Shifting Pilgrim-Trails and Temple-Towns in India

Authored by: Kiran A. Shinde

Routledge Handbook of Heritage in Asia

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415600453
eBook ISBN: 9780203156001
Adobe ISBN: 9781136582042


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Religious heritage is common to most societies and includes both tangible and intangible cultural properties (Bumbaru 2003). Tangible properties comprise monuments, groups of buildings and sites, while the intangible encompasses ‘habitual activities that structure the lives of communities and groups’ such as social practices, rituals, traditions, and festive events (UNESCO 2003). Religious heritage is additionally complicated in that spiritual, socio-political, economic and cultural functions are rolled into multifaceted religious institutions including: places of worship such as temples, churches, mosques, ashrams and monasteries; religious personalities such as gurus, priests, monks, etc.; and performance and rituals (Bywater 1994; Raj and Morpeth 2007). There is considerable literature that describes how the religious importance and diverse range of cultural resources in religious sites attract various forms of cultural tourism, religious tourism and heritage tourism (Rinschede 1992; Shackley 2001). Scholarship on the subject has primarily focused on investigating the impacts of tourism on cultural heritage, and scholars have found that the increased flows of visitors to these places contribute to the commodification of religious heritage for tourist consumption (Timothy and Boyd 2003). While pressures to cater to tourists may negatively impact on religious ceremonies and rituals, religious groups are also instrumental in commodifying their doctrines, customs, and beliefs for economic gain from tourism (Olsen 2003), and as part of religious pilgrimage experiences. It is in this area that lines and agendas are blurred, and major problems for the conceptualisation and management of religious heritage sites arise.

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