UNESCO enquires about Mahabodhi Temple
THE TIMES OF INDIA NEWS SERVICE
GAYA: Showing interest in the government of India's proposal to include the world famous Mahabodhi Temple, the seat of Buddha's enlightenment, in the prestigious list of world heritage sites, the UNESCO has sought some clarifications from the Union government.
According to official sources, the Union government's proposal to include the temple in the list of world heritage sites came up for discussion at a UNESCO meeting held in Paris last month. The meeting also considered the report submitted by UNESCO expert Koji Nishikawa who visited Bodh Gaya a few months back to conduct an on-the-spot study of the proposal.
While appreciating the proposal in view of the importance of Bodh Gaya as a spiritual centre, the UNESCO official decided to seek some clarifications before granting world heritage site status to the Mahabodhi Temple.
The information sought by the UNESCO includes details about the "ownership and management" of the Mahabodhi Temple, detailed map of the temple and its adjoining areas, status of the buffer zone to preserve and protect the monument and retain the surroundings and the future development plans.
In order to formulate the response of the Union government to the queries made by the UNESCO, Union tourism director Ashwini Lohani convened a meeting in New Delhi on July 27 and 28 which was attended by Gaya district magistrate (DM) Amrit Lal Meena as the representative of the Mahabodhi Temple Management Committee and the state government.
On the point of ownership and management of the temple, the UNESCO would be informed that the temple ownership vests in the government of Bihar and its management is conducted by a committee of nine members nominated by the stategovernment with the Gaya DM as its ex-officio chairman if he is a Hindu. If the Gaya DM happens to be a non-Hindu, the state government nominates a Hindu as the committee chairman for the period he holds the post. Four representatives of Buddhists are also included in the committee. The `mahanth' of Bodh Gaya is the permanent member of the temple management committee.
When contacted, Meena said that the detailed maps along with other information sought by the UNESCO would be sent to the Union tourism ministry within a week for being forwarded to the UNESCO. Explaining the buffer zone concept, he said that no structure within a radius of one km from the centre of the Mahabodhi Temple can have a height of more than 33 feet. Within a radius of one to two km from the temple's centre, the height limit for structures has been fixed at 44 feet.
The DM said that buildings more than 33 feet high within a one km radius from the temple would be demolished. He also admitted that blatant violation of the Bodh Gaya master plan has been done by the hoteliers and others. According to Gaya Regional Development Authority sources, hotels have come up in areas reserved for monasteries and greenery in Bodh Gaya.