Pran Pratishtha of Ram Lalla is going to take place in the newly built grand Ram Mandir of Ayodhya on January 22, 2024. There is an atmosphere of enthusiasm across the country. Every person wants to go to Ayodhya on the occasion of Pran Pratishtha; as it is not possible for everyone to come to Ayodhya at the same time, crores of people are planning to visit Ram Lalla in Ayodhya in the coming few months. Not only an international airport is being built in Ayodhya, hotels and other types of infrastructure are also being constructed rapidly for the convenience of visitors. This will not only boost tourism in and around the city, but will also transform the city into a regional growth hub, thereby promoting trade and economic growth in the wider region. A mega-tourism city of global standard, attracting millions of tourists every day, could also revolutionise the economy of neighbouring districts. The people of Ayodhya are upbeat about the development of tourism, defining a new direction for the economic development of Ayodhya. A Master Plan to upgrade the sacred city to meet the daily temple darshan requirement of around three lakh people after Pran Pratishtha on the idol of Ram Lalla 2031, for the reconstruction of Ayodhya with an investment of over Rs 85,000 crore will be completed in ten years.
When the movement for the construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya was going on, some people in the country were suggesting that it would be beneficial for the people if hospitals or educational institutions were built, in place of the temple. Sam Pitroda, a technocrat who was very close to the Government during the Congress rule and who had also accompanied Rahul Gandhi on his recent visit to the United States of America, had said that temples do not generate employment. No matter what Sam Pitroda says, there is a great need to understand the economics of temples today. It is true that agriculture, industry and services have their own economics, on the basis of which we prepare the outline of the country’s development. But people who speak against temples forget that religious services and temples also have their own economics. Wherever there are temples, development work automatically happens around them. In ancient India, pilgrimage places were important economic centres as well, bestowing huge financial benefits to the people. Due to the attractive craftsmanship, grandeur and supernatural idols in every temple, these were spiritual as well as tourist destinations. This system existed all over India.
Today, when the construction of the temple is nearing completion and Pran Pratishtha is about to take place, we need to understand how beneficial temples, religious and spiritual tourism can be for our country and the people. Mandirs also generate huge employment. Innumerable people earn their living around the temples and through modernisation and development of infrastructure in the temples, not only the level of those services can be improved, but their contribution to the GDP can also be increased. Therefore, like other sectors of the economy, it is important to think about the temple economy also. India, which has more than 20 lakh temples, also has four crore people directly associated with the tourism and travel industry. Religious and temple tourism is a big part of overall tourism in the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government is also working to further strengthen this temple economy in a planned manner. Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, Mahakal Lok for Mahakaleshwar Jyotirling, Kashi Corridor for Kashi Vishweshwar, temple renovation and Shankaracharya site in Kedarnath, Ekatm Dham in Omkareshwar, renovation of Sharda Peeth in Kashmir, development of Kailash Darshan in Uttarakhand are some steps in the same direction.
We see that even today a large population in many cities and towns in India depends only on temples and pilgrimage places for their livelihood. Varanasi, Mathura-Vrindavan, Ayodhya, Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, Yamunotri temples in Uttarakhand are only some examples. If we see, almost all the states have one or more big religious centers. Tamil Nadu has Meenakshi Mandir (Madurai), Rameshwaram Mandir and many other temples. Jagannath Puri Mandir in Orissa; Somnath and Dwarka in Gujarat, Golden Mandir in Punjab are the major centers of faith. Baidyanath Mandir in Deoghar, Jharkhand and Jagannath Mandir in Ranchi are world famous; There is Mahakal Mandir of Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh and a number of temples in many cities and towns of India, which are centers of faith.
Boost to Tourism
In the cities where such temples are located, a large number of devotees and tourists visit, supporting the economies of those cities. There are many places where lakhs of devotees gather in a single day. During the year 2022, 36.4 lakh devotees visited Vaishno Devi temple located in Katra, Jammu, 3 crore devotees visited Tirupati Balaji temple located in Andhra Pradesh during the year 2022. Similarly, crores of people visit different temples every year. This natural religious tourism forms a major part of our total tourism business, creating huge demand. It is estimated that the share of religious tourism in India is 60 percent of the total domestic tourism, while 11 percent of foreign tourists come for religious purposes. It is noteworthy that the share of tourism in India’s GDP is about seven per cent and its share in the total employment of the country is a huge 8 per cent. That means that this sector provides employment to nearly four crore people. In such a situation, looking at the contribution of religious tourism, both domestic and international, there can be no doubt about the contribution of temples to the Indian economy.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, while 14.33 crore Indians visited temples and pilgrimages in the year 2022, 64.4 lakh foreign tourists also visited these places. In the year 2022, an income of Rs 1.35 lakh crore was generated from these places of pilgrimage. That is, it can be understood that those who say that temples do not create employment or temples have no contribution in the Indian economy, should know these facts.
Contribution to Society
We have several examples showing that many temples, places of pilgrimage and religious and spiritual leaders are doing exemplary work in the establishment of educational institutions and health centres. The Hindu Mission Hospital in Vellore, Tamil Nadu was founded by the Hindu Mission Society in 1894. It is one of the oldest and most well-known hospitals in the country. The Ramakrishna Mission runs a number of educational institutions and health centres across India. The Arya Samaj also runs a number of educational institutions and health centers across India. These include schools, colleges, and hospitals.
The Jain temples in India have traditionally been centres of learning. Many Jain temples have libraries, schools, and even universities. The Sikh Gurudwaras in India also provide free education, food and healthcare to the country.
These are just a few examples of the many educational institutions and health centers that have been developed by temples and religious leaders in India. These institutions play an important role in providing education and healthcare to the people of India.
Today, it is imperative that by developing these areas of religious and pilgrimage tourism, their contribution in the development of the country be further increased. For this, apart from renovation of old temples, construction of all types of economy and luxury hotels, expansion of infrastructure and civic amenities and establishment of tourist information centres in these religious and pilgrimage places; and their connectivity with different parts of the country to reach these places, are some of the initiatives through which their (pilgrimage places and temples) contribution to the national economy can be strengthened.