As I pen down this travel column, the global resonance of Lord Ram, courtesy of the magnificent Ram Temple in Ayodhya, echoes in the international media. The Ram Temple was dedicated to the world on 22nd January 2024 through the momentous “Pran Pratishtha” ceremony in Ayodhya. As it beamed live from Times Square billboards and triggered ripple effects in Europe and the rest of the world, it was truly an extraordinary event of consecration.

The Ayodhya Ram Temple has the potential to trigger a massive rise in Spiritual Tourism and the bordering state of Uttarakhand, which was carved out of Uttar Pradesh and popularly referred to as India’s “Devbhumi” or “Abode of Gods”, is playing the role of a catalyst to perfection – developing infrastructure, highways, hotels, campsites and homestays to extend the very best of the state’s fabled hospitality.

Uttarakhand has emerged as one of India’s best-performing states and Chief Minister Shri Pushkar Singh Dhami has been the epitome of Resurgent India’s drive for excellence in Tourism – showcasing Devbhumi Uttarakhand’s spiritual heritage and economic strength at the global platform. Driven by his entrepreneurial spirit, the state of Uttarakhand has taken significant strides when it comes to the question of a robust economy backed up by state-of-the-art infrastructure.

What can be more awe-inspiring than the fact that the Kailash Manasarovar Parikrama, considered to be the Mother of All Pilgrimages - toughest in terms of endurance, altitude, and terrain, will very soon be accessible via the Highway built by India’s Ministry of Road Transport & Highways. India’s Highways Minister – Honorable Nitin Gadkari is extremely optimistic about this dream Highway Project, which is nearing completion, and in his own words:

I don’t want to travel to Kailash Mansarovar via Nepal or China. Indians will be able to reach Mansarovar from Pithoragarh. We have completed 85 percent of the work.

The world should know, what a befitting reply India has given to China. India shares international borders with China which span 350 Kms. China reportedly has been very active in the border areas and building Border Defence Villages just 11 km away. away from the Line of Actual Control. By building the Kailash Manasoravar Highway, India once again has exemplified to the world that one can subjugate behemoths like China diplomatically!

Another feather in the cap of Devbhumi Uttrakhand is a 4 Kms. road (Double Lane) that is being built by India’s Border Roads Organization (BRO) that will shorten the distance to the holy Gangotri shrine by 10 Kms. Gangotri is one of the highly venerated Hindu pilgrimage routes of Char Dham.

Road connectivity plays a pivotal role in mountainous regions and Uttrakhand, being a hilly state and much of the terrain being undulating, the Government of India through its nodal department – The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, has been investing big time in resuscitating the state’s roads and highways infrastructure. Nitin Gadkari, India’s Highways Minister publicly declared that

Rs 1.40 crore is being spent in Uttarakhand over road infrastructure at present to which an additional Rs 60 crore will soon be added to make it a total expenditure of Rs 2 lakh crore. Uttarakhand roads will be like those in the United States by the end of 2024.

CM Dhami has been sincere in his attempts to transform Uttrakhand by implementing the policies laid down by the Central Government and thereby ensuring the stupendous rate of transformation in the state, which is only too visible.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always focussed on taking tourism to the volatile border villages and remote areas bordering China. Be it Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, or Uttarakhand, he has been stressing all along that Tourism is too vast an industry to be swallowed by Terrorism.

Devbhumi Uttarakhand is on the verge of a digital transformation and the state is digitally ready to welcome both pilgrims and visitors alike. Just imagine the prospect of shopping for souvenirs in Kedarnath where shopkeepers gleefully accept payments through QR codes!

The story of revival isn’t just confined to the state’s endless pilgrim trails. For instance, if you venture to the quaint picturesque villages of the Kumaon region, the road connectivity is far improved, widened, and beautified. The success of India’s Swachh Bharat mission is very clearly evident – the villages are Open Defecation Free (ODF) and the state has laid out a strong foundation in terms of rural hygiene and sanitation. Uttarakhand Himalayas happens to be the bastion of tribal/indigenous people like the Tharus, Bhutias, Buxas, Jaunsaris, Rajis (or Banrawats), Mahigeers, and Vangujjars. Chief Minister Dhami has been at the forefront of tribal emancipation and has been reaching out to the state’s tribal community through the Department of Tribal Development, implementing the ambitious Pradhan Mantri Janjati Adivasi Nyaya Maha Abhiyan (PM-JANMAN) Scheme.

