World Tourism Day 2020

Science Tourism destination Bharat

Year 2020 marks the 40th anniversary of the first World Tourism Day. United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has designated 2020 as the Year of Tourism and Rural Development. This Year is an opportunity to promote the potential of tourism to create jobs and opportunities. It can also advance inclusion and highlight the unique role tourism can play in preserving and promoting natural and cultural heritage and curbing urban migration. Tourism and Rural Development is more relevant than ever as the global tourism sector faces up to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourism in rural areas offers important opportunities for making recovery, supporting rural communities facing the economic and social impacts of the pandemic (www.unwto.org)

Tourism and rural Bharat:

Tourism is an important service and entertainment-linked economic activity, which offer a great learning experience. The promotion of any place as a tourist destination leads to the economic development of the area and opens up various kinds of employment avenues for the local people, helps in preservation of culture and heritage and conservation of natural diversity. Moreover, for a developing country like Bharat which is on the path of economic growth through structural transformation of the economy, tourism seems to be the right vehicle. Aatmanirbhar Bharat could utilize tourism as a medium of expression and become vocal for local, in true sense. Presence of ancient to modern day science and technology add veracity to this expression.

According to UNWTO, international tourist arrivals could fall between sixty to eighty percent in the current year, resulting in a major effect on the economy and livelihoods.  In this context, a focus on the benefits of tourism to rural communities is timely and significant. Communities in rural areas are much less prepared to deal with the impact of the pandemic due to varied factors including population age, income level, economic diversity, digital divide, and health infrastructure. For them, tourism can turn out to be a lifeline.

The soul of Bharat lives in its villages (Mahatma Gandhi), and those living in cities and towns have their roots in rural life, which offers rustic beauty and touching simplicity, fresh comforting breeze and lavish openness. Today, roughly one-third population resides in more than six lakh villages, depending mainly on agricultural activities. Agriculture often faces harshness of climatic conditions along with natural calamity. Survival instincts cause their migration to urban settings. Thus, one of the alternate sources of socio-economic reform could be in developing and promoting rural tourism, supplementary to the agriculture.

Rural tourism is a niche form that entails agro-tourism, eco-tourism, cultural-tourism, heritage-tourism, and the likes. It can provide a great thrust by way of maintaining sustainable livelihood for the local populace, promoting local culture and heritages, empowering local women and youth, alleviating economic stress, conserving and preserving natural resources, improving basic rural infrastructure, adopting new work culture and overall offering what is there on tourists’ mind. Today, tourists are looking out for such a trip that can offer them meaningful experience and quality environment.

Bharat is endowed with the richness of science and technology development from antiquity. With more than five thousand years of science and technology up on its sleeve, Rural Tourism in Bharat is the most appropriate step in exploring and endorsing the tacit knowledge spread over the country, in different forms but with a common link that touches an inherent component of Science. Truly speaking, it is an opportunity for one and all to rediscover Bharat.

Science Tourism in Rural Bharat:

Typically in tourism industry parlance, science and tourism association is in the form of eco-tourism, adventure trek or special interest tours related to learning and experience, which is regarded as Scientific Tourism. However, there is a marked difference between Scientific Tourism and Science Tourism. Well, the former is tourism by the scientists for exploration, research and similar kind of activities, while the latter one is tourism for science, which is conceptually new experience being explored worldwide. Delving deeper into the nitty-gritty of the terminology, the distinction between the terms seems far more convincing. While Scientific Tourism caters to a focused group developing an active scientific knowledge base for public at large, it is the Science Tourism that holds steadfast on to the mind of the enthusiasts. Science Tourism exposes the tourist to the essence of the tour and the scientific culture associated to it. The experience is enriching enough to gain and share, but most importantly to value and appreciate the traditions and knowledge.

Science Tourism adds an innovative dimension to the existing tourism, promoting sustainable use of natural resources, and showing the presence of science all around. It acts as a linkage between the societies, educational sector and productive networks, in the pursuit of sustainable development activities that cater for social, economic, environmental and cultural needs of any particular region.

