Bihar and Buddha keep Indian tourism flourishing

HT, 15th August 2000
Anju Sharma
(New Delhi, August 14)

BELIEVE IT or not, but Bihar and Lord Buddha are keeping the Indian tourist industry alive in these days of high security alerts and terrorist violence. In fact, Buddhist pilgrimage centres, figuring at the top of the Japanese visitors' itinerary, have become the centre stage of the country's tourism policy in the recent past.

The Tourism Ministry has even moved UNESCO to have Bodh Gaya declared a World Heritage Site. Other prominent Buddhist attractions in the State, lacking abysmally in tourism-related infrastructure, are Nalanda and Vaishali. It was on the Ministry's request earlier this year that Bodh Gaya was brought on the UNESCO's tentative list of Heritage sites.

Mr Ashwini Lohani, Director, Tourism Ministry told The Hindustan Times that another application has since been filed with UNESCO for a permanent heritage status for Bodh Gaya. "We are hopeful that Bodh Gaya will get the World Heritage status next year," he said.

At the moment, as many as 16 Indian monuments are on UNESCO's World Heritage list. Special attention is now paid for the promotion of the Buddhist circuit comprising Sarnath-Bodh Gaya-Nalanda-Vaishali.

At the sacred Buddhist Centre in Sarnath are located the Dhamek Stupa where Lord Buddha took his first sermon and Chakrama where Buddha walked into meditation.

But the centre of attraction is Bodh Gaya and here the world famous Mahabodhi temple is located. It is said Lord Buddha attained spiritual enlightenment under a Bodhi tree.

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