Any country in the world wishing to reach new heights of development has to uphold its heritage. Our heritage gives us inspiration and guides us in the right direction. Therefore, today’s Bharat is moving forward, embracing both the ancient and the modern. There was a time when Ram Lalla was living in a tent in Ayodhya. Besides Ram Lalla, four crore poor people in the country have also got pucca homes. Today, while Bharat is beautifying its pilgrimage sites, on the other hand, our country is also shining in the world of digital technology. Today, along with the reconstruction of Kashi Vishwanath Dham, more than 30,000 panchayat buildings are also being constructed in the country. Today, not only the redevelopment of Kedarnath Dham has been undertaken, but also more than 315 new medical colleges have been set up in the country. Today, not only the construction of Mahakal Mahalok has taken place, but also more than 2 lakh tanks have been built to provide water to every home. On the one hand, we are measuring the depths of the moon, the sun, and the seas, on the other hand, we are bringing back our ancient sculptures in record numbers in Bharat. The mood of today’s Bharat is evident in Ayodhya. Today, there is a celebration of progress here, and in a few days, there will also be a celebration of tradition. Today, the grandeur of development is visible here, and in a few days, the grandeur and divinity of heritage will be visible. This is Bharat. The shared strength of Vikas (development) and Virasat (heritage) will lead Bharat ahead in the 21st century.
Maharishi Valmiki himself has described in detail what Ayodhya was like in ancient times. He has written: कोसलो नाम मुदित: स्फीतो जनपदो महान निविष्ट सरयूतीरे प्रभूत-धन-धान्यवान।. Valmiki ji tells us that the great Ayodhya was a magnificent city, full of wealth and bliss and at the peak of prosperity. In other words, Ayodhya not only possessed knowledge and detachment but also reached the pinnacle of prosperity. We need to reconnect with the ancient identity of Ayodhya and integrate it with modernity.
In the coming times, Ayodhya will not only be the focal point of development for the Awadh region, but also contribute to the progress of the entire state of Uttar Pradesh. After the construction of the grand Mandir of Bhagwan Ram in Ayodhya, there will be a significant increase in the number of people visiting the city. Keeping this in mind, our government is undertaking development projects worth thousands of crores of rupees in Ayodhya, making it a smart city. Today, Ayodhya is witnessing the widening of roads, the construction of new footpaths, flyovers, and bridges. Efforts are also being made to improve transportation infrastructure to connect Ayodhya with surrounding districts.
I am pleased that the Ayodhya Airport has been named after Maharishi Valmiki. Maharishi Valmiki introduced us to Bhagwan Ram’s virtues through the epic Ramayan. Bhagwan Ram had said about Maharishi Valmiki, ‘‘तुम त्रिकालदर्शी मुनिनाथा, विस्व बदर जिमि तुमरे हाथा।’’ i.e., You are the seer of all three periods, and the universe is like a berry in your palm. Naming the Ayodhya Dham Airport after the visionary Maharishi Valmiki will be a blessing for every traveller arriving at this airport. Ramayan written by Maharishi Valmiki is the path of knowledge which connects us to Bhagwan Shri Ram. The Maharishi Valmiki International Airport Dham will link us to the divine and majestic Ram Mandir. The newly built airport has the capacity to serve 10 lakh travellers annually. Upon completion of the second phase, the Maharishi Valmiki International Airport will accommodate 60 lakh passengers every year. Currently, the Ayodhya Dham Railway Station serves 10-15 thousand people daily. After the complete development of the station, the Ayodhya Dham Railway Station will be able to cater to 60,000 people every day.
Apart from the inauguration of the airport and railway station, various paths and routes have also been inaugurated in Ayodhya. The Ram Path, Bhakti Path, Dharma Path, and Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Path will ensure smooth travel. With the new medical college, health facilities in the area will see expansion. Efforts are being made by the double engine government to maintain the purity of the Sarayu River, and work has begun to prevent pollution in its waters. The ‘Ram Ki Padi‘ area has been given a new look. Development is underway for new ghats along the banks of the Sarayu. Restoration work is being carried out on all ancient wells in the area. Whether it’s the Lata Mangeshkar Chowk or the Ram Katha Sthal, all are contributing to enhancing Ayodhya’s identity. The upcoming township in Ayodhya will make life easier for its residents. These development initiatives will also create new opportunities for employment and self-employment in Ayodhya, benefiting taxi drivers, rickshaw pullers, hotel owners, dhabas, prasad sellers, flower vendors, pooja items sellers, and our small shopkeepers, increasing their income.
