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Experiential curation key to promote culture beyond religious tourism, ET TravelWorld News, ET TravelWorld

Experiential curation key to promote culture beyond religious tourism
Temple tours especially in South India can become a true learning experience for tourists if it’s curated and presented well beyond religion and mythology. Pradeep Chakravarthy, Founder of Mystical Palmyra, a special interest tour company that has been curating temple tours in Tamil Nadu for many years now, feels that taking tourists to big temples without proper orientation about the history, heritage, culture, and architecture of the place could turn into an exercise in vain.

Instead of taking the uninitiated into big temples with a lot of architectural significance in the first place, Chakravarthy suggests such people might be taken around smaller temples initially before being introduced to big temples like Srirangam or Madurai Meenakshi temple.

“Right orientation is required before taking tourists to such big temples,” he said, “otherwise it could just confuse them,” he said.

He also expressed his displeasure with the way temple tours are conducted by tour operators and tour guides which generally focus more on the religious and mythological side of the story than the political, administrative, social, and economic significance contained in the architecture and the key inscriptions around these key temples.

“Most of the big temples have inscriptions. You have to explain them as well as the significance of the various rituals in the temple,” he said. “Most of our temple tours happen after a session of meditation,” he said. “If your guests are not used to visiting crowded places, better avoid taking them to such big temples,” he suggests.

The proposal to set up ‘Digital Kumbh Sangrahalaya’ at a cost of around INR 200 crore was prepared before Kumbh 2019 and the tourism department had also started work but it could not take off due to the pandemic. “But there is still enough time to construct the museum by 2025,” he said.

Chakravarthy elucidated how he took a group of Italian startup entrepreneurs to Mahabalipuram and made it a learning experience for them by connecting their challenges in the modern times with what the Pallava architects and sculptors faced while carving cave temples. The Pallava architects were also stuck at times which is evident from many unfinished caves in Mahabalipuram, he says, helping the visitors to draw their own inspiration and conclusion from the site.“What we try to do is to explain the history and make it relevant to the present times,” he said.
He said that the Mystical Palmyra team has covered all districts in Tamil Nadu and explored all unique elements related to those districts with respect to art, craft, architecture, food, etc. over a period of 2 years. “We used to do on average 12 -13 tours before the lockdown,” he said.

Chakravarthy has recently ventured into hospitality by setting up a heritage hotel in Vakula in Alwarthirunagari, which is the birthplace of great Vaishnavite Saint Nammalvar, and a famous Vishnu temple. The 8-key boutique hotel is his dedication to a region that is devoid of any hotel which carries the art, architecture, and traditions of the place. “There are so many business hotels around Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi. But there is hardly any place which is traditionally done up which can relate to the history and heritage of the area,” Chakravarthy said.

Chakravarthy tried to encapsulate the art and architecture of the entire region into the boutique hotel, which will be managed by a local hotel company Anantya Resorts under the brand – Anantya In the Village.

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