Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
People on the Move
N° 96 (Suppl.), December 2004
TOURISM IN INDIA: ITS RELIGIOUS, CULTURAL
AND SOCIAL DIMENSIONS.
GOA AND THE CHURCH’S ROLE
Rev. Fr. Francis ROZARIO, OFM
Dominican Training Center,
Strangers and Pilgrims
We come into this world as strangers with only a family to belong to. As we grow up we make friends to share our joys and sorrows; thereafter we make our own family to love and care for each other.
In all human beings there is an urge to search for meaning, pleasure and make our destiny. This we can term as the life of a pilgrim. People from all over the world travel on pilgrimages, to find meaning for their life, to obtain solace and peace of mind. We can term man as a tourist, traveling for recreation and for religious purpose.
In this short paper I would like to highlight about my country, India, how tourism plays a dominant role in all the lives of an Indian, be it religious, cultural and social. The second part will deal with Goa in reference to the good and not so good about tourism in Goa and what is the Church’s stand in tourism with a few recommendations.
Dharmik Bharat (Religiosity in India)
Religion is deeply embedded in the psyche of the Indian people. Religion is the heartbeat of the nation and the followers of all major religions and sects: namely, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism Zoroastrianism, Sikhism and Christianity, which have lived here in India for centuries. Together have come up temples, mosques, gurudwaras, churches, synagogues and religious and spiritual centers. Across the length and breadth of the Indian sub-continent there are the Hindu pilgrim centers, Jain pilgrim centers, Sikh pilgrim centers and Islamic pilgrim centers.
For the Hindus there is the Ayodhya, Allahabad, Varanasi, Rishikesh and Haridwar in North India and other pilgrim centers like Chidambaram, Jaganathpuri, Rameshwaram and Tirupathi are important to the Hindus. The shrine of Moinuddin Chisti at Ajmer Jama Masjid of Delhi and Agra draws millions of devotees every year. The golden temple at Amritsar and Patna Sahib and Sisganj Gurudwaras at Delhi are equally visited by the Sikh community. The Buddhist pilgrim centers like Rajgriha, Bodhgaya, Nalanda in Bihar and Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh are naturally of special interest to the followers of Buddhism. The Jain temples of Dilwara and Mount Abu draw thousands of followers.
Christianity has had a long and glorious relation with India. According to the legends, St. Thomas sailed to India from Eastern Asia in A.D. 52. He spent 12 years in India, the last eight years of his life in Mylapore in Chennai. Several shrines have been created in the places associated with him. Apart from this, the advent of Europeans in India from the 15th century onwards led to the mass influx of Christians and subsequent development of Christian worship places. Some of the Christian pilgrim centers are St. Thomas Cathedral at Mylapore in Chennai, where the grave of the Apostle St. Thomas is venerated; St. Francis Xavier’s shrines at Bom Jesus at Old Goa; the Church of Our Lady of Mount at Bandra near Mumbai; the Church of Our Lady of Health at Vailankanni on the coastal line east of Tanjavur in Tamilnadu; the Church of Our Lady of Sardhana near Meerut in Uttar Pradesh; the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary at Bandel in North Calcutta; the Shrine of St. Francis Xavier at Kottar just north at Kanyakumari; the Shrine of St. Theresa of Avila at Mahe, close to Tellicherry in North Kerela; Oriyur in Ramnath district, Tamilnadu where Christians come to venerate the relics and pray to St. John De Britto, who was martyred there in 1693.
Pilgrimage for the Christians and for a believing Indian citizen is a vital part of spiritual life. They see life as a journey or yatra, a coming from God and returning back to God. The pilgrim seeks to separate himself from the everyday concerns of the world and to spend time in the presence of God as he travels to a place of special meaning. He goes on a pilgrimage to gain supernatural help or for thanksgiving or an act of penance and for the sake of devotion.
In a way, religion and pilgrim centers in India bring people together. Together is a faith which draws them, and people have respect for all religion and religious practices. The community comes together and it is politics which is a dividing factor among the religions. Politics should be kept out of religion.
Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani (Still Our Heart Is Indian)
The term culture refers to a state of intellectual development or manners. The social and political forces that influence the growth of a human being are defined as culture.
