From Route to Road and Body to Car: Changing Aesthetics of Religious Tourism in a Sacred Landscape

Kiran Shinde

Abstract


Braj-yatra is a pilgrimage journey in north India that is mainly undertaken by devotees of Krishna. It is a circumambulation of a region comprising of several sites where Krishna is believed to have performed divine plays. More importantly, Braj-yatra is the means by which pilgrims can “recreate in their imagination the life of the god to whom they are devoted or whose stories appeal to them ... to hear the stories retold at the sites where miraculous events took place ... [and] … see material evidence and representations of the gods and great devotees.” Devotees believe that the journey through the landscape of forests and lakes provides opportunities for a spiritual encounter with Krishna. Upon first reading about the Braj-yatra, I was interested in experiencing this journey and the sacred landscape both as a pilgrim and a researcher. In this paper, I reflect on some of the experiences of this pilgrimage to explain how ‘aesthetics’ of religious travel in sacred landscapes are not based on physical appearances and form, but are largely derived from emotional attachment underlined with mythological stories, religious rituals, and spiritual connections associated with the landscape. I will also argue that the differentiation of these aesthetics depend on the mode and method of religious travel in sacred landscapes.

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