Buddhist tourism new mantra in Himachal Pradesh

#1 Mar 17th, 2003, 20:58
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Jan 2003
थानेधार / नारकंडा / शिमला Thanedhar / Narkanda / Shimla
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The laying of the foundation stone of the Rs 6.53 crore Buddhist circuit project at Rewalsar in Mandi district on Thursday, is a fulfilment of government's vision to enrich tourism in this state, by attracting Buddhists from all over the world to visit some of the oldest and best monasteries and gompas outside Tibet.

It may be recalled that the previous Congress government had celebrated the millennium of the Tabo Monastery in 1996 by holding an international festival at Tabo. The idea behind this was to open up the centuries-old Buddhist places of worship to foreign and Indian tourists, not only to uplift the economy of the region, but also to give a much needed fillip to foreign tourism in Himachal.

Though the Tabo monastery, said to be built in 996 AD and often referred to as the 'Himalayan Ajanta' can be called the pick of the large number of gompas and monasteries that are scattered over the state, the entire Lahaul and Spiti district has a huge archaeological potential and rich cultural heritage. In fact the Dalai Lama himself acknowledged, "Revered by Tibetans for his role in the 'second propagation' of Buddhism in Tibet, Rinchen Zangpo translated a great number of texts, many of which are still widely read today.

He also established many temples and monasteries, reputedly 108 altogether, and recruited artists and craftsmen from Buddhist Kashmir to decorate them. Today, not many of these temples remain, but within the boundaries of modern India a few rare monasteries such as that at Tabo survive and continue to be the focus of religious activity." He added: "Tabo monastery is particularly noted for the exquisite quality of the paintings and stucco images that cover its walls. These works of art delightfully express the vigour of the transmission of Buddhism from India to Tibet and the dynamic mingling of cultures. They are evidence of longstanding friendly relations that have existed between India and Tibet and even after so many centuries, they retain a freshness that is a joy to see".

Besides the Tabo monastery and the other famous key monasteries, there are monasteries at Tahsigang and Tilasang in Kinnaur district of the state and at Kalpa, Jhangi, Kanam, Pooh, Nako, Dhankar, Kungri, Kaza, Kibbar, Kardang, Shehsur, Gamur and of course the Guru Ghantal monastery near Gamur. With such a large repertoire of monasteries with their rich collection of Tibetan antiques and artefacts, they are a tourist's delight and require just exposure in the Buddhist countries, to have Buddhists making a beeline for the area.

It was with this in mind that the then Congress government had also planned an airport at Kaza, but the previous BJP government lacked the 'midas touch', that Virbhadra and tourism minister Mankotia wanted to give to the tourism industry of this state.


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