Indian culture is rich and diverse and, as a result, unique in its very own way. Our manners, way of communicating with one another are one of the important components of our culture. Even though we have accepted modern means of living, improved our lifestyles, our values and beliefs still remain unchanged. A person can change his way of clothing, way of eating and living, but the rich values in a person always remain unchanged because they are deeply rooted within our hearts, mind, and soul which we receive from our culture. Indian culture treats guests as God and serves them and takes care of them as if they are a part and parcel of the family itself. Even if we don’t have anything to eat, the guests are never left hungry and are always looked after by the members of the family. Elders and respect for elders is a major component in Indian culture. Elders are the divine force for any family and hence the love and respect for elders comes from within and is not artificial. An individual takes blessings from his elders by touching their feet. Elders drill and pass on the Indian culture within us as we grow.
“Respect one another” is another lesson that is taught from the books of Indian culture. All people are alike and respecting one another is one’s duty. Helpful nature is another striking feature in our Indian culture. Right from our early days of childhood we are taught to help one another in need of help and distress. If not monetary, then at least in kind or non- monetary ways.
Indian culture tells us to multiply and distribute joy and happiness and share sadness and pain. It tells us that by all this we can develop co-operation and better living amongst ourselves and subsequently make this world a better place to live in.
Even though India is a country of various religions and castes, our culture tells us just one thing “PHIR BHI DIL HAI HINDUSTANI” STILL OUR HEART IS INDIAN.
Hum Sab Ek Hai (We Are One–Unity in Diversity)
India, being a land of many religions, has pilgrim centers in many states. There are over three hundred spoken languages. Every state and region in the Indian union territory has its own unique customs and traditions. We have various dances of Bharatnatyam Kathak, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Mohini, Odysees and tribal and folk dances. In music we have the Hindustani classical and Carnatic besides folk and tribal music. Painting and sculpture are highly developed and are sources of admiration, and are seen in many temples and buildings throughout the length and breadth of the country .
Festivals in India are a main source of attraction and bring everybody together. Festivals in India are characterized by colour, gaiety, enthusiasm, prayers and rituals. Foreign travellers are struck by the scale and multiplicity of the Indian festivals that have evolved in the society. India, being a society of many religions, has a list of many festivals. For the Hindus there is Diwali – a festival of light, Dusshera – victory of good over evil. For the Muslims there is Id, for the Christians its Christmas, and for the Parsis it’s the new year, and apart from all these days there are two other days that are celebrated by all Indians irrespective of caste, creed, or sex: it’s 26th January and 15th August, that is, Republic Day and Independence Day.
During the days of festivities sweets are distributed; fraternal greetings are shared; and family visits are made, forgetting all the differences with regard to one’s religion, caste, language and region. The festivals bring joy and happiness in one’s lives. In celebration of the festivals the message of joy, happiness, brotherhood and humanity among one another comes very strongly. There is a sense of belonging to one family and one community .
Some other festivals that are happily celebrated by all are Onam, Baisakhi, Pongal, Mahavir Jayanthi, Kumbh Mela, Children’s Day, Ganesh Chaturthi.
Its religious dimension
In Goa we have people of all faiths living together. There is perfect harmony among all. There are temples, churches and small mosques. The tourists go visiting churches in Old Goa, Immaculate Church in Panjim, Pilar seminary, Rachol Seminary, Mangueshi temple, Shanta Durga temple at Ponda. The people of Goa respect the religion and the religious practices of Goa and make it a point to visit one another during festivals and thus build community.
Indianess exists in each Goan, who will regard the person coming to the state with respect and love and will go all the way to help the person in need.
Goa is a land of merry-making, a land where there is sharing. Religious festivals are celebrated with los of enthusiasm: viz Ganesh Chaturthi, Holi, Shigmotsav, the Christians have San Joao festival, Samgodd-tying two canoes and put artifices over it and carnival. Goa’s Mando Folksongs and Dances,and the Sea food Festival are other entertainment events bringing people together.
