Railways mulling train from Kolkata to cover key Buddhist sites

कोलकाता Kolkata (KOAA): KOLKATA: Railways is planning to introduce a special train from Kolkata to offer tourists a spiritual tour of key Buddhist circuit cities spread across the region where the religion originated thousands of years ago.

The train will benefit tourists looking to visit Kolkata as also the states popular for their Buddhist pilgrimages, a senior Railway official told.

Among the Buddhist tour circuit cities are Bodh Gaya, Dungeshwari Caves, Kesariya, Vaishali, Rajgir, Nalanda, Kushinagar, Sarnath and Varanasi.

In fact, a proposed separate AC gallery at Indian Museum here to showcase the urn said to contain the ashes of Lord Buddha and other relics associated with his life is further going to aid the initiative for the introduction of the special train, the official said.

“We are waiting for the Indian Museum to take a decision regarding the setting up of the gallery displaying the urn containing the ashes. Not many people know about it and we are very sure that it will draw a huge crowd,” he said.

The Bharhut Gallery at the museum showcases several Buddhist artefacts, among them the gateway of a Buddhist stupa complete with sculptures and carvings depicting scenes from Lord Buddha’s life.

Besides, a railway survey among pilgrims visiting Buddhist tour circuit cities suggested that the train, if it originates from the city, would be more popular than the Mahaparinirvan Express, which starts from New Delhi.

“There are several international tourists who want to visit eastern India and therefrom take the tour of the Buddhist circuit cities. The survey suggested that tourists prefer the shorter route to the circuit rather than starting on it from New Delhi,” he said.

If the tour could be initiated from Kolkata, pilgrims would be able to visit Odisha, Sikkim and other northeastern states popular for the Buddhist monasteries there.

“Pilgrims are keen on visiting Odisha, Sikkim and other states in the northeastern region which are famous for their Buddhist monasteries. And, it will be quite logical and economical for the tourists too.

“Bihar is closer to Kolkata and Kolkata has the shortest route to Nalanda University. Also, going to Odisha from Kolkata is easy… We expect that the proposed tour would also be quite profitable for Railways,” he said.