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Haryana » Governance

Posted at: Mar 23, 2016, 12:24 AM; last updated: Mar 23, 2016, 12:24 AM (IST)

One year on, govt fails to promote Buddhist tourism

One year on, govt fails to promote Buddhist tourism
The historical Buddhist stupa at Adi Badri in Yamunanagar district. Tribune photo: Ravi Kumar

Vishal Joshi

Tribune News Service

Kurukshetra, March 22

Even after a year, the government has failed to promote Buddhist tourism in the state. On April 10 last year, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had announced a grant of Rs 50 crore for an historical park to be set up at Topra Kalan village, 15 km from Yamunanagar town on the Kurukshetra-Haridwar road, to promote Haryana as a Buddhist tourism destination.

Brainchild of Siddhartha Gauri of The Buddhist Forum (TBF), a Yamunanagar-based NGO, there was a plan to establish all major Asoka pillars and rock edicts in India and abroad, a museum and planting a sapling of Mahabodhi tree from Sri Lanka at the site in Yamunanagar district.

Village panchayat played a key role in the project where it unanimously donated 27 acres of the common land for the park. The socio-cultural project was planned at promoting tourism by attracting Buddhists and other tourists. However, inquiries made by The Tribune revealed that no progress had been made in the project.

Sources said the state government had planned to rope in the Centre for financial and archaeological support for the project. But the Union Culture and Tourism Ministry decided not to fund the project in Haryana and instead gave emphasis on the traditional Buddhist tourist spots in Bihar, said sources.

Official sources said later, the state government also unsuccessfully tried to rope in corporate houses from China to boost Buddhist tourism in the state.

As the Topra Kalan project was marred by financial strains, villagers laboured to build the park with a hope that the project would boost economy of nearby villages.

Meanwhile, Gauri and Topra Kalan sarpanch had written to the Prime Minister Office to intervene and grant financial support from the ministries concerned.

He said the proposed historical park had the potential to boost rural economy of the region as its planned promotion would attract a large number of spiritual and religious visitors from India and abroad.

“In the ancient time, Haryana remained an important place where Buddhism flourished. Several Buddhist stupas in Kurukshetra, Yamunanagar, Karnal and Hisar districts are still present and they can be exploited for tourism purposes,” said the activist.

Historical park

Gauri said it was a little known that the iconic Asoka Pillar, which now stands at Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi, was in fact originally erected at Topra Kalan before it was shifted by Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq in the 14th Century. The fact was documented by Tughlaq’s contemporary historian Shams-i-Siraj, he said.

The pillar, in fact, was the only one in India with seven edicts — all others have only six.

“British archaeologist and historian James Prinsep was the first one to decipher the Brahmi script on the pillar in 1837and establish the Haryana connect,” the activist said.

The pillar, made of chunar rocks mined near Varanasi, was ferried from Topra (then in Ambala district) through the Jamuna river (now called Yamuna) to Delhi.

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