With the construction of Sri Ram Mandir, the city of Ayodhya, among the seven most holy places of Hinduism, is seeing a major urban rejuvenation and renewal after many centuries.
Hindu scriptures call Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Varanasi, Kanchi, Ujjain and Dwaraka as saptapuri (seven cities) that can grant moksha.
Over several centuries, Uttar Pradesh's Ayodhya was reduced to a dilapidated town lacking basic civic amenities. Over the years, appalling neglect of the city relegated it to the margins that even the nearby Faizabad, a relatively new urban settlement, enjoyed greater primacy. Before CM Yogi Adityanath renamed the district after Ayodhya, it was the Faizabad district.
This gloomy picture of Ayodhya would soon change as the construction of Sri Ram Mandir is progressing rapidly, and plans are afoot to transform the infrastructure of this ancient city.
Ayodhya's Revival With Infrastructure
With the first phase of the temple reconstruction estimated to be complete by January 2024, the union and state governments are executing multiple infrastructure projects in Ayodhya that seek to transform the city's landscape and provide facilities for the millions of devotees who are expected to throng seeking the darshan of their revered god Sri Ram inside the sanctum sanctorum.
Ayodhya's infrastructure must be able to cater to their needs.
For example, there are only 17 hotels with 592 total rooms and around 70 Dharamshala for accommodation in Ayodhya city. Only an estimated 5,500 persons can be accommodated with these facilities.
But according to Ayodhya Master Plan 2031, for the accommodation of both foreign and domestic tourists, around 25,000 rooms will be required.
To meet this estimated inflow of pilgrims, numerous projects such as airport, railway station redevelopment, ring roads etc., have been taken up.
According to the programme management unit of Ayodhya Development Authority (ADA), 259 projects at a value of a whopping Rs 29,789 crore are under implementation in and around Ayodhya city.
Maryada Purushottam Shri Ram International Airport
The Uttar Pradesh government is developing the existing airstrip in Faizabad near Ayodhya as an international airport.
The proposed airport, called the 'Maryada Purushottam Sriram Airport', is located around 12 km from the upcoming Ram Mandir.
While the state had already allocated Rs 1,000 crore to the district administration for land acquisition for the airport, it had further allocated Rs 101 crore for its construction in the 2021 budget.
The proposed project involves the extension of the runway, taxiway, apron, isolation Bay, RESA, domestic terminal building, and other works.
The domestic terminal Building will be centrally air-conditioned, having an area of 6,000 sq. m. capable of handling 300 peak-hour passengers with all modern facilities and amenities, including three aerobridges.
The current airstrip is located in an area of 177.62 acres of land. For the proposed development activities, an additional area of 170 acres of land free from all encumbrances has been handed over by the district administration to the Airports Authority of India (AAI).
According to officials of the Airport Authority of India (AAI), 50 per cent work on the runways was complete, and the target for completion of the first phase of the airport is March 2023.
The international airport will be developed in multiple phases in an overall area of 660 acres of land.
Railway Station With Temple Architecture
The Rs 443 crore Ayodhya Railway Station project is envisaged with a facade that reflects the holy city's local architecture and Hindu religious ethos.
The design of the station structures is inspired by Shree Ram Janmabhoomi Temple, with domes, long shikhars and towering pillars.
It will be developed in two phases. In the first phase, a double-storied building, metal shed, circulating area, two-foot overbridges, dormitory, infirmary, escalators, elevators, food court, air-conditioned retiring rooms, LED billboards, and other facilities will be developed.
The second phase of the redevelopment will include building large waiting and parking areas for pilgrims in the southern part of the railway station.
The first phase of the redevelopment of the Ayodhya railway station is likely to be completed by the end of this year or early next year.
The completion of the first phase of the railway station is expected to boost the religious tourism in Ayodhya district as it will be able to cater to 25,000 passengers daily, which will be extremely helpful during auspicious days like Dussehra, Ram Navami, Diwali etc.
Presently, the daily passenger footfall at Ayodhya is around 4,000 per day.
Highways And Parikrama Margs
Ayodhya is one of the most prominent places in northern India where Hindu Pilgrims undertake parikramas (Circumambulation). Antargrahi Parikrama, Panchkoshi Parikrama, Chaturdashkoshi Parikrama and Chaurasi Kosi Parikrama are popular parikramas around Lord Ram's city.
