While Indians may regard the Kumbh Mela in Nashik as a sacred pilgrimage, for foreigners fascinated by the mass human influx and religious gathering, it is a ‘never-seen experience’ that attracts millions of devotees and tourists from across the globe. And hence they don’t mind combining a dip in the Godavari river with a trip to a vineyard. Making the most of the trend, several wineries and wine tour operators in Nashik — known as the wine capital of the country — are organising wine tours during the Kumbh Mela, especially around the shahi-snans (royal bath) that has religious significance. While the first snan (bath) termed as Shravan Shudha is on August 26, the three shahi snans are on August 29, September 13 and 18, followed by Bhadrapad Shukla Dwadashi on September 25 — the days which draw maximum crowd at the Kumbh Mela owing to the religious beliefs attached to it.
Manoj Jagtap, a coordinator for wine tours in the district, said, “For every Indian visiting Nashik during Kumbh Mela, there cannot be a more sacred destination. However, since foreigners do not have any religious sentiments attached to it, they don’t mind unwinding the visit to Kumbh Mela with a tour to a vineyard and a glass of wine.”
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So far, through his online wine tour booking portal http://www.winefriend.in, he has received nearly 40 confirmed bookings for wine tours from across the world from tourists visiting Nashik during Kumbh. They are mainly from the US, France, Germany and Japan. The numbers might jump by five to 10 more bookings in the coming days. “Generally, we wind up the visit to the mela by 2 pm after which we take them to vineyards where they can go around the vineyards or indulge in wine and food,” he said. The charges, Jagtap said are Rs 500 per head, which includes a guided tour of all the spots at Kumbh Mela, followed by a trip to a vineyard.
Jagdish Holkar, chairman of India Grape Processing Board, said “Wine is considered a holy drink by foreigners. It is placed on the altar by priests in churches as an offering to god. So even if foreigners indulge in wine tour or wine after Kumbh, there’s nothing unholy about it.” Besides, Holkar added that the three months — July to September — are significant for Nashik wineries. “Given the number of tourists visiting the place during these months – both Indians as well as foreigners — it’s a good time for branding,” he said.
Along with the regular wine tour and tasting sessions that are organised throughout the year by Sula Vineyards, this year, an additional feature to cater to the large number of Nashik visitors, especially foreigners, is ‘Taste and Buy’. “Our team of wine-makers give an in-depth demonstration on the know-how of wine production to the visitors. We have already received several bookings. We are expecting a rise of over 10 per cent in our business during these three months of Kumbh Mela. Also, since the number of foreigners visiting Nashik will be huge due to Kumbh, we have increased the seating space in the wine tasting room,” said Neeraj Agrawal, vice-president, Sula Vineyards.