Stories from January to June 2006
Drawings from a trip to India in 1977-78
Melbourne, Tuesday June 20th 2006. If you follow the link marked India
1977 to the right you will find some sketches from my first trip
to India. They don't contain images of Bodhgaya, but they do show some
of my first impressions of India almost thirty years ago.
Air and Noise Pollution Disrupts Daily Life
Bodhgaya, Monday, June 19, 2006 (Dainik
Jagran). After the formation of the new government in the state
the electricity supply situation has become a problem for people. Due
to the irregular supply the use of generators has increased. Although
there usage is mostly by richer families and government offices and
they are used in mobile towers [on trolleys?]. Due to this the air is
polluted and nearby people disturbed by the noise. Due to the lack of
regular electricity and the use of generators a new business has sprung
up. Those who run the generators are earning an income, but those who
live nearby are getting breathing problems and ear damage.
In several places in the town generators are being used in the open.
Due to which the people on the streets are afflicted by the noise and
exhaust fumes. The atmosphere is disturbed in the area. It is said that
there is hardly an area of the town where these generators and their
distribution wires are not to be found. Several luxury hotels in the
Bodhgaya market have open air generators which are in the vicinity of
the Mahabodhi temple. Sources say that the air near the generators becomes
like dark clouds. Despite the fact that senior local officials use this
route none of them has put a stop to this practice, whilst they have
held many meetings about freeing Bodhgaya from pollution and made many
big announcements about how they were doing this. These days it is also
the marriage season and up to late at night the air is rent by the sound
of fireworks. Also in Pacchatti area of Bodhgaya three mobile towers
have now been built where there is no electricity supply and so generators
run all the time and people in nearby homes are disturbed.
Pali Canon Now Available as Full Text Searchable Online Database
Melbourne, Monday May 29 2006. (Peter Friedlander). I have put a digital
searchable version of the Pali Canon online at this url http://www.chaf.lib.latrobe.edu.au/dcd/pali.htm.
If you can read some Pali it means you can now search for all of the
early references to Bodhgaya (called "uruvela" in the Pali
Buddhist texts) and read about Bodhgaya two and a half thousand years
No Progress despite formation of Town Council
Jagran Online Edition), Sunday May 28 2006. Despite the formation
of the Bodhgaya town council (literally the Bodhgaya Town Panchayat)
it has not been possible for there to be any development in the urban
areas. The fourteen representatives elected to the urban wards have
not been able to reach the expectations of the people. The complaints
of the people are being ignored, whether the matter is of cleaning,
drinking water or street lighting. Such matters can be seen in every
ward. Some wards of the town council seem like rural areas, they do
not like they are in an urban area. The inhabitants of these wards are
surrounded by dirt and deprived of electricity and drinking water.
The main road in Bodhgaya passes by the Kalacakra field. The street
lights erected on this street have been out of order for at least the
last month. There is utter darkness ('well [like] darkness'). Whilst
the local administration has allotted the land on either side of the
road for the footpath vegetable sellers market which has been evicted
from the Godam road [where it used to be in the town centre]. The market
used to be busy up to eight o'clock at night when it was in the Godam
road in the town. One reason was that there was lighting and electricity.
But after dark on the Kalacakra field it is utterly dark. Despite the
residences of most of the representatives of these wards housing, and
route to housing, being on this road. Even so it is like this. The state
of the street lighting is like this in several urban areas. Those in
the know say that for only a nominal cost the street lighting could
be fixed. By which adequate light could be cast on the streets. The
streets are swept in the urban area every day in the name of cleaning.
The Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee even provided a 'tipper-tempo'
to the town council to do the work. But there is a pile of rubbish by
the corner where the town council office is where everyday two-wheelers
are involved in accidents. The Town Council has not found it convenient
to throw out the dust. It is about four years since the Town Council
was elected and the representatives chosen. But the only drain in Bodhgaya
has not yet managed to be completely cleaned. There are continued encroachments
on the drain. Due to which the drain has been turned into a gutter.
