India’s Urban Development: From Colonial Legacy to Religious Revivalism

India’s Urban Development: From Colonial Legacy to Religious Revivalism


Recent events like the inauguration of the new Parliament building and the Ram temple in Ayodhya has raised questions about the fusion of political and religious roles in the country.


GS-02 (Government policies and interventions)

Mains Question:

Critically analyze the evolving urban development paradigm in India, focusing on the intersection of political governance and religious symbolism in shaping cities’ future. (250 words)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Evolution of Urbanization
  • Investments and Ideological Shifts
  • State Role in Urban Development
  • Pros and Cons

Evolution of Urbanization:

  • Historically, cities in India have undergone a transformation from colonial-era metropolises to modern towns characterized by industrialization and cultural modernism.
  • Colonial cities served as hubs for trade, transportation, and taxation, facilitating the transition from agrarian economies to industrial societies. In contrast, modern towns embraced innovative architectural designs and technological advancements, fostering cultural enrichment and economic growth.
  • However, the contemporary urbanization trend indicates a shift towards regional pilgrimage cities like Ayodhya emerging as focal points for investment and development.

Investments and Ideological Shifts:

  • The post-colonial era witnessed the emergence of new towns, including industrial centers like Bhilai and Rourkela, alongside metropolitan cities.
  • Despite the allure of metros, there is a concerted effort to elevate regional pilgrimage cities to the status of colonial urban centers through significant infrastructure investments.
  • However, the rationale behind these investments, including projects like the Central Vista redevelopment and the Ayodhya temple, raises questions about the ideological motivations driving urban development initiatives.

State Role in Urban Development:

  • Central to the discourse on urban development is the role of the state in directing resources towards social good versus religious endeavors.
  • While democratic societies prioritize investments in education, healthcare, and social infrastructure, the recent trend towards religious revivalism raises concerns about the equitable distribution of resources.
  • The centralization of finances and the prioritization of religious projects over social sector investments highlight the need for decentralized, democratic approaches to urban development.

Pros and Cons:


  • Worldwide recognition: It invites immense recognition to the nation in the field of architecture, and modern engineering. For instance, the Statue of Unity has garnered global recognition as the world’s tallest statue, earning a place in Time’s list of 100 greatest places in the world, contributing to India’s pride and visibility on the international stage.
  • Boost to Tourism: It has the potential to significantly boost tourism in the region, attracting both domestic and international visitors. This influx of tourists can lead to the development of infrastructure such as hotels, restaurants, and transportation services, generating employment opportunities and economic growth.
  • Long-Term Economic Benefits: It is expected to remain a tourist attraction for centuries, contributing to the national income through tourism revenues. This long-term economic benefit can outweigh the initial investment in the project.
  • Local Employment and Business Opportunities: The construction and operation of these buildings and statues have provided employment opportunities for local residents and boosted the progress of local businesses, leading to socio-economic development in the region.


  • Allocation of Funds: Critics argue that the government allocated a significant amount of funds to the construction of these monuments. The total cost of Statue of Unity project was estimated to be about Rs 2,063 crore equivalent to Rs 25 billion in 2018 by the government and the Ayodhya’s infrastructure development is estimated at ₹85,000 crore which otherwise could have been utilized for other pressing priorities such as women’s safety, education, healthcare, and agricultural schemes.
  • Religious Significance: Some political parties and groups oppose the construction of these monuments on the grounds that the land holds religious significance and should not be used for such purposes, leading to controversies and protests.
  • Opportunity Cost: The substantial investment raises questions about the opportunity cost, as the funds could have been directed towards addressing critical issues like poverty alleviation, healthcare, and infrastructure development.

Way Forward:

  • The nation must strike a balance between preserving its cultural heritage and embracing modernity.
  • While regional pilgrimage cities like Ayodhya hold historical and religious significance, urban planning efforts should prioritize social good and inclusive growth.
  • Decentralization, democratization, and equitable distribution of resources are essential for creating dynamic coexistence and ensuring the well-being of all citizens in India’s evolving urban landscape.