Stories from 2008 (23)
Foreign Tourists Take Buddhist Ordination
Nov 16 (Jagran
Yahoo! India). Bodhgaya. On Saturday amidst an atmosphere of religious
sanctity in the compound of the world heritage monument the Mahabodhi
temple 203 tourists from various countries took ordination as Shramaneras
or Upasakas. The foreign tourists were ordained under the leadership
of Bhante Mahinda of the Federation of Monks (Bhikshu mahasangha).
Those being ordained as Shramaneras or Upasakas will spend the next
ten days in the shade of the Bodhi tree taking ordination from experts
from the General Buddhist Council and the Buddhist religion. The ordination
ceremony was organised by the Aloka Foundation of Malaysia. The Foundation's
founder and co-director Bhante Mahinda said that all together 309 tourists
had come to the Buddha land to take part in the program from Malaysia,
Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, UK and USA. Of whom 66 tourists had
taken ordination as Shramaneras and 137 women as Upasikas. Amongst them
was also one child, and one monk. He said that for devottees being at
a Buddhist site awakens an inquisitiveness/sense of enquiry (jijnasa)
concerning the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Such sites establish a personal
link with the Buddha and awaken inspiration in the spirit for the Buddha
and the Sangha. He said that the age in which we are living is one of
instability. We are overly attracted to that which is transitory. It
was only the Dharma and Sangha which give to human life faith and sense
of security. He said that this kind of program had been organised last
year at the site of Prince Siddhartha's birth Lumbini. In which 118
foreign tourists had taken ordination. And another will be organised
next year at the site of the turning of the wheel of Dharma at Sarnath.
On this occassion were present, Bhante U Nyaninda Mahathera of the International
Buddhist Council, Mahabodhi Society In Charge Monk Bhante P. Sivali
Thera, Temple Committee Secretary N. Dorje, Monk in charge Bhante Chalinda
and other respected monks. [note the Hindi term used here to refer to
these foreigners is paryatak, which normally translates as 'tourist'.
Here it seems it would have been more appropriate to describe them as
pilgrims, but the Hindi term for a pilgrim 'tirth-yatri' refers
to a Hindu pilgrim, so as Hindi lacks at the moment a commonly used
word for 'Buddhist pilgrim' they are 'tourists'.-PGF]
Trouble Hovers over Buddhist Puja arrangements
Dainik, Own Correspondent, Bodhgaya, 17 October.
There is anger amongst followers of the Buddhist faith over the enclosure
of open ground in front of the sacred Bodhi tree. They are now considering
holding various forthcoming poojas in Sarnath instead of Bodhgaya. Meanwhile,
due to the uncertainty created over the poojas the hotel traders are
in a state of shock. The open land to the west side of the Bodhi tree
has been enclosed by a grill by BTMC. The secretary of the BTMC, N.
Dorje, concerning this said it had been done with reference [to advice]
from RAI Dehradun's experts for the sake of the Bodhi trees health.
According to the experts due to people sitting together on the open
ground it has become hardened which deprives the Bodhi tree's roots
from getting sufficient nutrient elements. The secretary said that the
various platforms in the Mahabodhi temple compound were appropriate
venues for poojas. The main organiser of the Kagyu Monlom Chenmo pooja
Lama Karma said that in view of not being able to sit together in the
shade of the sacred Bodhi tree near to the vajrasana what was the point
of performing the pooja? Lama Karma said that for the moment this was
under consideration that the pooja might be held in Sarnath. A firm
decision would be taken on this in a forthcoming meeting on the 20 October.
Block officers risk life and limb in dangerous dwellings
Aug 23. Bodhgaya, Gaya (Jagran
Yahoo!). Astonishing, but true. Whilst on the one hand in the international
tourist destination of Bodhgaya with its towering Buddhist temple a
shopping centre is under construction, on the other the co-block zone
office is without its own building. Because of the master plan the co-block
zone office has been demolished. Since that time the co-block zone office
has been functioning in the Girls Middle School building. Due to this
the officers of this office have to put their lives and limbs in danger
by dwelling in the fallen down government dwellings in the school compound.