In today’s Uttarakhand, what a sight it is to behold, the manner in which the tribal folks are overcoming challenges like poor connectivity and remoteness! Many Adivasi or tribal folks have embraced the concept of “Homestay” – designing their huts with local vernacular architecture, dishing out local cuisines, and often guiding visitors through the rough and tumble of the high Himalayas. This is some change! Is it not? With India’s unprecedented success in Outer Space, courtesy of Chandrayan-3 and its soft landing on Moon’s South Polar region, the Govt. of Uttarakhand has embarked upon a one-of-its-kind “Astro Tourism Camp” at Benital (2500m), thereby heralding the start of India’s first Astro village. Benital promises today’s jaded travelers the celestial joys of the night sky – from star gazing to constellation viewing, they have it all out here. Through Chief Minister Dhami’s relentless efforts, the Uttarakhand government has roped in Starscapes India - an affiliate of the International Dark Sky Advocate Network.

The upbeat mood of India’s Devbhumi Uttarakhand finds expression, courtesy of India’s first inbound train project by a state tourism board or corporation – The Manashkhand Express which will commence operations in April 2024. This new venture will be managed and administered by the Indian Railways Catering & Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) and cover – accommodation, meals, transportation, sightseeing tours, etc. The ease with which pilgrims can now access temples like Panch Kedar and Badrinath is in itself a remarkable transformation in the annals of Devbhumi Uttarakhand’s tourism landscape.

Chief Minister Dhami has reiterated at every available forum to promote Uttarakhand as a Yoga & Wellness Tourism Destination. Breaking away from the usual government protocol, he held an informal get-together of diplomats (Ambassadors & High Commissioners) from seven countries and urged them to spread awareness about the state’s ambitious “One District Two Products” program and further stressed the importance of Yoga Tourism. In his words,

Uttarakhand has the potential to quickly emerge as an international yoga and wellness tourism destination. It is the original land of yoga. People trained in yoga here have become yoga instructors abroad.

The Dhami effect and his all-out campaign to catapult Uttarakhand as a global tourism hub is gaining momentum. On his last visit to the UK, investments worth Rs.12,500 Crores were signed, with more in the pipeline.

With much of Uttarakhand being mountainous, ropeways are a must to ease connectivity issues and the renowned Poma Group has evinced keen interest in developing the state’s ropeway navigating systems with a whopping Rs. 2000 Crores worth of investments. Communication experts are of the opinion that the Poma Group’s entry into Uttarakhand could be a game changer for the tourism industry.

Agreements and MOUs aside, the maverick Chief Minister has been networking intensively with the global world community. Many believe that CM Dhami’s recent meeting with the Lord Mayor of London Municipal Corporation could further open up trade possibilities with Britain and his proposal to the British Tourism Minister to prepare an Action Plan to further increase tourist traffic from Britain could pave the roadmap for Uttarakhand’s burgeoning tourism growth.

NRIs have played an important role in India’s economy, not just by way of inward remittances, but also through their domain expertise and knowledge skill sets, both contributing significantly towards the nation’s overall macroeconomic stability. An exclusive Non-Resident Uttarakhandi cell will be set up in the Chief Minister’s office with a single window system for prospective NRIs willing to invest in the state’s economy.
This is India’s time to be on top and Devbhumi Uttrakhand is emerging as India’s Spiritual & Wellness capital. The unprecedented success of Chandrayan – 3, followed by Ayodhya’s Ram temple consecration has, in a way, propelled India as an Elite Nation or “Vishwa Guru”. In the words of India’s Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi

The Pran Pratistha Ceremony in Ayodhya is a global celebration highlighting the unifying power of stories and shared heritage, proving that faith can transcend borders and bind hearts in a shared tapestry of devotion.

As India plunges headlong into a leadership role in the world community, Devbhumi Uttrakhand is rising amidst the snow-capped high Himalayan peaks like a balmy red molten ball - full of spiritual nectar, the blessings of ancient saints who practiced severe austerities and the warm embrace of happiness from the Garhwali and Kumaoni folks; showing yet again the path to find contentment in a discontented world.

Isn’t this the perfect recipe for rejuvenation?