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e-tourist Visa for 30 days visit to India available
e-tourist Visa for 30 days visit to India available
and importance of spiritual India
The Indian government decided last month (August 2015) to provide e- tourist visas for 30 days to enable visitors to India to obtain a visa much more quickly and cheaper. OM to the Indian government for this initiative.
Passport holders from Britain will now be able to apply for this online visa using the website of the Indian government in Britain. Many other countries, East and West, have the same access to an e-visa.
The new visa offers a significant reduction in the UK cost from £89 down to £39. Until August, British citizens had to pay the £89 fee, plus further costs for a courier, registered letter and possible use of a travel agent. This meant that an India visa previously could cost as much as £150 for a six-month period.
Those who wish to stay for a longer period of time than 30 days will need to apply for the £89 visa with the various form filling and necessary passport submissions.
The Indian government said that the e-visa will not be issued immediately once the online application has been made. The Indian government expects to issue the e-visa within four days.
The e-visa comes as welcome news after years of expensive and time consuming work to get the visa. This new system will enable visitors to India to apply for the visa at a date closer to the flight.
The Indian government states this new visas may only be used for a maximum of two visits per year. They are single entry visas and their 30 day validity cannot be extended.
Decline of Tourists to India
India has witnessed a decline of tourists affecting hotels, travel, restaurants and places for pilgrims and tourists. The most popular destination continues to be Goa with its glorious beaches and Indian hospitality. More and more Westerners had tired of the hassle and cost of securing an Indian visa and had opted to go to other countries. To its credit, the Indian government has gone some way to addressing this problem.
Financial restraints in Europe and Russia have contributed to the reduction of tourists to India. Travellers to India, namely backpackers, spiritual seekers, practitioners of yoga and meditators, have dropped significantly in numbers in the past 15 years.
During the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, India continued to be the number one destination for such travellers; far outweighing anywhere else in the world. Spiritual India had a magnetic pull on young people who felt and experienced the limitations of institutional religion, institutional lifestyles and institutional education in the West.
They made the journey to India to expand their spiritual, cultural and creative horizons. Surveys revealed an estimated drop in numbers to 40% compared to those travelling to India during the 1990s and before.
Far too many of the numerous modest priced hotels in Delhi, the Varanasi, Dharamsala, Bodh Gaya and elsewhere became half empty, even in the peak season between November and March or the warm months in the foothills of the Himalayas.
We started our annual retreats in 1975. We used to have around 100 participants or more on our retreats. The number of participants number around 40 to 45 in recent years. We shifted our retreats from mid-February from Bodh Gaya to Sarnath, the village near Varanasi, where the Buddha gave his first teachings. . We left Bodh Gaya owing to the high level of noise from weddings in Bodh Gaya and the pollution of the air. Parents who sat retreats with me in the 1970’s and 1980’s encourage their children who are in their late teens and 20’s to sit a retreat with me in India. Some sit in the same spot that their mother or father had sat decades before.
See our website: www.MeditationInIndia.org We also have various retreats in India with our teachers from November to late April.
The iconic status of spiritual India has changed to economic India with an explosion of consumer goods, phenomenal amount of traffic on the roads and dramatic increase in levels of pollution. There is a tangible population explosion in India.
It is estimated that more than 1000 new cars per day join the already congested roads of Delhi. The UN ranks Delhi as the most polluted city on earth followed by Mumbai.
Travellers also hesitate to come to India owing to the changing economic conditions in the West. The high cost of student loans, the difficulty in finding employment opportunities and expensive rented accommodation meant that many young people could not afford to fly to India on a spiritual search for several months or more. One survey of popular destinations for backpackers travelling before or after university claimed that India now ranked ninth of list of places to visit for backpackers. Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Central and South America generated more interest.
More than seven million people from overseas landed in India, especially Goa, last year. An estimated 800,000 UK residents, (the majority are Indian citizens resident in Britain visiting their family and friends) boarded flights to India from British airports.
