The Indian Railways has decided to begin a pilgrimage train called Shri Ramayana Express that will traverse the path described in the epic that Lord Rama, along with Lakshmana, undertook from his kingdom to Lanka, the kingdom of Ravana.

Starting its service from 14 November — curiously, the birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru, not known to be a favourite of the ruling dispensation — the Shri Ramayana Express can accommodate 800 passengers. The train will be flagged off from Safdarjung railway station in Delhi.

The special tourist train will offer a 16-day tour package — one in India and the other in Sri Lanka in which four destinations will be covered. The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) will manage the tour, the statement said.

After leaving Delhi, the train will make its first stop at Ayodhya, followed by Hanuman Garhi Ramkot and Kanak Bhawan temple. The train will then cover the important destinations of Ramayana circuit such as Nandigram, Sitamarhi, Janakpur, Varanasi, Prayag, Shringverpur, Chitrakoot, Nasik, Hampi and Rameshwaram.
The cost of the package which will cover all religious destinations from Ayodhya to Rameshwaram, would cost around Rs 15,120 per person. The package is inclusive of all meals, accommodation, wash and change facilities in dharmashalas, all transfers, sight-seeing arrangements and a dedicated tour guide of IRCTC.

The Sri Lankan tour package will be charged separately at a cost starting from Rs 36,970 per person and will cover destinations like Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Colombo and Negombo. For this component, the passenger can take a flight from Chennai to Colombo. 

Online booking for the special train will be available on the IRCTC website shortly. The booking will also be done by IRCTC's 27 tourist facilitation centres.
This is not the first instance of the Railways’ pampering of sentiments of the devout. IRCTC has announced an AC tourist train that would ply from 28 August to 9 September on the Ramayana Circuit from Thiruvananthapuram. Costing Rs 39,800 per passenger, the route of this train covers Panchavati, Chitrakoot, Shringverpur, Tulsi Manas Mandir, Darbhanga, Sita Marhi, Ayodhya and Rameshwaram.

Of late, a section of the Hindu population of the country has been complaining that the Narendra Modi government has been indifferent to the community. This move of the Railways is being seen as a move to placate that core section of the BJP support base.