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

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora