Sarnath to host cultural festivals of Buddhist countries soon

A flower is put on the idol of Lord Buddha to mark Buddha Jayanti festival in Kathmandu, Nepal, May 4, 2015. Photo: Xinhua/Pratap Thapadjj/IANS

Varanasi: A series of festivals related to Buddhist culture will soon become a permanent feature in Sarnath city which is barely 10 km from Varanasi. It is expected to attract tourist from across the globe.

Sarnath, the place where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon, will soon begin to host weekly cultural festivals that will enable citizens to explore the culture and cuisine of several countries with Buddhist populations.

Sarnath is also going to get four-lane connectivity with seamless access from any highway and LBS International Airport.

These two plans are the main components of the proposal prepared for the Rs 130-crore pro-poor tourism development project, finalised as per the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The project will be funded by the World Bank.

According to Varanasi District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma, in a virtual meeting held earlier this year, Modi had asked officials to look for a site in Sarnath where holistic cultural fests of Buddhist countries can be organised throughout the year.

All Buddhist countries as well as Buddhist regions in India, like Ladakh, will get an opportunity to showcase their culture, art and cuisine. This vision is aimed at increasing the inflow of tourists from apart from a large number of south Asian countries and the Far East, who already are a regular.

Sharma said that a plan to establish such a site at Sarnath is a key component of the proposal, which will be submitted to the state tourism department shortly.

"Conversion of the existing road into a four-lane road will give the tourists and local residents easier access to Sarnath." He said. 

Regional Tourism Officer Kirtiman Srivastava said that in the past four-five years, a growth of over four per cent in the tourist footfall (including foreigners) had been recorded in Varanasi.

In 2019, 64.47 lakh domestic and 3.50 lakh foreign tourists had visited the city, out of which, 7.82 lakh tourists, including 1.40 lakh foreigners, visited Sarnath.

Srivastava said that Sarnath attracts foreign tourists mainly from Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Japan, China, South Korea and other south-eastern countries.

Initiatives like the light and sound show on the life of Buddha are expected to attract an increasing number of tourists even domestically.

Sarnath is situated near the confluence of the Ganga and the Varuna rivers in Uttar Pradesh. The Deer Park of Sarnath is where Lord Gautam Buddha first taught his "Dharma", and where the Buddhist Sangha came into existence.

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