[I.e. it does not drain.-pgf] Due to this there is a problem for the
dirty water to get out. The swamp of dirty water [i.e. sewage] on the
South and North of the Pacchatti suburb is a problem to its inhabitants.
Maitreya Project Not Coming back to Bodhgaya
"Officials jittery as CM arriving today"
Melbourne, Monday May 29th 2006, Peter Friedlander. I have now been
contacted by a number of people, in one way or another related to the
Maitreya project, who inform me that the newspaper reports of the Maitreya
Project coming back to Bodhagaya are incorrect. I have not put this
up before as I was waiting to see if any reports to this effect appeared
in the Indian papers, they have not as far as I have seen.
Melbourne, Sunday, April 23, 2006, Peter Friedlander. The Times of India
carried a story by their reporter Abdul Qadir on Friday (link
to the story here
) which describes how in the run up to a visit by
Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar, on Friday local officials have
shown worry about their implementation of the various schemes for the
The article ends by saying " Besides water, law and order, the tardy
execution of the Bodh Gaya Master Plan and lack of efforts to promote
spiritual tourism remains an area of concern, says activist Bhagwan Bhaskar.
According to Bodh Gaya-watchers, the failure of the Nitish government
to sack Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee secretary Kalicharan Yadav,
the RJD activist whose appointment created a furore in Buddhist circles
and Buddhist religious groups protested the decision and posted very unsavoury
details about Yadav's past on the Mahabodhi Temple website, has come in
for criticism from several quarters including the Buddhist clergy. ".
Sita Becomes a Sati by jumping on Funeral Pyre
Imamganj (Gaya), Sunday, April 23, 2006. (Dainik
Jagran Online Edition) In the village of Siddhapur in the Imamganj
area of the district Sita Prasad (77) jumped onto the funeral pyre of
her husband Sugreeva Prasad (82) and became a 'Sati'. The scene of the
event is in the State Legislative Assembly constituency of Uday Narayan
Chaudrya the head of the Legislative Assembly.
Sita's sons Ramashankar and Sanjay reported the event. The sons said
their mother was of a religious frame of mind and would go and listen
to sermons being preached in the area. On Thursday night after lighting
the pyre for her husband the family members all returned home and went
to sleep. Then Sita in the middle of the night went back the kilometre
to the burning ground and jumped onto her husbands funeral pyre and
committed suicide. It is believed that on jumping on the pyre she was
badly burnt. Due to it being night there was no uproar and she died.
In the morning her family members went looking for her, but in the meanwhile
a local person reported that there body on the funeral pyre had not
burned properly. Then the family arrived at the burning ground and seeing
the sight they were all speechless [aavaak?]. Sita Devi's body was lying
on the pyre. [Note: in this area of Bihar married women are all referred
to as Devi, 'goddess', so the sentence has two possible readings 'the
Goddess Sita's body
or Mrs Sita's body
:-pgf] The news of
Sita's becoming a Sati spread like wild fire through the area, several
possibilities are being talked about.
Police Fire on Unemployed in Bodhgaya, Dozens of Vehicles Destroyed
Bodhgaya, Tuesday, 18 April 2006, (Dainik
Jagran Online Edition).
The situation become explosive on Monday in the stadium situated in
the Magadh University compound when in order to bring the situation
under control armed police of the Border Security Force fired several
rounds into the air to control the angry applicants for the authentication
of their certificates in relation to their re-instatement [perhaps:-recruitment]
into the armed Border Security Force. The enraged applicants set fire
to one bus of the State Transport Corporation and damaged dozens of
vehicles. In protest at the police firing the unemployed youths made
an uproar on the Gaya-Dhobhi road on Monday. Transport near the University
was blocked for hours. Under the command of the DM Sandeep Paundarik
and the Police Superintendent Dr. Amit Kumar the police and the semi-military
force brought the situation under control. Soldiers from the Rapid Action
Force were stationed at the site.
