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Last updated: January 31, 2008

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2007 Stories (26 Items)

Alert on Mahabodhi Temple Security
Town Commissioner dispells confusion over 'Building Bylaws'
Tibetan Traders Spread out in Bodhgaya
Encroachments demolished in Bodhgaya
Action to be taken against encroachments
Administration starts to levy fines on encroachers
Differences between Hindi and English Press Coverage of Stories
Bodhgaya Memorandum
Bodhgaya Master Plan Approved by Bihar Cabinet
Dainik Jagran's web presence becomes Jagran Yahoo! India
Nagar Panchyat chief and 11 others prosecuted under [legal code clause?] 107
Incidents of theft from Footpath shops increase
The Maitreya Project
Maitreya Statue Raises its Head again
Scuffle with Mahabodhi Temple Guards
Rumours and Accusations Run Rife
Dhammapada Translations
52,917 Foreign Visitors to Bodhgaya in 2006
Change of guard in Patna fails to rescue Bihar from grip of lawlessness
Bodhgayanews Five Years Old today!
No News on Bodhgayanews
Buddha-land blossoms with Sri-Lankan Pilgrims
Maitreya project faces rough weather
Dalai Lama to Inaugurate Tourism Conference
'Alimentary' Hindi
'Buddhist Bonanza For India'?

Alert on Mahabodhi Temple Security
Bodhgaya (Jagran Yahoo!) Dec 7, 2007. After the re-emergence of the incident concerning the cutting of a branch of the Bodhi tree in the Mahabodhi temple compound security has been heightened. Along with the security of the temple a Magistrate has also been posted for surveillance of the Bodhi tree. Bodhgaya Block Development Officer Anil Kumar said that apart from the security guards already posted in the temple compound an additional Magistrate, two assistants, a police officer and two police forces have been additionally posted. The posting of the Magistrate, assistants and police will be in three shifts for 24 hours a day. He said that one Magistrate has been posted at the Eastern door to the compound. He will have under his supervision the special circumstance of the opening and closing of the door for the Tibetans while they are bringing materials in and out for a puja. He said that ordinary people would not be allowed in or out though the Eastern door. Pra. Vi. Pa. [i.e. prakhand vikas padadhikari=Block Development officer) BDO Mr Kumar said that at night there would be video monitoring in the temple compound, so that foreign devotees practicing in the compound at night could be kept under surveillance. He said that this special surveillance would be continued until the next order issued by the District Magistrate and Temple Management Committee Officer Jitendra Srivastav.

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Town Commissioner dispells confusion over 'Building Bylaws'
Bodhgaya, Dec 6 2007 (Jagran Yahoo!).
The Town Commissioner S. P. Tivari on Thursday dispelled doubts cast over the 'Building Bylaws' in regard to the Bodhgaya Master Plan. Giving information to the people gathered in the meeting he said that it would be regarded as having been in effect since the day it was drafted. He said that no type of construction would remain within five hundred metres of the Mahabodhi temple. He said that buildings more than 50 years old would be left, which could be broken at the order of the Central Government. [It is unclear whether this means that some buildings more than 50 years old could also be demolished.-pgf].
He said that building owners should themselves take steps to remove their constructions from the prohibited area. In the prohibited and defined zones orders would be made by the board. He told people to construct buildings according to the plans. He said plans should be made according to the master plan. In the meeting Bodhgaya Hotel association and local people and International Monastery people were present.

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Tibetan Traders Spread out in Bodhgaya
Bodhgaya, Nov 23, (Jagran.Yahoo!). Tibetan traders's trade is nowadays flourishing in the urban areas of Bodhgaya. The eastern area of the Kalachakra field has been transformed into the Himachal Pradesh town of Dharmshala. There from morning till night national and international tourists can be seen strolling about. In this area for as long as the tourist season lasts Tibetan traders restaurants and refugee market are set up. On the one hand in the restaurants the national and international tourists enjoy tasty foods, whilst in the Refugee market there are crowds gathered to buy electronic goods, beauty products and woollen fabrics. Meanwhile, the local evicted traders are using push carts as mobile stores. Whilst the Tibetan traders are gradually taking over the footpath outside the Tibetan temple. It is reported that in the light of the order of the Magadh Divisional Commissioner K. P. Ramayya the local administration is making a wholehearted effort to prevent the setting up of any sort of stall on the footpath. To what extent this is effective on the Tibetan traders is something which the gaze of the evicted local traders is fixed upon.

