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Revisiting the Basics

[Spiritual Tourism #1] PRASAD Cities- Ajmer and Amaravati

Although the definition and purposes of Tourism is no longer restricted to Heritage and Pilgrimage cities- its definitely India’s USP due to its Civilizational legacy, and being the birthplace of many religions.

In this series on Themes in Tourism Industry, we’ll start by taking a trip through History and Culture of Cities of Spiritual / Religious Importance. For its promotion Government of India has launched two schemes PRASAD and Swadesh Darshan for Development of Theme-Based Tourist Circuits. 

About the PRASAD Scheme

  • PRASAD means Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spirituality Augmentation Drive
  • A 100% Centrally Sponsored Scheme under Tourism Ministry
    • Note that funds for any CSS is given to states in installments (20% at approval stage, 60% when 20% work done and rest 20% when 60% work is finished)
  • Provisions under the scheme include
    • Tourism Promotion and Tourist Ecosystem
    • Vocational Training for Tourists and Hospitality Business
      • Hunar se Rozgar tak (HSRT) and earn while you learn programs
    • Improving Tourist Infrastructure

Provisions regarding Tourist Infrastructure in PRASAD

  • ATM, foreign currency exchange counters
  • Rail, road water transport
  • Green energy streetlights
  • Water adventure sports
  • First-aid centres, Wi-Fi hotspots, Parking facilities
  • Green landscaping, water fountains, walkways, furniture etc.
  • Removing encroachments


  • HRIDAY means Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana
  • While PRASAD is under Tourism ministry <note that Culture ministry is separate from Tourism ministry> while HRIDAY is under Urban Development Ministry
  • PRASAD cities are handpicked because their tourism is centered around faith, spirituality and religion. On the other hand, a HRIDAY city is chosen for its heritage status that goes beyond faith to include aspects of culture such as Architecture (Eg- Cave temples of Badami, Kakatiya Temples of Warangal)
  • HRIDAY is exclusively focused on Infrastructure that preserve the Heritage Character (Museums, Fairs, Festivals etc) , while PRASAD goes beyond that to include Vocational Training programmes and other things that make up Tourism Ecosystem
  • Common outcomes of both are:
    • Increase in Employment, Tourist Footfalls, Cleanliness of Heritage/Pilgrimage cities
    • Decrease in Pollution, Crime rates etc
  • There are 12 cities selected for both schemes, but there’s a considerable overlap in the sense that 10 cities are common to both. Only cities separate are:
    • Kamakhya in Assam and Kedarnath in Uttarakhand (PRASAD)
    • Badami in Karnataka and Warangal in Telangana
  • Lets take a tour of those common 10 cities and the other 2 specific to PRASAD.

Map of PRASAD Cities


#1: Ajmer

  • Surrounded by the Aravalli Mountains (meaning the “Invincible Hill”)
  • Founded by Ajaipal Chauhan (who established The Chauhan Dynasty – 7th century.
  • Ruled by the legendary Prithviraj Chauhan, the last Hindu king of Delhi.
  • Dargah of the Great Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti (aka Madina of India)
    • Devotees of all sects and faiths congregate
    • Annual festival of Urs (Death anniversary of a Sufi saint in South Asia, usually held at the saint’s dargah such as Chisti’s; it is celebrated rather than mourned)
    • Picture of harmony and universal brotherhood.
  • Variety of styles of Architecture including lndo-Islamic, Royal Rajasthani, lndo-Saracenic and Jain styles of architecture.
    • Soniji Ki Nasiyan is a famous Digambara Jain temple from Ajmer
  • Ajmer is also the base for visiting Pushkar (11 km), the abode of Lord Brahma and a sacred town of Hindus <Pushkar is far from Mahadeo Hills of MP, remember 2015 prelims question?>
  • Artists of this area
    • Carving on wood and ivory,
    • Blue pottery

#2: Amaravati

  • What’s in a name?
    • Translates to “The town lives forever”
    • Also referred as Amareswaram
    • Formerly known as Andhra nagari
    • Name derived from famous “Amareswara temple” dedicated to Lord Shiva
  • Ancient Rulers of Amaravati
    • Capital of Satavahanas who ruled from 2nd century BCE to 3rd century CE <most important period for Amaravati>
    • Andhra Ikshvakus
    • Pallava kings
    • Eastern Chalukyas
    • Telugu Cholas
    • Kakatiyas in 11th century CE
  • Medieval Rulers of Amaravati
    • Delhi Sultanate
    • Bahmani Sultanate
    • Vijayanagara Empire,
    • Munsuri Nayaks
    • Sultanate of Golconda
  • Mentions of Amaravati found in:
    • Skanda Purana gives a picture of the place
    • Puranic literature such as Aitreya Brahamana mentions about “Andhra-jati” ruling area we now know as Amaravati
  • The Amaravati Stupa
    • Buddhist stupa (Dhyana) was built during the Reign of Ashoka in 200 BCE
      • Carved with panels that tells the story of Buddha
    • During the period of the Decline of Buddhism, this stupa was also neglected and it was buried
    • Stupa is related to the “Vajrayana” (Tibetan) teachings of Kalchakra (a festival held in 2006, Dalai Lama inaugurated)
    • NOTE: Hiuen Tsang (Xuanzang) also visited Amaravati Stupa in 640 CE

  • Ancient Art (Sculpture) from Amaravati
    • Amaravati art as one of the three major styles or schools of ancient Indian Sculpture
      • Other two being the Gandhara style and the Mathura style.
    • Use of White marble (to Potrays a Greco-Roman influence)
    • Physical beauty with elegance
    • Narrative rather than individualistic (not deities but Humans)
    • Depiction of Kings and Princes
    • Direct result of the close trade and diplomatic contacts between south india and the ancient roma
    • Amaravati has itself yielded a few Roman coins
    • World’s finest examples of Narrative sculpture.


Published with inputs from Amar 

Questions, suggestions and comments

  1. Krishna Kunal

    Missing link :
    Amaravati School of Art(Patrons- Satvahanas) – used white marbles + no external influence i.e. 100% desi (unlike Mathura and Gandhara school of arts) + Buddhist influence

    1. Er S

      Mathura is also no outside interference. Only Gandhara has greko roman influence.

  2. Deep A

    Nicely articulated!

  3. Amit Tripathi

    Great info

  4. Rakesh K Gupta

    Thankyou..waiting for next in series. .

  5. Akshay Mishra

    amaravati is loacated on the southern banks of river krishna

  6. Gaurav Kudtarkar

    Thoughtful and timely series. Great job.

  7. Cp V

    good article. hope to see the other cities as well 🙂

  8. Naveen Shekhar

    To be continued…?

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