Goa a Tourist destination
People come to Goa for various reasons: viz. for fun and enjoyment on the beaches and to eat delicacies and for pilgrimages
Tourist Information Collected: Arrival of Tourists
Goa Amche – Our Goa – the Ill Effects of Tourism
A song goes “Come from England, Come from Scotland” … Come to Goa, Come to Goa, Goa meri Hai (Goa is mine), Ladies are nice, Gents are full of spice, Come to Goa, Come to Goa, Goa meri hai. What exactly happens in Goa with regard to tourism?
A report was prepared by the Diocesan Pastoral Council of Goa in October 1987 which highlighted the effects of Tourism and it is still relevant in modern times.
1) Stress on resources and amenities
A) Water– There is water scarcity all over. The big hotels are provided with water on a regular basis. Water is pumped from wells and bore wells, and water is becoming saline. The local peoples, taps go dry, and no one cares about it.
B) Electricity–There is a big problem of electricity, and there are frequent power cuts, and people are put in a lot of hardship. The govt. has no systematic plan for electricity. All the big establishments are provided with lights, but not the poor. The poor cry “Give us today our daily lights.”
C) Essential foodstuff– The Goan has his unique eating habit common to all, that is fish, curry, and rice. This is their important dish, but the demand for fish is very high in the hotels, so the common man suffers, and the prices of fish are very exorbitant, and the other commodity is much more compared to other places.
D) Transport– The transport system is not so good especially during the tourist season. From September to May the buses are filled to capacity and are overcrowded. There is no comfort, and the women are targets of teasing, pinching and so on. People getting into the buses are treated worse than animals, like herds of sheep or goats carried to the slaughter houses.
E) Land– The land prices are soaring and rising everyday. The locals are given high remuneration to sell their land to the builder. A Goan is not able to buy land and especially near the coast. The agricultural land is being used to put up big structures.
2)Ecological Imbalance and Environment Degradation
A) Sea Pollution– The sea is polluted and the scenic beauty is spoiled. The waste from big hotels is dumped into the sea, which leads to sea pollution and death of fish.
B) Destruction of tree cover– Age old and beautiful trees are chopped to beautify the cities and tourist places. The tree, which is to act as a cover for the common man, now does not find a place and becomes a source of obstruction; and it follows that it must be removed by all means.
C) Defacement of the sea front– The coastal belt of the sea should be beautiful with trees and coconut plantations, but one notices that there are big hotels that come close to the beaches, and sometimes the tourist is not able to venture into the sea because of the block created by these big hotels.
3) Socio-Cultural And Moral Effects
A) Displacement of traditional occupations– The traditional occupations of the people of Goa are farming, fishing, toddy-tapping, etc. Now, with tourism, people, and especially the young generation, do not want to get into traditional occupations. They want fast money. They take on work in the hotels and sometimes are not paid the minimum wages, and also work in inhuman conditions.
B) Distortion and commercialization of culture– As explained before about Indian culture, there is respect for all, but in Goa there is distortion of culture. The folk dances and mandoes that are sung are commercialized and performed in cheap ways especially on the cruises. There is an imitation of the alien life of the foreigners such as be hippies, nudism and free sex.
C) Destruction of values– Women are considered to have a prominent place in family and society, but tourists considers women as things – Tu cheez badi hay mast (you are a good thing ). There is a steep rise in prostitution. Many girls are becoming a prey and act as call girls satisfying customers. Children too are abused.
D) Spread of drug abuse– There is secret importation of drugs used by tourists, and slowly it has affected the youth, who are affected by the drugs, especially those staying at the coastal belt.
F) Cheap labour– The labour classes are most affected. With the minimum wages they get, they have to manage with regard to food, clothing, shelter and education. With the high prices of all essentials, it is difficult for the labor classes to survive. And especially if there is off season of tourism, they have to find alternative jobs, and some of them get involved in prostitution, robbery, murder and so on. The other problem is that migrant workers take lower wages, so they are preferred to the locals.
Remedial Measures and Recommendation
The local community must get involved in tourism planning and make the government protect the interests of the local community.
There should be an intensive educational programme through talks and audio-visuals to conscientise people against the evils of drug addiction, nudism, etc.