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Tourism Industry in Bundelkhand

There is a range of attractions for tourists in Bundelkhand. Apart from well-known places like Khajurao (in Chhatarpur), Orchha (in Tikamgarh), the Panna tiger sanctuary and Chitrakoot, there are scenes of spectacular beauty in Bundelkhand Upland sub-region - deep gorges and thundering waterfalls amidst jungles. Each district of the region has numerous, little-visited ruins of ancient and medieval temples. There are also places of major historical importance like the star-fort in Jhansi and the fort of Kalinjar, in Banda district.

Despite all these selling points, Bundelkhand attracts few tourists from outside the region. Only Khajurao and Orchha have been 'sold' effectively. Other tourism-promotion efforts, such as an annual cultural festival at Jhansi and another event at Kalinjar have been local affairs, for a largely local audience.

Even if tourists from outside were to arrive, the present state of allied infrastructure is not supportive. Except in Jhansi, Orchha and Khajurao, there are no Grade-A hotels anywhere in the region. Many district headquarters do not have rail connections. Fear of dacoity deters movement of road traffic after sunset; the fort of Kalinjar saw no visitors for a few years after some gruesome killings. The Panna sanctuary was avoided for years by both foreign and domestic tourists as it was the haunt of dreaded dacoit Ambika Patel alias Thokia who was gunned down by UP police on August 4, 2008.

Chitrakoot attracts the highest number of tourists in the region - over 34 lakh people a year - but almost all are pilgrims who arrive on specific auspicious days, on short visits; no hotel or allied industry has developed.

Khajurao receives over 200,000 tourists a year, including over 70,000 foreigners. Hotel accommodation here caters largely to the 'luxury tourist'; 'there is a noticeable shortage of modest boarding facilities for the domestic tourist', observed noted art historian Dr Shobita Punja. Further, the average luxury tourist stays no more than a day; Khajurao has been sold only for its erotic sculpture, which can be seen in a couple of hours. As a result of these factors, Dr Punja observed, the general population does not benefit much from the tourism industry [Punja, p 215].

The third highest tourist draw in Bundelkhand in Orchha, which is visited by over 100,000 persons a year; around 40% of them are foreigners.

Places like Kalinjar, one of the most historic forts in the entire Indian subcontinent, hardly receive any visitors from outside Bundelkhand.

Reference:

  • Punja Shobita, Khajurao: The First Thousand Years, Viking (Penguin Books), New Delhi: 1999

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