Holy mess: Filth, mismanagement disgusts foreigners at Bodh Gaya eventJanuary 8th, 2012 - 4:16 pm ICT by IANS
Both Gaya (Bihar), Jan 8 (IANS) Heaps of garbage, stinking toilets, squelchy muddy pools, harassment by beggars and severe power cuts are not exactly things one associates with a spiritual enlightenment trip. But this is exactly what tourists from around the world are facing at this Buddhist holy town.The thousands of Buddhist devotees who have flocked to Bodh Gaya, the birthplace of Buddhism, for the 10-day Kalchakra Puja are left disappointed.
The Jan 1-10 festival is being led by Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama. Well-known personalities like Hollywood star Richard Gere, Prime Minister of Tibetan government-in-exile Lobsang Sangay, and top official representatives of Buddhist countries are also attending the festival.
A large number of the over 200,000 Buddhist devotees belong to Tibet and India, but sizeable numbers have also come from 63 different countries of Europe, the US and neighbouring nation.
The devotees are complaining of mud near the 4,000 tents, inadequate number of toilets, garbage around Kalchakra maidan, lack of facilities like drinking water and power supply, exorbitant rates charged by hotels and autos and cheating by local businessmen.
“It is difficult to move around and take clean breath due to the stinking mud and water logging near our tents and place of religious discourses by the Dalai Lama. The Bihar government has failed to provide simple arrangements for this large gathering,” Tenzing Phunso, a Tibetan devotee from Dharamsala, told IANS.
He said that most Tibetans from India expected good facilities but it appears the “state government ignored sanitation, water supply and electricity”.
“Not to talk about lodging and transportation. For me, Bodh Gaya was devoid of basic infrastructure necessary for such a large gathering. Frequent power cuts ashamed me,” he said.
Michael John, a Buddhist devotee from the US, said there was filth everywhere, despite the fact that a big festival was being attended by people from around the world.
“It is sad that local authorities have failed to ensure a clean and garbage-free holy town. Another problem is the beggars,” he said.
Donald Henry, a devotee from Britain, was disappointed because he did not come across any decent eateries.
“It is unfortunate that Bodh Gaya is propagated as the leading tourist site in India, particularly for Buddhists across the world, but the government failed to provide necessary facilities,” he said.
Henry said it was for the government to utilize a big opportunity like this to show its hospitality to attract tourists.
Guru Rinpoche, a Buddhist monk from Arunachal Pradesh, said the devotees living in the hundreds of tents were facing a lot of trouble during the Kalchakra festival. “They are living with inadequate power supply, toilets and drinking water when cold wave like conditions are prevailing in Bodh Gaya,” he said.
Swamijee, a Hindu monk-turned-activist who has been campaigning for a clean and encroachment free Bodh Gaya, said the local authorities have made a mockery of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s claims of developing the tourism sector.
“Devotees have been forced to live in dark and use dirty water to clean their clothes and utensils. There is no arrangement for garbage disposal. It is all giving a bad impression of Bodh Gaya,” he said.
An official of the organising committee of the Kalchakra Puja told IANS that they were not receiving the full cooperation of authorities in Bodh Gaya.
“Some local government officials wanted cash for work but we refused to pay bribe that resulted in poor facilities,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Bodh Gaya, about 110 km from here, is where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment 2,500 years ago. The Kalchakra Puja or Wheel of Time, is one of the most sacred events of the Mahayana sect of Buddhists. It is being held for world peace and brotherhood.
Buddhists from the West who arrived early went around the 30-odd foreign monasteries in Bodh Gaya run by Buddhist countries.
Although authorities say they have enforced heavy security, police admit they have received a number of complaints about snatching and pick pocketing. “In most cases, foreigners have been the target,” a police officer said.
Security was tightened in the town following intelligence reports that the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans, faced possible death threats.
(Imran Khan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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