Patna, Feb 18 (Calcutta Tube) Bihar is preparing an ambitious master plan to develop Nalanda as a tourist hub to attract more foreign and domestic travellers.
The tourism department is working on the master plan to develop Nalanda, on the lines of Bodh Gaya, to provide facilities of international standard to tourists, the department’s principal secretary, Rashmi Verma, told IANS.
Official sources in the chief minister’s office here said the state tourism department was directed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to develop Nalanda, about 100 km from here.
‘Nitish Kumar showed personal interest in the project during his visit to Rajgir, a tourist destination, in the end of December,’ an official said.
Rajgir is in Nalanda, which is the home district of Nitish Kumar. In the last four years, he has announced various development projects in the district.
Verma said infrastructure like roads, hotels, resorts, ethnic cottage, auditorium, shopping complex, roadside cafeteria and toilets of international standard would be developed in Nalanda. Ruins of the excavated site of 2,500-year-old Nalanda University, considered to be one of the world’s first residential universities, is a tourist destination in Bihar.
Nalanda, founded in the fifth century AD, was a famous seat of learning. Though the Buddha (563 to 483 BC)had visited Nalanda several times, the centre of Buddhist learning shot to fame much later, during the 5th-12th centuries.
After Bodh Gaya, Nalanda is the most important destination for tourists in Bihar. Bodh Gaya town in Gaya district is considered the birth place of Buddhism. The Mahabodhi temple at Bodh Gaya is 1,500 years old and was declared a World Heritage Site in June 2002. The Buddha had attained enlightenment 2,500 years ago under a Bodhi tree near this temple.
The state government will seek help of various government agencies, including the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), deemed university Nav Nalanda Mahavihara (NNM) and forests and environment, tourism, road and public works departments to develop Nalanda.
Official sources in ASI’s Patna circle office said Nalanda is in the tentative list for being nominated as a World Heritage Site. ‘The flow of tourists to Nalanda was showing an increasing trend, a positive aspect to develop it soon,’ an ASI official said.
In the first week of February, hundreds of Buddhist scholars, academics, monks, travel and tour operators and media persons from across the world attended the ‘International Buddhist Conclave – Experience Buddhism in the land of its origin’ at Nalanda.
The main objective of the two-day international conclave was to give a major thrust to cultural tourism and explore the potential related to the Buddhist circuit in India and especially in Bihar, an official of the tourism department said.
(Imran Khan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)