The proposed ‘Buddhist Tourism Circuit’ scheme is likely to get a fresh impetus following Bihar’s ‘Nalanda Mahavihara’ being awarded the ‘UNESCO World Heritage Site’ tag .
The Indian government has already sanctioned Rs 1,500 crore to promote religious tourism under three schemes — the Ramayana, Krishna and Buddhist Circuit.
The prestigious UNESCO title to Nalanda, a great 5th Century monastery, gives it a legally protected status under the Geneva Convention; plus, it entitles it to funds from ‘UNESCO World Heritage Fund’ for conservation and promotion.
An ‘Extended Dharmayatra’ or ‘Sacred Circuit Retracing Buddha’s Footsteps’ has been identified by the Ministry of Tourism.
This 10- 15 day tour includes visits to: Bodhgaya (Nalanda, Rajgir, Barabar caves, Pragbodhi Hill, Gaya), Patna, Varanasi, Kushinagar and Piparva alongwith a day-trip to Nepal’s Lumbini.
India receives thousands of Buddhist pilgrims annually from 30 countries including Vietnam, Loas and Thailand.
RS Fonia, Joint Director General, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), told Mail Today: “Nalanda will be developed as a star tourist attraction. Currently, the 23 hectares site has major encroachments, in terms of agricultural fields, settlements and pucca constructions. These will be removed. The whole area will be demarcated.”
“Better facilities for the tourists will be made by maintaining international standards. This includes setting up of signage, facilitation centres, toilets, CCTV cameras, etc. The Nalanda Archaeological Museum, which houses 13,463 antique recoveries made from Nalanda and Rajgir excavation sites, will be upgraded further,” he said.
It will be developed into an educational and research hub.
The site will be maintained as per the rules of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, he added.
ML Srivastava, Vice- Chancellor, Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, added: “Plans are afoot to connect all the notified Buddhist sites by rail, road and air. Airstrips will be developed in Bodhgaya. New flights will be launched for the convenience of the tourists, for which talks are on with Pawan Hans. Three ministries – that of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation are involved in the project.”
Senior officials said that NK Sinha, Secretary, Ministry of Culture, who is from the Bihar IAS Cadre and had once served as the District Megistrate of Nalanda years back, is taking keen interest in the development project.
Nalanda is a part of the international ‘Silk Route’ platform as well.
Following the encouragement of the UNESCO tag, ASI will now go in for further excavation of the ‘Ancient Remains of Nalanda Mahavihara.’
Dr. RS Fonia said: “Currently, only 6 km of the core area of Nalanda has been excavated. However, the known limits of the ancient university extends over 150,000 sq.m.”
SOURCE : http://www.dailymail.co.uk