According to reports the applicants became angry due to so called highhandness
in the re-application procedures. Stone throwing began at the re-application
site due to which there was uproar. [The rest of article repeats this
in more detail followed by a statement from the DM Sandeep Paundarik
denying that any firing actually took place and blaming anti-social
elements for causing the riot, but the commanders of the police force
and BSF 'remained silent' when asked about this by the Jagran correspondent.]
Maitreya Project Back on the Books for Bodhgaya?
Melbourne, Monday April 17th 2006, Peter Friedlander. In another
development for Bodhgaya it seems that the Maitreya Project is coming
back to Bodhgaya, although the Maitreya
Project Website does not as yet carry this story. Also in the TOI
report, cited below, it is said to be 150 feet high, but in the publicity
related to the project it is still spoken of as being 152 meters high,
for the latest report on the project fund raising tour see Hawaii.Health
Govt to sign MoU for Maitreya project
Sunday, March 19, 2006 01:52:53 am TIMES
NEWS NETWORK ]
PATNA: Good news for Bihar. The prestigious Maitreya statue project
has been shifted back to Bihar. The state government will soon sign
a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Maitreya project authorities
that will identify terms and conditions in the best interests of both
the parties, said an official. full story on the Times
of India website.
"Bodh Gaya Nalanda Indo-Asian Institute of Learning" to
be built in Bodhgaya, or Vaishali, or Nalanda?
Melbourne, Monday April 17th 2006, Peter Friedlander. In a report in
the Patna Daily further references to the University project announced
by the President of India are found. The Patna Daily writer Indra reports
that a new university is to be built and "An International city
on the line of Pondicherry can come up in the vicinity of Vaishali,
Rajgriha or Buddha Gaya." This sounds highly unlikely to me. Still
read the article and see what you think. Report on the Patna
Plan to develop Bodhgaya as World Buddhist Centre
Times of India, Sunday April 16th, 2006. The Times of India carries
a report today on the Bodhgaya redevelopment plan. The report consists
largely of statements made by HUDCO's Executive Director (Design and
Development) RK Safaya and seems to mesh to some degree with what the
Hindi language press is reporting, but also be a bit different. R.K.
Safaya is reported as saying that "all shops located outside the
temple walls be shifted to an area beyond one kilometre of the over
2000-year-old monument." and that "Commercial complexes are
being built right outside the one kilometre radius of the temple, which
have been designated as Nodes 1 and 2, where the shops near the temple
will be shifted." It will be very important to see how this plans
is implemented as it will clearly have an enormous impact on Bodhgaya.
to the full story on the Times of India Website.
It is interesting to compare this story
with that from July 6th 2002, where it was specifically promised
that no building be demolished within the one kilometer radius, only
no new construction allowed. So what in the end seems to be happening
is just what was originally described in the Times
of India article of June 29th 2002 when the World Heritage Listing
was first announced.
Bodhgaya Inhabitants Suspicious of Master Plan
Jagran Online Edition, Thursday April 13, 2006).
After a delay of about two years work has begun at the suggestion of
the Central Tourism Minister for the all round development of Bodhgaya
according to UNESCO guidelines and the Master Plan. However, the inhabitants
of Bodhgaya are once more suspicious of this. The Central Tourism Minister
Ambika Soni arrived on a two day tour of Bihar to inspect all the tourist
sites. Arriving on Tuesday morning in Bodhgaya she gave an assurance
that all aid would be given for the development of Buddhist pilgrimage
sites. Apart from connecting Gaya city by rail routes with the North
Eastern and Southern States for the convenience of Hindu and Buddhist
pilgrims she announced several other development works.
The local inhabitants are astonished at the announcement that within
two months according to the master plan business institutions and 'encampments'
[housing?] are to be constructed at Node-1 [the riverside road beyond
the high school.-pgf] and Node-2 [near the block office.-pgf] and the
businesses running near the temple are to be relocated.
