Tamralipta, for tourists

The Telegraph (India), Jan 29, 2005

Midnapore, India -- Tamluk, or Tamralipta of ancient India, will be developed as a Buddhist tourism destination to attract the thousands of devout from several countries who pass through Bengal to the circuit in Bihar.

East Midnapore district magistrate Dushmant Nariyala said Tamralipta played an important role in spreading Buddhism outside India. ?If we can project it properly, Tamluk can find an important place on the map of international tourism,? he said.

Kamal Kumar Kundu, founder of the Tamralipta museum that has been taken over by the Archaeological Survey of India, said there were several Buddhist stupas and viharas on a 15-km stretch between Tamluk and Natshal in Mahishadal.

?We have some of the relics preserved in the museum. Tamralipta was visited by famous Buddhist travellers from China, like Huen Tsang and Fa Hien. Mahendra and Sanghamitra, the two emissaries Emperor Ashoka had sent to Sri Lanka to spread Buddhism, had set sail from Tamralipta port,? said Kundu, a member of the five-member task force set up to implement the project.

Nariyala said they would seek funds from the Centre and Unesco.

District officials have been asked to draw up a list of important places in and around Tamluk.

To start with, a model Buddhist village would be built. ?The village will be decorated with strong visuals like a Buddhist monastery, a sprawling prayer hall, and articles used by Buddhist monks. A replica of the ancient port on the Rupnarayan will be built replete with ancient ships with sails. Moreover, there are plans for a light-and-sound show on Gautama Buddha?s life.

Sabhadhipati Sihi said that a large portion of international tourists who visit India every year are from China, Japan, North and South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar. ?These tourists are mostly Buddhists and they visit various places Buddhist pilgrimage spots in Bihar. Many of these tourists pass through Calcutta instead of flying directly to Patna. So, if we can develop Tamluk as a place of Buddhist interest, then it will attract international tourists,? he added.