International convention of temples planned in Varanasi | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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International convention of temples planned in Varanasi

Jul 15, 2023 05:15 PM IST

The event will be inaugurated by Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Singh (RSS)

MUMBAI: Even as the Ram mandir in Ayodhya is nearing completion, an event titled International Temples Convention and Expo (ITCX) will take place in Varanasi between July 22 and 24 at the city’s Rudraksh Convention Centre. The objective of the event, according to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and member of Maharashtra Legislative Council, Prasad Lad, is to “strengthen the temple tourism and pilgrimage ecosystem in India”.

(L-R) Prasad Lad, chairman, International Temples Convention & Expo 2023 and Giresh Kulkarni, founder of Temple Connect and International Temples Convention and Expo 2023. (HT PHOTO)
(L-R) Prasad Lad, chairman, International Temples Convention & Expo 2023 and Giresh Kulkarni, founder of Temple Connect and International Temples Convention and Expo 2023. (HT PHOTO)

“We want to bring representatives from devotional institutions of Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism under one roof so that people can network, share best practices and learn from each other,” said Lad, at a press conference in Mumbai.

The event will be inaugurated by Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Singh (RSS).

Lad’s key collaborator on ITCX is Giresh Kulkarni, the founder of an initiative called Temple Connect that is described as “a platform dedicated to the documentation, digitalisation and distribution of information related to temples of Indian origin”. Temple Connect, which was founded in 2016, aims to be an “aggregator in the devotional and spiritual space to bring pilgrims and devotees closer to the roots of Indian culture, heritage, rituals and traditions”.

Part of the event will be masterclasses, workshops, presentations and panel discussions on numerous topics such as green energy, langar management, infrastructure enhancement, security and surveillance, queue management, solid waste management, hygiene and sanitation, artificial intelligence, disaster management, temple illumination, social media, financial management, and protection against cyber-attacks.

Representatives from Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Uttar Pradesh, Takhat Patna Saheb in Bihar, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams in Andhra Pradesh, Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala, Virupaksha Temple in Karnataka, Mahakaleshwar Jyotirling in Madhya Pradesh, and Chidambaram Nataraja Temple in Tamil Nadu, temples affiliated to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), and Jain dharamshalas, are scheduled to speak. The sessions will also be streamed online.

Kulkarni added, “We are expecting people to attend from at least 25 other countries including Nepal, Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the United States and the United Kingdom.” He added that a request has been made for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend as well, “especially because Varanasi is his constituency, and the people there have elected him”.

Meghaa Ghosh, show director and co-curator, said, “This event is by invitation only. We are making arrangements to host 1,100 attendees who will come to Varanasi to learn about the professional and administrative aspects of temple management that will strengthen the economy. Their meals and stay will be taken care.”

Kulkarni busted the myth that only senior citizens go for pilgrimages, as he said, “the highest number of people who visit the Temple Connect website are in the age group of 21 to 34”.

ITCX is planned as an annual affair. When asked whether there are any plans to expand the scope after this inaugural edition and include experts from mosques, churches and other places of worship to enable knowledge sharing across different faiths, Lad said, “This year, we will host dignitaries from over 450 renowned temples. There are over 20 lakh temples in India. Once we cover them, we will consider other places of worship.”

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