[I feel I have to comment on this because what it implies, I believe,
is that the existing Bodhgaya village it to be destroyed, people's shops
and homes are to be demolished it seems on an extensive scale and they
are to be moved to new locations far from where tourists go and in the
case of businesses which rely on tourism this can only spell disaster.
Depending on how well, or badly, this work is done, and considering
that it is all now to be done in only two months, the implications will
have long lasting effects on the lives of the local people, particularly
the poorer local people.-pgf]
At the request of the District Magistrate Mr Rehmani and other officials
the Central Tourism Minister Mrs Soni declared that Kurkihar would be
developed as a tourist site and handed over the responsibility for running
the bus service from Gaya to Bodhgaya to the Bihar Tourist Department.
[it is currently run by private buses.-pgf]
It is notable that since the 1990s there has been a lack of a lake
to immerse images [after the festivals of Durga Puja etc.] and for the
performance of Chatt Puja. This absence of a lake was drawn to the attention
of Mrs Soni, and the Bihar Tourism Minister Nand Kishor Yadav by the
secretary of the Temple Management Committee Kali Charan Yadav. Mrs
Soni then indicated that Mr Nand Kishor Yadav and indicated that he
should fulfill this demand. It is noteworthy that in the 1990s the then
District Magistate Rajabala Varma banned the immersing of statues in
the Muchalinda pond of the Mahabodhi temple. After that for the immersing
of statues and the observance of Chatt Puja the Maya lake was restored.
But after the [current] development works at the Maya lake it no longer
has any water in it. Due to this for people in Bodhgaya and around it
there is a problem about where to immerse statues. Nowadays in order
to immerse their statues people have to go ten kilometers to the Jindapur
village lake near Gaya town.
Bodhgaya Master Plan to be implemented within two months
Bodhgaya (Dainik Jagran Online Edition, April 11th 2006).
Central Tourism Minister Ambika Soni said that the Master Plan for the
development in and around the World Heritage Site of the Bodhgaya Temple
will be implemented within two months. She said that limitless possibilities
for the tourist industry in the district. The Central Tourism Minister
Mrs. Ambika Soni was addressing a high level meeting in Bodhgaya on
Tuesday. Before this Mrs Soni carried out an on site inspection of works
being done by HUDCO in Bodhgaya.
The high level meeting was held in a hotel in Bodhgaya. There were discussions
on several points in the meeting relating to the provision of special
facilities for tourists in view of the 2550th anniversary of the Buddha's
birth, enlightenment and death. Central Tourism Minister Mrs Soni said
that plans for development in Bodhgaya would be carried through in an
integrated fashion during the next two months. Mr Soni announced that
she herself would be visiting again on the 1st of July to inspect the
works done in the intervening period. Mrs Ambika Soni announced funding
of two crore and 36 lakhs Rupees [around 700 thousand Australian dollars:-pgf]
for development of 85 business institutions in Node-1 [the riverside
area] and 185 institutions in Node-2 [near the block office], and apart
from this after the opening of the encampment [it is unclear to me what
parav refers to in this context, a temporary camp for the anniversary
celebrations?-pgf] there would be a formal inauguration. So that there
could be greenery and peace near the World Heritage Mahabodhi Temple.