For all the significant contributions made in the fields of science, technology, mathematics, engineering and even arts, culture, linguistics, it would not be an exaggeration to call Bharat – the Land of Science. From introducing the numeral zero to becoming a launch pad for placing 104 satellites in space, Indian science and technology has come a long way. Only by keeping scientific attitude and temperament alive, Bharat can continue to act as a scientific lighthouse guiding the world. 

Science Tourism is indeed an approach that covers interests in visiting scientific landmarks such as excavated or archaeological sites, museums, parks, observatories, institutions engaged in scientific endeavors including universities. Science Museums, Science City and Parks, Heritage Sites are the most common attractions for educational tours and are attracting number of visitors. On this land of science, science tourism strives to make ancient to modern science more visible, discernible, and approachable through rural tourism.

It is just not possible to contain the centuries old scientific culture and heritage in few paragraphs, but it is our endeavor to share few of the areas of historical scientific accomplishments that exist even today in the rural settings. By this way, we would be trying to bring Science Tourism and Rural Tourism together, and open up new vistas for progress and development of rural folks of Bharat.

As mentioned earlier, the historical account of science and technology of ancient Bharat cannot be summarized in few paragraphs; hence we would touch upon few at a time. For now, let us explore scientific heritage existing in rural Bharat under the following sub-headings; 1) Evolutionary Evidences  2) Eyes in the Sky  3) Time-keepers  4) Water Intelligence

Evolutionary evidences:

Fossils are preserved remains or traces of an organism that lived in the past. Fossils give clues about – past living things in Earth’s history, the past climate, surface changes on Earth, and events from Earth’s past. It is an evolutionary mirror that allows us to take a peek in our past.

There are number of sites from where fossilized forms of animals and plants have been excavated and are preserved for anyone to witness the regional history. Some of these fossil parks include;

Raivoli Fossil Park (Gujarat): It is world’s third largest dinosaur fossil (65 million years old) excavation site and has second largest hatchery (20 metres long) of dinosaur eggs. This site is a part of the Shiva crater.

Suketi or Shivalik Fossil Park (Himachal Pradesh): It has collection of 2.5 million years old vertebrate fossils from Shivalik region.

Marine Gondwana Fossil Park (Chhattisgarh): It has an unique exposure of fossiliferous  marine 280 – 240 million years old Permian rocks of Talchir Formation belonging to Gondwana Supergroup.

Mandla Plant Fossils National Park (Madhya Pradesh): It has large collection of plant fossils including palms, gymnosperms and angiosperms, which seems to have existed between 40 and 150 million years ago.

Ghughua Fossil National Park (Madhya Pradesh): This park contains most prominent fossils of palm, which are 65 million years old. It is the second largest fossil park in the world and largest in Asia. Apart from palm fossils, it also has other fossilized plants including date, jackfruit, banana, neem, and gooseberry. Here plant, seed, fruit, leaf and shell fossils belonging to 31 genera and 18 families have been identified. Strikingly enough, fossilized eucalyptus from Australia can also been spotted at this site. This park is a living testimony of the Continental Drift into Laurasia and Gondwana, somewhere between Jurassic and Cretaceous ages.

Santhanur National Fossil Wood Park (Tamil Nadu): It has a petrified coniferous tree trunk, believed to be over 120 million years old, measuring around 18 meters long.

Akal Wood Fossil Park (Rajasthan): This park has fossilized remnants of 180 million year old forest including Petrophyllum, Ptyllophyllum, Equisetitis species and dicotyledonous wood and gastropod shells of early Jurassic period. Largest of fossil wood log is 13.4 meters long and 0.9 meters wide. In all there are 25 petrified tree trunks.

Amkhoi Fossils Park (West Bengal): It has fossilized wood of 15 to 20 million years age.

Tiruvakkarai Fossil Wood Park (Tamil Nadu): This park has around 200 fossilized tress, which are 20 million years old. Some of the trees are from 3 to 15 meters long and some are 5 meters wide.

