NEW DELHI: Telling the voters about the pilgrim corridors across the country that have transformed the economic and social status of the regions where they are situated, is going to be one of the primary political planks of the BJP for the May 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The Narendra Modi government has developed and inaugurated several such corridors after returning to power in May 2019. Last Tuesday, Prime Minister Modi inaugurated the Mahakal Corridor devoted to Lord Shiva’s temple, the Shri Mahakaleshwar Temple (one of the 12 Jyotirlingas) in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh in central India. The first phase of the Mahakaleshwar Temple corridor development project worth Rs 856 crore, which was inaugurated by the PM, will become one of the largest religious corridors in the country. More than 900 metres of the project spreads around the old Rudrasagar Lake, which is being redeveloped as part of the Mahakal river project.
The newly revamped “Mahakal Lok” as it has been named, will consist of a walkway of 108 ornate pillars which will be made of carved sandstones that will be separated by fountains and mural paintings. As many as 50 mural paintings are being created on a running panel in the corridor to depict the stories of Lord Shiva from “Shiv Purana” to the visitors.
Once the corridor is ready, it will attract a large number of devotees to Ujjain and make the city a global tourist destination. Investors have started investing in multiple projects in the city including in developing destination wedding resorts and luxurious hotels in view of the projected rush of international and domestic visitors, who are expected to arrive in large numbers once the corridor takes shape and its grandeur becomes public. Ujjain is also a site of the mega religious congregation, Simhasth (Kumbh) which occurs every 12 years.
This is not the first such religious corridor, which is being developed by the government, with the dual purpose to enhance the spiritual experience of the devotees and bring economic and social benefits to the region. In December 2021, the PM inaugurated the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor in Varanasi, which encompasses the ancient Kashi temple devoted to Lord Shiva, which is located in Banaras, described by experts as among the oldest cities of the world.
The temple premises, which were earlier 3,000 square feet, are now five lakh square feet. As per officials, at one time, now 75,000 devotees can spend time in the temple premises. The first phases of the project, which was inaugurated by the PM in December 2021, has 23 buildings and cost around Rs 340 crore. Under the said project more than 300 properties, shops were acquired by the government.
In August this year, the Uttar Pradesh government approved the proposal to construct the Ram Janmabhoomi Corridor in Ayodhya, which will be similar to the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor. The total cost of the project will be Rs 797.69 crore, including Rs 379 crore for acquiring land.
In December next year, the PM will inaugurate this corridor, will include the Ram temple. Official sources said that the ground floor sanctum sanctorum of the Ram temple will be completed by December 2023, while the entire corridor is expected to take shape by December 2024.
Planners in the Central government are hoping to open the temple to devotees by the start of 2024, just four months before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya was among the oldest poll promises of the BJP since the time of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani.
In August 2021, Prime Minister Modi had inaugurated multiple projects in Somnath in Gujarat, called the “Somnath Promenade”. PM Modi also laid the foundation stone for the Shree Parvati Temple. Developed under the Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASHAD) and covering 1.48 km, the Somnath Promenade was built at a cost of Rs 47 crore.
The construction of the said corridor was launched in December 2018 by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, then the national president of the BJP and a trustee of the Shree Somnath Trust. The promenade begins from Sagar Darshan, the guest house beside the temple, and culminates at the Triveni Sangam—the confluence of the Hiran, Kapila and the mythical Saraswati rivers.
In August 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone for the construction of the Ram temple. While speaking in Ujjain, PM Modi had said that the construction of the temple would be completed by December 2023. The total cost of the project is likely to be Rs 1,800 crore.
Similarly, one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream projects—reconstruction of the Kedarnath shrine area, which was ravaged by the 2013 flash floods that killed thousands—saw light in November 2021 after he unveiled the 13-foot high statue of Guru Adi Shankaracharya at the restored Kedarnath temple. The Shankaracharya statue, weighing 35 tonnes, was built at the seer’s samadhi-sthal that was redeveloped after it suffered heavy damage during the 2013 deluge.
In November 2019, he inaugurated the Kartarpur Corridor. The said corridor links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in district Narowal, Pakistan, which is the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, the most revered Guru of the Sikh community, to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district. The foundation stone for the same was laid by the PM in November 2018. The said corridor was inaugurated in November 2019 and opened for pilgrims to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
The Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in Uttar Pradesh has also started working on developing a Mathura-Vrindavan corridor, which will cover the region around the Banke Bihari temple and is expected to cost Rs 750 crore. A US based company has prepared the Detailed Project Report for this corridor, which will be spread across 1,000 hectares that will also include a Yamuna riverfront. The pilgrims will have a smooth tour of ancient villages like Gokul, Nandgaon and Barsana where religious plays based on the lives of Lord Krishan and Radha will be among the attractions. The said corridor is expected to be completed by mid-2023.