[There is something missing from Hindi sentence it seems]. She said
that in view of the importance of Gaya and Bodhgaya the central government
tourism department would pay for the beautification of Gaya Railway
station. Along with that the central government would shortly put into
service direct train services from Gauhati to Gaya and Chennai to Gaya
to make tourism from convenient to travellers from not only South India
but also Sri Lanka and Burma and Bhutan. But, provision of the road
from the station to Bodhgaya, and bus services, would be the responsibility
of the state government. To make travel to and from Patna convenient
there would be a bypass built in Gaya on the Kundi Navada to Chandauti
road. She said that development works in Bodhgaya should be according
the guidelines laid down by UNESCO. For this reason she suggested establishing
a high level committee. To provide safety for the tourists and to make
staying at the Monasteries convenient Mrs Soni said in answer to a question
that tourist police had been formed in various parts of the country,
it was only in Bihar that it was left over, which depended on the state
government. She said that tourists could stay where they liked. This
was a personal matter for them. All that was left was the matter of
them staying in Buddhist Monasteries, and this was a matter for the
state government. It was the responsible of the state government to
raise state revenues. Mrs Soni said that in the current year the Central
Government had undertaken various measures to increase tourism. Under
this several airports in the country were being enlarged. She also said
that Gaya International Airport falls within this scope. For the development
of the airport the state government has asked for land to be made available.
In the meeting the HUDCO director of works, R. K. Safaya presented the
master plan and gave several bits of information. [the remainder of
the article consists of a list of names of those who attended the meeting.
Central Tourism Minister Inspects Development Works
Bodhgaya (Dainik Jagran Online Edition, April 11th 2006).
The Central Tourism Minister Ambika Soni arrived on Tuesday morning
by train with departmental officials on a tour to inspect development
works. On arriving she changed her program from that which was predetermined
and started by cutting the tape to open the lake name Maya which had
been built at a cost of 1.5 crore rupees by the Tourism Department and
planting saplings of 'parijat' in the compound. Not even the high officials
of the district had been informed that this would take place. The first
stage of the 'uplift' works at the Maya lake has now been completed.
After this the Minister and departmental officials worshiped in the
central chamber of the World Heritage Mahabodhi Temple and at the Vajrasana
and toured the Muchalinda tank and the meditation garden. Whilst touring
the Mahabodhi temple inspected the works done in collaboration with
the Tourism Department and extensive information about the Heritage.
[note this does not make sense in the Hindi original either.-pgf] During
this the secretary of the Temple Management Committee, Kalicharan Yadav
directed her attention to the need to make convenient the routes for
going between the various Buddhist sites in the area. Dr Yadav gave
her information about the beautification works going on at the Kalacakra
field and its enclosing walls and the construction of the ring road
near to it, the proposed bridge over the Mahanama river on the route
to Buddhist site of Dungeshwari and the installation of a modern Hark
system at the Mahabodhi temple [a kind of thing where you hire a set
of headphones which have on them a guided tour of the sites around the
temple.-pgf]. Also, Professor Vijay Kumar Mithu, the head of the Rahul
Gandhi Message Program of Gaya gave a memo to her concerning the development
of basic infrastructure for tourism.
The Central Tourism Minister inspected the beautification works going
on at the Kalacakra field, the construction works going on at Node-1,
the Gaya-Bodhgaya river side road area, and thus reached the Archaeological
Survey of India Museum. Having inspected carefully the ancient remains
kept in the museum she made several suggestions. In the museum she said
that the holes in the compound should be filled up and the ancient remains
kept in the compound should be surrounded by chains to protect them.
Mrs Soni met with some Buddhist monks in the museum. Mrs Soni did a
site inspection of the construction works going on near the Block office,
the site of the proposed Node-2.
The Minister Mrs Soni in the afternoon inspected the uplift works being
carried out under the supervision of the Archaeological Survey of India
at Sujata's hut [the excavation and restoration work on a stupa in the
village of Bakraur on the other side of the river from Bodhgaya.-pgf]
and then went on by road to Rajgir. It is known that on Wednesday Mrs
Soni will meet with the chief minister of the state Nitish Kumar. From
the Mahabodhi Temple [management committee] she along with several other
officials received models of the Mahabodhi temple and khata [ceremonial
cloths given in Tibetan tradition.-pgf].
Minister Prem Kumar Takes Refuge in Bodhgaya
Jagran Online, 8 April 2006). It is the talk of the town in Gaya
that the District Water Minister Prem Kumar has taken refuge in a hotel
in Bodhgaya due to the campaign by angry protestors and town members
of parliament against the drinking water and electricity crisis in Gaya.
