When the Ghats Call: An Exploration of the Spiritual Identity Development of Non-Indian Visitors in the Landscape of Varanasi

  • Prashansa Jaiswal
  • Chetna DuggalEmail author
Research in progress


Spiritual identity can be shaped and reshaped by diverse perspectives, experiences, and contexts. Indubitably, an eclectic body of the literature exists on both spiritual tourism and the role of context in spiritual identity development. However, none has captured the process of spiritual identity development of people visiting and staying in a foreign landscape. A qualitative exploratory study was designed to explore spiritual identity development among non-Indian visitors in the spiritual landscape of Varanasi, a city in north India. In-depth interviews were conducted with twelve non-Indian nationals who identified themselves as spiritual. After thematically analyzing the transcribed interviews, it was found that spiritual identification, worldview, and practices were constructed and refined as a result of interaction with the physical, religious, sociocultural, and historical dimensions of the landscape of Varanasi. Findings suggest that individuals coming to a foreign landscape are more than backpackers and undergo unique spiritual identity development journeys. Ergo, findings of this study necessitate the need of broadening the definition of a spiritual tourist, considering the complexity of spiritual development process in a spiritual landscape. Implications for future research are also discussed.


Spiritual identity Spiritual identity development Spiritual landscape Varanasi Spiritual worldview Spiritual practices 



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Copyright information

© National Academy of Psychology (NAOP) India 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Human EcologyTata Institute of Social SciencesDeonarIndia

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