National Fossil Wood Park, Sattanur (Tamil Nadu): It has large trunks of petrified tress of 100 million years of age. Longest fossil tree is 18 meters in length.

Stromatolites commonly found in carbonate sequences of Precambrian era. They are varied, found in abundance and occasionally associated cherts with them yield microscopic fossils. Stromatolites have also been  used in biostratigraphy.

Salkhan or Sonbhadra Fossils Park (Uttar Pradesh): It has fossils of nearly 1400 million years old. These fossils appear as rings around the boulders, are algal and stromatolite fossils.

Stromatolite Park, Bhojunda (Rajasthan): It is an exposure within the massive Bhagwanpura Limestone of Lower Vindhyan age. Stromatolites are the structures produced by blue-green algae, which through their filaments, attract and bond carbonate particles forming a mat. They are stratiform, columnar and nodular structures in carbonate rocks resulting from the combination of life activity and sediment trapping and binding ability of algal assemblages and preying bacteria.

Stromatolite Park, Jhamarkotra (Rajasthan): It is the largest and richest deposit of phosphorite associated with stromatolite. It is another site preserving evidences of early life on the earth. The stromatolites occur over a strike length of 15 km in rock phosphate within Precambrian Aravali Supergroup of rocks. The rock phosphate occurs in dolomitic limestone associated with stromatolites appearing in grey to bluish grey colour shades and in variable forms and shape.

Eyes in the Sky:

From the astronomical treatise in Sanskrit, Aryabhattiya, through the impeccable ancient observatories to the modern day ‘Eyes in the Sky’, celestial affair with the cosmos has been a fascinating journey for Bharat.

Earlier observatories were primarily intended to measure the time of day, correct to half a second and declination of the Sun and the other heavenly bodies. In the 18th century, Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur had great interest in mathematics, architecture and astronomy, and decided to construct observatories that could accurately measure the local time, predict eclipses, and record the position and motion of planets as well as stars, and much more. His erected five masonry marvels, Jantar Mantar, at Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain, Mathura and Varanasi, between 1724 and 1735. Of these, except for the one at Mathura, others still display the striking combinations of the geometric forms of life-size instruments or Yantras, built with locally available stone, brick, rubble and lime plaster.

Mishra Yantra is to know when it’s noon in different cities across the world, Samrat Yantra is a sundial to tell the time, and Shasthansa Yantra measures the Sun’s angular diameter. Likewise, there are number of other instruments at the Vedh Shala or observatory, including Disha Yantra, Digansha Yantra, Druva Yantra, Prakash Yantra, Ram Yantra, and Krantivritta Yantra. It’s Nadi Valve Yantra that tells the Sun’s hemispheric location–when the Sun is in the northern hemisphere, the Yantra’s northern hemisphere disc gets illuminated and when it’s in the southern hemisphere, the corresponding disc is illuminated.

Later, they evolved with the purpose to provide support to shipping and geomagnetism. Just like planetarium, space observatories indicate the inclination of a country towards astronomy and outer space exploration.

Here are the modern day observatories located in the villages of Bharat, awaiting tourists to acknowledge the feat of new Bharat.

The Kodaikanal Solar Observatory (1909) is operated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics. It is situated on the southern tip of the Palni Hills, 4 km from Kodaikanal (Tamil Nadu). Solar data collected by the lab is the oldest continuous series of its kind in the country. Precise observations of the equatorial electro-jet are made here due to the unique geographical location.

The Ooty Radio Telescope or ORT (1970) is located in Muthorai, 6 km from Ootacamund (Tamil Nadu). It is part of the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). The Ooty Radio Telescope (ORT) is a 530-metre (1,740 ft) long and 30-metre (98 ft) wide Cylindrical Paraboloid telescope. It operates at a frequency of 326.5 MHz with a maximum bandwidth of 15 MHz at the front-end.Being installed at the slope of a hill in an equatorial mount, it can track celestial objects continuously for 10 hours.

