International Buddhist tourists and monks have urged the Bihar chief minister to connect the 5 km stretch between Dungeshwari cave and Sujatagarh Sthal with all-weather road. Pilgrims now have to take a circuitous detour of 25 km to cover the important Buddhist circuit sites in Bihar.
International Buddhist pilgrims have requested the Bihar government to construct a 5 km all-weather road, with 800-feet bridge over Niranjana river, to connect the Mahabodhi Mahavihara temple with Dungeshwari caves and Sujatagarh in the pilgrimage city of Gaya.
These sites are considered important as it is believed that Gautam Buddha meditated for six years at Dungeshwari before proceeding to Mahabodhi Mahavihara in Bodh Gaya, where he attained enlightenment. Sujata stupa in Gaya’s Sujatagarh is where an old woman, Sujata, is believed to have offered kheer (a sweet dish prepared from rice and milk) to a frail Buddha, who got an energy boost after having it.
In absence of a motorable road, pilgrims have to now take a circuitous 25 km detour via Gaya-Manpur-Bhusundi, making it practically impossible for them to visit all the three historic Buddhist sites in Gaya and then proceed the same day to Rajgir in Nalanda, part of the Buddhist circuit.
In a letter to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on April 26, pilgrims and monks have requested the government to construct a 5 km stretch of modern road, linking Buddha’s meditation sites with Sujata Stupa and connecting it with Nalanda. For this, the government would also have to construct a 800-feet (approx) bridge over Niranjana river, the letter said.
Connecting the Sujatagarh-Dungeshwari route with Rajgir-Nalanda highway would facilitate international tourists to cover maximum Buddhist sites in the state within a short span of time.
“At present, the Sujata-Dungeshwari cave route does not have an all-weather road. The one existing now is damaged and unmotorable. Tourists visiting Bodh Gaya take Gaya-Manpur-Bhusundi route to reach Dungeshwari, which is an extra distance of almost 25-28 kms. This wastes a lot of time and money,” said Shashikant of International Meditation Centre, Bodh Gaya.
“International Buddhist monks and tourists, desirous of following Lord Buddha’s footprints, trudge on this treacherous route from the Mahabodhi Mahavihara temple in Bodh Gaya to Sujatagarh and then to the Dungeshwari cave. The stretch being sparsely populated is considered unsafe for tourists, with many complaining of robbery and theft on the route,” he added.
Prajnadeep, general secretary of the All India Bhikshu Sangh, said a survey was undertaken in 2013 to construct the road, but nothing moved thereafter.
Founder president of the Asian Buddhist Cultural Centre, Bodh Gaya, Bhante ST Anand, said that several meetings had been convened between the state and the Central governments on the issue in the last 35 years, but to no avail.
Bhante Satyanand of Dr BR Ambedkar Buddha Vihar, Agra, who has trudged on this route on many occasions, said, “One can perceive the difficulties of a traveller only if one were to walk on this route.”