey, the temple economy is worth Rs 3.02 lakh crore, or about $40 billion and 2.32 per cent of GDP. In reality, it could be much larger. Flowers, oil, lamps, perfumes, bangles, sindur, images, and puja dresses are all included. The vast majority of unprotected informal labour propels it. It is estimated that the travel and tourism industry alone employ more than 80 million people in India, with a year-on-year growth rate of more than 19 per cent and revenue of more than $234 billion in the last year alone.
Domestic Tourists Exceeding Foreigners
According to Government estimates, approximately 87 per cent of tourists in India are domestic, with the remaining 13 per cent being foreign visitors. Varanasi’s importance in Hindu and Buddhist beliefs implies that this ancient city receives a sizeable proportion of total domestic tourists and pilgrims. The Central Government’s revenue for 2022-23 is Rs 19,34,706 crores, and only six temples collected Rs 24000 crores in cash. Domestic religious tourism is outnumbering foreign visitors. Over 100 crores of domestic visits to new destinations indicate that there is churning beyond the golden triangle of Delhi-Agra-Jaipur. Even 20 per cent of the nine crore foreign tourists visit Madurai and Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu and Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh.
Over the years, India’s rankings on major global indices such as the World Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report (WEF) and the UNWTO Tourism Barometer have steadily improved. The increase in tourist activities also helps to develop multi-use infrastructure such as hotels and resorts. As a result, the Indian Government intends to attract FDI worth more than US$100 billion over the next few years, creati approximately 100 million jobs.
How does Prime Minister Narendra Modi see the Temple and the tourism industry?
Recently, the Prime Minister spoke at a post-Budget webinar on tourism when he mentioned the Ramayan circuit, Buddha circuit, Krishna circuit, Northeast circuit, Gandhi circuit, and pilgrimages of all saints, emphasising the importance of working together collectively on this.
Citing various yatras undertaken by the masses over the centuries, the Prime Minister noted that some people think tourism is a fancy word for high-income groups, but it has been a part of India’s cultural and social life for centuries, and people used to go on pilgrimages even when they had no resources. He said the Char Dham yatra, the Dwadash Jyotirling yatra, and the 51 Shaktipeeth yatra are used to connect to the places of our faith, while also strengthening national unity. Observing that the entire economy of many of the country’s major cities was dependent on these yatras, the Prime Minister bemoaned the lack of development to upgrade facilities to modern standards, despite the age-old tradition of yatras. The PM stated that the root cause of the country’s damage was hundreds of years of slavery and political neglect of these places in the decades following Independence. “Today’s India is changing this situation,” said Shri Modi, adding that an increase in facilities leads to an increase in tourist attraction. He also told the audience that before the renovation, approximately 80 lakh people visited Kashi Vishwanath Dham in Varanasi in a year, but tourist footfall exceeded 7 crores last year. “Only 4-5 lakh devotees had visited Baba Kedar prior to the completion of reconstruction work in Kedarghati. Similarly, 80,000 pilgrims visit Pavagadh in Gujarat to see Maa Kalika, up from 4,000 to 5,000 before the renovation. The expansion of facilities has a direct impact on the number of tourists, and more tourists means more opportunities for employment and self-employment “said the Prime Minister. Putting the spotlight on the growing number of foreign tourists in India, the Prime Minister stated that 8 lakh foreign tourists visited India in January this year, compared to only 2 lakhs in January last year.
Hindu temples have a multifaceted significance that includes Buddha, Jain, and Sikh temples.Hindu temples and Dharmik practises are constantly persecuted by communist and conversion mafias. Temples have always brought people together when society and country needed it the most. The various social activities that take place on a regular basis and during emergencies are admirable. The recent big disaster due to COVID-19 and the assistance provided by temples provided a huge relief that saved many lives. Big temples’ support for schools, hospitals, and rural development activities is greatly appreciated.
The current Government’s systematic planning and development of Temple sites, as well as the associated infrastructure, will shift the slave mindset to one that is culturally bonded, focused on socioeconomic and spiritual development, more social cohesion, celebrating life to gain peace, and fighting against all odds as a unit.
Temples’ Scientific Importance
Magnetic and electric waves are constantly circulating within the earth; when architects and engineers design a temple, they choose a piece of land where these waves are abundant. The main idol is located in the temple’s centre, which is also known as Garbhagriha or Moolsthana. The temple is constructed, and the idol is enunciated with a pooja known as Pran Pratistha. The idol is placed in an area where magnetic waves are extremely active. They bury some copper plates beneath the idol while it is being placed; the plates are inscribed with Vedic scripts; these copper plates absorb magnetic waves from the earth and radiate them to the surroundings. As a result, if a person visits a temple on a regular basis and walks around the idol clockwise, his or her body absorbs these magnetic waves and boosts positive energy, leading to a healthy life.
Almost all Hindu temples have large bells that must be rung before entering. The science behind this is mind-boggling. Temple bells are made from a specific proportion of different metals. Cadmium, lead, copper, zinc, nickel, chromium, and manganese are among them. The real reason for science is the mixing and proportion of metals used in manufacturing. When the bells ring, they make a distinct sound. The sound and vibration are so distinct that it connects both sides of the brain (left and right); additionally, the sharp sound and vibration last for seven seconds in echo mode, which is enough to touch seven healing centres of the body. With the sound, the mind becomes empty of all thoughts and transforms into a regular visitor to temples. It becomes very receptive, ready to accept new ideas and free the mind from all the chaos that is going on. Many other advantages include the elimination of negative thoughts, improved concentration, mental balance, and aid in illness.
The study of temple economy should be included in the curriculum.
The temple and its associated economy will play a significant role in the Indian economy, creating millions of jobs in a variety of sectors. A significant part of this must be strengthened through systematic management. It would be a wise approach to include Temple, its management, and its economy in higher education curricula. Youths can direct their efforts and resources towards expanding and developing the temple economy and related tourism sectors.
Another contentious issue is removing Government control over all major Hindu temples. The Government should pass a new law mandating that no political leaders serve on the new Temple management committee. Donations should be used for the welfare and social activities of that particular Dharma or religion. Let us look at the temple culture and activities from the right angle and work together to build the Temple economy.