The Udaipur Solar Observatory or USO (1976) is in Udaipur (Rajasthan) situated on an island in the man-made Fateh Sagar lake. Since the observatory is situated amidst a large mass of water, air turbulence which occurs due to ground heating by Sun’s rays is decreased. This improves the image quality and accuracy (average between 1-2 arc seconds).Itconstantly monitors the Sun, study its interiors and observe general solar dynamics.

The Gauribidanur Radio Observatory (1976) is a radio telescope observatory located at Gauribidanur, 100 km from Bengaluru (Karnataka), being operated jointly by Raman Research Institute and the Indian Institute of Astrophysics.

The Vainu Bappu Observatory (1986),operated by Indian Institute of Astrophysics, is located at Kavalur village, 70 km from Vellore (Tamil Nadu). The observatory houses a number of optical telescopes, including 2.3m Vainu Bappu telescope, 1.3 meter J. C. Bhattacharya telescope, 1m Carl-Zeiss telescope and many other smaller scopes.

The Guru Shikhar Observatory or Mount Abu Infra-Red Observatory (1990) houses ingenuously built 1.2 m Optical and Infrared Telescope, specifically designed for ground based infrared observations of celestial objects. The observatory is on Guru Shikhar, at an altitude of 1680 metres, the highest peak of the Aravali Range (Rajasthan). The low amount of precipitable water vapour (1–2 mm during winter) and around 150 cloud-free nights per year make it a good site for the astronomical observations.

The Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope or GMRT (1995), located at Narayangaon, 90 km from Pune (Maharashtra), is an array of thirty fully steerable parabolic radio telescopes of 45 metre diameter, observing at metre wavelengths. It is operated by the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics, a part of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai. Cosmic phenomenon such as pulsars and supernovae are its area of interest.

In Hanle village, 260 km from Leh (Ladakh) the Indian Astronomical Observatory or IAO (2001), is located. It is one of the world’s highest sites for optical, infrared and gamma-ray telescopes including. It is operated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore. Himalayan Chandra Telescope is currently the second highest optical telescope in the world, situated at an elevation of 4,500 meters (14,764 ft). This observatory is also a High Altitude gamma-ray observatory dedicated to studies of the universe in the gamma-ray energies. An array of seven gamma-ray telescope is designed to detect very high energy gamma-ray from astronomical sources such as dying stars and super massive black holes.

Yet another observatory near Pune in Maharashtra is Girawali Optical Observatory (2006), which is an optical astronomy observatory run by the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune with a mission to observe objects within our galaxy and also the extra-galactic universe. It is located at Girawali, 80 km from Pune.

Latest addition is the 3.6m Devasthal Optical Telescope (2016) is a clear aperture Ritchey-Chretien style telescope built by Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), located at the Devasthal village,  50 km from Nainital (Uttarakhand).

Time-keepers:

Although a simple stick in the ground can be used to create a sun dial, but what to do when there is no sun, such as on cloudy day. During ancient and medieval period, time was measured using a different type of timekeeper that was devised based on water, called as Ghatika Yantra.

Ghatika Yantra was an arrangement for measuring by means of water and a jar or bowl the duration of a ghati or ghatika, the period of 24 minutes, one-sixtieth of a mean civil day of exactly twenty-four hours, from mean sunrise to mean sunrise.

The description of a water clock in astrologer Varahmira’s Pancasiddhantika adds further detail to the account given in Suryasiddhanta. Astrologer Lallacharya describes this instrument in detail.

According to Lallacharya, it was made up a bowl with a hole, which was placed, empty, floating on water in a larger receptacle, and which drew in water and sank in the time stated above. this inner vessel was shaped like the lower half of the water-pot (kalasa), made up of ten palas in weight of copper, with a diameter of  half a cubit (9 inches) at the top and a height of half of that, and having a hole made with a wire fashioned from.

