Indian Railways makes reservations for Shiva to boost religious tourism
In an unorthodox attempt to boost religious tourism, Indian Railways has reserved a special seat for the omnipotent Lord Shiva on the Kashi Mahakal Express, which is India’s first privately owned train that will run between India’s three holy cities.
From now on, the Hindu god will have seat 64 reserved for him on a sleeper train, that was launched on Sunday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The train set out from the ancient holy city of Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh, heading for two other major Hindu sites.
The vacant berth, heavily decorated with garlands and pictures of Lord Shiva himself, is actually a small Hindu temple set up in a sleeper coach. But its presence is intended to remind passengers that the god is somewhere nearby.
“It’s the first time that a seat has been reserved and left vacant for the deity Lord Shiva,” Northern Railways spokesperson Deepak Kumar said. He said the company will decide on whether to keep seat 64 vacant forever.
Kashi Mahakal Express, which is India’s first privately owned train, will cover 1,131km between Varanasi and Indore in Madhiya Pradesh via Lucknow in approximately 19 hours.
Intended to boost religious tourism, passengers on the express train will be offered only vegetarian cuisine, with light devotional music being played on board continually.