Theses Doctoral

Making Pushkar Paradise: Religion, Tourism, and Belonging in a North Indian Pilgrimage Town

Thomases, Drew Jacob

This dissertation is based on ethnographic fieldwork in Pushkar, India, a Hindu pilgrimage site that doubles as an international tourist destination with an influx of two million visitors each year. Here, I explore the massive enterprise on the part of Pushkar locals to build “heaven on earth,” paying particular attention to how the articulation of sacred space works alongside economic changes brought on by globalization and tourism. Central to my work is an investigation of how tourism and global thinking affect everyday life in this pilgrimage site, and how Hindu ideas—about religion, identity, and belonging—shape the contours of tourism; the goal, then, is to show how religion and tourism are in fact mutually constitutive. In examining the entanglements of making Pushkar paradise, I look to a number of different topics: beliefs about Hindu universalism and how its principles incorporate people from outside of the Hindu fold; ritual repertoires that brahmans perform on behalf of their clients in order to propitiate the gods; mythic tales that boast of Pushkar’s greatness, printed in 5-rupee pamphlets or narrated by priests at the lake; environmental action taken up by locals worried about lake pollution; and guided tours designed to promote the kind of atmosphere where people from around the world can feel as if they belong.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Hawley, John Stratton
McDermott, Rachel Fell
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 16, 2015