By Mrs. Jayanthi S
Director Micro Tech Global Foundation
- Buddhism finds its origin in India and many Buddhist circuits are found in India
- Buddhism is one of the oldest practiced religions in the world
- 535 million people follow this religion and a large percentage in the Asia Pacific region
- Religious tourism will enhance growth and employment
It has a positive advantage in the countries from where the tourists come.
Buddhism finds its origin in India and many places in India have been identified and documented to have been a part and parcel of Lord Buddha’s life journey. It is one of the oldest practiced religions in the world. This is a spiritually very important and luring factor for a large number of Buddhists to visit the country of origin in their life span. India has not fully tapped this vast potential to their advantage.
Nearly 535 million of the world population follows Buddhism and China is one of the largest with 244 million and the Asia Pacific alone about 400 million. Other countries that follow are Thailand, Japan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, South Korea, and Malaysia.
One such tourist center that can be propagated is the Buddhist circuit which are the spiritual places of Buddhism such as their temples, monasteries, etc. and which plays a significant place among the Buddhist followers for sure and can be immensely liked by all others too. In India, one such Buddhist circuits and centers of Buddhism can be found in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar which is Bodhgaya, Vaishali, Rajgir, Sarnath, Varanasi, Shravasti and Kushinagar. This circuit can not only attract huge tourists from India but over 30 countries of the world too.
In India, such Buddhist circuits can be found in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra which can also support and enhance the growth of tourists coming for these circuits. Other places where there is Buddhist presence is in Arunachal Pradesh – Bomdila and Tawang, Sikkim – Kalimpong and Rumtek, Jammu & Kashmir – Ladakh, Harwan, Ambarani and Parihaspura, Himachal Pradesh – Spiti, Kinnaur and Dharamshala, Haryana – Stupa at Sugh, Yamunanagar and Asangh (Jind), Madhya Pradesh – Sardarah, Sanchi and Murakott, Maharashtra – Karala, Ellora, Kanheri, Ajanta Caves, Pitalgora and Nasik Caves, West Bengal – Darjeeling and Kolkata, Andhra Pradesh – Amravati, Salihunda, Borah Caves and Nagarjunkonda.
Religious Tourism and Growth:
Religious Tourism has around the world has become one of the largest socio-economic sectors and the fastest growing sector which helps in the localized overall development of a place as new economic activities begin to flourish. Tourism has a great impact on the countries growth as it accelerates employment, production, and income and growth rate. Also, regional tourism leads to the development of the local country but also it contributes to the growth of some sectors such as transportation, logistics and related sector in the countries from which the tourist come.
Tourism has to be sustained keeping in mind the historical, cultural heritage of the place and local communities. The favorable factors for India are that it is one of the fastest-growing economies of the world, It is emerging as a major tourist destination, Staying here is cheaper than many developed countries of the world. India today stands at 34th place in the world in tourism but have a huge capacity to improve its position as it has a vast geographical and historical background to showcase to the world.
In 2018, there were 10.56 million foreign tourist arrivals, which was an increase of 5.2% compared to 2017. The number stood at 10.04 million in 2017. Last year, foreign exchange earnings touched INR. 194,882 crore. This is a rise of 9.6% from INR. 177,874 crore recorded in 2017.
Places of relevance for Buddhism Circuit:
BODHGAYA: The Bodhi Tree under which Lord Buddha (Prince Siddhartha) found enlightenment after meditating for many days is situated in Bihar.
This place attracts foreign tourists as there are a number of monasteries made by Buddhists, the Bodhi tree, Contributions of King Asoka who himself converted to Buddhists and promoted the spread of Buddhism across ancient Asia, other temples and holy trees.
SARNATH: Lord Buddha gave his first sermon in Sarnath after he got enlightenment. Situated near the holy city of Varanasi it was here that Lord Buddha gathered his first set disciples to promote his new doctrine and established his Sangha which was monastic order, traditionally composed of four groups: monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen. It is in Sarnath that we can see the Symbol in Indian currency and on government documents, the famous lion pillar or the Ashoka pillar. Also, other Stupa, Vihar and Sarnath Ashram are situated here.
Vaishali: This place situated in Bihar India was where Lord Buddha gave his last sermon. It is said that Buddha told his disciple Ananda about his imminent demise in this place. The place is also known for the second Buddhist Council, which took place about 110 years later
KUSHINAGAR: This place in Uttar Pradesh, India is the place where it considered that Lord Buddha attained salvation. Kushinagar is on way to Kapilavastu, the place where Lord Buddha fell ill and died in 543 BC. King Ashoka ensured that the mortal remains of Lord Buddha were spread across 80,000 stupas across his kingdom and outside. One of the star attractions of this place is the reclining Buddha statue in red sandstone. There are temples made by Chinese, Japanese Temple, etc. as a tourist attraction.
RAJGIR: The first Buddhist Council was held in Rajgir. The Lotus Sutra and the perfection of wisdom Sutra was revealed here which lead to the establishment of various schools of Buddhism. In this council, the teachings were compiled after his death and were revealed to the world. The famous Nalanda University one of the oldest ones is a tourist attraction of this place.
SHARVASTI: In these places in Uttar Pradesh, India, Lord Buddha performed his first miracles and where he passed the greater part of his monastic life. It was one of the main centers of religious activities by Lord Buddha. Buddha spent 25 years living in a monastery here and he delivered many his sermons here.
Importance of Investment:
This wonderful heritage of India needs a structured investment plan so as highlight its beautiful history and enhance the overall growth of the region.
Development and investment in Nano hubs, Mini hubs and new smart cities around these places can be a solution and way forward to accelerate revenue generation and employment generation. This investment can be broadly categorized for roads, power, infrastructure, water, sanitation, healthcare, education, transport, theme parks, etc. based on the green field model wherein all environment-friendly aspects will be kept in mind.
With 535 million Buddhist populations even we assume 5 million can be the prospective tourists to these Buddhist circuits. Total revenue generation can be to the tune of $5 billion assuming that an average tourist spends about $100 per day.
These identified places can be developed keeping in mind the local, social and cultural nature of the place and identifying scope and area for development of this corridor into Nano HUBs, mini hubs and smart city with roughly about US$300 million investment. Based on our concept of secured governance these can be achieved through minimum government participation and will be self-sustained through the valuation model by which the project will fund itself along with private participation.
Enhance growth through Secured Governance strategy:
Secured Governance offers a strategy for the government to get all the basic infrastructure development with a negligible investment by the Government. It is a concept of developing Techno-Economic Corridors connecting HUBs, Mini HUBs & Nano HUBs which will act as a growth center for individual sectors. The very concept of “Secured’’ here implies a secured convergence or knitting with various sectors defining a growth for an economy
Value and Valuation Strategy of Secured Governance Concept
New HUBs, Mini HUBs & Nano HUBs projects require clear funding streams—a clear path to revenue (including public sector payments)—in order to seek private financing. The Secured Governance funding model considers the new infrastructure project’s overall delivery impact as well as its cash-flow Impact. Government projects will lead to an increase in the value of the land surrounding that project. This gives the government an opportunity to capture some of the appreciation of that value and to obtain private financing based on that value increase.
Regional Tourism around the world adds a lot to the socio-economic growth of a country but also enhances the GDPs of the countries where tourist exchange takes place. India can grab this opportunity as Buddhism one of the largest religions of the world originated in India. If investments in these circuits are planned properly, these could become the finest tourist destinations and can accelerate growth in these places. Infrastructure growth and huge investment toward a greater formalisation of the economy are bound to lead to an acceleration in per capita income of the people and large scale employment. The government clearly holds the key to realizing this potential and taking a proactive stance.