It is “unfortunate” that Odisha with extremely rich Buddhist traditions and shrines has not been included in the Buddhist Circuit under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme, said Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan while seeking inclusion of the State in the scheme.
In a letter to Culture Minister G Kishan Reddy, Pradhan listed out the immense potential of Odisha as far as Buddhist-related tourism is concerned.
The Indian Buddhist heritage is of great interest to the followers of Buddhism all over the world and Odisha has a number of important shrines and traditions in this regard, noted Pradhan.
Under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme, the Tourism Ministry sanctioned 5projects of Rs 325.53 crore for Buddhist circuit development in the States of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, and Andhra Pradesh.
It is unfortunate that Odisha, even with extremely rich Buddhist traditions and shrines, has not been included in the “Buddhist Circuit” nor any projects under the scheme have been allocated to Buddhist shrines in Odisha, said Pradhan.
During the 8th Century – 10th Century AD under the Bhaumakara dynasty rule, Buddhism was considered the State religion of Odisha. In fact, it’s believed that the first disciples of Lord Buddha were Tapasu and Bhallika who hailed from the modern-day city of Jajpur.
Though Buddhism entered Odisha long before the Kalinga War it took wings in the region after the patronage of Emperor Ashoka.
Odisha’s most famous poet Jayadeva went on to describe Lord Buddha as one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu in the 12th century AD.
The writings of fabled Chinese Traveler Hiuen Tsang just reinforce the glorious chapter of Buddhism in Odisha. Various Buddhist sites and shrines in Odisha such as Dhaulagiri, Lalitgiri, Udayagiri, Ratnagiri, and Jiranng draw huge numbers of international tourists, especially from the East and South-east Asia and domestic tourists, especially from North-east, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh etc.
However, the tourist facilities at these Buddhist holy places leave much to be desired and lacking in essential tourist facilities such as connectivity, accommodation, utilities, he said.