It is a matter of great joy that the first Amrit Bharat Express is passing through Ayodhya. The Delhi-Darbhanga Amrit Bharat Express will modernise the travel experience for people from Delhi, UP, and Bihar. This will make the journey to the grand Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, where Ram Lalla will be enshrined, more convenient for the people of Bihar. These modern Amrit Bharat Express trains will especially assist our poor families and fellow workers. Goswami Tulsidas has written in the Ram Charit Manas,‘‘पर हित सरिस धरम नहीं भाई। पर पीड़ा सम नहिं अधमाई।’’ i.e., there is no greater religion and duty in serving others.
Our country has held significance for pilgrimage journeys since ancient times, boasting a glorious history. Pilgrimages from Badrinath Vishal to Setubandh Rameshwaram, Gangotri to Gangasagar, Dwarkadheesh to Jagannath Puri, the journey of the 12 Jyotirlingas, the Chardham Yatra, Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, Kavad Yatra, Shakti Peeth Yatra, Pandharpur Yatra—these continue to attract devotees from every corner of Bharat. Tamil Nadu, too, has its share of renowned pilgrimages, such as Shivasthal Pada Yattirai, Murugnukku Kavadi Yattirai, Vaishnava Tirupa-Padi Yattirai, Amman Tiruttal Yattirai. Sabarimala Yatra in Kerala, Sammakka and Sarakka jatara in Medaram in Andhra-Telangana, Nagoba jatara also draw lakhs of devotees. There’s a lesser-known pilgrimage to the abode of Bhagwan Ram and his brothers Bharat, Lakshman and Shatrughan in Kerala. It is known as Nalam Balam Yatra. Apart from these, numerous pilgrimages and circumambulations are ongoing across the country, including the Govardhan Parikrama, Panchakoshi Parikrama, Chaurasi Koshi Parikrama. Each of these journeys strengthens the devotee’s connection and devotion to the divine. Buddhist pilgrimages to places associated with Bhagwan Buddha, such as Lumbini, Kapilavastu, Sarnath, and Kushinagar, are also significant. Rajgir in Bihar hosts a pilgrimage for Buddhist followers. Jains embark on journeys to Pavagadh, Sammed Shikharji, Palitana, and the Kailash pilgrimage. Sikhs undertake pilgrimages to the five Takhts and Guru Dham Yatra. The North East, especially Arunachal Pradesh, witnesses the grand Parashuram Kund Yatra. Devotees gather with unwavering faith for these diverse pilgrimages across the country. Proper arrangements are made for these journeys that have been taking place for centuries. The ongoing construction work in Ayodhya will make the pilgrimage to Ayodhya Dham, the darshan of the Bhagwan Ram, and the entire experience easier for every visiting devotee.
This historic moment has come into all our lives with great fortune. We must take a new resolution for the country and fill ourselves with new energy. For this, I am praying to all 140 crore countrymen from the sacred land of Ayodhya. I am praying from the city of Bhagwan Ram in Ayodhya, joining hands with 140 crore countrymen, that when Pran Pratistha of Bhagwan Ram takes place on January 22, light the divine lamp of Bhagwan Ram in your homes and celebrate Diwali. On the evening of January 22, there should be brightness throughout the country.
Importantly, my earnest request to my brothers and sisters in Ayodhya is that you should be prepared for countless guests from all over the country and the world. People will continuously come to Ayodhya every day, and there will be millions of people coming. They will come at their convenience; some will come in a year, some in two years, some in 10 years, but millions of people will come. And this tradition will continue for eternity. Therefore, the residents of Ayodhya also need to make a resolution. And this resolution is to make the city of Ayodhya the cleanest city in Bharat. The responsibility for Swachh Ayodhya lies with the residents of Ayodhya. And for this, we need to take every step together. Today, I reiterate my request to all the pilgrimage sites and Mandirs in the country. From January 14 to January 22, we should run a cleanliness campaign in every Mandir, in every corner of Bharat. Bhagwan Ram belongs to the entire country, and when Bhagwan Ram is coming, none of our Mandirs, none of our pilgrimage sites, and their surroundings should be unclean.
(Excerpt from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address at the inauguration and laying foundation stone of multiple development projects in Ayodhya on December 30, 2023)