Bangalore (Karnataka), October 24, 2004: Religious tourism in Karnataka is attempting to tread new grounds with an elaborate action plan on Jain tourism in the run-up to the Mahamastakabhisheka of Gomateshwara in Shravanabelagola in February 2006. As a distinctive segment, religious tourism has been gaining a lot of ground, so much so that Karnataka tourism has focussed some attention in promoting religious or pilgrimage circuits. It is now using the Mahamastakabhisheka to spruce up the Jain circuit.
The Mahamastakabhisheka is performed once in 12 years, where the 57-foot idol is anointed with milk, curd, honey, coconut water, vermilion, turmeric paste, sandalwood paste, gold coins and even jewellery. “We have prepared a master plan to improve facilities in many of the other places with Jain temples. We have asked the central government for Rs 8 crore in grants to set up wayside facilities, rest houses and other basic amenities. We want to start well before the event, to tap the segment in the run-up,” tourism commissioner Mahendra Jain said.
Shravanabelagola itself is quite a popular spot throughout the year with non-Jain tourists climbing the hill to gaze on the monolithic statues. And so the place has comparatively good facilities. However, the department plans to establish facilities in certain other places, considered equally important by Jains. The department’s action plan is also based on the increasing number of Jain tourists coming to Karnataka because this is the only state with so many places of religious importance for them.
While Shravanabelagola, Dharmasthala and Karkala are among the noted ones, many small towns in north Karnataka have little known Jain ‘basadis’ and other destinations which are popular with Jains, including the troika of Badami-Aihole-Pattadkal. The department is also keen on developing specific circuits. “We want to evolve circuits, which can cater to this community with focus on just one or two main destinations, or a bouquet of destinations, which will include the lesser known ones, depending on the time that such devotees can spend and their budget. And this is not just during the Mahamastakabhisheka, but even before and after since the event will provide a platform for us to promote these circuits,” sources said. The last time the Mahamastakabhisheka was held, an estimated five lakh Jain pilgrims participated in the religious event. This time around, the department estimates at least a 25 per cent increase, if not more. – News Courtesy: Times of India