Regional Buddhist circuit to complete by April

by Prabalta Rijal, Gorkhapatra, Oct 31, 2007

Kathmandu, Nepal --  The much ambitious project 'The footsteps of Lord Buddha', a regional Buddhist circuit, which links the Nepalese Buddhist sites with Indian, Bangladeshi, Bhutanese and Sri Lankan locations will be completed by April next year.

The sites include the places of South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) countries where Lord Buddha set his steps during his life, said Rabi Jung Pandey, a SASEC project member and tourism entrepreneur.

All five individual countries will finance the project and Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing the loan and technical assistance for the project implementation, he said.

The construction of the regional Buddhist Circuit is expected to boost regional tourism in SASEC countries. After the completion of the project, we aim to develop a package and the tourists would visit all the important Buddhist sites," Pandey said.

Pandey told The Rising Nepal that the tour would include only the most important Buddhist sites in the region since the project aims to promote joint marketing and sub-regional tourism growth.

The best thing about this project is that these countries will not be competing against each other but will be complementing and supplementing each other, because the tour will include all the countries involved," he said.

It will include three Buddhist pilgrim sites around Lumbini - Devadaha, Kapilvastu and Ramgram. In India, Bodh Gaya and two other important locations have been selected; in Srilanka 'The Sacred Tooth Relic'; in Bangladesh various archaeological sites and in Bhutan various monasteries have been selected as a part of the tour package.

All these sites have been visited by Lord Buddha during his life, each of these locations are unique in their own way. Since it is believed that a Buddhist pilgrim has to visit every important Buddhism pilgrimage where Lord Buddha set his feet.

The locations inside Nepal has already formed an internal Buddhist circuit tour, which provides insight into the life of Lord Buddha and the development of Buddhism. There are 62 archeological sites scattered outside the Lumbini garden and the tour currently goes through Tilaurakot, Kudan, Gothiwa, Nigilhawa, Sagarhawa, Aurorakot, Devdaha and Ramgram which are all associated with the life, enlightenment and death of Buddha.

This is the first time such a mammoth project has been formulated and its still in its initial phase.

According to Pandey each country can take an individual loan to finance the project if required.

Gyanin Rai, Lumbini Development Trust Information and Public Relations officer stated that tourism in Lumbini has not really flourished and if this project is to become successful the government will have to start providing tourists with the facilities they require.

Lumbini attracts 50,000 tourists a year, however, they are day time tourists and they do not stay over night, which is why the much needed revenue isn't being generated," he said.

If we fail to fulfill a tourist's expectation, we will be disseminating a negative message and this is exactly what's happening in Lumbini," added Pandey.

The project will be finalised by April next year and it's expected to be implemented before the end of next year.