News / Asia

    India Taps Potential of Rich Buddhist Heritage

    Indian folk artists from the eastern Indian state of Orissa perform during the three-day long Travel and Tourism Fair in Kolkata, July 13, 2012.
    Indian folk artists from the eastern Indian state of Orissa perform during the three-day long Travel and Tourism Fair in Kolkata, July 13, 2012.
    Anjana Pasricha
    India is tapping the potential of its rich Buddhist heritage by wooing more tourists from East and South East Asian countries. Buddhism originated in India but went on to gain more popularity in other Asian countries.

    From a rail station in New Delhi the luxury train, the Mahaparinirvan Express, begins its winding, eight-day journey through three Indian states -- Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa.
     
    The passengers on board include a group of tourists from Thailand, who are greeted with garlands and music. At daytime, the train stops at some of Buddhism’s most sacred sites such as Bodh Gaya where Buddha obtained enlightenment, Sarnath, where he gave his first sermon, Varanasi, where he preached and Kusinagar, where he died.  
     
    The train is sometimes delayed by dense winter fog, but the visitors from Thailand say they are satisfied with their spiritual encounter.

    Buddha began preaching Buddhism in India more than 2,500 years ago. As a result, some of Buddhism’s most sacred sites - places where he lived and preached are located in India -- although the religion went on became more popular elsewhere in Asia.
     
    Many of these holy spots lie in India’s poorest states which were not easy to access for decades. As a result only the most committed religious tourists made the effort to reach the sites, resulting in relatively few foreign visitors.  
     
    But in recent years, India has been trying to attract more tourists from countries such with sizeable Buddhist populations such as Japan and Thailand and develop what it calls spiritual tourism.  
     
    It has connected key Buddhist heritage sites through a rail network on which the Mahaparinirvan Express plies. And it is trying to improve other infrastructure such as highways and airports for those who want to plan their own visits.  
     
    The head of India’s Association of Tour Operators, Subhash Goyal says the process has begun, but much more needs to be done. “In a lot of areas where hotels and other things need to come up and second is road connectivity, and there needs to be air connectivity connecting all these places with small planes or with helicopters," he said. "If the facilities improve and infrastructure improves, I am sure we can have two to three million tourists, just Buddhist tourists coming to India.”
     
    The government recognizes the need to invest more funds to develop what it calls the “Buddhist circuit.”  
     
    Tourism Minister, K.Cheeranjivi on a recent visit to Tokyo, said India needs more quality, budget accommodation close to prominent Buddhist sites and called on Japan to invest in the hospitality sector.    

    It is not just India that is hoping to draw in Buddhist tourists. Passengers aboard the Buddhist pilgrim train are taken via bus across the border to the tiny town of Lumbini in Nepal.  
     
    This town, where Gautam Buddha was born, has been getting a makeover for many years to provide amenities for tourists.

    Sharad Pradhan at Nepal’s Tourist Board says so far most of the overseas tourists come via India, but they hope to change that. “We have many tourists coming from Sri Lanka also, there are so many tourists coming from Thailand, Japan also. Now the government of Nepal is opening airport at Lumbini," he added. "So that will be complete within two years so that tourists can directly come to Lumbini.”
     
    In India, states rich in Buddhist heritage have begun reaping a dividend from Buddhist tourism. A decade ago, virtually no foreign tourists went to Bihar, which is among India’s poorest and least developed areas, but also the area where most Buddhist sites are located. Today, Bihar hosts nearly half a million overseas visitors.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
    February 17, 2013 4:53 PM
    One of famous contempolary Sri Lankan buddhism preasts says in his books that Buddism is not a religion but a subject of psychology. Buddha investigated his own sensation, emotion and all mental sufferings to analize their causes to hundreds of kinds of psychological status. So he taught followers that mental sufferings would be solved by rational analysis of subjects' mental statsus. He neither wrote sacred books nor asked to pray himself or worship idles.

    by: kanikaal irumporai
    February 15, 2013 7:28 PM
    This kind of partnership and facilitation goes much further than simply promoting the tourist industry. It extends into the collaboration with the Buddhist fundamentalist regime of Sri Lanka, erasing the traces after the crimes committed and providing diplomatic shield to the perpetrators. Japanese top diplomat stationed at the UN in New-York was to make sure that no hurdles come in the way of this grand design and the other Buddhist forces to provide active support with India, which has it's own interests in the extermination project. IN contrary to popular belief that Buddhism is a peaceful and passive religion preaching kindness towards others, the reality especially the Theravadha branch of it, has a more violent and bloody past. Buddha might have preached peace and non-violence like Jesus the Christ, but most of his followers are not pea lovers. The sculptures in on the domes of many of historic temples are testimony to this, while the historical destruction of Mahayana branch in the Souther part of India and modern day Sri Lanka around the dawn of current era reveals more.

    by: Rob Swift from: Great Britain
    February 15, 2013 12:36 PM
    Buddha is the true prince and will inherit the Kingdom. His angel is Michael ,Guardian of the children. Buddha went the way of the hunter, and found himself, in the same way that the Physician healed himself. (Christ). Truth can only come at a moment of Truth .'The Chosen One.'' As you search so shall you find.'

    by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
    February 15, 2013 11:32 AM
    The Buddhist heritage pre-dates Christian and Moslem heritage. But the Buddhist heritage is ignored because of Buddhism is a passive religion. The Buddhism originated in India and spread to other countries, not by conquering countries, but just because of the religious ferver where as Christianity and Moslem religion spread mainly by conquering countries and enforcing religion. The ancient Buddhists sites in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka are to be protected as world heritage sites for the future generations and for the tourists in the Buddhist circuit.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.