To give boost to religious tourism in the state, the Ministry of Tourism has identified Dharamshala, Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur region of the state under Buddhist Heritage Trails.
Union Minister of State for Tourism Dr. Mahesh Sharma in his reply in the Rajya Sabha today revealed that to explore the tourism potential nation-wide, the Ministry of Tourism has identified three Buddhist Circuits viz. Dharmayatra or the Sacred Circuit, Extended Dharmayatra or Extended Sacred Circuit or Retracing Buddha’s Footsteps Circuit and Buddhist Heritage Trails (State Circuits) nation-wide and would be developed with the help of Central, State Government and Private Stake Holders.
Buddhism has strong influence throughout the Trans-Himalayan region or Western Himalayas and can be traced back to the spread of Buddhism in the early 8th century.
Over the centuries this activity has become deeper rooted, particularly in the Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur valleys of the state and after the arrival of 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso in 1959, the focus on Tibetan Buddhism spread further in the region.
The Dalai Lama resides at McLeodganj near Dharamshala, which is called the Little Lhasa and also as Dhasa (a combination of Dharamshala and Lhasa in Tibet) is quite famous with his followers, which also drives thousands of visitors annually.
The hills of the state is also touted as the cradle of Buddhism, with its undeniable link to the past activities initiated in the 8th century by Guru Padmasambhava (who went to Tibet from Rewalsar in Himachal Pradesh to spread Buddhism), who was known as the “Guru Rinpoche” and the “Second Buddha”.
Because of strong influence of Buddhism and historic bondage in the state there are several places including Buddhist Monasteries or Gompas in the state that can attract thousands of tourists annually.
Detail of Circuits presented by the Dr. Mahesh Sharma in the Rajya Sabha today,
Circuit 1: The Dharmayatra or the Sacred Circuit
This will be a 5 to 7 days circuit and will include visits to Gaya (Bodhgaya), Varanasi (Sarnath), Kushinagar, Piparva (Kapilvastu) with a day trip to Lumbini in Nepal.
Circuit 2: Extended Dharmayatra or Extended Sacred Circuit or Retracing Buddha’s Footsteps
This will be a 10 to 15 day circuit and will include visits to Bodhgaya (Nalanda, Rajgir, Barabar caves, Pragbodhi Hill, Gaya), Patna (Vaishali, Lauriya Nandangarh, Lauriya Areraj, Kesariya and Patna Museum), Varanasi (Sarnath), Kushinagar, Piparva (Kapilvastu, Shravasti, Sankisa) with a day trip to Lumbini in Nepal
Circuit 3: Buddhist Heritage Trails (State Circuits)
i. Jammu and Kashmir – Ladakh, Srinagar (Harwan, Parihaspora) and Jammu (Ambaran).
ii. Himachal Pradesh – Dharamshala, Spiti, Kinnaur and Lahaul.
iii. Punjab – Sanghon.
iv. Haryana – Jind (Assan), Yamunanagar(Sugh).
v. Maharashtra -Aurangabad (Ajanta, Ellora, Pithalkora Caves), Pune (Karla Caves), Mumbai (Kanheri Caves), Pune (Bhaja Caves) and Nashik (Pandavleni Caves).
vi. Andhra Pradesh – Amravati, Nagarjunakonda, Vizag (Borra Caves, Salihundum Caves).
vii. Madhya Pradesh – Sanchi, Satdhara, Andher, Sonari, Murulkurd.
viii. Odisha (Dhauli, Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri, Udaygiri, Langudi, Khandagiri).
ix. Chhattisgarh – Sirpur.
x. West Bengal – Kolkata (Indian Museum)
xi. Sikkim – Rumtek, Enchay and other Monasteries.
xii. Arunachal Pradesh –Tawang and Bomdila.