Foreigners embark on pilgrimage to Buddhist sites on foot

ANI, Nov 1, 2007

Bodhgaya, India -- At least 26 foreign tourists began a unique pilgrimage by foot to major Buddhist pilgrimage sites across India on Wednesday.

They began their "walking pilgrimage" from Bodhgaya in Bihar, one of the holiest Buddhist pilgrimage sites where Lord Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, attained enlightenment in the 6th century B.C.

The tourists offered their prayers at the Mahabodhi temple, which is also the country's 23rd heritage monument, before embarking on their ambitious pilgrimage.

"In the past, everyone used to walk to these places (Gangotri). It is walking pilgrimage. It is very nice to walk in between these Buddhist sites," said Martin Altof, a tourist from the Netherlands.

There are several important Buddhist religious places - Bodh Gaya in Bihar, where Lord Buddha attained salvation, Sarnath, Kushinagar, where Lord 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 the recent past, has been promoting Buddhist tourism, particularly targeting South East Asian countries, China and Japan, which have a sizeable Buddhist population.