This article explores the strategies of pandas (Hindu pilgrimage priests) in Vrindavan, relating changes in their trade (pandagiri) to tourism. These changes are the result of the pandas’ creative adjustments to shifting travel patterns that affect their market niche. Utilizing audio-recordings of the pandas’ guided tours, the article first portrays how pandas acquire ritual income from pilgrims by ‘inspiring’ donations of which they get a percentage. While commercial interests and economic conditions have always been crucial in shaping and perpetuating pilgrimage institutions and practices, global tourism has become an increasingly significant factor. Pandas all over India modify their services while the traditional exchange model (jajmani system) wanes. Changing travel patterns have made the guided tour a crucial component in the operation of Hindu pilgrimage. Vrindavan pandas have therefore turned into guides conducting religious sightseeing tours (darshan yatra). These tours are core to the new strategy for acquiring ritual income. To secure clients, pandas build connections with travel agencies and drivers and, in some cases, establish their own travel agencies that combine priestly and tourism services. The pandas’ own understandings of their methods and contemporary travel trends further reflect the dynamic interplay between pilgrimage and tourism in India.
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