GAYA: Buddhist spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Dalai Lama has sought permission from Gaya district administration to construct an auditorium and install elevator in the prohibited zone near Mahabodhi temple, the seat of Buddha’s enlightenment. The permission has been sought by Tenzin Taklha, secretary of the spiritual leader, who also heads the Tibetan government in exile with its headquarters at Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh.
The spiritual leader’s secretary wrote to Gaya DM Kumar Ravi seeking permission for vertical addition of one floor at the Tibetan monastery. The request letter says that the Buddhist spiritual leader wants a three-week annual sojourn in Bodh Gaya every winter beginning December this year. The proposed auditorium is to be used by sermon delivery by the Dalai Lama to his disciples, most of whom are foreigners.
Sources said the area, where the religious leader has sought permission to construct an auditorium, falls in the buffer zone, a 500 metre radius area from the shrine outer wall where any new construction cannot be allowed as per the guidelines of the UNESCO, the organisation which notified Mahabodhi Temple as a world heritage site in 2012.
Not only new construction, even repair of existing structures is not allowed so that in due course of time, the existing buildings perish, leaving only Mahabodhi temple with half-a-km free area in its vicinity. Earlier, the UNESCO officials advised district officials to explore the possibility of relocating the existing structures, including private residential buildings, to ensure the serenity of the buffer zone.
The UNESCO guidelines also prohibit any building with a height of more than three metres in a radius of one km from the shrine outer wall.
Though the UNESCO cannot legally enforce the implementation of its guidelines, the world body reserves the right to withdraw the world heritage status. During their visits, the UNESCO officials, while expressing unhappiness with the somewhat lacklustre implementation of its guidelines, issued subtle threats to withdraw the heritage status if the violations continue.
The DM acknowledged the receipt of request from Dalai Lama’s secretary. Asked about his response, the DM said he did not have the power to approve building plans in Bodh Gaya. “Bodh Gaya Nagar Panchayat did have the legal authority in the matter and I would forward the request letter to the Nagar Panchayat for appropriate action,” the DM said.