Govt set to expand Buddhist tourism circuit to 21 more states

The government already had plans to have seven main Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Now the government plans to expand the ‘Buddhist Circuit’ to other 21 states. The states included in the plan are Kerala, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal. The Ministry of Tourism has already identified stupas and viharas in these states and small intrastate Buddhist zones will be made around these.

The Buddhist circuit is considered as India’s first trans-national tourist circuit. The plan is to promote tourism starting from Lumbini in Nepal, where Buddha was born, to the places he visited in India including Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, Vaishali, Sravasti, Sankasia, Kushinagar and Rajgir.The ministry has requested the aid of World Bank and Japanese government for the funding of infrastructure projects linked with these sites.

So far, a whopping total of Rs 362 crore has been sanctioned for this project. Out of this, already Rs 75 crore has been allotted to Madhya Pradesh under the Ministry’s Swadesh Darshan scheme. This fund is for the development of Sanchi, Mandsaur , Satna, Rewa, and Dhar. Reports suggest that the plan consists of Buddhist theme park, interpretation centre, light and sound show, wayside amenities and sanitation facilities. Also, Rs 36 crore and Rs 52 crore have been sanctioned for Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh respectively.

Sources reveal that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) was behind the push for Buddhist tourism. As Buddhism originated in India and since the main Buddhist pilgrimage sites are here, The PMO’s view is that why should our country get less than 1 per cent of Buddhist pilgrims in the world? “We need huge infrastructure around Buddhist sites. We need to focus on roads, airports, hotels, cleanliness and water. The roadmap for Sarnath is ready and we are in talks with Japanese agencies for some of these projects” quoted Union Tourism Minister Alphons Kannamthanam. Sarnath will soon be the core of Buddhist tourism in India and well be connected to other sites through air, rail and road.

Since ‘huge money’ is required for developing Buddhist Tourism, the ministry is also planning the involvement of private sector. The government conducts International Buddhist Conclave every alternate year to showcase Buddhist heritage and pilgrim sites in India. The conclave was held in Sarnath in 2016, where delegates from 39 countries participated.