What has happened to Tourism Year?

Dhaka,  Sun,  04 December 2016
Published : 28 Nov 2016, 21:45:59

What has happened to Tourism Year?

Rahman Jahangir
It seems plans on vital issues of national importance are taken only to be dumped to the cold storage later. The authorities, which take such plans, even do not care to explain why they could not go ahead. One such glaring example is the failure of the authorities to observe 2016 as the Year of Tourism. Now only one month is to go to enter the New Year 2017 with the well-publicised Tourism Year of 2016 shelved off conveniently. The Tourism Minister owes an explanation to the nation why the country missed a unique opportunity to unfold what Bangladesh could offer to tourists to savour.     

Sadly, some tourism fairs were held in the country this year but only to fatten pockets of some organisers. Such fairs fetch for them good money from advertisements as well as different related organisations including aviation and hotel industries. Bangladesh could not even hold the planned international conference on tourism with particular focus on places of great Buddhist interest. The conference, scheduled to be hosted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, was to see a grand assembly of senior officials from Buddhism-dominated countries for exchanging views on joint collaboration on Buddhist religious tourism in South Asia. A technical tour by the foreign participants was also planned to allow them to have a look at what a treasure trove of Buddhist relics Bangladesh is blessed with. The conference could chart a road map for sustainable development and promotion of cross-border Buddhist tourism circuits and routes in the region. 

The government's decision to target Buddhist and other religious tourists to see in their own eyes relics of rich religious and cultural heritage was well-thought-out. It could have led to adoption of a regional strategy to open up the floodgates of Buddhist archaeological sites to foreign visitors.  Bangladesh boasts of many Buddhist destinations that are not directly associated with the actual life of the Buddha, but rather the story of Buddhism. Every year, archaeologists unveil yet more of the very tangible evidence of the history of Buddhism in Bangladesh. 

But unfortunately the country is still detached from the huge tourism market of Buddhist tradition in Asia. Even though the country has many important Buddhist religious places like Comilla's Mainamati Shalbon Bihar, Shampur Bihar of Paharpur in Naogaon district, or Bajrajogini village of Munshiganj and Basu Bihar in Bogra. Bajrajogini village is the birthplace of Atish Dipankar, the second greatest preacher of Buddhism after Gautama Buddha. He took Buddhism to Tibet, China and Japan. Historical proofs are there that Gautama Buddha himself visited Basu Bihar.  

As a top archaeologist of Jahangirnagar University said, Bangladesh has the best archaeological sites of Buddhism. Shampur Bihar of Paharpur is equivalent to Nalanda Buddha Bihar. But sadly it is not highlighted.  According to the Chinese traveller Yuan Chwang, there was 30 Buddha Bihars (equivalent to universities) in Comilla's Shalbon Bihar. Only seven of those have been excavated until now. There is no other place in this world with so many centres of higher learning.  In fact, the country is just sitting quiet with these gems. What is needed is honest commitment to help the country reap huge benefits of tourism.

arjayster@gmail.com

 
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