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Encroachments demolished in Bodhgaya

image-demolition wreckage
An image taken from the south side of the Kalachakra field facing towards where Madras Café, some travel agencies, and the Ram Sewak Tea Corner were located.
Taken October 15 (all images and captions courtesy of J. A. Rodriquez)
  4 November 2007, Melbourne, Peter Friedlander. Continued reports are appearing in the Hindi press of actions against encroachments in Gaya and Bodhgaya. This is part of an ongoing attempt by administrations to remove encroachments which have been made on government land. There is also a long history in Bodhgaya of periodic clearances of street traders and demolition of buildings notified as encroachments and the current round is another episode in this history. It is often hard to get an impression from the news articles quite what is really going on at the local level. I am including here some pictures taken by J. A. Rodriquez related to the encroachment clearances in Bodhgaya and subsequent demonstrations against them by local residents, which give impressions of the results of the clearances as seen in Bodhgaya. full set of pictures

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Action to be taken against encroachments
October 15 2007 (Jagran Yahoo!). Bodhgaya (Gaya). Nowadays there is a turmoil amongst the footpath traders in Bodhgaya. After the announcement of the clearance of encroachments on government land on Thursday by the Commissioner K. P. Ramayya several shopkeepers felt themselves to be helpless. Whilst some sought refuge in the court. But, about 80 percent of the footpath shopkeepers have packed up their shops.
Meanwhile there has been an announcement by administration of action against the traders who have not cleared their shops from the goverment land. The Bodhgaya Block development officer Anil Kumar said that on Saturday, due to it being Id [the Islamic festival], action
was not taken. From Sunday the forcible removal of encroachers from goverment land, the payment of fines by them, and cases against them of interfering with goverment operations would be registered. He said that the administration was determined to liberate the government land from encroachments. Mr Kumar said that land would be allotted behind the Birla Dharmshala for the footpath shopkeepers. Earthworks are being undertaken on that site. The shop keepers allotted places there would not be have levies against them for two months. He said that those who are removed from government land would be allotted by lottery on Sunday land on the scale of 16 by 30 for big hotels, ordinary shops 10 by 15 and 8 by 10 feet. The BDO (Block Development Officer) said that the shop keepers would have to set up their shops on the allotted locations.

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[The following story relates to Gaya, rather than Bodhgaya, and shows how Bodhgaya is not alone in being singled out for action against encroachments.-PGF]

Administration starts to levy fines on encroachers
October 30 2007 (Jagran Yahoo) Gaya. The administration fined several thousand rupees from those encroaching on goverment land near the collectorate. The 'encroachment removal' campaign is being led by the Commissioner K. P. Rammaya and the [Gaya] BDO Pravin Vashista. Along with them are included Deputy Mayor Akhauri Onkar Nath Shrivastav, alias Mohan Shrivastav, the DM Jitendra Shrivastav, the SP Amit Jain, the SDO N. R. Tiwari, and the additional City Commissioner Ramavatar Ram and other officers.
Fines were extracted from the Rajkumar 'Tilkut' [a type of sweet] shop outside the treasury of one thousand rupees, and further fines from several shopkeepers around the main entrance to the Kedarnath Market. The administration also extracted fines of 100 rupees from the owner of a Maruti Van and an assistant medical doctor for illegal parking outside the main post office. The commissioner also warned shopkeepers at the 'Bombay Sale' that there were customers parked illegally on the street.

