Guest Is God
Pilgrimage, Tourism, and Making Paradise in India
- ISBN: 9780190883553
- Published By: Oxford University Press
- Published: November 2019
Every year, the Indian pilgrimage town of Pushkar sees its population of 20,000 swell by two million visitors. Since the 1970s, Pushkar, which is located about 250 miles southwest of the capital of New Delhi, has received considerable attention from international tourists. Originally hippies and backpackers, today's visitors now come from a wide range of social positions. To locals, though, Pushkar is more than just a gathering place for pilgrims and tourists: it is where Brahma, the creator god, made his home; it is where Hindus should feel blessed to stay, if only for a short time; and it is where locals would feel lucky to be reborn, if only as a pigeon. In short, it is their paradise.
But even paradise needs upkeep.
In Guest is God, Drew Thomases uses ethnographic fieldwork to explore the massive enterprise of building heaven on earth. The articulation of sacred space necessarily works alongside economic changes brought on by tourism and globalization. Here the contours of what actually constitutes paradise are redrawn by developments in, and the agents of, tourism. And as paradise is made and remade, people in Pushkar help to create a brand of Hindu religion that is tailored to its local surroundings while also engaging global ideas. The goal, then, becomes to show how religion and tourism can be mutually constitutive.