The Minister Mr Kumar arrived in the town on Friday. After taking part
in a program on Friday evening of the IMA [?] he went to stay the night
in a hotel in Bodhgaya. On Saturday he was not seen anywhere in the
urban area. According to information received he has a room booked at
the hotel Lumbini, in Bodhgaya, up to Saturday night.
Multiple Views: One Story
Melbourne, April 9th 2006. The following four stories represent three
views on the same event, as seen by the Jagaran over two reports, an
English language paper in Pune, and a monk based in Bodhgaya.-PGF
Countless Artists Dance to the beat of attractive 'Light and Sound'
Jagran online edition, April 10, 2006 ). The Japanese Kosmo Peace
Project presentation of a concert 'To Save the Earth [English transliterated
into Hindi] for World Peace was completed on Sunday night on the Kalacakra
field in the sacred land of Bodhgaya. Preparations for the program had
been going on for over a week. Japanese, Chinese and Indian artists
dressed in traditional clothing performed their arts to the tunes played
by the famous artist Yasuhito Takimoto. The audience eager to see were
fixed to their seats during the performance. This was perhaps the first
opportunity to see Indian and International artists performing on stage
like this in Bodhgaya. This two hour performance was broadcast live
on several TV channels in Japan.
To begin with the Indian and Japanese artists, dressed in traditional
clothing, performed the 'plavar' [?] fan dance to seven notes while
acting out the scene after the birth of the Buddha. After than the dance
company from Pune performed a Kathak dance on the four scenes [which
led to the Buddha leaving home] and his departure from his home. After
than the Chinese artists performed a drama called 'King of lion' [?]
and a Chinese Opera about the Journey to the West [the account of a
Chinese pilgrims visit to India in the 5th century?]. Which is called
'thakpa thim' in Tibetan. [Sorry I really don't understand this article
very well.-PGF] In regard to which it is said that it represents how
when Buddha was practicing austerities he was menaced by various ghosts.
[remainder of story contains more details of the performance. There
was also a story the previous day about the dress rehersal.]
Bodhagaya to tap its feet to Foreign Musicans Tune
Jagran online edition, April 6, 2006 ). Several renowned Chinese,
Japanese and Indian artists will present a musical program on the coming
ninth of April on the Kalacakra field in the sacred land of Bodhgaya,
home to mercy, compassion, truth and non-violence. For the forthcoming
program on Thursday night the Kalacakra field was prepared with a stage
and lighting and amidst all of this the assembled artists rehearsed.
In view of the proposed concert preparations of the stage were being
made on a war footing.
According to information received a mission of about one hundred Japanese
artists arrived in Bodhgaya on Wednesday night. In this group artists
and assistant artists are included. Indeed, the famous Japanese artist
Yasu Hito Taki Moto [or perhaps Takimoto
Yasuhito see this article about this musician in Vietnam. -ed.]
has been staying in Bodhgaya since the fourth of April. Whilst select
artists from China and India will arrive late on Saturday night. The
proposed program of music and dance will last for two hours. For this
on the Kalacakra field as well as the stage already being prepared lighting
towers have been prepared under the supervision of Japanese engineers.
Along with this a black ‘baik skreen' has been errected on the stage.
For the audience some three thousand chairs have been set out in a gallery.
In it invitation cards for the guests will be laid out along with places
for people to sit. Whilst the audience will also take advantage of this
being a free concert.