There are numerous package tours with tourists, especially senior citizens, travelling to India to stay in four or five star hotels and travel in air-conditioned coaches, to the popular tourist destinations of ancient India. Some came in their youth to India and returned three or four decades later. Some seniors tell me they find India a mind-opening experience. Some would regard that view as a typical English understatement! Their enthusiasm for India encourages other Western citizen to visit the country despite the scare stories of around health, mosquitoes and violence. India is a huge country of 1.2 billion people and remarkably hospitable to visitors. Many Indians love to engage in conversations on spiritual/religious/social issues.
There are variety of groups as well who go on pilgrimage to India. Former backpackers to India often lead these groups. The leaders will have spent some years in India engaged in spiritual practices, lived in ashrams/monasteries and developed an understanding of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions that have had much influence upon the cultural and spiritual life of India. They share their knowledge and experience of India with the pilgrims who accompany them.
The Indian government has relaxed the rules on re-entering the country while on a regular tourist visa. Previously, a visitor to India had to be out of the country for two full months before being allowed to return to India. It is believed that this time has now been reduced to 14 days. Some of this information in this blog has been gathered from various websites. Travellers need to check for themselves the veracity of the information.
Yoga and Spiritual Practices
In June, 2015, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi led 35,000 adults and children in a mass yoga class in the capital of Delhi to mark the first ever International Yoga Day. Thousands of green mats were placed on the Rajpath (Path of the Raj). Major yoga classes were held in some 250 cities around the world to mark International Yoga Day. The Prime Minister has appointed a Minister for Yoga. We need such a Minister for Yoga or Minister for Spirituality in Britain.
Mr. Modi will surely be aware that the past generation of young Western travellers, with their long hair, backpacks and sandals, were among the first to train as yoga teachers in India. Indian yoga teachers trained the seekers from the late 1960’s onwards in various ashrams. These Western yoga teachers started the phenomenal movement of yoga sessions now probably available in every city and town in the West.
Despite the pollution, overcrowding and daily hassles, India still has much to offer Westerners in the exploration of spiritual, religious and cultural diversity. For many seekers, spiritual India represents a significant change in ethics, values, lifestyle and vision of a worthwhile and meaningful life.
We hope that the Indian Prime Minister, a keen practitioner, himself, of yoga, would give every encouragement to Western spiritual seekers, young and old alike, to spend an extended time in India.
They then can return home inwardly equipped to challenge the rampant consumerism, the violence and destruction of political and corporate behaviour and inject a spiritual way of life into the rampant numbness and stress in the West. The same principles need to be applied to India as well course. Like the West, India is losing its way with the desire for money and goods with the demands of the personal self taking precedence.
It is not easy to find in India great teachers of Advaita (non-Duality), Vedanta, Karma Yoga and the comprehensive vision of Yoga, as outlined in the ancient sutras. It is hard to find Indian pundits (scholars) of Sanskrit with its wealth of teachings and stories for daily life. Westerns and Indians continue to co-operate together to keep alive these ancient traditions of ethics, meditation, enquiry and moderation of lifestyle. It is a pity to reduce yoga to asanas (postures). Asanas are a limb of yoga like the arm is a limb of the body. We need to develop the whole body of yoga.
The Indian government can give more support. India offers a remarkable experience. I would encourage the Indian government to offer Westerns yogis, spiritual practitioners and meditators a two year visa to support their practices to contribute to changing the warped value system in the West.
Yoga, meditation, karma yoga, vegetarian/vegan diet, music, dance, complementary medicine, spiritual enquiry, Ayurveda medicine/massage, Buddhist/Hindu practices, inter-religious understanding form India’s greatest exports.
A 30- day visa falls far short of the time needed. A six month is not enough either. Western lovers of Indian spirituality would deeply welcome a two year visa.
Come to India. Experience India. Experience yourself in fresh ways. Explore inner change. Explore your relationship with others. Make the journey to India. The 30 day experience would give you a taste. It could be the best decision you ever made in your life. Return, if you can, for six months. Or, at least, return every year or two for renewal for fresh perspectives and insights.
A longer visa for dedicated yogis/meditators/practitioners is long overdue. Over to you, Mr Modi.
May all beings explore a spiritual way of life
May all beings explore a yogi way of life
May all beings live with wisdom and compassion