Print Edition - 2019-01-22 | MONEY
Buddhist Circuit fixed departure tours slated to launch mid-July
- Religious tourism
Jan 22, 2019-
Buddhist Circuits.com announced starting Buddhist Circuit fixed departure tours from the Full Moon Day on July 16. “Buddhist Circuit tours have been designed for those who want to follow the route taken by the Buddha from his birthplace,” said Bikram Pandey, president of Buddhist Circuits.com.Pandey launched the Buddhist Circuit tour following the success of the Everest marathon. The company announced the tour during the first Buddhist International Travel Mart organised recently in Lumbini.
According to Pandey, tour participants will first visit Buddhist heritage sites in the Lumbini-Kapilvastu region and ‘re-enact’ the Great Renunciation by starting the journey from the eastern gate of the ruins of Tilaurakot Palace in Kapilvastu. Siddhartha Gautam renounced his luxurious life and left the palace through this gate in search of truth and enlightenment and eventually became the Buddha.
The travellers will then drive to India via the Belhiya border point and travel to Nalanda, Vaishali, Rajgir, Bodh Gaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar before returning to Lumbini.
“The sites associated with the life of the Buddha are important pilgrimages for over 500 million Buddhist followers throughout the world,” Pandey said. “This is the first time a fixed departure tour associated with the Buddha’s life has been launched. As the Full Moon Day is associated with the life of the Buddha, we will be organising this tour every Full Moon Day. However, the tour can be organised regularly, if demand picks up.”
The journey will be conducted in luxury buses. This tour package will extend the length of stay of tourists in the Lumbini-Kapilvastu region and provide opportunities for income generation to local people, he said.
Lumbini received 1.53 million tourists in 2018, up 16.54 percent, according to the statistics of the Lumbini Development Trust. Among them, 1.18 million were Nepali, 193,635 Indian and 169,904 third country tourists. A majority of foreign tourists visiting Lumbini are handled by Indian tour operators. They enter Lumbini overland from across the Indian border, and spend a few minutes looking around. As a result, the local community and the country have not been able to reap benefits from the day trippers.
Foreign tourists usually stay for an average of 13 days in Nepal, but most travellers visiting Lumbini barely stay for 30 minutes, according a study conducted in 2013. As Gautam Buddha International Airport is expected to come into operation near Lumbini by the end of 2019, the government has been working to promote Buddhist pilgrimage in a big way.
According to International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, the Buddhist Circuit is an important pilgrimage destination for the 450 million practicing Buddhists as well as travellers interested in history, culture or religion.
There are about 450 to 480 million Buddhists across the world, the International Finance Corporation report said. They practice different branches of Buddhism: Mahayana Buddhism, including East Asian Buddhism, with 185 million followers. This is the predominant form of Buddhism practiced in China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam.
Theravada Buddhism, with over 125 million followers, is the form of Buddhism predominantly practiced in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and India. Vajrayana Buddhism has approximately 20 million followers. This form is practiced in the greater Tibetan and Mongolian regions, the Himalaya, Bhutan, parts of western China, the Russian Federation and Nepal.
India has been investing massively in the Buddhist Circuit, the report said, and the rationale for this investment is to improve the experience of visiting these sites and link that to the potential of tourism to deliver sustainable and inclusive economic growth through job creation and income generation opportunities.
Published: 22-01-2019 06:59