NAMO’s magic working on tourism circuit targeting his hometown

Naming tourism circuits on historical personalities has not been an uncommon trend in the world of tourism. But in a unique initiative, Gujarat-based Akshar Travels has launched ‘Modi Tourism Circuit’ package which is drawing tourists in substantial numbers. By the end of this year, the operator is expecting a footfall of around 50,000 tourists who will get a glimpse of Modi’s formative years using this package.

Manish Sharma
Manish Sharma

In his pre-election campaign last year when Narendra Modi was pitching for 5T growth mantra (including tourism too), he would have hardly imagined that his birth place will become a matter of tourists’ interest. That too in the form of a structured tourism itinerary which will draw tourists from both India and abroad.  But call it his charisma or the eagerness of tourists coming to Gujarat to know him more, the Modi circuit tourism which was kickstarted in January this year (one day itinerary taking tourists from Ahmedabad to Modi’s hometown of Vadanagar in Mehsana district) has begun showing a robust footfall trend.

“In the three months period since this Modi circuit tourism package was started, we have seen a footfall of around 10,000 tourists with students community being the major contributor and also foreign delegates who come to Ahmedabad to participate in business events,” says Manish Sharma, owner of Akshar Travels and chairman of Gujarat Tourism Development Society who is credited to have stumbled upon this unique idea. Namo’s hometown is nearly 80 kms from the state capital and the one day package also includes a visit to Modhera Sun Temple (which lies on route to Vadanagar) before reaching to his birthplace. The visitors are then taken to Vadnagar Prathmik Kumar Shala (Modi’s primary school), get a chance to engage in a conversation with the prime minister’s school friends, and also see the local temple where in his childhood and growing years, Modi used to participate in the daily prayer playing a musical instrument drum. In addition, the tourists are also taken to the Sharmistha Lake where the little Narendra had accidentally caught a crocodile. Lastly, the tourists visit the local Railway Station, the most unforgettable place where he sold tea assisting his father who used to run a small stall here.

6 “The idea for this package came when many delegates coming to Pravasi Bharitya Divas in January enquired about Modi’s birthplace. We again had quite a sizeable enquiry from delegates who were attending Plast India exhibition in February. And then we are also noticing student groups coming to the state showing interest in this package,” Sharma adds. The circuit so far has seen visits from some noted dignitaries that includes the Prime Minister of Bhutan Tshering Tobgay, Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation in Modi Government and many other prominent NRIs and foreign tourists.

According to Sharma, the footfall is going to enhance further as enquiry trends for the summer vacation is quite robust. “This may be a conservative estimate but we expect the total tourists’ footfall on this circuit could well be in the range of 50,000 by the end of this year. Trends suggest the number of visitors from the domestic circuit will significantly increase during summer vacations. And considering the positive opening of this package, we are now planning its big-bang launch in the next edition of ITB to draw more foreign tourists.” Meanwhile, some recent reports published in the local newspapers in Gujarat clearly point out that to encash the growing popularity of “Modi circuit tourism,” more tour operators will soon throw their hat in the ring offering packages which will carry new value-adds.

Bundled with historical and heritage offerings

While the opportunity to see and meet people who have been part of the prime minister’s life in his formative years is undoubtedly the major pull factor of Modi circuit tourism, the overall package also includes offerings to make the entire one-day itinerary more experiential. “If you carefully look at the itinerary, we have subtly bundled historical and heritage elements in the package too,” says Manish Sharma.

_DPG5882Much before the tourists actually land up at Modi’s birth place, they get the chance to see the splendour of Modhera Sun Temple. Dedicated to the Hindu Sun-God Surya, the temple was built in 1026 AD by King Bhimdev of the Solanki dynasty. The temple is littered with magnificent carving of more than 100 shrines facing the east front of the temple and has been a traditional draw for religious tourists.

And once the tourists reach to Vadnagar, they get to experience a host of local historical and heritage assets in between their schedule where the primary target is to get a glimpse of Modi’s early life. For instance, they are taken to Kirti Toran more popularly known as Victory Arches which was built by Solanki Rulers in the 10th century. Historical accounts suggest that the 40 feet tall structure was probably built to commemorate victory in a battle. The toran in red and yellow sandstone has carvings of battle and hunting scenes though many images of gods and goddesses on the arch now stand disfigured. Also bundled in the package is a visit to a local Buddhist Monastery which is now an archaeological site.

The package also delivers an attractive add-on from a much closer medieval era – the Samadhi of Tana-Riri, the two sisters who existed during Akbar’s reign. Legend has it that the sisters had cured Tansen from the burning sensation that he had developed after singing raga Deepak at Akbar’s court. Tansen was desperate for the antidote which was provided by the two sisters when they sung raga Malhar for him. However, the two sisters preferred to commit suicide when Akbar had summoned them to his court. The Samadhi of Tana-Riri since then has been an important place to visit for tourists passing through Vadnagar and has now also been included in Modi Tourism Circuit. “The way the itinerary of this unique package has been crafted, it is also providing a sense of history of Vadnagar to visitors. And as per feedback coming to us, tourists are liking it immensely,” Sharma concludes.

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