Buddha Mahotsava ends

The Times of India, Jan 19, 2008

GAYA, India -- The three-day Buddha Mahotsava, aimed at attracting foreign tourists/pilgrims and market Bodh Gaya as an important international tourist destination, ended around midnight on Thursday. The Mahotsava was jointly organised by the tourism department of the state government and Gaya district administration.

In an important development, the International Buddhist Council, the forum of Bodh Gaya-based foreign monasteries, while expressing dissatisfaction with the Mahotsava format, demanded participation of the monasteries of 22 different countries including Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bhutan at the Mahotsava if the event was to achieve its objective of playing catalyst to the growth of spiritual tourism in Bodh Gaya.

Speaking at the closing function of the Buddha Mahotsava, Bhadant Anirudha, vice president of the International Buddhist Council, offered to arrange cultural troupes from the 22 countries having their monasteries in Bodh Gaya. Bhadant Anirudha also offered to provide financial assistance to the organisers to make it a mega event of the Buddhist calendar.

The foreign cultural troupes would not be charging anything from the organisers for their performances, said Bhadant Anirudha adding the duration of the Mahotsava should be extended to a week or ten days to facilitate the participation of as many foreign cultural troupes as possible. The foreign monasteries were better placed to make the event attractive to the targeted global audience, he said.

Bhadant Anirudha's demand for the inclusion of foreign cultural troupes in the Buddha Mahotsava format was endorsed by the Bihar assembly Speaker Udai Narain Chaudhary.

Speaking as the chief guest at the concluding function of the Mahotsava, Chaudhary said the teachings of Buddha have become more relevant in view of the terrorist threat in the world. Buddha's favourite madhyam marg (middle path) and his stress on serving the suffering humanity needed sincere adoption, said Chaudhary.

Chaudhary also advised the event organisers to come out with programmes that mainly focused on Buddha's approach to life in all its dimensions.

Besides local artists, performers of the Patna-based Natraj Kala Mandir and some Jharkhand-based groups were given the opportunity to showcase their talent at the Mahotsava.

Rajen Sijuar, a Gaya-based exponent of classical Indian music and Anamika, a DAV student who has earned kudos for her performance at the national-level popular music competitions and talent hunt programmes organised by TV channels, were also given the chance to perform on the concluding day.

Unlike the inaugural function, which was marred by loud protests against seating arrangements, the closing ceremony was a peaceful affair.

However, district BJP chief Lalita Singh who was at the centre of the controversy on the opening day, was conspicuously absent at the closing function.

The Madhya Bihar Gramin Bank put up a special stall at the Mahotsava venue to provide information about the ongoing schemes like life insurance provided to its depositors and borrowers.
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