The Return of Sri Ram and Ayodhya’s Revival as a global tourist destination

The consecration of the Ram temple is an outcome of the public will, nothing to do with the subjugation of other religions, but rather a series of cross-generational attempts to reclaim the subjugated and wounded site.

By Om Prakash Dwivedi

Great civilization thrives on the elimination of inner evils, and not on the subjugation and exploitation of the external world. Precisely, what makes Sri Ram an iconic model for any civilization to emulate! No wonder, he is hailed as the Maryada Purushottam. To see Ram as a sectarian god is to undermine the quintessential spiritual outlook that he stands for. The consecration of the Ram temple is an outcome of the public will, nothing to do with the subjugation of other religions, but rather a series of cross-generational attempts to reclaim the subjugated and wounded site. It turned out to be a long healing process that made people understand the huge vandalizing done by colonising forces.

With the consecration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya on January 22, 2024, the creative process has just started. The 500-year-long waiting period finally ended at 12.05 pm, that auspicious occasion, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi entered the Ram Mandir with a silver “chhatri”, to the slogans of Jai Sri Ram, not just restricted to the precincts of the temple, but across India and overseas. Ram seems to have permeated the cosmos, such was the degree of this festivity and the subsequent consecration ceremony. This creative process was not coerced by the pathologies of power but rather through a popular will that witnessed the consecration ceremony of the Ram temple as a global festival; it is another matter that certain political parties decided to distance themselves from this grand ceremony, which is nothing more than a testimony of pseudo-secularism.

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When the nation is celebrating this much-awaited moment, it is unfortunate to witness an outcry of what can be seen as nothing else than depressive tones. It is one thing to preach secularism but to remain blinded to the plurality of the electorate as well as of the democracy reeks of sickness. Of course, this virus of the mind is rooted in political mileage and has nothing to do with secularism. Secularism cannot be dictated by any predetermined ideologies – be it the left or the right. It is ironic that when the entire country has come together to celebrate the return of Sri Ram to his home in Ayodhya, there is a sense of desperation to orchestrate an Indian unity movement in some other parts of India, though with no success. In the present context, secularism seems to have been sold to the highest bidder for self-serving interests.

Amidst the euphoria that the public demonstrated for the Ram temple, Ayodhya has also revived itself from a place that was almost in an incognito mode to a site of vibrancy that has started getting immense national and international attraction. It is becoming a tourist destination for many Indians, no matter where they live. With the $10-billion makeover of a new airport, a revamped railway station, and better road connectivity, Ayodhya has seamlessly become the heart of the Bharatvarsha.

The remoulding of Ayodhya is subsequently a remoulding of the Uttar Pradesh CM, Adityanath Yogi. He is slowly transforming himself into an international figure. A strong and popular, political leader is not formed by sporadic demonstrations of public concern and disappearing into an unknown zone, rather s/he is the one who constantly stokes, promotes, and unites an emotional covenant across communities and regions. By turning Ayodhya into a spiritual destination, Yogi’s stature as a popular leader will only be accentuated. When social fragmentations coalesce giving way to popular will and celebrations, what one sees is the resurgence of a popular leader. When political expediency is divorced from public sentiments, alliances are needed, leading to the promotion, even the creation of weak leaders.

The story of Yogi’s reincarnation as an international leader has just started. Of course, it is rooted in the pitch he curated way back. In the 2023 Global Investor Summit in Uttar Pradesh, Yogi attracted an unprecedented investment of Rs 49,000 crore. As per the government records, Ayodhya witnessed a profit of Rs 254 crores, which accounts for a 131 per cent surge in exports, a figure that exceeds the Rs 110 crore profit in the previous fiscal year. This is a new Ayodhya, energised by the return of Sri Ram, committed to spiritual growth and economic diversification. The co-existence of spiritual ethos with the robust economy is the new mantra of the land of Ayodhya.

The combination of Modi-Yogi has rendered a new template for the religious template in India. It is estimated that Ayodhya will attract 50 million tourists every year. The curiosity looms large over Ayodhya’s transformation into a global tourist destination along the lines of the Vatican City or the Mecca. But this is just the beginning of a larger narrative of Bharatvarsh’s cultural revival.

Contributing Author: Om Prakash Dwivedi tweets @opdwivedi82. His interests lie in the field of postcolonial theory.

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