The Ministry of Tourism is aiming to build the Buddhist circuit to be India’s first trans-national tourist circuit, and is expected to make such an announcement very soon in near future. This effort will promote tourism in Nepal and Sri Lanka alongside that in India, with sites in the Buddhist circuit as well as the ‘Ramayana’ circuit spanning the these countries. This will lead to a significant add to revenue and employment generation
According to Tourism & Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma, “It is surprising that while Buddhism originated in India and seven of the eight main Buddhist pilgrimage sites are in India, our country gets not even one per cent of Buddhist pilgrims in the world”. Importantly, the Southeast Asian nations such as Indonesia and Thailand are getting a major chunk of Buddhism-related tourists while India lags behind, mostly due to a lack of infrastructure and awareness. Not just India and Nepal, there are several Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka too. Buddhism, a religion originating from the Indian subcontinent, is one of the strongest bonding factors in Asia.
The Indian tourism ministry has already taken the Buddhist circuit under its - Swadesh Darshan scheme, and has released funds of Rs1 billion for the purpose. Meanwhile, talks are on with private players to come up with hotels around the sites and the World Bank to invest in infrastructure.
During Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal in 2014, the two countries signed agreements on marketing of tourist destinations etc. According to Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, the planned 160-km Buddhist Circuit will incorporate 10 major Buddhist sites, including Kapilvastu, Devdaha and Ramgram. According to an official estimate currently, tourists visit Lumbini, in Nepal for only seven hours on average Nepal needs to conduct a feasability study in Lumbini on how it would help boost tourist arrivals and increase their stay. Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha is seen as a potential world-class tourist destination for 500 million Buddhists in Asia. It hosts over 100 related archaeological sites scattered within a 50-km radius.
Under the Greater Lumbini Buddhist Circuit project, Nepal aims at linking the region with the Buddhist Circuit in India as well as other regional tourism destinations such as Chitwan, Pokhara, Bardia and northern-west mountain areas.
Even at the recent meeting of the SAARC working group, representatives from Pakistan and Afghanistan too expressed interest in promoting their Buddhist sites.