There are 22 dwellings in the block compound. Which are allotted to
the Block development officer and other officers including the medical
officer. But due to lack of maintanence the walls of several of them
have fallen down, and several are on the verge of ruin. Officers dwelling
in the dilapadated units say that in the rainy season water drips from
the roofs and in order to avoid this plastic sheets are spread out on
the roofs. When there is too much rain it gathers in ponds and this
makes coming and going difficult. The block officer says that the block
office falls in an area which is designated 'green area' in the masterplan.
In coming days the existing offices will also be demolished and so they
are not being repaired etc.
Astonishing but True: Google Hindi dictionary and translation tool
Singapore, 24 August, Peter Friedlander. Google has a very useful new
Hindi dictionary and Google
Hindi translation tool available. But it still does not make translation
completely automatic. For instance according to Google's machine translation
the first sentences above mean 'Bodhgaya is a lot of international tourists
as the [unidentified word] Buddhist master plan under the Mahavihar
and shopping mall being built. Is. While the private office building
block co devoid zone.' Still its a fantastic example of machine translation,
and both it and the dictionary are really useful, just don't expect
it to translate colourful Hindi.
386 Crores for Patna-Bodhgaya Development
Hindustan Burea, Patna, 19 July (Hindustan
Dainik). 368 crores will be spent for the provision of basic services
to the poor of Patna and Bodhgaya. This has been approved by the Central
Goverment Javaharhalal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission ('Naram'
an acronym that is the Hindi word for 'gentle'). With this funding for
the slum dwellers of both towns there will be provided, housing, water
supplies, toilets, etc. [remainder of report describes how the 'green
flag has been given' for these initiatives and various committees and
steering units etc. have been set up. The report also indicates that
the RJD and the BJP representatives on the body objected strongly to
a decision to spend money which had been allotted by the central government
on the development of Bodhgaya and Patna, on other locations than those
Hotel Kautilya to be made Five Star
Office Correspondent, Patna 15 July (Hindustan
Dainik). The Kautilya hotel of the Patna Development Corporation
is to be made five star. Along with this five star hotels will be built
in Bodhgaya and Rajgir. Tenders for building these hotels will soon
be put out for Peoples Public Partnership (PPP) contracts. Along this
that at Rajgir ropeway, Gandhi Ghat (i.e Patna), and Bodhgaya tourist
hubs will be constructed. On this basis international chain 'coffee
shops' and Macdonalds etc will be made available at these locations.
[remainder of report deals with issues like buying more cars for the
development corporation so that tourists will be able to get from Patna
airport to various locations including Bodhgaya etc.] Full Hindi article
Front Opening against Central Agencies in Tourism
Hindustan Bureau, Patna, 20th June (Hindustan
Summary of Hindi article:- Hindustan reports that the Bihar State goverment
has expressed dissatisfaction with the work of the central agencies
in the development works being undertaken at Bodhgaya, Rajgir and Vaishali.
The State Government has decided that state agencies should instead
be told to do the work. A meeting is to be held on the 25th June with
the Central Tourism Minister Kanti Singh and the State Government. It
seems that state officials on an inspection of development works at
the sites found progress to be fairly slow 'kafi sust'. The State
Tourism minister, Ramprakash Ray said that not enough central money
was being given, and it was being given to central and not state agencies.
He reported that works which were funded four or five years ago in 2002-3
had even now not been completed. These matters would be raised at the
meeting. The article also comments on how help would be asked for from
the central government for development in more places, such as the Sonpur
Harihar area fair.
'Master Plan' Copy not in City Council
May 25 2008 (Dainik
Jagran). There is no copy in the Town Council (Nagar Panchayat)
office of the master plan prepared by Hudco to develop Bodhgaya into
an ideal Heritage City. Due to which the local people are fairly bothered.
