Shimla, March 16 – After centuries of neglect, the historic and ancient Buddhist monasteries of Himachal Pradesh on the Manali-Leh tourist circuit will be given a facelift under the Rs 6.53-crore Integrated Buddhist Circuit Development Project approved recently by the Centre.
The project aims at setting up world-class tourist infrastructure like reception centres, wayside amenities, folk museums, interpretation centres and car parks and refurbishing the age-old monasteries, besides landscaping major tourist spots. The amount to be spent on this by the Government of India will be about Rs 25 crore. In the second phase, Himachal Pradesh will receive Rs 8 crore more for covering the left-out areas and monasteries.
Over the years, the Gompas in the state have emerged as prominent destinations for tourists, especially foreigners, whose number has been increasing with each passing year. The inflow of foreign tourists is increasing by 18 per cent each year. The project will prove to be a boon for foreign tourists, for whom, the state is the virtual world capital of Buddhism, especially, ever since the Dalai Lama has made Dharamsala his headquarters.
The project is for one of the six major circuits identified by the Union Ministry of Tourism and includes two circuits. The first circuit includes Chandigarh, Swarghat, Bilaspur, Mandi, Rewalsar, Kullu-Manali, Rohtang, Koksar, Keylong, Jispa, Sarahan and Leh. The second will take care of places like Shimla, Rampur, Rekong Peo, Rarang, Jangi, Lippa, Kanum and Pooh, Nako, Tabo, Dhankar Gompa, Kaza and Ki monasteries and Kibber, world’s highest village.
Bilaspur, midway from Chandigarh to Manali, will not only provide tourists with wayside amenities like fast-food restaurants but also have recreation parks and an aquarium. The holy Rewalsar Lake and its environs will be landscaped and Pirdi near Kullu will have a river-rafting centre for tourists. The Buddhist monastery at Manali will be given a facelift, while parking lots and mobile wayside amenities will be made available at Rohtang Pass. Setting up of a garbage disposal system and installation of incinerators at Rohtang and Solang Nalla will be an important feature of the project. A rescue centre with medical facility will be set up at Rohtang or Marhi. In Lahaul, Khardang, Shashur, Guru ghantal, Trilokinath and Gemur Gompa will be refurbished and amenities created for tourists.
Buddhist monasteries at Rampur, Kanam and Jangi will be repaired and so will the forts of Kamru, Mourang and Labang. Wayside amenities will be provided at Pooh, Nako, Kaza, Kibber, Losar, Kokksar and Chhota Dhara.
As many as 1.43 lakh foreign tourists visited Himachal Pradesh in 2001-2002, out of which, more than 70 per cent visited Dharamsala, headquarters of the Dalai Lama, the second favourite destination for foreign tourists after Goa.