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Indian pilgrimage hub eyes return of Chinese visitors

By APARAJIT CHAKRABORTY in Bodh Gaya, India | China Daily | Updated: 2022-05-25 07:49
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Monks leave the Mahabodi Dhammaduta Vihara Temple in Bangalore, India, on May 16 after offering prayers during the Buddha Purnima festival, which marks Buddha's birthday. MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP

Destination well placed to attract influx of arrivals, diplomat says

Deep in the vast plain of northeastern India, the chirping of birds and soft Buddhist chanting early in the mornings and evenings provide the perfect backdrop for meditation.

Buddhists around the world consider the temple city of Bodh Gaya in Bihar state, about 500 kilometers from Kolkata, one of the most important pilgrimage centers for the religion.

Zha Liyou, Chinese consul general to Kolkata, highlighting the importance of Bodh Gaya as a major tourist destination, said that it has the potential to trigger an influx of arrivals from China.

Speaking from Kolkata, Zha said that the Mahabodhi Temple Complex in Bodh Gaya was a major tourist destination for Chinese before the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. Many Chinese still want to visit the city, but the pandemic has stalled arrivals, Zha added.

According to the scriptures, Buddha attained enlightenment 2,540 years ago in Bodh Gaya after sitting under the Bodhi Tree near the Mahabodhi temple for a week, meditating on the causes of suffering. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Zha said that in addition to Bodh Gaya, destinations such as Nalanda, Rajgir, Vaishali and Patna, the capital of Bihar, are favorites among Chinese tourists, adding that the state is also home to numerous stupas.

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