With the Uttar Pradesh elections coming up in 2017, the NDA government is stepping up efforts to put in place the Ramayana and Krishna tourism circuits that will cover large chunks of the state.
An official from the Tourism Ministry told The Indian Express that while several religion-based tourism circuits were announced earlier this year, including the Jain Circuit, Muslim Circuit and Sufi Circuit, the Ramayana and Krishna circuits are being given precedence, for now.
The Tourism Ministry has already released Rs 200 crore for the Ramayana circuit, with the official saying that work will be done at “breakneck speed”.
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The ministry is also planning to add the annual Chaurasi Kosi Parikrama, the age-old procession by Hindu devotees through sites associated with the legend of Krishna and Ram, to the proposed Rs 120-crore Krishna Circuit. “It’s not just the Ramayana Circuit, work has started on the Krishna Circuit as well. The area for the Krishna Circuit has been earmarked, 80 per cent of which falls in UP, in the Mathura-Vrindavan belt, and goes up to Dwarka in Gujarat,” said Tourism and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma.
Sharma is also planning to take part in this year’s Chaurasi Kosi Parikrama, which started last week from Mathura and will also cover Haryana and Rajasthan. ”I will walk with the devotees to see for myself how the best facilities can be added,” he said.
A decision to construct facilities at 80-odd traditional halt points of the roughly 250km procession has already been taken, while more rest areas will soon be constructed.
Sharma’s ministry is the nodal agency for the Ramayana project, which will also involve the Ministry of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, headed by Nitin Gadkari, for the construction of three-four highways around Ayodhya.
The circuit will develop the annual month-long procession called Ram Vivaah, which covers about 100 villages from Ayodhya to Janakpur in Nepal, which is believed to be Sita’s birthplace. This year, the procession will start in late November and continue till December 16.
“The Ramayana Circuit plan envisages the development of all those spots en route the procession, some of it also in collaboration with the Nepal government,” said the official.
Part of the procession route also falls in northern Bihar, in districts such as Sitamarhi and Darbhanga – this is being seen as a good opportunity for the NDA government to start some development work in Bihar too, which is going to elections this year.
While the detailed plan for the Ramayana Circuit was approved just two days ago, an expert committee will soon be constituted for the project, which will include — besides Sharma and Nitin Gadkari — Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
The panel will also include several senior BJP leaders and a handful of MPs from the state. “We are also trying to get the UP CM on board as part of the committee, but that seems likely, considering the equation between BJP and SP,” said the official.
While the project extends from Ayodhya to Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka, where Ram is supposed to have fought the mythical war with Ravana, the area outside UP will be developed in later phases. As part of the project, the Ram Setu — the legendary bridge linking India to Sri Lanka — will be scientifically verified by roping in underwater excavation experts.
A key milestone of this project will be to get the Faizabad Airport operational within the next year. “There is also the plan to construct a 25-acre museum complex near Ayodhya, the land for which has been earmarked. It is now awaiting the state government’s approval,” said an official. “Also, there are more than 100 scripts of the Ramayana all over India, in various regional languages and versions. All these will be compiled at one place by the government,” he added.