People wanting to carry out developments cannot find out which areas
are banned. It is known that under the master plan's vision for Bodhgaya
in 2031 it has been divided into various zones. There is a complete
ban on developments in the defined zones. However, despite the ban construction
works continue. The associated department officials also know about
ongoing developments. However whilst there is no interference by senior
officials there is no discussion of the master plan there is no action
on it. This can be called a misfortune when it is the Town Council office
itself which is intended to be the agency to put into action the master
plan, and there is not even a copy of the plan there. The Town Council
planning (karyapalak?) officer Kumar Ramanuj whilst accepting
the truth of this said possibly the copy of the master was being printed.
He said he was unaware of the questions related to the copy of the master
plan being unavailable in the Town Council office. Full Hindi story
There should be reform in the Temple Management Act: Athavle
Bodhgaya, 21 May, Own Correspondent
The management of the supreme place of pilgrimage for Buddhists should
be in the hands of Buddhists. Republican Party of India Chairman Ramdas
Athavale said in a press conference here on Tuesday. He said that with
other religions there was no such arrangement but that with the Mahabodhi
temple Buddhists and Hindus were given equal roles. Ramdas said there
should be a reform of the Temple Management Act. There should be five
Buddhists and three Hindus.
He also appealed to the Nitish Government that the Chairman [of the
committee] should be the DM of Gaya, but that he should be able to be
of any religion. The limitation of him being a Hindu should be removed.
He appealed to the government for the development of Bodhgaya and for
50 lakhs of rupees to be made available for the convenience of pilgrims
on the occasion of the Buddha Jayanti and the management of the BTMC
dharamshala. Having met with the Urban Parks Minister Praful Patel and
spoke of causing services to start from Gaya airport to Nagpur, Mumbai
and Delhi. Mr Athavale appealed to JDU to abandon its alliance with
the BJP and for the increase of his party in Bihar in the forthcoming
parliamentary elections spoke of staying with the RJD and the LJP. Hindi
Mumbai is not the birthland of the Thakre family: MP
Dainik Jagran on the 20th has a quite different slant on the same
speech it seems highlighting that Athavle appealed to Hindi speaking
North Indians who had left Mumbai due to fear of Raj Thakre to return
there and join his party's struggle. This is then followed by a similar
story to that in Hindustan.
Foreign Musicians Enchant Evening
20 May, Own corresspondent, Bodhgaya. The occasion of the 2552 threefold
aniversary of the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and nirvana was celebrated
under the Bodhi tree. The chief guests at the function were the state
Roads Minister Dr. Prem Kumar and Science and Technology Minister Dr
Anil Kumar. On this occasion the Minister Prem Kumar said that due to
the efforts of the Chief Minister and the Deputy chief Minister a four
lane highway from Patna to Dobhi would be built and the road from Bodhgaya
to Rajgir-Vaishali-Kesariya would be widened. He said that plans were
being prepared for the development of Gurupad hill, Dungeshwari and
Sujatagarh. He said that the goverment was making efforts so that larger
numbers of tourists would come to the state. The gathering was addressed
by the MLA Hari Manjhi, P. Shivli Thero, Sumati Kiran Lama and Kumuk
article [oddly no mention of the foreign musicians in the article
"Bodhi Tree's Dry Twigs cut"
8 May 2008, Peter Friedlander. A Hindi website called "Josh
18 Hindi Samachar", carried a report on the 7th May 2008 from
the Hindi language Indian news ageny Varta that dead twigs from the
Bodhi tree have been cut under the supervision of scientists from the
Forest Department in Dehradun. This was done for the welfare of the
tree and under the supervision of the temple management committee and
the local police. full
422 Million Hindi Mother Tongue speakers in 2001, how many English
Peter Friedlander (Saturday 3rd May 2008).
