Category Archives: Travel/Tourism

On first state holiday for Buddhists in city, grand Purnima plans in store

TNN | Updated: May 10, 2017, 11.03 AM IST

KOLKATA: Buddhists in the city have a new reason to rejoice. After decades of appeals and requests to the state government, right through the regime of Congress to Left Front and now Trinamool Congress, this is the first time that a state holiday has been declared on Buddha Purnima on Wednesday. This is the 2561st birth anniversary of Lord Buddha — the biggest annual occasion for those of this faith. The city has a little over 5,000 Buddhists and at least 35 monasteries.

The two oldest Buddhist monastery-cum-congregations are the Mahabodhi Society (established in 1891 by Anagarik Dharmapal, a venerated monk from Sri Lanka), and Bauddha Dharmankur Sabha that was established by Kripasaran Mahasthabir from Chittagong, just a year later. Both have joined hands for a unique celebration that started on Tuesday, also celebrating the 156th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore.

A light-and-sound show was organized at College Square that wove Tagore creations like ‘Malini’, ‘Chandalika’ and ‘Notir Puja’ — that have Buddha as the central theme. The show, designed by theatre group Rupnagar, will be on for the next seven days. The event saw a large turnout of people from the community in the first public programme in Kolkata to celebrate Buddha Purnima. “Now we look forward to the Centre declaring it a national holiday. A large number of South Asian countries have already done that. India should take a cue from Bangladesh, where the heads of state make arrangements to celebrate with senior monks of different Buddhist orders,” said Bhikshu Bodhipala, head of the Dharmankur Sabha.

Members of the community along with monks in the different monasteries participated in the grand preparations for Buddha Purnima ceremonies. Giant brass statues of Lord Buddha were cleaned up and arrangement of fruits, incense sticks, candles and vegetarian food was made for mass feeding. “We encourage people from all communities to visit our monasteries and be part of our festivities. Buddha’s is a message of peace that we are here to spread,” said Hemendu Bikas Chowdhury, general secretary of the Sabha and vice-president of the Society.

Monks and community members will visit Moghalmari, near Dantan in West Midnapur, on Wednesday morning. This is where a 5th century Buddhist vihara is being gradually unearthed by the state archaeology department. The excavation started in the early part of the last decade and it is assumed it might date back to the post-Gupta period.

“This is an extremely prestigious excavation and would have changed the history of ancient Bengal as we know it. However, it is unfortunate that the excavation has stopped because necessary permissions are not coming from the Archaeological Survey of India. On the occasion on Buddha Purnima, we appeal to the ASI to help start the excavation. It is of great significance to Buddhists and we hope that the work starts soon,” Chowdhury added.

A documentary film on Moghalmari, made by Abhishek Ganguly, will be screened thereafter. The celebrations will end with an all-faiths meet in the city.

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Karumadikuttan beckons pilgrims, tourists

R.Ramabhadran Pillai ALAPPUZHA MAY 06, 2017 06:36 IST

Kerala Buddhist Council is organising Buddha Purnima celebrations at Ambalappuzha

Karumadi, a sleepy village in Ambalappuzha, will resound with chants of Buddhist monks on May 10. A number of Buddhists will gather on the premises of a pilgrim centre where a statue, known as Karumadikuttan, has been installed.

The three-ft high black granite statue, in a sitting posture, has its left half missing. The statue has been considered by historians as part of the remnants of Buddhist culture that existed in the area centuries ago. Recognised as that of Lord Buddha, the statue is believed to be of the period between 10th and 12th century.

The statue was found from Karumadi Thodu, a stream, and was installed at the present location by Robert Bristow, a British engineer in 1930s, according to historians.

The left side of the statue is believed to have been damaged in an attack by an elephant. Though a part of the missing section was recovered from the neighbourhood, there was disapproval on affixing the same on the statue. Dalai Lama visited the site in 1965.

The site was renovated by the government two years ago. The site is at present under the Department of Archaeology.

The Kerala Buddhist Council is organising this year’s State-level Buddha Purnima celebrations in association with the department at the venue, N.Haridas Bodh, organising secretary, said.

Kerala has at least a lakh Buddhist followers, with 20 ‘sanghams’ in various districts, he says. “Buddhist monks from different States and a large number of Buddhists will assemble at the place. Chantings, meditation, and discourses will be organised as part of the celebrations,” he said.

The place is a tourist itinerary and hundreds of domestic and foreign tourists visit the place, said Karumadi Murali, former vice-president of the Ambalappuzha Block panchayat, the chief of a committee formed to renovate the pilgrim centre.

