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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
Hindustan 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 Google 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 two towns.

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 on Hindustan Dainik.

Front Opening against Central Agencies in Tourism
Hindustan Bureau, Patna, 20th June (Hindustan Dainik.com).
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 on Dainik Jagran

There should be reform in the Temple Management Act: Athavle
Hindustan, 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 article
Mumbai is not the birthland of the Thakre family: MP
The 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
Hindustan, 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 Varma. Hindi article [oddly no mention of the foreign musicians in the article itself]

"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 Hindi story

422 Million Hindi Mother Tongue speakers in 2001, how many English speakers?
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 population ('Census 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 story

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
Bhaskar 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 Rajasthan.

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 is prominent.
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
Hindustan 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
Hindustan 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 President's visit
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 said. "
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
Bodhgaya (Jagran 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.


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