The entire period of day and night was divided into 60 parts, each of which was called a ghari. Moreover the night and day are each divided into four parts each of which called a pahar. A group of men called ghariyalis were appointed to measure time. To measure time a vessel with a hole at the bottom was placed over another vessel containing water.  When the inside vessel with the hole was filled with water, they used to strike the ghariyal, a thick brass disc hung at a high place with a mallet. This indicated a certain period of time. Water clock or Ghatika Yantra is also called as Clepsydra in Greek.

Even today, one can find this ancient water-clock, or Ghatika Yantra, or Jal Ghadi in use at an ancient temple of Kesariya ji, situated 65 km from Udaipur (Rajasthan). All rituals being performed in this temple are followed as per this ancient timekeeper. At the entrance of the temple, there is this unique ancient water clock in which every 24 minutes, the bowl gets filled with water from the hole at the bottom of it. When it repeats 8 times it shows a quarter or pahar of day and thus after 32 times it completes a day (and night). This is the ancient system to calculate time.

Water Intelligence:

Any sightseeing invokes an expression of ‘wow’ in the minds of the visitors. What we really need is to switch this expression of ‘wow’ to ‘how’ and the key lies in Science Tourism. The plausible explanation can be elucidated through the following example.  Most often if not always, it is a quite common sight to see trippers crowding at water point, while taking a tour of any spots for that matter. We know water being an elixir of life is the most precious natural resource.  Thales of Miletus, a Greek Philosopher, summarized the importance of water in just three words, ‘Water sustains all’. Water harvesting in India has been practiced since time immemorial. Archaeological findings of intricate water storage and supply systems can be seen at Dholavira, Lothal, Champaner-Pavagarh in Gujarat.

Dholavira had developed conservation, harvesting and storage of water owing to the advanced hydraulic engineering that too in the third millennium BC. One of the unique features of Dholavira had the sophisticated water conservation system of channels and reservoirs, the earliest found anywhere in the world, built completely of stone. The reservoirs were cut through stone vertically, and were about 7 m (23 ft) deep and 79 m (259 ft) long. There was also a large well with a stone-cut trough connecting it to a drain meant for conducting water to a storage tank. The bathing tank had steps descending inwards. A rectangular stepwell which measured 73.4 m (241 ft) long, 29.3 m (96 ft) wide, and 10 m (33 ft) deep, making it three times bigger than the Great Bath of Mohenje-daro.

Temples in southern India too have large tanks in their premises built centuries ago, fed either by harvested rain water or underground springs. Arid regions of Rajasthan valued the significance of water for life, as evident from the elaborate arrangements for drinking water made on the impregnable medieval forts standing on difficult terrains braving harsh climatic conditions.

For months when invaders laid siege, Rajasthan could sustain both human and animal inhabitants only because water harvesting system was in place, Jaigarh fort in Jaipur reveal the presence of an automatic arrangement for de-silting and aeration of harvested water conveyed from catchment area in Aravali range, through a four kilometre long canal before its entry into three large storage tanks below the central courtyard. Likewise, entire town that resided within the fortified walls of Chittorgarh had large reservoir that harvested water of springs, while Jodhpur fort tapped both rain water and groundwater from every catchment and hillock through network of canals. 

Traditional knowledge and technologies involving an intimate understanding of terrain, groundwater table, and percolation rates in soils evolved around this necessity for storing water. Holistic knowledge of site hydrology, although essential for survival, remained unrecorded and largely based upon lived experience. Water harvesting was a cultural practice based upon the collective wisdom of local communities.

Although public awareness campaigns are being organized to educate people about the need for water conservation, but a small effort like science tourism of such locations would give them the first hand exposure about the problem solving endeavours made in the past and create an awakening regarding preserving the nation’s unique heritage of water harvesting. This experience could become one of the examples of science tourism meeting its objective.

So the next time you embark on a trip, ensure you bring back home the richness of our scientific heritage, progress and development, and most importantly a commitment towards society driven by scientific thinking, attitude and temper. The journey of science tourism must go on.

1 thought on “World Tourism Day 2020”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s