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Differences between Hindi and English Press Coverage of Stories
Melbourne, 30 October 2007 (Peter Friedlander). I recently had the opportunity to go to the 36th annual conference on South Asia at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. On October 14th I gave a paper there about how the Hindi and English language press in India cover stories differently. I started by saying "Hindi newspaper sales and readership have grown immensely since 1991. Readership has increased from 29 per thousand in 1991 to 69 per thousand in 2001 and has continued to grow up to the present day. The National Readership Survey in 2006 estimated there were 204 million readers of daily newspapers in India, and that 40 percent (81.6 million) were readers of Hindi papers and 10 percent (20.4 million) were readers of English papers. The top selling Hindi newspapers were the Dainik Jagran (with 21.2 million readers) and Dainik Bhaskar (with 21 million readers). In comparison the biggest readership for an English paper was the Times of India with 7.4 million. If you would like to know more about what I said you can listen to the audio of my Madison Conference talk (mp3 format, about 5mb, around 25 minutes).

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Bodhgaya Memorandum
Melbourne, 30 October 2007 (Peter Friedlander). A group of concerned academics, including Abhishek Singh Amar, Prabhat Krishna and David Geary have sent a memorandum to Nitish Kumar the Chief Minister of Bihar about the development plans for Bodhgaya. They started their memorandum by saying, 'This Memorandum is a joint statement provided by three academic scholars working on Bodhgaya. We are Abhishek Singh Amar (PhD Candidate) from the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies; Prabhat Krishna (PhD Candidate) from the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies and David Geary (PhD Candidate) University of British Columbia, Department of Anthropology, Canada. All three of us are conducting research on different aspects [historical/archaeological, legal and developmental/anthropological respectively] of Bodhgaya for our respective PhD's and have spent considerable time at Bodhgaya in recent years. We feel that given the sites increasing global importance we may be of some assistance in offering a critical perspective and suggestions that can be taken into account in order to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for this World Heritage site.' For more read the full Bodhgaya memorandum (pdf format, 140kb).

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Bodhgaya Master Plan Approved by Bihar Cabinet
24, October 2007 (Peter Friedlander). There was a report in the Hindustan Patna edition on the 30th September on how the Bihar cabinet had approved 25 new proposals, including the Bodhgaya master plan. Concerning the Master plan the news paper reports. 'To give an 'international look' to Bodhgaya the cabinet has approved a master plan for the years 2005-2031. In the plan the proposal is to increase the size of the city from its present 1700 acres to 3307 acres. The new boundary of Bodhgaya in the north will be up to Kendua and Khiryava. The new city's expanse in the South will be to Mocharim and in the East to the Mahana river and in the West to the Dhanadhava river. Regarding the Mahabodhi temple as the centre the city has been divided into two special heritage sites, 'A' and 'B'.' for the full article follow this link to Hindustan Dainik.

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Dainik Jagran's web presence becomes Jagran Yahoo! India
Melbourne (22 October 2007) Peter Friedlander. The leading Hindi daily paper the Dainik Jagran has entered a partnership with Yahoo! India and its Dainik Jagran website has now become Jagran Yahoo! India. One effect of this is that any previous links to Dainik Jagran stories will be to broken links. However, it seems to still be carrying local news about Bodhgaya, although the navigation has taken me a while to get used to and the number of stories seems to be much curtailed.
The first story from the new site I have read is given below. I have heard separately that Kalicaran Yadav has lost his place on the temple management committee, which is renewed every three years. I suspect that the story below relates to the new order in Bodhgaya in which Kalicaran Yadav is now a kind of opposition leader. Originally I believe he was regarded as a supporter of Lalu Prasad Yadav, but in this article he seems to be courting the support of the BJP. The background to the story is that on October 11th the adminstration announced that it was going to remove all the stalls which were encroachments on government land and build a market for them behind the Birla Temple, which led to a protest strike. I suspect that whilst the clearing of the government land of encroachments is a good thing in some ways, it could only have a negative effect on the traders whose previous locations on the main streets would have delivered walk in sales but would now be suffering due to being relocated to a less attractive location. However, as with all stories of this type there are no doubt many possible ways of looking at what is going on.

