ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Pilgrimage versus Tourism in Jharkhand


Jains across the country have been protesting the decision of the Jharkhand government to open Sammed Shikhar for tourist activity. Sammed Shikhar, located in Jharkhand’s Giridh district, also called as Shikharji, is one of the most revered pilgrimage sites for Jains of all denominations. It is here at this ancient hilly shrine that 20 of the 24 Tirthankaras attained their moksha. Thus, its sacred character and its association with Jainism’s history makes it a pilgrimage site whose visit is considered by nearly every Jain person as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In general, pilgrimage shrines are an important aspect of any religion’s materiality and sacred geography. As anthropologist Renato Rosaldo put it, “if rituals are busy intersections where a number of distinct social processes intersect,” then “pilgrimage is that ritual which is one of the busiest intersections where one finds both literal and metaphorical meanings of social life.”

In light of this controversy, how does one understand the ongoing protests in Jharkhand? What will the recent decision by the government do to the character of this pilgrimage site considered as sacred by the Jain community? While tourism and pilgrimage are today often mixed activities, there is a difference between a tourist and a pilgrim, as anthropologist Victor Turner has reminded us in his writings. Here, we have a case where a particular community is opposing opening up its shrine to tourists and therefore a whole range of activities that go under the rubric of tourism today. One of the biggest objections raised by the present protests is that it will affect the sacred nature of the place where pilgrims go with certain distinct sensibilities and behaviours—like fasting, going barefoot, abstaining from certain foods, alcohol and sex, wearing specific clothes, and the like. Once declared a tourist spot, even people who may not have these distinct sensibilities may enter the sacred hill, thus affecting the sanctity and the “purity” of the place.

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Updated On : 2nd Jan, 2023
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