BHUBANESWAR: The proposed extension of inter-state specialBuddhist train Mahaparinirvan Express to Odisha was finalized at a high-levelmeeting attended by chief secretary B K Patnaik here on Wednesday.
It has been decided that the train will run as a joint venturebetween the state-run Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC) and IndianRailway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). Chief minister Naveen Patnaikhad urged the Centre in May to extend the route of the special Buddhist trainto Odisha.
“Budhist sites like Lalitgiri, Khandagiri, Udayagiri,Chadragiri and Ratnagiri will be included in the tour itinerary of the Buddhistexpress,” a tourism officer said. “We proposed to the IRCTC to runthe train in Januray and February,” he added.
At present, the Buddhist circuit special train covers mostparts of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, connecting several Buddhist sites inBodhgaya, Nalanda, Rajgir, Sarnath, Gorakhpur, Khushinagar, Gonda, Sravasti andAgra. The entire tour takes seven nights and eight days. Under the package,pilgrims are also taken to Lumbini in Nepal by bus from Khushinagar, sourcessaid.
Sources said the Odisha chapter of Indian Association of TourOperators (IATO) had in the past demanded that the Buddhist train’s route beextended to Odisha. “It had been a longstanding demand. It is good if thestate government facilitates extension of the train route. Since tribal tourismis in doldrums, we need to tap the Buddhist tourism sector,” city-basedtour operator Benjamin Simon said.
Even though thousands of tourists from East Asia, South-EastAsia and Nepal visit Bodh Gaya in Bihar every year, thefootfall in Odisha is poor. Sources said nearly 1,175 tourists from South Koreavisited the state in 2009. A little over 3,500 visitors from Japan touredOdisha in the same year. In all, 8,547 tourists from different South East Asiancountries had come to the state in 2009.
“We will organize road shows and seminars in Thailand andTaiwan for attracting Buddhist tourists to Odisha,” the tourism officersaid.