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Nagar Panchyat chief and 11 others prosecuted under [legal code clause?] 107
October 19, 2007 (Jagran Yahoo! India) Bodhgaya. After traders took out a torchlight march and sit in and demonstration following the demolition of buildings which were encroachments in Bodhgaya the administration took action under 107 against the leader of the Nagar Panchayat (Local Council) Arti Devi and 11 others. According to information received the main [administrative] circle officer issued a notice which was enacted on Friday.
According to information received on the basis of a joint report from Bodhgaya police station and block office action was taken against 11 people. Amongst whom were included the former secretary of the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee Kalicaran Yadav, Murari Singh, Markandey Singh, Mejhadhar Singh, The head of the footpath [traders] union Shakeel Akhtar, Safi Bhai Bedil and Jameel Akhtar. According to official sources after the liberation of government land from illegal encroachments it was alleged that without authorisation they organised a Torchlight march, sit in and demonstration and using load speakers disturbed the peace. Meanwhile the displaced foot path merchants in support of their demands continued their dharna (sit down demonstration akin to a picket) on Friday. In the evening the traders wearing black cloths took out a peace march. Which moved through the various streets of the town. The demonstrating traders also got the support of the BJP.

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Incidents of theft from Footpath shops increase
Bodhgaya, (Dainik Jagran). 2007-10-06. Incidents of theft of brass objects from the footpath shops along the wall of the Jayprakash Garden are on the increase these days. According to reports received three shops have been robbed this week. The shopkeepers report the thieves don't take stone statues or beads etc., but only take away the brass bells and statues. The shopkeepers view the thefts as minor and do not report them to the police. Due to which the boldness of the thieves is increasing.
It is said that for years the shopkeepers were able to leave their good tied down to their stalls. Then would open their stalls in the morning and in the evening tie them down with rope and plastic sheeting. Due to the increasing incidence of thefts the traders trading in cloth, pots etc. are growing increasingly worried.

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The Maitreya Project
Melbourne, 3 October, 2007 (Di Cousens). A crisis is building in the small Indian town of Kushinagar, where the Buddha died and was cremated 2500 years ago. Seven hundred and fifty acres of land is being compulsorily acquired by the state government of Uttar Pradesh so as to be leased to an entity called, ‘The Maitreya  Project', principally for the purpose of erecting a 500 foot statue of the future Buddha Maitreya. read full article

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Maitreya Statue Raises its Head again
Melbourne, September 12, 2007 (Peter Friedlander). There have been a number of items appearing on the net recently about the Maitreya statue project in Kushinagar, which was in the news on Jan 21 this year, and which was originally going to be built in Bodhgaya. An article by Daniel Pepper from Kushinagar has appeared in both Scotland on Sunday and the Christian Science Monitor which says that in order for the statue to be built 'seven villages and between 15,000 and 20,000 people will be displaced in the process'.
One of the people who has done much to bring this neglected story to Western attention is Jessica Falcone, an American Anthopologist from Cornell University. You can read her description of her experiences related to the project in the Wild River Review.

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Scuffle with Mahabodhi Temple Guards
Bodhgaya (Gaya), July 26, 2007 (Dainik Jagran). There was a scuffle between pilgrims who had come to worship at the temple and the Security Guards appointed by the Temple Management Committee and those posted by the SIS (?). The matter was resolved after it was referred to the Police station. Circle Inspector sub-in-charge V. P. Mehta said that on Thursday the Gaya inhabitant Mukesh Narang brought some guests of his who had come from out of station to worship at the temple. They brought their dog with them. The security guards at the gate stopped them from entering and heading in the direction of the central shrine. The guests of Mr Narang, who had come from elsewhere, called the security guards 'Biharis' and said some insulting things. Due to which the matter became heated. With one and another they started by throwing insults (literally using the 'tu' form of personal address) and then it progressed to fisticuffs. Mr Mehta said that once the matter was brought to the police station it was solved at the level of a mutual agreement.

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Rumours and Accusations Run Rife
Melbourne, 27 June 2007, Peter Friedlander. Recently a number of stories have been in the press about Bodhgaya. The first I saw was on a network called CNN-IBN and claimed that NGO's in Bodhgaya were employing children and harbouring 'child predators'. Read it for yourself and see what you think on CNN-IBN. The story was then picked up by the Organiser, the newspaper many people associate with the RSS, see their article on the Organiser. Then recently the controversy about whether a branch was illegally cut from the tree and sold was again raised up, and publicised on Timesnew.tv and Priyapal Bhante has recently sent me an email about it all, which you can read here. Quite what to make of it all is not clear, other than showing that the various groups interested in Bodhgaya are once again stirring the rumour pot.

