There is likely to be a huge state policy push in the coming days to revive the glory of the Vaishali arc — a direct connect to the ancient land of the Liccahvis which experimented with the world's first republic even as it registered Buddha's footsteps as its trademark signature and opened a window to the world.
This place could turn out to be a tourist hub on par with Bodh Gaya, if indications given by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on the second day of his 'prawas yatra' is any hint.
With such a rich cultural history and heritage, Kumar’s ‘tour for tourism’ aims at unraveling the hitherto unknown chapters of history and restoring the pride of the historical places and heritage. “Once you conserve your heritage, you will be able to sell your State to tourists more emphatically,” said Kumar.
After failing to woo industries to the State, for one reason or the other, the chief minister wants to exploit religious tourism to the hilt.
“We don’t know much about the places. Whatever little excavation was carried at Vaishaligarh, it’s too little and does not throw sufficient light on ancient periods. We want to conserve our history and heritage," Kumar said, adding "Bihar attracted some one lakh tourists around 2007, which has swelled to three lakh now. That presents to us an opportunity for branding and also calls for a revision of strategies to state our history more emphatically,” he said.
Kumar, who had earlier visited Rajgir, toured all the places in and around Vaishaligarh and spent the entire day visiting places of significance, that included Chechar, an unattended historical place hailing back to iron age and situated on the banks of Ganga. The site has been ravaged by the river and bounty hunters, who have carried away rare artefacts uncovered by the river and in excavations.
Earlier in the morning, Kumar visited the Ashokan Pillar at Kolhua, the Basopur Kund (the birth place of Lord Mahavira), remains of Vaishaligarh, Shanti Stupa, Buddha park— where ashes of Buddha were recovered— the museum and later laid the foundation of the proposed tourist complex planned by the Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation (BSTDC).
“The foreigners are coming but we lack basic infrastructure. We need to control the infrastructure and habitation around these sites,” he said. The BSTDC has planned to build a hotel, duplex complex, yoga bhawans, and meditation center near Vaishaligarh. “Plans are afoot to develop a tourism village also,” said a government officer.
Kumar ordered officials of the State government and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to get the 84 bigha of land of Vaishaligarh properly fenced and instructed the divisional commissioner, Tirhut, to prepare a master plan for all the sites. “The government is ready to provide funds from its budget ,” he said.
A keen observer, Kumar also advised ASI officials for not using the word ‘probably’ in any of their literature about a place. “This takes away from the importance of the places. When you create doubts in others minds, how will you sell a place,” he said. “I will be writing to the art and culture department, Government of India, on this as well,” he added. Kumar made it clear that he would be visiting all those historical sites that inspires him for better governance.
The chief minister also instructed the Bihar State Electricity Board chairman to submit a plan to provide power at Vaishaligarh, promised by the then government during the 2600th jayanti celebrations of Lord Mahavira.