Uttar Pradesh is the cradle of India’s syncretic civilisation. It is the land which forms the setting of India’s two great epics – the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. If great poets wrote some of their finest works on the banks of the Ganges and the Yamuna, then visionary builders constructed some of the most iconic architectures along the same banks.
This is the same land where Hinduism attained a kind of refinement, the shine of which remains to this day. It is the same land where the great Sultans, Mughals and Nawabs left their indelible mark of creative genius through the excellent buildings that continue to stand as marvels of the world.
A tourism plan called the ‘Heritage Arc’ was therefore envisioned keeping in mind the state’s syncretic culture, tradition and history.
1. The arc connects three major cities – Agra, Lucknow and Varanasi.
2. All three cities were chosen for their specific uniqueness.
Agra was chosen for the Taj Mahal, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Lucknow was chosen for its Nawabi etiquette. Varanasi was chosen for being the most ancient city of the country and a prime centre of Hinduism.
3. Twenty-one important tourist locations around the three cities are also part of the arc.
4. Tourists visiting Agra will not just see the Taj Mahal but can also head to Vrindavan and Gokul, the birthplace of Lord Krishna.
5. Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary near Lucknow is listed as part of the arc.
6. Sarnath, where Buddha preached his first sermon, is part of the Varanasi section of the arc.
7. The 302-km-long Agra-Lucknow Expressway is being built to help in the success of this tourism project.
8. Roads in and around Agra have been improved to help tourists reach other historical places in and around the city.
9. The Lucknow Metro project, the first phase of which will be completed by 2017, is aimed at helping in both tourist and people movement.
10. Monuments within the arc are being renovated.
Around 3 sq kms around the Taj Mahal is being developed. Monuments in Lucknow are being lit up and the by-lanes of Varanasi are being restored.
11. Eminent historians, conservation activists, writers and journalists have showered praises on Heritage Arc project.
Deals such as an MOU with INTACH for Heritage Conservation Projects and a five-year MOU with FICCI for creation of the Uttar Pradesh Travel Mart (UPTM) to promote the project have been entered into.
12. The arc covers four wildlife sanctuaries and one national park – the Dudhwa.
13. Places of diverse religious importance such as Mathura, Deva Sharif and Sravasti are included in the arc.
So if you are someone who is interested in tracing India’s history from its ancient age to the modern and feel the warmth of a culture that has the elements of multiple faiths and diverse civilisations, you should take the Heritage Arc.