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Dhammapada Translations
Melbourne, 27 June 2007, Peter Friedlander. Recent updates to this site have been slow, sorry about that, I have been studying the Dhammapada. I have put up a provisional list of Dhammapada translations I have located so far. I also have found the oldest English translation of the Dhammapada, from 1840, and put up a digital copy of this remarkable document, it is called the "The Footsteps of Relgion" (PDF, about 184K) translated by Daniel Gogerly.

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52,917 Foreign Visitors to Bodhgaya in 2006
Patna 19th May 2007. There is a great report on NewKerala.com about visitors to India that includes data on Foreign visitors to Gaya, and presumably to Bodhgaya."Patna, May 19: More than ten million tourists, including 94,446 foreigners, visited Bihar last year. This was possible despite the bifurcated state having limited infrastructural facilities and not so encouraging law and order situation. Official sources, qouting latest available figures here today, said of the total 1,07,64714 tourists between January and December 2006, 20,12,647, including 3964 foreigners, visited the capital city. This was followed by 11,40,108 tourists, including 3338 foreigners, visiting Gaya and 5,13,790, including 52,917 foreigners, going to Bodhgaya last year." For the full report visit New Kerala.com.

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Change of guard in Patna fails to rescue Bihar from grip of lawlessness
From Gulf News, By Pamela Raghunath, Correspondent, 16/03/2007 12:00 AM (UAE) Mumbai: It seemed like a perfect end to a day of sight-seeing in Bihar's world famous tourist sites in Rajgir, Nalanda and Bodhgaya, an embodiment of peace and tranquillity. And yet when we thanked Bhiku Bodhipala, Chief Priest of Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee, for showing fellow journalist Rahi Bhide and me the temple complex, he said we should arrange police escort while returning to Patna. Earlier, when we set out in the morning, our host, Governor of Bihar R.S. Gavai sent us off with a constable, a state employee and a driver with a warning to return before 11pm. He had informed us that 90 per cent of Bihar's law and order problem was under control and only 10 per cent had to be tackled. However, on Monday evening we got a taste of that 10 per cent of disorder in that state, notorious for its crime and Naxalite problem. [Read the full article on Gulf News]

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Bodhgayanews Five Years Old today!
Melbourne, March 15th, 2007, Peter Friedlander. I find it quite amazing that five years have gone by while I have been running Bodhgayanews. I established it when I was worried that people were not seeing the context within which there was talk of erecting the giant Maitreya Buddha statue. Five years on Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh is now the proposed site of that project and in news you can see below you can see it is not without controversy. Meanwhile Bodhgaya has been blessed, and cursed, with being declared a World Heritage area. It is undoubtedly a blessing in that it acknowledges the special nature of the place in the world where all the Buddhas attain enlightenment. Sadly it is also a poisoned chalice in my opinion as it has also attracted the attention of those who wish to make money out of the dharma and want to turn Bodhgaya into a kind of Buddhist 'Theme Park'. Meanwhile for the majority of the local people the unending round of back breaking labour in all seasons continues unabated and there does not seem to have been in any real change in the dreadful poverty in the countryside around Bodhgaya.

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No News on Bodhgayanews
Melbourne, March 14, 2007, Peter Friedlander. The web server for Bodhgayanews has been experiencing difficulties which means I cannot access the site to change it most of the time. Hopefully the problem will be corrected soon as this is the first time I could access the site since February 3rd.

