Two Ayodhyas: Ancient aura, modern marvel - Hindustan Times

Two Ayodhyas: Ancient aura, modern marvel

Jan 08, 2024 08:45 AM IST

An array of transformation unfolds, with 37 government departments orchestrating 178 projects, totaling ₹30,508.11 crore.

The resonant echoes of bhajans and the conch shells from the temples in Ayodhya now blend normally with the cacophony of earth movers, the lively banter of masons and the occasional chatter of menacing monkeys. Amidst this unique bustle, intermittent clouds of dust rise from numerous construction sites, cast a haze that veils both the residents and the mystics who, undeterred, continue their early morning puja rituals, navigating the dust with barefoot determination.

The changing Ayodhya exudes an unmistakable aura of big metamorphosis. (HT file photo)
The changing Ayodhya exudes an unmistakable aura of big metamorphosis. (HT file photo)

As the settling dust unveils the evolving landscape, one cannot help but notice the emergence of expansive thoroughfares, shopping precincts adorned with a consistent colour palette, their shutters proudly adorned with ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans – an exercise funded by the government. Quirky structures, marked by the indelible signature of earthmovers, stand witness to the ongoing expansion of this temple town.

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An array of transformation unfolds, with 37 government departments orchestrating 178 projects, totaling 30,508.11 crore.

From widened roads to novel corridors, beautification initiatives, railway overbridges (ROBs), and a burgeoning township, the developments extend to shopping complexes, laser shows, entertainment hubs, wax museum, a mega fountain park, tent city — all racing against diverse deadlines. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated the international airport, a revamped railway station and some more.

Step into this changing Ayodhya, a work in progress yet exuding an unmistakable aura of surreal metamorphosis. The work on an upcoming solar city, an Aero City with a hotel complex, wedding complex and Ayurveda city, a heritage walk along the Dharm Path with murals in 180 walls showcasing the life and times of Lord Rama, an upcoming adventure sports site, add to the feel.

This surge of development has triggered a real estate boom, enticing builders to envisage hotels, townships, and an array of amenities in this evolving landscape.

Undeniably, an unprecedented scale of development is underway in Ayodhya, bringing about a transformative enhancement. Iqbal Ansari, son of the late Hashim Ansari, who had filed the first suit in the Ayodhya dispute in 1952 but was friends with the Hindu side (the two would often travel to court for hearings showcasing Ayodhya’s unique cultural ethos that has had space for all), expresses appreciation for the positive changes taking place. Despite historical legal battles, Ayodhya maintained a unique cultural harmony, fostering friendships across religious lines.

Vishal Singh, vice chairman of the Ayodhya Development Authority (ADA), anticipates the completion of four new four-lane corridors by the time of the inauguration. Notably, the 13-kilometre-long Ram Path, considered the city’s spine, stands out among these developments.

Other key corridors include the 3-kilometre Dharm Path, connecting the national highway to the Ram Temple, the 2-kilometre Bhakti Path linking Hanumangarahi to Ram Path, and the Janmabhoomi Path connecting the Ram Temple via Ram Path. These aesthetically adorned corridors are poised to serve as main thoroughfares for tourists and visitors during the temple inauguration and beyond.

A thousand Ayodhya logos are being put up all over as Ramayana themed pillars, set to come up at all these four main corridors, would be the latest landmarks of the “new Ayodhya”.

The sweeping changes are rendering Ayodhya virtually unrecognisable, with a surge in global tourist footfalls expected from January.

While the development brings about excitement and pride, it is not without its challenges. The expansion has necessitated the displacement of properties, including houses, shops, temples, mosques, and graves. Compensation and alternative spaces have been provided, yet some business owners express concerns over operating limitations imposed by the administration.

Around 30 small and big temples, 8 mosques and five graves had to give way for the Ram Path and the demolition of the historic Singh Dwar, the Hanumangarahi gateway, too raised questions. However, the temple priest Raju Das, citing its age of about 400 years, assures that it was undertaken with the approval of high priests. Despite such changes, there is a prevailing sense of growing acceptance among the residents, acknowledging the necessity of change for the overall betterment.

Ayodhya’s senior temple priest, Satyendra Das, reflects on the initial concerns during the construction of Ram Path but emphasizes the positive impact on global tourist footfalls. A sense of optimism is shared by individuals like Avantika Singh, who views the current challenges as temporary inconveniences that will yield positive outcomes. Aditya Shukla, a student at Shri Yogiraj Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya, notes a renewed interest in Sanskrit, attributing it to a rekindled focus on ancient values.

Despite the ongoing facelift stirring up dust and discomfort, the general sentiment among the populace is one of hope and satisfaction. Akhil Kumar Rao, a resident, attests to the improved infrastructure and reduced commuting time, highlighting the general contentment among the common people.

The evenings in Ayodhya are now adorned with laser shows and psychedelic lights, offering a glimpse of the future brilliance that awaits once all 178 projects reach completion, notes Ayodhya mayor Girish Pati Tripathi.

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    Manish Chandra Pandey is a Lucknow-based Senior Assistant Editor with Hindustan Times’ political bureau in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Along with political reporting, he loves to write offbeat/human interest stories that people connect with. Manish also covers departments. He feels he has a lot to learn not just from veterans, but also from newcomers who make him realise that there is so much to unlearn.

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