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Lumbini: The backbone of economic development

| by Damodar Prasad Acharya writes from Leuven

( May 13, 2014, Leuven – Belgium, Sri Lanka Guardian) Sometimes I hear from different foreign individuals that Nepal is a poor country but in fact, Nepal is the richest country of its natural resources, cultural and historical heritages. Until now we are unable to properly utilize our resources, that's why many Nepali youths are leaving abroad to become migrant workers to find an opportunity for better life. If we could utilize our resources and are able to develop Lumbini-Kapilvastu, the birthplace of Lord Buddha as International Buddhist Center and promote Nepal worldwide as Buddha's birthplace then Nepal will be no more a poor country, rather it will be known as a rich country from the outside world.

We have the world's best two attractions Buddha's birthpace Lumbini, a World Heritage Site, the mine of gold, and the world's tallest peak Mt. Everest and many other peaks, the mine of silver. These are the best gifts of nature to develop for a prosperous Nepal.

In 1967, the Secretary General of the United Nations U Thant had visited Lumbini, Nepal and proposed to develop Lumbini as a major Buddhist pilgrimige center. After that, it was followed by a UNDP consultants mission. And in 1970, in initial stage, a 13 members state International Committee for the Development of Lumbini( ICDL) was formed, and later on, 3 member states were joined in the committee. At that time, at national level, the Lumbini Development Committee had also been formed. The ICDL initiated to make a Master Plan to develop Lumbini, and that task was given to Japanese architect Kenzo Tange. Since 1972 Tange had strated to make the Lumbini Development Master Plan and that master plan was finalized and approved in 1978. Later on, in December 2012, the South Korean professor Kwaak Young Hoon has also presented his sketch for the Lumbini Development Master Plan in a workshop in the capital, the latest Master Plan of Prof. Kwaak is more significant to develop Lumbini.

Unfortunately, till 2014, we have not been able to develop Lumbini as conceptualized by Kenzo Tange and Prof. Kwaak. Without delay, we should develop Lumbini as the Lumbini Development Master Plan, as conceptualized by Kenzo Tange and Prof. Kwaak Young Hoon, and protect our Himalaya and promote Nepal internationally in a good manner then dreams can comes true.

If we think in depth, Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha is a backbone for economic development of Nepal. Of course we are close to prosper and would be dignified but we should be honest and patriot for the development of our nation. Firstly, we should transform our feudal and narrow minded mentality toward openness and respect the law and regulations of the nation then progress will begin.

Tourism is the vital source of Nepal's economic growth to develop Nepal that has been considered by the government of Nepal and celebrated the year 2011 as “Nepal Tourism Year”. And with the conclusion of Tourism Year, the govenrment led by the former Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, had declared the year 2012 as Visit Lumbini Year 2012. In the year 2011, the government of Nepal had targeted to welcome up to 1 million foreign visitors to the country but the expected numbers has not been reached. Though, as per the data, a little above 800,000 foreign visitors had entered Nepal in 2011, that number of visitors is higher than in the year 2010.

The number of Buddhists around the world is generally estimated 500 million and it is the 4th largest religion of the globe. When the Lumbini will be developed according to the Lumbini Development Master Plan then it would be a holy and peace city of Buddhists of the globe like Mecca of Islam and Jerusalem of Christianity.

We can imagine that The Bristish Museum of London, UK has been received about 50 million visitors each year, according to its website. If we develop Lumbini as a City of Peace and Global Buddhist Center then why we could not expect to welcome minimum 1% (50 million) visitors (Buddhists pilgrims alone) from 500 million Buddhists of this world each year. So the picture is clear that our economic growth will be more than 50 times higher than the present time.

Meaningless controversy

In the meantime, there are misconceptions over the birthplace of Lord Buddha in different parts of the world. Thus, we have to inform to the world that the birthplace of Lord Gautam Buddha is in Lumbini, Nepal through various ways, including civic engagement programmes and diplomatic level.

