Buddhist pilgrimage circuit project lagging behind

20th Mar, 2018 | Tourism Mail Crew

KATHMANDU, Mar 20: The project for the development of a Buddhist pilgrimage circuit connecting a string of Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Rupandehi, Kapilvastu and Nawalparasi districts has so far been limited to discussions, raising questions over the fate of the project. The plan was expected to attract millions of foreign tourists from the South Asian region through a developed religious tourism package.

Formal and informal meetings have been taking place regarding the development of the route linking pilgrimage sites in the region. However, the Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) which is in charge of conserving Buddhist holy places in the three districts, has not been able to come up with a concrete plan to start the project.

“Although various development activities are being carried out under small scattered projects without any coordination, a master plan to develop a Buddhist Circuit is lacking,” said the LDT project manager.

The Ministry of Tourism is planning to construct a Buddhist Circuit with a loan from the Asian Development Bank. A team of experts and technicians was formed with tourism expert Rabi Jung Pandey as coordinator.

The team has been assigned a larger task to submit a report for a Buddhist circuit extending from Haleshi in Khotang district in the east to Dullu in Dailekh district in the west, and even through Kalikot district to Manasarovar in China. The team started work last July with a one-year timeline.

Most of the routes leading to various Buddhist pilgrimage and archaeological sites are in bad shape. The road to Gotihawa, birthplace of Krakuchanda Buddha, is dusty during the summer and muddy during the rainy season. Likewise, the road to the ‘palace of the Massacre of the Shakyas’ at Sagarhawa is badly damaged. The road to Tilaurakot is filled with potholes and in need of urgent repair. The road connecting Dhamnihawa Stupa, 1.5 km from Tilaurakot, is also dilapidated.

Tourism entrepreneur Hem Bahadur Bista said, “As Buddhist pilgrim sites in three districts lack functional road access, many willing visitors cannot go to such places. Even those tourists who manage to visit hardly stay for long.”

LDT head archaeological officer Krishna Bahadur KC said, “Buddhists coming to Tilaurakot to gain a spiritual experience by touching the soil return immediately due to lack of road access and other amenities.”

Phra Shri Bodhibidhsha Supot Kittiwannole, head of the Royal Thai Bihar in Lumbini, said, “Buddhists coming to see the ruins of Tilaurakot’s main palace and recite the sutras and learn about the childhood of Gautam Buddha feel disappointed by the  dusty environment. For that reason, it is necessary to work to develop pilgrimage sites according to a plan.”