“The 10-cent site is inadequate to contain the increasing flow of tourists. A proposal to hand over more than one acre of poramboke land adjoining the site to the Department of Archaeology is pending with the authorities,” he said.Karumadikuttan beckons pilgrims, tourists

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Is it enough for Bojjannakonda to make it to World Heritage site list?


Times of India
, Mar 27, 2017, 01.03 PM IST

One reads in the newspapers that the Archaeological Survey of India plans to include Bojjannakonda Buddhist complex in the list seeking World Heritage status. There cannot be better news for the heritage lovers of the city. Such a move is long overdue for a state which has been actively promoting tourism. The cliche that comes to mind is, better late than never. However it is not enough to have grandiose plans, intentions of the government must be matched by its actions. It takes years of effort, preparation and sincerity of purpose to get on to UNESCO’s tentative list of world heritage sites. Protection, management and authenticity of the site are major criteria for qualifying for the world heritage tag. On those conditions alone Bojjannakonda will fail to make it to the list, unless the state addresses them immediately.

Bojjannakonda site faces many man-made dangers. One very major threat is the relentless blasting that goes on in the nearby hills. Many letters and remonstrations later, the state government finally woke up to the irreparable damage caused to the ancient site and instituted enquiry. Experts from Andhra University gave a report that only detonators of a certain intensity should be allowed in the immediate neighborhood of the site. An insider informs me confidentially that the recommendations of the report are routinely defied and high intensity blasting goes on unchecked. The result is that the fragile carvings both on Bojjannakonda and Lingala mettta have developed cracks and are fast deteriorating. Continue reading

Centre to aid Buddhist corridor in Srikakulam

Buddhist monument at Salihundam in Gara mandal in Srikakulam districtBuddhist monument at Salihundam in Gara mandal in Srikakulam district

THE HANS INDIA | Mar 30,2017 , 04:42 AM IST

​Srikakulam: In a major boost to Buddhist corridor proposed by tourism and archaeology departments to protect ancient monuments, besides attracting tourists, the Central government reportedly will grant funds worth Rs 8 crore.

While the tourism and archaeology officials are busy preparing a detailed project report (DPR), a consultancy team from Central government visited Buddhist spots at Nagaralapeta village near Kalingapatnam and Salihundam in Gara mandal, Danthavarapukota in Sarubujjili and Jagathimettu in Polaki mandals. The team also held meeting with additional joint collector P Rajani Kantha Rao.

While Nagaralapeta and Shalihundam are under control of Central archaeology department, Danthavarapukota and Jagathimettu are under control of state archaeology department.

“In coordination with Central and state archaeology departments state tourism officials decided to develop these spots with Central government aid,” informed1 additional joint collector, P.Rajani Kantha Rao The Central team identified that an approach road and a garden are required at Nagaralapeta for which Rs 50 lakh is needed.

For developmental works like parks, rest houses, rest benches and toilets at Danthavarapukota, Shalihundam Rs 4 crore are required. To develop Jagathimettu another Rs 2 crore funds are needed. For other development works another Rs 1.50 crore funds needed.

“We visited four Buddhist spots along with consultancy team and identified required development works at all the locations to attract tourists,” said district tourism promotion officer (DTPO) Nadiminti Narayana Rao.

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Airport to close for expansion near China’s Dunhuang caves

Source: Xinhua | February 20, 2017, Monday | ONLINE EDITION

THE Dunhuang airport, located near the Mogao Caves, which contain some of China’s finest ancient Buddhist art, will be closed between March 15 and May 25 for an expansion project aimed at coping with a growing tourist influx.

The 976-million-yuan (US$142 million) expansion project, which began in 2016, will enable the airport to handle an annual capacity of 960,000 passengers and 1,700 tons of cargo.

The airport will close to allow for revamping of the runway and enlarging airport aprons, said the airport on Monday.

The 1,600-year-old Mogao Caves are home to more than 2,000 colored sculptures and 45,000 square meters of frescoes. They are located in a series of 735 caves carved along a cliff in northwest China’s Gansu Province along the ancient Silk Road route. In 1987, the site became China’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In recent years, tourist numbers to the caves have soared thanks to their growing fame both at home and abroad.

The Buddhist site received more than 8 million domestic and foreign visitors in 2016, up 21.37 percent year on year.

Since 2014, the Mogao Caves have set a daily limit of 6,000 reserved tickets plus an extra 12,000 emergency tickets to cater to the growing number of tourists during the peak travel season.