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Buddha-land blossoms with Sri-Lankan Pilgrims
Bodhgaya, Sunday March 11th, (Dainik Jagran). Nowadays the sacred land of the Buddha is blossoming with pilgrims from Sri Lanka. After the ending of the famous three month tourist season the hopes of local businessmen are pinned on Sri Lankan Buddhist devotees. All classes of business are at one in this. The Sri Lankan pilgrimage season starts in August and ends in March. Maneesh, a trader who does business with the Sri Lankans says that the number coming to bow their heads to the land of the Buddha has been greater this year than in previous years. Which has been profitable to shopkeepers and others. According to Maneesh about four and half thousand Sri Lankans came between August and November. In Dec 06 and Jan 07 their number has been negligible. But there has been a sudden rush of pilgrims from Sri Lanka in February due to the inauguation of the proposed Jayshree Mahabodhi Monastery by the Mahabodhi society of India and the display of the relics of Sariputta and Moggalana the disciples of the Buddha. He said that in February and up to the 9th March around three thousand pilgrims visited Bodhgaya and other related sites. A very famous tour operator from Sri Lanka is bringing its biggest group and it is possible that apart from the big group about two thousand more Sri Lankan pilgrims will visit by the end of this month.
On the other hand other traders reckon that due to the sudden drop in the exchange rate for Sri Lankan currency less Sri Lankan tourists came this season. Due to it being the 2550th anniversary of the Parinirvana of the Buddha if there had not been a sudden drop in the exchange rate for Sri Lankan currency then there would have been even more visitors.

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Maitreya project faces rough weather
Rajesh Kumar Singh (Hindustan Times Lucknow edition ).
Lucknow, January 21, THE PROPOSED multi-crore Maitreya Buddha project proposed in Kushinagar is facing stiff opposition from the farmers whose land will be acquired under the project. They have planned to launch an indefinite hunger strike from January 23 in this connection. Talking to Hindustan Times, general secretary of the Bhoomi Bachao Sangharsh Samiti (farmers organisation) Jitendra Patel said, the state government planned to acquire 660.57 acres of fertile land in seven villages in Kushinagar. 'Fertile land and houses of thousand of farmers would be acquired under the project, which will make them landless as well as homeless. We will oppose the acquisition tooth and nail,' Patel said. Read the full article on the Hindustan Times Website

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Dalai Lama to Inaugurate Tourism Conference
Melbourne, February 3, 2007, Peter Friedlander. There is an interesting piece in the Indian Express about how the Indian Government is asking the Dalai Lama to inaugurate an international conference on tourism to Buddhist sites in Bodhgaya which starts on February 4th. It also mentions though how a Chinese Delegation walked out of a film show about Buddhism made by the Bihar government because it included footage of the Dalai Lama (read the full story on the Indian Express site). So on the one hand the Indian government will want to continue to support the Dalai Lama, both in his spiritual role and as a tourist drawing card, and on the other the Chinese will no doubt be less than happy about this. There are also mentions in the article of the Chinese contributing heavily to the new Nalanda university project and Chinese engineers working with Indian partners to build a Huen Tsang memorial to open at Nalanda on Feb 10th where a Xuan Zang memoral hall has already been set up (Huen Tsang and Xuan Zang are two spellings for the name of a Chinese pilgrim who visited India in ancient times). Read the full article at the Indian Express.

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'Alimentary' Hindi
Melbourne, 31 January 2007, Peter Friedlander. Over the Australian summer break I put together a piece on basic Hindi which might be of interest to people who like visiting Indian restaurants. The menu for the finished document includes:

  • Starters: Learn about which words are Hindi, and which are not, and Hindi names for some basic foods and utensils and how to ask questions.
  • Mains: Learn about the names for some common foods. Practice some basic requests.
  • Dessert: Learn about Indian sweets and explore Hindi expressions related to expressing enjoyment of food and etiquette.

Read, or download Alimentary Hindi (pdf format 257 KB)

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'Buddhist Bonanza For India'?
Melbourne, 25 January 2007, Peter Friedlander. I notice a very upbeat article talking up the propects of the Maitreya statue construction actually being started, in Kushinagar, in 2007 and work beginning on the new Nalanda university, check it out at ExpressHospitality.com. Meanwhile the Hindu has a different take on the issue covering a study by the FICCI-ICRA which suggests "Undeveloped Buddhist sites depriving India of over Rs 4,500 cr" for more follow this link.
Another perspective, entirely informal, is conversations I have had with my wife on the phone who is over in Bodhgaya on retreat at this time who reports that nothing much has really changed since last year on the ground at all. Also she reckoned that the number of Westerners visiting Bodhgaya was down again this year, but the number of Tibetans attending the various Monlams has gone through the roof. What with one thing or another I have not been checking Bodhgaya news much recently either but over the, Australian, summer ended up digitising a very different view of India from 1808, Captain Thomas Williamson's Oriental Field Sports.

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