In fact, it is not necessary to write and say time and again that the Lord Gautam Buddha was born in Lumbini near Kapilavastu in 623 BC in Shakya republic, Kosala kingdom, and it lies in southern part of Nepal in the distirict of Rupandehi. Though, some sections of India are misinforming to the world regarding the Buddha's birthplace Lumbini, Nepal. They are saying time and again that the Buddha was an Indian and he was born in North India. And most of the people of many countries of the globe are not aware from this fact that the birthplace of Buddha is in Lumbini, Nepal, and some countries have coursebooks with misinformation regarding the birthplace of Buddha and teaching to the students. In this context, we, Nepalese of around the globe could not stay idle without protecting, developing and expansioning of our national pride, and without being sensitive in the matter of our national sovereignty.

Especially, to dismiss the misconceptions about the birthplace of Lord Gautam Buddha Lumbini, Nepal and to promote Lumbini internationally, we, Nepalese patriots have joined our hands together since 2009. Probably, most of the Nepalese readers are aware about the activities of “Lumbini-Kapilvastu Day Global Movement”, which is active since December 2009.

In September 2009, the Nepalese news media had published that the 80% construction works of the replica of Buddha´s birthplace Lumbini-Kapilvastu has been completed at Piparhwa in the state of North India. The chief of archaeological survey of India, German archaeologist Dr. Alois Anton Fuhrer, had discovered the Ashokan Pillar in Lumbini, Nepal in 01st December 1896, and he found on that pillar an inscription of emperor Ashoka in Pali language and Bramhi script. Dr. Fuhrer had translated that inscription and brought to light the birthplace of Gautam Buddha Lumbini, Nepal to the world. The inscription revealed that the emperor Ashoka had visited this sacred Lumbini birthplace of Lord Gautam Buddha and worshiped during his pilgrimage in Lumbini, Nepal in 249 BC, and erected the monument, 20 years after his coronation.

Moreover, in 1899 another archaeologist of India P C Mukharjee had also proved Lumbini, Nepal is the birthplace of Buddha from his excavation in Tilaurakot. However, in 1898, British engineer and planter William Claxton Peppe had found a stupa in Piparhwa after an excavation and found 5 jars with jewels and also remains of ashes of Buddha, and he believed that that was kept by emperor Ashoka. Therefore he claimed the birthplace of Gautam Buddha is near this site. From here Planter Peppe had planted the controversy over birthplace of Gautam Buddha Lumbini, Nepal and undermined the facts of Ashoka's inscription. Since the ancient remarkable monument is still standing in Lumbini, Nepal.

After Peppe’s claim, there are rising misconceptions over Lumbini the birthplace of Lord Buddha by some historians, writers, archaeologists, artists and film makers to spread wrong information to the people of this world.

Despite knowing the construction works of the replica of Lumbini is nearly complete in Piparhwa in North India, there were unfortunately no reactions from Nepal government, major political parties and other Nepalese organizations in this issue. In the aftermath of this silence, Nepalese intellectuals around the globe have raised the flag and waved it against the misconceptions and lies against Buddha’s birthplace Lumbini, Nepal as “Kapilvastu Day-Global day” in 01 December 2009. We chose this day because German archaeologist Dr Fuhrer had discovered the Ashokan pillar on December 1st 1896. After this event, a global committee of Kapilvastu Day Movement was established with 8 advisers and 21 members in global coordination with engineer Ram Kumar Shrestha in 2010.

Fortunately, during the battle between Nepal and India in the misconceptions on Lord Buddha's birthplace Lumbini, last year, in cooperation of UNESCO, Japan, Nepal and National Geographic Soceity, the archaeological team headed by the Professor Robin Coningham of Durham University England has since 2010 excavated in Mayadevi temple in Lumbini Nepal, and on 25 November 2013 they discovered a trace of a wooden structure that is dated 6th century BC, the time of the Buddha’s birth. Since the previous oldest evidence of Ashokan pillar dated back only to 3rd century BC, this recent discovery of wooden structure is now believed to be the world’s oldest Buddhist shrine.

In conclusion, making controversy in spite of knowing these all fact findings and evidences, including standing Ashokan pillar in Lumbini, Nepal with the inscription of emperor Ashoka, is a shameful act.

(The author is an Europe advisor of Lumbini-Kapilvastu Day Global Movement)

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