Buddha’s birthday celebrations scheduled for May 24

By Hina Farooq, Daily Times, April 3, 2007

LAHORE, Pakistan -- To promote interfaith harmony, the government of Pakistan has arranged to celebrate Buddha’s birthday on May 24, official sources told Daily Times, on Monday.

The government has started planning restoration of more than 30 Buddhist historic sites, under protection of the Special Premises Act 1985. The restoration project titled From Taxila to Swat will include major Buddhists museums, graveyards, stupas and monasteries. Many sites have been undergoing excavation by archeologists.

The Taxila section of the Federal Archeology Department (FAD) has been assigned to the restoration. FAD will also be responsible for promoting tourism to these areas. Swat to Taxila includes sites in Peshawar, Mardan, and Swat Valley.

Official sources said the government wanted to promote Buddhist sites in Pakistan as it has sites important to Hindus and Sikhs. Buddhists have approached the government to restore their sites and asked to be permitted to celebrate Buddha’s birthday, which falls in May. Sources said the permission has been granted by President General Pervez Musharraf for not only establishing the sites but also for security and tourism measures for the monks.

Korea’s chief monk Jeon Woon Deok recently visited Pakistan. Buddhists from Korea, China and Japan have expressed support for the restortation of Buddhist sites. Taxila Museum curator Muhammad Inamullah told Daily Times the total budget allocated by the federal government is Rs 200 million.

The government in collaboration with some NGOs has also arranged for Gandhara cultural celebration between March 27 to April 1. The Gandhara festival also included a briefing on South Asian history, playing documentaries on Alexander the Great and Ashoka, in addition to early Buddhist history. A stage drama was also presented.