Accepted paper:

The Visual Culture of Religious tourism in India: Photography's role


Sohail Akbar (Jamia Millia Islamia University)

Paper short abstract:

The Paper seeks to look at the photographic practices surrounding pilgrimage to holy sites in India which are a very popular variant of tourism in this part of the world. Both personal photography as well as commercial activities pertaining to image making at these sites are areas to be interrogated.

Paper long abstract:

Religious tourism is something unique to India where huge populations of faithful people undertake journeys to pilgrim sites near and far from their homes. These pilgrimages are located at an intersection of the idea of taking a break from work therefore seeking leisure as well as seeking blessings of deities at various sites of reverence. The paper seeks to look at the visual culture of such sites where personal and commercial intersect. Photography of performance in front of the deity as well as pictures of such religious sites are taken both by the person making the pilgrimage as well as professionals who market pictures in various forms. As seeking closeness to God is a major aim of such pilgrimages, photography has played its own role in making the seeker realize his or her aspirations, thus bringing into focus the role of photography as a certifier as well as well a fantasy tool. This paper also seeks to bring into focus the role of photography as a facilitator of the impossible (closeness to God) in present physical life. The role of digital media in helping the religious industry in India is getting more and more linked to this notion. Greater mobility of a vast economically progressing middle class in India has seen a major increase in photography practices as well as tourism in general; this paper will be an attempt to map the many layers of visual practices that have been associated with religious tourism and where is this leading to in the future.

panel P12
Tourism and Photography