[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index
Slow delivery for Buddha birthplac
- Subject: Slow delivery for Buddha birthplac
- From: moe@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 11 May 1999 12:59:00
Subject: Slow delivery for Buddha birthplace project (BBC)
Monday, May 10, 1999 Published at 18:28 GMT 19:28 UK
World: South Asia
Slow delivery for Buddha birthplace project
Lumbini has attracted the interest of archaeologists
By BBC Correspondent Alastair Lawson
The birthplace of Buddha is being turned into an
international pilgrimage centre - a project which the
authorities in Nepal hope will draw visitors to their
The village of Lumbini is one of Nepal's most famous
landmarks, because Buddha was born there more than
2,600 years ago.
But plans to develop Lumbini as a world pilgrimage
centre for Buddhists have progressed painfully slowly -
hampered by poor organisation and a shortage of funds.
The idea to turn the site into an international pilgrimage
centre goes back at least three decades.
It was given a significant boost when the Buddhist
Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant, visited
the site in 1967. Then as now, the site of Buddha's
birthplace was in a small village in a remote part of
In 1978, the Nepalese
Government formed what
they called a master plan to
develop Lumbini within seven
The government said it
wanted to implement plans,
drawn up by a Japanese
architect, that would
landscape the site, providing
it with a museum and
The idea was to encourage
countries with Buddhist
populations - such as Japan, Sri Lanka, India, South
Korea, China, Burma and Thailand - to invest in the
All of these countries responded in different ways. They
have either built Buddhist temples, shrines or
monasteries near the site, or have constructed hotels for
At least five years to go
But money for the master plan was not so fast-flowing.
The Lumbini Development Trust says that even by the
most optimistic assessment, the plan will not be
completed within the next five years.
That is the key reason why Lumbini does not have a
great deal to offer the foreign pilgrim beyond being a
place of prayer and veneration. Some argue that a
pilgrimage site needs to be nothing more than that.
But others, including at least one former member of the
trust appointed by the government to develop Lumbini,
They say that the site is not attracting enough pilgrims
from abroad because there are no guidebooks for visitors
to buy, and few restaurants nearby.
They argue that Lumbini does not have the infrastructure
to cope with large numbers of tourists. There are not
enough hotels, they say, and the area has poor road and
Most of the site is currently being dug up by
archaeologists eager to find out more about the village
where Buddha was born.
The area surrounding a stone that marks the exact
location of the birth is covered by a tarpaulin. However,
visitors can see is a stone pillar, erected by Emperor
Ashoka around 249 BC, to commemorate Buddha's
Estimates of the number of pilgrims visiting the site vary:
The Lumbini Development Trust say that it is as many
as 100,000 people a year, but some independent
observers say the true number is half this figure.
Ultimately, the development of Lumbini will be
determined by the Nepalese Government. The
government currently allocates around $15,000 a year to
the project, in addition to deciding who should head the
Lumbini Development Trust.
Critics say that money provided by the government is not
sufficient to fulfil the master plan. The government says it
does not have the funds.
Whatever the case, matters are made worse by the fact
that the leadership of the Trust changes every time a
new government is formed. This lack of continuity can
clearly be seen by the fact that Nepal has had seven
changes of government since 1991.
Like many other key questions in Nepal, the
development of Lumbini appears to have fallen victim to
the country's ongoing political uncertainty.