Urban India seeks ‘agarbati’ as magic wand!

Rashi Aditi Ghosh/Zee Research Group

India has long been known for its spiritual and religious beliefs all over the world. Religion in India permeates every aspect of life - from common-place, daily chores to education and politics.

But, if you believe that religion is only limited to villages and religiosity in cities is declining rapidly in modern times, think again.

Call it faith, fear or frustration but urban Indians now stress out by spending more on religion, says the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO).

A report on “Household Consumption of Various Goods and Services in India” by NSSO reflects that more urban in comparison to rural households spend on stuffs needed for religious purposes.

While 711 per 1000 urban households buy agarbati, the number drops to 670 per 1000 rural households.

Explaining the greater religious expenditure in urban households Professor Parvez Abbasi, expert on culture and communication issues from South Gujarat University, Surat says, “Urban Indians in comparison to rural Indians spend more on religion as they can easily afford it due to their higher disposable income.”

Surprisingly, the consumption proportion of agarbati is much more than the use of bus, tram and auto rickshaw amongst both urban and rural households in India.

But when it comes to hiring a priest for religious purposes the necessity factor amongst urban and rural households maintain a similar proportion at 88 per 1000 households.

The need for faith and worship in urban India is so high that they plan outdoor trips for religious and pilgrimage purposes as cities just have 0.6 per cent of worship places in comparison to national average of 1 per cent.

NSSO report on “Domestic Tourism in India” says religious and pilgrimage trips had a share of about 14 per cent in the urban and 11 per cent in the rural sector.

Endorsing the increasing trend of religious tourism in India, Karan Anand, head, Relationships, Cox & Kings Ltd says, “With the increase in connectivity, the trend of religious tourism is growing and will further grow in future. Today you can do Char Dham in a couple of days which used to take a week earlier.”

Commenting on similar trends Mohit Gupta, Chief Business Officer - Holidays, MakeMyTrip, says, “Religious trips have traditionally been associated with an older demographic and people usually had to wait to book it with a travel agent, who in turn would wait for a minimum number of travelers for the same destination before fixing up the travel plans. With the economies of scale being offered by the online model, we are able to provide real-time booking for the holiday of the customer’s choice.”

A break-up on overnight trips with ‘religious and pilgrimage’ purposes accounted for about 12 per cent of the urban population and 9 per cent of the rural population in India.

Reasoning the higher pilgrimage tendency among urban Indians Dr Vishesh Kumar Gupta, an expert on leisure and tourism issues from Indian Sociological Society, New Delhi says, “A lot of rural Indians who migrate to urban places face sudden change in family structure and neighborhood which gradually leads them towards isolation and insecurity. They then try to get peace in religion and thus travel to religious places to get healed.”

Quoting the belief of Indians on spiritual healing as a form of stress management, Dr Ramesh Kaushal, a spiritual healer at California Healthcare Institute, California says, “Urban Indians are getting agitated and irritated due to the increasing level of stress and competition, both at work and at home. Spirituality and pilgrimage are the best stress busters and thus urban Indians are developing an ideal inclination towards religion.”

Out of all urban pilgrims, unemployed ones are more frequent religious travelers than employed ones, reveals NSSO. Dr Vishesh from New Delhi adds, “It is obvious that an unemployed person in urban India would be more desperate to get a job in comparison to a rural unemployed as in urban India the factor of belongingness is far less than that in villages thus, survival is the biggest issue. So, religion is one of the fast and easy options to get a sure shot result.”

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