To improve accessibility to Ayodhya and to facilitate parikrama by devotees, the union government has taken up 236 km long Chaurasi Kosi Parikrama Marg passing through five districts Ayodhya, Barabanki, Gonda, Basti, and Ambedkarnagar.
The government has so far approved a 128 km stretch of the national highway to be built at the cost of Rs 3,164 crore.
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari had said that the government will approve the construction of the remaining 108 km stretch of the 236 km long road by March 2023.
Also, a 5.5-meter wide walkway would come up along the highway. Devotees will use the walkway to do parikrama.
The government also cleared a proposal for widening the Pratapgarh - Sultanpur - Ayodhya state highway into a four-lane road.
Other notable highway projects currently underway to strengthen the infrastructure of Ayodhya include:
Four laning of the Ayodhya - Varanasi highway.
The construction of a 65-km long ring road at the cost of Rs. 2,588 crores.
The construction of the 262 km long Ram Van Gaman Marg from Ayodhya to Chitrakoot at the cost of Rs 2,020 crore.
Bullet Train From Capital
The Central government plans to connect New Delhi to three major pilgrimage cities in Uttar Pradesh - Varanasi, Prayagraj and Ayodhya, via high-speed Bullet Train.
A 130 km railway track connecting Ayodhya to Lucknow will be laid, which will be part of the 941.5 km high-speed railway corridor linking Delhi to Varanasi via Agra-Lucknow-Allahabad.
The Bullet Train connecting Delhi to Ayodhya will cover a distance of over 670 km. The superfast train will cut the travel time to less than three hours between Delhi and the holy city.
Over and above the projects mentioned above, the Uttar Pradesh government is implementing several works in Ayodhya city like the expansion of main roads, building underground sewerage and power lines, redevelopment of ghats and kunds, developing of parks and facilitating the construction of new hotels and dharamshalas.
Unlimited Tourism Potential
Ayodhya is around 135 km from Lucknow, 200 km from Varanasi, 170 km from Prayagraj, 134 km from Gorakhpur and about 636 km from Delhi.
This central location, surrounded by other popular pilgrimage and tourist destinations, further bolsters the attractiveness of this city for tourists.
As per the 2011 Census, the total population of the Ayodhya corporation area is 2,21,118, with a decadal growth of 13.9 per cent between 2001 and 2011.
This can easily double or even triple by the next decade with such large-scale infrastructure development facilitating the high tourism potential of Ayodhya.
The state government has also prepared a vision document for Ayodhya to create four lakh direct jobs and eight lakh indirect jobs in the city.
Ramayana Spiritual Theme Park on 2,300 acres, a tourism facility centre, and an international museum is also a part of it.
In addition, Sri Ram Janmabhoomi Tirth Kshetra Trust executing Sri Ram Mandir plans to construct world-class pilgrimage projects such as the 'Ramayan campus' in 500 to 1,000 acres with miniature forms of Ayodhya, Janakpur, Dandakaranya forest, Lanka, river Ganga and even sea.
According to the trust, devotees will get a feel of the Ramayana era when they visit the campus.
Thanks To Ram Mandir
The scale and utility of projects planned and under execution will transform Ayodhya in the next few years.
Already land rates in and around Ayodhya have considerably increased, and the region is on the cusp of a construction boom.
These infrastructure projects have become viable because of the expected rise in pilgrims visiting Ayodhya due to the upcoming temple at God Sri Ram's birthplace.
During the Sri Ram Janmabhoomi movement, none focused on the economic benefits that Ayodhya may garner with the construction of the temple. But in the coming years, we will see the rapid economic transformation of Ayodhya city and its surrounding region.
The temple movement has not only paved the way for the socio-economic transformation of the city but has also ushered in a civilisational resurgence. (It also provides an opportune moment to reflect upon the gaslighting indulged by guilt-trapped sections of Hindus who would constantly demand schools or a hospital at the site of the temple.)
If executed as per the vision, Ayodhya could become a modern example of a temple-based economy which may boost the economic and cultural revival of other pilgrimage destinations in India.
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