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The Economy of Religious Tourism

October 30, 2023

Pakistan is endowed with an abundance of diverse tourism opportunities. It offers an amazing fusion of options for natural, religious, and cultural tourism. Unfortunately, though, we’ve been slow to brand it. If properly utilised, religious tourism alone has the potential to significantly boost our economy.

In Pakistan, there are well-known locations associated with the three main religions: Buddhism, Sikhism, and Islam. There are 480 tourist places in the nation, 120 of which are religious monuments, according to data from the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC). Pakistan welcomes over 900,000 foreign visitors annually. At $3,214.9 million, or roughly 1.2 percent of the nation’s GDP, the tourism sector generates up to 1.2 percent of jobs in the nation.

Ninety-eight percent of all tourist expenditures come from domestic travel and tourism-related expenses. In the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Travel and Tourism Development Index (TTDI) Report-2021, Pakistan was placed 83rd out of 117 nations. The supply of necessary facilities has the potential to significantly improve religious tourism.

Pakistan is home to numerous Buddhist temples and stupas, as well as Hindu and Sikh temples, in addition to Islamic landmarks. Most of these locations frequently host religious rites and events. But even with some of the most significant religious sites, we haven’t been able to bring in a lot of money.

Understanding that religious practises and beliefs are sacred to their adherents is crucial. Respecting, recognising, and allowing for these beliefs creates a great deal of goodwill.

There is currently a negligible Buddhist population in Pakistan. On the other hand, the epicentre of Buddhist teachings has been the region. The world is familiar with the well-known Buddhist sites in Taxila and Gandhara. A 30-kilometer radius around Taxila is home to more than 50 archaeological sites. These locations are well known for their significance to the grandeur and culture of Buddhism. About 2,000 Buddhists visit Pakistan’s sacred sites, according to the PTDC. This falls much short of the actual potential.

Sikhs make up about 0.01% of the nation’s total population. However, Pakistan is home to a number of extremely important religious sites. Among these is the Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, which honours the Sikhism’s founder. For Sikhs in Pakistan and around the world, it is very significant. Another name for the temple is Janam Asthan.

Every year, at Nankana Sahib, about 2,000 Sikh pilgrims go from India to commemorate the Baisakhi festival. Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, is thought to have lived and passed away at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at the beginning of the 16th century. Since 2019, a 4.1-kilometer Kartarpur corridor connecting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib and Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak in India has allowed for visa-free border crossings. Every year, approximately 7,500 Sikhs from India and 2,000 from other countries travel to Pakistan.

The Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore is another significant location. It honours the 1606 martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth guru of Sikhism. He was the first of the two gurus of the Sikh religion to suffer martyrdom. The Sikhs consider this place to be sacred as a result. The Gurdwara Panja Sahib, located in Hasan Abdal, got its name from a purported “imprint” of Guru Nanak’s hand on a nearby rock.

In Pakistan, 1.6% of the population is Hindu. They are now the largest minority group in the nation as a result. They reside mostly in Sindh. Among the most important Hindu temples in Pakistan is the Shri Hinglaj Mata temple at Hingol Park, which welcomes over 250,000 pilgrims annually and is the site of Pakistan’s largest Hindu festival.

The second-biggest Hindu pilgrimage in the nation takes place at the Shri Ramdev Pir shrine in Tando Allah Yar. One of the largest religious celebrations in Pakistan, Shivrathri, is celebrated annually at the Shiv Mandir in Umarkot. Hindus carry the cremated remains of their loved ones to the temple to dip them in the sacred water. One of the locations that Hindus in Pakistan most revere is the Katas Raj Temple complex in Chakwal.

Karachi is home to the mediaeval Hindu temple known as the Shri Panchmukhi Hanuman Mandir. It is recognised as the only temple in the world to have a real statue of Lord Hanuman. It has been designated as a national treasure under the Sindh Cultural Heritage (Preservation) Act of 1994.

Pakistan is home to an abundance of exquisite mosques. In addition to being a significant religious site, Badshahi Masjid in Lahore is a well-liked tourist attraction. When the mosque was constructed in 1673, it served as a representation of the Mughal Empire’s might. The largest mosque in South Asia and the fourth largest in the world is the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad. Constructed by a Turkish architect, the building was finished in 1986.

The third-most famous mosque in Pakistan is the Shah Jehan Mosque in Thatta. The mosque was constructed during the reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan as a token of hospitality to the Sindhis. Karachi is home to the magnificent Tooba Mosque. Constructed entirely of white marble, it is recognised as the largest mosque in the world with a single dome. Its 72-meter (236-foot)-diameter dome is held up by an enclosed wall without a central pillar.

The Mahabat Khan Mosque in Peshawar was built in 1603. The mosque’s architecture, including the minarets, offers a breathtaking vista.

Pakistan is renowned for its Sufi culture as well. There were many well-known and still highly respected Sufi adepts who lived in the region. Hindus as well as Muslims are drawn to the Sehwan Sharif shrine, which is devoted to Syed Muhammad Usman Marwandi, also known as Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, the 12th-century sufi master.

A comparable place in Lahore is the shrine of Data Ganj Bakhsh. Karachi is home to the most well-known Sufi shrine, that of Abdullah Shah Ghazi. About ten centuries ago, it was constructed. Multan is renowned for its numerous conserved Sufi shrines, one of which is that of Hazrat Baha-ud-din Zakaria.

Completed in 1267, the red brick shrine was constructed. Pakpattan Sharif is home to the shrine of Farid-ud Din Shakar Ganj, also referred to as Baba Farid.

Every year, millions of individuals set out on spiritual pilgrimages to the shrines in search of comfort. One of the tourist industries that is now expanding the fastest is religious tourism. We simply cannot pass up this opportunity given the abundance of holy places. This sector of the tourism industry has the potential to bring significant economic advantages, employment opportunities, infrastructure development, and connectedness to the nation if it receives the necessary attention and cautious measures are implemented. It is absolutely necessary to exhibit and brand the places of worship.

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Read More: Here Are The List of Churches in Pakistan

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