In view of the forthcoming concert three splendid gateways have been
errected over the roads leading to the Mahabodhi temple, the Kalacakra
field and Bodhgaya entry roads. Whilst, the security at the Kalacakra
field has been put into the hands of a private security agency. [for
a different version of this story see the next article]
Newsline ( Friday , April 07, 2006 )
Using their creativity to promote the message of peace will be
the members of Maneesha Nrityalaya from Pune. The dance troupe
will be performing at the Maha Bodhi temple in Bodh Gaya, on April
9, in a programme that is dedicated to earth and ways of saving
A joint venture between the Maneesha Nrityalaya, Cosmo Peace from
Japan and a cultural group from China, the event will also include
a dragon dance by the Chinese troupe, a fan dance and a musical
presentation on the synthesizer by Yasuhito Takimoto, a Japanese
artiste. A similar performance will be held at Pune's Shaniwarwada
on April 16 and 17.
Japanese Concert? to be held at Bodhi Tree
Melbourne, March 29, 2006. (Peter Friedlander). Ven. Prajnasheel Thero
has circulated an email about a proposed concert, if I understand him
right, at the Bodhi tree (read letter
here). I am not sure really what it amounts to other than the holding
of an event at the Bodhi tree which includes music and large generators
it seems. Hopefully in time newspaper reports will appear which will
explain what the event is and what makes it special. Certainly I cannot
recall large mobile generators being a feature of events near the Bodhi
tree, but large sound systems are often in place for teachings and Tibetan
monks often play, what seems to be music, around the Bodhi tree. This
seems to be a further case of a similar development, but this time involving
New Bodhgaya University Planned
India Press.com, March 29, 2006. The President of India Abdul Kalam
has announced the establishment of a new University, to be developed
in collaboration with other Asian countries, to be called "Bodhgaya
Nalanda Indo-Asian Institute of Learning", as part of a scheme
to help in the development of Bihar. Read more in the New
India Press. [PGF:- There is no mention of how it would be funded
or where it would actually be, in the heavily Naxalite infested Nalanda
district? Not very practical I would suspect, or in Bodhgaya, then how
would it relate to Magadh University which is already in Bodhgaya?]
Subdivisional Commissioner holds meeting about 'Master Plan'
Gaya, (Hindustan Times, Patna edition, 24 January, 2006, p. 5.). A meeting
was held in Bodhgaya on Monday under the leadership of the Subdivisional
[pramandaliya?] Commissioner Shakti Kumar Negi in order to settle the
objections of the people about the 'Master Plan' made by HUDCO
in the light of the directions by UNESCO. In the meeting HUDCO's head
architect R K Safaya, the assistant head of regional development for
Gaya, Suresh Singh of Bodhgaya citizen's Development front, Subhash
Varnval of the Business Council etc. were all present. It is known that
the plan prepared by HUDCO was presented to the chief minister [of Bihar]
on Saturday. It is to be implemented after the settlement of the public
objections received in regard to it. According to information received
about three hundred objections have been raised about it. Discussions
were held today about these objections. After the meeting concluded
development works managed by the centre in Bodhgaya were inspected by
Shakti Kumar Negi.
Bodhgaya Master Plan Rolls along.
Peter Friedlander, Melbourne, 21st March 2006. This is not a newspaper
article but rather some comments by myself, the person who erratically
runs this website. I was in Bodhgaya in January this year on retreat
at the Thai Temple and was able to get a bit of a sense of local feelings
about the development projects for Bodhgaya. Almost everybody I spoke
to had a sense that something was bound to happen eventually, and that
when it did they, small shopkeepers and local tradespeople would be
swept away in the developments. Nobody had the sense that the consultations
on the 'Master Plan' would mitigate its influence and everybody seemed
to think it was nothing but an excuse to develop the area for richer
sections of the community.
Indeed they seemed to feel that the English word 'master plan' was
a synonym for demolition. Now I am sure that not everybody in HUDCO
or the administration actually sees it that way, but it certainly looks
like it to many people I spoke to. The scheme is, after all, roughly
on the lines of demolishing the existing village around the temple and
relocating it several kilometers away beyond the present block office.
A number of people were worried that this would actually make the area
around the temple less safe as well, if it was basically a park rather
than a village, then it would be ideal for robbers and bandits to hang
out in, something which that area of Bihar is not short of.
