Over the years, India has witnessed a plethora of dynasties that have ruled her lands. These dynasties have been great patrons of art, religion, and culture. Under their influence, India developed Urban Spaces centred around temples. Even today, many of the temple cities run their economy in a way that echoes the impact of these temples.
These temples were the epicentre of the earliest economic activities. The concepts of cities and God are not binary since urban planning has a religious foundation. Cities have been on a perpetual quest for order amidst the chaos of everyday life to have a set list of beliefs and consequent actions. The relationship between a city’s religion, politics, and culture can be seen throughout history. The walls of the city often housed both forums and temples.
However, the advent of industrialization has seen the transition of cities to spaces of money and reason. India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, envisioned the city to be an extension of his grand vision for a modern and secular India. The past held no place in this ultra-modern vision that he shared. Announcing the foundational principles of Chandigarh, Nehru declared: “Let this be a new town, symbolic of freedom of India unfettered by the traditions of the past … an expression of the nation’s faith in the future.” It was a completely different view of the city from the prevalent faith-driven narrative.
Benefits of developing Temple Towns
This narrative has been called into question recently. Our honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi has worked towards developing our remote Indian Temple towns and cities to put them on the map. Temples have been associated with tourism for centuries. Looking at tourism from purely an elitist end is a product of inherent bias against our Indian culture. ‘Yatras’ have been part of our cultural and social life for years. Despite inadequate resources, people would go on pilgrimages like the Char Dham Yatra, Dwadash Jyotirling Yatra, and 51 Shaktipeeth Yatra. India can change the notions of Tourism through the development of her temple towns and cities. Tourism is not just about the economy but also about the idea of promoting our culture as a whole. An increase in facilities would lead to a more significant influx of tourists. There was a time when people did not prefer going to a temple, but this can change in the next few years.
On average, large and popular temples attract about a few million visitors every year from all over the country. This involves spending on travel, lodging and boarding, sightseeing, and several other related activities. The religious visit thus has an interesting economic aspect attached to it. Now with greater and better facilities, the number of visitors will increase, contributing to more spending and bringing more money into circulation.
Case study- Ayodhya | Temple cities
The temple town of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh is currently undergoing a significant transition. By 2024, it must be ready for devotees from all over the country visiting the newly built Ram Mandir.
The newly designed temple complex will include not only the Ram Mandir but also temples of six other deities, including Valmiki, Vashisht, and Sabari; a pilgrim facilitation centre; a herbal garden; and facilities including an electric substation, a sewage treatment plant, and water treatment plant.
Infrastructure beyond the Temple Complex
Creating effective transport links is vital to facilitate the transformation of Ayodhya from its current state to the ‘Vatican for Hindus‘. The Central Government plans to connect Delhi to Ayodhya by a high speed bullet train running on high speed rail corridors.
Massive work is underway to construct a greenfield township, an airport that meets international standards, and a railway station as monumental as an airport, along with a network of four lane highways and a road directly connecting the complex to the highway.
An exclusive railway station is under development by Rail India Technical and Economic Service Limited (RITES), a subsidiary of Indian Railways. With a budget of 240 crores, it carries the capacity to hold 15,000 passengers at a time. It includes air-conditioned rooms where 104 people can stay. Other basic amenities have been provided as well.
Conclusion | Temple cities
Our economy can build up with the redevelopment of temple cities. While some may see this as a pointless venture, it should be noted that this is a way to boost tourism and the economy, considering Indian culture and habits. Reviving the temple complexes will also develop the subsequent infrastructure, which can positively impact our forming urban fabric. People need to be invested in our cultural attractions. Lousy infrastructure has stood in the way of that so far. With improvements underway, our architecture can once again be put on the map. It may be a far cry away from our golden days, but it will be the start of our cultural revival.
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Tripathy, J. Beyond secular cities: Temples as an urban experience, Swarajyamag. Available at: https://swarajyamag.com/culture/beyond-secular-cities-temples-as-an-urban-experience
Chari, S. (2022) Modi Govt push for temple corridors isn’t just about culture. it’s the economy, ThePrint. Available at: https://theprint.in/opinion/modi-govt-push-for-temple-corridors-isnt-just-about-culture-its-the-economy/1167503/
Gupta, M.D. (2023) Frenetic work in Ayodhya – ‘Rs 3,200 CR collected, Mandir 45% complete, darshan by Jan 2024’, ThePrint. Available at: https://theprint.in/india/frenetic-work-in-ayodhya-rs-3200-cr-collected-mandir-45-complete-darshan-by-jan-2024/1295647/
Mehta, N. (2022) Ayodhya, Varanasi & now Ujjain: Why temples are central to PM Modi’s idea of ‘New India’, News18. Available at: https://www.news18.com/news/opinion/ayodhya-varanasi-now-ujjain-why-temples-are-central-to-pm-modis-idea-of-new-india-6172177.html