Bihar showcases Buddhist heritage to promote tourism

ANI, Sept 6, 2007

Patna, India -- Bihar is currently playing host to a group of hundred Buddhist followers from five Southeast Asian countries in a bid to promote Buddhist sites as tourist destinations.

"This delegation (ministers, officials and leaders of religious bodies) which has come from the five nations, are all believers of Buddhism. We are showing them around and we hope that when they return to their countries, they would promote the places of Buddhism in Bihar. We hope that the number of tourists would increase," said Anjani Kumar Sinha, Secretary of Tourism Department.

The delegation visited the Patna Museum, which houses some rare Buddhist antiques."As I am a Buddhist and all are Buddhists, we are proud that we have visited the land of Buddha. We are very pleased," said Nabhaspor Bhutto Richal, Councillor, Ministry of External Affairs, Thailand.

The group is also expected to visit Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh, where Buddha gave his first sermon.

The visit, part of the Mekong-Ganga project, has been initiated by the Indian Government to promote Buddhist heritage sites in the country.

The Mekong-Ganga project involving, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, ambodia and Myanmar, is aimed to enhance cooperation in the fields of tourism, culture and education.

The project, which envisages enhancing business contacts between the people residing on the banks of Mekong and Ganga rivers, will help India to extend its footprints into the ASEAN region by exploiting the natural connectivity.

There are several important Buddhist religious places in India - Bodh Gaya in Bihar, where Lord Buddha attained salvation; Sarnath, Kushinagar, whereord Buddha breathed his last; Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh, an ancient seat of Buddhist learning; and several monasteries in Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

India, in recent past, has been promoting the country as a hub for Buddhist tourism, and particularly targeting South East Asian countries as well as China and Japan.