When faith fuels property

Updated on Feb 17, 2008 10:13 PM IST
Developers are finding a new opportunity in blending spiritual inclinations with real estate projects, reports Varun Soni.
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Hindustan Times | ByVarun Soni

So you thought lifestyle was always about saunas and swimming pools, schools or golf courses? Wrong.

Faith, they say, moves mountains. It certainly is now moving real estate developers, who are finding fortunes in targeting customers who are pilgrims or spiritualists.

Temple towns are witnessing a boom that nearly matches the growth in swanky metro suburbs. Haridwar, Rishikesh, Shirdi, Tirupati, Guruvayoor, Vrindavan and Mathura are among the places where many customers are seeking a second home and pure-play investors are happy to join the rush.

Apart from drawing devotees by the thousands, these places are also attracting home seekers who are looking for a peaceful life without having to compromise on the need for modern amenities.

For example, the Geetanjali Residency located next to Swami Ramdev’s Patanjali Yog Peeth premises just outside Haridwar.

Alka India Pvt. Ltd.’s Tridev city is all set to develop a chain of villas and duplexes in the same holy town. Also located on the banks of the Ganga is AEZ Group’s Aloha Rishikesh, just a mile away from the foothill town’s landmark Laxman Jhoola. Townships like Vedic Village and Divine City championed by local developers are also in the offing at Haridwar. And with the ambitious Ganga Expressway project in Uttar Pradesh getting underway, more holy towns along the sacred river are expected to find a place on the realty map.

In Vrindavan and Mathura, you will come across Suncity’s township at Mathura called Brij Darpan that aims to recreate the life of Lord Krishna over a huge 5,000-acre patch. Other developments in the area include Radhika Kunj by Ravindra Home Developers as well as townships by Magsons and Prabhatam Buildwell.

Magarpatta City outside Pune, promises a life that “revolves around the Rutu Chakra — the eternal time wheel of nature.”

Senior citizens seeking solace and salvation in their older years are a key constituency for spiritual real estate. The Tirupati Urban Development Authority is planning a township spread over 145 acres at Surappakasam village near the holy town, with an eye on “NRIs and millionaires wishing to spend their twilight years at the abode of Lord Venkateswara.”

Due to such developments, property prices in these places have gone through the roof in the past few years, having doubled or more at most of these places. For instance, rates in Guruvayoor in Kerala have increased from Rs 700 per sq. ft. in 1990 to Rs 2,500 per sq. ft. in 2007.

Says Sanjeev Aeren, managing director of the AEZ Group, which has a project in Rishikesh, “Religious passion has emerged as a new factor pushing the growth of the real estate sector. The spiritual angle has always been a big draw for tourists coming to India. For us, it is also a marketing initiative that helps differentiate as well as attract like-minded people. As a developer, we get a confirmed customer and he gets something that he is looking for.”

Ashok Bansal, Director, Suncity Projects, says that such townships are ideal for those looking to lead a peaceful life, considering the rising stress levels today. So much so that private townships in places other than the holy towns are also incorporating features related to faith. Take the example of Pranayam, a 20-acre township coming up in Faridabad, which includes a meditation centre to be managed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation.

“Apart from the name, the meditation centre will act as a big draw in marketing the township. There are a substantial number of buyers who do not mind paying for facilities like this. And with our daily life becoming more of a grind, customers are always on the lookout for something that is linked to spirituality,” says Arjun Puri, Director, Puri Constructions, the developer of Pranayam.

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