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Despite years of discourse, many tourism scholars hold that pilgrim and tourist are the same while others believe that a pilgrim (religious tourist) and a tourist (secular pilgrim) are distinct in their motivations, behaviours and use of services. Some call them ‘quasi-pilgrim’ or ‘half tourist’ due to lack of understanding. This paper is an effort to re-examine the two epithets by using the case of Himalayan pilgrimage, which was systems based, i.e. had respect for the integrity of ecosystems, and prophylactic in nature, maintaining culture and values. This traditional pilgrimage system worked on the principle of pilgrim economy, which was based on austerity and principles of ethics and equity within the religious framework, violation of which was an act of blasphemy. With the onslaught of modern tourism this age-old traditional Himalayan pilgrimage system has been transformed gradually. This paper pleads to revitalize the old Yatra practice before it comes to an end. The revitalization process should be according to the diktat provided in Hindu scripture namely Skand Puranas. Traditional pilgrimages by their very nature were designed to be sustainable in terms of resource use. A pilgrim and a tourist are made of different virtues – the pilgrim being pious and humble while a tourist may be a pleasure-seeker. Before this land of gods transforms into pleasure dome, the concerned stakeholder, the Badrinath temple committee in particular should cry halt to this process of transformation. The grand dhamas yatra should be considered as national heritage.
Keywords: Pilgrimage, transformation, pilgrim economy, Hindu Tirtha, sustainability, mountain communities.