For over a month before the Pran Pratishtha (consecration) ceremony at Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya, workers at a sweet-making enterprise, Ram Vilas And Sons, worked round the clock to fulfill an order from Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust. The order being five lakh packets of ilaichidana, the prasad made from sugar and cardamom, for lakhs of devotees. The trust expects 80,000-1,00,000 devotees to visit the temple every day. Mithilesh Kumar, owner of Ram Vilas And Sons, is gearing up to fulfilling future orders from the trust as well.

In the build-up to the consecration, social media was abuzz with posts and videos of devotees walking down to Ayodhya, some barefoot, from far-off states to pay obeisance to Lord Rama. The number of people visiting the temple annually is expected to be 2.88-3.6 crore, six-seven times the 50 lakh visitors that Vatican City gets. This requires a robust tourism and hospitality ecosystem.

"Estimates by state government put the number of tourists visiting the state at around 32 crore (2.21 crore in Ayodhya alone) with their expenditure exceeding ₹2 lakh crore. Additionally, spending by foreign tourists (UP is ranked 5th in foreign tourists) was around ₹10,500 crore," SBI Research says in a report, 'Where Latin America Meets Scandinavia: The Road To Salvation Passes Through Uttar Pradesh.'

The report says Ram Mandir in Ayodhya will provide a fillip to spending by domestic and foreign tourists. "Given the completion of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya this year and initiatives by UP government to promote tourism, we believe total expenditure by tourists (domestic + foreign) in UP may cross ₹4 lakh crore by end of this year, helping state government earn an additional tax revenue of ₹20,000-25,000 crore," says the report.

No wonder Centre and state government are spending close to ₹41,600 crore in Ayodhya's infrastructure facelift by the end of the year. They have built large enabling infrastructure for future investments. On December 30, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the renovated Ayodhya Dham railway station and flagged off Anand Vihar (Delhi)-Ayodhya Vande Bharat train and Darbhanga-Ayodhya-Anand Vihar Amrit Bharat Express, the newly launched no-frills super-fast train with only sleeper and unreserved coaches. The prime minister also inaugurated Maharishi Valmiki International Airport built at a cost of ₹1,450 crore (first phase). The airport is part of Centre's ₹11,100 crore investment commitment. UP government will invest in projects worth ₹30,500 crore. It has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with British conglomerate Trafalgar Square Capital for an investment of ₹75,000 crore to build defence manufacturing units in Ayodhya. This has the potential to put Ayodhya on the global investment map.

No wonder companies in hospitality, travel and tourism and aviation are making a beeline to capitalise on the boom. Names include hospitality majors Taj Group, ITC and Oyo and real estate company The House of Abhinandan Lodha. Taj plans to build a 100-room Vivanta hotel and a 120-room Ginger hotel. Both are likely to be up and running in next three years. Another conglomerate, ITC Ltd., is holding talks with developers for branding and management of their assets. Oyo plans to add 50 hotels and homes (up to 1,000 rooms).

In real estate, The House of Abhinandan Lodha has announced investments worth ₹1,200 crore and launched the Sarayu Project, the city's first seven-star mixed-use development. Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan has bought a plot in the project.

"Major physical and economic infrastructure development initiatives are under way in and around Ayodhya. The recently operational international airport complements several developments, including roads, hotels and hospitals, to make Ayodhya a preferred religious tourism destination," says Vimal Nadar, senior director, Research, Colliers India. "This metamorphosis of the city will have a significant bearing on unlocking value across the real estate chain, including housing, commercial and retail," he adds.

Airlines are not far behind. IndiGo has added Ayodhya as its 86th domestic destination. It started direct Delhi-Ayodhya flight from January 6, followed by tri-weekly flights between Ahmedabad and Ayodhya from January 11. A day before the consecration ceremony, Spicejet launched its first flight to Ayodhya from New Delhi. The airline plans to add Patna and Darbhanga among eight cities with flights to Ayodhya from February 1.

In three-and-a-half years since laying of the temple's foundation stone in August 2020, the Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir has become a melting pot subsuming the diversity of India—with architect from Gujarat, construction company from Mumbai, artisans from Agra, granite stones from Mirzapur and Shaligram stone for the idols from Gandaki river of Nepal. Lord Rama's grace is truly all-encompassing.

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