Tamil Nadu wooing religious tourists from Nepal

Tamil Nadu wooing religious tourists from Nepal

The Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) has begun campaigning in Kathmandu to highlight the potentials of the southern Indian state as a religious, educational and medical destination.

V. Irai Abu, secretary at Tamil Nadu's Tourism and Culture Department, says the idea started after TTDC attended a workshop conducted by the Asian Development Bank on South East Asian Regional Co-operation at Kathmandu.

"We wanted to use this opportunity to showcase the tourist spots of Tamil Nadu in Nepal," Abu told IANS. "When we spoke to a few friends from the media, we understood that the people of Nepal know South India as a region and Tamil Nadu as a state. Tamil Nadu has got around 34,000 temples, some of which are mammoth and magnificent," he said.

For instance, the Brihadeeswarar temple at Thanjavur, a Unesco-declared heritage monument, is completing 1,000 years of its construction and the state government is planning to organise a grand function Sep 25-26, followed by year-long celebrations in Thanjavur, Abu noted.
 
"People of Nepal would love to visit this temple and enjoy the serenity and excellently carved sculptures in this temple." The Rameswaram temple, regarded as one of the most sacred places for Hindus after Varanasi, the official feels, will also attract the Nepali pilgrim,  along with the Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai, the Thiruvannamalai temple and Srirangam, the biggest Hindu temple complex in the world.

"We feel Nepalis will feel at home in Tamil Nadu," Abu says. "We have decided to focus on Nepal from now onwards to make Tamil Nadu their most preferred destination."    
After Bhutan and Sri Lanka, Nepal is the new focus for TTDC in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) neighbourhood. Besides spiritual tourism, Tamil Nadu has a large number of engineering and medical colleges, which have already been attracting students from Bhutan, Abu says.

In addition, people from the Druk kingdom as well as Sri Lanka flock Tamil Nadu for medical treatment. "Leading medical institutions both in the corporate sector and those run by philanthropic institutions provide world class facilities with good para-medical care," Abu says. Another factor is the growing Nepali diaspora in Tamil Nadu.

"A large number of Nepalis are working in Tamil Nadu, many having settled down there," Abu says. "There are many similarities between the life styles of Nepalis and Tamils. Therefore, it is easy to cater to the requirements of people from Nepal."

Though at present there are no direct flights, the TTDC says once the number of tourists between the two countries grows, it will lobby the leading airlines to start direct air services between Kathmandu and Chennai.

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