Picture1Flicking through the newspaper one morning, I came across a news piece stating that Uttar Pradesh has been selected as the ‘best Indian destination for culture’ by Lonely Planet – a prestigious international travel magazine. The award was given to the state at a ceremony on May 9, conducted in Mumbai. The officials were also quoted appreciating the progress made by the UP government, under the guidance of CM Akhilesh Yadav, to promote cultural tourism in the state.

What’s more, the recipient of the award was decided not only on the basis of a conventional survey but also a feedback taken from an online survey. Well, so many people couldn’t be wrong, could they? As a person residing in Western India, the most famous cultural heritage in UP that I (and I’m sure people all over the world) am aware of, is of course – the Taj Mahal! Apparently, according to the article in the newspaper, this monument is also the recipient of the “Best Managed Historical Monument.” Well, I’m sure maintaining a 368 year-old groundswell of remarkable Mughal and Nawab architecture, is no mean feat!

Taj_Mahal_2012However, in a country like ours where every other city boasts of a rich culture and historical monuments – an Indian state winning such a significant accolade has to have something above and beyond. What could it be? This question duly prompted me to seek help from my search engine to explore the various tourist avenues in the state. I didn’t have to browse along random websites because within seconds I found “Ecotourism” – the official website of UP tourism.

Here, I came across some photos taken recently of the Travel Mart, held in association with FICCI, to further promote the tourism in the state. Just glancing at the pictures takes you on a mesmerising journey through the Manikarnika and Dashashwamedh Ghats nestled in the incredible city of Varanasi. No wonder so many tourists across the world on the path of spiritual salvation and throngs of feverish devotees bow to the chaotic confluence of two of India’s holiest rivers – Ganga and Yamuna.

The contemplative aura that emanates from ancient Buddhist stupas in Kushinagar and Sarnath; the serenity of waking up before dawn to watch locals perform puja (offerings or prayers) in sacred Chitrakut or the intense power of piety in Allahabad – Uttar Pradesh is definitely a secular cesspool of myriad options to soak up some Indian heritage. After all, amidst the various places of historical or spiritual importance, one can get a glimpse of various religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and even Islam.

main_bg1Apart from the Travel Mart, there were plenty of other cultural festivals to experience such as the Chatori Galli (Food Festival), Lucknow Mahotsav, Taj Mahotsav, Bateshwar Fair, Holi festival and the Dev Deepawali festival! The one thing that really caught my eye was “The Heritage Arc”, conceptualized by CM Akhilesh Yadav, which is a unique project linking three spectacular cities – Agra, Lucknow and Varanasi, binding them together on the foundation of Indian history, art, culture and tradition. Believe me, if you take a look at the UP state map, it really does look like an arc!

All this was quite enlightening for me, as far as my knowledge on the tourist destinations in UP is concerned, and that’s when I decided that surely embarking on a journey across “The Heritage Arc” had to be on my vacation wish-list.

Well, Uttar Pradesh, here I come!

Posted by The Indian Economist