Master plan mooted to develop Buddhist sites

Newindpress, November 29 2005

BHUBANESWAR, India -- It seems, Buddha would soon smile on Orissa tourism. Be it the much-hyped recent visit of the Thai princess to the State or the Nirvana Puspagiri festival hosted a couple of years ago or the forthcoming Buddha Mahotsav mooted by the Government, Buddhist tourism is set to take off in the State in a big way soon.

Beyond the historic Dhauli hills and the diamond triangle of Lalitgiri-Ratnagiri-Udaygiri, the State has a large number of exciting Buddhist heritage sites that could be developed as tourists? attractions, informed State Archaeology Superintendent B.K.Rath.

While 120 such sites have been identified so far, the Archaeological Survey of India and State Archaeology have taken over only about a dozen sites, he said and observed that a comprehensive action plan is urgently required to take up survey, exploration, excavation and documentation of these historic sites.

Realising the Buddhist tourism prospects, the Government has mooted a master plan to explore all possibilities involving several departments, revealed Tourism Director S.K.Sarangi.

The plan includes infrastructure development, better connectivity, proper publicity and aggressive marketing strategy, he said and added that in a bid to attract international tourists? attention the Government will host the first Buddha Mahotsav in January 2006 in the State.

Tourists from abroad, the Buddhist dominated South-East Asian countries in particular, are showing increased interest in Orissa during recent years, revealed Benjamin Simon, managing director of city-based tour management agency Travel Link.

Accordingly, it has floated special package tours for Buddhist trails, he informed. Other well-known travel agencies like the State-owned Orissa Tourism Development Corporation and Swosti Travels have also launched similar package tours exclusively for Buddhist heritage sites in the State.

Apart from often frequented destinations like Dhauli, Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri and Udaygiri, the tourism department has identified several spots to develop those as favourite destinations for the Buddhists.

The list includes Ranipur Jharial, Padmapur in Rayagada district, Solampur and Apanda in Bhadrak district, Abhana and Ayodhya in Balasore district, Prachi valley and Jaugarh, sources in the department stated.