Jain Community Protests - IE - 05/01/23

The Jain community has been protesting over demands related to two holy sites — Sammed Shikhar on Parasnath hill in Jharkhand and Shatrunjaya hill in Palitana of Gujarat. In Jharkhand, the issue is about Parasnath hill being declared a tourist spot and an eco-sensitive zone without consulting the people from the Jain community, while in Gujarat, the row is over the vandalising of a shrine and related security concerns in Shatrunjaya Hill.
-->Key Facts about Parasnath Hills and Shatrunjaya Hill:
Parasnath Hills:
-Parasnath Hills are a range of hills located in Giridih district of Jharkhand. The highest peak is 1350 metres. It is one of the most important pilgrimage centre for Jains. They call it Sammed Sikhar.
-The hill is named after Parasnath, the 23rd Tirthankara. Twenty of Jain Tirthankaras attained salvation on this hill. For each of them there is a shrine (gumti or tuk) on the hill.

Palitana and Shatrunjaya Hill:
-Shatrunjaya Hill is a sacred site containing hundreds of shrines in Palitana town, Bhavnagar District, Gujarat.
-The shrines were sanctified when Rishabha, the first Tirthankara of Jainism, gave his first sermon in the temple on the hilltop. It is one of the Jainism’s holiest pilgrimage sites, the Shatrunjaya hill is an incredible hill studded with temples, built over 900 years.

->Pilgrimage vs Tourism Debate:
-Pilgrimage is the purpose of traveling to the destination, which is mostly focused on religion. Pilgrimage shrines are an important aspect of any religion’s materiality and sacred geography.
-Despite using the term Pilgrimage and Tourism interchangeably, the two cannot be mixed, if a pilgrimage shrine is declared a tourist spot, even people who may not have the distinct sensibilities for the shrine may enter the sacred place, thus affecting the sanctity and the “purity” of the place.
-Tourism attracts more people in the country and thus creates more employment opportunity, also brings in focus the importance of sites and need to preserve them.
-Tourism as a form of soft power, helps in promoting cultural diplomacy, people to people connect and thereby promotes friendship and cooperation between India and other countries.

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