The data on mother tongue speakers of languages in India according to
the 2001 census was finally released, in 2007. The number of mother
tongue Hindi speakers was then 422,048,642, or around 41% of the Indian
of India - Statement 4'). It was also on an upward trend, Hindi
speakers having risen from 37% in 1971 to 41% in 2001 ('Census
of India - Statement 5'). The only information on English in the
2001 Census reports published so far is that there were only 226,449
English mother tongue speakers.
The data on second language speakers from the 2001 census has still
not been released. So its hard to tell how many people in India speak
Hindi, and how many speak English. I am sure that the figures are substantially
higher than for mother tongue speakers. full
Bodhgaya amongst new list of 20 Mega Tourist Destinations
23 April, Peter Friedlander. The
Economic Times carries a report today on Ambika Soni speaking of
developing 20 Mega Tourist destinations which includes a comment by
Leena Nandan, joint secretary to the tourism ministry, how work has
already begun around the Mahabodhi temple. Meanwhile The
Dainik Bhaskar carried an article on the 22nd about a new list of
20 tourist sites which were to have development work done on them, which
highlighted Ajmer as this has been chosen as a pilot project. The mentions
of Bodhgaya are only in passing but they are of interest. It is also
interesting that the English 'Mega destinations' has become in Hindi
the much more conservative sounding pramukh paryatan sthala,
'Prominent Tourist Sites'. An extract from the Bhaskar article.
'20 New Tourists sites include Ajmer
News, Tuesday, April 22, 2008.
Jaipur/Ajmer. ....Central Tourism Minister Ambika Soni announced in
a press conference on Tuesday in Jaipur that to improve facilities at
20 tourist sites 500 crore rupees would be spent over the next three
years. The 20 selected sites would be developed as a tourist circuit.
... Ajmer, Bodhgaya and Fatehpur Sikri would be part of a second round
to be developed. At the sites there would be improved parking, traffic
arrangements, convention centres, sanitation and dormitories. Main markets
would also be developed so tourists could easily go shopping. From this
people would also get work. Hotel chains would also be approached to
develop hotels, and provided with state government land. There would
also be encouragement for the establishment of low cost hotels....'
The rest of the article covers some of the details of expenditure in
Report 'alerting' not 'alarming'
24 April, Peter Friedlander. Whilst describing a report by
the auditors into Bihar's finances as alerting (alart karne vali)
but not alarming (caunkne vali) Nitish Kumar the Chief Minister
of Bihar also made a number of comments on the situation with regard
to the Bodhgaya Master Plan. This is a translation of part of Hindustan's
coverage of the speech.
CAG report 'alerting'
Hindustan Bureau, Patna 28 March, 2008
[two paragraphs of material on the response to the finances report followed
by].....The Bodhgaya Master Plan dispute would be resolved by the Development
Commissioner said the Chief Minister handing over responsibilty for
resolving the issue to the Development Commissioner. In a high level
meeting on Thursday under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister the
objections of the Bodhgaya Urban Development Front and the Master Plan
were considered. Immediately afterwards under the leadership of the
regional Commissioner a committee of officers was formed. The entire
matter would be overseen by the Development Commissioner.
Speaking in the grounds of the Parliament the Chief Minister said the
inhabitants of Bodhgaya had some complaints about the Master Plan. The
Committee which had been formed would have weekly meetings to resolve
the complaints of the inhabitants.
The goverment would implement the Master Plan according to the recommendations
of the committee. Urban Development Front General Secretary Suresh Singh
expressing objection to the plan to turn Bodhgaya into a town based
on religion (dharma) in the memo from the Chief Minister saying
that there was a fear that people were going to be displaced/made homeless
(visthapit) in large numbers by the plan.... full story on HindustanDainik.com
Scope of Spiritual Tourism to Increase
New Delhi (Rajasthan
Patrika - varta) Tuesday March 11 2008. In view of the constant
growth in Spiritual tourism the railways is preparing to take its share.
A specially established government company 'Indian Railway Catering
and Tourism Corporation' is at this time running more than 20 packages
based on the railway amongst which a Buddhist circuit special train
In this a special luxury train made from carriages from the Rajdhani
Express takes tourists to Bodhgaya, Rajgir, Nalanda, Sarnath, Lumbini
etc. In this each trip around 80 foreign pilgrims travel. It can be
seen that the IRCTC has begun its package tours with spiritual tourism.
