Govardhan to Ganga Aarti, Sarnath to sufi shrines, faith tourism flies high in Uttar Pradesh

varanasi

LUCKNOW: Want to catch the famous Ganga Aarti on the ghats of Varanasi without the hassle of wading through an uproarious crowd? Or are you keen to view the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers at the Triveni Sangam in Allahahad — from the sky?

Faith tourism just got a leg up in UP, with the state’s tourism department planing to launch two projects, the “Heli-Ganga-Aarti” and “Triveni Darshan” under the first phase of its spiritual tourism project. “Tourists will be able to view the Ganga Aarti and Sangam from a chopper in sightseeing tours of a few (10-15) minutes,” says UP regional tourist officer Kirti.

According to officials, permission will be sought to use existing helipads like the one in BHU for Varanasi leg of the project. Reviving non-functional helipads and building new ones have also not being ruled out.

“We are in talks with Pawan Hans; we should be able to launch the project in the next two months,” said PK Singh, joint director at UP tourism department.

The project is on the lines of “Heli-Parikrama” over Govardhan Hills in Mathura, launched in the second week of July to coincide with the Mudiya Purnima mela.

“The response to the Govardhan project was phenomenal — we got 250 bookings in just two days. Based on its success, we are now planning something similar for tourists keen on Ganga Aarti (Varanasi) and Sangam (Allahabad),” says Kirti.

 Heli-Parikrama was launched as a pilot by the UP tourism department and Pawan Hans. Under this, Pawan Hans choppers take visitors for a spin around the hill. On foot, the Govardhan Parikrama would mean a trek of up to six hours over roughly 25 km. Via the whirlybird, it takes just 10 minutes.

Hindus revere the Govardhan Hills as it is believed to have been lifted by Krishna on his little finger to save the denizens of Mathura from the agony of rain-god Indra; circumambulating the hills is considered sacred by believers.
For Varanasi and Allahabad, it is not just local day-trippers that the tourism department is eyeing. “A lot of people from countries like Singapore and Thailand visit the ghats; we will work out to make it a seamless experience,” adds Kirti. Sarnath, a Buddhist pilgrimage centre 10 km off Varanasi, is also on the radar for a chopper ride. As are the state’s sufi shrines.

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