Transportation infrastructure has been built to cope with the large passenger flow. In addition to the airport expansion, easier transport links to Dunhuang were launched last year, including new trains from Beijing, and Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

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Buddhist Civilization remains in Pakistan of great value for Japanese Pilgrims: MD PTDC

By DND – December 19, 2016
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The Managing Director Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) Abdul Ghafoor Khan has said that Pakistan is the custodian of Gandhara Buddhist Civilizations and there are numerous holy places in Pakistan of great value for Japanese Buddhist people.

During a meeting with Second Secretary of Japanese Embassy Daijo TSUCHIKAWA in Islamabad, he said that due to the restoration of peace and betterment of law and order situation in the country, the Japanese tourist flow is once again showing a remarkable increase over the previous two years.

The MD PTDC said that the significance of Buddhist civilization remains in Pakistan for Japanese people can boost up tourist flow to Pakistan as a result of proper publicity.

Abdul Ghafoor said that it will be 65th Anniversary of Pakistan and Japan’s diplomatic relations next year and we have planned a number of activities in order to celebrate this long-lasting relationship.

“I am surprised to realize that above 20 million tourists visit Japan every year and we are ready to learn from their experience by adopting the strategies of Japan’s tourism industry,” he said.

The PTDC managing director said that the Hasegawa Memorial Public School in Hunza is an initiative of Japan Government for enhancement of skills of local people in fruit cultivation as well as education in the area.

The Japanese government also supported in restoration of Ata Abad Lake.

He told that PTDC’s has already published a few brochures in Japanese language, soft copy of which is also available with PTDC’s website on homepage.

“We will also provide links to Japanese Embassy in Pakistan and Embassy of Pakistan in Japan on our website,” he said.

Abdul Ghafoor further added that we are ready to host visit of Japanese travel writers to write a guide book on Pakistan in their language on the pattern of “Siarnwe Book”, which means a way to walk on earth, which we can see on lonely planet as well.

“We are also planning to prepare a fresh documentary film, which will also be translated in Japanese language for display on travel channels of Japan,” the MD PTDC said. Continue reading

BUDUGALA: TRANQUIL MONASTERY AT THE HEART OF WALAWE VALLEY

z_p36-budugala1Sunday Observer

6 November, 2016
Story and pictures by Mahil Wijesinghe

The meandering Walawe River begins as a spring in the Horton Plains and flows down across several provinces until it meets the sea at Godawaya in the Southern city of Ambalantota. An extensive land area in Sabaragamuwa is known as the valley of Walawe and hidden in this heartland are some very impressive prehistoric ancient stone beauties from the classical Anuradhapura period. In 2002, the Department of Archaeology carried out an extensive exploration at the archaeological site, Budugala at Kaltota in close proximity to the Walawe River where a complex of ancient Buddhist monasteries have been found and restored.

A long arduous journey through the harsh terrain of the otherwise lush Sabaragamuwa Province, brought us to the Balangoda-Kaltota road. From Balangoda, the road was ever winding as we kept descending steadily from Balangoda toward Kaltota for around 30 kilometres. The scenery was refreshing with the edge of the mountain affording a distant view of the plains of the entire Southern province before melting into misty greens.

z_p36-budugala2_0

The road then runs on flat terrain and we met a gushing canal carrying Walawe waters, running parallel with the road. The canal gives water to the paddy-fields on the opposite side of the road. We saw shallow bathing spots along the canal where locals were washing and relaxing after a bath. The huge, tall trees along the canal give ample shade to the road. The rugged steep road to Kaltota took a right turn, leading us to the Weli-Oya – Kaltota narrow carpeted road and we reached a place steeped in history.

Boundary
The scenic, rustic village of Budugala, (meaning ‘the rock of Buddha’) nestles in the boundary of the Udawalawe National Park, at the edge of the Sabaragamuwa Province, and the Walawe River flows across this village. Paddy cultivation is the main source of livelihood of the villagers of this area.

We stopped at an Archaeological Department signboard and parked on the side of the narrow road. There was hardly any traffic, and hardly any room for two vehicles to pass. We crossed the canal by a narrow bridge and reached the small watch hut built by the Department of Archaeology at the entrance to the site.

Although the site meeting our eyes seemed interesting, there was hardly any information available. Since we visited the Budugala ruins in Kaltota on a drought ridden day, the area was surrounded by clumps of yellow sunburnt grass and brownish shrub jungle. There were hardly any visitors. It was quiet, save for the sudden wind that took a fancy to howl through the huge trees. But, in a bygone era, this was a main spiritual hub and part of the ancient site in Ruhuna and may be in Anuradhapura – far enough for seclusion, and yet, near enough to maintain some kind of contact. Both were essential requirements for a forest monastery. Continue reading