Its first package tour was from New Delhi to Vaishno Devi, which people
scrambled to get on. This began on the 26th january with only 11 passengers,
and now takes more than 30. At first this was a weekly package tour,
and now it runs twice a week, and it is being considered whether to
run it daily.
Apart from this tours also run New Delhi-Puri, New Delhi-Amritsar, New
Delhi-Ajmer [and a long list of other tours and a note that more tours
are being considered for this summer.]
Attempt to destroy image of Mother Dungeshwari
Dainik, Patna Edition, Own Correspondent, Bodhgaya, 20th Feb 2008.
There is news that Nava Buddhists (followers of Ambedkar) have tried
to destroy the image of Mother Dungeshwari in the cave at the site where
Buddha performed austerities. The Nava Buddhists have also destroyed
the offering box in the cave. In connection with this matter the priest
of the site, Shiva Kumar Mishra has submitted a written complaint to
the Bodhgaya police station. Read full story at Hindustandainik.com
200 Crore Rupees [$50 million USD] to be spent developing Bodhgaya
Dainik, Own Correspondent, Bodhgaya, 19 Feb 2008. [Summary: A report
about a ceremony to launch the construction of an 'Institute of Buddhist
and Oriental Study' at the Japanese Buddhist Temple in Bodhgaya. It
contains extracts from speeches by the Bihar Governor, R. S. Gavai who
said that not just India but the whole world should heed the teachings
of Buddha and that 200 Crore Rupees, around $50 million USD, are to
be spent developing Bodhgaya. Also present was the Governor of Haryana
who said that along with global development there was a need to spread
global peace and non-violence.] Full story at Hindustan
Dainik. Also an English language report on the speech, but no mention
of the money is to be found at IndianMuslims.info.
"Buddhist monks protest disruption of prayers at Bodhgaya during
February 16th, 2008 by Sahil Nagpal (on TopNews
in). Bodh Gaya, Feb 16: Buddhist monks in Bodh Gaya have raised
a stink over prayers being disrupted at the Mahabodhi Temple on Friday
because President Pratibha Patil was visiting the area. The monks were
conducting a ten-day long chanting of the scriptures of the 'Tipitaka',
the collected teachings of Lord Buddha written in Pali. They also protested
against pictures of the President and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar
being placed above Lord Buddha in a poster, which they termed as disrespect
to the lord. During her visit, President Patil said the teachings of
Lord Buddha should be adopted by all humans. "The path shown by
Lord Buddha to the whole of humanity holds significance for us even
today. Mahatma's movement was based on the principles of Ahimsa and
Love. He showed the path of knowledge to the entire world," Patil
read full story on topnews.in.
Closure of Religious Program Distressing: Head Monk
Feb 16, 2008 (Jagran
Yahoo India) Bodhgaya. The administration's step of closing religious
programs such as the recitation of the Tripitaka at the Mahabodhi temple
due to the visit of the President was regretable. Due to this not only
did the President remain unaware of the activities of Buddhists, but
also a wrong message was being sent to Theravada Buddhist countries
through the medium of the foreign monks who were taking part in the
recitation. The above matters were said in a press conference on Saturday
by Ven Rashtrapal Mahathera, Director of the International Meditation
centre and Leader (Sangharaja) of the all India monks association. He
said that the district administration had stopped the recititation.
That information, and that the president was visiting had been advertised/gazetted
by the Public relations department of the Bihar Government. This news
had deeply effected the whole Buddhist community. In this notice/gazette
everybody had been place higher than the Buddha. Whilst questioning
the departmental officials he said that if the President, Chief Minister
and Prime Minister were all higher than the Buddha then what need was
there to come and pay honour by bowing the head to the sacred land of
the Buddha? He said that in this matter a letter had been sent to the
President, Chief Minister, Prime Minister, and Departmental officials.