Although its not perhaps directly comparable I experienced something
of parks around monuments when I went to Sarnath after Bodhgaya and
visited the Chaukhandi Stupa site. I and my wife went in about 4.30
and at about 5.15 when we wanted to leave found that the gatekeepers
had, without checking to see if anybody was in the compound, knocked
off promptly at five and gone home having locked the gates. The problem
was that they left us locked in the compound. Luckily some local children
then showed us the place to climb out (and in) over the fence round
the side. I wonder if the public servants looking after the proposed
park at Bodhgaya around the temple would be any more inclined to look
after the visitors than those of the ASI at Sarnath?
The other point might be to consider how such plans might be implemented
in Bodhgaya. For instance at present in Bodhgaya it is clear that something
has gone badly wrong with the traditional system by which water drained
from Bodhgaya into the river. Now pools of stagnant water collect around
the Pragya Vihar School, near the Mahayana Guest house and behind the
Burmese Temple. Why? Because illegal constructions, mostly hotels have
been built blocking the old drainage channels. So even though, no doubt,
on paper Bodhgaya still has a working, if rudimentary drainage system,
in practice it does not. There are countless local stories of such gaps
between plans and realities. It is a well known story in the village
that the hotels on the road that runs by the Thai Temple are all technically
'Temples' because they are built on a zone which is intended to be for
temples or monasteries. So when you go into the hotels they have a shrine
room in their lobby, thus making them technically a temple, with a hotel
attached. Indeed I was told that almost every new hotel in Bodhgaya,
and there are lots of them, is on paper a charitable religious trust.
Whatever the truth of such stories may be, I certainly cannot say that
they are all true, they show that many people believe there is a gap
between the plans that officials make and their implementation. If this
is true at present then how much more true would it be if Bodhgaya were
to be comprehansively redeveloped. I tremble to think.
Finally, its now four years since I started this site, and Buddha willing
I hope to keep it running a while longer. Enjoy, if you have not seen
it before a rather eccentric mix of stories translated from the Hindi
press and collected from different sources which illustrate the many
facets of Bodhgaya. A place where every particle of dust must have a
molecule of the dust the Buddha touched, but what else is mixed into
the dust you really don't want to know....
Some more Bodhgaya stories from the Hindustan Times of Tuesday the
24th of January in which the main Gaya story of the day is how some
prisoners at Gaya jail had managed to secretly dig a tunnel over a period
of a month out of the jail and escape in a manner which reminded the
staff writers of the film Sholay, and would remind most Westerners of
the film the great escape.
World Peace Cycle Tour reaches Bodhgaya
Gaya, (Hindustan Times, Patna edition, 24 January, 2006, p. 3.). Under
the leadership of the Buddhist society a cycle ride by 48 people for
World Peace arrived in Bodhgaya on Monday after having left Sarnath.
There are 18 Korean students in the Cycle Party. This party left Sarnath
on the 18th January. Suresh Bodh gave information to this effect that
this party will organise a seminar on world peace at the Jvain Tugedar
Society [Centre] at Dungeshvari. Also taking part in the tour is the
Manoj Varma the state general secretary of the Farmers section of the
JD-U [political party] of Bihar.
Angry Disabled people Burn Image of Health Officer
Gaya, (Hindustan Times, Patna edition, 24 January, 2006, p. 5.).
[In brief ... an article about how an angry crowd of about 200 disabled
people burnt an image of the local medical officer in Bodhgaya as he
had been instructed by officials in Patna to carry out medical examinations
of them and issue them with papers identifying them as disabled. However,
when they came at the appointed time to see him he had suddenly 'gone
on holiday' and would not see them or issue them with any papers which
allowed them to get various benefits of being disabled. In this way
it seemed that the medical officer was able to avoid seeing them and
they lost their chance to have these benefits accrued to them.]
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