The alleged unapproved digging of land near ancient Nalanda University has prompted the All India Tour Operators Association (ABTO) to urge the state government to take action in this regard so that no such irregularities take place around the UNESCO World Heritage site.
There have been widespread concerns over the alleged destruction of antiquities and archaeological evidence of ancient infrastructures at Nalanda University.
In a letter addressed to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, the state tourism board, ministry of tourism and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Patna Circle, the ABTO argued that people from more than two dozen Buddhist countries come to the nationally protected monument to witness antiquities and archaeological remains available there adding such a move could deter tourists from visiting the site.
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The ABTO which has 650 tourism professionals, travel trade partners, monks, educationists and philanthropists from 25 Buddhist countries as its members, has also requested the government to rename the monument in the signages as Nalanda World Heritage Site and Nalanda Vishwa Virasat Sthal.
At present, the signages mention it as Nalanda ruins and Nalanda Khandahar (in Hindi).
They have also demanded development of the approach road, parking space, hotels and restaurants, improved tourist information centre and souvenir plaza at the World Heritage Site.
The ABTO which has its headquarters in Nalanda recently collaborated with different tourism associations like the ASITA-Indonesia, UMTA-Myanmar, ATTA-Thailand, NATTA-Nepal, TOAB-Bangladesh, TEATA-Thailand, HAN-Nepal, TCT- Thailand, TTAA-Thailand, ABTO-Bhutan to jointly market and promote Buddhist tourism, culture and nature tourism in the world.
“Tourists from these countries visit Nalanda University remains and the antiquities available there. Around 12 lakh visitors turn up every year”, Kaulesh Kumar, the ABTO general secretary, said.
“It is sad that many antiquities that were buried in this area got destroyed during the digging of a pond recently done by a government department,” he added.
“The matter came to light a few days ago when people of Mohanpur village which is located close to the Nalanda University ruins, found the remains of images in the debris thrown away from the digging site. They collected these images at a temple and started worshipping them but other antiquities were completely destroyed by the JCB machine used at the digging site,” he said.
Shiv Kumar Mishra, curator, Biharsharif Museum, who had visited the site of digging, said the digging might have stopped but the site has already lost many antiquities.
“The site of digging and Nalanda University remains are the nationally protected monuments of the Archaeological Survey of India. I have recommended their conservation and preservation,” he said.
The ABTO general secretary highlighted the need for better facilities for tourists.
“It’s a world heritage site where visitors like to spend longer hours but due to the lack of facilities, they tend to leave in 35-40 minutes”, he said.