He said that similar mistakes had been made in the department during
the Buddhist Festival [earlier in the year]. See also the text of Ven.
Priyapal's letter of complaint.
'Scandal gnaws at Buddha's holy tree in India
Simon Denyer, Reuters, Sunday, February 3, 2008 (Washington
Post.Com) BODH GAYA, India (Reuters) - Tales of corruption, looting
and religious rivalry are swirling around the spot where Buddha is said
to have gained enlightenment in eastern India some 2,500 years ago,
sullying one of Buddhism's holiest sites.' Read
full story on the Washington Post website
501 Bodhgaya Stories
Melbourne, Jan 31, 2008, Peter
Friedlander. I have updated the way that old stories on this site
can be accessed. You can now find stories by following the links to
the year on the right hand side of the screen. In the process I have
found that I have put up over 400 stories so far on Bodhgayanews. The
links to another one hundred or so articles as well are still working
the same on the left hand side and in the related links section on the
right hand side. The old links that used to function to stories are
also still here, and are still at the end of the main page. Currently
visits to the site are at about 350 pages a day on average over the
last couple of years. So thanks for visiting Bodhgayanews and I hope
you found the site interesting and do visit again and see what has been
added to the site.
Locals bothered by removal of barrier
Yahoo! India) Jan 27 2008.
At the instigation of the Magadh Circle Commissioner as well as the
freeing of government land from encroachments in Bodhgaya a barrier
was erected to stop traffic from passing in front of the Mahabodhi Society.
But due to the Bodh Mahotsav [festival] the barrier was removed from
the road. Due to which the proprietors of the relocated footpath shops
have been very bothered who are trading the area around the car park
near the Birla Dharamshala. Ram Sevak Singh, hotel trader and Town Panchayat
board member said that due to the barrier being removed traffic no longer
passes by the Birla Dharamshala. Nor yet do vehicles park in this area.
Due to which the trade of the footpath traders who have been moved to
this area by the administration is considerably affected.
Silent Procession taken out against Master Plan
Jan 15 2008 (Jagran
Yahoo! India). Under the joint auspices of the business and social
organisations of Bodhgaya a silent demonstration march was taken out
on Tuesday. All the participants carried banners bearing slogans such
as 'Motherland stolen in 1956', 'Made unemployed in 1997', 'What will
happen in 2007?', 'Withdraw the Master plan', 'Stop dividing us in the
name of Religion', and wore black armbands. The auspicious inauguration
of the march took place at the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee
office. It then went as far at the Big Buddha [in one direction] and
Pacchetti [in the other direction] and ended up back where it started.
During this all the commercial operation in the Bodhgaya market stopped.
In the march there were also many participants who had come from foreign
countries to pay respect to the land of the Buddha.
The march was under the organisation of the Citizens Development Platform,
Hotel Association, Travel Agencies and traders union, Footpath traders
union, Star Club, Muslim Youth Force, Medicine sellers union, Vegetable
sellers union, The save the Sujata village struggle committee, The Musahar
Union, The Baiju Bigha Struggle Association, Tekuna Village struggle
committee, Youth Platform, The Rosary and photo traders union, The All
India Monks Association, The Womens' Awakening platform, The Bihar People's
Rights platform, and people effected by the core and buffer development
zones. The previous Deputy Headman and Chair of the Citizens Platform,
Hasimook Hak and secretary Suresh Kumar said jointly that in contradiction
to the Buddha's message of tolerance, love and fraternal understanding
the government were by implementing the plan spreading religious discrimination.
The inhabitants of Bodhgaya, who had lived for years in religious harmony,
were showing their opposition to by their silent march. They also said
that in the next stage of the agitation all traders would turn off their
electricity for two hours in the evening and trade by candle light.
An American called Mark taking part in the demonstration said that the
local people had made him aware of the plan. The plan was causing much
distress and he was fully in support of opposing the plan.