“The dominant note in the Indian mind, the temperament that has been at the foundation of all its culture and originated and supported the greater part of its philosophy, religion, art and life has been…spiritual intuitive and psychic; but this fundamental tendency has not excluded but rather powerfully supported a strong and rich intellectual, practical and vital activity.”
~ Sri Aurobindo
Inspired by the Govt. of India’s initiative to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Sri Aurobindo and 75 years of India’s Independence under its Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, the Renaissance-AuroBharati team of Sri Aurobindo Society with the support of Ministry of Tourism (Southern Regional Office), Government of India, organised a one-day National Seminar on the theme –
“Experiencing the Spirit of India through Cultural and Heritage Tourism”
Inspiration behind the National Seminar
Sri Aurobindo has written voluminous works on various aspects of Indian culture and heritage. Taking that as our source of inspiration the seminar was designed to help draw some key insights from these writings which can help educate and sensitize different stakeholders in tourism industry. This, we felt can help further the GoI’s on-going emphasis on promoting cultural and heritage tourism throughout India.
Through a variety of sessions we also brought into the focus the idea of conscious travel rather than mere curiosity driven tourism. The seminar also brought together the main stakeholders of cultural and spiritual tourism development in Pondicherry, and identified key areas of development with an aim to work toward the setting up of a concrete action plan.
Our partners also included: Pondicherry Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) and Pondicherry University (Dept. of Tourism Studies)
Different sessions were planned to help achieve the following key objectives:
- Educate and sensitize different stakeholders in tourism industry to the essential aspects of Indian Culture as highlighted by Sri Aurobindo.
- Sri Aurobindo has given a multi-dimensional interpretation of Indian Culture with all its depths, heights and vastness like none before. The seminar will present examples of how incorporating the vision of Sri Aurobindo and an exposure to Sri Aurobindo’s writings on Indian culture can make travel through India a more rewarding and fulfilling experience, and help people connect with the deeper spirit of India.
- Highlight the significance of Puducherry as an important cultural tourism destination.
- Bring out key challenges that Puducherry faces in becoming a more attractive cultural tourist destination, and identify possible solutions to the above challenges.
- Provide necessary intellectual framework for Ministry of Tourism to create a representative body of stakeholders which can prepare a concrete action plan. This body can meet regularly to assist the MoT in the implementation of the plan and develop Puducherry as an ideal Spiritual and Cultural Tourism destination of India.
The seminar was chaired by Shri Pradeep Narang, Chairman of Sri Aurobindo Society. Shri Balaji, Managing Director of Pondicherry Tourism Development Corporation and Shri Anu Chandran, Head of the Department of Tourism, Pondicherry University were the important speakers on the occasion.
During the afternoon sessions, Ms Priyatarshny, Director of Tourism, Govt. of Puducherry addressed the gathering and informed of the steps that are implemented by the tourism department and their future plans for collaborating with Sri Aurobindo Society with regard to integral health and wellness-related programmes.
In addition to several speakers sharing insights on topics related to culture and heritage of India, two panels were formed to facilitate the discussion on some practical aspects. The first was co-ordinated by Ms Asha Gupta of PTDC. This panel titled ‘Redefining Puducherry Tourism: Interaction with Stakeholders’ consisted of nine persons from the fields of Hospitality, Tourism, Chamber of Commerce, Human Resource, Education and persons from the civil society.
The second panel titled ‘Puducherry as Cultural and Heritage Travel Destination: Prospects and Challenges’ consisted of Ms Priyatarshny, Director of Tourism, Govt of Pondicherry, Shri Pradeep Narang, Chairman of Sri Aurobindo Society, Mr Lalit Verma, Founder of Aurodhan Art Gallery and Ms Sithara Nair Gerdes, Founder Secretary of Crafts Council of Puducherry.
Key themes explored during the seminar included:
- Heritage Tourism in India: Challenges & Solutions by Dr. RC Anu Chandran, Head of the Dept of Tourism, Pondicherry University
- Sensitizing Travel Guides to Spiritual Basis of Indian Culture by Ms. Lakshmi Jyothi, Tourism consultant and consultant, SACAR
- How to View a Temple: Appreciating Architecture, Iconography, History and More by Shri Sivasankar Babu, Tamil Heritage Trust, Chennai
- Puducherry as Spiritual Travel Destination by Ms. Gayatri Panda, Puducherry Nodal Officer, MoT, Govt of India, Southern Regional Office
- Takeaways from the PHF ’23 and the Road Ahead by Dr. Kishor Tripathy, SAS
- Essence of Indian Culture in the Light of Sri Aurobindo by Dr. Alok Pandey, Sri Aurobindo Ashram
- Preparing for an Inner Tour of India by Dr. Shruti Bidwaikar, SACAR
- Spiritual Character of Indian History by Dr. Pranjal Garg, Dept of History, Central University of Tamil Nadu
- A Poet’s Journey through Spiritual India by Ms. Gayatri Majumdar, SAS
- Thiruvalluvar, Bharati & Sri Aurobindo by Vidya R., Surendhar D. & Buvaneswari, SAS
- Preserving Natural Heritage: A College Project by Dr. Sasi Kanta Dash, Principal, Tagore Govt. Arts & Sciences College, Pondicherry
- Pilgrimage or Spiritual Tourism? by Dr. Beloo Mehra, SAS
Exhibitions curated by Dr. Beloo Mehra, Senior Academic Mentor, AuroBharati were also displayed on the following themes:
- Indian Art and Architecture in the Light of Sri Aurobindo
- Conscious Travel
- Glimpses of Hampi: A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Over hundred people attended the event consisting of students and professors from Pondicherry University, affiliated colleges, and other dignitaries. This group included mostly undergraduate, post-graduate students and research scholars in Tourism Management and Hospitality Studies. Several professionals from tourism, travel and hospitality industries also attended and participated in the deliberations. Academics from cultural studies and those with general interest in Indian culture also participated.
More than 300 people had registered for the seminar. Due to the limitations of the space, only about 100 participants were allowed in the seminar hall after getting confirmations prior to the seminar date and also on a first come, first served basis on the day of the seminar. A YouTube Livestream was arranged, thanks to PTDC for our online participants.
Dr. Beloo Mehra proposed the Vote of Thanks to conclude the seminar.