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Abstract

Pilgrimage involves the movement of people either as individuals or as groups in search of what can be described as the sacred. Since pilgrimage is an integral part of Indian culture and has significant participation, pilgrimage sites and centres are being used by political and corporate organisations to communicate specific messages. The political relevance of religion in our contemporary world cannot be disputed, particularly in the context of a growing consumerist culture and the divisive tactics of most political organisations. In such a scenario, pilgrimage traditions and centres are periodically taken over by political groups. As a particular pilgrimage tradition evolves, sacred sites become formalised into organised socio-political systems with economic overtones. Pilgrimage sites and traditions, both old and new, are promoted through various tools of the mass media, including newspaper articles, television and radio programmes, cinema, tourism literature or advertising campaigns created by private entities as well as government agencies. Looking through the prism of mass media, this paper analyses the new dimensions of pilgrimage that are being created; whether the focus is shifting from the sacred to the secular and then to the social; and how the issues of community and gender are being expressed through pilgrimage-related communication. My perspective is that of a mass media professional who is also an ordinary pilgrim and a solo woman traveller. The paper is not based on strict academic research, but rather on personal encounters and journalistic observations.

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