Buddhists' Council Manipur ready to help pilgrims

The Sangai Express, May 9 2009

Imphal, India -- Stepping in to act as a catalyst in strengthening friendship with South East Asian countries and at the same time to help pilgrims visit Buddhist shrines and temples in India, Buddhists' Council Manipur (BCM) has initiated ground works to facilitate pilgrimage of foreign Buddhists through Manipur.

Though Buddhism originated from India, Buddhists constitute a minority in the country.

On the other hand, Buddhism is a major religion in many countries of South East and East Asia.

Yet, being the birth-place of Lord Buddha and origin of Buddhism, India has many important temples and sacred temples of Buddhists.

And every year thousands of Buddhist pilgrims from different countries of South East and East Asia visit these shrines and temples, the most famous among them being Bodh Gaya.

But the pilgrims have to spend huge amounts while taking pilgrimage to India as they have to travel by air, in most cases.

Usually, they come to Kolkata by air before proceeding to their sacred destinations using several means of conveyance according to their convenience.

Talking to this reporter, BCM general secretary N Manikanta said that travelling on land route through Moreh and Imphal would be less expensive as most of the countries following Buddhism as a major religion are contiguous with Manipur.

Opening up the highways of Manipur for pilgrims would also go a long in building up strong relationship between Manipur and South Asian countries.

It would also give a big boost to tourism sector of Manipur, he exuded.

The BCM would be taking up the matter with relevant authorities at New Delhi to facilitate movement of pilgrims through Manipur, he said.

Incidentally, Manipuri Buddhists celebrated Buddha Purnima today.

Although the number of Buddhists in Manipur stands at just over 1000 at present, Manikanta claimed that a number of people, particularly those living in the valley, would be embracing Buddhism soon.

A number of students from the State have been enjoying scholarships in pursuing their school education at various Buddhist missionary institutions at Ranchi, Dehradun etc under the World Buddha Foundation.

"The number of people embracing Buddhism is steadily increasing in Manipur and we are planning to raise the Buddhist population to such a level that the group is reflected in the 2011 census", Manikanta said.

Interestingly, Manipuri Buddhists who settled permanently across the border in Myanmar, have become prominent monks.