Cultural Tourism and Bishnois of Rajasthan
The structures of the Bishnoi villages are a manifestation of their ecological commitment. The water harvesting structures, protected groves, the huts, the bird-feeds, animal water tanks,
Dried-p vegetables are all technological innovations that become crucial in coping with desert ecology and contain important lessons for present-day environmental problems. The principles of sustainable livelihood have been strongly internalized by this community. They get adequately reflected in everyday customs and collective solidarity.
But the frugal existence does not render their lives mundane and tedious. The people seek a joyful existence with a beautifying presence of cultural motifs in houses, costumes, and jewellery. The strong familial ties (not just with humans), songs, dances and social rituals render the Bishnoi cultural heritage with an inviting, attractive cultural kaleidoscope. Let us undertake a brief survey of this enchanting cultural heritage that has dazzle and simplicity, struggle and solidarity, strife and peace, and also meaning and inspiration.
Neekee Chaturvedi is a cultural historian interested in religious ideas and folk traditions of Rajasthan. She has been teaching history since 1998 and is presently working at the University of Rajasthan. She has explored various aspects of Buddhism in A Historical and Cultural Study of the Suttanipata (2012) and Bodhishree (2017). She has also authored a text book on ancient Indian history for university courses (2014). She has traveled widely and is a theatre artist. The SAARC Cultural Centre, Colombo awarded her its prestigious Research Grant for 2014-15 to work on the Bishnois of Rajasthan.
Tourism marketing across the world is increasingly relying on its synergy with culture. Sustainability has been one of the major concerns of tourism studies. These areas of attention led to a conference on Cultural Heritage Tourism and Sustainable Development by the SAARC Cultural Centre, Colombo. I was asked to make a presentation on Rajasthan tourism. It appeared to be a simple task as Rajasthan is one of the most attractive tourist destinations of India.
I assumed that presenting cultural heritage of Rajasthan, being the dominant tourism trope, shall be easier than tackling sustainable development. On further exploration, the cultural heritage of Rajasthan as royal history alone turned out to be a market strategy of tourism. The excercise'of probing of many other possible facets of cultural tourism of Rajasthan led me to a unique eco-community —`Bishnoi'.
As much as I was enthralled by the Bishnoi culture, I was also fascinated by the emerging concerns in tourism studies. Earlier, tourism was a way to realize myth and fantasy whereas now an authentic experience has become a significant objective. Culture is also being redefined in more participatory, plural and democratic terms. The interests of the tourists and the hosts are sought to be shielded from commercial manipulation. It is whole new paradigm of tourism. I confess to being dazzled by eco- tourism, community-based tourism, and creative tourism as different trajectories of cultural tourism. As I interacted more with the Bishnoi community and the tourists, I was glad to have forayed into 'new tourism' that imbues justice, fairness and equity. The social concerns of an economic enterprise seemed essential for developing Bishnoi tourism. Not only did it make my work more meaningful and fulfilling on a personal level but also led to an interesting tourism model. The book begins with the concerns of Bishnoi tourism as a part of the cultural heritage of Rajasthan. It seeks to locate the community and its livelihood as a viable destination for cultural tourism. After discussions on cultural tourism, community engagement in the context of Rajasthan, the study moves into a detailed description of the Bishnoi ethos. The ideology, practice and activism of the Bishnois as the first environmentalists of the world, and its continuity, emerge as nothing short of a marvel in the present era of consumerism. The existing tourism models are then examined and the proposed modes experimented. The role of community tourists and marketing leads to interesting modes to satisfy varied interests
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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