Changing the country’s image from that of a land of snake charmers, the govt of India is now looking to market India because it is the land of spirituality, Land of Gautam Buddha. Tourism Ministry of India has been wooing the overseas marketplace for an extended time with pilgrimages to the traditional spiritual destinations, leading to tourists pouring in from everywhere the world- America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and Australia. During 2005, an estimated 3.92 million foreign tourists visited India generating exchange earnings up to $5.7billion. Keeping an eye fixed on Asia’s vast globetrotting Buddhist communities, the new buzzword for the state of India is ‘Buddhist Tourism’.
Even today, Buddhism remains a serious force in East Asia- in Thailand, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia than on, with a few billion Buddha followers worldwide. However, the importance of traditional Buddhism in India has slowly faded out, despite the existence of monuments and locales related to Buddhism, in cities and towns spread across the length and breadth of the country.
These holy sites include Buddhism’s most sacred shrine, the Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya town in Bihar, where Buddha is believed to possess attained enlightenment 2,500 years ago and is today a UNESCO World Heritage site.
In the past 50 years, India did not promote these Buddhist sites, with even foreign funds remaining under-utilized. Tourists don’t visit these holy sites in India thanks to lack of infrastructure, and amenities and services of decent standards, which is reflected within the incontrovertible fact that the inbound foreign tourists to Bihar in 2005 generated no quite Rs 75 Lakh.
Having already spent 20.5 million dollars between the Eighth and Tenth Five-Year Plans on beautifying existing sites, the govt of India has now decided to pump in additional financial assistance to develop tourism infrastructure at these sites.
Buddhist tourist circuit, partly funded by Japan, is being mapped across 16 Indian states with Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh because of the major hubs. Three circuits in Uttar Pradesh; Lucknow-Awadh, Agra-Braj, and Varanasi-Vindhya, are identified for the primary phase of the project.
Realizing the potential to draw in a sizable amount of overseas Buddhist pilgrims, the Tourism Ministry of India has decided to upgrade these ancient sites as tourism spots and encourage more tourists to go to the Buddhist circuit as a part of ‘spiritual tourism’ for Buddhists around the world.
India may be a land of multi-religious spirituality and other people are known to travel here to seek out solace since the past. By developing the Buddhist Tourism in India, the Government of India is opening doors to the plethora of tourists, to the place where Prince Siddhartha Gautam attained enlightenment to become Buddha.