In what come as a big boost to religious and spiritual tourism in Uttar Pradesh, and in the larger Poorvanchal (a term used colloquially to refer to parts of eastern Uttar Pradesh and adjoining Bihar), Yogi government has mooted a mega statue of Lord Ram at the banks of River Saryu in Ayodhya. Some sources suggest that the height of the statue is expected to be around 100 metres. However, there is no official confirmation on the specifics of the statue.
All eyes would be on Ayodhya, this Diwali, as the CM, along with the Governor of Uttar Pradesh, will be in attendance at the Ghats of Saryu to mark Diwali celebrations where a grand “aarti” of River Saryu will also be performed, along with stage performance of Ramleela by artists from Thailand and Indonesia. “On Diwali, a grand programme will be held in Ayodhya in which sadhu-saints will also participate. I will also invite the governor for this,” Adityanath has said recently in Gorakhpur.
Development of religious sites and monuments has been an important part of the Uttar Pradesh government’s agenda and the central government has been assiduously backing the state government in its bid to boost these segments of tourism. The Union Tourism ministry has sanctioned a sum of INR 133.70 crores for making Ayodhya a tourism hub and the money is expected to be used to give the ancient city a much-needed face-lift. The proposal includes renovating ghats, including Guptar Ghat, where Lord Rama had taken ‘Samadhi’, installing CCTV cameras, making police booths, and construction of guest houses for tourists and auditorium at Digamgar Akhara.
Reacting to the development, Avanish Awasthi, the government officer in-charge of tourism in Uttar Pradesh said, “Yes, there is a proposal for a Ram statue in Ayodhya. It is at a conceptual stage right now, there are many other proposals for different tourist destinations across Uttar Pradesh and this is one of them. If you go to Bali in Indonesia, you will find many such statues around and our idea is to give a boost to tourism in the area.”
While there already have been some reservations to the move, from certain quarters, who allege that there is an underlying political agenda behind this push, leaving the politics of it aside, there remains no ambiguity that Uttar Pradesh, despite all the promise and potential, has never really been able to cash in on the diversity of tourism assets it has in its disposal. Irrespective of the political ideology, successive governments have overlooked tourism in the state. Taking stock of only the religious and spiritual tourism segment and offerings, Uttar Pradesh is home to some of the most important centres of Hindu and Buddhist faith. Rejuvenation of Ayodhya will lend a new lease of life to the economy of the entire region, providing employment to locals and arresting migration. By all means, it is a welcome move.